My incredible Sri Lanka Airbnb collection – eco-friendly homes with million dollar views, cool aesthetics, infinity pools and the friendliest hosts.
As the first rays of sunlight streamed through my window, I drowsily opened my eyes to a panoramic 180-degree view of Knuckles Mountains.
Victoria Lake shimmered below, as though waking up with me. My infinity pool beckoned for a morning dip.
Laying in bed, I blinked a few times to convince myself this wasn’t a dream in which I had become a billionaire! It was just my incredible – yet affordable -Airbnb in the paradise island of Sri Lanka.
Three years ago, on my first trip to Sri Lanka, I wrote: “It’s not a country for flashpackers. Our moderate budget only seems to afford drab guesthouses / budget hotels of average quality. No local insights, nothing memorable.”
Airbnb changed that.
Also read: How to Find the Perfect Airbnb and Make the Most of Your Travel Experience
But on this trip to Sri Lanka, we found accommodations with million dollar views, the design quality of luxurious boutique hotels, and infinity pools that could easily make the coolest infinity pools to swim in before you die list.
I got a chance to sample traditional family recipes (adapted to my vegan lifestyle) that feature in no restaurant menus. And I left the country with treasured friendships with local hosts I wouldn’t otherwise have met. All this while staying kind to my pocket!
Also read: Sri Lanka Visa for Indians: Tips and Requirements
Not on Airbnb yet? Sign up with my referral link to get 40$ off your first stay.
Behold, the most awesome Airbnbs I found in Sri Lanka:
- Airbnb Kandy: Arjuna and Zane’s home in Menikdiwela
- Airbnb Colombo: College House
- Airbnb Hikkaduwa: Huma Terra
- Yala National Park Airbnb: Gem River Edge
- Airbnb Negombo: Villa Shade
- Airbnb Habarana: Galkadawala Forest Lodge (perhaps the best Sri Lanka Airbnb!)
- Airbnb Kanya: Ambavillas, overlooking Victoria Lake in Digana (my favorite Sri Lanka Airbnb in the hill country)
- Have you found any incredible Sri Lanka Airbnb? Share away.
Airbnb Kandy: Arjuna and Zane’s home in Menikdiwela
I love the hill country of Sri Lanka, but I hate the crowds.
The answer – Menikdiwela, a quiet little tea plantation village with breathtaking views of the hills, where Arjuna grew up. After a long stint in Europe, he moved back to design the kind of home I can see myself ‘living’ in.
I don’t know if it was the wood-fired local curries or the endless, and often hilarious, conversations about life in Sri Lanka vs India that immediately drew me in. I came down with a flu and Zane went out of her way to find me a herbal cure. The curious locals in the nearby villages, basking in the winter sun by the gorgeous pool and the hikes we never went on (sniff) made me promise I’d come back and stay longer.
INR 4546 (US$ 67) per night; www.airbnb.com/arjuna
Also read: The Joy of Slow Travel
Airbnb Colombo: College House
I think I’m slowly getting over my mental block of spending too much time in a city – and College House in Colombo has a role to play.
It was love at first sight with this charming colonial-style home, dating back atleast 200 years. A home that has inspired dancers and writers through its fascinating history.
I’ll save the stories for Valli and Fauzi – my hosts-turned-friends in the span of two short days – to tell you over a meal of thosai and chutneys! But using Uber to get around, catching up with Twitter friends at the local brewery, shopping at Odel, I felt like I was home in Colombo.
INR 2800 (US$ 40) per night; www.airbnb.com/valli
Tip: The casual atmosphere is more that of visiting a friend’s home than a B&B – which is why I loved it. Read my review on their Airbnb page to calibrate your expectations.
Also read: How I Connect Meaningfully With Locals as I Travel the World
Airbnb Hikkaduwa: Huma Terra
It’s one thing to indulge in luxury. Quite another to indulge in luxury that is handcrafted from scratch and off-the-grid!
