Sri Lanka Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

The Rocky Southern Coast of Sri Lanka

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Luxury Hotels in Sri Lanka

An unbroken string of tiny towns and hotels stretches out to the east of Galle. The busy road which hugs the coastline passes through Unawatuna, Dalawela, Thalpe, Habaraduwa, Midigama, one right after the other; each offering tourists an insane number of places to stay and things to do.

Sri Lanka Island

We were on this road constantly, en route to places like Alanthgama, where we hoped to see stilt fishermen, or Weligama. This village is set up around a gorgeous circular bay, with a lushly forested mini-island as its centerpiece named Trapobane (also the name Arthur C. Clarke lent Sri Lanka in The Fountains of Paradise). You can rent the villa on Trapobane by the day for an obscene amount of money; it even comes with a full set of personal servants to help you indulge your tackiest private-island fantasies.

Taprobane-Island

We spotted a couple other islands up and down the coast. One just past Midigama, where there’s supposed to be great surfing, and another in the bustling town of Matara, where we switched buses once. Matara’s island is just across from the bus station, and occupied by the picturesque Parey Duwa Buddhist temple.

Matar Temple Island

Most of the coast is rocky, but every so often you’ll spy a bit of golden sand that’s good for a dip. The waters here are rougher and rockier than on the beaches of Trinco, for example, but that makes for more dramatic scenery. Although the coastline itself is heavily developed, it stretches out for so long that finding a small bit of private sand isn’t impossible.

Daytime Turtle Watching

Our best day along the coast was spent at the Wijaya Beach Club, in Dalawela. Pizzas which could almost compete with those of Palermo (almost), and a tiny but excellent beach. While we ate, we watched the waves where six sea turtles were struggling to swim back out into the ocean. Every once in awhile, their heads would poke above the water. They kept getting swept toward the rocky shore, but eventually made their escape. Nobody else in the restaurant had seen them, and they all must have thought we were crazy, staring out into the ocean and randomly cheering.

Location of Trapobane on our Map
Location of Wijaya Beach Club
For 91 Days in the Newspapers

Chill Beach Sri Lanka
Crab Art
Baby Palm
Dramatic Sri Lanka
Drift Wood
Beach Rock
Best Beach Blog
Empty Beach
Private Island Sri Lanka
Wild Beach Sri Lanka
Wild Beach
Sri Lanka Luck
Baby Beach
Crazy Waves Sri Lanka
Strong Current warning
Lonely Stilts
Hand Out Sri Lanka
Human Catch
Zebra Boat
Nicos-Beach-Club-Sri-Lanka
Nicos Expat Madness
Fortress-Resort-Sri-Lanka
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
April 28, 2012 at 5:52 am Comments (3)

The Jungle Beach at Galle

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Our Published Travel Books

After visiting the gleaming white Japanese Peace Pagoda which provided a wonderful view of Galle Fort, we climbed down toward the true destination of our day trip — Jungle Beach. Not another person in sight, just twin stretches of deserted sand trapped between the ocean and Rumassala Rock. Having just experienced the soul-crushing lameness of Unawatuna, this beach was exactly what we needed. Peace, solitude and gorgeous nature.

Favorite-Beach-South-Sri-Lanka

The fact that the Jungle Beach was completely empty was a minor miracle. It’s not exactly a secret — you can clearly see it from the Fort, and everybody in Galle knows exactly where it is. And getting there wasn’t even difficult: a 400 Rupee tuk-tuk drive to the pagoda, and then a quick ten-minute downhill hike. So, why do 72,319,310 people pack onto the beach at Unawatuna, and nobody comes here? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

This was the best bit of beach we’ve found during our weeks on Sri Lanka’s south coast. It’s worth the effort of searching out.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Hotels in Galle

Hidden Temple
Peace-Pagoda-Galle
Plants Sir Lanka
Fishermen-Sri-Lanka
Best-beaches-Sri-Lanka
Jungle-Beach-Sri-Lanka
Beach-Guide-Sri-Lanka
Cool Beach
Galle Fort
, , , , , , ,
April 28, 2012 at 4:15 am Comments (4)

Unawatuna

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Hotels in Unawatuna

On our way to the beach village of Unawatuna, just a few kilometers up the coast from Galle, we saw a sign that read “Unawatuna: Tourist Paradise!” Which just goes to prove what we’ve been saying all along — Sri Lankans have a hilarious and darkly ironic sense of humor! Unawatuna, paradise for tourists. Ha! That’s a good one.

