After 3 days of wandering temples and ancient ruins, my friends and I were ready for lazy days by the ocean. Although I am a natural beach bum, I had no idea what to expect of Sri Lankan beaches since growing up as a Tamil Sri Lankan girl meant wearing oversized t-shirts over your one piece bathing suit. What was this beach culture all these tourists spoke of? Was I ready to be stared at because of my Tamil tattoo by locals?
I was travelling with a German and a Singaporean so I figured I would just blend in with the tourists. But I soon learned that Sri Lankan culture had progressed and I was stuck in the past expectations of my parent’s generation. Locals did strike up conversations with me due to my Tamil tattoo, often with curiosity about where I lived now and how I was enjoying Sri Lanka. Basically the same conversations I’ve had with locals in the countries I’ve visited. Why did I think it would be different here?
Our first beach destination was Mirissa Beach, on the south coast. Other than our first guesthouse in Negombo, we had no accommodation booked on this trip. Usually I am pretty anxious about having a place to stay on each leg of my
travels, but Sri Lanka was known for scoring the best deals in person. Since I wasn’t solo either on this trip, we decided to wing this part of our travels and it made our trip that much better. Our driver, Amal, would drop us off in Mirissa after our 3 day jaunt in the central province , and luckily he also knew a guesthouse in Mirissa that could accommodate us along with a whale watching tour he recommended. We basically didn’t have to lift a finger and our first few days were planned for us.
The waves on Sri Lankan beaches are HUGE; we quickly learned this as all of our sunglasses were washed away our first time in the ocean. This makes it ideal however for surfing, and that’s what all the tourists come here for. Mirissa is a quick weekend getaway from the capital city, Colombo, so weekends are busy with beach parties. Although there are a lot of hotels/guesthouses on the beach, there are loads more homestays and affordable options on the other side of the beach.
From Mirissa we had no idea which beach to head to next, there were numerous options to choose from. Through the advise of a local guy we met and became friends with, we headed to Unnawatuna next, known to have more of a hippie beach vibe (versus Mirissa’s commercial vibe). We hit up a local guesthouse right on the beach with a balcony facing the ocean for the next few nights. Although Unnawatuna beach was pretty dirty with seaweed, it was much more relaxing, with loads of local and international food options.
Galle is a fortified historic town on the coast, 5 km from Unnawatuna. It is an easy day trip (by tuk tuk) to soak up some history and gorgeous views. Inside the fort feels like you were whisked away to ancient Sri Lankan times; a crisp European feel surrounds you with courtyards restaurants and sidewalk cafes, yellow-washed buildings and cobblestone streets. We even climbed over the fort walls for breathtaking ocean views. It was easily my favourite part of this trip!
Galle was once the main port of Sri Lanka during Dutch colonial rule. It’s an excellent example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese, and is also the largest remaining fortress in Asia, built by Europeans.
Our last beach destination was Hikkaduwa, the closest commercial beach town to Colombo, making it easy to head to the airport rather than staying in the city of Colombo (which I strongly advise any traveller to avoid). Home to popular beach bars and clubs, it’s the Miami Beach of Sri Lanka! Also the perfect way to end an amazing trip on this incredible island. Hikkaduwa beaches are HOT, as in there is less shade so the sand is so hot you can’t walk without shoes. What I like best about Sri Lankan beaches is that they are never overcrowded,due to the vast stretches of sand. Beaches are generally clean (as major beaches are maintained) and you can lie in the shade while drinks and fresh fruits come to YOU (thank you beachside vendors!). It’s a different experience to be vacationing in your motherland; you see what others appreciate about your own culture with a different lens, an experience that is needed to understand that the blessing is real!