We stayed at this resort September ’06 so i've been a bit remiss in getting a review on here in good time!
This place is an amazing slice of tranquil paradise, but only really for those that want peace and quiet 'away from it all'. In that respect its not really suitable for families with children who need to be entertained..its just a place for couples of all ages to kick back and relax in sheer luxury during your stay. There were a couple of families there at one point, and the children were the quiet type who seemed content entertaining themselves so it rather suited them!
We were quite unusual in that we were based there for 2 weeks and got to know the staff well, it being low season. the staff were so attentive and really friendly and helpful without it feeling 'subservient' or intrusive, the Sri Lankans are genuinely of a cheerful disposition and are happy to help! There were only ever about 4 couples there at any one time, and we saw many couples come and go on their way to other parts of Sri Lanka or the Maldives etc. which is what most people tend to do - stay here for 3-4 nights and move on, as Sri Lanka is a big place! However we like to have a permanent base as we were there mainly to relax, so we worked it so that we took a tour north during the first week to see Kandy and Sigariya etc. and stayed at The Citadel hotel Kandy for 1 night (an average big hotel, nothing special), and during the second week took a tour south to see Ude Wallawe National Park (Elephants!) and the town of Galle, and stayed 1 night at the Oasis Hotel in Hambantota on the South Coast (Awful! Don't stay there, it had a feeling of death about it...which probably figured since the Tsunami had ripped through it not a year earlier..), but otherwise we stayed around Saman as we just wanted to kick back.
Drawbacks first - the resort is a little isolated on its own headland promentary (which is stunning none the less) but there is nowhere really to walk to outside the gates...but there are a plethora of Tuk Tuks ready and waiting to take you into Bentota for a cheap price (the nearest settlement just north of Saman), where there is a ‘Cargills’ Supermarket for any extra supplies etc. Bentota is also a good 3 hours drive from Colombo airport..but that's in the middle of the day (traffic horrendous in Sri Lanka and Colombo in particular!!), we came in from the UK on a half empty flight that landed in Colombo at 2am, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the driver was able to whisk us to Bentota in only 1hr 45mins!! (after he'd been stopped for speeding, got out the car and bribed the policeman to let him go!!!). However the return journey on a Saturday morning did take 3 hours.
But those are the only drawbacks, and even the first could be seen as a positve – you really were cocooned in splendid luxurious isolation! On arrival at 4.45am (!) there was still someone to meet us and with the minimal of fuss they led us straight to our room, quickly showed us the facilities and left us in peace – checking that we didn’t require any refreshments..we didn’t and we just flopped into bed! This was a good sign of the high levels of service to come as, upon waking up and ringing the restaurant, they promptly delivered a ‘brunch’ to our balcony at 11am without me really having to go into great detail about not wanting a full breakfast, but wanting something substantial etc. to fill us up. 5 mins later a chap arrived with a huge tray held high above his head, and spread out a wonderful brunch on the balcony table – fruit basket, pastries and a pot of tea for 2..and being English i sure like my tea and, it being Sri Lanka one would expect decent tea, and we were not disappointed!! They served a single estate tea sourced from the foothills to the North which was really delicious! Indeed i treated myself to afternoon tea each day on my balcony and after about the 4th day the chaps who looked after us, when they saw us leaving the Pool mid afternoon would ask if we wanted our ‘usual’ and bring it straight up! This is the high level of personal service you get here, mainly due to the small size of the place (just 26 rooms, a member of the ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’) and the fact that there were only ever about 4 couples there at a time so the staff could get to know you!
We were able to complete the check in later in the day when we were properly awake and had a good look around and got talking to another couple who showed us their room and we showed them ours. Note! The rooms with the personal plunge pool in our opinion really aren’t worth the extra $100 a night, not when the resort is so quiet, small and the main pool is divine (more on that later) and empty most of the time. These rooms are also overlooked by the room above (they being the ground floor of a villa) so aren’t as secluded as you would think.
