This beachside basecamp makes an alternative first stop beyond busy Colombo, with laid-back hotels that switch on holiday mode.
Negombo is a soft landing for Sri Lanka newbies, especially compared to the chaotic capital, Colombo. Its proximity to the airport and abundance of affordable hotels make it a popular pitstop for transiting travellers – but with a smattering of Buddhist temples, a fish market and a vast coastline, there’s enough going on to warrant an extra night or two here. Read on to find the right Negombo hotel for you.
You’re guaranteed an Indian Ocean view from your room at Heritance Negombo, which overlooks the golden sands of Negombo Beach Park. Despite its imposing scale, the hotel makes decent efforts to showcase and give back to the community: you can join a tour to watch fishermen haul in their catch (try the seafood platter at Blue Tan Restaurant to sample the day’s bounty later), and each year a portion of its profits goes towards supporting the education of local children.
From its motorbike-heavy artwork to its karaoke bar, Regal Reseau certainly has its quirks – but the main attraction here has got to be the rooftop infinity pool and bar, which can get quite lively in the evenings. More of an early bird? You’ll enjoy equally beautiful ocean views from the breakfast buffet at Celestia restaurant on the sixth floor.
With its in-water sun loungers, swim-up cocktail bar, pillow menus and private plunge pools (in the Premier Deluxe rooms), everything about Arie Lagoon invites you to indulge. There’s even a cigar and shisha lounge. The hotel faces the calm emerald waters of Negombo Lagoon and is decidedly warm and homely, despite its reasonably large size.
Designed by renowned architect and godfather of tropical modernism, Geoffrey Bawa, Jetwing Lagoon brings the outdoors in with its high-ceiling spaces and semi open-air bathrooms. The property sits on the lagoon side of a slim peninsula, but there’s a small pool and sunbathing deck across the road if you’re after an ocean view. At 100m (328ft) long, the main pool is the longest on Sri Lanka’s west coast.
Prepare to be scrubbed, steamed and pampered to your heart’s content at Ayur Ayur, a bonafide Ayurveda retreat along the Hamilton Canal. Whether you’re here to beautify, detox or simply unplug, you’re sure to find a sense of tranquility here. Brown’s Beach is just a short walk away – if you can tear yourself away from the pool, that is.
Like a cruise ship but way cooler, Pledge Scape is rocking a modern marine theme: think polished concrete, chrome, glass and brown leather, with the occasional well-placed porthole. The rooftop bar and infinity pool both overlook the beach, while floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the lounge areas ensure the ocean always steals the show. All ‘cabins’ have beach views and balconies come as standard.
Start the day at Terrace Green Hotel & Spa watching the Sri Lankan chefs cook your breakfast in the open kitchen. The hotel offers private cooking classes, if you fancy learning how to make egg hoppers or kottu roti flatbreads like the pros. If that sounds like too much work, opt for a lime and ginger sea salt scrub or herbal steam bath at the rooftop spa instead.
The colourful textiles draped throughout Villa Hundira are handmade by women from Thalahena village – visit their workshop to watch them hone their craft, or pick up a souvenir to take home. You’re also welcome to borrow a canoe and go fishing – the hotel chef will be happy to cook up your catch. But don’t worry if you come home empty handed – you’ll still have a bounty of seafood and other delights at the restaurant to choose from.