Family Hotel Review: Illuketia, Nr Galle, Sri Lanka
It’s not all about the beach in Sri Lanka as evidenced by this splendid estate set amid 10 acres of tropical garden and a spectacular array of wildlife.
Best For: Explorers and adventurers, time away from the beach; big kids and teens (but all ages welcome).
Reviewed by: Victoria Westmacott
Why You’ll Love It
Spend your days at this splendid estate, set amid 10 acres of tropical garden, surrounded by palm trees, bamboo groves and a riot of colourful tropical flowers.
The main house sits on a small hill towards the back of the garden, bordered by tea, pepper, rubber and cinnamon plantations. Its design resembles a Balinese villa with a wooden roof and antique temple doors. Inside the décor is equally charming with rooms opening onto pillared verandas, wicker chairs, wall hangings and oodles of flower arrangements.
Positioned below the main house (nearby, but out of sight) is the Pond House that houses two suites in addition to the four suites in the main building. Both properties can be rented out in their entirety or as individual rooms. This is a place to relax, unwind and witness some of the glorious flora, fauna and wildlife that this corner of the Resplendent Isle has to offer.
Why The Kids Will Love It
Illuketia boasts the kind of wild, tropical garden that would make Baloo and Bagheera feel right at home. And while you might not spot these two creatures, you will spy a huge variety of wildlife including brightly coloured birds, monkeys, monitor lizards and frogs.
The grounds are a fascinating place to explore filled with over-sized creepers and ferns, enormous flower shrubs and giant heliconias. Secret paths criss-cross the gardens alongside silent waterways, lotus ponds and stepping-stones. Parents with little kids should note, however, that the garden is on a steep slope mostly covered in thick vegetation and is better suited to big kids and teens rather than toddlers. There is also a lot of water on the property.
Big kids and teens will enjoy the various activities offered here including the 25-metre swimming pool at the bottom of the garden, visits to Weherahena, an underground temple (very Indian Jones) and the Hummanya blowhole, apparently the second largest in the world. The beach is a short tuk tuk ride away or you can visit Illuketia’s sister property, Apa Villas, and borrow their pool for the afternoon.
The six bedrooms are divided between the main house and the Pond House.
The rooms can be rented individually or you can rent either villa (or the whole property) in its entirety.
The décor is simple but elegant with tiled floors, whitewashed walls and the odd splash of Sri Lankan colour in the shape of a wall hanging, painting or throw. All the rooms have ensuite bathrooms and mosquito nets.
The Main House has four suites: Hibiscus, Lotus, Citronella and Water Lilly.
Accented with touches of red and fuchsia is the spacious Hibiscus Suite that opens onto a large covered balcony overlooking paddy fields.
The Lemon Suite is decorated with highlights of lemon, yellow and olive green and overlooks the tea plantation. Both these suites have king-size beds.
The Citronella Suite is smaller than the others but has its own private garden terrace. This room comes with a double bed.
The Water Lily Suite houses an antique four-poster bed and has views over the garden.
The Pond House, set at the bottom of the garden, is home to the Ginger and Jasmine suites as well as having its own living and dining room overlooking the spring-fed lily pond. The Pond House is serviced by a separate butler.
The Ginger Suite opens onto a veranda and lotus pond. The suite is furnished with a king size bed on a raised platform.
The Jasmine Suite has two queen size beds and an open-air bathroom. This suite also opens onto the veranda with views over the lily pond. A steep staircase accesses the pond; the pond is not fenced.
Best Rooms for Families: The main house works well for families travelling together or families with big kids and teens requiring extra space.
The Lotus Suite is the largest of the lot and can accommodate two extra beds.
Hibiscus and Citronella can each fit one extra bed.
Water Lilly can accommodate a baby cot only.
In the Pond House both the Ginger and Jasmine Suites can accommodate one extra bed. None of the rooms have kettles, fridges or TVs.
Illuketia’s food is fantastic and outside guests often come for dinner to sample the cuisine. Much of their produce is grown organically in their gardens. The housekeeper is in charge of shopping trips and guests are welcome to make requests – or even join in the haggling down at the local market!
Breakfast is ready whenever you are and is usually served on the veranda or terrace. Fresh fruit, juices, Ceylon tea or local grown coffee, eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausages and more are offered daily. The buffalo milk curd or yoghurt topped with palm sugar treacle is delicious as are the homemade pancakes, breads and jams. Traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts are also available although you must order the night before.
Illuketia’s cuisine works on availability of fresh produce combining the clever use of local herbs and spices. Vegetables and greens are plucked direct from the property’s organic nursery plots and fish, squid and lobster are all freshly caught.
Lunch is usually snacks, toasted sandwiches or salads.
For dinner, expect a three- to four- course menu including a fantastic Sri Lankan garden curry. The deserts are also very, very good.
For Kids: There is no dedicated kids’ menu but there is a lot of flexibility with the main menu and the kitchen is very accommodating. There is an all day dining menu and room service is available between 7am and 11pm.
Activities for Parents:
Learn how to make a string hopper and authentic Sri Lankan curry with a cooking class.
Enjoy a relaxing massage in the comfort of your own room and then relax on the veranda with a good book.
Pick up your binoculars and see how many species of tropical bird you can spot on a wander around the estate.
Ask for the owner, Hans Hoefer’s, map for self-guided walks through the neighbouring countryside past tea plantations and villages.
Hop aboard for an all day boat cruise to explore the coast stopping for beach breaks and a picnic along the way.
Borrow a bicycle and tour the local villages and tea plantations.
Activities for Kids:
Explore the overgrown gardens watching out for monkeys and monitor lizards as you navigate the maze of pathways.
Splash around in the hotel’s swimming pool and then visit the sister, Apa Villas, to swim in the pool and search for hermit crabs on the beach.
Take a tuk tuk ride to gorgeous Unawatuna Beach or visit Galle Fort and watch the locals dive off the fort ramparts.
Head to Mirissa and set sail on a whale watching trip; this corner of Sri Lanka is home to Blue whales and more.
Visit Hummanya blowhole, thought to be the second biggest in the world.
A/C, common areas, cots, doctor on call, nearest hospital is in Galle (7km), extra beds, laundry service, swimming pool, travel desk, WiFi.
Rates at the time of writing were as follows:
Water Lily Suite: USD $160 – 192
Lotus Suite: USD $170 – 205
Citronella: USD $180 – 217
Hibiscus: USD $200 – 242
Jasmine: USD $215 – 261
Ginger: USD $215 – 261
Main House: USD $680 – 819
Pond House: USD $420 – 510
Rates shown are per room per night. Rates depend on season. Rates include accommodation, breakfast and taxes. Please contact the hotel directly for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements.
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:
Illuketia is located 5km from Galle, on the South West coast of Sri Lanka.
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Contact The Hotel
For more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:
Reviewer’s Top Tips!
1) Bring a big beach bag. The swimming pool is a fair distance from the house and you don’t want to be going back and forth if you forget something.
2) Check out these bike tours. We didn’t get a chance to try them ourselves but I liked the look of them (Do send us feedback!)
3) Load up the Kindle. This hotel invites you to sit back with a cup of tea and a good book.
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