A stone's throw from the beach, Secret Garden villa hides behind high stone walls and fruit trees. Enter through the arched gate from Unawatuna's hub of charm and sociability to an old colonial villa and bungalows, which successfully marry old and new. A fresh water stream flows quietly behind the peaceful meditation dome, bridges join pretty flowerbeds, pagodas and villa verandahs, and hammocks swing invitingly between coconut and pink araliya trees.
Once residence to a Colonial governor, the villa comprises 3 suites with access to an open pantry, ideal for families and groups. The small bungalows/chalets offer simple accommodation to the solo traveller.
Yoga and Reiki programs are available and evening citadel/calypso music brings guests and non-residents together in a serene yet interactive environment. Newly found friends unite over Secret Garden's unforgettable breakfasts and evening cocktails. This is a prestige guesthouse offering a taste of colonial villa and antiques on a budget. Families are a frequent sight as Unawatuna provides snorkelling, beaches and beachside restaurants to entertain.
Owner Simona is a charming hostess and spends August to May at her Sri Lankan homes at Secret Garden and Colombo. She escapes the monsoon to visit native Switzerland but her heart and karma remain at the villa.
The villa accommodates up to 16. All of the rooms are furnished with fans, mosquito nets, hot water showers and delightful antique colonial furniture. The beds have antique frames but the thin mattresses are not overly comfortable. Secret Garden comprises the main House and Tao Suite.
Main House: (1 Master and 2 singles) Maymoonah Suite has a four poster double and a single bed adjoining a private courtyard with rattan and teak seating. Moonah Room and Siddhatha Room offer a further two adjoining single bedrooms. A shared verandah overlooking the gardens leads into this family suite. An antique chest is brimming with children's toys/games and large, appliquéd Indian cushions soften a playground on the terrace as adults have a leisurely breakfast.
Facillities include a pantry and two bathrooms with open air showers, shaded by overhanging fruit trees. The indoor washroom is clean and reminiscent of an English country cottage.
The Tao Suite is an extension of the main house with a separate entrance and private sitting room. A very large bedroom comprising 4 poster double, a single bed and chaise longue is again perfect for a small family or couple. A private, open dining area and garden patio is furnished with colourful cushions and bench. The bathroom with open air showers has a resident "˜peeping' monkey. Tao Suite is enchanting but is closest to the roadside noise.
Garden Bungalows: - Satsuddhasassana and Nirvana. The four bungalows run along the stream as the garden curves towards the jungle behind. Each has a garden patio and is ideal for couples or solo travellers. One bungalow has large double for couples and the other is a smaller room suitable for singles. They share a shower room and toilet are entered via an external door. Birdsong is sweet but mosquitoes are a nuisance closer to the stream.
Fresh towels are supplied daily and bed linen is turned down each evening by the houseboys. The meditation dome in the garden is a centre of calm, accommodating up to 14 for meditation and yoga. Mats and a shower are provided.
The garden seating and pagoda is the focus for social gatherings and shared bottles of wine. The entire retreat can be reserved depending upon availability. Yoga groups seeking courses can rent the retreat and appoint teachers such as renowned Peggy McKenint or Lakshmi, out of peak season.
Secret Garden is primarily a room-only retreat offering a range of delicious breakfasts including organic curds, local fruit platters and homemade jams from local monasteries. A full continental breakfast including ham and Dutch cheese from the mountains starts at R350/pp. Guests are encouraged to prepare their own lunch in the kitchen or visit beachside restaurants. Village shops or ideally Galle's supermarkets are a source for basics.
Sunny, the chef, trained at Colombo's finest restaurants will prepare delicious dinners to order. The Bouillabaisse soup and grilled seafood in garlic sauce were our favourites.
A large supply of quality wines is stocked and the missing grapes can usually be sourced in Galle. Bottles are upwards of $15 each.
The night watchman is a loyal servant to the villa and performs evening blessings with holy water throughout the villa as candles are lit.
2 hour yoga and meditation sessions are held morning and evening. Experienced English speaking tutors are brought in. Yoga courses of Iyengar and Astanga can be arranged for large groups wishing to rent the whole villa.
For our recommendations on places of interest, activities, restaurants and local transport in Unawatuna, click here.