The Best Family-Friendly Sri Lanka Accommodation for Every Budget
Sri Lanka is one of our favourite destinations to travel to as a family and one of the things that makes it such a great place to visit is the fantastic range of family-friendly Sri Lanka accommodation to suit all budgets. You’ll find budget-friendly homestays to luxury Sri Lanka hotels and anything else in between in our list of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka with a family.
Best time to visit Sri Lanka
Before deciding where to stay in Sri Lanka, you need to consider the time of year that you’re visiting. Sri Lanka is an all-year-round destination due to its distinctly different climate zones. The best time to visit the south and west is between December to March during the dry season. If you’re planning on visiting Sri Lanka between May and September, it would be best to head to the north and east. We’ve always visited Sri Lanka in December so we’ve pretty much stuck to the south and west of the island. On one trip we did venture up to the north to Trincomalee but it was a complete washout.
The most popular time to visit Sri Lanka for people coming from the UK and the US is during the winter months as they’re escaping the winter sun and seeking the best Sri Lanka beaches. We were really happy to see it recently voted as the number one destination to visit for winter sun by USA Today because tourism means so much to this beautiful country.
Where to stay in Sri Lanka
We get asked this question a lot. There is no one best area to stay in Sri Lanka. The wonderful thing about Sri Lanka is the diversity of the island, which, considering its relatively small size, is pretty impressive. Where you choose to stay in Sri Lanka is an entirely personal choice but we’ve chosen the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka that seem to make it onto most people’s Sri Lanka itinerary and for good reason.
There’s a fair chance that you’ll spend a day or two in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. On our first two visits to Sri Lanka, we completely by-passed Colombo on our way from the airport to the south coast. On our third visit to Sri Lanka, we decided to spend a couple of days there and realised that there are actually lots of things to do in Colombo. We visited markets, museums, colonial buildings, great restaurants and explored the beautiful leafy suburb, Cinnamon Gardens. On this trip, we noticed a huge amount of development with lots of large hotels springing up. The choice of hotels will keep on growing as Sri Lanka enjoys its status as a top holiday destination.
Luxury: Shangri-La Hotel Colombo – a 2-bedroom suite, pool, spa and restaurant facilities
Mid-range: SkyLounge Apartment 2 Colombo – a 2-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette in a complex with a pool
Budget: Rockwood Apartment – a lovely simple but clean 3-bedroom apartment in the Cinnamon Gardens suburb
Galle, situated about 150km south of Colombo, is most well known for Galle Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans. If you’re interested in Dutch colonial architecture, you must visit Galle. It’s also known for its iconic lighthouse on the ramparts and is a great place to watch an international cricket game. It’s undergone a lot of regeneration in recent years and is a really cool place to hang out, shop and eat. There are also lots of fun things to do in Galle with kids.
Luxury: Galle Fort Hotel (in the Fort) originally a Dutch mansion and warehouse that has undergone a stunning restoration. You can’t beat it for colonial charm. The huge library suite is suitable for families and there is a pool.
Mid-range: Fort Square Boutique Villa, – (inside the Fort) beautifully restored building with family room overlooking the courtyard garden on the trendy Leyn Baan street
Budget: Secret Garden Fort, (inside the Fort) basic but stylish accommodation in a colonial building with a lovely veranda and delicious breakfast
Ella, Sri Lanka’s most well-known tea country town, is a fabulous place to visit with a family. It’s situated in the hill country among the rolling green hills and there are lots of things to do in Ella for families. We recommend taking an early morning hike up Little Adam’s Peak which is easy to do with small kids and the views are just stunning. You could walk to Nine Arch Bridge and watch the Kandy to Ella Sri Lanka Railways train pass by. If these activities seem quite energetic, you could tour a tea factory in the hill country and learn about the tea-making process from picking the leaves to the finished product.
It’s a great place to come for a few days to chill out. We highly recommend trying the food in Matey Hut when you’re in Ella or maybe even the cookery class they offer. With everything it has to offer, Ella has grown hugely in popularity over recent years and there are so many accommodation options, mostly in the mid-range to budget category.
Luxury: Mountain Heavens – large family room with 2 large double beds. The pool has stunning views of the valley. Breakfast included.
Mid-range: Arawe Retreat – 2 bedroom cottage with stunning views. Breakfast included. The owners are lovely with children and you may get a mini yoga lesson for the kids if you’re lucky!
Mid-range: The View Ella – it was so hard to choose one, so here’s another! The room is quite simple but the views are just spectacular with a lovely pool.
Budget: Marvellous Inn – large family room with 2 large double beds and the most amazing views
Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe is one of the most popular national parks in Sri Lanka. It’s known as the best place for an elephant safari in Sri Lanka as it has the largest population of Asian elephants of all of the national parks in Sri Lanka. If you want to do some elephant-spotting, a safari in Udawalawe would be a good choice, with around 500 resident elephants. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they will be easy to spot though. Despite their size, they are surprisingly good at hiding!
