Villas in South Coast, Sri Lanka

Stretching between Galle and Hambantota, the south coast is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in Sri Lanka. Characterised by historically significant fortified towns, numerous picture-perfect palm-fringed beaches, a sultry turquoise sea, swathes of iridescent green paddy fields fringed by lush green jungle, ancient Buddhist temples, expansive waterways, nature-filled rainforests and tea-carpeted hills it offers enough variety to be a destination in itself; fabulous for families, groups and couples alike.

Galle is one of the region’s most significant attractions for its sixteenth century Dutch fort filled with an evocatively rich collection of buildings, boutiques, museums and luxury digs that hug a peninsular to the south of town. Galle’s popular beaches are better-facilitated, more developed and safer for swimming than those in and around Tangalle, but the further you travel east the more expansive, deserted and nature-filled they become.

Surfing, snorkelling, diving, whale watching, sailing, fishing and kayaking can all be done along this magnificent stretch of coastline as well as cycling, walking and trying your hand at Sri Lankan cookery. Inland, the scene varies as the westerly wet zone’s lush jungle interior gives way to the arid dry zone plains a little beyond Tangalle. Taking off by bicycle is often the best way to explore the hills, plains, sanctuaries and jungle whilst a boat is a must to navigate the scenic lakes and rivers that wind in between.

Some of Sri Lanka’s most popular national parks – Uda Walawe for elephants and Yala for leopards and bears – as well as a trio of its most accessible rainforests – Sinharaja, Kottawa and Kanneliya - are easily visited on a day or overnight trip from anywhere along the south coast.

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Villas in Sri Lanka by region

Hill Country, North West Coast, South Coast, West Coast
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Blue Heights

Blue Heights

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Dickwella

For a lazy, languid holiday where you come armed with a stack of books and great company, Blue Heights is the business.  The simple design and minimal interiors are unfussy and free of distractions so that you focus on the job at hand – relaxing, catching up with friends and family and absorbing the restful environment.  The ocean views and hilltop locale create a feeling of space and the convivial pool area, with sunset-worthy jacuzzi, soon became one of our favourite spots.  The open-sided dining area made the most of the views and even from the glass-walled lounge you can spy the sea whilst watching TV.  Those staying in the master bedroom do get a lot more value as the room is huge and is attached to a little private lounge with pergola roof, although the bathroom is rather narrow.  The bedroom in the main house works well for elderly relations or independent couples.

The staff, a husband and wife team, plus houseboy, were very welcoming – as was Timmy, the house’s loveable dog!  Service is casual and their English was limited so communicating was a bit of a struggle at times.  However, the villa is looked after by a management team whose area manager is always at the end of the phone.  The kitchen is basic and uninspiring, however there is a little pantry with sink and fridge for making drinks.  In any case, a cook prepares all of your meals (Sri Lankan cuisine mainly, plus a few fried rice and noodle dishes).

Note that the beach is not at the end of the garden – you need to go through the gate, turn right along the road and then wander for five minutes to the beach.  Swimming is best in the middle of the bay.
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Claughton House

Claughton House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Dickwella

Without doubt, this is one of Sri Lanka’s most engaging villas and in one of the most breathtaking locations on the island – the views are nothing short of spectacular. Its links to Geoffrey Bawa and its interesting, yet short, history makes a stay here all the more engaging. The house itself is fairly modest – there are no fancy mod cons and the simple yet imaginative design evokes the past as much as the present – however the new owners are currently upgrading the house. The interiors have already been given a sensitive facelift, and look lovely, whilst two more bedrooms and a TV lounge are due to be completed by the end of 2014; they were renovating existing buildings for these behind the main house at the time of our visit (March 2014) but we were not disturbed by the work at all.

Our favourite place to pass the time was around the main swimming pool (there is a second pool to the side of the property, close to the driveway). This cliff-top pool complements the house – it’s been here for a few decades and we liked its old-school geometric design. The different shades of blue reflected the sea beyond and the terrace surrounding it was scattered with sun loungers and beanbags, one of which was placed on a protruding corner from where we could sit and watch surfers in the bay below. A little staircase leads down the hillside to the beach, and it’s a lovely spot for long strolls, swimming or body boarding (there’s a big collection of boards in the house) with care for much of the year – the sea is fairly shallow.

