Saman Villas was the accommodation we picked for our final week of a Sri Lankan tour and after a busy week of staying in 3 different areas and seeing/doing as much as we could, we were looking forward to a relaxing week by our own pool in one of the suites.
In many ways, Saman Villas lived up to (and at times, exceeded) our expectations but in some areas, we found it just short of perfect. In truth, it had a lot to live up to as we had, two years prior, stayed in a water villa on an island in the Maldives and that remains our benchmark for beach accommodation.
The drive from Ella to the Bentota area was a long one and when we eventually arrived at Saman Villas in the later afternoon, we were pretty shattered. After a short check-in, we were escorted to our room via the main areas which were pointed out on the way.
Our room (number 29 - a lower-floor deluxe suite with swimming pool) was right at the end of the northern end of the hotel. This was both a blessing and a curse for reasons I'll go into later. After arriving one of the staff members brought us some fruit juice and a bowl of fruit which was nice. Our suite consisted of a bedroom area, an inside sitting area, an outside sitting area, the pool area and then going back in, behind the bedroom, a changing/wardrobe area with it's own sink and vanity unit plus a large safe and luggage storage. From this room, a door led into the bathroom which was, at the shower end, exposed to the elements which allowed the daylight in, as well as birdsong etc. to come in.
The suite was very well equipped with a Yamaha 5.1 sound system, two TVs (one in the bedroom and one in the inside sitting area), a desk, a mini-bar/fridge, the large safe and also a number of buttons and switches on the bed for turning on/off various lights and also for controlling the electric blinds on both doors.
WiFi is free but I found it to be horrendously problematic. On the first day, we could only see one router (for rooms 27/28) from various devices (laptop, ipad, phone) so I called the front desk and they sent someone to reboot the router serving rooms 29 and 30. After that, we could occasionally connect to either router but the speeds were slow, almost unusable at times. We eventually found that we could get a pretty good speedy connection in the bathroom.. so whenever we need to do something (check local attractions, email, check-in to flights etc) myself or my partner found ourselves sitting in the small wooden stool in the bathroom getting that done.
Speaking of the bathroom, while the exposed shower area was nice, it does have some drawbacks. Firstly, it means this room is not air conditioned which means that it can get pretty hot if you're on the wc or using the mirror etc. But more importantly, it means that during peak insect hours, you could find a decent amount of mosquitoes flying around (even if you use the incense burners).
The pool area is really nice surrounded by trees and a nice little area to relax. A few drawbacks here too though - firstly, as has been mentioned in other reviews, your private pool isn't really private. We were fortunate in that nobody was staying in room 30 above us during our stay but had there been, they would have been able sit on their balcony watching us in the pool. In addition, people in the next two rooms (27/28) would also be able to see us (one from their upstairs balcony and the other through the patchy hedge between us). IN that respect, having the end suite was a blessing.
The curse of being at the end was related to noise. There is a building over the wall from the end villa - not sure what it is, but they were making various noises during our stay (constant clattering on one day, shouting and talking loudly another day). Unfortunate but I guess there's not much Saman Villas can do about their neighbours. However, even without that, on a few days of our stay, we were subject to others making good use of their Yamaha sound systems and even playing relatively calm music producing a ton of throbbing bass that was a bit jarring. Some may be okay with this but I'm just saying that if you expect a completely relaxing experience, just remember that it may not be a quiet as you'd expect.
Food wise, we found the food to be very good here - certainly the best of all of our accommodation in Sri Lanka. We were staying half-board so breakfast and dinners were included. Breakfasts were very good and consisted of a selection from a continental, US or sri lankan breakfast. Dinners were presented as a 6 course menu from which you could pick from various appetiser/entree/dessert options with an amuse-bouche and sorbet palette cleanser before specific courses.
For lunches, we tried the in-room dining menu a few times which was fine - it was a good selection including burgers, sandwiches (great club sandwich) and some more exotic Asian dishes. Sadly, there are no in-room tea/coffee facilities - instead you are allowed to order tea/coffee to your room free of charge once a day (in the morning).
The staff were always smiling and said hello every time we passed. I generally found Sri Lankans to be very hospitable and they are all keen that their foreign guests go away with good memories (and recommendations) of the country. That said, I did find that the staff are at the room a bit more often that I'd like - you can turn your little room number sign to 'privacy' so you're not disturbed but if you plan to spent the morning/noon at your pool, they'll call instead to arrange the various staff member visits.. including pool cleaner, garden sweeper, different people in and out to clean the room/change towels/bring fruit/refresh minibar etc so it seems like there are people at the room for over an hour. We learned to time some of our activities around this (and the evening turn-down) but if you just want to unwind in peace, you'll still be called to arrange some of these.
We used the spa once - the spa area is very good and the staff very professional but I did find the prices to be a little high (certainly higher than anywhere during our trip). We also made use of some of the day trips on offer although we avoided the whale watching as their trips are arranged via the navy boats. Instead we arranged transport to/from Mirrissa through the hotel and just booked a trip with another whale watching company (the excellent Raja & The Whales) ourselves.
If you're a beach lover - the good news is that the beaches both north and south of the hotel are fairly empty. The bad news is that more than a few hundred yards out on either side, the beaches are pretty filthy with rubbish (plastic bottles, polystyrene etc.) strewn all over. Not Saman Villa's fault but don't go with expectations of a perfect beach (go to the Maldives for that).
All in all, Saman is probably as good as you can get on the West/South-West coast but it's not quite perfect.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Saman Villas is laid out on a magnificent rocky headland dividing two long, surf-swept golden beaches. Close by is a sleepy fishing village but you would not know it, the only sounds are sea gulls' cries and the surf below. The resort is inspired by ancient Sri Lankan architecture. The restaurants, bars and villa suites are all angled to take full advantage of the sea shore vista either side of the headland. A terraced garden draws the eye to a dramatic infinity-edge pool. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Saman Villas Hotel Bentota
- Saman Hotel Aturuwella
- Saman Resort Aturuwella