We were only a 20-minute bicycle ride from the west coast, including the famous Hikkaduwa beach. Yet in a world where our output in the dry composting toilets was used to make manure for the lush organic rice paddies surrounding us – aka our input 😉
INR 7,000 (US$ 100) per night; www.airbnb.com/solange
Tip: Local food can be prepared if ordered in advance with the cook. The French / fusion food is not vegan-friendly unfortunately.
Also read: How to Travel as a Vegan and Find Delicious Food Anywhere in the World
Yala National Park Airbnb: Gem River Edge
I was saving the best for the last, but as luck would have it, the last wasn’t to be.
Still, I can’t help dreaming of spending a few days in the forests of Yala National Park. Cycling in the buffer zone, going deep into the park on a 12-hour safari, living in an environmentally-conscious abode and gathering by night to swap wildlife tales over curries cooked on an open fire!
INR 2800 (US$ 40) per night; www.airbnb.com/ajith
Tip: Though most prices on Airbnb are listed for double occupancy, I always ask if single travelers are offered any special prices. Never hurts, and sometimes you get a great deal!
Also read: 15 Responsible Travel Tips for Authentic, Meaningful Experiences on the Road
Airbnb Negombo: Villa Shade
I love hitting the countryside soon as I land in a country. For that reason, I love Negombo – a small beach town with paddies and forests in the residential interiors. And closer to the Colombo airport than Colombo.
Even after 3 years, landing in Sri Lanka and knocking on the doors of Villa Shade late at night, felt like going home. Such is the warmth with which Shiraj and his wife have welcomed me both times.
Although their home has changed to make more space for guests and less for the bamboo forests I loved so much, I still appreciate its close-to-nature feeling. Borrowing their bicycle for a ride through the wilderness in the neighborhood was the perfect way to start my Sri Lanka explorations.
INR 1960 (US$ 28); www.airbnb.com/shiraj
Tip: Although the ‘chalets’ are listed on Airbnb, I prefer to stay in a cozy room in their family home. Ask for it, it’s more affordable too.
Also read: The Last Indigenous Cave Dwellers of Sri Lanka
Airbnb Habarana: Galkadawala Forest Lodge (perhaps the best Sri Lanka Airbnb!)
I can still catch a whiff of the cucumber curry, slow cooked for four hours on an open fire, as we soak in the silence of the dark forest surrounding Galkadawala Forest Lodge.
Our hostess Maulie left her cushy life in Colombo and decided to recreate the harmony between man and nature in the heart of Sri Lanka’s golden triangle.
I borrowed a sarong and joined the village women for a dip in the local tank. Hiked through mushy desert terrain. Kayaked in waters home to crocodiles! And caught a glimpse of wild elephants in Minneriya National Park.
Living off-the-grid, away from civilization as we know it, I think Maulie did more than create harmony. She created an abode to fall in love with raw wild nature again.
INR 4690 (US$ 69); www.airbnb.com/maulie
Also read: Galkadawala: Sri Lanka’s Best Kept Secret
Airbnb Kanya: Ambavillas, overlooking Victoria Lake in Digana (my favorite Sri Lanka Airbnb in the hill country)
Just when I thought Sri Lanka couldn’t surprise me anymore, my tuk tuk stopped at the unbelievably incredible home of Lotte and Shadwell.
Each morning, I woke up in my glass-walled
palace room to a 180-degree panorama of Victoria Lake and Knuckles Mountains! I joined my hosts to pick wild coffee beans on the countryside. Feasted on local and international (vegan) delights. Swapped travel tales and dark chocolate recipes. And left with the feeling that I was leaving behind friends I’ve known a long time… only to come back someday.
INR 7400 (US$ 110); www.airbnb.com/lotte
Also read: Lessons on the Art of Living, in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country
Have you found any incredible Sri Lanka Airbnb? Share away.
Note: I handpicked all Airbnbs for my Sri Lanka trip, and wrote this post with the support of Airbnb India.