The staff really went out of their way to ensure that we had everything we needed, in particular the lovely chef who produced some heart-warming food. We recommend his rice and curry, which we enjoyed by candlelight down by the pool. Make sure you have a chat to the maintenance manager who’s worked at the house from the very beginning. He showed us some 25-year-old photos of the house.
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Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Ahangama

Coconut Grove is a wonderful retreat which, despite its privacy and modern additions, including a swimming pool, offers a chance to experience life in an authentic Sri Lankan village. That said, we noticed on our recent visit that the area is seeing quite a lot of development in terms of small hotels and villas; the plus side of which being that the number of tourist-friendly restaurants is likely to increase.

The cottage is perfectly set up for families, especially as the two rooms to the front of the house have smaller double beds (or large singles), which would be perfect for children. However, it would be an equally good choice for a group of friends wishing to stay a little off the beaten track. The living areas – both inside the house and outside in the garden – offer plenty of cosy places to relax and private pockets for escape.

The wildlife is magical here, and right on your doorstep. Whilst sipping afternoon tea in the poolside pavilion we watched monkeys playing in the trees as birds twittered melodiously overhead. The large lawned garden is a fansasyland for roaming kids but supervision is necessary around the pool as it quickly gains depth.

The staff kept the house clean and tidy during our stay, and were on hand to assist us with anything we needed. The staff do not stay in the house at night although the gardener/watchman lives in a small building tucked independently to one side of the property. If the housekeeper is not needed to assist with making afternoon tea or dinner, you can dismiss her early and enjoy the run of the house all to yourselves.
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The Dutch House

The Dutch House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Galle

A favourite with visiting celebs – Sting once stayed here – the Dutch House manages to be both majestic and homely at the same time. It’s a true refuge, not only because of its large garden and hilltop location, but also because of the discreet, warm nature of the staff who keep the house so perfectly in order. Attention to detail – from the banana leaf-wrapped soaps in the bathrooms to sun hats and wicker bags in the suites – is an obvious source of pride. The house’s serene location made it hard to believe that we were staying in Galle. Everything is within walking distance, though three-wheelers are recommended to transport you up the steep hill back to the house! The large garden has plenty of outside seating (we loved the double lounger on the veranda) and was looking particularly lush on our recent return visit. The management told us that more and more weddings are being hosted at the house (for up to 200 people). Although the staff are very capable, the management team work with an experienced local events company for larger affairs. The wonderful vintage Rover parked outside the front door is an atmospheric companion to the house, and although this particular model is not roadworthy, vintage car hire can be organised for a colonial-style tour of town. Note that there are no TVs or DVDs (instead, hundred of books) but there are CD players – one in each suite. Whilst breakfast, lunch and snacks are served at The Dutch House, dinner is at sister property the Sun House (boutique seven-room hotel) just across the road. Here, three-course set dinners are served, with menus changing nightly. Guests can request to dine privately at ‘home’ on occasion, but we felt that although the food is unquestionably good at the Sun House, the Dutch House is a slightly let down by the fact that it doesn’t have its own private full-time chef.
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Footprints Villa

Footprints Villa

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Talpe

Since it didn’t look huge from the outside, we were delighted by how spacious Footprints actually was. With living areas spread over two floors, it’s big enough for large groups to scatter themselves about, and the overall feel of the place is very personable and homely. To one end of the pool is a shaded dining area that’s a breezy (if slightly gloomy) all-day sea view spot to sit, and there’s bench seating so you can squeeze quite a few people around the table. The swimming pool area currently (March 2012) looks a little bare, but the management told us that they are soon to spruce it up with lush greenery.

