Last March, I enjoyed a sublime holiday in the Maldives and Sri Lanka. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Lufthansa A330 Business Class Frankfurt to Male
- Review: Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original desert island hideaway
- Review: Soneva Jani, the Maldives’ most amazing resort
- Review: Shangri-La Colombo Hotel (Sri Lanka)
- Review: Wild Coast Tented Lodge (Yala National Park, Sri Lanka)
- Review: Aman tour in Sri Lanka: Amangalla
- Review: Aman tour in Sri Lanka: Amanwella (today)
- Review: Austrian Airlines B777 Business Class Colombo to Vienna
Today: Review of Amanwella (Tangalle, Sri Lanka).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Amanwella Resort
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
On Sri Lanka’s sun-baked south coast near the fishing town of Tangalle, Amanwella lies amid 37 acres of coconut trees next to a perfect crescent of golden sand. The resort derives its name by combining the words, aman, or “peace” in Sanskrit, and wella, the Sinhalese name for beach. Combining modernist lines and indigenous materials, guest suites are inspired by the work of famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa; flooded with light, they each open on two sides to private plunge pools and large terraces overlooking the Indian Ocean. Away from the palm-shaded private beach club and the olympic sized pool, the area’s diverse attractions – from tea plantations to treks and temple visits – capture Sri Lanka at its most authentic. Amanwella is managed by Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand.
Amanwella features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Sri Lanka and the most astonishingly beautifuyl beach resorts in Asia.
In this review (more info below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Amanwella enjoys a spectacular and remote location on the rugged southern tip of Sri Lanka, about 8 km (5 mi) to the west of the sleepy fishing town of Tangalle. The ultraluxe resort lays claim on a 37 hillside estate, set in a lush, mature coconut grove that fronts a golden sand beach. The pristine crescent-shaped bay is one of the most scenic in Asia. Despite its remoteness, Amanwella can be easily reached by a 2 hour drive from its sister property Amangalla in Galle (which I reviewed here) and a 3 hour drive from the capital Colombo and Sri Lanka’s main airport, Bandaranaike International Airport. Alternately, air taxi or helicopter service can be arranged from Colombo to Tangalle or to Dickwella, fifteen minutes from the hotel.
- Amanwella’s magnificent decor is characterized by a modern, linear and streamlined design, remaining faithful to the Aman brand’s signature spartan and calming aesthetics. The hotel, that opened in 2005, was created by the Australian architect Kerry Hill, who also designed several other Aman properties such as Aman Tokyo (which I reviewed here) and the new Amanyangyun near Shanghai, the latest hotel to join Aman’s portfolio. Amanwella’s resolutely contemporary and minimalist decor pays tribute to the style of Sri Lankan native Geoffrey Bawa (1919-2003), who was among the most influential Asian architects of his generation and is the principal force behind what is today known globally as ‘tropical modernism’.
- Amanwella features a convenient layout, comprising several open-air pavilions and walkways that bring the outside in. The property is accessed via a gravel road that leads to a pebbled courtyard and an entrance pavilion, whose roof is covered with terracotta tiles that mirror the rust toned hues of the earth below. From the entrance pavilion, a high-ceilinged colonnade ascends to the public areas. The reception area – which is located in its own intimate courtyard – is on the left while to the right is a grassy lawn with frangipani trees that is bordered by a library, reflecting pool and two swivel-windowed pavilions. Both pavilions – one houses the lounge bar while the other one houses the restaurant – share a large terrace that sits above the pool (more on that below) and overlooks the wild beach, the blue Indian Ocean, and verdantly green jungle.
- Located below the main public areas, the resort’s majestic swimming pool is surrounded by an expansive terrace. It offers sublime views of swaying coconut trees and the dazzling bay beyond. Measuring 47 m (154 ft) in length, it is approximately 14 m (46 ft) at its widest point and features a unique ‘internal wall’ design. Comfortable sun loungers and umbrellas are available on the terrace around the pool, and there are changing rooms with private outdoor showers. Poolside service is provided and a variety of light meals and snacks are available. From the pool deck, a small path through the lush foliage offers direct access to a sheltered part of the stunning beach. The pool area also looks out to the west, guaranteeing sun exposure all day long and enabling guests to enjoy spectacular sunsets.
