Truly luxurious hotels are not ostentatious. They do not boast. Instead, hotels of this calibre differentiate themselves by offering an experience that makes guests feel special round-the-clock, from the moment they stand at the check-in desk, to the second they disembark from the property — all executed with perfect subtlety. Aman is famously known for this ability, so much so that its name is tagged to a group of devotees known as “Aman junkies”, who make it their life’s mission to stay at all 34 (and counting) of its hotels.
Out of the gamut, there are a handful of Aman destinations that stand out as favourites — Amanwella is right up there as a popular choice. Throughout our stay, we would come to realise time again why this oasis away from Sri Lanka’s rush has remained so popular with visitors to the country — even those of the royal variety — and why Amanwella is a necessary fixture on every travel bucket list there is.
Amanwella is located in Tangalle, just a short five-minute drive away from the main town. Though Tangalle is one of the largest provinces in Sri Lanka, Amanwella’s secluded address makes you feel removed from any of that bustle. Flanked by the surreal stretch of the Indian Ocean that beats against a coconut grove and crescent beach, Amanwella defines the beach holiday you’ve always dreamed of.
The entirety of Amanwella is designed as a homage to Geoffery Bawa, one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned cultural exports. As the pioneer of tropical modernism, Bawa was such an influential architect that many spaces today take cues from his ability to seamlessly integrate nature and the manmade into one unified entity.
A walk around Amanwella is a deep-dive into Bawa’s legacy — clean-cut fixtures see bleached white parry with cream and dark wood, and nature is discernible everywhere you turn, given how airy and open the entire property is.
There are 30 ocean-facing suites in Amanwella, all of them 100 square metres in size, fitting into three categories — Garden Pool Suite, Ocean Hill Pool Suite, and Ocean Pool Suite. Little differs between each, apart from the view — one gives you more of the ocean, while another, more greenery from the groves.
Inside each villa, tropical modernism continues, meshing atone walls, terrazzo floors and rattan-style furnishings. Each suite has a private courtyard with a private pool and a terrace that overlooks the beach and ocean, affording you a space to watch the sun rise and set in tandem to the lapping of the waves.
While the villas are ideal for two, there are suites that can be connected to accommodate larger groups or families.
There are three main venues for dining within the resort, all serving a combination of Sri Lankan and Western dishes. The Restaurant is the main destination for all-day dining, and is the most striking of the lot, given that it is raised eight metres above sea level, overlooking both the beach and the infinity pool just below. The Pool Terrace and Lounge Bar complete the trifecta, both offering lighter bites.
Meals at The Restaurant are more than scenic — the dishes themselves are superb exercises in letting local ingredients shine. The Sri Lankan menu, in particular, delights with its array of spice-laden curries, with the tuna red curry being the standout of the lot, given that the meaty fish is caught fresh daily.
Inherent to every Aman resort is the capacity to elevate simple mealtimes into palatial, yet personal affairs. At Amanwella, one can do so by booking dinners at the Beach Club, a waterfront pavilion that specialises in seafood prepared on a traditional coconut grill. If you’re at the resort to celebrate a special occasion, the staff on-ground will be happy to organise entertainment to accompany your meal by the waterfront.
A Sri Lankan Kandyan dance troupe can be arranged to perform within courses, and we can testify that it is a sight to behold. Punctuating each of the courses are Kandyan-style dance acts performed to the beat of a drum, complete with theatrics that spans bold costumes, fire-eating and gravity-defying stunts. There’s nothing to make a feast linger in your mind as much as enjoying a melt-in-your-mouth cut of steak as a man rolls fire on his tongue before your eyes.
Amenities and activities
The roster of amenities within the resort is virtually endless. You can start off the day by lounging in the 47-metre infinity pool, then head down to the beach for a long walk, before booking yourself an in-suite Ayurvedic spa treatment to cap off the day, because a stay in Amanwella is defined by rest and relaxation.
Outside of the resort, Tangelle and its neighbouring areas offer plenty to explore, and the hotel caters touristic curiosity by arranging specialised tours of attractions nearby. During our stay, two were arranged for us, and each seared Sri Lanka in our memories for a long time to come.
The first was a trip to the Udawalawe National Park, home to over two hundred elephants, alongside a handful of leopards, deer herds and other fauna. The drive there began at 6 am, and the tour would culminate with a picnic breakfast in the reserve itself. A break-of-dawn call time is never ideal for anyone, but armed with snack boxes and coffee thoughtfully prepared for us by Aman’s staff, we set off and were greeted in Udawalawe by elephants that came as close as an arm’s breadth away. Nature’s wonders, however, were usurped by the breakfast set-up arranged by Amanwella’s staff. A wooden table, complete with all the trimmings, was prepared on an open expanse of the reserve for us to dine in. Sri Lankan hoppers were served in woven lunch boxes, complete with coffee, tea and juice in actual glassware.
The level of jaw-dropping attention to detail was matched the next morning with breakfast at the Tangalle Lake. A barge laid with cushions awaited us on the jetty, and on the boat were boxes packed with our breakfast of choice, eaten as the barge sauntered down the crystalline lake. Talk about redefining our expectations of a picnic to a new level.
Activities at Amanwella are really up to the discretion of the guest. Though we explored some options, there’s this unspoken creed that one only has to ask at Amanwella and watch as their holiday desires are materialised.
Whether Tangalle is on your Sri Lankan itinerary or not, Amanwella is a necessary pitstop to your journey. Even if it takes a detour, there are few things in the world like nestling in an oceanside villa with all of nature’s finest at your doorstep, and little luxury like the dedication, attentiveness and care of the staff on Amanwella’s grounds. Words do little to justify how Amanwella is nirvana in Tangalle, and while we’ve done our best, this is a call for you to pay a visit and live it for yourself.