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“A lovely hotel with wonderful staff.”

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Club Palm Bay Hotel
Ranked #2 of 5 Hotels in Marawila
Reviewed April 10, 2009

We have recently returned from a wonderful two weeks at the Club Palm Bay and could not recommend it more highly.
We last visited Sri Lanka in 1997 and despite promising ourselves a return visit “soon” (the years fly by) we finally have and are not disappointed. Last time we did a week’s cultural trip followed by a week at Bentota Beach. This time we just wanted two weeks of chilling in the sunshine – and on a budget!
We had monitored Mercury Direct over the past few months and had researched their choice of hotels on TripAdvisor, deciding that Club Palm Bay seemed most appropriate for our needs (quiet and relatively close to the airport as we well remembered the time it takes to travel short distances in Sri Lanka). We booked only 4 weeks prior to departure and were very pleased with Mercury.
We opted for the Kingfisher Airlines flight via Bangalore and were extremely impressed. The aircraft for the first leg of the flight was brand new. The food was excellent and as the flight was very empty we were able to stretch out over two rows and get some sleep. The transfer at Bangalore was quick and efficient and the flight to Colombo is only 50 mins.
Mercury’s transfer was trouble free with only 5 passengers in a minibus. We dropped off 3 at Goldie Sands in Negombo, which looked OK but the area around it busy so we approached Club Palm Bay with some trepidation. From the moment we arrived we just LOVED it.
Reception was gracious and simple. The first room we were given (109) overlooked other rooms rather than the lagoon so we went to reception and asked to change which was done without a murmur and the new room (118, but layout of all seems the same) had a beautiful view of the lagoon. Yes, the rooms are a little tired but maintenance in such humidity must be an uphill task so if you overlook the odd damp patch, and remember this is Sri Lanka 4* and not the US or Europe, you will not be disappointed (and has to be the best value for money going!) The rooms are spotlessly clean; the beds comfortable, the linen changed every day. The fridge works and the daily replenished supply of bottled water a lovely touch. We loved coming back each evening to find the beds covered with flowers. The bathrooms are probably the most dated areas but beautifully clean, the shower powerful and there is always hot water. The towels are changed daily.
We have never been on an All Inclusive holiday before and had visions of wrist bands, paper cups and queues at the bar. From the first five minutes these fears were dispelled and we sat back to enjoy 14 nights of heaven. The drinks are beautifully served and replenished most times without you needing to ask. The bar staff try SO hard and are delightful. I tried some of their cocktails but found most a little sweet so stuck to their well mixed G&Ts. It’s worth asking what the cocktails are as a “Rider” turned out to be a Shandy – quite welcome in the heat!
The food was superb. The choice every day was excellent. The salads are beautifully prepared and we soon realised how high the hygiene standards were so had no fear. We tended towards the curries but the choice of European food seemed good and the puds a work of art! The restaurant staff were fantastic and very well run by the restaurant manager.
We spent our days lounging round the pool reading and swimming (I’m not a beach fan although my husband enjoyed a daily stroll and said it was always deserted with the beach staff eager to help if you did need sun beds and wanted to spend time there). I did freak the first morning when the “Animators” (who were just LOVELY) wheeled out the ancient music system and cranked up the Bee Gees but it only lasts from 10.30 to 12.00 for the Water Aerobics, Water Polo and Volley Ball – sadly most days the lads could not get enough people to prise themselves off the sun beds and participate but if you did they were so pleased that I ended up doing Water Aerobics for them!
The “free” massages were good and my husband easily able to swap his head massage for a leg massage. The pedicure in the beauty salon was excellent (and toes still painted three weeks later!) and they need the custom, so treat yourself. Other hotel facilities, such as laundry and internet, cheap and efficient. The hotel shops handy for postcards, the odd t-shirt, etc.
The capacity of the hotel seems to be around 275 but I think the maximum occupation during our stay was 84 – great for the guests but not the hotel – so it always felt relaxed and quiet. During our stay the guests were pretty equally split between Mercury, SAGA and Russians. At weekends (one assumes wealthy) Sri Lankan families come either to stay for one or two nights or on day visits and there was a steady stream of local honeymooners as well as local people who use the hotel for wedding photos, which was delightful to watch. At no time was there a shortage of sun beds or was the pool full (and no 6am sun bed reserving!). Again the pool boys were just lovely and the pool and surrounding spotless. We have read comments about the crows but they didn’t bother us (keep an eye on your afternoon cake though) and the chipmunks/squirrels gave us hours of amusement.
This time we just wanted to chill so didn’t really leave the hotel much but did do two trips with Sumudu Perera at Slimline Travel after reading great reviews on Trip Advisor (out of the gate, turn left, cross the creek and then walk about 300 yards, his office is on the left hand side in the modern single story green building with the SlimLine sign). Sumudu is a delight. His English is excellent and nothing too much trouble. He has at least two spotlessly clean, air conditioned minibuses and his driver (young brother in law Sami) is an excellent driver. We did trips to the Elephant Orphanage (a must) and an early morning river trip near Negombo (highly recommended). Sumudu will tailor trips to suit your needs – in our case that was “no Gem Factories please but could you take us to the ATM in Marawila and we need some more sun cream” – he even tried three places before we found the sun cream! Do go and see SlimLine, you won’t be disappointed.
All in all this holiday rates as one of the best we have ever had and we can only reiterate other reviewers; the staff at Club Palm Bay make the hotel what it is and should receive the credit for making this a most special holiday and for making Club Palm Bay a gem on this beautiful island. We can’t wait to go back.
One minus – our camera seems to have been nicked at Bangalore Airport on the way home (and the only time it was out of sight was during security screening) so we can’t share any photos – another reason to return I guess.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
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6  Thank Whitby1964
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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639 - 645 of 923 reviews

