We spent the first couple of nights of our holiday at The Fortress, a must-stay luxury hotel outside Galle, so we got our ocean fix before heading up to Bentota to Cocoon Resorts & Villas, only a five minute drive inland from the beach.
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive at the idea of staying at a hotel that wasn’t directly on the beach in Sri Lanka. What can I say? I like to stare at the waves. Fortunately, the minute we checked into our own private villa every ounce of that concern disappeared.
The resort was once a family home on a cinnamon plantation and has been developed into a luxurious hotel offering a range of rooms, and more importantly a number of freestanding, private villas which is where we unpacked our bags. All the resort’s rooms are large and luxurious, but it’s the villas in their lush surroundings that are the secret weapon, especially if you come from the sandy shores of Dubai.
In the past couple of years, the resort has been marketed predominantly towards Sri Lankans looking for a luxury getaway. As have its sister resorts Cocoon Hills and Royal Coccon, both up country in Nuwara Eliya. There is now a drive by the owners and management to attract more international travellers looking for a private villa experience amongst the lush greenery, only minutes from the beach.
The villas themselves are outstanding. More like private homes in lush green gardens. Large and individually furnished, they are extremely comfortable and come with a huge indoor spa bath in a bathroom big enough to park two cars. Outside on a semi-enclosed private wooden deck, you’ll find another cold water spa bath. Truth be told, it was so private, peaceful and relaxing we didn’t want to leave the villa for the first two days and ordered everything from room service. The staff were all genuinely warm and hospitable and service was prompt (although the menu could do with a bit more variety). The greenery, the birds, the tranquility and the odd, rather large monitor lizard strolling past our window made it feel magical.
When we did finally venture out, we made our way up to the main homestead where a breakfast buffet was waiting. Admittedly, we might have been spoiled by the air-conditioned breakfast area and the extensive range of food on offer at The Fortress, but this was the only part of our stay we felt good do with an upgrade at Cocoon. The breakfast area is nice enough and the kitchen, visible through a large glass window looks very impressive. The Sri Lankan food was good, but outside of that the range is not great and everything is laid out in the hot, humid open-air. The traditional outdoor seating area is attractive, but even with the fans, we found it very hot and a bit uncomfortable which is why we chose to eat our meals in the cool comfort of our villa. Fortunately we were told the menu is one aspect that is already on the management’s radar as they aim to raise standards even further.
The rest of the day, however, was fantastic. We spent a couple of hours lying at the impressive swimming pool. Unlike our neighbor, our villa didn’t have its own private pool, but we were happy to stop being hermits long enough to lounge, swim and snack at the poolside.
Feeling like we really were in a cocoon of luxury we decided to also give the spa a go. When we requested a massage at the front desk, they sent the masseuse himself to the villa to share the menu and discuss the treatments and time with us. The spa is housed in an impressive stand-alone wind cooled building and I wasn’t sure if the free-flow air and fans would be enough, but they were. The massage was excellent and the prices are still incredibly reasonable by any measure. I’m sure they will rise at some point as management slowly adds and improves all services across the board, so best get in there for as many treatments as you can.
We wanted to venture out and try the bicycle tour through the nearby rice paddies, villages and cinnamon plantations, but we were in town over a public holiday and it was closed. So we opted for Madu Gang river cruise, the second largest wetland on the island. It was a very enjoyable ride through the waterways that was early enough and just long enough not to get too hot or uncomfortable. Unfortunately we didn’t see any crocodiles, but we did pass prawn farms and mangroves and spotted a huge monitor lizard.
We stopped on Cinnamon Island where we were treated to a demonstration of exactly what goes into harvesting cinnamon. It’s still a very labour intensive manual process in Sri Lanka but I found it very interesting. It’s worth seeing exactly how it’s done, and buying the obligatory dried sticks of cinnamon and cinnamon oil, used as a home remedy for headaches. But get in early so you are there on your own. As we were leaving, a huge Italian tour group turned up and that somehow makes it feel less authentic and personal. Our final stop was a very tranquil Buddhist temple right in the middle of the river and we had just enough time to get back for a sandwich and shower before we had to make our way to the airport.
I highly recommend this resort for those wanting a private and luxurious villa hideaway only a few hours from Dubai. It isn’t often that you get personalised, luxurious accommodation like this in such a tranquil and beautiful setting with warm hospitable staff. And it’s not surprising the resort is a finalist in this year’s world luxury hotel awards. If you’re thinking of spending a bit of the summer in Sri Lanka (and if you aren’t you should), do yourself a favour and mix it up with a couple of days on the beach and a couple of days at Cocoon Resort & Villas in Induruwa. And if you find yourself in Nuwara Eliya try one of their other resorts too. You won’t be disappointed.
Many thanks to Cocoon Resorts for the stay and wonderful hospitality.