Sustainable luxury at Tri: our stay at Sri Lanka’s best eco hotel
Is Tri Lanka the best eco hotel in Sri Lanka? Our review of this luxurious, environmentally-friendly oasis on the shores of Koggala Lake, in southern Sri Lanka.
Flustered, hot, and with dust smeared across our clothes and faces as the two of us (and our backpacks) tumbled out of our tuk tuk: we definitely weren’t in the business of great first impressions when we first arrived at the gates of Tri Lanka, a luxurious sustainable retreat on the shores of Sri Lanka’s Koggala Lake.
Our journey from the white sand beaches of Unawatuna had been somewhat of a jarring one, as we lurched to-and-fro on a maniacal local bus with hot pink furry steering wheel covers, before another bumpy tuk tuk ride through rice paddies and over unusually steep dirt roads.
But none of that mattered now; within seconds our weighty backpacks had been whisked away before we’d had a chance to notice. Glasses full of iced tea had been pressed into our hands. Cold towels were laid on the table, to refresh our hands and faces in seconds.
As we sank into the chaise lounge on the deck overlooking the infinity pool, and watched the sun dip behind the calm waters of the lake below, the troubles of five minutes ago already seemed worlds away.
In fact, every stress or fatigue that our last few months on the road had brought seemed to melt away, such was the tranquility of the entire scene.
Within these first few minutes of our 2-night stay, we already knew exactly why this contemporary, sustainably-minded hotel had fast become one of Sri Lanka’s most-wanted luxury hotel stays. This is why.
Tri Lanka review: is this the best eco hotel in Sri Lanka?
About Tri Hotel
Tri’s manager, Oli, puts it best when talking about Tri: it’s a destination within a destination. In fact, of all the views he’s seen in his extensive travels all over the country, this view over Koggala lake is his absolute favourite.
Owners Rob Drummond and wife Lara Baumann Drummond bought the land in 2003, with a vision to transform this former cinnamon plantation into Sri Lanka’s first truly contemporary sustainable luxury design hotel. Construction took two years (during which no trees were cut down or damaged on the property!), and the end result is the Tri of today: “a masterpiece of forward-thinking flair where mathematical marries artistic, and intelligence embraces emotion”.
Proximity to nature is what underpins everything at Tri; from the construction of the resort to its food, the wellness sanctuary vibes to the activities on offer (more on all this below!).
Spa treatments, Quantum Yoga sessions, and the tastiest of dining are just a few of Tri’s many, many perks - while the atmosphere is peaceful in a way that you feel like you’re walking through a constant meditation session.
This is the kind of place that attracts certain types of travellers; those looking for digital detox and inspiration will find themselves rejuvenated.
Couples seeking romance will discover a tranquil hideaway. Nature lovers will find the hotel’s wildlife-filled location awe-inspiring.
No matter what brings you here to begin with, there’s no doubt that this is an ultra-inspiring setting for the mind, body, and soul.
Tri’s location: koggala lake
Despite feeling as though you’ve travelled for days to a secret hideaway in a remote jungle, Tri is actually super close to the energy of the southern coastline and only 20 minutes by tuk tuk from the boho bustle of cosmopolitan Galle Fort.
Given that so many travellers to the south of Sri Lanka don’t stray far from the beaches of the coastline - except for a quick ride on the famous blue train to Ella, it’s nice to see Tri encouraging people to venture further inland.
The Koggala Lake area is rich in both biodiversity and culture; the kind of place where you can discover wildlife and an untouched natural oasis, alongside a charming Buddhist temple or generations-old Cinnamon farm. The perfect base to get to know a totally different side of Sri Lanka!
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Tri hotel: sustainability
We’ll wager that many people view ‘sustainability’ or ‘green travel’ as the remit of the shaggy-haired, hemp-wearing hippie smoking pot and telling anyone who’ll listen about their life-changing spiritual experience at an ashram in Rishikesh.
Sadly, sustainable travel is still widely seen as something of a radical idea, one that requires giving up comfort and mod-cons in favour of wooden huts and not washing for days. This is exactly where Tri is turning the image of sustainability on its head, by marrying conscious travel and blissful luxury together with ease.