Reviewed April 8, 2009

We returned a Club Palm Bay in March 2009 having previously stayed here in March 2006. We were immediately recognised and our welcome was great. Our room was a bungalow overlooking the lagoon, wonderfully clean with room service twice daily, clean bed linen and towels every day. Nice personal touches like flowers in the room and welcoming fruit basket. As repeat visitors we were invited to a gourmet dinner withy other repeaters, wonderful foods, seven courses and plenty of wine and after dinner liqueurs. We found the service, food and staff to be even better than our last visit and would have no hesitation in returning once again. We used Samantha Tours again this year as they offer trips to more hidden parts of Sri Lanka and as this was our 4th visit to Sri Lanka we wanted to go to places that the other tour operators do not visit. This time we went to the Natural Parks of Minneriya and Kaudalla and also to the Sinarargha Rain Forest. We stayed at a super hotel overlooking the lake on the first trip and with a Sri Lankan family on our trip toi the forest which was a unique experience. Overall on our trips we spotted no less than 146 different species of birds. Samantha himself was our guide, he was well informed, courteous, and attentive to our needs. We travelled in a very comfortable air-conditioned vehicle, and had no worries as he is an official tour guide, number C/1033. Samantha runs a good value souvenir shop with a restaurent attached which is ideal for a good meal or drink whilst watching the sunset over the sea

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Pixie07
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 7, 2009

Arrived at the hotel across an unmade road on the beach, wondered what to expect, brilliant hotel with very friendly/helpful staff. Would probably suit someone looking for a quieter holiday, not really the place to find nightlife, although the hotel does put on some type of entertainment every night. Food was average, pool and rooms were good. Beach straight in front of the hotel stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction and the sea is very warm and welcoming but a little rough. Tuk Tuks to the nearest town were available outside the hotel and were run by a very nice guy called Sumit, cost around 7oorup, taxis were also available. Took a two day trip to Kandy including the elephant orphanage with Mercury, very satisfied with this also. Four of us went and would all go back.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank jellybean004
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 1, 2009

