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“Expensive for what you get...” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Frangipani Tree

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Frangipani Tree
3.5 of 5 Boutique Hotel   |   812 Matara Road | Thalpe, Unawatuna, Galle, Sri Lanka   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #2 of 19 hotels in Unawatuna
London, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
88 helpful votes 88 helpful votes
“Expensive for what you get...”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2012

Well - where to start. This is going to be a bit of a mixed review as myself and my boyfriend have just completed an 8 day stay at Frangipani Tree and there were things we loved, and others we didn't. Let's start with the positives first:

- The general aesthetics and vistas of the property are fabulous - it looks as good as it does in the pictures. The villas are minimalistic but comfortable, and we really liked the furniture (think modernist cool). The pool was stunning, as was the beach.
- Despite what a few recent reviews say, we didn't have any problems with waiter service - the three chaps that served us were all polite and friendly, and if you asked for something, they'd bring it to you. The room service team were also good and inobtrusive, noting when you were out by the pool / having dinner so they wouldn't disturb you when it was time to make up or turn down the beds. Everything is immaculately clean at Frangipani Tree, from the rooms to the pool. They appear to work hard at keeping up these high standards.
- The breakfasts were (again, despite previous reviews) very good - you get tea and coffee included, then fruit and buffalo curd & syrup, followed by your choice of eggs & sausages / bacon in any which way you like, or pancakes, and the big plate of breads, butter and jam. You can also try the traditional Sri Lanka breakfast which includes hoppers, curry and eggs etc. I don't think either of us every walked away from the table feeling hungry!
- If you love nature, you'll love staying here as the place is a magnet for wildlife. If you watch the roaring waves for more than a minute you'll the at least one turtle popping up for a breath - it's a delight to watch. Every evening thousands of starlings (or a variant of them, they are pied) arrive to settle in the palm trees of the property - this is a spectacle in itself to watch, but also rather fascinating is the local moggies who scale the palm trees trying to catch them! Other birds are also an attraction - the lawns were reguarly patrolled by elegant egret-like birds, who do a funny waggle dance before snatching up unsuspecting ants for a snack! Insects and mosquitos weren't ever really a problem. I was particuarly worried about getting an onslaught of bites every time I used the outside bathroom, but apart from the odd ant, it really wasn't a problem for a bug-aphobe like myself!

So - those are the good points, here are the things we did find a bit disappointing:

- We found the manager of the place (Angela, a german lady) to be an awkward sort of person and it was clear the staff didn't really like her. She was neither proactive nor helpful, and the saving grace was a nice Polish chap called Harvel, who is there on an internship, who did everything he could for us and was far more personable. I couldn't put my finger on what the problem with the manager was, but I didn't feel very confident in her abilities when everytime we approached her for help with something, she looked either very confused, or looked at us like we were idiots, or a combination of the two, then flew into a bit of fluster about it. Very odd indeed.
- On a penultimate day at the hotel, the Sri Lankan tourist board came to review the property and service. I believe they have to approve every establishment before it can operate to tourists, and it appears their findings fell short of expectations. For the price per room ($250) per night, they identified a lot that needed to be improved. We were inclined to agree.
- The little touches that you'd expect for such a high cost (which is more than we've ever paid for a luxury boutique hotel in Asia before) were found completely lacking really. For example, in the information pack in the room, it would have been really useful to include things like the menus available from the restaurant, tours and excursions, what to do in an emergency - but it contained the bare minimum and when we enquired about tours and attractions we could take in at reception, it was a really struggle to get anything tangible to look at (they gave us a Luxe guide to read through in the end) and I'd normally expect at least some information in the room for us to peruse through.
- There also aren't any of the usual conveniences you'd expect to find in a hotel of this price. No robes / slippers, no in-room telephone (which is really annoying when you want to order a beer to have on your balcony and have to walk all the way to the kitchen to ask for one, as the waiters don't usually hang about), obviously no TV in the rooms, but all of these things would actually make the cost justifiable if they stepped it up a notch and spent some money to bring the amenities in line with customer expectations. They have cleverly passed off the sparsity of technology as an 'escape' from the stresses of day to day life, but I can't help but feel this is an easy way out of speccing up the rooms to a standards befitting a luxury hotel.
- Drinks are relatively cheap (a large 675ml beer is about 2 GBP) but food is expensive compared to other properties of a similar standard. We went to Apa Villa two doors down for dinner one evening and the mains were about half the price of Frangipani Tree. We're currently in Colombo in an exclusive, luxury hotel and the costs are again, half the price. The standard of the food is good, but the menu is quite limited so we tended to eat out as much as possible.
- The position of the hotel on the main road did sometimes make it quite a noisy place to be. The sound of the waves cancelled out most of it (the in-room air con is also extremely quiet) but it was annoying when trucks blasted their horns for 30 secs as they sped down the road very early in the morning as you can hear this in your rooms and even on the beach. What was also very annoying was the bread van that went past very regulary - it plays a tinkly ice-cream tune at top volume and only has two songs - 'Moonlight Sonata' and, for some reason, 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'...! I tired of this very quickly....