See my Airbnb wishlist – Surprising Sri Lanka for all these finds in one place.
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, sign up with my referral link to get 40$ off your first stay.
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.
I regularly follow your blog and it’s pretty amazing. But I would like to point out here that the places you have mentioned (which are amazing), aren’t really affordable by backpacker standards. I have subscribed to your newsletter and opens every article anticipating something great. I am sure you will understand why I am putting up this comment.
Hi Hashin, glad you like my blog! I understand you completely, and I agree these places aren’t for backpacker budgets. There are plenty of those in Sri Lanka, and I’m sure you’ll find lots of resources if you google them. But I’m not a backpacker (even though I travel with a backpack) and like to stay in places that are unique, experiential and offer value for money. More on that here – http://the-shooting-star.com/2012/10/19/confession-im-not-a-backpacker/
Share the same sentiment .. I used to be an avid reader of your blog but lovely as these Airbnb’s might be , these are not backpacker , solo traveler budgets.
Loved the places… 🙂 Wish to visit Lanka soon..
I hope you do soon. Love that country – the food, the people, the natural beauty, and well, these Airbnbs 😉
Beautiful compilation. I was in Sri Lanka in Mar ’14 and we stayed at the Nilaveli House (https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/2499684) at the Trincomalee beach. A beautiful 03 bedroom villa located right at the beach, you can just walk out and take a dip!
Wow! Believe it or not, I was choosing between Nilaveli and the one in Digana towards the end of my trip, and the mountains just won me over 😉 Hope to visit it next time, thanks for sharing!
Great photos, wonderful places.
Thanks, glad you like them!
Sri Lanka is on my cards for years….. a direct flight from Kolkata introduced in 2015….may be 2017 😏
A direct flight from Kolkata to Colombo? That’s amazing. What airline? Make it 2016, time waits for no one 😉
Very helpful information as am planning to visit Sri Lanka by next year.
That’s great Shanoli, hope you’ll love it as much as I did!
Great list – some of those places look absolutely amazing! And yes that pool is to die for. We stayed at a gorgeous Air BnB in Colombo – the house of architect Tilak Samarawickrema. Tilak and his wife have a stunning bungalow in the heart of the city which they have now opened up to travelers. Their house is a treasure trove for art and design lovers. We loved it! https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/4327717
That bungalow looks pretty amazing Chaitali! And I’m sure you must have had some rather interesting conversations with Tilak. Bookmarking it for my next trip 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Nice accommodation ,do doubt,but all travellers need to be aware that most of the travel bloggers in the name of getting business to the accommodation providers enjoy freebies saying their blog has X number of visitors and they were selected for this or that meet etc..Accomodation providers and even Star hotels management fall for it without proper analysis, The most important aspect of any backpack traveller is Financing his travel for which 80% do it from their own money,rest are smart in capitalsing the blog mania, Sadly many do not understand this…Travel is really hard but earning one’s own money and spending it is even more hard, The above Accomodation information is fine for travellers with money not backpackers…Finally the choice is our’s.
Vijay, I appreciate your comment but I wish you had atleast taken the time to read my blog and how I fund my travels – a detailed post I wrote recently. Just to be clear, I paid for most of these Airbnbs out of my pocket (as I do for 90% of my travels), and when I saw potential in a partnership with Airbnb, I approached them. I work very hard to balance money with honest reviews, and I would appreciate if you saw a bit of my work before classifying it as ‘blog mania’.
Very sensible reply, I would have probably got defensive and blown my top. Really impressed with your cool head and appropriate play of words 🙂
Quite a wonderful country and a fantastic post on places to stay, we always love such downtown, off the rush, country side or into tje woods kind of accomodation, we are definitely bookmarking this and will be staying around thesenplaces on our srilanka visit.
It is a wonderful country, and these places are perfect for travellers like yourself! I hope you’ll love Sri Lanka as much as I did on your upcoming trip 🙂
Thanks for sharing these wonderful places. We’ll be in Sri Lanka in July/August and this is very helpful!