Just got back from Club Palm Bay and after having done as much research as possible, mainly through trip advisor we must say that we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Let me say at the outset that we (a group of four) don't do the trips thing, we prefer to just laze around the pool or on the beach,
It's not really a beach type holiday although the beach is nice, and deserted, but the undercurrants make for not swimming in the sea.
However, after reading many reviews, we decided to take in the elephant sanctuary at Pinewala, if you do nothing else, like us on holiday, do do this one.
You won't be disappointed,
We booked through 'Emanuelle tours' via Emanuelle (who else?) who is out side the front gate.
There were four of us in our own minibus for the day and the driver pointed out all the relevant sights, ie, the water buffalo, rubber tree plantation and countless other things on the way and was always willing to stop for a photoshoot if you wanted.
He even took us first to have a ride on an elephant which was optional.
After seeing the elephants in the wild and then one of us feeding a baby one with a big bottle ,we were guided by the driver out of the sanctuary and down for refreshments (actually, it was a much needed cold beer) to a hotel bacony overlooking the river.
The best bit comes next.
They guided all the elephants (we were told there were 86 in all) out of the sanctuary, down the tiny street and into the river for what was, can only be desrcribed as an amazing sight/experiance.
Back to the hotel via a tea plantation and we can say that the hotel itself, although possibly, through the recession, was extremely quiet and peaceful.
We were told it was the biggest pool in Sri lanka and there were never more than 8 people in it (heaven)
The food was good, with there always being something that you could eat and the breakfast, ie bacon/eggs/bread the best we have had on all our varied trips.
The staff were very friendly and attentive and all in all a wonderful holiday.
Even had a suit and 6 shirts made to measure for £112 at 'The Stitch' which is the tailor virtually outside the front gate of the hotel.
Would we go back?
We didn't want to come home.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled with family
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4  Thank crobr1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 14, 2009

This is a very pleasant resort and is distinguished by having what must rank as the largest swimming pool in the world. It is the main attraction and caters for all ages and sizes. Beautifully laid out, it was a real pleasure to swim in. The air temperature in late February was 31 to 33 deg C but the water in the shallows reached 34 deg C. There are 14 umbrellas round the pool and plenty of shady areas under trees. The picture in the brochures was taken about 12 years ago and does not do it justice. The one attached to this report was taken from the top of the water tower and shows the pool area as a much more inviting place. The only negative feature was the flock of 30 crows that came for a dip each day and made an awful racket in the trees.

In regard to the rooms, the ones for which Saga guests have first choice are the closest to the pool, bars and dining room. The even-numbered ones face the lagoon and are simply wonderful in their views (100 to 130). The odd numbered ones face away from the lagoon and are often shaded by trees and shrubs. We started off in Room 117 which was dark, dismal and depressing. Room 119 next door was not much better. We transferred after a few days to Room 120 which was superb in its outlook and privacy and we were able to relax on the patio late afternoons au naturelle. The only drawback to the rooms was the totally inadequate air conditioning which produced a meagre 2 deg C drop in temperature. I took my thermometer. The large ceiling fan was the only relief but it was rather noisy. After 2 weeks we found the inescapable heat too much. There was only the Saga room and the tour buses where we could cool off.

The food in the restaurant was heavily loaded towards spicy food although there was always a good selection of non-spicy food. The beef is pretty stringy in Sri Lanka because the butchers do not hang the meat. A lot of chicken and fish meals were served. There was not a single upset stomach while we were there for 3 weeks which would be unknown in the Dominican Republic. The fresh tropical fruit was a continual pleasure.

The vast majority of guests were from the UK. Just a sprinkling of Germans and nouveau rich Russians. We went with Saga and, although you may pay a littler more than with Mercury, there are plenty of balancing advantages. There are 5 included tours, 3 cocktail parties, a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner. The representative (Fayaz) lives on site and is virtually available all day. He is a terrific rep and nothing is too much trouble for him. The two day tour to Kandy with Saga was quite exceptional and we enjoyed 10 separate activities with an excellent guide. Talking to others who went with Mercury or with Samantha Tours outside the front gate, they saw only half of the things we saw and did not have nearly as much information given to them by their tour guide. Don’t skimp on this tour and go with Saga on a 2-day trip. You will not regret the £65 per person.