There are 4 levels of room, 1 x villa which is the whole villa to oneself (v expensive!), then the rooms with the dip pools, which are the ground floors of the villas that face North looking up the beach, then the bottom level of the villas that face out to sea, followed by the upstairs rooms of all of the villas. Now in our opinion - we had an upstairs room of the first villa next to the restaurant looking out to sea, No 12, we think the upstairs of the villas are the best rooms! But weirdly are the cheapest...? I can’t speak for the rooms with the plunge pools, but they are ground floor so guess they are the same layout as the ground floor room beneath us, but we had a look in the room below us, and it was really dark and dingy. Granted the room was slightly bigger than ours above, but since ours was vast anyway, this is not saying much! The ceiling in the downstairs room is oppressively low in my opinion and does not give you a feeling of airy space, whereas upstairs, we had the whole pitched roof space above us and it made the room feel huge..well it was huge, but it made it feel even bigger! Downstairs the side windows just looked onto the side of the next villa, and the lovely outdoor bathroom was ruined somewhat by concrete bars criss crossing the open space above the shower..ruined the effect slightly but i guess there to stop intruders (not sure how intruders would get in the resort but anyway). The downstairs room has a big verandah with a day bed, again spacious but felt slightly dark and overshadowed as was canopied by our balcony above (that and people could walk right past you on the verandah..not that that was really a problem here!!). The best advice is to ask to see both styles of room, you really don’t want to pay more for the downstairs rooms when in our opinion the upstairs were more light and airy and felt more spacious. Meanwhile our room was divine – a small water jar with floating Frangipani in and scoop at the bottom of the steps for washing your feet and then you ascended the steps onto a spacious private balcony with day bed, table 2 chairs and easy chair. The door into the room was on one side of a vast plate glass window which gave you a glorious view of the sea (being higher up helped with the view!) and one of the best features was that you could lie in bed, and press a switch that operated an automatic blind that rolled down or up over the entire window, so you could greet the sun in a morning without even getting out of bed!!! Ahhhh. The front of the room contained some eacy chairs a table, a desk and a DVD/CD player and small LCD flatscreen TV (we took our own DVD’s, so long as they’re multi region! And the surround sound in the villa is just crystal clear and amazing!). Up a few steps is the vast bed, and i mean vast, i think it was over queen size and very firm and comfortable! Then through a set of ‘saloon’ doors to the dressing room..no pokey wardrobes here, an actual dressing ROOM with its own sink and mirror! You then left the air con villa (the air con was fine, a tad noisy but you sort of got used to it in the background and ignored it after a while!) via the Bathroom door and stepped into the ‘outdoor’ bathroom, which was obviously the same temp as outside (the bathroom door was a heavy self closing door to keep the cool in). The bathroom was lovely – mostly undercover, but the shower tray was encased in a lovely pebbled area and you showered under the stars – wonderful! Anyway that's the room, spacious and luxurious.
The resort is very small, so there is only really the headland to walk around – you can drop onto the beach either side, which is really lovely, sandy and deserted. Unfortunately the sea is quite rough most of the time – check with the Pool Guys whether you can swim, and they recommend that you swim on the North beach then they can keep an eye on you. But why would you need to when you have the divine infinity pool to yourself (quite literally in our case!). It was the most amazing experience at sundown, just floating in the deep end, leaning over the infinity edge and watching the sun go down and the people wandering up and down the beach (and the odd brave local surfing!). being up on a headland again you have a good view (and this is also what saved the resort from being washed away in the Tsunami...). The pool guys will position your chair for you and lay out towels and are always on hand should you want drinks or food. The resort does not have much in the way of entertainment, but there was enough to keep us amused. There is a pool table room above the restaurant, which is also a Book/CD/DVD library should you run out of stuff! You can put your own CD’s on in the Pool Room, or lend from the Library (think the chap attending the library was slightly confused by my Nine Inch Nails CD!!). Down near the Spa there is a Badminton court, and a table tennis table undercover. There is a small jewellers/gift shop, and the Spa which was divine. Yes, it was nearly western prices, but what is a holiday if you don’t enjoy a little indulgence? I had a rather nice neck and head massage from a lovely lady called Priyangi, which cost about GBP35. For reference, there is an ayurvedic retreat just outside the gates of Saman that offer lovely massages for a fraction of the price (another couple staying at Saman told me they’d tried it).
