We had such a wonderful time during our full month in Sri Lanka!
To explore as much as possible and be able to tell you the best parts, we have planned our itinerary to stay in 11 different areas and accommodations. There was the good and the bad, but most of the places appeared to be wonderful and exceeded our expectations in more ways than we could predict!
Are you ready for iguanas in your garden, squirrels on your doorstep and monkeys on your balcony?
Do you want to live in the middle of the jungle?
Or maybe you’d like to have one of the nicest Sri Lankan beaches in front of your hotel?
All of this and more in this full review of our favorite places to stay in Sri Lanka!
And the best part? All of them are decent private accommodations that cost less than $50 per night. Sometimes as low as $10. If I caught your attention, continue reading and then tell me in comments at which of these places you would like to stay!
1. Ocean Nature Resort, Talalla – Like another peaceful safari
Proudly occupating the first place of my rating, Ocean Nature Resort absolutely lives up to its name. Located only 5 minutes from the secluded Talalla beach (the owner even has a shortcut!), it has the most beautiful territory which makes you wanna stay longer.
The owner doesn’t speak very good English, but he is always around and ready for your every request. He has a very friendly personality and sometimes would just sit on a terrace with us talking about beaches and different animals he spotted in the garden.
Yesss, the garden!
If I had to name one thing I loved about this homestay, it’s the garden. Not only because it’s so beautiful and calm and you can hear birds and squirrels all the time, but also because there is actually a lot of wildlife there! It’s the garden that makes this place one of the really unique hotels in Sri Lanka.
While having breakfast near the nice lagoon we were surrounded by monkeys every morning. Once, a very persistent monkey seized the moment and swiped a banana from one of our plates as we were taking photos of its friends!
Other than monkeys (we actually saw two types coming by in different days), during our 3-night stay we also saw iguanas, squirrels, peacocks (can you imagine peacocks coming to the garden, just like that?!), and a lot of different birds. Staying at the Ocean Nature Resort literally felt like being on another safari! I can’t recommend this place enough!
There are also hammocks in the garden to spend time relaxing and observing all those creatures. And another seating area at the lagoon. And all this possible on a budget!
I mean, are you still hesitating? Just go book this magical place already!
Need more options on where to stay in Talalla? Look for accommodations here.
2. Mount Rich Rummassala – Luxury hotel on a budget
We arrived here in the dark in a tuk-tuk after we had a bad experience with the place we booked and decided to not spend the night. Mount Rich Rumassala had just opened a month before and only had a couple of reviews online, but we decided to give it a chance, grabbed our suitcases and just went there without any bookings, hoping for the best.
And fortunately, at this wonderful hotel, we found everything we were looking for!
We only paid $46 per night, but it felt so luxurious, especially after the poor experience we had in the previous place. Spacious new rooms, a comfortable bed, three towels for each (I mention this because in homestays you usually get only one towel), all the toiletries, AC, enough sockets for all of our devices, and a balcony with chairs to have your morning cup of tea.
The solicitude of the staff is something that should be mentioned separately. We almost felt like celebrities as they attended to our every need, bringing complimentary juice, water and anything else we happened to request to our room at no extra cost. They were always around in case we needed something and happy to answer our questions, to recommend us places to visit or arrange transportation should we happen to need it.
The food is really good and sometimes we ate there our breakfast, lunch, and dinner without the need to go look for outside restaurants. Another reason why this is one of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka. For breakfast, there is a buffet with fruit, milk rice, Sri Lankan roti, and curry, and they can also fry eggs, sausages, and bacon for you however you want it.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the Jungle beach which is one of the nicest beaches in Sri Lanka for swimming and snorkeling. There are pleasant small waves, nice clean sand and a big coral reef full of beautiful fish species.
We wouldn’t recommend going during the weekend as there are lots of locals coming in groups and families, so it gets really loud and crowded. Anyway, it didn’t stop us from snorkeling around the coral reef as you can swim farther from the crowd and have the reef almost all for yourself.
Overall our experience at Mount Rich Rumassala felt more like being at a decent European hotel but with the famous Sri Lankan hospitality.
Need more options on where to stay in Unawatuna? Look for accommodations here.
3. The Oasis Villa, Hikkaduwa – The one with the swimming pool
Third place in my chart is taken by The Oasis Villa. Close to Hikkaduwa beach (about 2 minutes walk), it offers fully equipped nice rooms with AC, nice mosquito net around the bed, a desk (which is quite important for digital nomads like us), a fridge, a TV, and a wardrobe.
There are also tea making facilities and a private balcony with a drying rack and a table setting to have your tea with a beautiful view.