All in all, we did have a nice time staying here, but couldn't help thinking things were a little... lacklustre. Profit clearly comes first at the moment, rather then guest satisfaction, which is a real shame as it's not a suistainable model - clearly why the Tourist Board obviously had concerns at the current state of affairs. They have a consultant there at the moment looking at ways to improve things so hopefully this will be a short time problem. For now though, as long as your expectations aren't very high for the price you pay, you'll have an OK beach holiday with stunning views.

A few useful tips:
-The plugs are standard UK in the hotel. This would have been useful to know in advance and they should add this to their website.
- The biggest rooms appear to be Hawksbill 1 & 2 (we stayed in 2) and the upstairs Olive Ridley rooms. Leatherback looks considerabley smaller but we didn't actually go inside so couldn't really judge specifically.
-The safe in our cupboard in the bathroom was secure and free to use - we didn't experience any thefts and security is very tight - they patrol the grounds overnight.
-The beach outside the hotel is not really safe for swimming. Those that did try said it had a very strong undertow and the waves are a bit wild. Wijaya Beach has a lovely safe lagoon and you can either turn right on the beach and walk for 10-15 mins (but you will need to climb over a few rocks) or walk / get a tuk tuk along the road. Watch the tides though as when its high you can get dragged along the beach a bit by the currents if you stray to far along the lagoon to it's 'opening'.
- We dined at the following and were impressed by the service & food: Why Beach (Italian in Thalpe, also has two guest rooms and very stylish), Apa Villa (general menu for external guests is quite Western though), Pedlars Inn Cafe (Galle - varied menu and very good value for money)

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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230 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (48)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Russian first
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English first
Moscow, Russia
15 reviews 15 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 6, 2012

We spent 6 days at the Frangipani Tree and its sister hotel in Galle, the Fort Printers. My husband and I were thrilled with the service, the food and the design concepts of both properties. The Frangipani Tree has a wonderful outlook over the ocean, a lovely pool, shady trees and a relaxed vibe. The staff were amazing - gentle and attentive, without being intrusive. The food that came out of the kitchen was superb - the freshest seafood, tasty and tangy egg hoppers. We just loved it. I was also priveliged to get a one-on-one cooking session with the talented but soon-to-retire chef, Ravi. The Fort Printers is very different in design but has the same laid-back feel and attentive staff.
The only downside was the arrival of a family with 3 small children. It is a very small resort and kids splashing in the pool tended to dominate what had been an otherwise chilled vibe. I'm not anti-child, but this might not be the most child-appropriate venue.

Room Tip: We had an upstairs suite on the ocean side which was enormous. But beward the waves crash down and c...
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
13 reviews 13 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 4, 2012

we spent 4 days during February 2012 with our 3 relatively young children. great property and a lovely nice-size room and huge bathroom (the olive ridley). breakfast was nice as well with homemade bread (which was fresh every 2nd day or so). staff was also friendly. the pool was excellent and the kids really enjoyed the the place. beautiful beach but NOT for swimming - and this is the issue: if you wanna go to the nice and more calm beaches, you need to get to viyaya or unawatuna. getting there is a HAZZLE with a very, very busy road, the bargaining of the price to get there with tuk tuk (we paied 150 rupees to the beach of unawatuna). So if you, like us, enjoy getting a bit out at places with restaurants to choose from, great beach and a bit more life then perhaps staying at unawatuna would be a better option. But if you are looking for a quiet, nice but somewhat expensive but beautiful place, hte Frangi pani tree is recommended