Unwatuna-Beach

Maybe it’s us. Had we visited Unawatuna during our first week in Sri Lanka, as opposed to our last, we’d almost definitely have had a different opinion. The same thing always happens at the end of our 91-day stays: once we get familiar with a country, the shine of novelty wears off and we’re less forgiving of flaws. From our fatigued and slightly jaded perspectives, Unawatuna was about the worst kind of beach town imaginable.

If you want a trashy resort filled with stores selling overpriced junk and awful restaurants with cutesy names like The Pink Turtle, go to Cancun or Benidorm! Why come all the way to Sri Lanka? But hey, if you want to blow a ton of money on a flight, and be harassed every other minute by another necklace-seller or skeezy masseuse then, certainly: Unawatuna is for you. Enjoy.

I wish I were exaggerating about being bugged “every other minute” by people selling junk, but I’m not. That is unfortunately — unbelievably — accurate. It was non-stop.

The locals weren’t even all that nice; usually a dependable trademark of Sri Lankans! Maybe they were discouraged by the fact that nobody was buying their junk. That must get frustrating. The rich, sunburned Europeans flatly refusing to even look at their junk must make an attractive target for scorn. I’m sorry I don’t want your traditional mask, but please don’t mock me under your breath as you stomp away! Or do. I guess I don’t care.

Unawatuna-Tourists

Maybe it’s understandable. On the western end of Unawatuna, just past a concrete sewage tunnel, is the “locals” section of the beach. The division couldn’t be any more clearly-defined. Europeans over here, Sri Lankans over there in the filth. We’ve seen hotels here that refuse to rent rooms to Sri Lankans. How’s that for enraging? Try to imagine a foreign-owned hotel in your country that refuses you entry. A rich Russian opening a hotel in Miami that strictly prohibits Americans? Inconceivable. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why the Unawatunans were so rude, but how they have the self-composure to remain as civil as they do.

Ugh. We couldn’t leave Unawatuna fast enough. I realize that in this post, I’m completely ignoring the considerable natural beauty of the place. It has some charm — other people we spoke to enjoyed their time there. But I don’t care, we hated it. Plus, it was the start of monsoon season and we had terrible weather. So what, I can’t blame Unawatuna for the monsoon? Well, I do. I blame it for the weather, and I blame it for putting me in a bad mood. Unawatuna, tourist paradise. Heh, well at least that made me laugh.

Location our Sri Lanka Map
strong>Guesthouses in Unawatuna

Why-Unawatuna
Unwatuna
Fishing-Unwatuna
Sri Lanka Bay
UN Protected
Lerning To Swim
Unwatuna-Beach-Resort
Strange Tourism
Strand Unawatuna
Good Times Unawatuna
Trashy-Unawatuna
Surfiing In The USA
The-Rock-Cafe-Unawatuna
/LOL-Elephant
Clashing-Waves
, , , , ,
April 27, 2012 at 10:46 am Comments (7)

A Sea Turtle Excursion at Rekawa Beach

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Snorkel Gear

Sri Lanka has the extraordinary privilege of welcoming five of the world’s seven species of sea turtle to its shores. The turtles, who travel around the world and across entire oceans, somehow know to return to their natal beaches when the time comes to reproduce. At night, they emerge from the ocean and lay their eggs in the sand. At Rekawa Beach, the Turtle Conservation Project keeps a watchful eye over the eggs and provides tourists a rare opportunity to see the giant creatures clamber onto land.

Rekawa-Turtle-Watching

We showed up at 8pm, on April 11th — the same day as the massive 8.6 earthquake in Sumatra which sparked a tsunami warning across Sri Lanka. So we had accepted the possibility that the rough weather and seismic instability might discourage the turtles from braving the shore. But after only a few minutes of waiting in the dark (which afforded us the chance to admire the stars; something we’d missed in bright, densely-packed Sri Lanka), a flashlight down the beach alerted us to the presence of a turtle.

