A wonderful sense of romantic seclusion in a cool, contemporary setting — we wished we could stay and stay!
– Saskia, visited in May 2019
Originally bought by celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa in the 1970s, the Mohotti Walauwa later became Sri Lanka’s first boutique hotel, showcasing Bawa’s legendary tropical modernism. Renovated, restored and extended by design mogul Shanth Fernando of Paradise Road, the hotel then re-opened in 2009 – and it remains one of the south coast’s smartest signature spots.
Here, coconut palms sway in the breeze, red-painted trains rattle by on the tracks at the end of the garden, and days are spent in effortless tranquility, dotting from the pool to the terrace, a cosy reading nook to the open-sided restaurant, and the beach to the bar and back.
Renowned for its statement black-and-white stripe, the Paradise Road style suffuses The Villa —there’s even an onsite shop, should you wish to take a taste of PR home with you at the end of your stay. The Paradise Road group have a stunning Colombo restaurant, Paradise Road Gallery Café, housed in what was once Geoffrey Bawa’s office, as well as a lovely heritage property, Paradise Road Tintagel, in the centre of the city.
The Villa’s 15 beautifully appointed rooms and suites are scattered around the property, ensuring the guests have plenty of privacy. The famously muted Paradise Road palette offers cool, contemporary style, with big beds — many of which are four-posters — and crisp white sheets, set against Bawa’s classic, characterful design. This is sumptuous luxury with maximum discretion: a perfect recipe for relaxation.
If you’re travelling as a family or group, the Mohotti Suite boasts two bedrooms filled with Dutch-era antiques, a shared bathroom and a private sitting area. Alternatively, nab a Superior Suite and hide away on a balcony overlooking the sea or the garden — and enjoy a long soak in the tub at the end of an idyllic day.
Food is served at The Villa Café, a large open-sided pavilion behind the main house, and on the covered terrace on request. Smart, sarong-clad staff are attentive, amenable and efficient. There’s a calm ambience and lovely lighting in the evenings. The lunch and dinner menu is brimming with options, including Sri Lankan specialities and plenty of international dishes.
The bar, too, is a wonderful place to relax. Sink into cosy white sofas and gaze out over the garden as you savour a sundowner — there are cocktails aplenty and a good wine selection. It is worth noting that many Sri Lankan hotels and restaurants do not have liquor licenses, so this is a definite plus.
What to eat
We especially loved the Sri Lankan breakfast — string hoppers, roti or egg hoppers, accompanied by dhal and curries — though it does need to be requested the evening beforehand.
What to drink
Sip a coffee or a cocktail on your balcony, or tuck into tea in one of the open sitting areas — The Villa is made for lounging and lazing about in the tropical sunshine.
Aside from an abundance of chill-out space, great food and discreetly dispersed rooms, The Villa also has two swimming pools — one large, with a view of the railway tracks and the mangroves which shield the beach, and the second tucked away in a charming courtyard. Massages, complete with ayurvedic oils and traditional techniques, are also also available on request.
Nearby attractions include Geoffrey Bawa’s personal property, Lunuganga, which offers wonderful daily tours of the striking garden, as well as his brother Bevis Bawa’s country home, Brief Garden, which is also open to visitors. Galle Fort, a charming UNESCO heritage site full of shops and eateries, is 1.5 hours away, as is Colombo itself.
Things we love
• A real sense of privacy: rooms feel secluded, and the hotel layout allows for plenty of quiet nooks.
• The service is friendly and efficient.
•The hotel architecture is striking: one to make you fall in love with Bawa if you haven’t already.
Things to note
• Whilst the hotel feels very grown-up, staff are super welcoming with children – plus the shallower second pool is good for little swimmers
• Though the single room is the most affordable option, it really is very compact – it’s better to opt for one of the 14 other wonderful rooms if your budget allows!
• The passing trains certainly add character, but some might see them as a disturbance
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 may be too rough to swim. That said, the hotel’s two pools offer the perfect cool-down!
Location & information
The journey from The Villa to Bandaranaike International Airport is approx. 2 hours, making this a fantastic first or last stop on a trip around the teardrop island.
Things we love:• A real sense of privacy: rooms feel secluded, and the hotel layout allows for plenty of quiet nooks. • The service is friendly and efficient. • The hotel architecture is striking: one to make you fall in love with Bawa if you haven’t already.
Things to note:• Whilst children are welcome, this feels more like a grown-up hotel, and there isn’t much for little ones to do. • Although we found the passing trains added character, some might see them as a disturbance.