That’s awesome Yvonne, I visited Sri Lanka around July the last time, and it was gorgeous then too! Hope you stay at and fall in love with some of these places too 🙂
I have yet to use AirBnb but i’ve heard so much about it, I might definitely give it a try 🙂
Do that Jane – as long as you spend time researching accommodations, reading reviews and finding something to suit your taste and interests – I’m sure it won’t disappoint!
These places are beautiful! here’s a link to another great affordable one in Colombo hosted by my mom’s aunt 🙂 https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1950722?s=tuGM3Sp2
Looks homely and friendly; would love to stay here next time. Thanks for sharing!
Nicely done Shivya 😊 . Wouldn’t be trying the Huma Terra though, can’t imagine eating the rice there 😝
Hahaha! Well, organically grown rice tastes SO much better than pesticide / chemical laden rice, go go go 😉
I like the pic of that small tree house in Hikkaduwa. Must have been an adventure to stay there. (y)
It sure was an adventure, especially being surrounded by rice paddies. But there are 3-4 more such houses nearby (owned by the same owners, a mini lodge you might say) and a nice central area with a bar, so you’re off the grid yet not all alone – I guess that’s a plus and minus 😉
Superb! Thanks for sharing. Any suggestions for similar options in Spain? Will be there in May.
Awesome that you’re off to Spain. Unfortunately I didn’t really use Airbnb much in Spain, where I travelled a long time ago. I stayed in several Casa Rurales – which are a similar concept to Airbnb, local-run countryside accommodations, but less organized. I’m sure you’ll find some interesting options on both!
Love how you’re mostly reading in these pictures.
Now that you say it, I see it! I just happened to choose the reading pictures mostly – maybe to look more intellectual? Haha :p
We are just about to put our house in Colombo on Airbnb. Hope you will be able to help with some tips and ideas!
Hi Ann, that’s really great, I’m sure you’ll meet some interesting people! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what you have in mind. Happy to share ideas with you, based on what I loved and what I thought could be done better 🙂
First of all kudos to your spirit! For following your heart and travelling “the road less travelled.”
You have been an inspiration to me and probably so many more!
Thanks to people like you I have been able to climb out of my two by two cubicle and start on my first solo sojourn!
Hey Nupur, I’m so glad to hear that 🙂 More power to you! Where’s your first solo sojourn taking you?
Amazing pictures, I love it ! Thank you for sharing
Thanks so much, I’m glad you do!
Amazing article, informative and so inviting ! planning to visit Sri Lanka next month. Any tips on local travel/ Taxis/ Costs – especially long distances?
informative article shivya!! looking forward to our trip to lanka in nov.
We are heading to Sri Lanka this year & usually use air bnb when we travel! Your review is amazing and no doubt we will try to secure a few of these properties based on your experiences! Thanks!!
First of all!…Hats Off, My Lady! for being courageous enough to follow your dreams! 🙂 ..I am sure this feeling of freedom from 9-to-6 monotonous desk job is exhilarating.
I am writing to your seeking advice on my Sri Lanka tour for 3N/4D end of this month. I am planning for “Colombo-Kandy–Bentota–-Colombo” and cover Hikkaduwa/Galle on day 2.
I want some suggestion on accommodation as I am looking for cheapest but safe places to stay as I don’t want to waste money on expensive hotels which are going to be used for sleeping at nights only. 🙂
Please suggest me on this.
WOW, amazing ! you really found the best. Next trip in Sri Lanka in 1 month and I will follow most of your advices for our family (hubby + 4 intensive little travelers). Just one question : were you travelling with a car and a guide ? thanks and have a safe journey. Anne from Tanzania
Does Sri Lanka have the best Airbnbs or what? These look amazing. Thanks for letting us know about these places.
Those places are just gorgeous, hard to believe they are Airbnbs. Anyway, lucky you!