“The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body.” Anthony Bourdain
The Southern Province of Sri Lanka is known for its idyllic beaches, surfing, fresh coconuts and relaxed vibe. The new highway has made it extremely easy to be sitting on the beach with a cold beer in less than three hours after landing in Colombo. Here’s ten things to do if you are staying along the West coast.
- Whale Watching
Go Whale Watching! Blue Whales live off the West coast of Sri Lanka from December to April (then they migrate to Trincomalee on the East coast). Mirissa harbour is the embarkation point for the many whale watching boats, the early morning departure may be a shock to the system but it’s totally worth it to see the world’s largest mammal. Being up close and watching blue whales is an amazing and surreal experience, if you are lucky you might also see sperm whales, several varieties of dolphins and turtles. You are at sea for a few hours so take plenty of suncream and sea sickness tablets just incase (a few people were suffering on our trip).
Top Tip – Avoid the overcrowded tourist boats that lean under the weight of too many passengers and instead charter a private catamaran from Sail Lanka. If you do decide to use a tour operator make sure it’s licensed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
- Learn to surf
Weligama, which translates to ‘Sandy Village’, attracts surfers from around the globe. The beach is a popular surfing hangout and as the bay is fairly protected from the wind, it’s an ideal place for beginners (more advanced surfers can head a few kilometres North to Gurubebila or South to Mirissa). There’s a number of surf schools along the beach to choose from as well as a range of board rentals places, check out Weligama Surf Tours for more information
Top Tip – Book a surf lesson with Ceylon Sliders Surf School who offer surf lessons* or lesson packages with ISA certified surf instructors, guided surf and rental surfboards of all shapes and sizes. They cater for beginners and also provide more technical surf coaching for the more experienced rider *Private or group lessons can be held in English or Sinhalese.
- Visit historic Galle
Galle is a ‘must do’ day trip if you are staying in the Southern Province. Walk along the old city walls of the Dutch colonial quarter and visit Galle’s 400-year old fort that now houses a museum, cafes, shops as well as the Amangalla, a luxury hotel located in the former Dutch Governor’s residence. The iconic Galle lighthouse sits at one end while further along daring cliff jumpers throw themselves off the rocks. Local crafts and souvenirs are touted from stalls that line the wall, look out for the snake charmers too.
Narrow lanes are home to chic shops filled with local crafts, art, homewares, handcrafted jewellery and books while others are bursting with cheap souvenirs, textiles and loose leaf tea, an abundance of quaint little restaurants and cafes are intermixed with boutique hotels.
Top Tip – Stop for lunch at Sugar Bistro, a trendy cafe serving Sri Lankan classics and fantastic burgers. Shop at Barefoot for colourful upmarket Sri Lankan homewares and pick up a retro Ceylon poster at Stick No Bills.
- Take a Tuk Tuk Tour
Hire a tuk tuk and driver and explore the local area (hire one to drive yourself if you are feeling confident). I can highly recommend the very reliable Pradeep from Travel With Pradeep who can take you on a tour in his immaculate blue tuk tuk (Pradeep also offers airport transfers, day tours and longer guided tours throughout Sri Lanka – click HERE for more information.
Top Tip – Riding in a tuk tuk is great fun and not to be missed if you visiting Sri Lanka – always negotiate your price before you set off even if it’s a short trip, don’t be afraid to haggle.
- Practice Yoga
Channel your inner zen and practice some yoga by the beach or in a temple. There are a number of yoga teachers who offer drop in classes and companies who offer yoga retreats in the Weligama and Mirissa areas. Ceylon Sliders host yoga and breakfast events during peak season on their rooftop. Check out Kosala Widhanage Yoga HERE and Green Peace Inn HERE for more information.
Top Tip – Try an outdoor sunset yoga class
- Visit Coconut Tree Hill
Coconut Tree Hill is the most well-known place in Mirissa to wander and take photos amongst the lofty coconut palms. Access is via the track that runs parallel to Bandaramulla temple or via Mirissa beach at low tide. It’s a popular place to watch the sunset across the bay.
Top Tip – The instagram era means this place is super busy so either go early morning or before sunset to avoid the crowds.
- Watch the stilt fishermen
Stilt fishing (Ritipanna) is the traditional Sri lankan fishing method still practiced along parts of the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The fishermen cast their lines out while balancing themselves on wooden poles in shallow water, fishing poles are guarded with their lives and handed down from one generation to another. You can see stilt fisherman in Weligama and nearby Koggala.
Top Tip – Ask your driver to take you to the best spot along the coast. Unfortunately like most things these days you may be asked for money if you want to take photos.
- Grab a coffee or cocktail at Ceylon Sliders
Ceylon Sliders, the super cool beachfront venue in Weligama, serves great speciality Ceylon coffee in it’s courtyard café (also available for takeaway) as well as a menu packed with tasty, healthy options. The rooftop bar & restaurant has a daily happy hour, pop by for 2-for-1 cocktails between 4pm – 6pm and enjoy the panoramic views as the sun sets across Weligama bay.
Top Tip – Visit the ground floor shop for a range of handpicked local and imported lifestyle goods, accessories and surf boards. Ceylon Sliders is also a boutique hotel and offers surf lessons (see above) and yoga classes – click HERE for all the information.
- Sundowners and dinner on Mirissa Beach
The quaint fishing town of Mirissa has a stunning strip of beach with an abundance of shady coconut palms. By day it’s a magnet for surfers and sun worshipers, by night the many beach bars light up transforming into lively venues with tables and chairs extended right to the shoreline. Lots of new trendy bars and restaurants have popped up along here on either side of Parrot Rock, it’s the ideal spot to relax with a cold beer or sundowner.
- Relax at Angel Beach Club in Unawatuna
Opened in 2019 Angel Beach Club in Unawatuna is touting itself ‘Sri Lanka’s Premier Beach Resort and Club’. It’s right on the beach with a huge pool, day beds, live music, DJ, bar, restaurant and rooftop bar & lounge. Day guests are welcome to enjoy the facilities, it’s family friendly, there’s regular events and parties and it’s also a boutique hotel offering rooms and suites. Click HERE for all the information and to book.
Top Tip – Reserve yourself a day bed and sample the cocktails. Try the homemade pizza from the wood-fired pizza oven
Read more about Sri Lanka in previous posts HERE
We travelled from Abu Dhabi to Sri Lanka with Etihad Airways. We stayed at Red Cliffs Villa in Mirissa/Weigama booked via Eden Villas in Sri Lanka. We used the very reliable, friendly and reasonable priced Pradeep Nirukshan of Travel with Pradeep for our airport transfers – www.pradeeptours.com
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2020. All rights reserved. Yoga photo used with courtesy of ceylonsliders.com