The turtles require a sense of solitude while they make their way out of the water. If they detect a human, they’ll abandon their attempt and return another day. Leaving behind an interesting track that looks like a Monster Truck’s tire, they head towards the shrubbery at end of the beach, and choose a spot for their eggs which is safe from the water and (hopefully) predators. People are allowed to approach only once the turtles have started the process of laying the eggs, which can take over a half-hour and during which they’ll remain absolutely immobile.

We waited patiently while the turtle, barely visible in the dark from about twenty meters away, chose a suitable place for her future babies. Unfortunately, something spooked her, because our guide suddenly urged us to run towards her on the beach, as she was escaping back into the water. A huge and beautiful creature, she could move a lot faster than I would have believed and I felt awful chasing after her, trying to snap pictures.

That was it. The guide brought us back and asked for our 2000 Rupee donation. We were disappointed — the night had just begun, and we didn’t understand why we couldn’t wait for the next turtle. But, he didn’t seem to care; we had seen our turtle, and now he could return to hanging out in the hut with his buddies.

Oh well. We had just seen a wild sea turtle on a deserted beach during a beautifully starry night. In the end, it was hard to complain.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Turtle Tracks
Star Night Sri Lanka
, , , , , , , ,
April 24, 2012 at 3:33 am Comments (5)

The Bizarre Landscape of Ussangoda

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Our Published Travel Books

East of Tangalla, a barren landscape sits in the middle of an otherwise heavily forested area. Dark red soil and an utter lack of trees are the hallmarks of Ussangoda, a region thought to have been hit by an ancient meteor. It’s hard to imagine another explanation for this strange anomaly of nature.

Bizarre Beaches

The walk from the main road, where the bus from Galle dropped us off, to the small park took longer than expected, but only because we were detained by a group of Sri Lankans playing cricket. I decided to try out the sport, and picked up a bat. Whiff! The ball sailed right past me and struck one of the wickets… which, judging by the overjoyed reaction of my 8-year-old opponent, I took to be a rather embarrassing failure. Hmph. My next swing made up for it, as I sent the ball far off into the brush. Cricket: mastered. 8-year-old: conquered.

The empty plain of Ussangoda borders the ocean, with lovely cliffs that drop off onto the beach. We clambered down, disturbing the privacy of a few enamored couples, and found an empty patch of sand. I tried swimming for a bit, but the sea was too rough and, after being upended by a monster wave, I retreated for the safety of my towel.

This was a fun and easy excursion from Tangalla into a surreal patch of nature, and definitely worth the pocket change it required to reach. On a calmer day, with a bit of swimming on a largely isolated beach, it would have been perfect.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Hotels in Tangalle

Meteor Sri Lanka
Ways To Sri Lanka
Read Feather
Alice in Wonderland
Eearth Day
Contrast-Landscapes-Sri-Lanka
Cactus Rock
Aliens Spiders
Strange Beaches
Dream Beach Sri Lanka
Ussangoda-Bay
Biker Beach Sri Lanka
, , , , , , , , ,
April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am Comment (1)

Let’s Go Surfin’ Now at Arugam Bay

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Hostels in Sri Lanka

A laid-back village on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay is one of the best places in the world for surfing, and has been a favorite of the long-term community for decades. Thanks to the steady presence of chilled-out expats, the town has a cool, low-key vibe which we’ve not seen anywhere else on the island. Great restaurants serving a variety of cuisine, comfy beach-side lodging, hip lounges, a happy mix of foreigners and locals… and of course, incredible waves.

Surfing Together

Although we’re not surfers, we enjoyed the way of life here so much that we stayed for five days. The restaurants alone were worth the extended stopover. Our favorite was the Siam Lounge, owned by a Dutch guy who’s been here since 1977 (and looks exactly like a Dutch guy who’s lived in a Sri Lankan surf town for 34 years) and his Thai wife. The upper-floor lounge area serves potent German-style brews and delicious Thai cuisine, while a 60s-heavy soundtrack accompanies surf-dude highlights playing in a loop on a projection screen. After so many nights spent scarfing down rice and curry in dingy restaurants while Sinhalese pop squealed from cheap speakers, the Siam Lounge was paradise.

