As I step out of the airport and into Sri Lankan air for the first time I have one of those moments. One where I realize I’ve never smelt the air in this part of the world before and that I am breathing in a new country.
The air is warm and thick, and considering I’m taking my first breaths outside a capital city’s airport it’s surprisingly fresh.
The driver who will take me to the Centara Ceysands Resort and Spa smiles as he pulls up the car and pops my luggage in the back, and I settle in for the drive to my home for the next few days.
Knowing the resort is about 100km from the international airport in Colombo I’m prepared for the drive with things to listen to and read, but in the end I spend the whole time just looking at the lush green scenes outside my window.
When we arrive at our destination I’m momentarily confused. I can see a large reception area but not much else, and it’s not until I get out of the car that I can see the rest of the resort waiting on the other side of the water.
Then I remember that the resort is on a thin strip of land between the Bentota River and the Indian Ocean and getting into a boat to complete the journey suddenly makes sense.
After our short ride across the river I’m greeted with a beautiful lei of purple orchids and invited to light a large lantern in the lobby, a ceremony to bring light to the property. Then it’s time to check into the room and do some exploring.
Sri Lanka’s latest Centara Resort
Centara Ceysands is the second Centara in Sri Lanka, following the Centara Passikudah Resort and Spa on the east coast of the island.
This Centara may be relatively new, only having opened in 2014, but the Ceysand in its name is a nod to the old hotel that once stood here. A hotel that I’m told many Sri Lankans remember well as a popular holiday spot and romantic getaway.
Today there are 165 rooms and suites where modern design is mixed with tropical touches.
My room has a flat screen TV, mini bar and tea and coffee making facilities ready to make my cuppas, and the bed is oh so comfortable which is a very good thing as it turns out that’s where I’ll spend most of my stay (more on that later).
Then there’s the view. Even before I step out onto the balcony I can see the waves from the ocean, palm trees and frangipanis and a large inviting pool down below.
It turns out the pool is the second biggest one in the country so there’s plenty of room to splash around in that one, with the added bonus of a children’s pool down one end and a swim up bar at the other end.
When I’m told the ocean can get a little rough at times and that there may be jellyfish I quickly decide that the pool is for swimming in and the ocean is for admiring and walking along the beach. A decision that is helped by the frozen daiquiris being served in that swim up pool bar.
There’s a fitness centre, a spa, a water sports section where you can arrange to go windsurfing or kayaking, and a special zone for kids and another one for teenagers.
I may not quite make it to the fitness centre or water sports but having recently had my first Centara spa experience at Centara Grand Hua Hin I knew I’d be making time for that spa. After being greeted with a warm refreshing towel and a cup of sweet and tangy tamarind juice I’m transported away by a heavenly massage that I never want to end. Bliss.
I also discover a few furry friends in the shape of squirrels (squirrel!!). It’s the first time I’ve had a squirrel hop up on a sun lounger beside me and while Carrie Bradshaw may think they’re rats in cuter outfits I think they’re adorable so that squirrely move puts a big grin on my face.
That said when I see the size of one of the lizards on the river side of the resort I know I wouldn’t be so cool if he decided to make the pool area a lizard lounge. He was huge! We have big lizards in Australia too of course but this monitor looked like it could make a snack out of one of our goannas.
Eating and Drinking Around the Resort
Speaking of making a meal of something, there are two main restaurants at the resort, Café Bem and 360 Seafood.
Café Bem is all day dining with a mix of Sri Lankan, Asian and international dishes available through the buffet, live cooking stations and a la carte menu. It was here I had my first hopper, a sort of Sri Lankan pancake where the batter is made from rice flower and coconut milk or coconut water. Yum.
360 Seafood is open for dinners only and serves seafood and Asian dishes. The restaurant is at the end of the resort where the land becomes a thinner strip, so as you dine you have the river on one side of the restaurant and the beach directly in front of you on the other. There’s also a wine cellar on its own little island within the restaurant which I quite liked.
When I dined here the food was fresh and delicious and it was lovely to see and hear the waves crashing as we ate some creatures that recently came from the ocean.
Apart from the main restaurants you can also get bites to eat in the Ceylon Club, which serves afternoon teas or cocktails, depending on your mood, and at the Inn Between which has more of a pub style vibe.
Things To Do Around the Bentota Peninsula
As I mentioned earlier the resort has its own water sports section, and with this area being the water sports capital of Sri Lanka there are lots of jet skis, water skis and speedboats getting a workout along Bentota River
If you like fishing you can choose between the river and deep-sea options or if you just want to get out on a boat and do nothing but enjoy the view you can take a trip through some of the mangrove forests.
I found it eerily beautiful to be gliding through the water amongst those tangled and twisted trees, and my boat driver was quick to point out the monkeys and bats above, the baby crocodiles below, and would stop to show me frogs hiding on the trees.
You can take a day trip to the Dutch Fort in Galle. This UNESCO world heritage site is considered the best preserved sea fort in South Asia, it has restaurants, shops, museums and more within its old walls, and is only about an hour from the resort.
It sounds just beautiful and people I spoke to highly recommended it but sadly I didn’t get the chance to find out for myself. Nor did I get to go to a tea plantation, visit beautiful Buddhist temples or any of the other things I was hoping to do on this trip.
You see thanks to the man who coughed all over me on my flight from Sydney to Bangkok I came down with a dreadful lurgy and lost all of my sightseeing time to staying in bed.
Thankfully I managed to get in some pool time, a spa treatment, some yummy meals and that mangrove tour before my body was forced to say No to anything that involved moving more than a few metres from my bed.
The members of staff were so lovely and understanding, and when things got so bad I couldn’t eat (you know I’m really sick when that happens!) they called the sweetest doctor who came to see me.
Apart from the physical pain I was gutted to be in Sri Lanka for the first time and not be able to get out there and explore.
But as I lay there I did have to admit that if I was going to be sick anywhere a comfortable bed in a resort with ocean and pool views was a pretty good place to do it.
Clearly I just have to go back for another visit to see more of the countryside. With some pool and spa time at the resort in the mix of course.
Amanda Woods travelled and stayed as a guest of Centara Ceysands Resort and Spa but all opinions remain her own.
Heading to Bangkok? You may also want to check out the Centara Watergate Pavillion in the heart of the city’s fashion district.