Sri Lanka’s luxury and boutique hotel scene is on the up-and-up, with major brands like Shangri-La opening up to cater to the burgeoning tourist arrivals to this little island in the Indian Ocean. Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa opened last June and is the newest luxury venture to open its doors in southern Sri Lanka, and is also the largest resort in country at nearly 60 hectares (or 150 acres).
Southern Sri Lanka is becoming an increasingly popular destination for beachgoers as well as wildlife lovers, as it is home to some of Sri Lanka’s top national parks and incredible wildlife; it is also relatively easily accessed from the international airport near Colombo.
Accommodation options are also aplenty in this region, and it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to make a decision of where to stay and what to do. If you’ve read any of my previous destination guides and hotel reviews, you’ll know that I’m passionate about promoting boutique travel and unique experiences, and my aim is to be able to point Yoga, Wine & Travel readers to the best of the best. I have stayed at other Shangri-La Group properties in the past and have always been blown away by the beautiful design and level of service, so am excited to share my experience at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort and Spa!
Visiting Sri Lanka for the first time? Click here for the full list of 12 things you should know before going to Sri Lanka!
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort and Spa boasts 300 spacious rooms, including 21 suites, all offering views of the gardens, lagoon, golf course or Indian Ocean. There are six different rooms types available for different types of travelers, ranging from the deluxe garden room (which, at 516 square feet, is nearly as big as my apartment in Hong Kong!) all the way up to the exclusive Janapathi (meaning “Presidential” in Sinhalese) Suite which has its own massage room and outdoor jacuzzi. Sigh, if only!
If the Janapathi suite is too splashy for you, check out the next class of specialty suites which is popular with honeymooners and offers its own kitchenette, or one of the 17 premier suites located around the property. I stayed in the premier ocean view room looking straight across the Indian ocean with a spacious balcony. The rooms are stylishly decorated with lots of warm wood features and splashes of colour, and much like the rest of the hotel is comfortable yet trendy.
The bathroom was spacious and provided the basic amenities that you would expect from a hotel of this calibre. My favorite highlight of this room? The panoramic view of rows upon rows of palm trees swaying in the wind with the ocean as the backdrop.
The resort offers free wifi throughout the property, and I was extremely happy with the strong connection. Unlike some other hotels, there isn’t a pesky registration or login page and the wifi speed is very fast and stable.
The Facilities & Activities
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort makes it easy to stay active and fit during your stay with an 18-hole golf course, 24-hour fitness centre, yoga classes, beach volleyball, lawn bowling, archery, petanque and bicycle rentals. With the exception of golf and the river safaris, all the other activities are free. For children, there are indoor and outdoor play areas, a trapeze, trampolines, PlayStations as well as a complete water park with water slides. I honestly don’t know how anyone could be bored or run out of things to do at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort.
1. The 18-hole golf course
Shangri-La’s signature 18-hole golf course was designed by Rodney Wright and is set amid a vast coconut palm and pineapple plantation. Though it is hot in this part of Sri Lanka, you can stay cool with the ocean breeze and zip around on one of the hotel’s golf buggies. All 55 golf caddies have been trained by the hotel’s director of golf who hails from France originally, and he also hosts golf discovery sessions for anyone (kids included) who is new to the sport.
2. The beach and pools (yes, multiple pools)
If you’re in the “no idea how golf works” club like me, head straight to one of the hotel’s pools. The hotel is home to not one, not two, but THREE pool areas. The sunset pool is the perfect place for a sundowner cocktail or two (try the white sangria), before you mosey on over to one of the property’s restaurants for a delicious dinner. The lagoon pool is a long winding pool that’s perfect for families, and kids have their own dedicated pool area to splash around in.
The hotel also offers access to a long stretch of sandy beach which is perfect for a stroll and dip, but only during the peak season from November to around February. During the other seasons the ocean can be quite choppy with lots of rip currents.
For more ideas of things to do while you’re in Sri Lanka, read my 2-week itinerary around the island!
3. The fitness centre & Yoga pavilion
The 24-hour fitness centre offers a plethora of treadmills, stationary bicycles, mountain climbers, weight machines and free weights and can easily be accessed using your room card. Yoga classes are hosted twice a day, 5 times a week in the open-air pavilion. I attended a class with the in-house teacher and found it to be a challenging, fast-paced class which may be more appropriate for people who have attended a few Vinyasa-style classes and are already familiar with alignment.
Photo credit: Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort
The pavilion is slightly unfortunately located next to the kids water park so can get a little noisy, but it’s a great opportunity to become more aware of your own body and practice stilling the fluctuations of the mind.
