Over the past decade, Teardrop Hotels has been quietly making Sri Lanka's hotel scene more contemporary. The brainchild of three British school friends, the group has so far converted six properties across the country into boutique hotels, including a trio of refurbished tea bungalows, properties in Colombo and Galle Fort, and Kumu Beach, which is its first beachfront property. Kumu Beach is on the country's south-west coast and opened in August 2017. It's a 50-minute drive from gorgeous 17th-century Galle Fort and has 10 rooms, all with Indian Ocean views.
Arriving in Balapitiya – one of the most picturesque spots in Sri Lanka – at the tail end of a busy week exploring Sri Lanka's tea country, leads to a whole-body exhale. Enter the majestic five-metre-high wooden doors at the entrance to Kumu Beach and you are immediately greeted by panoramic, palm-fringed views of the Indian Ocean. Crossing the wide expanse of lawn, you can walk straight down to the beach, apparently home to nesting marine turtles and the perfect spot from which to watch the dramatic sunsets. The waves can get quite wild, but the 23-metre infinity pool is always available as a more serene swimming option.
The chic open-air lounge and dining areas overlook the lawn and the ocean beyond, with the 10 guest rooms hugging those in a double-storey u-shape. The two lounge areas are set in adjacent pavilions, with french doors opening on all four sides and soaring vaulted ceilings making the spaces feel breezy and calm. Interiors are by Annika Fernando, one of Sri Lanka's most recognised interior designers and the daughter of design guru Shanth Fernando. Gigantic woven-cane lampshades hang from the ceilings, while the comfortable lounges are strewn with beautiful indigo batik-print cushions. A huge copper globe sculpture by local artist Sanjay Geekiyanage sits between the two lounge areas and enhances the tranquil mood. Eight sun loungers and four umbrella-shaded tables are set around the pool, while two hammock-style daybeds shrouded in mosquito nets sit beneath the palms. There is also a spa treatment room if you want to take your relaxation to the next level.
A four-poster bed sits on the top level of my Oceanview Suite, which steps down to a sunken lounge that opens out to a balcony with excellent views of the palm-fringed beach. The neutral colour palette – think cream tiled floors, beige rugs, stone-coloured lounges and lots of wood – is lifted by coloured cushions and an abundance of natural light. A prime example of the minimalist tropical style Sri Lanka does so well, which leaves any showing off to the setting. My elegant en suite bathroom has a pebble-floored shower and ocean views.
The focus is on fresh and local, with an all-day fusion menu featuring fresh seafood (think ginger-beer-battered prawns, seafood boards and seared tuna salads), burgers and other tapas-style dishes, perfect for snacking by the pool. My two travel companions and I have dinner on the timber deck under the stars – coconut-crumbed tiger prawns with chilli and pineapple relish, followed by barramundi with mashed potatoes and caper and lemon butter sauce, washed down with a glass of Argentinian malbec and served by friendly and efficient staff. Breakfast features tropical fruits, buffalo curd and homemade granola, followed by excellent Sri Lankan egg hoppers. Guests can also opt to dine in the garden, on the beach or on one of the garden-edged rooftops, and there is a small indoor dining room for rainy days. If you feel like heading out for a bite, it's worth driving the 50 minutes to Galle Fort to eat at Amangalla or Church Street Social.
Water sports are available in nearby Bentota; boat trips can be taken along the Madu Ganga wetland, with its 65 islands and untouched mangrove forests; and the mask museum in the seaside town of Ambalangoda is worth visiting. But really, the point here is to leave as little as possible, spending long, lazy days swimming, sunning, eating and drinking.
Elegant and considered, this coastal property is a true sanctuary, with direct access to one of Sri Lanka's prettiest stretches of beach.
Rooms from $258 a night. See teardrop-hotels.com
Waking up to the sound of waves crashing right outside the French doors.
Not really being able to swim in the wild ocean is a bit of a tease. Thank goodness for the gorgeous infinity pool.
Nina Karnikowski stayed as a guest of Teardrop Hotels.