- Without any doubt, Amanwella’s dramatic, 800m (2620 ft) long beach is one of the most gorgeous oceanfront landscapes that I have ever seen in my life. The resort sits on a rocky promontory on the western tip of the beach, while the easter side of the beach is bordered by large boulders. Although public (like all beaches in Sri Lank), the hotel is the only building along the beach, which is backed by a dense forest of hundreds of towering palm trees that grows all the way to the sandy beach. Amanwella features a private club on the beachfront, comprising a sleek restaurant and one row of sun loungers sprinkled over the sand and under the palms. Tuktuks shuttle guests between the beach club and Amanwella’s main facilities (transfers only take about 5 minutes).
- A short stroll from the lobby or a quick, complimentary tuktuk ride away, are thirty lavish, terracotta-roofed suites, interspersed along the hillside to the west of the public areas. Identical in design and layout, the suites are built on three levels and come in two categories – suites and ocean suites – based on their location and views (ocean suites are located lower on the hillside and enjoy better views of the beach). During my holiday, I stayed in a suite on the upper level. The modernly furnished suite featured hand-hewn stone walls, high loft ceilings and and terrazzo floors. Floor-to-ceiling glass and lattice panels opened on one side to a large terrace and on the other side to an entrance courtyard with a decently sized plunge pool. A large sliding wooden screen divided the airy interior into a combined sleeping and living room and a sumptuous bathroom with freestanding bathtub, twin sinks, and a separate rain shower.
- Like all Aman hotels, soft drinks in the minibar are complimentary.
- Amanwella’s main restaurant (the other one is located at the beach club) is set in its own sleek pavilion at the southern end of the resort and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perched 8 m (26 ft) above sea level, it offers stunning views across the pool towards the coconut grove, sea and beach with the accommodations peeping out discreetly from the verdant jungle on the opposite hillside. The mouth-watering cuisine offers perfectly executed Asian and Mediterranean dishes with an emphasis on fresh local seafood from the Indian Ocean. The dinner menu changes daily and also offers a nightly set menu, including delicacies such as seafood risotto and traditional Sri Lankan curry and rice. The à la carte breakfast is an equally tantalizing culinary experience, and is served until 11 am.
- Adjacent to the restaurant is the lounge bar, sharing its terrace and panoramic views. It’s a relaxed, chic venue that is open from 10 am to 11 pm and provides drinks, finger foods, and Cuban cigars. Highlight is the complementary afternoon tea service that is offered to all guests.
- The library offers a variety of reference books on the history, arts, culture and wildlife of Sri Lanka as well as a selection of novels, magazines, newspapers, audio CDs and board games. Internet access is also available.
- Although it is likely that you’ll stay ensconced within the resort grounds for your entire holiday (like I did), there’s ample opportunity to get away as Amanwella offers several excursions to explore this beautiful part of Sri Lanka. You can take a stroll through nearby Wella Wathuara village to gain insight into daily life in the region, or visit Tangalla’s bustling market for photographic opportunities. An hour’s drive west, Mirissa Bay is renowned for its whale and dolphin sightings, and boat trips can be arranged through the resort. A 25 minute drive north of Amanwella lies Mulgirigala rock temple, a monastic site perched atop a rock. And if you are a wildlife lover, you should consider a trip to Udawalawe national park (1.5 hours away), which is famed for its birdlife and elephants, or Yala national park (2.5 hours drive away) which boasts one of the highest populations of leopard in the world
- Amanwella is a self-contained tropical luxury hideaway, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
- Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.
- While a stay at Amanwella doesn’t come cheap, it won’t cost you a fortune as this is one of the least expensive Aman beach resorts (entry rates around $600 USD per night in low season). So if you want to live the Aman experience ‘on a budget’, this may be the place to do so.