But what gave this place a proud place at the top, is the swimming pool. Surrounded by beautiful nature and very clean, it became a lifesaver for us on the days of huge sandy waves when we weren’t able to swim in the sea. There were always enough sunbeds as they didn’t have many guests at the same time. Whether you want to unwind before or after breakfast as we did, to enjoy a quiet atmosphere during sunset, or to spend the whole day relaxing near the pool, you can absolutely do it here.
Breakfast was included in the room price and it was way too much food for my stomach. It started with a plate of fruit (we had bananas, watermelon, passion fruit, papaya, pineapple, lime, and mango, or a variation of these every day), continued with the eggs of your choice, tomatoes, and toasts with butter, jam, and cheese, and finally, there was some dessert: yogurt or delicious pancakes. And of course, you can choose a cup of coffee or tea. Or both. Or sometimes three cups if you are really sleepy, hehe.
Such a great ending of our full month journey in Sri Lanka!
Need more options on where to stay in Hikkaduwa? Look for accommodations here.
4. Cozy Homestay, Ella – Best homestay in Sri Lanka
When you name your place Cozy Homestay, you have to live up to it. And here the owners really put some effort into making their place comfortable to spend time in. I would easily call it one of the best places to stay in Ella.
The room is cozy with tea facilities and a nice comfy bed, the food is probably the best we had in Sri Lanka, and it’s located a short walking distance from both Ella city center and the starting point of Little Adam’s Peak route.
Included breakfast was huge, beautifully served, and consisted of various fruit and all kinds of typical Sri Lankan dishes. We definitely tasted a few new things at this place! You have a private outside dining area close to your room with a nice quiet setting and a beautiful view.
The family made sure we felt very welcome and the owner clearly did his best to make our experience the most pleasant possible. They even made us a complimentary dinner on our last night which was a bowl of extremely delicious rice with various curries!
Cozy Homestay has become our favorite place to stay in Sri Lanka and stayed the first up until we moved to the south to explore the beaches.
Need more options on where to stay in Ella? Look for accommodations here.
5. Dream Palace Family Guest House, Mirissa – The place to stay for whale watching
Mirissa beach is probably one of the most known places in Sri Lanka. You can see it right away by the number of beach restaurants, hotels, and overall infrastructure in the area.
We chose to stay at Dream Palace Family Guest House for our 4 nights to discover Mirissa beach and go whale watching, and it appeared to be a great choice. We were pleasantly surprised to see our room, as it was packed with all the things you might possibly need.
There are both AC and a ceiling fan, toiletries in the bathroom, electric kettle and tea/coffee facilities, a hairdryer, a drying rack, and even beach towels! All of these things you usually take for granted in Europe, but in Sri Lanka they are extremely rare, especially when you choose homestays as your accommodation. In most cases, if you want some tea, you have to ask, if you need a hairdryer, you need to ask too, and most of the time there was no soap in the bathroom.
You can probably imagine now how happy we were to see all those things available at the Dream Palace Family Guest House!
Yeah, and there were sockets on both sides of the bed, which is so convenient when you travel as a couple and need to work and charge your devices but so so rare in Sri Lanka!
The beach is right behind the hotel and they have a private pathway from the entrance. Breakfast is not included, but you can still have it in the hotel for 500 LKR and choose either western or Sri Lankan option.
The last, but not the least thing I should mention is whale watching. This is the most popular activity in Mirissa and you can see offers on every step. If you are looking where to stay in Sri Lanka for whale watching, look no further!
Our hotel organized a great tour for us which starts at 6.30 and the owner personally takes you to the harbor in his car. We were able to see whales making fountains as well as their backs quite close. Truly once in a lifetime experience and a must-do in Sri Lanka even though it’s pricey! A cute bonus was seeing a couple of turtles making out in the water. Nature in all its beauty, haha.
Need more options on where to stay in Mirissa? Look for accommodations here.
6. Liyara Home Stay, Sigiriya – Stay with a local family
Liyara Home Stay was our very first place to stay in Sri Lanka.
It introduced us to the concept of a homestay where you live in a private area of a local house with a local family. Usually, there is a man, who is the owner and manages bookings, his wife who cooks delicious local food for you, and a handful of children who occasionally run into you and smile.
As opposed to a usual hotel where you are just one of the hundreds of guests they deal with on a daily basis, in a homestay there are only a couple of rooms so you get the owner’s full attention. This is actually their pleasure to make you feel very welcome and at home.
Liyara Home Stay also introduced us to most of the local cuisine. During breakfast, we tried different kinds of hoppers and some fruit we haven’t eaten before, and for dinner we enjoyed nice homemade curries with some twist every single day. I think it’s similar to what the family eats too.
This place is located on the outskirts of Sigiriya and doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of nightlife or daily activities. However, we went on a very interesting village tour that was offered right across the road from our homestay.