There’s a small staff team of a cook/maid and a security/maintenance man who also doubles up as a waiter and gardener. The cook is shy to speak English and service is fairly laid back, yet both are friendly and when large groups stay at the villa another staff member is drafted in to help. There’s a small menu, which continues to grow as the cook learns more dishes; our evening meal of chicken korma was delicious. Two managers (a couple) drop by every now and then to ensure the smooth running of the villa and assist with any enquiries, which really helps; WiFi wasn’t working when we arrived, however they quickly arranged for the appropriate people to come and fix the problem.

We felt that Footprints would particularly suit groups of friends looking to chill out and spend time together within treading distance of restaurants and bars (there’s a very popular one just 100m down the beach). Anyone who lusts after air conditioning would also be happy here – there are few fully air-conditioned villas along this stretch of coastline. It’s a good family house too (although some may grow tired of wandering up and down stairs to reach the bedrooms). Note that one of the bedrooms is fitted with waterbed. Although it looked (and felt) comfortable, we opted for a more traditional mattress!

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Galle Henna Estate

Galle Henna Estate

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Inland Galle

This house scores points for its location, which is tranquil and rural but also not far away from restaurants, beaches and shops. It has a wonderful garden full of fruit trees such as mango, banana and avocado that you can enjoy for breakfast and its large size offers plenty of scope for children to run around and play. Loads of birds visit the garden along with the occasional monkey so it is also a haven for nature lovers. The sunken swimming pool has a generous sun deck and is walled so that you can swim and tan in privacy, however windows in the wall allow you to look through into the paddy fields beyond which makes it feel a little less enclosed. There are three members of staff, but you hardly see them as they let you enjoy the house and make yourselves at home. The house itself is beautiful and has been very sensitively restored. It has also been decorated in such a way to make it feel very much like home. There’s lots of spots to relax both inside and outside of the house, as well as in the privacy of individual bedrooms which is a highlight for groups. The fifth, single, bedroom is very useful for a nanny or a child and has a lovely balcony overlooking the paddy fields and garden. Parents should keep an eye on children using the stairs as the steps are made from unforgiving polished cement. There’s an equipped kitchen to the rear which is ideal for self-catering, however the very friendly and helpful manager (who lives in the house next door) can also prepare lunches and dinners for you with advance notice. He will shop on your account so it’s best to give a wad of cash at the start of your stay and top it up when necessary. Unawatuna Beach and lots of restaurants are a short drive away, and the staff can arrange transport for you on request.
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IF Villa

IF Villa

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Talpe

IF is one of my favourite villas in Sri Lanka; it has such a lovely feel to it and benefits from a great layout, not to mention a fabulous beach. I’ve been here a few times and have experienced it à deux as well as with a group of friends. Like any large villa this one welcomes company and is better when full . On each occasion that I’ve stayed at IF the huge living room was rarely used and perhaps this was because there were a number of alternative, more personable, sitting spots, some of them pleasingly outdoors; the ocean-side terrace was wonderful at sunset whilst the dining pavilion’s open-sided design was delightfully breezy and sitting in here felt sociable, even when alone, as it overlooked the entire property. I like the position of the TV area as it is in a sociable spot near the bedrooms which, themselves, were breezy and comfortable (although the skylight in bedroom 1 didn’t allow us much of a lie in). The smallest double room is perhaps best for a single traveller than a couple since its bathroom is separated from the sleeping area only by a partition wall. On our stay, fishermen came to the gate to sell fish, lobster and prawns which we got the chef to cook exactly to our liking.  Meals were discussed rather than chosen from a menu, and the curries and seafood come highly recommended. The staff shop on your behalf here if you give them cash, and you can check receipts with the cook every day. Because the kitchen is set back in its own building away from the house, it gave us privacy from the staff; but even so, we found them discreet and helpful.
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Illuketia

Illuketia

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Inland Galle

We thought Illuketia was a charming villa in a delightfully peaceful, rural location. The house has a fabulous colonial design, is airy and spacious and filled with an interesting collection of art and antiques. The wraparound veranda is a great feature and perfect for informal dining, especially as each side offers a different view of the garden. The four double suites are cosy and well-presented however a couple of the bathrooms are a little dated and Waterlily’s (Bedroom 4) intimate size is better suited to children or just one adult.