Food wise – the rooms have a mini bar which was reasonable, and there was always plenty of bottled water available, just ask the room guys. The mini bar was reasonable prices as well. But we usually also stocked up on water and Coca Cola etc. from Cargills in Bentota. Breakfast could be taken in the lovely opensided restaurant, but to be honest the place was so empty they were just as happy to serve it to your balcony if you rang room service (no extra charge), which suited me, not being at my best in the morning! You could have virtually what you wanted for breakfast – from american style waffles, pancakes, through pastries to yogurts, cereals, fruits, freshly squeezed juices and tea, tea, tea (and Coffee!). The room guys would only clean your room when you were out, otherwise they’d leave you alone, and always leave beautiful flower petal designs on the bed, a different one each day! And on our first day they left a fruit basket and Champagne in the room, and filled the bath and floated rose petals, Bouganvillea and Frangipani in it and decorated around the bath, and we weren’t even there for a special occasion! Thats just the kind of service you got. We usually had lunch by the pool, a good pool menu, and on Saturdays they have a fresh ‘fish market’ for lunch where you choose freshly caught Lobser, Snapper, Tuna etc. from Bentota and they cook it in front of you, the Lobster was divine.
As there is only the one restaurant, we ate there every night and wondered if we’d get bored after 14 nights...we didn’t!!! There is a set range of courses on offer, along with a nightly changing special 4 course menu (3 courses and a sorbet inbetween the starter and main to cleanse the palate!) which you had to loosen your belt for!! There was a wide choice of courses, but as another review said, all western food (however still to a very high standard). This is only because they dont really advertise that they also do traditional Sri Lankan food..you have to ask, as i did on the second to last night, and they produced a full asian menu out of thin air...i wonder why they don’t tell people about it in the first place, because they whipped up a wonderful Sri Lankan Colombo curry for me – which was delicious (if a little fiery!) I think the key is to ask for what you want if its not on the menu and they can probably do it for you. After dinner drinks can be taken in the Sundowner bar above the restaurant or at the pool bar, but frankly we just retired to our room with (another) pot of tea as we were so full! Drinks are a tad expensive, well the wine was - a bottle of Ernest and Julio Gallo Rose which is about GBP4.50 in the UK was about GBP17, but they do have to import everything. There is no nightly entertainment to speak of, however on the final Saturday night we were treated to a show of some traditional Kandyan dancers whilst we were eating...we’d seen similar at a cultural show in Kandy the week before and it was most enjoyable! And one evening we were treated to a free firework show from the Taj Exotica – the hotel across the bay..celebrating something!?
All in all Saman was an unforgettable place, because of its peace, its solitude, tranquility and the high levels of service that you receive, nothing is too much trouble for them. This is not a place to go if you want a bit of liveliness and night life, but if you are after deep peace and relaxation and just want to escape from the world (but in a bit of luxury), this is the way to do it!
And on a wider note, Sri Lanka is really suffering from a slump in tourism, not only from the Tsunami, but from the civil war raging in the far North. But as Sri Lanka is the size of Ireland, it really is safe to go there still and be completely untouched by whats happening – the far north is out of bounds anyway for tourists. We felt safe there, and it is such a beautiful country that its really worth a visit, you’re no less safe there than anywhere else in the world in this current climate today – so go visit Sri Lanka now, you won’t regret it!!
- 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