We found that a half-day Udawalawe safari was the perfect length for our boys who were 4 and 5 at the time. It lasted 3 hours and we took plenty of snacks. We’ve got some great tips on what to take on safari and on spotting wildlife on safari which apply to Sri Lanka safaris just as much as African safaris.
Luxury: Kalu’s Hideaway – rooms are for 2 people but they offer interconnecting rooms for families. On-site swimming pool.
Mid-range: Athgira River Camping – safari-style tents very close to the park with a swimming pool and great food.
Budget: Peacock Riverside – very simple and cheap family room with 2 double beds. We recommend it for the food and for a quick one night stay.
Yala National Park
Yala is probably the next best well known national park in Sri Lanka and is famed for having the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world. A leopard safari in Yala National Park should definitely be on your list of things to do in Sri Lanka. It’s about 200km from Colombo to Yala National Park. It’s not on a direct train route so you may want to consider taking a taxi if you’re not on a strict budget which may cost about £80. Another option is to take a bus to Tangalle and then a taxi for the last leg. This will cost around £15 in total.
Yala national park accommodation options are endless, but we’ve gone for the most authentic safari-style accommodation to give you the best overall safari experience. If you’re looking for high-end safari accommodation, there’s a larger choice here than in Udawalawe.
Luxury: Wild coast tented lodge – all-inclusive luxury tented safari accommodation on the park borders and about as luxury as it gets (with pool).
Luxury: Chena Huts by Uga Escapes – (one for the bucket list if you’re travelling without children!) – all-inclusive cabin with your own plunge pool because who doesn’t love looking at luxury accommodation??
Mid-range: Avonil Resort Yala – simple but clean accommodation with a lovely swimming pool. A little way from Yala National Park.
Budget: LakeSide Cabana Tissamharama – rustic treehouse-style cabins with children’s playground
Jaffna is located in the north of Sri Lanka, about 400km north of Colombo. There is a direct Colombo to Jaffna train which takes around 6 hours which is quite convenient and cheap. If you’re going to do this, you might want to consider the overnight train so that you don’t take up the majority of a day travelling. It’s majority Tamil populated and until relatively recently it was off-limits to tourism due to the civil war. Evidence of the damage done can still be seen.
There are some lovely temples in Jaffna, and it’s worth wandering around Jaffna Fort. If you’re there in the right season, there are some great beaches to visit in the vicinity of Jaffna too. Tourism is growing in Jaffna after it was off-limits for so long so there is not as large a choice of accommodation as the rest of the country, particularly family rooms.
Luxury: North Gate by Jetwing – modern hotel with pool. Ask for interconnecting rooms.
Mid-range: FOX Jaffna – Beautiful resort complex with a lovely pool area and great food.
Budget: ASR Hotel – clean, simple family room in a budget hotel with a balcony.
Anuradhapura is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to the 10th century BC. It’s situated around 200km to the north-east of Colombo. Taking a taxi there would cost around £80 or you could take a direct express train from Colombo to Anuradhapura which takes around three and a half hours and costs about £3.
People come to Anuradhapura to visit the ancient ruins. Whilst not quite on a par with the likes of Angkor Wat, they are pretty impressive. There’s also the nearby Sigiriya and Dambulla that are worth visiting.
Luxury: Ulagalla by Uga Escapes – super luxurious 2-bedroom pool villa a little way out of town
Mid-range: Hotel Heladiv – simple but stylish family room in a hotel with a pool
Budget: Sweet Home Tourist Rest – super simple but also super cheap family room in a guesthouse. Lovely, friendly owners.
Kandy Sri Lanka’s second-largest city (also known as the ‘Hill Capital’) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, particularly famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It’s pretty centrally located and Colombo to Kandy is about 120km. It’s easy to reach on the Colombo to Kandy train, taking about 2.5 hours and costing around £2.
Kandy is a great place to base yourself to do tea-tasting tours in the hill country, visit the ruins of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa or catch a game of cricket. There are a whole host of hotels in Kandy but the true gems are in the surrounding area.
Luxury: Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa – Beautiful suite with plunge-pool in a modern resort. It’s worth staying for the view from the pool alone
Luxury: The Elephant Stables – beautiful suite in a colonial building with a lovely pool. Close to Kandy.
Mid-range: Range Kandy – spacious but simple family rooms in a tranquil setting with beautiful views down the valley. They specialise in adventure activities.
Budget: Alikele Villa – very simple family room with balcony and pool.
Unawatuna, located about 150km south of Colombo, is probably Sri Lanka’s most popular (or at least well-known) beach on the south coast. It’s a great place to stay because it’s only 5km from Galle and has the most family-friendly beach in Sri Lanka right next door to it at Dalawella. Make sure to take a tuk-tuk along there if you’re not staying there and swim in the calm lagoon with the turtles. There is also a huge range of accommodation for every budget here.
Luxury: Water Gate Resort & Spa – spacious family room in a clean and modern hotel with a pool overlooking the ocean.
Mid-range: Nooit Gedacht Heritage House – Quadruple room in a beautifully restored Dutch colonial building with pool. 10-minute walk to the beach.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for above, make sure to check on Booking.com which has the largest selection of properties.
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