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hove, United Kingdom
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed February 27, 2012

From the moment we booked this hotel in September, 2011 for a stay in March, 2012 via a booking agent, our problems started. We knew this was a busy time due to the cricket in Galle and only booked flights once we had a confirmed booking and the money had been taken. In all innocence we contacted the hotel to request a room and airport transfer and although they indicated there was a problem sorting out room allocation, we heard nothing further for 4 months.

We chased again at end-January and they told us that they could not honour our booking, offering us instead something wholly unsuitable miles away. A series of e.mail exchanges followed (several of which they ignored), and they basically would not apologise but blamed the booking agent for everything. They then eventually offered us a couple of free dinners and a future stay to acknowledge our inconvenience, but did not apologise or help further and refused to answer specific questions about why it was our particular booking they could not honour.

The booking agent provided us with financial compensation to acknowledge that all accommodation left at this late stage was either more expensive or not suitable (much further away or a lower standard), and the fact that we were still faced with a problem to find something else. Eventually we did, but took several weeks to sort out and many hours of our time On hearing that this compensation had been paid, the Frangipani Tree / Printers withdrew all their goodwill gestures, including the birthday dinner on the beach for my partner.

Their e.mails became increasingly terse and basically they strongly indicated that they did not feel any of this was their responsibility and, despite the fact that their hotel takes the majority of its bookings via booking agents, they refused to acknowledge any responsibility for the problems arising.

I offered several olive branches to them but they were all rebuffed and left me feeling that we had been treated extremely shabbily by the hotel from start to finish.

To this day we do not understand why, if they knew about a problem with our booking as far back as September, they only told us that this problem was terminal 4 months later when we chased about room allocation and when it was too late for us to find good alternative accommodation at a similar price? Had we not contacted them, they would not have had our e.mail address or been able to cancel the booking with us directly, and it is likely that we would have turned up and been told there was no room for us.

We were disgusted that they sought to blame the booking agent throughout, never once admitting any of this was their fault, and refused to answer why we were the ones dumped out of our room, rather than others who had booked with them (could the reason be that others were paying more, so we were dumped as the profiit on us was less?) Subsequent goodwill gestures proved false and meaningless – offered one minute, withdrawn the next.

If you book at this hotel, you risk the booking being cancelled at the 11th hour. If you get a good price via a booking agent, or book at a busy time, that risk is clearly even higher. Personally I would not suggest taking that risk, as you are exposed right up to when you have completed the check-in process.

Room Tip: Do not contact the hotel in advance to request a room - they will use this against you when they nee...
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lancaster, United Kingdom
1 review
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed February 14, 2012

First impression accommodation was very good but no fridge /mini bar.
We stayed for 6 days & the breakfast was the same each day. (boring)!! the same two pieces of fruit x 4 &. tasteless overcooked bacon.
Evening menu is good but wine prices extortionate at 50 usd a bottle. However locally there are no other options unless you travel to Galle 10k away.

Local staff very accommodating as we found out on our second night returning from Galle. We arrived back to Frangipani & we asked security staff when the turtles would be visible on the shore line. they replied approx. 1pm we offered them a drink & socialised until 2pm. To our dismay the next morning we discoverd £60 & 10,000 srp had been stolen from my handbag which was in my room. We paid our tab for food and drink within our stay on the morning of departure and informed the manager of our problem . She was upset to here of our ordeal but did nothing to recompense our loss and on departure asked us to pay our bill again.We are still in hope that we get an apology but we wait in anticipation .

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Top Contributor
60 reviews 60 reviews
34 hotel reviews
Reviews in 39 cities Reviews in 39 cities
100 helpful votes 100 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 7, 2012

We stayed here at the last minute, so had no choice in our room allocation as we took the only remaining rooms. We were welcomed by a charming manager and her colleague, then shown to our rooms.

