This is a strange one, to be sure.
With a few tweeks it could be one of the best beach hotels you'll ever stay in anywhere, but in the comparison with other places we stayed in Sri Lanka (and particularly Mount Lavinia), it just seems to fall short in areas that it would be so easy to correct.
The setting, design and physical feel of the hotel are all quite stunning. But right away you get those little irksome contrasts that make this a frustrating place. Complacency abounds and you sense that they are still all patting themselves on the back for being able to re-open after the devastation of the Tsunami (yes those dreadful Youtube videos from Boxing Day 2004 were from balconies at The Triton, which has now become The Heritance). Positive sentiment isn't quite enough at the 5 star level unfortunately.
It sits behind a gorgeous stretch of beach with surf that you just are dying to play in just 50 feet away - but to get from hotel gardens to the sea, you have to pass an almost comically persistent group of beach tradespeople each time. The hotel has a line of flags to keep them at bay, but the security staff still let them bother you from a distance when you are on a sun lounger by the pool. Would you get accosted by a panhandler on the steps of the Waldorf Astoria as you left to get in your cab? The sidewalk is public space but things can be done.....
The two pools are large and magnificent, with the green pool so huge it even allows you to "length swim". There is also a gym with fairly up to date equipment, but its functionality was comprised every day of my stay by an inability of staff to get the message (despite 3 reminders in 3 days) that the aircon needs to be on and set to below 28 degs C for anyone to be able to use it.
The minimalist design of the public areas has an overall calming effect on you, but with the architect apparently having a veto on everything, this extends to a lack of many of the features that you expect in any large resort - an excursions / news board; signs to different areas; names on the bars etc.
We had little to complain about the food. In fact it was fairly reasonably priced for a putative 5 star, but it had little real wow factor, and apart from some of the local dishes on the buffet menu, it just scraped by. Last year we stayed on Meeru Island resort in the Maldives and despite the obvious abundance of produce in Sri Lanka compared to a coral attol, Meeru's buffets were both more inspiring and much cheaper.
The room was spacious with a big balcony - as it should be for just over $300 a night! But the bathroom was blatantly unfinished with two walls smooth plastered but not painted. Some guests demanded a room change for this - we were told it was a design feature (see photo). With such a huge balcony a sun lounger rather than just 2 chairs and a table would have been an idea. And why oh why was there no rack to dry wet clothes. There was plenty of space, but maybe the architect had his say there as well.
All the staff we interacted with were cheerful and accommodating, apart from the reception staff who were a bit feckless and needed to be a little more proactive. We were invited to a cocktail party given by the assistant manager, and found him charming and with an earnest concerned approach to some of the criticisms we gently raised. It really did not sit well however to be told that the beach sellers were tolerated on a "better the devil you know" basis and that other "newer" nationalities amongst the clientele liked having them around. I am not so sure the Heritance is that well advised to try to imitate Sharm El Sheikh at these prices. Lose the traditional customer base and I think they will lose much of their trade to the likes of Mount Lavinia.
If you were to stay here and, as we are, you are fairly easy going if the weather is good, (as it was), you will probably be happy enough at the Heritance, give or take the $100 or so a night that should still be in your wallet. But I can imagine it could quite quickly become a nightmare in bad weather. You even had to pay to play on the pool table. Free pool if you spend 1500 rupees on drinks - come on!
To end on a positive note of a review which I had intended to be somewhat more complimentary than it has turned out, the laissez-faire approach has allowed wildlife to remain on the grounds undisturbed. To see massive Iguanas digging for crabs next to your sun-lounger while chipmunks frolic around on your umbrella stand is a uniquely warming feeling. We were even able to film troupes of monkeys and even pass them mango pieces to eat on the branches of trees by the pool. Enchanting.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to a beach hotel where style and substance mix like a classic cocktail. Just as the turquoise infinity pool seems to blend into the ultramarine Indian Ocean, award-winning cuisine fuses the best of east and west. Welcome to Heritance Ahungalla, where we weave a little magic into your holiday memories while promising you the finest hospitality and best luxury services among Sri Lanka beach hotels. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotwire, Agoda, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets and HotelQuickly so you can book your Heritance Ahungalla reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Heritance Ahungalla Hotel Ahungalla
- Ahungalla Heritance Hotel
- Heritance Hotel Ahungalla