Sri Lanka’s hotel stocks are growing rapidly, and in a country previously dominated by pint-size heritage and boutique digs, the world’s leading chains are moving in to develop large-scale resorts. On June 1, Shangri-La opens the first of two new-build properties, a 300-room beachfront golf resort in Hambantota on the south coast, about an hour from the famous Yala National Park. A 500-room hotel is slated to open in Colombo next year.
Sprawling across 58ha, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa is the first in Sri Lanka to have its own golf course and also includes a day spa with 12 treatment rooms, a dive centre, health and children’s clubs, freeform and lap pools, and a cultural village where guests can meet local artisans and buy their wares.
All guestrooms afford garden or ocean views from a terrace or balcony and feature the usual deep luxury that is a Shangri-La trademark: plush robes, zillion thread-count sheets, big bath tubs, extra large towels, pillow menus and state-of-the-art technology. The fit-out is urbane but relaxed; the colours neutral with a nod to typical Sri Lankan design features, notably timber floors and teak and rattan furniture. The room inventory includes 26 suites with private butler service.
The resort is located a four-hour drive from Colombo and is 35km from the nearest airport.
DON’T MISS: A round on the Rodney Wright-designed 18-hole golf course with lovely ocean views.
DINING IN AND OUT: Executive chef Roshan (Rosh) Jayasuriya is in charge of several restaurants at the only five-star resort in this remote neck of the woods. There’s a golfer’s bar, and Beach Grill serving dishes straight from the fire pit (try the local tuna) as well as Sera, specialising in dishes inspired by the hawker food of Southeast Asia. In Bojun Hala, chef recommends several Sri Lankan specialities, including the delicious kottu roti (feathery roti shredded and stir fried with meat or vegetables, egg, leeks, tomatoes and carrots); or lamprais (rice cooked in banana leaf and served with roast chicken curry, eggplant pickle, ash plaintain curry, fish cutlet and sweet onions).
ASK THE CONCIERGE: An easy 15-minute walk along the beach takes guests to a gorgeous spot where the lake meets the ocean.
CHECKING IN: Half-price opening room rates from US$173 including breakfast and taxes (valid until September 30).