There were a few hardy souls who spent their days under the handful of umbrellas on the beach. Loungers and mattresses were provided but it is a tedious walk in the hot sun to get there. If you walk along the beach away from the hotel area you get oil and tar over your feet.

If you want well-made and really cheap clothes, drop in at Mr Stitch, just outside the front gates. We had shorts copied for about £5 each.

We were disappointed that the so-called fruit juices from the bar were all concentrated squashes but this is a poor country and if you want ASDA standards you should stay at home. Service at meal times was very diligent and the staff were attentive. Everyone knows when you are going home and there seemed to be a queue of people (pool boys, room boys, waiters, etc) who all had their hands out on the last day for tips. In spite of a few negative features, this hotel was very comfortable and clean. The holiday was a great success and we enjoyed it very much.

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank jnats1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 10, 2009

We are just back from a fantastic 2 weeks at the Club Palm Bay and have nothing but wonderful memories and good things to say.
The hotel was fabulous and met our expectations in every way. We did have a minor misunderstanding with our reservation on arrival (had been cancelled by email by Mercury Direct !!) but the hotel reservations staff luckily had one room left (the hotel was otherwise full) so we were allocated room 149 which is a suite overlooking both the lagoon and the beach, with views and sunsets to die for, a huge bathroom with both bath, gargantuan walk-in shower and ‘his & hers’ wash basins !!! Needless to say, we were not disappointed !!! We found the room very clean and comfortable and were looked after very well by our ‘room-boy’ who did an immaculate job twice a day !
We enjoyed everything about the hotel, from the bike-hire and gym, to the daily water-aerobics session and weekly curry demonstration. The pool was really excellent (huge and very clean) and one of the attendants would bring out our sunbeds everyday and gave us the same place around the pool next to the friends that we had made. We did visit the beach one day, and it was fine including swimming and playing in the surf (just don’t swim too far out) –but didn’t return as I got sunburnt despite slapping on the suncream ! The beach attendant was great though and brought us both beds and drinks when we needed them.
The food at the hotel is really first class !! We love our curries and our fresh fish, so we were thoroughly spoiled, but some of the friends we made didn’t eat curry and they still had plenty of delicious dishes to choose from. Food-wise, I would say this hotel is very hard to beat. Fresh, delicious, fab presentation, variety, and all served with a smile. Also, I was thinking that the left-overs (of which there were many at the end of each service as so much choice was on offer) would be served to the staff for their meals, but apparently the policy is to bin everything at the end of service, so you can be assured that all dishes are cooked from scratch and there is none of this ‘re-hashing’ of the leftovers for the next day as happens in so many ‘all inclusive hotels’ and not a mention of any tummy troubles from anyone while we were there.

The hotel staff are absolutely wonderful, as are all the Sri Lankan folk you meet on venturing further afield. And speaking of venturing out –this we did with great success with Sumudu from Slimline Tours who is a professional guide who really knows his stuff, very reasonable charges and a very nice chap he is too.
We sought him out on arrival having read about his services, and despite being approached by other operators, we are very pleased we chose to go with Sumudu.
We had an idea of an action-packed 3 day (2 night) tour of the Cultural Triangle (Polonaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla), Kandy and Nuwara Elia Hill Country that we wanted to do, including a visit to the Elephant Orphanage. This was not a standard tour and Sumudu was very helpful in arranging it for us and planning everything so it went very smoothly. It involved early starts (which we do not mind) and in this way, we were able to see so much of this beautiful island which has so much history and natural beauty and is still so unspoilt by modern tourism.
I would say if you would like a tour –definitely Sumudu is your man. He has 2 air-conditioned minibuses that he takes you out in and can accommodate up to 6 people per trip. If you have a particular hotel in mind that you would like to use, do ask Sumudu if he can quote you for that one, as subject to availability he will always accommodate you in any way he can. We have no hesitation at all in recommending him!!
Other little jaunts we did including cycling around the villages and into Marivila, Tuk Tuk ride to Chilaw via the pull-rope ferry (lol) and a morning trip to the Negombo fish market with Sumudu which was a fascinating experience and not to be missed if you like fish and fishing !!

