The jungle hideout of childhood dreams, made real with shipping containers. Forget glamping: PALM’s cabanas are the ultimate blend of boho minimalism and tropical escapism.– Chris, last visited in January 2020
From Shoreditch to Sri Lanka, PALM brings warehouse industrialism to the paddy fields of Ahangama. Situated just 10 minutes from a happening stretch of south coast sand, this hidden haven of urban style and jungle bliss is a truly unique way to escape the outside world.
All metal, glass and monochrome shades, PALM’s standalone triangular cabanas inhabit an extensive, jungle-fringed garden, promising chic minimalism, comfort and privacy in equal measure. Likewise, the two-tier structure at its heart – a space to eat, meet and chill – is a leafy and airy bohemian pavilion, neighboured by a pool that’s perennially enticing.
A labour of love for owners Miriam and Laurie – who bought their dream plot three years ago, after a lengthy search for the perfect spot – the result is an escape unlike any other on the island, combining pared-back boho vibes with Scandi industrial style, against the unique backdrop of a coconut plantation. A lesson in laid-back living, PALM is a paradise for barefoot jungle creatures.
With relaxed tunes wafting on humid air throughout the day, countless rattan swing chairs poised to cosset you in cushioned comfort and a team of friendly staff on hand to help, it’s all too easy to forget that there’s a world beyond the palm trees and paddy fields.
And yet, there is: lively Ahangama (one of the south coast’s hottest hangouts) is just ten minutes away by three-wheeler, home to a host of cafés, shops eateries – not to mention the celebrated surf breaks which have been drawing travellers to the teardrop island for decades.
Six striking A-frame cabanas are dotted around PALM’s verdant garden, with their angular exteriors coated in black to match the main building. Seriously spacious, light pours into every room courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows, which also offer a glorious prospect of the greenery that carpets the landscape outside.
Minimalism is the order of the day here: polished concrete floors keep things cool underfoot; thoughtfully designed storage spaces make unpacking a treat; and handmade cane lampshades dangle from the high peak of white-painted ceilings.
Every little detail has been carefully considered – from in-room bluetooth speakers to sustainable, locally sourced toiletries — but the ultimate impression is one of space and calm, placing the island’s natural beauty centre stage. Enjoy it from your private terrace or, for a regal treat, the king-sized bed.
Bathrooms, too, are the perfect blend of pared-back and blissful. Indulgent outdoor rain showers beckon you to cool off beneath swaying palms and, on clear nights, skies full of stars.
Want even more space? PALM’s deluxe suites take things – quite literally – to the next level, with two rooms set atop stilts for beautiful panoramic views over the palm trees and the ultimate treehouse hideaway vibe.
Suites and cabanas can also accommodate additional children’s cots, which can be arranged upon request. The hotel owners have young children themselves, so they’ll have plenty of suggestions for things to do in the area if you’re travelling with little ones!
Drinking & dining
Housed in a black-painted shipping container, PALM’s open kitchen serves up delectable delights from morning ’til night.
Executive chef Emily Dobbs (author of Weligama: Recipes from Sri Lanka) creates fresh takes on Sri Lankan flavours using local ingredients and a touch of experimentation. Sample spicy scrambled eggs with coconut roti, devour pumpkin gnocchi topped with buffalo milk ricotta or savour succulent braised chicken with mango and curry leaves.
The team prides itself on using seasonal produce from the surrounding area, and growing as much as possible on-site – the vegetable patch is a work in progress!
Ease into sunny mornings with cups of island coffee in the bright, open-sided pavilion which forms the hub of the hotel, admiring the palm tree that grows at its centre while getting your caffeine fix.
Beat the heat with fruity smoothies in the afternoons, before kicking off long tropical evenings with signature cocktails from the cool container bar. Whether you prefer a piña colada or a pint of Lion, this is a seriously special spot to sit and sip.
Facilities & activities
For those eager to soak up PALM’s laid-back vibes and stunning natural setting, there’s no need to leave at all. Float in the 14-metre swimming pool, flop on one of the low-key loungers, feast on fabulous fresh fare in the restaurant, find a swing chair to occupy with a good book or simply kick back in your cabana.
Alternatively, take things up a notch at PALM FIT, the hotel’s gym. You’ll find Crossfit and powerlifting kit galore: from weights and barbells to medicine balls, squat racks, pull-up rings and more. Not your usual gear? Members of the PALM team are more than happy to show you the (battle) ropes.
There are mats for yogies to borrow, too, and no end of gorgeous spots for self-practice – whether a few sun salutations on the grass or a tree pose on your private terrace. Classes can also be organised – just ask the team!
Nab locally hand-crafted mementos from the on-site shop, including bottles of PALM’s signature shower gels – ideal if you’d like to inhale the refreshing scents of the tropics long after you’ve left the paradise island.
There’s also plenty to see and do beyond PALM’s vibrant garden. If the waves are calling, hop in a three-wheeler for the ten-minute ride to the beach: this is an excellent stretch of the south coast for both new and experienced surfers, with great breaks at Kabalana, Midigama and beyond.
Ahangama (the closest town to PALM) is both a buzzing surf hangout and home to trendy cafés, eateries and little shops that draw a quirky, creative crowd. Look out for live music nights, pop-up markets, artistic workshops and all-you-can-eat beachside barbecues.
• Incredible design: everything here has been lovingly chosen to create a striking minimalist and sustainable aesthetic, with style in spades.
• All-day dining: the food is fantastic, and guests can order whenever the mood strikes.
• PALM FIT: gym facilities are a real rarity along this stretch of coast.
• PALM is a ten minute three-wheeler ride from the beach, but it’s in quite a secluded spot. You’ll need to ask the hotel to ring a driver to take you to the coast, so get organised a few minutes before you plan to set off. For the return journey, it’s easy enough to find a ride on the coast road, but make sure you’re clear on PALM’s location as you might need to give the driver directions down the jungle track. Speak to the hotel about what sort of price you should agree before hopping in.
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 ideal excuse to make the most of the hotel’s idyllic pool!
Location & information
The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to PALM takes just less than 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.
Ready to book your stay? Use promo code LANKAHIDEAWAYS for a free cocktail or complimentary toiletry item during your stay.