From $255 for low-season doubles and $435 for private villas. (High-season rates are $390 and $614.)
Now that long-divided Sri Lanka has achieved peace after a 30-year civil war (it ended in 2009), hotel developers are rushing in to capitalize on the country’s pristine Indian Ocean beaches and tropical jungles, stately Colonial-era architecture and Buddhist temples. While smaller luxury hotels are cropping up on the island nation, Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, which opened in December 2015, is the country’s first full-blown waterfront resort: a sprawling but graceful compound of 152 rooms and villas, a spa, beach cabanas and infinity pools. Its third restaurant, Verele, opened in October, raising the chic factor considerably.
The resort sits on a 21-acre former coconut plantation, just outside the fishing village of Tangalle on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast. Several of the region’s main attractions, including the walled colonial city of Galle (home to elegant cafes, art galleries, and boutiques) and the temple complex at Wevurukannala (where a gold-painted, 160-foot-high Buddha statue looms above surrounding village rooftops), are within an hour-and-a-half drive of the property.
For about the same cost of a room at a fancy American hotel, I splurged on a private villa with its own deck and small infinity pool, and a view from sliding glass doors across palm-shaded lawns. The décor was standard upmarket beach-resort fare: coral tile floors, a soaring roof with ceiling fan, plain cream-colored walls and upholstery in tones of sandy gold. There were some nice indigenous touches, though, like a carved teak-and-rattan settee and pair of chairs with curving armrests. A family of wild peacocks visited daily, including a preening male who seemed to like to admire his reflection in my windows.
My villa’s bathroom was enormous, with a free-standing tub (which I never used — the weather was too hot and humid for a soak) and a long double vanity leading to an open, tiled rainfall shower area. One wall of the bathroom had floor-to-ceiling windows looking over tropical flower beds, which I would have loved to enjoy while showering, but landscapers occasionally passing by with wheelbarrows made me self-conscious. Closing the slatted window shades felt like a shame.