Shangri-La Hambantota redefines luxury in Sri Lanka (REVIEW)

With an exceptional location on the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka, in Hambantota, the brand new Shangri-La Hambantota Resort spans an impressive 53 hectares comprising an 18 hole professional golf course, with lush gardens, two swimming pools, 300 rooms and suites, an artisan village, a state-of-the-art Spa and expansive facilities for children.

The arrival experience is breathtaking, with a huge colonial style lobby lounge. There is sense of grandeur throughout the entire resort instilled by high ceilings and airy space. In the evenings, be prepared to be swept away by the fires which adorn many water fountains as well as the main entrance.  While the resort seems grand, every corner is very carefully planned ensuring the utmost in comfort and practicality.

During my stay, less than two months from opening, I was genuinely impressed by the very high standard of service throughout the entire resort. Staff are genuinely warm, welcoming and most of all attentive at the smallest needs of each guests. They all have a deep sense of willingness to serve and they all seem proud to be able to serve. One will find it almost impossible to receive a ´No´ answer. They will go out of their way to fulfill the wishes of the most discerning guests. By the end of the stay I realized my good spirits were so much enhanced by the genuine smile of each every single staff I would encounter.

The accommodations are sensibly split into two separate buildings with the lobby lounge in the middle. On one side, the building is more suited for families with children, comprising extensive facilities for the children (Cool Zone Kids Club with a 7m high trapeze, a drone flying area, outdoor water park, childrens’ pool and childcare facilities).

The building on the other side is ideal for couples seeking the ultimate relaxation, with a 30 meter infinity outdoor pool and a Spa which offers a wide array of Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments. The village which replicates a traditional village is nearby. It features objects celebrating traditional arts and crafts. There are artisans on site demonstrating craftsmaking.

Shangri-La, which is the majority owner of the resort, has spared no expense with its investment in the facilities of the resort, utilizing the highest quality materials complemented by the best quality finishes. Rooms are spacious with wooden floors, also boasting floor to ceiling sliding windows, all categories featuring balconies or an outdoor terrace. Waking up in the morning and sliding the doors opens to hear the ocean was a priceless feeling every day… The marble bathrooms are large featuring a separate large glass enclosed shower and a bathtub. Beds are heavenly comfortable, with the finest linen and plush towels and bathrobes. You will feel truly pampered by the housekeeping service which is truly exceptional. The color scheme is inspired by Sri Lanka.

There is a wealth of activities both within and outside the resort. The 18 hole golf-course boasts a spectacular scenery, being built and conceived at the highest international standards. There is a specialized golf store with equipment on sale and available for rent. While it is available for pros, the golf center also welcomes beginners. There is also a cafe serving snacks for the golfers but also onlookers with exceptional views of the course.

For me, the CHI Spa was the absolute highlight of the resort, with a beautiful setting and an exceptional quality of the treatments. The Spa is located in a secluded area of the resort, offering twelve treatment rooms decorated in Shangri-La’s signature CHI style complimented by local design elements. The relaxing lounge is conceived as a most relaxing garden. The spa menu includes Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments, a specialty of Sri Lanka, and our therapists use 100% natural spa products. I would exceptionally recommend the Asian Blend treatment by one of the highly trained therapists, with a mix of Asian massage and relaxation techniques.

The resort is located along the ancient Spice Route in a city steeped in rich history. Hambantota is renowned  for its sheer natural beauty and wildlife, the Yala and Bundala National Parks being located within less than an hour drive from the resort. I experienced an afternoon safari at the Yala National Park, having the opportuniy to spot elephants, leopards, wild boars and crocodiles. The ride through the park was an utterly exceptional and unique experience.

The main dining venue of the resort, Bojunhala, features an abundant buffet with a mix of Sri Lankan and Asian cuisine specialities. Whether at breakfast or dinner, the selection of foods is astounding. For a more secluded and private experience the Sera Restaurant is the perfect dining venue, boasting South East Asian cuisine – I highly recommend the Thai dishes. There is also the Gimanhala Louge, with an semi-outdoor setting, ideal for before and after dinner drinks but also for a quick bite during the day. The centerstage is a fully stocked bar with a wide selection of cocktails and mixes.

The resort is within 20 minutes drive from the Mattala International Airport which is presently only served by Fly Dubai. I was fortunate that on the incoming journey, the connecting flights matches so I flew into Dubai and from there to Colombo just for a short stop over and then to Mattala. On the return journey I took the most common transfer, which is a journey by car from Colombo. It took less than four hours to reach Colombo and I was fortunate to experience the national carnival festivities throughout the villages. But I am certain that, as more people discover the resort, there will be more flights to Mattala.

Click on the following links to watch the video previews of the: Premier Ocean Room ; Premier Ocean Suite; Swimming pools and lobby lounge; Janapathi Suite

Oliver Petcu in Hambantota, Sri Lanka