4. The trapeze and trampolines
When is the last time you visited hotel that had its own trapeze? I had never tried it before and have a deadly fear of heights, but managed to go on it (twice) and even hooked my knees over the bar and let go of my arms on my second try! It’s a truly exhilarating experience for adults and kids alike, and I would highly recommend that you give it a crack. If the trapeze is a no-go, you can always go for a bit of a hop on the trampolines.
5. The CHI Ayurveda Spa
Sri Lanka is famous for its Ayurvedic treatments and Shangri-La’s Hambantota has been quick to embrace the tradition. Head to the spa and relax in one of their 12 treatment rooms for a Chinese or Ayurvedic treatment using 100% natural spa products. You are also given the opportunity to consult with an Ayurveda doctor and they will prescribe a treatment to help with any specific issues you are dealing with: for example, I had been suffering from a bad case of bronchitis for weeks and weeks, and to help soothe the ailment my masseuse used an Ayurvedic oil and focused mainly on my chest area and upper back to target the lungs.
6. Children’s facilities
If you’re traveling with children, you are given a warm welcome at the resort so you can enjoy your time together as a family. There is a kids club with plenty of activities to keep your children engaged, a drone flying area, outdoor water park complete with water slides (to be fair this is great for adults too), childrens’ pool and childcare facilities.
If you’re anything like me and shudder at the thought of a screaming infant, fear not! Most of the children’s facilities are located in the east wing, and Shangri-La goes the extra mile to accommodate honeymooning couples and adults without children in the west wing. Click here to book your stay at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa!
For any unexpected medical issues the hotel also has its own on-site medical clinic staffed by a practicing nurse.
7. Artisan Village
Quite possibly one of my favourite features of the hotel, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort has set up a local artisan village to help support the community of artists and craftsmen. This CSR initiative doesn’t charge the artisans any rental or commission, and enables them to set up shop to exhibit their handicrafts and for guests to learn a little more about this aspect of Sri Lankan culture.
You’ll find mask makers, batik artists, painters, ceramists, and even a Laksha craftsman who hand carves wooden boxes and applies a coloured lacquer to decorate the container. The lacquer is made of a special type of beetle excrement – yes, you read right, excrement! The art is a rare one in Sri Lanka and is passed down through generations, you can even try your hand at it, but it’s much harder than it looks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The Food & Dining Establishments
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa offers a variety of exciting dining establishments: Bojunhala serves local Sri lankan food and international dishes, while the stunning Sera, inspired by the famous hawker stalls of Southeast Asia, provides a variety of comfort foods from the streets of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and China. Make it a point to try their nasi goreng, coconut creme brulee and beef rendang curry!
Twice a week Sera also sets up an outdoor hawker centre (as of August it is held every Tuesday and Saturday) so that you can immerse yourself in the food market experience. Two additional dining outlets to check out are Ulpatha sports bar which is located in the Golf Centre and offers a special grill menu and classic favorites like the club sandwich, and Gimanhala lobby lounge which serves high tea and an array of cocktails.
Things to Do Around Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa
Hambantota is not typically high up on travelers’ lists of places to visit in Sri Lanka, but it does have a long history as the centre of a prospering civilization in Sri Lanka and an area that played an important role in nurturing the Buddhist culture. It is also a fantastic place to base yourself if you want to explore Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park for a wildlife safari, and you can also organize a river safari to spot some crocodiles and rare birds.
The hotel is also able to organize a cycling excursion to the nearby Godawaya, a small fishing hamlet which once was a part of the ancient Silk Road. For even more ideas head over to my guide to Sri Lanka’s south coast.
Depending on your port of arrival, your journey to the resort can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours. Located just 35 kilometres south of Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa, Hambantota Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is currently serviced by UAE carriers FlyDubai on a daily basis and Rotana Jet twice a week (Friday and Sunday).
Other international flights are served by Colombo International Airport, 240 kilometres away from the resort. The hotel provides airport transfer services from both Sri Lankan airports. If you’re feeling fancy and can’t stand the idea of being in a car for 4 hours, you can also opt to take an air taxi from Colombo International Airport via Cinnamon Air. Hotel guests receive a special discount when booking this service.
True to Shangri-La’s reputation, the service and hospitality at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort is top notch, and no request is ever too big nor too small. Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort is a fantastic place to unwind and relax, yet still stay active and get involved in all the activities the hotel offers. Whether you are a solo traveler, couple or family with children, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort offers an explosion of experiences in a beautiful part of Sri Lanka. Click here to book your stay at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa!
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My stay at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort was sponsored; however, no compensation was received for this review, and as always, the opinions on Yogawinetravel.com are (and always will be) my own!
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