Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort review: go with the flow in Sri Lanka
Take a tour of the nearby markets and temples – or simply stroll through the gardens and soak up the sun at this secluded resort
The coastal road which snakes its way around the coconut groves and beaches of southern Sri Lanka is an excellent introduction to the island’s easy-going way of life.
An eclectic mix of tuk-tuks, bicycles, thundering buses and smiling pedestrians cheerfully share the narrow tarmac with a refreshing absence of aggression. The intertwining streams of traffic and livestock are bewildering at first, but go with the flow and you’ll enjoy the camaraderie.
Just keep your eyes peeled and don’t be distracted by the sand and sea you will glimpse through the tropical forest. Sri Lanka’s south coast is one long stretch of headlands and beaches – one of which is presided over by the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort.
The busy little town of Tangalle juts out into the Indian Ocean, its old Dutch Fort commanding an uninterrupted sea view. Were you to swim south, you wouldn’t reach land until you came ashore in Antarctica.
There are temples here, and a popular beach, but it’s the palm-fringed coast to the west of the town that attracts most visitors.
Anantara’s Peace Haven resort has a prime spot, with its main restaurant perched atop a rocky headland and its villas dotted through landscaped gardens leading down towards a sheltered beach.
What to do
You don’t really have to do anything at all – the beach, the gardens, the villas’ private plunge pools and the ayurvedic spa will happily soak up a stay at the Peace Haven – but there are more energetic activities available too.
Beginners’ surfing lessons are offered all year (although swells are biggest from April to October) and surfing packages can be arranged for enthusiasts. When the seas are calmer, from December to April, you can go whale watching instead: on a day-long boat trip to Weligama Bay, you’ll have the chance to see sperm whales, killer whales and even enormous blue whales.
Closer to home, a nature walk through the resort, which sits either side of a mangrove-lined creek, is an excellent introduction to the flora of southern Sri Lanka, as well as some of the birds that live in it.
Anantara Peace Haven is a half-hour drive from the Mulkirigala rock temples, a collection of Buddhist places of worship built on a 200-metre finger of stone. Rock carvings in the area date back to the second century BCE. The hotel can arrange an excursion to Mulkirigala and several other temples in the area.
Rekawa beach, about eight miles along the coast, is a breeding ground for hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Between April and September you can join local volunteers who protect the mothers and their eggs, and you may even see their babies taking their first steps across the sand.
The leopards at Yala and historic streets of Galle are just about within range for an ambitious day trip – but since Tangalle sits in between them it serves better as a restful staging post.
What to eat
Up on the headland, with views out across the bay, the resort’s main restaurant offers lavish breakfast buffets as well as a la carte options throughout the day. Two beachside venues, Il Mare and Verala, offer Italian and Japanese fine dining in a stylish setting.
For a more immersive approach to Sri Lankan food, sign yourself up for the Harvest Table dining experience, which starts in the hotel’s organic kitchen garden (below). After a fisherman has rowed up the creek to deliver his daily catch, it will be served to you in a shady treehouse overlooking the outdoor kitchen.
When to go
For a small island, Sri Lanka has a surprisingly diverse range of climates, from tropical beaches to temperate highlands. On the south coast, Tangalle is firmly in the former category – warm all year, with highs of 29 to 31C, and most months predominantly sunny. Sharp showers are common in April and May, and possible at any time of the year, with more persistent rain expected from October to December. Peak season runs from Christmas until the end of March.
Rooms available from about £258 per night on the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle website. SriLankan Airlines flies non-stop from London to Colombo from about £840 return. Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad fly via the Middle East from several UK cities, from about £550.