After our cultural exploration in Kandy, mountain hiking and waterfall swimming in Ella, and safari experience near Udawalawe, we were ready for the second phase of our Sri Lanka trip - a week-long exploration of the beaches of Sri Lanka's southern coast. Throughout the week, we explored both famous and hidden spots, snorkeled, scuba-dove, practiced yoga, ate roti, sushi and vegan food, and explored palm tree groves and walked along the top of an oceanside colonial fortress.
Check out our tips and recommendations below for Sri Lanka's southern top sights, activities and foods. Pro tip: every single day, stop along the side the road at one of the fruit shops and get a fresh coconut - it is so cheap and so refreshing, and you will miss it when you leave Sri Lanka.
We stayed at Palm Paradise on Goyambokka beach - our suite felt like a modern, air-conditioned palace after the last few days of eco-lodges, but the hotel itself felt more like a family holiday destination. The walk from the room to the beach is two minutes through manicured gardens, and the beach features a couple of restaurants and waterside spas. We had a good (but windy) lunch at Think Club, with fresh fish caught by a father and cooked by his son.
The absolute highlight of Tangalle was Silent Beach, accessible via a 30 minute waterside rock hike or through the luxe Amanwella Resort. This was the best beach we found in Sri Lanka and one of our top 5 ever - with only a few people, no restaurants, just perfect white sand, turquoise water, hundreds of palm trees and a few rocky boulders surrounded by patches of sparkly purple sand. We opted to hike from Goyambokka, and were accompanied by a local dog who led the way. Best beach award.
We spent 3 nights in Mirissa at the Morning Star Guest House, run by a sweet family who renovated their giant backyard into a series of guest suites and a giant pool - ours featured a modern bathroom and giant canopy bed. They set us up with a scooter and served us homemade breakfast every morning, including giant tropical fruit plates.
Coconut Grove: Another famous Instagram spot, Coconut Grove is an outcropping dotted with perfect coconut trees, surrounded by a bay and a good surf break. We headed here at sunset on New Year's Eve, and carved out our own private spot to take some pictures. Definitely worth the short scooter ride from Mirissa town, and a good spot to chill and watch the sunset.
Mirissa Beach: Hotels, restaurants and bars line the beach, making it a major scene, with a good surf spot at one end and Parrot Rock on the other. We climbed the rock at sunrise, for views of the coconut trees and local fishermen - since they added bamboo poles and guard rails, the once sketchy climb is totally accessible. Mirissa Beach isn't very chill, but it is a great place for a beach walk and, we were told, a good spot to snorkel with sea turtles.
Scuba: We recommend Paradise Dive Center for an easy diving experience. Since this was our first time, we hired a private dive master and boat and spent the day learning the basics. We finished with a 15 meter dive, where we saw huge fish, giant eels and massive schools of thousands of fish. The visibility isn't the best due to the wavy conditions on the coast, but it's a good spot to learn and the prices are super reasonable.
Good Spa (Weligama): A serene indoor-outdoor spa set along a river, with a chill soundtrack, luxurious products and excellent therapists, this was a shockingly good spa experience. We opted for basic massages, but had our own private outdoor shower and enjoyed a morning drinking tea by the river after our treatments.
Secret Beach (Weligama): A good spot to swim with the locals, with cleaner water than the big beach in Weligama, known mostly as a famous beginner surf spot.
Shala Yoga Centre: A great place to drop in for an outdoor yoga class on a thatch-roofed deck surrounded by the Sri Lankan jungle. After class we enjoyed local tea and a dip in the infinity pool.
Roti Shop: Delicious, cheap and local, we couldn't get enough of roti in its various forms during our trip.
Ceylon Sliders (Weligama): Another trendy spot with fresh, delicious food that felt like we could be in Los Angeles or somewhere Aussie. Famished after a morning of swimming and spa-ing, we downed a veggie burger, ahi tuna bowl, granola acai bowl and some homemade cakes and cookies, washed down with fruit-topped spritzers and a tumeric latte. Not the cheapest, and not super local, but a cool surfery spot that felt like a place to be.
Little Tuna Sushi: We sat on floor cushions at this cool indoor outdoor spot and loved the super fresh sushi at this hard to find spot on the back streets of Mirissa. The fish was great and the backyard lounge atmosphere made this place worth a visit.
Shady Lane Mirissa: To keep a balance with all of our curries and rotis, we picked this trendy brunch spot for its famous iced coffees (which neither of us liked since we don't drink coffee) and for its toasts and smoothie bowls. The fresh local fruit and simple preparations were great, but this place was super packed full of Instagram girls and it took a while for us to get our food. It was worth the visit, but maybe on off hours.
Galle Fort: At different times ruled by both the Dutch and Portuguese, the old town of Galle is surrounded by a fortress wall, topped with a walking path. We walked along the old fortress walls and gazed to the turquoise waters and tiny beaches below. The old town feels European, and is filled with bougie shops, galleries and restaurants. A great place to shop for art, spices, clothing and high-end souvenirs
Poonie's Kitchen: A trendy, mostly vegetarian spot located inside a gallery and quirky boutique. We feasted on the most beautiful, colorful salad we'd ever seen, along with homemade carrot cake, avocado toast, a granola bowl and noodles. The presentation of the food alone was worth the visit.
Beach: The beach in Unawatauna is more of a scene than a serene tropical locale, due to the bars and restaurants set up right on the beach (and the monstrous skyscraper being built that will ruin the low slung, beach town vibe), but the town itself is cool, with smoothie and coffee bars, galleries and chill out spots all along the easily walkable main roads. We recommend walking up to the temple around sunset for epic views.
Bedspace Beach: Although the power (and therefore AC) was out for a good portion of our stay, the super chill, hippie vibe hotel, complete with hammocks on the room, was a cool spot in a great location just across from the main beach. Skinny Toms, the restaurant attached to the hotel, is top-notch for healthy, modern food with a Sri Lankan twist. Breakfast was included with our room, and we opted for egg hoppers and coconut milk shakes delivered to our room in the morning. During our time we also picked up vegan cakes and cookies and fresh juices. Right next door, Ni Hao Dumplings are delicious and can be taken to go.
Hikkaduwe: The claim-to-fame in Hikkaduwe are the few palm tree rope swings that line the beach, perfect for a sunset silhouette Instagram shot. Besides that, Hikkaduwe is a little more low-key than Unawatuna but still has a few beach shacks to pick up snacks and drinks. Definitely worth a visit for a day - we spotted some sea turtles bobbing off the rocks.
We finished off our week with a final night in Negombo, the pretty but gritty beach town closest to the airport. We walked along the beach at night, watching locals order fried delights and candies from snack bars dotting the beach and old-school sail boat captains looking for tourists to take out on a final ride before they headed to the airport.
Next stop: A 24-hour layover in Muscat, Oman
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