“A uniquely cosy escape – strolling past brightly painted fishing boats at sunset was a highlight!”
Visited in October 2021
Escape to a former fisherman’s cottage in a tranquil corner of the south coast. Perfect for beach strolls, sea swims and fabulous Sri Lankan fare. Utter bliss.
Tucked down a little lane at the far end of marvellous Mawella Beach, three restored cottages sit under verdant palms. Each little house has self-catering facilities for the ultimate independent retreat, while the team can also prepare delicious dishes for you to devour on your terrace or in the poolside dining area.
These hideaways are all about low-key tropical living: the ideal antidote to the bustling world beyond the bay. Feel the sand beneath your toes as you watch fishermen bobbing out on the waves, float around in the swimming pool and snooze to the sound of the sea lapping against the shore.
These charming hideaways promise plenty of privacy — book one house if you’re travelling as a couple, or take all three on an exclusive basis for a memorable group trip.
There are three boltholes on the property, all standalone cottages set within their own fenced gardens. Two of the houses – Kotamba and Kahumba – face the ocean, while Kumbuk sits just behind Kahumba, a short walk from the pool and the beach.
Traditional fishermen’s houses which had fallen into disrepair, the understated cottages have been carefully restored by the owners, with the help of skilled local craftsmen. Speak to general manager Ruhunu if you’re into architecture: he oversaw the construction of the project.
We stayed in Kotamba, the first building renovated – and we loved the french doors framing views of the sea across the stone terrace. Expect pared-back, minimalist interiors with polished concrete floors, wooden shutters and striking monochrome photo prints shot by Ewan, one of the owners.
Kotamba and Kahumba each have generous four-poster beds, draped in gauzy mosquito nets. Kahumba has a smaller second bedroom with twin beds – so nab this if travelling with little ones.
Careful thought has gone into designing simple, stylish kitchens, big bathrooms and cosy seating areas. Wooden oars offer a nod to the houses’ heritage: this has been a fishing beach for centuries. You’ll find the stretch of sand outside lined with boats and friendly fishermen happy to give you a nod and a wave before returning to their nets.
Drinking & dining
The food at Mawella Hideaways is truly top-notch – it was one of the highlights of our trip. Speak to Ruhunu and Jamayali about what you’d like for breakfast the evening before, and choose your lunch and dinner on the day. The team will pop into Tangalle for fresh ingredients and cook up a feast based on your requests. You’ll pay cost price for this; owner Nicola will recommend an appropriate tip upon booking.
We savoured crispy egg hoppers with dhal for breakfast one morning, followed by homemade pol roti dipped in seeni sambol the next. You can also expect big platters of fruit, as well as tea and coffee. For lunches and dinners, think delectable fresh seafood – with choices varying based on the day’s catch – or a wide selection of veggie curries. Sri Lanka’s food is famously good, and the Hideaways team definitely deliver!
Tuck in at the table on your terrace, or in the poolside dining area. We’d suggest sticking with Sri Lankan specialities, which can be made as mild or spicy as you choose.
Each hideaway also comes with a well-equipped kitchen. Email owner Nicola in advance if you’d like to find your fridge stocked with particular ingredients – or head into nearby Tangalle town to browse the markets for seasonal produce to concoct your own signature dishes.
Eager for an evening out? Wander up the beach to the Tangalle Social at Taru Villas, or take a ride to Buckingham Place, Amanwella or Coco Tangalle. It’s well worth ringing ahead.
Facilities & activities
You’re in Mawella to unwind, so kick off your shoes and spot brightly-coloured birds or lazy lizards slinking across the grass as you sip an afternoon drink. Private terraces overlook leafy gardens, and two of the hideaways – Kotamba and Kahumba – face the sea, so you can watch the fishermen heading out or returning with their catch.
Take a refreshing dip in the enormous swimming pool, at the heart of the property, or play a game of cricket between the palm trees. You’ll find sun loungers in front of your beach shack and alongside the pool, perfect for catching some rays or settling in to read.
The big draw is undoubtedly beautiful Mawella Bay. Step between the painted fishing boats for an afternoon amble along the sand or a restorative soak in the ocean. The water in front and to the right of the property is the calmest. Speak to the team to borrow boogie boards.
Further afield, you can explore the pretty town of Tangalle, which has some lovely heritage architecture and huge trees, or head into hip Hiriketiya for great surf and cracking cocktails. There are some excellent surf spots and experienced instructors in Tangalle, too – speak to Bandula Surf School about lessons.
Nature lovers will adore rafting excursions at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, whilst the cave shrines of Mulgirigalla Temple make for a rewarding hiking destination. For safaris, take a bigger day trip to Yala or Udawalawe National Parks.
Things we love
• A real sense of escapism — it’s just you and the fishing boats
• Calm waters for sea swims, which can be rare in Sri Lanka
• Thoughtful design: the shacks may be simple, but there is so much attention to detail
• Jamayali’s fabulous Sri Lankan cooking. A real treat!
• Owner Nicola is super responsive to emails, and guests are provided with a detailed welcome pack before travelling – a lovely touch
Things to note
• These beach hideaways are all about secluded tranquility. There are some games onsite, but it’s worth bringing your own books, packs of cards and children’s toys.
• The location can be a little tricky to find in the rain or after dark and there’s no signage to the property – follow the handy map to get your bearings.
• As with ingredients for cooking, the team can head out to buy drinks from the liquor store in Tangalle on your behalf. You can also BYOB if you have something special in mind.
• Traditionally-built Sri Lankan cottages have small gaps between the walls and roof, so you can expect visiting geckos, beetles and some mosquitos. Bring your repellent and sense of adventure!
• A new breakwater is under construction close to the property; this has created an even calmer area for swimming, but there is some noise from heavy machinery.
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 off-season sea might be too rough for swimming or surfing. The little swimming cove to the right side of Mawella Bay — directly in front of the hideaways — stays fairly calm throughout much of the year. Snorkelers will find the water clearest in December.
Location & information
The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to Mawella Beach Hideaways takes just under four hours by car along the southern expressway.
Alternatively, Cinnamon Air runs seaplane transfers (40 minutes in the air) from the International Airport to Dikwella.
There are also regular bus services from Colombo to Matara. You can hop aboard a highway bus or take a three-wheeler from there – see our travel tips for further info.