Note: A version of this travel story appeared in luxury travel and fashion magazine Villa 88!
Take a seat at the breakfast table near the edge of a grassy clifftop overlooking the sea. Feel the sun warming your shoulders and the breeze playing with your hair. Peruse a menu with hundreds of varieties of tea, most of which come from tea plantations in the vicinity. You feel shy to go for a basic chamomile or English Breakfast, so you choose something that sounds local and exotic. Sit back in your seat and sip on coconut water until your order arrives, because a commanding view like this one demands respect. Welcome to Resplendent Ceylon: Cape Weligama.
Sri Lanka usually conjures images of elephants, colorful temples and coconuts, but the reality transcends expectations. Cape Weligama is a dramatic hotel managed by the renowned Relais & Chateaux Group, owned by the Dilmah Tea family, that combines pure elegance with local flair. The resort sprawls over 12 manicured acres on a jagged cliff 40 meters above the Indian Ocean. With fringed palm trees and infinity pools, it’s made for Instagram heaven.
A mere four hour flight from Dubai to Colombo airport means that in the time it takes to watch two movies, you’re in Asia. Exiting the airport, you will feel a blast of humidity that reminds you of home. Dozens of palm trees stand as if in greeting, looking like they are waving at you like old friends. To get to Cape Weligama, you can either take a short seaplane ride that lands in a lake (!) or have a driver take you by car on Sri Lanka’s newly paved highway for 2.5 hours.
Relax and let Pomalo Travel arrange the whole trip for you: flight, seaplane, driver and hotel booking, so all you have to do is sit back and take in the beautiful temples, babbling rivers and cows crossing roads.
The hotel lobby is unassuming, with a lazy fan and a handful of colorful seats near a wooden desk, and you wonder – is this it? The first surprise is a room upgrade when booking through a travel agency such as Pomalo Travel. The second surprise is a complimentary afternoon tea before heading to your room.
Walk past full green trees that dance in the breeze like dresses at a party to a temple-like, colorful, open-air structure that serves as the main restaurant.
Nibble on freshly made sandwiches and sip on tea as you take in your surrounds: the roar of the Indian ocean, the coolness of coconut water, the hundreds of shades of green and blue. It’s relaxing and invigorating all at once.
The rooms are among the largest of all resorts in Sri Lanka. Whether you opt for a pool suite or splurge on an ocean view room, you will be greeted with a space that’s larger than a standard Dubai apartment.
A private terrace is ideal for sun lounging with a view.
Inside, a work area complete with a beautifully carved wooden desk and a library will make you feel less guilty if you have to work a little while on holiday. Complimentary wifi is standard.
There is also a mini bar stocked with dozens of varieties of tea and complimentary snacks. The bedrooms are spacious, with a king size bed that looks like it could comfortably fit four people and a blanket thick like frosting on a cake.
The attention to detail is phenomenal at this hotel. For example, five star hotels generally have nice blow-dryers to help women manage their beach hair on vacation, but Cape Weligama takes it a step further: blow-dryers come equipped with diffusers (curly hair girls, rejoice!) and coconut oil that you can use to nourish your tresses.
The bathroom will appeal to interior design aficionados. Wooden towel racks are artfully positioned next to a marble standalone bathtub that has windows facing the greenery and the sea.
Next to it, the shower doubles as a private steam room. Last but not least, separate his and hers sinks and organic, homemade products make this area more of a luxurious hammam than a simple bathroom.
Take a Dip
As beautiful as the room is, Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna will beckon you to come explore outside.
A winding, stone staircase will take you from your room to a shared infinity pool that juts out of the grassy cliffside overlooking the sea.
Swimming laps in the morning with dragonflies keeping you company is nothing short of a spiritual experience.
If for some crazy reason you feel the need to leave this private, heavenly enclave, head over to The Moon Pool: an infinity pool facing the sea, surrounded by palm trees, with some delicious pool-menu food that will have you lounging for hours.
The hotel has 15 pools that you can find among the jungles and trees – we saw about 5 of them and each is prettier than the next:
If you prefer a more active take on swimming, head over to the hotel’s dive center to rent surfboards and boogie boards. Sri Lanka is famous for its waves. Hint: the photos that you take at the beach, with big rocks rising out of the water and nodding palm trees, will likely become your computer screensaver.
The beaches are quite a trek from the hotel – a 10 minute walk on rocky staircases – so I wouldn’t recommend this for people looking for hotels directly on the beach. However, as you can see from my pool mania, there’s plenty to keep you happy and occupied pool-side 🙂 And stunning views!
The pool menu includes expected treats like burgers and club sandwiches, as well as local fare such as a delightful spicy prawn curry. We went for a mix: fish and chips, samosas and prawn curry:
There’s nothing quite like food coma on a sun lounger!
The food at the main restaurant is mouthwateringly yummy. We opted for local dishes, such as local grilled fish and fish curries, that were so light and full of spices.
Breakfast is also at the same restaurant, which usually I find limiting, but the choices were plentiful and varied. I had a Sri Lankan omelette the first few days – eggs with peppers, onions, tomatoes and spices – and went for a banana coconut waffle on my last day, because how could I resist?
Breakfast always came with a plate of fresh, local fruit to begin with that I still daydream about today:
Take a Tour
History buffs will rejoice in a tour of the former Dutch colony of Galle, with its colonial style housing and high walls protecting the city.
Nature lovers will enjoy a boat ride on Koggala Lake surrounded by lush greenery with crocodile and eagle sightings to thrill you.
The boat ride is next to an Ayurvedic herb garden, where you can buy pure vanilla extract and fresh cinnamon made that morning by an old man who lives alone on Cinnamon Island in the middle of Koggala Lake.
Or visit a tea plantation and learn about the healing properties of Ceylon’s biggest export. It’s simply out of this world!
Tours can all be arranged by the hotel, with a dedicated driver to take you to each place – about a 30 minute drive.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a place like Sri Lanka, with its whirlwind of colors and sights and sounds that awaken all your senses. Yes, you will be daydreaming about it when you’re back at your desk at work the following week!
Pomalo Travel curates luxury trips around the world. Visit their website www.pomalotravel.com for more.
Resplendent Ceylon: Cape Weligama: www.resplendentceylon.com/capeweligama/
Rooms from Dhs 1,750 per night.
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