The newest luxury resort in Sri Lanka opened its doors on June 1 to much fanfare, signalling exciting times ahead for the country's burgeoning hospitality sector in the post-war era.
Shangri-La’s first Sri Lankan outpost is spread over 53ha of a former coconut plantation in the southern coastal city of Hambantota, which is a three-hour drive from Colombo via the expressway. Flying to the resort is also an option with private airline Cinnamon Air’s daily hour-long flights between Colombo’s Katunayake International Airport and Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota.
Being in close proximity to the Hambantota port, the resort can also cater to cruise passengers.
All 300 luxury rooms and suites offer magnificent views, looking out to manicured golf lawns, sparkling lagoon, landscaped tropical gardens or the rugged waves of the Indian Ocean, with the occasional peacock spotted roaming the vast property. The rooms are spacious and located in wings which are separate for families and couples.
While the full suite of amenities were not available to me during my stay in early June, this was compensated for by the ease of connecting to the property’s free Wi-Fi network without having to trawl through passwords, codes and other complex processes endemic to most hotels.
It will soon host the first golf tournament in this part of the country at its picturesque 18-hole, 5.6km long course featuring salt-tolerant grass, stunning ocean views, wide fairways and a lagoon that will be extensively used for water sports. All this is not done without consideration for eco-friendly measures, as the hotel uses biodegradable golf balls filled with fish feed.
The Kadamandiya Village enables guests to learn about Sri Lankan artistry, with five traditional studio huts housing artisan weavers, sculptors, painters and potters. In the evening, the village comes alive with a stage set for song, dance and drama.
Guests can be pampered at the CHI spa, which offers Ayurvedic treatments using 100 per cent organic herbs and natural products after a personal consultation.
For the little ones, the Cool Zone is the most extensive kid’s club in the country, offering activities like arts and crafts, trapeze, drone flying, trampolining, kite flying and a water park.
Meeting facilities span the 2,525m2 multipurpose ballroom, which can house up to 1,500 guests, while five other function rooms can accommodate a total of 200 people.
The main restaurant Bojunhala offers an international buffet, Sri Lankan specialities and an unbelievably large spread of food. The dessert corner had intricately carved sweets but what satisfied my palate was the made-to-order pancake with sweet and savoury fillings.
The restaurants carry Sri Lankan names: Sera features hawker-style stalls serving South-east Asian cuisine, Ulpatha is home to one of the finest selection of malt whiskies while Gimanhala serves fresh drinks after morning yoga, all-day refreshments and cocktails by candlelight.
The air-conditioning at Bojunhala was malfunctioning, something the hotel promised to rectify. Overall, the staff was friendly and amiable.
The resort opens new vistas for Sri Lanka. Being the largest property in the country, it is bound to attract leisure and business travellers, as well as corporate and MICE events. Opening flutters and teething problems aside, the Shangri-La instantly boosts Sri Lanka’s profile as the first esteemed hospitality brand to open in the country post war.
No of rooms and suites: 300
Rates: All-inclusive opening offer for two at US$247 per night, valid till December 22, 2016; normal rates start from US$216
Contact details: Tel: (94) 47 788 8888