My transport arrival at the hotel is unconventional – the Sri Lankan prime minister is a guest during my stay, which means heightened security at the property and along the 35-kilometre stretch from Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. Despite the guards, I’m greeted with a smile and handed a refreshing towel and juice, before being escorted to my suite, where I’m checked in and have my photo taken for recognition purposes.
The resort is a destination in its own right, which means there’s little need to leave. The 53-hectare property has an 18-hole golf course, a trapeze/kids’ zone, spa and health club, drone-flying area and handicraft market. A 15-minute walk along the beach takes you to a small fishing village with a Buddhist temple. Udawalawe National Park is a little more than an hour’s drive away.
My suite is airy and has a coastal feel, thanks to the furnishings. It offers uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean from the balcony and the bathtub, which also has a built-in TV screen. The decor includes small carved wooden elephants and Sri Lankan coffee table books, which are nice touches, although I’m perplexed as to how the name on the door is missing a letter, the clock in the bedroom isn’t working and there’s a problem with both sets of fans on my balcony.
Most of the staff are preoccupied with the prime minister’s entourage during the first part of my stay, but are otherwise helpful and informative. The service in the food outlets is prompt and efficient, but housekeeping is a little lax for a five-star resort. The glass I’m given on arrival isn’t removed for the three nights I’m there and the bins aren’t emptied regularly, either. The host for the two tours I book is outstanding, however.
Expansive and relaxing. From early morning to late evening, there are people lounging by the pool or socialising in the resort’s outdoor shisha cafe and other outlets. And while the resort has plenty of families in residence, the children’s area is far enough away from my end of the resort that I’m not bothered by any noise and can enjoy the tranquillity. The Artisan’s Village is one of my favourite spots, with its small thatched stalls offering everything from handmade wooden boxes to art works.
Bojunhala is the all-day dining restaurant, serving Sri Lankan food and a mixture of other cuisines. For breakfast, the buffet includes traditional Sri Lankan string hoppers, a griddle selection including eggs and French toast, curries, cereals and yogurts, cold cuts, cheeses and salads. Next door is Sera, inspired by the hawker stalls of South East Asia. I recommend the red curry with vegetables and rice (980 Sri Lankan rupees [Dh24]). Gimanhala, the shisha cafe, and Ulpatha, the golf club, are also good spots to unwind.
My Ayurvedic massage (14,500 rupees [Dh352]) at Chi the Spa.
The lack of attention to detail from housekeeping and the fact that a staff member let himself into my room, twice, while I had the do-not-disturb light on.
A family-friendly resort ideal for those who want the resort to be the destination.
The bottom line
Rooms at the Shangri-La Hambantota Resort & Spa cost from Dh822 per night, including taxes, breakfast and Wi-Fi.
This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.