Disclaimer: Although my stay at Vivanta by Taj Bentota was sponsored by the hotel, the reviews expressed in this post are my own.
Let me begin by telling you the story of WHY I decided to stay at Vivanta by Taj Bentota. While planning my short getaway to Sri Lanka, I wanted to pack my itinerary with every diverse experience possible in the country and this included spending a day chilling at a nice beach (Sri Lanka's coast is gorgeous and the country is home to some popular resort cities). As Galle was a bit far and not feasible to fit into my short trip, the choice was between Bentota (1.5-hour drive from Colombo) and Negombo (45-minute drive from Colombo).
I received a few offers for a 5-day package including car and guide hire in Sri Lanka and most of these quotations and brochures had a picture of a really cute wooden hut with a thatched roof, which looked like a restaurant, surrounded by a garden with tables and chairs, overlooking gorgeous blue waters in a breathtaking setting. This picture instantly piqued my interest and a little bit of research revealed the place - it was at Vivanta by Taj Bentota!
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Unfortunately, 48 hours before our arrival, the west coast of Sri Lanka was gripped by a heavy storm, something that's not too uncommon in this area but the intensity was so much that some houses and buildings were destroyed, trees had been uprooted and fallen on the road and certain areas had been ruined. The storm also affected Vivanta by Taj Bentota by spoiling some parts such as the roof, the cute little thatched-hut restaurant (the main reason why we had decided to come here in the first place) and the forest outside the spa. However, this did not mar our experience in any way. We were welcomed very warmly, with a cool drink and cleaning towels, while we waited to be assigned our room.
The best part about Vivanta by Taj Bentota is that ALL their rooms are sea facing with balconies, and the resort is spread out over quite an area with manicured gardens, a swimming pool, a few restaurants and bars, play areas and direct access to the beach. The rooms were spacious and the interiors were chic, and we were lucky that we were given a room right next to the open terrace and pool.
Although I was slightly disappointed that Vivanta by Taj Bentota did not have its own private beach, it did have access to a large coast which was a public beach, with private operators that rented out sun loungers during the day. Despite the fact that the beach was accessible to the common public, the coast here was lined with resorts and hotels, which meant neither was the place crowded nor was the crowd bad. Apart from that, the hotel's premises had ample places where one could sunbathe while enjoying fantastic views of the sea.
The hotel has five restaurants in all, each with its own special offering. The Palms is the all-day dining, right next to the gorgeous pool, and is also where the breakfast buffet is served every day. The spread is fantastic, with dishes featuring international fare as well as local/ regional flavours.
Sea View restaurant specialises in seafood and has some of the best views of the blue ocean but unfortunately, it does not have al fresco seating, which is a great idea during evenings when you can enjoy the cool breeze while you sip on a cocktail. However, the fresh seafood served here is pretty amazing!
My favourite - unfortunately, this was shut during our visit because the storm had destroyed the garden and a little bit of the bar area, was S.H.A.C.K. Also serving the fresh catch of the day, I loved this place because of their seating. At a height, with stellar views of the ocean, S.H.A.C.K had the perfect ambience, under the starry sky.
Other dining options included Oriental Pavilion, a chic and exquisite restaurant offering authentic Chinese food and the bar, Tease, which had a great selection of cocktails with bar snacks and a live band.
The beach at Vivanta by Taj Bentota has lovely white sand and blue waters, with the temperature of the water being almost perfect! The area is surprisingly not too crowded and the setting is just perfect, with rocks jutting out into the sea, palm trees lining the coast, gentle waves providing the perfect opportunity to swim. I caught a beautiful sunset here, despite the cloudy skies, on our first evening.
A small terrace right out The Palms restaurant has table tennis and chess tables set out for people to play. On the other side, a large swimming pool (although not an infinity pool) is a great place to relax, in the backdrop of stunning palm trees and the blue ocean. Although the pool doesn't have a bar, the staff is more than happy to serve drinks and snacks at the area near the pool.
For fitness enthusiasts, there is also a 24-hour gym where you can consult trainers. You can also rent a bike here or simply take a dip in the jacuzzi. A short walk away from the pool area, through a small forested garden, surrounded by low hanging branches of trees, you will find the Jiva Spa. What disappointed me about the spa was the size (it was really small) and the fact that none of the treatment rooms were in the open or overlooking the ocean. The management could've really utilised the space and taken advantage of the fantastic location as well as views from the resort to create exquisite experiences by the beach or overlooking the ocean.
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Activities in the area
You can either purchase sightseeing experiences at Vivanta by Taj Bentota hotel's reception or save some money and walk down to the public beach area, where you'll find people selling tours and activities. You have ample choices such as Bentota or Madu River Safari, day-trip to Galle Fort, Whale Watching cruise in Galle, Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project, a visit to Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary or Bentota Village, or water sports (jet ski, parasailing) on Bentota River.
We chose the Madu River safari as we had heard a lot about it. Bentota River also offers a similar boat safari experience but we were advised by locals to travel 25 minutes from Bentota to Madu Ganga River for the safari as it was a better one, with more diverse experiences. We paid $25 for the boat (we were only 2 people on the boat, along with the person operating it) for a 2-hour safari through mangroves, home to exotic wildlife and birds. With over over 111 bird species and 31 types of reptiles, including snakes, lizards and crocodiles, the safari is an interesting experience. In 2 hours, we also visited several islands such as the Temple Island and Cinnamon Island. You can also experience open-air fish massage and pass the area where shrimp fishing takes place. A floating shop selling fresh coconuts was my favourite stop on the safari.