There are all the technical ways in which they’re sustainable - working with Colombo-based green consultancy to continually reduce their carbon footprint; harvesting natural + solar power; resource consumption monitoring; reversing habitat degradation and undertaking mangrove planting programs to reduce shoreline erosion - but what we loved the most about Tri during our stay was the feeling that ‘local-first’ was the thought that underpinned every element of the hotel.
From the 100% recycled local timber and Sri Lankan granite to the brilliant locally employed staff and the gourmet feasts created from the freshest of fresh produce (with bamboo straws to boot!), unlike many expat-led accommodation options in Sri Lanka, Tri is clearly integrating and empowering local communities from within, one of our favourite things to see on the road.
Tri hotel: the Philosophy + Design
Sitting by the main deck, looking out over * that * infinity pool (an insta-famous Sri Lankan spot in its own right!), Oli revealed to us that Tri’s founder, Rob, is a photographer - and it’s obvious.
On an island where the landscape is characterised by charming, yes, but repetitive sprawling Colonial mansions-turned-hotels, Tri is a refreshingly modern masterpiece of cool glass and contemporary open plan style. Every angle is a masterpiece, and we found it almost impossible to put down our cameras the entire time we were there.
But don’t let the high ceilings and clean lines fool you; everything about Tri is designed to be in, and of, the nature that surrounds it. It’s a philosophy that underpins absolutely every element of the hotel, from its very construction and design right through to the food served on its tables and the Yoga taught in its (very zen) Yoga Shala.
Just wandering the paths around Tri brought us a sense of calm that feels truly innate, and it wasn’t until we discovered that the resort follows one of nature’s greatest equations, the golden ratio (also known as the Fibonacci sequence), that we understood why.
This ‘divine’ ratio (1:1.61 to be exact!) is replicated over and over in the natural world, from flower petals to DNA molecules and even the shape of our universe.
But it’s beauty lies in the fact that it’s also the most aesthetically pleasing and calming structure in our world - so it’s little wonder that the structures that make up Tri follow this ratio too, unfurling in a shell-like spiral pattern from the most glorious old Banyan tree that towers over the heart of the property.
Looking back at Tri from the quiet of Koggala Lake, the buildings retreat away into the green so beautifully that you’d almost miss the hotel entirely if you didn’t know it was there.
The rooftop of our villa was planted with living gardens, buildings (including the functioning water tower!) are encircled by cinnamon bark, and the whole site is alive with tea plants, bamboo, edible gardens, and the sound of nesting birds. The glass-walled library makes you feel like you’re curled up on the branch of a tree, which is basically Mim’s dream!
Tri hotel: the rooms
Our first thought upon entering our villa at Tri was “we are WAY too dusty/sweaty/gross to deserve this room right now”. Our second (in case you were wondering!) was ‘this is, without doubt, the most beautiful hotel room we’ll ever call home’.
Tri’s. rooms. are. divine.
In fact, we’re actually doing them a disservice by calling them rooms; most of the sleeping quarters at Tri are actually standalone villas tucked away into quiet, lush little pockets of the jungle, with sunset views out over beautifully calm Koggala Lake. There are also three rooms in the water tower, which we can only image grant epic views over the area.
The rooms are minimalist, which only enhances the ‘back to nature’ vibe of the place, and one of the largest, comfiest beds we’ve had the pleasure of laying our heads on. There are no screens here, but more than enough beauty in the view outside your balcony to keep you entertained! We loved the little touches, like the glass bottle of drinking water, lemongrass solid hand soap bar, and the jar of snacks that are refilled each day.
Tri hotel: the food
The wonderful thing about a stay at Tri, is that it feels like a wellness retreat for your mind, body, and soul. No place is this more evident than in the dining room!
Tri operates on a half board basis, which means that your breakfast and dinner are included each day. We’re talking 6-course, beautifully-prepared, super healthy and nourishing gourmet feasts that are a fusion of local and international styles.
Vegetarians are beautifully catered for too, and the staff were super attentive to what we liked/didn’t like. We ate so much food each day (and in fact, breakfast was enough to keep us going all day till dinner), yet left the hotel feeling healthier than ever.
We also loved the fact that, in this age of overconsumption and over-stocked buffets (where there’s enough food to feed a village and much of it is thrown in the trash after), breakfast is served as per mostly-set menu, with limited (yet delicious!) breakfast choices.
