DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort for Yala Safari | Bottom Line Review

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Almost exactly ten years ago, Drew and I visited Sri Lanka and went on our first ever safari to Yala National Park. The DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort wasn’t built until 2020 so it wasn’t helpful for that visit, but this time around we booked the nearly brand new hotel as our Yala National Park launching spot and a place for our “workation”, booking five nights at $98 a night.

DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort Bottom Line Review

This resort is situated right along the banks of the Weerawila Lake which helps it feel remote and secluded and provides plenty of interesting birdlife to watch…which should also give you an idea of how little recreational activity is going on at the lake otherwise. The resort has a massive pool however, so that plus the proximity to safaris gives plenty of entertainment for a short stay. The rooms were comfortable and great for working. We booked the most basic King bed option, (the “King Deluxe Room Garden View with Terrace”), but thanks to our Diamond status, got upgraded to the King Deluxe Room with Balcony. The hotel attendant who brought us to our room kind of laughed apologetically when she showed us our upgraded view of tree branches (pictured below), which Drew thought was an appropriate reaction.

  • Points Price: 23,000 points per night
  • Location: Good if you’re doing one of the nearby safaris, otherwise very isolated.
  • On-Site Dining: Good – the resort currently has two restaurant options: the main restaurant “SpoonBill” (menu here),  and a lounge/restaurant “Turnstone” (menu here). SpoonBill has a buffet option for 4,400 LKR (~$24 at the time) but we ordered salads from the A La Carte menu instead, which we liked. And as Diamond members we got free buffet breakfast in SpoonBill every morning which was excellent, with tons of Sri Lankan dishes as well as Western options.
  • Bedroom: Great! Comfortable and plenty of working space.
  • Service: Great! Everyone is super friendly.
  • Resort fee: None
  • Parking: Complimentary valet parking
  • Hilton Elite Benefits: As Diamond members, we got a room upgrade (to the balcony room), free breakfast at their buffet in the main restaurant, and in lieu of club lounge access, we got a voucher for one appetizer and one nonalcoholic beverage each in the main restaurant between 3pm and 5:30pm as well as one alcoholic beverage and one snack plate each in the rooftop lounge.
  • Would I stay again? If I was doing another safari in the area, I would certainly stay again!

Photos and captions below…

The grounds at DoubleTree Weerawila have some nice walking trails and lounge areas.
Your lounge area is along the banks of a huge natural lake which houses water buffalo, crocodiles, and lots of bird life. Good for bird-watching, but bad for swimming.
Here’s a better shot of Weerawila Lake, right from the edge of the resort.
While you can’t swim in the lake, you can swim in this big beautiful pool.
View of the pool from the rooftop bar, Night Jar.
(Of course we got the official DoubleTree cookie as well as local fruit juice.)
King Deluxe Balcony Room
The bathroom had two showers – one little one to the right, next to the toilet (which I couldn’t really photograph well in the limited space) and a second big one which I’ll show in the next photo.
To the left of the sink, you can see the main, big shower.
The balcony view from our King Deluxe Balcony room was mostly tree branches which was kind of disappointing, though a Ceylon Paradise Flycatcher bird perched here periodically, so maybe the tree branch coverage made him feel more welcome.
At the breakfast buffet (free for Diamond members) I was most impressed with the dosas made on the spot.
The Sri Lankan dishes were amazing. This was a masala dosa with two kinds of “coconut sambal” and one “onion sambal”, as well as some idly. The onion sambal was *chef’s kiss*
Don’t worry – they had delicious looking pancakes and waffles too.
…and a large omelette station…
…and plenty of pastries as well.
Every day we made use of our Diamond member “happy hour” benefit of one free drink and one free snack tray (each) in the lounge “Turnstone”.
Upon check-in we were given this card and instructed to present it whenever we wanted to make use of our complimentary drinks and snacks.
The free “happy hour” drink did not include the whole cocktail menu – there were 3 or 4 drinks we could choose from, including this mojito.
The complimentary snack tray varied a little from night to night, but typically had small samples like this. (Salmon on cucumber, calamari with chilis, samosa, salted cashews, cheese and grapes, and a mutton skewer.)
Night Jar, the rooftop bar.
View of the property from the Night Jar.
I ordered the “Freshly Harvested Young Papaya With Prawns” from the A La Carte menu at SpoonBill and loved it.
We also enjoyed their Caesar Salad, (also from the A La Carte menu.)
We didn’t eat at the SpoonBill buffet, but they kindly let me photograph it just before opening.
Pasta station at the SpoonBill buffet.
SpoonBill Buffet
Salad section of SpoonBill Buffet
Dessert section of the SpoonBill Buffet

Yala Safari Images & Captions

Yala National Park is only about 45 minutes from the resort. We booked our Yala National Park safari with a local company called “Flamingos Safaris” for ~$84 (17,000 LKR). The main goal of a Yala Safari is “spotting” a leopard (pun-intended), which is best done in the morning. For that reason, we booked just the morning time slot which started with a 5 am pick up from the resort and had us back just before 10:30 am. (The full day would have cost 25,000 LKR instead). Everyone says you’re extremely lucky if you see a leopard, but we’ve actually seen one both times (ten years ago and last week)! It’s hard to get solid safari photos without a zoom lens, but here are a few pictures to demonstrate the wildlife you’ll see at Yala.

Peacocks are all over the place in Yala National Park, (and on some rooftops in the neighboring cities too).
Elephant sitings are fairly common in Yala.
You’ll also see plenty of water buffalo.
Here’s my embarrassingly bad shot of the leopard moving around behind some bushes not too far from the road, (where about a dozen jeeps were all crammed around trying to get views). This was surprisingly better than the photo I tried to get 10 years ago of it sleeping in a tree.
We were told this sloth bear siting was lucky as well. (We did not see a sloth bear last time.)
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yus

Planning on going to the new hilton yala resort that is supposed to open this year, close by this double tree, any idea how to get there from the colombo airport?

yus

Does the hotel also arrange private transport? I plan of having multiple checked bags and carry ons, would need space for that and 4 people.

Marys

Thank you . I really enjoyed reading this article . Visited Yala 3 yrs ago and got to see Leopards several times and felt very privileged. Well worth the early start . Looking forward to your next post

AlexL

Nice to see a review from Carrie. Enjoy the post.

Gary

Great to see you posting again! I went to some of my favorite travel destinations based on recommendations from you and Drew (Zakynthos, Halstadt and Moorea, to name a few). I really liked your “do it as cheaply as possible” approach. P.S. My wife and I are also from Ohio Amish country, and still live there.

DancingPandas

We were just there as well. Feb 27-Mar 4. Really nice resort for the money. Food, service and facilities were great. After our usual ‘check in dance’ we were promised a suite for the last 3 of our 5 nights. Nice big room. Not a big as the presidential at 5000 sf. We had two problems there. First, they didn’t know what Vegan was for my wife and slipped some shrimp in her appitizer. Second, they Bombed the resort with bug spray and didn’t warm us. That had us ruining down the outdoor corridor to our room with our masks pressed to our faces. So glad you are posting again. I used to read you back in ‘Travel is Free’

YoniPDX

Thanks for sharing y’all’s experience in Sri Lanka.

Have to say I really miss the “Travel is Free” Google Maps for Hotels (even post-dynamic awards) it was an amazing tool for a visual footprint of chains when planning trips abroad.

The infographics we’re also really sweet, I’m a visual person (vs kinetic/audiotory brained persons).

Matthew

Great review, Caroline! Nice to see a post from you. Hoping for more! 🙂