Saturday, February 17, 2007

Amaya Reef Hotel Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka Hotel Review

amaya reef hotel hikkaduwa sri lanka reflected light in pool at night

Recently, we visited Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa, north of Galle, Sri Lanka is a town known for its accommodations for backpackers. Usually, this means cheap, small hotels, with cheap, small rooms, unexceptional food and few amenities (save the beach which is usually on the doorstep.)

This time, however, we stayed at the Amaya Reef hotel run by the Connaissance hotel chain. These hotels usually have better amenities and better food than the usual hiker joints and we were particularly looking forward to staying at the Amaya Reef as it had been refurbished recently and had gushing articles written about it in the local magazines.

When we walked into the hotel, we were quite impressed. The refurbished entrance isn’t Triton (now Heritance Ahungalla)-class but it certainly gives you a first impression of a hotel that is many cuts above the rest in Hikkaduwa. From there, the pool, smaller than, say, Blue Waters’ (in Wadduwa), is also visible. Like a dancing bear, however, it’s not the size of the pool but merely its existence that is impressive (most, if not all of the other Hikkaduwa hotels have no pools). This is where our favourable impression ended.

To go to our room, we climbed a narrow staircase to a landing, with both the door to our room and a cleaning supplies closet that lay open with its contents spilled out on the floor. Compounding our negative reaction to the entrance, the room was really quite small. Tiny even. (A colleague who was also staying here confirmed that the other rooms were also quite small.) Worse still, the claustrophobic bathrooms were not even as good as the ones in the Polonnaruwa or Belihuloya resthouses.

That night, Christmas Eve, we went down for dinner to the hotel restaurant. We had been charged Rs. 1,500 per person extra for Christmas dinner so we were expecting a spread. The dinner was comparable, at best, to a lunch buffet at a 2-star hotel, with dried out steaks from unhappy cows (which were not even cooked to our specifications but just well-done in the kitchen and left to dry in the serving dishes) and mediocre chickens and stringy turkeys that had given their lives in vain. Indeed, we were so disappointed with the food that we marched immediately to the reception and converted our full board booking to a bed and breakfast booking for the next night and ate all the rest of our meals in the town of Hikkaduwa.

We were not satisfied with the Amaya Reef hotel and will not return. For about the same price we paid, we could’ve stayed at the Heritance Ahungalla (Triton) and experienced much better rooms and food. Or we could’ve saved half the price and stayed at the Moonbeam nearby (post-tsunami, they have renovated their rooms to the equivalent of a room in one of the better motels in the US) which also has better rooms and decent food. Connaissance would do well to invest less in Amaya Reef’s fa├žade and more in its rooms and food so that they meet even the fairly low expectations of guests who come to Hikkaduwa.

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