The villa staff were quiet but efficient. They swept the house and lawns every morning, assembled huge arrangements of flowers and served up well-presented meals of Sri Lankan and eastern cuisine (they can do western cuisine too). On our most recent visit we spied aubergines, gourds, chillies and other fresh produce neatly planted in rows in the organic garden. It’s lovely to know you’re eating fresh produce from the estate (and be able to go see it growing!). This, combined with the villa’s efforts at water recycling and their use of solar power, makes Illuketia an attractive eco friendly choice.

Manager Chathuri is delightfully helpful, but since she also manages Apa Villa Talpe (where she has an office), she’s not always on-site. Illuketiya is a great villa for friends, families, groups, nature-lovers and couples, and also makes a glorious setting for small weddings, which the staff are well versed in hosting. Despite the swimming pool being a 100m walk from the house, the staff will set up tables down here underneath the great boughs of the trees for lunch or dinner; nothing seems too much trouble for them. Note that the villa is a good ten minutes inland from Galle and can be tricky to find.
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Indisch

Indisch

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Ahangama

We loved Indisch’s setting on a sweeping curve of coastline; the ocean panorama made all the more interesting by the waves crashing onto rocks just offshore.  Indisch is incredibly spacious, and with plenty of places to enjoy privacy it’s ideal for a couple of families, friends travelling together or even for big family reunions.  There’s a wide veranda to the front (with sun screens that are very effective at reducing glare without blocking the garden and sea from view) where we dined most of the time or sat quietly and read.  We liked that there’s a music system built into the living areas (although it doesn’t connect with an iPod), and the TV in the study is a good distraction for kids – and us, on a rainy day.  Run with the efficiency of a hotel, Indisch has a big attentive staff team and an excellent chef who dazzled us with his repertoire of dishes – Sri Lankan and international.  The kitchen is principally the domain of the staff but parents needing to prepare children’s or babies’ meals are welcome to use it on request.

Indisch is 30 minutes’ from Galle’s dining scene, but the villa food is so good that this doesn’t matter. This slightly away-from-it-all location might be just what many people are looking for.

The villa has a vintage Mercedes which can be used to take guests on nostalgic rides through the neighbourhood (recommended), and there is also a van at the villa which can be made available to guests (charges apply).

We’ve stayed in lots of villas over the years, and it’s fair to say that Indisch is one of the most immaculately presented and staffed in Sri Lanka.  On our recent visit, we were impressed by how well the villa has been maintained - it still looks new, and the dedicated staff team seemed to be constantly cleaning.  We visited as a big group and the excellent chef managed to pull off a spectacular dinner every night – we requested Sri Lankan food most of the time, and he managed to make every meal different.  The villa’s garden has matured beautifully and forms a natural screen from the beach, ensuring privacy.
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Ivory House

Ivory House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Galle

The rural setting of Ivory House is undeniably idyllic.  Often when you stay on the coast you miss out on experiencing the island’s lush, rural hinterland.  Here you can enjoy the best of both worlds as beaches are accessible in 10-15 minutes (there are plenty of local sprays of sand for sunbathing).  Families will find this house suits them well; the gentle lawns and shallow ledge of the pool are both child-friendly.

The villa’s wraparound veranda makes the most of the rural environs, and although it is scantily furnished with only a round table for six, there are loungers in the garden and beside the pool.  Wide folding doors bridge the gap between indoors and out, and thanks to their location to the front of the house, the huge living room and the front master suite benefit most from the rural vistas.  The second master bedroom is tucked behind, but has its own side veranda, whilst the remaining two bedrooms – one of which is very small and would suit a single traveller, a child or perhaps even a nanny – open onto the living room.

The staff looked after us well and we were happy with the chef’s cooking – amongst other items, his sweet potato and coriander soup was delicious.  We’d also recommend the Sri Lankan breakfast.  Also try to visit the nearby Kahanda Kanda hotel for afternoon tea or a meal at least once during your stay.
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