- A stay at Amanwella on the island’s southwest coast can be easily combined with a stay at its sister property, Amangalla. Both properties offer a totally different experience. While Amanwella offers a secluded holiday in a resort with full-on, contemporary minimalist style fronting a magnificent wild beach near the sleepy fishing town of Tangalle, Amangalla provides a historic, romantic ambience of a bygone era in the UNESCO world heritage site of Fort Galle.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Amanwella is the most exclusive resort in Sri Lanka. The unashamedly contemporary design, the impeccable service and the resort’s jaw-droppingly amazing beach-front setting in a mature coconut grove blew me off my feet. It’s a sublime resort that I found very hard to fault, but you may want to know the following nonetheless when considering a stay at Amanwella:
- Unfortunately, the resort does not have a gym or spa. That said, wellness treatments are offered in the privacy of your suite, and one of the suites can also be transformed into a spa sanctuary upon request. The spa menu includes healing massages, traditional therapies, facials and body treatments, and all-natural ingredients are created from the cornucopia of herbs, plants and flowers on Amanwella’s doorstep.
- Mr Kerry Hill – the architect who designed Amanwella – probably is a morning person, because the walls of sliding rattan shutters that surround the suites do not block out the light, making it more difficult to comfortably sleep after sunrise. I advise you to take some eyeshades with you when you are a light sleeper. On a positive note, I guess when you’re staying in paradise, you want to make the most of every moment, right?
- Although decently sized, the private plunge pools are tucked rather awkwardly in each suite’s courtyard ringed by concrete walls. So, the plunge pools don’t come with a view, although you can always retreat to the resort’s spectacular main pool to submerge yourself in fabulous panoramas. Of course, when complete privacy is of utmost importance to you, you’ll love the plunge pools, since they allow for carefree skinny dipping.
- Despite its majestic beauty, the sea can be treacherous here and is best suited to more experienced swimmers, with lifeguards hovering over you when you go for a paddle or dip. The waters tend to be calmer though in winter, which coincides with the dry season in this part of Sri Lanka. Summer offers exceptional surfing conditions in summer; Amanwella can arrange one-to-one lessons with experienced local surfers.
- Like all beaches in Sri Lanka, the beach in front of the hotel is not private. The fabulous stretch of sand is shared with few fishermen and their jewel-hued boats, and some tourists frequent the beach as well. But it’s always very quiet here, since the beach is hard to reach and Amanwella is the only building here, so it feels very private, although it’s not.
- Be prepared to become an Aman junkie as Amanwella will raise the bar for your future trips.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Beach: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Amangalla (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary à la carte lunch for two).
- Room tip: book an ocean suite on the first row when you want to enjoy a view of the beach from your private terrace.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Its equatorial position means that temperatures in Sri Lanka are fairly constant year round, with coastal regions enjoying average temperatures of 25-30°C (77 -86°F) and the highlands around 15-18°C (59-65°F). The tropical climate in Sri Lanka is complex as it is dictated by two monsoon seasons:
- The south-western monsoon brings rain to the Sri Lanka southern and western regions between May and September, while the dry season in this region runs from December to March. These regions are Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist areas (e.g. Colombo, resort towns, and Yala National Park).
- The north-eastern monsoon brings wind and rain to Sri Lanka’s north and eastern coastal regions between mid-November and January, and drier weather between May and September.
- There’s also an inter-monsoonal season in October and the first half of November, which sees fine weather for most of the island interspersed with sudden thunderstorms.
All in all, the drier transition months of April and September are the best to see the whole country. As with many South-East Asian destinations, the period from December to mid-April is considered the peak season for overall weather and therefore overall visitor numbers.
HOW TO GET THERE
Amanwella is a 3 hours drive from the capital Colombo and Sri Lanka’s main airport, Bandaranaike International Airport. You could hire a car in Colombo and drive to the hotel itself (the capital and Galle are connected by highway), but you might want to consider enlisting a driver instead. Alternately, air taxi or helicopter service can be arranged from Colombo to Tangalle or to Dickwella, fifteen minutes from the hotel.