The only very small drawback if I have to name any would be the noisy crows around the pool, which you do actually get used to, and eventually didn’t even notice !!!
Lastly, I would say one of the reasons we enjoyed this hotel so much was the people we met there. Apart from Sumudu (and his family who invited us for drinks in his garden on the beach to watch the sunset !) and the lovely hotel staff, the guests at the hotel were a friendly and delightful bunch. Almost immediately we felt at home, it’s almost like a big club and everyone says hello and greets you. This may be due to the fact the so many of the guests are Saga guests, who are discerning travellers and interesting people to meet, or that this hotel just attracts great guests–but our experience was that everyone was considerate and friendly without exception and we made many lasting friends.
We really hope to return, (as so many hotel guests do at Club Palm Bay, time after time) but then the worlds a big place, so who knows !!! So, if you’re thinking of visiting Sri Lanka and are hesitating, I would just say ‘go, go go’ and Club Palm Bay is very hard to beat!!!

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank susieEpping
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 9, 2009

Booked through Mercury Direct 3 days before travelling, everything was perfect re flights and transfers. Arrived at Club Palm Bay around 3am found reception and was shown to room 177. As stated in previous reviews, the rooms are tired and need a revamp and to be frank we were dissapointed with our room and asked to be moved.
We were moved in the morning to room 148 without any hassle or fuss. Same type of room, but with fantastic view out over the lagoon and beach then indian ocean. Plus this room had a fridge and kettle and was fresher than 177. Still, if you expect 4 star rooms you will be dissappointed, these are 3 star at best although comfortable and clean enough.
The whole hotel could be perfect if it was given a good refurb. Rooms need redesigning and updating. Restaurant should be partially enclosed and air-conditioned because in peak season with no breeze its simply too hot. Reception needs to get rid of those damn Palm tree things and open the space out and make it more appealing and usable. Paths near the lagoon need to be laid and lighting all over the complex needs improving. Gym needs updating. Its location and staff make this hotel so unique it could be a truly fantastic hotel for a moderate investment.
Food is very good, provided you love curry and fish, which I do! Curry 3 times a day for me, while my partner did struggle as she likes neither curry or fish! But she still found some choice for each meal and was reasonably happy for a fussy eater which cant be bad. Also although we have been to all inclusive's with maybe more choice and better presentation, the food here certainly never seemed boring or repetitive. No tummy troubles.
Pool is very good but lacks a swim up bar. Pool staff generally very good. Dont bother with the beach, very little shelter and no facilities from the hotel. A few mossies, nothing to worry about a few sprays with deet at dusk and came back with very few bites of any sort.
Wildlife:- Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, Asian Squirrels (so cute) Water Monitors, evidence of snakes in the lagoon but none seen...Woodpeckers, Mynah birds, Herons, Storks, Kites, Eagles, Mongoose, and thats without leaving the hotel!
Trips, we used Mercury direct for a 2 day trip to Elephant Orphanage, Kandy then Sigiriya and Elephant safari staying overnight in the excellent Amaya Hills in Kandy. I think all operators (Slimline, Fernando, Samantha) offer pretty much the same service for price, we went with Mercury simply as it was a better hotel stop. Our driver Sanjeewa was brilliant, nothing too much trouble and he worked long hours to keep us happy. Dont bother with a Spice garden trip, its a sales pitch nothing more.
I could go on for hours about Sri Lanka and its outstanding beauty and people but the purpose of this site is to review the hotel so I wont. Just go there.
Finally I must thank the staff, mainly Manju, for wonderful service and memories, and the people we met, particularly Keith and Yvonne, and Kevin and Lizzie, you made our holiday! What a magical last night...PS anyone know a good pub singer thats likes Velcro?

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank paxopaxo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Club Palm Bay Hotel

Address: Thoduwawa, Marawila 61210, Sri Lanka
Location: Sri Lanka > North Western Province > Marawila
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 5 Hotels in Marawila
Price Range: $80 - $247 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Club Palm Bay Hotel 4*
Number of rooms: 152
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Also Known As:
Hotel Palm Bay
Resort All Inclusive Palm Bay

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