“Relax and unwind in an amazing heritage house — we spotted darting blue kingfishers, bright butterflies, a family of monkeys and stealthy mongooses on laid-back afternoons in the garden.”
visited in February 2020
“A beautifully restored traditional villa surrounded by big leaves and beautiful creatures. This place was made for long evenings on the verandah.”
visited in February 2020
One of southern Sri Lanka’s trendiest seaside spots, palm-fringed Ahangama is home to a growing profusion of small hotels, cafés and bars – not to mention the legions of surfers who seek its golden sands and dependable waves.
Keen to sample the area’s lively social scene while staying in secluded luxury? Cantaloupe House offers the best of both worlds: hidden a little way inland, this stunningly restored villa promises tropical luxe in a verdant setting, mere minutes from Ahangama’s most happening hangouts.
The house itself is a hands-down highlight. Once the ancestral home of a powerful local family, it subsequently fell into disrepair – like so many of Sri Lanka’s striking walawwas. Recently renovated, however, Cantaloupe House now fuses elegant vernacular architecture with colonial influences, creating an appealing inside-outside feel, using wonderfully airy courtyard spaces and verandahs to dazzle and delight.
Available individually or as an entire villa, the hotel’s six superb rooms are generously appointed, with a blend of antique pieces and carefully designed modern additions showcasing contemporary Sri Lankan craftsmanship.
Superior Rooms, the smallest of the six, are located at the front of the house, while a narrow courtyard through the back – complete with fishpond and soaring greenery – opens onto three huge Deluxe Rooms. The Suite, meanwhile, runs the width of the first floor, offering gorgeous garden views. Deluxe Rooms and the Suite all boast big four poster beds, sitting areas and enormous bathrooms, some of which have impressive free-standing bathtubs.
We sampled a Deluxe Room to the left of the central courtyard, which was very smart, and a Superior Room next to the communal sitting area. Both were very comfortable and remained surprisingly cool throughout the day, courtesy of the house’s traditional thick walls. While these do make Wi-Fi signal patchy (it’s strongest in communal areas), they also mean that just a brief blast of air-conditioning – available in all rooms – should be all you need.
Whilst smaller than its more luxurious and spacious Deluxe counterpart, our Superior Room’s indoor/outdoor bathroom absolutely stole the show, with an open-air rain shower framed by cascading heliconia flowers – a seriously special place to wash off sand picked up on our coastal wanderings.
Lunch & dinner available
Drinking & dining
Spilling out of the house into a walled courtyard, the dining room is an atmospheric place to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or a delicious dinner of Sri Lankan specialties.
Guests are offered a scrumptious set of breakfast options. Sri Lankan roti and string hoppers with dhal and curry, pre-ordered the evening beforehand, were a particular favourite. There’s also a varied lunch and dinner menu, and the rice and curry comes highly recommended – we feasted one evening on fragrant prawn curry with rice, beetroot curry, carrot sambol and delicious dhal, our plates piled to the brim.
Whilst the hotel does not have its own liquor licence, you can ask the staff for beer and guests are also welcome to bring their own wine and spirits.
There’s a well-appointed communal kitchen, too, where guests can make tea and coffee, and access a water filter – avoiding single-use plastic bottles. The selection of lovely local teas included Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Green tea and Black tea with Ginger.
Facilities & activities
With lush gardens and a laid-back vibe, you could easily while away the day pool-side, reclining under the covered terrace, floating beneath bright blue skies and reading on the loungers.
Or, to fully zen out, ask about early morning yoga in the garden shala, arrange a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage, or crack out the board games in the shared sitting room for some healthy holiday competition.
Cantaloupe’s proximity to so-called ‘wild beach’, a little cove just five minutes walk from the hotel, is a real blessing. Amble down for a lazy afternoon’s sunbathing on the sand, or a refreshing dip in the calm, clear waters – highly unusual for Sri Lanka’s south coast. The sheltered haven is great for splashing and bobbing around as a family, but even the strongest swimmers are advised to not to stray further out beyond the rocks – the open sea is much rougher than it looks.
Ahangama town brims with hip hangouts and trendy eateries for sandy-toed sundowners. Our favourites include The Kip (5 minutes walk from the hotel) for lunch or coffee, and Dreamsea for dinner and coastal cocktails.
Surf breaks abound in the area: beginners are advised to head to Kabalana or Weligama, whilst more experienced surfers can try Lazy Left, Plantation Point, Coconut Point and Midigama Left, amongst others. Boards are available for hire beachside and lessons can be easily arranged.
Daily tours of nearby Handunugoda Estate offer a fascinating insight into Sri Lanka’s internationally-lauded tea industry, whilst a guided excursion with Idle Bikes in Mihiripenna (20 minutes away by trishaw), is a wonderful way to explore the paddy fields and villages of southern Sri Lanka.
Further along the coast road, the heritage architecture, boutiques and eateries of Galle Fort are well worth discovering – the journey will take around 45 minutes.
Things we love
• Gorgeous heritage architecture
• Beautiful bathrooms, including stunning leafy rain showers in the smaller Superior Rooms
• The communal guest kitchen offers a selection of complimentary teas and coffee, as well as filtered water to reduce plastic usage
• A wonderful location, just a few minutes’ walk to a hidden cove perfect for a relaxed swim
Things to note
• The hotel doesn’t have a liquor licence. Beer can be ordered on-site and visitors are welcome to bring their own wine and spirits, which can be bought in Ahangama town (a short three-wheeler ride away).
• Loungers fill up, so get there early to nab a pool-side spot
• Whilst it works well in communal areas, Wi-Fi can be very slow – or non-existent – in the bedrooms
• When we visited, staff were friendly but service was very slow, even by the laid-back standards of Sri Lanka. A wonderful new manager had just arrived, however, so we have high hopes that there are improvements in the pipeline!
When to visit
Sri Lanka’s south coast is in season from November to March. The hotel is open year-round, but the island is at its hottest in April and the sea may be too rough for swimming or surfing in the off-season. A great excuse to make the most of the pool!
Location & information
The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to Cantaloupe House takes around 2.5 hours by car via the expressway. There are also regular train services running between Colombo and Ahangama, via Galle – see our travel tips for further info.