Post and photos by Victoria
Why you’ll love Club Villa Bentota
Separated from Bentota’s almost deserted strip of sand by a cluster of palm groves is this charming family home turned boutique villa. The colourful two-storey property was designed by legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa and incorporates a myriad of reclaimed objects. Here you’ll find wooden doors, antique columns, repurposed window frames and staircases from abandoned theatres all given a new lease of life in a family-friendly setting.
The bougainvillea-clad villa centres around a leafy garden and a lovely, turquoise swimming pool. Parents should be mindful, however, that a railway line runs along the bottom of the garden (separated by a small ditch so you can’t simply wander onto the track). Only a handful of trains chug past here daily and are by no means disruptive (it’s actually quite charming) and little kids tend to enjoy waving at the passengers!
The majority of the bedrooms are on the smaller side and would not accommodate a large family although they can easily fit a travel cot. The Club Suite, however, is a wonderful option for families with plenty of space to accommodate three extra beds. The service is wonderful, the food excellent and the holiday feeling simply impossible to ignore.
Why the kids will love Club Villa Bentota
Although Club Villa doesn’t necessarily market itself as a family hotel, it is extremely welcoming to kids of all ages. As the majority of rooms are split-level (see rooms for more detail) we feel it is better suited to older children. That said the hotel’s one and only suite is perfectly set up for children of all ages.
The central pool has a shallow shelf ideal for novice swimmers and the close proximity to the beach is a hit with kids. Nearby are a handful of turtle hatcheries, established to help conserve these incredible creatures, and visitors are more than welcome. Kids can see turtles’ eggs buried in the sand, hold baby turtles and then help release them into the ocean. Other neighbouring activities include banana boat rides, water skiing, windsurfing and boat journeys through the mangroves in search of baby crocodiles.
Spread across the main villa and the garden annex, the 17 bedrooms have been divided into Standard and Deluxe rooms. There is also one Club Suite. All the rooms are light and airy and have been painted white offset by colourful murals, traditional striped bedspreads and the odd painting or antique. The majority of the rooms have showers only (no baths) and mosquito nets are carefully positioned every night by staff to ward off any uninvited critters. Mosquito coils and insect repellent are also available.
Many of the Standard and Deluxe rooms are split-level, which is great fun for teens, but not ideal for younger kids owing to the steep staircase needed to access the mezzanine level and the lack of safety railings. All the rooms come with a private area of sorts, whether it’s a balcony, private patio or veranda.
Located on the ground floor, the Club Suite is fantastic and houses a large bedroom, separate sitting room and simply enormous Roman-esque bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub and open-air rain shower. This is a great one for families owing both to its size and its position on the ground floor with doors that open straight onto the garden.
Best Rooms for Families: Of the Standard Rooms we recommend rooms 4, 5 and 6, which are located on the ground floor with direct access to the garden. These rooms can’t fit an extra bed but they are good for families travelling with infants. The split-level Deluxe Rooms are a good option for families with teens; we particularly recommend rooms 1, 2 and 3. Room 7 (deluxe) and Room 8 (standard) are inter-connecting although a high arched window in room 7 doesn’t have curtains, which is not ideal for little kids who wake up at the first hint of sunshine!
The Club Suite is the only room that can easily accommodate a number of extra beds and is the best choice for families with toddlers (it’s on the ground floor) and big kids (there’s lots of space). As well as giving mum and dad some breathing room! Parents with infants and little kids can choose to dine directly outside the Club Suite to keep in earshot of sleeping kids.
The multi-cuisine food at Club Villa is freshly cooked, homemade and excellent. The hotel normally operates on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner are included in the rates). The outdoor dining room is a huge highlight and in the evenings lanterns and candles are placed here and around the garden. Most baby monitors should stretch from the rooms to the gardens but you may choose to eat outside your room if it has a private patio.
The daily breakfast menu includes fresh fruit (papaya and pineapple when we stayed), eggs cooked to order and toast. Filter coffee and tea are also in plentiful supply.
Lunch is a la carte and includes sandwiches, noodles, salads and other light bites.
Dinner is usually a three or four course affair and receives great feedback. Dishes when we visited included homemade spinach soup, calamari salad, freshly grilled fish and Sri Lankan curries accompanied by coconut sambal, sweet chutneys and pickles.
For Kids: There is no dedicated kids menu but the main menu offers plenty of kiddie-friendly fare such as pasta, fish fingers and chicken nuggets. High chairs are available. Immediately next door is Villa Bentota that also has a very good restaurant and a dedicated kids’ menu.
Activities for Parents: Relax into your holiday with an oriental massage in one of the hotel’s dedicated treatment rooms. Pay a visit to the Brief Gardens, a 25-acre estate created in 1929 by landscape artist Bevis Bawa, the brother of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. Go jet skiing or windsurfing along the glassy waters of the Bentota River. Journey to the town of Ambalangoda where Sri Lanka’s brightly coloured traditional masks and puppets are made. Head into Bentota town and visit the colourful, ancient Buddhist temples here.
Activities for Kids: Play in the pool, splash in the ocean waves and build the most enormous sandcastle ever. Visit one of the neighbouring turtle hatcheries and help release the baby turtles into the ocean. Run wild in the even wilder Brief Gardens; Mowgli would feel right at home here. Try standing up on water skis with a ride along the Bentota River or go for a bumpy banana boat ride instead. Ask the hotel to organise a boat trip along the backwaters of Balapitiya and see if you can spot the baby crocodiles hiding in the mangroves.
A/C, babysitting (for an additional charge), common areas, cots, doctor on call, extra beds, inter-connecting rooms, laundry service, pushchair-friendly, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.
When to go:
The most popular time of year to visit Sri Lanka is from December to April. During these months the days are sunny and the sea serene. From May onwards the humidity rises and the rain begins to fall in stormy bursts until June. A second monsoon passes through from October to November, although the rainfall is unpredictable and showers never last for long. Visit at this time of year and make the most of discounted hotel rates! Book well in advance if you plan to visit over the Christmas period. This corner of tropical Sri Lanka enjoys an average temperature of 27C. The best months for whale watching are December to April.
Location & Travel:
Club Villa is located in Bentota, on the South West coast of Sri Lanka.
1) Bring swimming nappies (if applicable) as they are hard to find here
2) Do visit the nearby turtle hatchery where kids can release baby turtles back in the ocean. A highlight for us!
3) We split our time between Bentota and Galle which I’d recommend as an itinerary if you have small kids and only a week to spare.