For my last couple of days in Sri Lanka, I had only one wish: relax and wind down, catch up on work, and be close to the airport.
The closest town to the airport is Negombo, a small fishing town known for its long sandy beaches and fish market.
While I was researching possible hotels to stay at I was told about the Reefs Edge Hotel, and while it was not exactly in Negombo (it’s about 20 minutes south of town), after a quick look at the website, I was sold. I wasn’t looking to be in the center of the party anyway, but I was looking to chill out after a hectic three-week tour traversing Sri Lanka from Yala in the southeast to Jaffna in the far northwest, and everywhere in between.My pickup from the train station went smooth, and the typical Sri Lankan welcoming with cool towels and a refreshing drink in the hotel lobby was exactly what I needed after a long day of traveling. Checking in was quick and efficient (you might take this for granted but in some other hotels I stayed at it took over 20 minutes to get checked in!).The room was bigger than expected, and I loved the open air style bathtub in the open bathroom. No worries: there are blinds that can be lowered to induce a wall between bathroom and bedroom, but even when it is not lowered, toilet and shower are separately closed off from the main bathroom by glass doors.
All 23 rooms in the 2-storey hotel have an ocean view, a balcony, a desk (which got a lot of use in the evenings and during the late afternoon monsoon rain showers), tea and coffee making facilities and big bathroom with a glorious, spacious rain shower.While the rooms are perfectly fine, the Reefs Edge Hotel is designed in a way that makes you want to be outside all the time instead of inside the room.
Just off the golden sand beach, the hotel has a large grassy area on which sun chairs are spread out in front of the stunning infinity pool. Looking out onto the ocean from the pool was one of the most calming things I did during my entire time in Sri Lanka!On the opposite side of the grassy area, a two-level terrace leads into the restaurant and bar, both of which have top to bottom glass windows that boast the postcard-worthy views of palm trees, beach and the Indian Ocean.
The two-tiered terrace has a number of tables for outdoor dining on the upper level, and while there are some tables on the lower level as well, it is the comfy nests that catch your eye here. Filled with cushions, and a little roof to protect you from the sun, they are the perfect place to lounge in. I had my morning coffee here one day and it felt as if I was still in bed, only that I was enjoying the ocean breeze and the sound of the clashing waves.There are a couple more of these nests down on the beach, but while you can feel all beachy here, you can’t swim in the ocean itself. As the name implies, the hotel sits right on the edge of a reef, and the current here is crazy, due to the height of the reef that drops extremely steep into the water. While some people might be disappointed about not being able to dip into the ocean, I didn’t mind it at all, thanks to the wonderful infinity pool.
The beach does invite to take long walks, however: a long and wide deserted, palm-fringed golden sand beach that goes on for miles. If you walk south, you’ll have the Colombo skyline and harbor in your view the entire time, if you walk north, you’ll pass a few lone fishermen, but that’s about it. It feels like you have this beach all to yourself.
The walks are needed to make up for the generous servings of food that are included in the full board price, including a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner which both come with appetizer, soup, main course and dessert.Because of all the food, I really appreciated the fact that the hotel has a gym, equipped with a stepper, treadmill, bicycles, weights and some other toning equipment. I found the gym to be quite spacious in relation to the hotel’s size, which is something you don’t often get – most hotels that claim to have a gym only have a treadmill and some weights. Not so the Reefs Edge Hotel where I was able to fit in a full daily workout.
If you feel less active, you can just work your way through the comprehensive drinks menu at the bar, which I thought was very reasonable priced, especially compared to some of the ridiculously overpriced drink menus I’d seen in other hotels of the same standard. If you feel like getting pampered, also no problem: the hotel has a large beautiful spa where you can get any treatment you desire, or let the certified massage therapists work their magic to make sure you leave the hotel 100% relaxed.Breakfast seemed to cater to British guests (bacon, eggs, baked beans, sausages and grilled tomatoes) but I was pleased to see that local breakfast (string hoppers, dhal curry, potato curry, coconut sambal and meat) was available as well. In addition, there are fresh fruit and yogurt, breads, croissants and sweet pastries.Lunch and dinner both have several items to choose from for each course and I left the restaurant stuffed each time.
The staff was always helpful and attentive, everyone was doing their best to please the guests, although I found the language barrier difficult and the service slow at times. The pool attendant was the sweetest of them all, always making sure that my towels were tucked into the sun chair really well, and offering to take some photos of me inside the pool.
For me, the absolute standout feature at the Edge Reef Hotel is the beautifully landscaped outside area that makes you want to do nothing but lounge, sunbathe and relax. As drinks were served right to the sunbed by the pool, I had no desire to even leave the property! I just wanted to enjoy the pool, relax and indulge in fruit plates all day long.
The thoughtful equipment of the rooms is another aspect that stood out: there are monsoon rains in Sri Lanka (mainly May to September in this part of the island), which doesn’t mean that it rains all day, but it will rain for a couple of hours. For these hours, the Reefs Edge makes sure you won’t get bored in your room: you can rent DVDs (a massive movie selection!) or you can take a bath in the elegant stand-alone bathtub, or just sit at the desk and upload your vacation photos to Facebook or do it the old-fashioned way and write postcards to your loved ones.
Room for improvement
As mentioned above, I found the service to be lacking that extra bit of knowledge that you would expect in a hotel of this class, but considering that the hotel had only been open for eight months at the time of my visit and was just about to go in its first high season, I am confident that service will get better over time.
The other aspect I found left to be desired was the food. While I always left the restaurant with a full belly, I never returned to my room thinking ‘this was an amazing dinner‘. In fact, the vegetarian rice and curry dish was probably the one I liked the least in all of my time in Sri Lanka. The hot breakfast dishes were lukewarm, the pastries often didn’t seem fresh (defrosted?), and vegetarian dishes were not clearly marked – I ended up with fish in my chickpeas, which is horrifying for any vegetarian. Vegetarian dishes should be marked as such, and the quality of the breakfast buffet could use an upgrade to become top-notch.
In my opinion, the Reefs Edge hotel is the perfect place to end a tour of Sri Lanka. It has everything you need to relax – a spa, a terrific infinity pool, a bar and restaurant with fair prices, an exquisite spa and staff that make you feel welcome at all times. And should you feel the urge to leave the property (which you probably won’t!), the hotel can arrange excursions to nearby attractions for you, such as the famous Negombo fish market or the nearby Muthujawarela Wetlands, for which I left my comfy spot by the pool one day, and while I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it, the amount of wildlife I saw on this cruise through the backwaters, canals and the Negombo lagoon, including kingfisher birds, water monitors and herons. As a wildlife lover, this was a fantastic way to end my time in Sri Lanka. The proximity to both Colombo and Negombo is also unbeatable, as is the short distance to the airport (less than 30 mins away).
Location: No. 300, Old Colombo Road, 11328 Uswetakeiyawa, Sri Lanka
Price: Starting at $101 per standard double room per night, $114 for superior rooms, $127 for deluxe rooms. Breakfast, half-board and full-board packages can be booked.
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Breakfast included in room rate, free wi-fi, infinity pool, spa, gym, beach access, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities in each room, flatscreen TV with DVD player, free wi-fi, transfer service, bar and restaurant, airport transfer possible, tour desk, sun terraces, all rooms have ocean views
Website: www.reefsedge.lk or follow Reefs Edge Hotel on Facebook