Furthermore, on our first day there we were woken up by monkeys! They were climbing our balcony apparently trying to get inside but left in a hurry when spotted us behind the window. The owner warned us not to leave the balcony doors open as those little thieves might come inside and steal something!
This is when we realized we chose the right place to feel the local life.
It is about 5 minutes’ drive to Lion Rock and a bit longer to Pidurangala Rock, both of which we successfully climbed. The owner has a tuk-tuk so I guess he can drive you to those places too if you need.
Need more options on where to stay in Sigiriya? Look for accommodations here.
7. Peacock Riverside, Udawalawe – Stay in the jungle
Have you ever imagined yourself in the middle of the jungle? This is how it feels like when you stay at Peacock Riverside.
You get this feeling starting from the driveway which is a bit harsh for a usual car (the owner has a safari jeep!) and going further where you get surrounded by wild plants, birds and the most wonderful nature!
Peacock Riverside is a homestay where you rent a room on the first floor and the owners – Sri Lankan family – live above. For a very cheap price – we paid $12 per night, but it could even be $10 if we booked last moment – you get not only a nice room with AC and a mosquito net but also a terrace with chairs and a low table outside, a dining area in-between palm trees and even a complimentary breakfast!
There is a hammock in front of the room and they greet you with complimentary drinks upon arrival.
The whole place has very cool chill vibes and the owner himself adds to it with both his appearance and attitude. He can also arrange for you a full day safari to Udawalawe National Park as he has his own jeep and apparently knows a lot about nature. It was a bit pricey for us so we found another way to arrange it, but maybe it’s possible to negotiate the price here too. If anything, this was one of the super cheap hotels in Sri Lanka from our experience.
When it comes to value for money, this homestay is definitely worth visiting, even if only for one or two nights in-between safaris.
While staying in Udawalawe, make sure to find the time for a visit to the most ethical elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka!
Need more options on where to stay near Udawalawe National Park? Look for accommodations here.
8. Sea Port Hiriketiya – Seafront hotel in Sri Lanka
Hiriketiya beach was the first one in our long list of beaches to visit in Sri Lanka. I made it my priority to explore as many beaches as possible during our last two weeks in this beautiful country, and we actually made it to 13! I should probably make another post to describe and compare all of them.
So our beach journey started at a small bay called Hiriketiya. After all the exhausting hikes and thrilling safaris, we came to Sea Port Hiriketiya in search of peace and island beach vibes.
The room itself was very simple and only had minimal essentials, but a drying rack was a nice bonus for someone who was going to swim all day long. We were welcomed and checked in in no time at all (which is very common for Sri Lanka) and given two big complimentary bottles of water.
Fun fact: our room had a padlock, which is not something you are used to in Europe.
But the most important thing – the view, the beach, the location – is something that catches your eye the first moment you arrive there. The hotel is literally 5 steps from the sea! So it was like 10 steps from our room until our feet would get wet. Turns out, you don’t need much else when you have one of the nicest beaches at your fingertips!
I should add that Hiriketiya is, first of all, a surfing beach, so if you love spending your time conquering waves, this is 100% a place for you to be. I honestly doubt that there is a place at this beach with a better location than Sea Port Hiriketiya. At least we haven’t seen any. And Hiriketiya beach itself is probably the best area to stay in Sri Lanka for surfers. This hotel can also provide surfing lessons (with a discount for hotel guests!) for newbies and all the necessary equipment for experienced surfers.
However, they are not the only ones to give such service. You can see right away how popular surfing is at Hiriketiya Bay just by looking at the picture below. There is no shortage of surfing instructors and boards. I guess the demand there is much less than supply as this place is not on any list of the most popular Sri Lankan beaches.
Lastly, Hiriketiya is not just for surfers! If you don’t enjoy water sports and/or just want to swim and chill listening to the waves, it’s still a great place to visit. It is one of our favorite beaches (remember, we explored thirteen!), we spend very nice three days there and would gladly come back!
Need more options on where to stay in Hiriketiya? Look for accommodations here.
Which one of these places would you wanna stay at? Tell me in the comments!
Which is better, hotels or homestays?
I would say it depends on a lot of factors. Your travel purpose, expectations, budget and the number of people traveling with you (if any) – all of this can influence your decision in one way or another.
In general, I would choose a homestay if I want to immerse myself into Sri Lankan culture, to live as locals live (not really, but much more authentic than in a big hotel), to eat homemade local food, to feel welcome and at home.
Instead, I would choose a hotel if I travel for business, solo, am really introverted or just used to a certain level of service and don’t want to take chances.
I hope any of this makes sense and the difference is clearer to you now!
Save this post to your bookmarks or Pinterest board and revisit it when it’s time to plan your trip to Sri Lanka!
Still want more options? Find more of the best hotels in Sri Lanka below.