The first room was in the Olive Ridley block and although it was huge and tastefully designed (minimalist to the point of being spartan), I would definitely not recommend it. The traffic noise was unbearable; the sound of tuk tuks and trucks from the adjacent road kept me awake most of the night. The garden bathrooms are a wonderful idea but just add to the noise and mosquito problem. The other room that we passed in this block was even worse because everyone who entered the hotel walks past it and can see inside, especially at night. There are no curtains, just shutters and you need to climb on a chair to lock them. Some soft furnishing would add a huge amount to the decor. The padlocks are less than ideal too; a simple door key would definitely be preferable.

The second room was in the Leatherback block and although smaller was infinitely better. The garden bathroom concept worked much better here as you were further removed from the road noise. The wonderful sounds of the waves dominated the room and resulted in a perfect nights' sleep.

Our dinner was pleasant and the service was good. My only complaint was that we had to day in the corridor outside the Olive Ridley room and it was not possible to get a table large enough to seat the whole family. Fans would be useful too to minimise the number of flies. Breakfast was a totally different story. There were different staff on duty and everything seemed to be too much trouble. We asked to eat outside our Leatherback room, but they refused. They could not appear to provide the omelette that I ordered, so breakfast basically consisted of a few pieces of fruit and some toasted stale baguette.

The lap pool is lovely and the sunsets are beautiful. Galle is easily accessible from here. I have no idea why the only common indoor space has a TV in it. Granted, the rooms do not have TVs, but a shared TV for all of these rooms is a concept that really does not work. It gets particularly irritating when it is left on with nobody watching it and must make it impossible to really relax by the pool. The room would be much better utilized as a bar or quiet reading lounge.

This property has a lot of potential, and the new manager will probably make a number of changes. It's the little details that need work; the rooms need to a little less industrial and the service definitely needs an upgrade but these can easily be fixed.

Room Tip: Opt for an ocean front room. Unless you can sleep through anything, you will not have a restful hol...
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  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
20 hotel reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 22, 2012

We spent 5 lovely nights at the Frangipani Tree in early December. We enjoyed our stay very much. We had the room above the library/TV area, which was huge and had great views out to sea as well as to the pool. The decor is minimal, modern and stylish, so if you're looking for something more traditional then this place might not be for you.

The general hotel staff and chef are fantastic and really accommodating. They couldn't do too much for us and are such nice people.

The hotel was less than half full when we were there (we were there just before peak season), and so we enjoyed the run of the place for most of the days we were there.

The food is excellent and some of the best we had in Sri Lanka. Prices aren't cheap but you certainly get your money's worth. The helpings are soooo generous and of a very high quality. The menu wasn't too large but we didn't mind that at all. The seafood and fish options were excellent and fresh, and changed daily which was really impressive and were very good value for money, especially the super large prawns - which take over the entire table!

The breakfasts (we had the Sri Lankan option every day were were there!) were fantastic. Don't miss out on these! The chef provided us with different options and curries every day to ensure we didn't get bored, ranging from prawns to fish to veggie, all delicious! The helpings were enormous and set you up for the day. The traditional curd and treacle was also amazing, some of the best we've eaten on our Sri Lankan travels.

The sea right outside the hotel is quite rough, but if you walk 10 mins either right or left, there is safer sea swimming, and is highly recommended. The staff will happily help you negotiate with the tuk tuk drivers, and as Galle Fort and Unawatuna are so close, it's worth a few outings to both during your stay.

My one small comment would be improvement of the senior management. Customers appreciate being communicated to and want attention to detail, especially when paying 5* hotel prices.

Room Tip: There are rooms with indoor and outdoor bathrooms, so ensure you ask for what suits you.
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Frangipani Tree

Address: 812 Matara Road | Thalpe, Unawatuna, Galle, Sri Lanka
Location: Sri Lanka > Southern Province > Galle > Unawatuna
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#1 Family Hotel in Unawatuna
#2 Romantic Hotel in Unawatuna
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Frangipani Tree 3.5*
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Also Known As:
Frangipani Tree Hotel Unawatuna
Frangipani Tree Galle
Frangipani Tree Hotel Galle

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