The Southern Sri Lankan Beaches

When I packed my bag for this trip to Sri Lanka, I packed really light. Knowing that I’ll be going to a tropical country, I mostly brought warm weather clothes. I also brought one sweater and a jacket— just in case. It was chilly when we arrived in Ella, even more so when it rained the next day. So that sweater and jacket did come in handy— I  was thinking of leaving those since they took up quite a bit of space in my backpack. After three days though it got quite unbearable, especially since the sweater I brought wasn’t really made for cold weather lol. I figured it was about time I headed south to those famed Sri Lanka beaches. There are lots of beaches in the country, it’s an island after all. But those in the southern part are supposedly the best ones.

There are many options down south, and upon doing some research Mirissa seemed to be a good choice to base myself. The location is good, and I could check out the other beach side towns as I make my way back to Colombo.  From Ella, there are no direct buses to Mirissa but there are buses to Matara and Galle. There’s one of these buses passing by the bus stop in  town every hour or so. The bus to Galle passes by Mirissa so you only need to take one bus. I missed this bus though so i had to take the bus to Matara. A bus ticket to Matara only costs 255 Rupees (about 1.60 USD). The journey takes about 4 hours. I was lucky because the bus I rode wasn’t even half full. My friend got really unlucky though. He left for Matara the next morning and the bus was full for the entire trip! I left in the afternoon at around 2 PM, so maybe the time of day is a factor. It would make sense to avoid the morning rush.

Once you arrive at the Matara Bus Station, you have two options to get to Mirissa: A local bus costs 20 Rupees and it takes 30- 40 minutes to get there. A tuk-tuk costs 300 Rupees and it takes about 25 minutes to get to Mirissa. I guess the answer is a no brainer. lol. Keep in mind that if you’re in a hurry buses might not be a good option because only one leaves every hour. On the other hand, there are lots of tuk-tuks waiting at the bus station any time of the day.

Mirissa is often referred to as the most beautiful beach in Sri Lanka, thus it attracts a lot of travelers. Still it doesn’t get too crowded. However, because quite a number of tourists go here, you should expect prices to be expensive compared to other parts of Sri Lanka. Coming from Ella, my mouth dropped when I saw how much the restaurants near the beach were charging for food and beverages. But don’t fret, like any other popular tourist spot, you can find cheap places to eat if you look hard enough. Walk inland and you’ll find several small stores and restaurants. Perhaps the most awesome find is the Dewmini Roti Shop. It’s not like we discovered a hidden gem because it’s the number one rated restaurant on Trip Advisor lol. Believe the hype. Those rotis were amazing. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about them. The kotu was delicious too. And the best part? The food in this restaurant is incredibly cheap! They should be charging so much more for such delicious rotis! We loved this place so much we kept coming back for all our meals! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

When I began this trip, most of the locals I’ve encountered told me to visit the southern beaches at the tail end of my trip. Looking back, I believe that was sound advice. Better to get the cultural sites and hiking out of the way, see all there is to see and just spend the last couple of days just relaxing at the beach. That’s not saying there’s not a lot to do in the southern beaches. There are many surf breaks along the southern coastline. 20 minutes away from Mirissa is Weligama which is arguably one of the best surfing sites in the country. You can easily take a tuk-tuk for 300 Rupees. Yup that really seems to be the standard rate everywhere. You can book a whale watching tour right in Mirissa too— though this one seems to be a hit or miss. Those people who saw whales came back overwhelmed. At the other end of the spectrum, you’re gonna meet travelers who didn’t see a single whale and they were understandably pissed. lol.

A great find in Mirissa is the Secret Beach Bar, located in a not so secret beach. lol. If you do a search on Google Maps it comes out, and it’s within walking distance from Mirissa beach. It took us about 40 minutes to get there by walking. If you’re a bit lazy you can always take a tuk-tuk for 300 Rupees. Keep in mind though that tuk-tuks can’t bring you all the way to the bar. You still have to walk about 5-10 minutes through a really rocky path that vehicles can’t pass through. And when you walk back, there won’t be any tuk-tuks until you reach the main street— that’s about a 20 minute walk back. It’s a great place to spend the day since it’s quite isolated. Food and beverages are extremely expensive though (for Sri Lankan standards)— quite understandable since it might be a bit hard bringing stuff to their location. We just ordered one drink each even though we spent a few hours at the place, they didn’t seem to mind. Also it’s best to bring lots of spare change. They don’t have change for large bills.

 

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Unawatuna Beach

As you make your way along the coast back to Colombo, another beach town I’d recommend is Unawatuna. The beach here is larger and the area is definitely more touristy. Oftentimes the beach might get crowded, but it’s a good option if you think Mirissa is a little laid back for your taste. The nightlife is better in Unawatuna too, simply because there are more options. It’s also close to Galle so you can easily do a day trip if you want to see the sights in the city. I wouldn’t recommend staying in Galle, I didn’t like it at all. If you ask me, it’s way better to spend your nights in Unawatuna.

Another popular beach you might hear of is Hikkaduwa. It’s actually on the southwestern coastline of the country. I wouldn’t recommend staying here either. It’s probably the most crowded beach in the southern part of Sri Lanka. For me Unawatuna and Mirissa offer that perfect mix. Not too isolated, and not too crowded either.

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Hikkaduwa Beach

Back to Mirissa— since it has become a pretty popular first and last stop for tourists (i.e. those who just go to Sri Lanka for the beaches), there are easy ways to get to and from Colombo. In fact, a number of travelers spend their last night in Mirissa and just head to Colombo to catch their flight out the next day. From Mirissa you just need to go to either Matara or Weligama to catch a train. A second class ticket only costs 220 Rupees. I managed to take a picture of the train schedule below:

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As you can see, it takes 3-4 hours to get to Colombo Fort. From Colombo Fort, it takes about an hour to get to the airport. Take that into account if you plan on spending your last night in Mirissa. A faster alternative is to take the so called “highway buses“. It costs more than twice as much at 530 Rupees but you’ll arrive in Colombo in 2 1/2 hours because these buses pass through the highway with no stops. These buses are air conditioned too so to some folks it’s worth paying a premium. If you choose to take these buses, head back to the bus station in Matara. Don’t go inside the bus station though, head towards the ocean and you’ll see a couple of buses parked by the shore. Look for the ones heading to Colombo. There are buses leaving every 30 minutes or so during the day time so there’s no need to rush.

To sum up, I think the beaches in the southern part of Sri Lanka are great places to spend your last couple of days in the country. I wouldn’t go to Sri Lanka just for these beaches though. I’ve seen more beautiful beaches in other countries, so I wasn’t blown away by the beaches here.  If you’re heading to Sri Lanka, visit the cultural sites. See the amazing wildlife. Hike those peaks and witness the amazing scenery. The beaches in southern Sri Lanka are just icing on the cake— a nice addition to your trip to this beautiful country.

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