Sri Lanka is on the rise. Again. After a tough few years for this Indian Ocean island nation, tourism is back – and on the south coast demand has been met by a flurry of new, design-led hotels. PALM hotel is one of the best.
Set somewhere between Sri Lanka’s paddy fields and its stretching southern coastline, PALM hotel is a masterclass in industrial-tropical architecture and interior design.
This is an intimate and stylish boutique hotel – among the hottest openings in southern Sri Lanka in recent years – brought to life by former couple, Miriam and Laurie, who relocated with their family from East London. The duo brought warehouse-style chic with them and translated the idea into this design-led concept hotel in a former coconut plantation.
WHAT TO PACK
Let’s start with the hangar-style, double-height pavilion; it’s the hub of the property and constructed out of steel shipping container-like materials. Both the design and the dramatic matte black colour are a surprising yet wonderful juxtaposition among the swaying green palm trees. There’s a towering palm soaring through its centre too, surrounded by wicker swings and clusters of matching pendant lights. This is a sanctuary that beckons you to saunter around in a wafty palm-patterned kimono.
Even in the little details, the mood is relaxed. The usually ubiquitous sun loungers are replaced with laid-back mattresses casually dotted around the pool, accompanied by PALM-branded pink hammam towels (that you can conveniently purchase from the on-site concept store too). Another striking feature is the millennial-pink painted wall: framing the view to the gardens and creating (yet another) Instagram-worthy moment, the structure also serves as a simple yet artsy divider from the pool to the accommodation area.
Dramatic black-metal A-frame cabanas serve as the bedrooms at PALM hotel Sri Lanka, and are found throughout the property’s lush tropical gardens. Boasting a sleek, contemporary design, each cabana is thoughtfully spaced for maximum seclusion. High windows meet white-washed rattan ceilings giving a surprisingly spacious feel to the cool interiors, and low, poured concrete beds feature crisp white linens. Rattan pendant lights hover over the barely noticeable inbuilt bedside tables for a laid-back luxury sleeping experience.
En-suite bathrooms are in the humid open air, a stark contrast to the cooling AC in the sleeping area, but offer a wonderful opportunity to gaze up at the swaying palm trees as you enjoy the powerful overhead shower. You may even spot a few playful monkeys frolicking in their branches. PALM-branded skin and haircare products are packaged in amber glass full-size pump dispensers and made with locally-sourced ingredients including invigorating lemongrass and calming lavender. Bathroom products are also available to buy from the hotel boutique, we recommend the naturally-fragranced mosquito repellent body lotion.
The Food + Drink
“Build it and they will come” rings true in the secluded PALM hotel Sri Lanka, where the all-day open-air kitchen housed in a converted shipping container has earned a well-deserved reputation as a local hotspot. And with dishes such as the mouth-watering crab curry served with local kade bread and mustard butter to soak up the tangy and perfectly spiced soup-like sauce, it’s no wonder. The laid-back dining atmosphere invites you to dig in and get a little messy while enjoying a soundtrack of cool tunes that toe-tappingly fill the airwaves all day long, spanning from reggae to rock ‘n’ roll and beyond.
The menu isn’t extensive, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Think classic dishes and cocktails with a Sri Lankan twist (even the G&T is elevated with the addition of fragrant curry leaf). The breakfast menu is equally impressive, serving Sri Lankan favourites such as a tempered daal with a perfectly boiled egg and crispy string hoppers, or a breakfast chapati wrap filled with tangy tomato sauce and fried eggs. Wash it all down with a locally-sourced super strong Tusker coffee – you might want to consider adding a splash of hot water for a less punchy pick-me-up. The iced latte with a dash of locally-produced cinnamon syrup is also a good morning choice.
The Little Extras
Get your sweat on in PALM FIT, the hotel’s gym which has been kitted out with equipment rescued and imported from the now-closed gym the owners used to go to in East London. There are also yoga classes on offer, both to guests and non-residents. After you’re done pumping iron at the hotel’s CrossFit gym and lounging by the pool, there’s more to explore. The on-site ‘Concept Store’ features a vintage barber’s chair and hanging plants, and its shelves are stacked with delicious own-brand, locally-produced natural skin and hair care alongside PALM branded Tees, totes and towels, and a small curation of swim and beach wear from local designers.
The To-Do List
Nab one of the tuk-tuk drivers patiently waiting outside the gates of PALM hotel Sri Lanka and venture out on the 10-minute ride to Ahangama. This surf town is kind of like the Sri Lankan version of Shoreditch back in the day; complete with gritty charm – though with the addition of a picturesque sandy beach (not quite so reminiscent of Shoreditch).
It’s also home to a host of hip new eateries and bars: try Pickled Pelikan and the newly opened Uncle’s for sundowners on the beach. Or take the four flights of stairs up to Lighthouse for 180º sunset views before heading next door to Alaia for a top-notch gourmet dinner with the sand between your toes. If you’re ready to party the night away, head to Trax, for their brilliant live music and DJ sets.
Further afield, the Sri Lankan south coast is yours to explore, not to mention its capital city, Colombo. Discover what to do in Colombo and Galle in our 2023 guide to both cities.