Last week I spent the long UAE weekend in Sri Lanka. It was my second time on this beautiful island and this time I got to try a new area – Bentota, a coastal city on the south western side of Sri Lanka.
I stayed at the Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa, part of the rapidly expanding Thai hotel brand, Centara, which currently operates hotels in Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Maldives and plans to launch in Laos, Indonesia, Oman, Qatar, UAE, China and Turkey.
I think that the best way to judge your stay at a hotel is how sad you feel when you are checking out and I was quite miserable when I checked out from there 🙂 The hotel is separated from the city center of Bentota by a river, thus making it in the middle between the river and the ocean to give you an added vibe of seclusion and relaxation.
Upon arrival at the resort, you are escorted to a boat on which you cross the river and head to the actual hotel on a 2-minute ride. The resort has 165 rooms and suites with views of either the ocean, garden. or the river, and although I stayed in an ocean view room, I actually preferred the ones overlooking the river as they were quieter.
The kids are in for a treat at this resort where they get their own pool, playing area, games, and a complimentary babysitting service. The resort has four restaurants which I will expand on below since they are not to be missed. Excursions into town can be easily arranged by the incredibly helpful front desk, and there are plenty of things to do and see in Bentota and the surrounding areas so don’t be a couch/pool potato!
As with my other hotel reviews, I will list below the reasons and ways that make this hotel special:
1. Location: As I mentioned above, the Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa is between a river and the Indian Ocean so you can’t really ask for better views or location. Morning and afternoon walks around the resort were a pleasure especially during sunset, and it wouldn’t take you more than 5-7 minutes to get to anywhere in Bentota via tuktuk.
2. Spa: The spa is located on a quiet corner of the resort and has a minimalistic, unpretentious design. As for the treatment, I got a 90-minute massage during which I slept like a baby for almost an hour before I was woken up by my wonderful masseuse, Pan. So imagine how relaxing a massage must be for you to sleep through it! The spa offers a wide variety of traditional Thai and Sri Lankan treatments, including Ayurvedic applications and head massages for individuals and couples.
3. Activities: This, in my opinion, is a major selling point to this resort. They use their great location to the maximum to offer guests all sorts of water activities from jet skiing, boat rides, banana boat rides, and the resort can arrange for you to do paragliding as well. And don’t worry about rough seas because all these activities happen in the river where waters are calm.
4. River Safari: This is one of the signature activities provided by the hotel. A small boat takes you to the backwaters of the river where, if you are lucky, you get to see crocodiles and monkeys in their natural habitat. It was such an incredible experience for me personally because I got to see a crocodiles in nature for the first time, and I would highly recommend this tour, which is enjoyable even if you don’t see any wildlife. The forest surrounding the backwaters is just eerily charming.
5. Food: I was at the hotel on full-board basis which normally I wouldn’t do especially in a country like Sri Lanka with such an emerging, vibrant food scene and plenty of places to try, but I was glad I did. My favorite restaurant at the hotel was 360 which serves mainly seafood and I have to say that they have what is possibly the largest mixed seafood platter that I have ever seen! Everything in the platter from the prawns to the lobster to the calamari was cooked to perfection. Another restaurant at the resort is Suan Bua, a traditional and authentic Thai restaurant, which serves what feels are home-cooked meals – so good! Breakfast was served in buffet style with an omelette/hopper station, and although I would have liked to see more savory options, it was delicious and fulfilling.
6. Service: Despite operating at almost full occupancy when I was there, the staff was incredibly and genuinely attentive to each guest, and everyone from housekeeping to the front desk made everyone feel like they are there to make their stay more enjoyable. It is rare to see this kind of consistent service at a place under this kind of pressure, so kudos to all those involved, especially Mahesh, Nekla, Roberto, and Venushe for making this stay so enjoyable!