Hambantota is a lesser-known town in the southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka and is generally missed out on travel itineraries. However, in the past, this area was the center of a flourishing civilization and was once the capital of the kingdom. By virtue of being located along the ancient Spice route, the town is rich in heritage and natural beauty. We came across this place while researching about Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa which is the largest luxury resort in Sri Lanka. Spreading across 58 hectares, and overlooking the southern coast of the island, the resort is a hidden gem in the true sense.
A trip to Sri Lanka cannot be complete without visiting the wildlife sanctuaries. Sri Lanka has fourteen different national parks with hundreds of species of flora and fauna and has one of the highest rates of biological endemism. We were looking for a base after exploring Sri Lanka’s hill country and to visit the national parks in the South. Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa proved to be the perfect stay for us. The beachfront resort is located close to Yala, Udawalawe and Bundala National Parks and these safaris could be done as day trips. The resort is 20 minutes drive from Mattala International airport and about 4 hours drive from Colombo.
We were welcomed with big smiles and the traditional Sri Lankan greeting “Ayubowan” which means Long Life. The warm hospitality made us feel refreshed after our long journey. Our check-in was quick and we were given a quick intro about the resort and facilities by our host, Ashan. The resort has been very smartly divided into two parts, one for families and the other for couples and honeymooners. The abundance of recreational activities made me realise that the resort is a destination in itself and is one of the best for family time.The resort also has expansive golf grounds and a Chi Ayurveda Spa for relaxation. I was intrigued by the concept of the Artisan Village and made a mental note to visit it as soon as I could. We were delighted to check-in into our premier room with a balcony overlooking the picturesque golf course and the lake. Our toddler was thrilled to find an elephant toy and a storybook kept specially for him.
Exploring the resort and around
Walking down in one of the corridors, somewhere on a board below the resort’s name, I read “Unlock a World of Wonder, where stories unfold and memories are made”. After spending the afternoon exploring the grounds, these words made absolute sense to me. I had been pleasantly surprised quite a few times and couldn’t wait to experience more.
Walawe River Safari
The first thing on our agenda for the evening was a river boat safari down the Walawe river. The river begins from the heights of Adam’s Peak and flows across Sri Lanka. We met our guide, Mr Palinda at the reception and were picked from the resort in a tuktuk. Our guide is also the CSR manager at the resort and we were impressed by the numerous CSR programs that are run by Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort. What’s even more impressive is that the staff has to mandatorily be involved in these programs and guests can volunteer too.
Palinda mentioned that the evening safari is more recommended as one can see the birds flocking and flying back home. The tour was quite educative and our guide proved to have excellent knowledge about the birds and animals inhabiting the river. He was able to spot birds and crocodiles that got missed by our eyes and made the tranquil ride even more interesting.
We docked near the estuary and due to the low tide, we were able to walk to the main beach. The sea though quite rough to swim created a beautiful effect to the scene of setting sun. After sunset, we were heading back and I was in a relaxed mood with the cameras in the bag and that is when a large crocodile decides to show up. While I couldn’t get a neat shot the experience of being so close to the crocodile in the wild is a cherished one.
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort is extremely kid-friendly. The staff seems to love kids and our son was in his element, getting pampered to the fullest. Sri Lankans love kids and go out of their way to make kids feel comfortable and welcomed.For younger kids, the resort has a comprehensive kids’ club named Cool Zone which includes art workshops, ball pits and activity areas to keep the young ones busy for hours. The kids’ club staff can also babysit your kids for very reasonable charges. For older kids there is a playstation arena and various games like carrom, table tennis and archery. The resort also has a large kid’s pool with water slides and a water park with sprinklers and splashpads. The water park is a hit with kids and most of the parents were struggling to keep their kids out of the pool, just like us.
For young adventurers, the flying trapeze is a great way to learn some new tricks. The instructor is very patient and gives you enough time to prepare yourself before you take the leap. Kids can also try their hand at golf and enjoy a golf cart ride or two. The resort also offers cycling tours to explore the property and neighboring areas.
Recreational Activities for Adults
Even with the immense focus on kids’ activities, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa does not fall short in entertaining the adults. My husband’s favorite was the premier 18-hole set amidst a vast coconut palm plantation, offering spectacular views framed by lakes and the beautiful Indian Ocean. You can also involve your little ones in this golf adventure and the caddies always have smaller golf clubs for kids which I found very thoughtfulThe couple section of the resort has a romantic infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Around the pool are these cozy swings hidden between the trees that ensure your privacy. The beach has these lounges and beach beds overlooking the ocean. If you seek relaxation, Chi Ayurveda Spa is a place of personal peace that offers ancient healing therapies and personalized Ayurveda consultations.
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort has so many amazing facilities, however, I think the Artisan Village is truly unique. The village is dedicated to preserving and supporting the traditional art forms of Sri Lanka.Every hut is an exhibition of a particular type of art and the local craftsmen create and sell their artwork to the resort. In the evenings you can also attend the regular traditional dance and music performances taking place in the Artisan Village.
Dining and Restaurants
Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort has four restaurants offering local and continental cuisines. The busiest is Bojunhala where the meals are served buffet style. Another interesting experience is taking a culinary journey with Hawker Street style southeast Asian cuisine at Sera restaurant. But my favorite was gazing across the Indian Ocean with a drink at their beautifully breezy lounge.Bojunhala has a special section for kids and the kid’ menu is a hit with the young ones. The Italian nights at Bojunhala has a good variety of Italian dishes. It is also a great place to try some authentic local dishes. We found the spices just right for our palates and there was an excellent array of local dishes every day. The Chefs are proud of their cooking and are more than happy to share the recipes.Our overall experience at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa was wonderful and we would definitely recommend it to be added as a pitstop when traveling in Sri Lanka.
We were hosted by Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka for a couple of days.