It’s great to see a luxurious hotel pushing back against that ‘everything, all at once’ mentality that so many other 5-star providers seem to have.
Tri hotel: the facilities and activities
Tri is one of those places where you can do as much, or as little, as your body wants you to - and there’s no one judging you either way.
For a start, you could take a Quantum Yoga class - Tri co-founder, Lara Baumann is actually the founder of this unique Yoga style - in the tranquility of the treehouse-like yoga shala, or enjoy an Ayurvedic massage treatment, then let your worries drift away by the pool for the rest of the day.
There’s also space for quiet reading time in the glass-walled library that seriously makes you feel as though you’re at one with the jungle around you, and, if you’re feeling thirsty, venturing up to the top floor of the water tower will reward you with an epic sundowner.
While Tri is definitely a destination within a destination, there’s also plenty to do outside the hotel walls if you’re feeling inclined. One day, we took a boat ride across the lake to cinnamon island, where local Sarath and his family have been farming cinnamon for a couple of generations.
We sipped cinnamon tea while Sarath showed us exactly how the cinnamon is extracted and ground down. We also left with the most delicious-smelling bag of fresh, organic cinnamon straight from the source - what more could you want?!
On another afternoon, we decided to stretch our legs, and cycled through the tiny villages and scenic rice paddies around Koggala Lake with Oli, the General Manager.
There are some beautiful trails around the property and it was a really authentic insight into exactly what life is like around this beautiful lake. Oli is an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to the local flora and fauna, so we definitely recommend using him as your guide (although it is possible to head out for a cycle solo if that takes your fancy instead).
If you’re keen to venture a little further, the Handunugoda Tea Estate (Herman Teas) in the hills above Koggala is famous for their virgin white tea, and also provide free tours of their tea plantation too.
How to book your stay at Tri Lanka
Rooms start at £250 per night, and can be booked with Tri directly, or online at Mr & Mrs Smith.
Check current prices and availability on the Mr and Mrs Smith website at the link below.
things to know before staying at Tri Hotel
BRING YOUR BINOCULARS
There are plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities everywhere you look. Pack a pair of binoculars and spend an afternoon spotting the rich wildlife around the resort.
YOU CAN’T SWIM IN THE LAKE
Inviting though it looks, Koggala Lake is a no-swim zone, thanks to the crocodiles that call it home. You’ll have to make do with the epic infinity pool instead… shame!
THERE IS NO NIGHTLIFE HERE
This is probably already pretty obvious, but if you’re looking for pumping nightlife or vibrant streets on your doorstep, Tri isn’t the place you’re after. Fall asleep to the sounds of the lake and its insects, and wake to the first rays of light instead!
How to get to Tri, SRI Lanka
Despite feeling like a secret hideaway, Tri is super well connected to the rest of Sri Lanka. There are a few ways to get to the resort, including:
If you’re travelling by car or private transport, Tri is just 15-minutes drive away from the Matara-airport highway and then just 2-2.5 hours to/from Colombo International airport (Bandaranaike International Airport).
If you like your hotel transfers a little more ‘Bond-esque’, another way to get to Tri hotel is via their scheduled flights and bespoke charters on their seaplane service to Koggala Lake from most parts of Sri Lanka, including the main airport and the hill country too.
For intrepid travellers seeking adventure, the journey can be made via train to Galle then a connection to Koggala where there’s a smaller village station. From there, jump in a tuk tuk to Tri, which should only take 10 or so minutes.
For a more traditional arrival, Tri’s dhoni boat (operated by the former owner of the plantation!) is available to collect you from the main road or from Koggala airbase (for those arrival by plane), and transport you directly on to the private jetty in front of the restaurant and infinity pool.
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Best time to visit Tri Lanka
As Tri is based on the Southern coastline of Sri Lanka, your best (driest) travel times are generally from December to April, when the days are a little cooler, and the humidity isn’t peaking yet. We stayed at Tri in mid-November, and while the days were quite pleasant, the afternoons generally brought a heavy storm (which can be brilliant to watch as they roll across the lake!).
If you’re keen to avoid the crowds of peak season, June/July and Oct/Nov (the monsoon shoulder months) are your best bet, as the days are less likely to bring constant torrential downpours.
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