Our last couple nights were spent in a beach-side cabin, complete with hammock and deck mattress. We should have tried surfing, but this was our vacation. After two months spent running around Sri Lanka, we didn’t want to do anything except turn our brains off and lounge around.

But although we couldn’t be bothered to get on boards, we did take a trip to Whiskey Point to watch surfers ply their trade. This was during the off-season, but the waves were still decent — they come all the way from Antarctica to crash on Arugam Bay’s shores, with no other landmass to impede them. We had fun watching the guys and girls catch the waves, and I felt a pinch of envy. Next time I’m at Arugam Bay, I’ll try it out.

Location of Arugam Bay on our Map
Learn To Surf

Arugam Bay Happy Place
Dream Beach
How To Surf
Surfing in Arugam Bay
Camel Toe
Beach Hut Sri Lanka
Beach Arugam Bay
Dog Beach
Dream Beach Sri Lanka
Green Sand Banks
Dead Coral Sri Lanka
Over Fishing Sri Lanka
I love Arugam Bay
Happy Panda Arugam Bay
Tropicana Beach Hotel Arugam Bay
Tsunami Hotel Arugam Bay
Rock View Arugam Bay
Rock-View-Cabanas
Arugam Bay Blog
Shell Shop Sri Lanka
Hippie Beach Sri Lanka
Samanthas-Arugam-Bay-Sri-Lanka
Alternative-Lifestyle-Sri-Lanka
Beach Hut Sri Lanka
Wild Wild West Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Breakfast we had in Arugam Bay:

Sri Lanka Breakfast
Sri Lankan Breakfast
Sri Lankan Surfer
Surf Design
Surf Culture Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Art
Sunset Watch Dog
Siam-Lounge-Arugam-Bay
Smoking Weed Arugam Bay
, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
April 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm Comments (3)

The Beach at Nilaveli

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Cheap Places To Stay in Trincomalee

Nilaveli Beach, about fifteen kilometers north of Trinco, was once one of eastern Sri Lanka’s favorite destinations. But then the twin catastrophes of Civil War and tsunami came along. The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami left 35,000 Sri Lankans dead and displaced a further half million, mostly along the eastern coast. Nilaveli has spent the last few years in recovery mode and, if our short visit was any indication, it’s ready to welcome visitors back.

Dream Beach Sri Lanka

We hopped on a local bus from Trinco to the Nilaveli Beach Hotel: perhaps the most celebrated place to stay in the Eastern Province. Every local knows where it is, and the bus dropped us off right at the entrance. This resort hotel is truly beautiful, with a great restaurant, large, clean pool and a laid-back, almost Caribbean ambiance. But we skipped right through, on our way to the beach.

Two islands sit off the coast of Nilaveli, almost close enough to swim to (although it’s both dangerous and illegal to try): Pigeon Island and, a bit further out, Coral Island. Pigeon Island is known as one of the best spots in the country to snorkel. We considered going out, but learned that authorities have recently started charging foreigners those discriminatory entrance fees that Sri Lanka is so wild about. After talking to a couple who had gone out the day before, we took a pass. $85 for two people to snorkel around a heavily-damaged reef. Eh, there are better ways to spend that money.

Despite its name, the reefs of Coral Island are apparently damaged and bleached beyond all hope.

Spending our day on the sand instead of in the water was a fine consolation. After swimming and chatting with the military stationed around the beach, we went over the hotel and had a couple drinks over lunch. In all, a great day.

Location of Nilaveli Beach Hotel on our Map

Sri Lanka Beach Guide
Spiral Palm
Beach Flowers
Nilaveli
Visit Sri Lanka
Trees Nilaveli
Boat To Pigeon Island
Cow Beach
Beach Snack
, , , , , , , ,
April 6, 2012 at 10:32 am Comment (1)

Uppaveli Beach

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Buy Sun Lotion Online

A gorgeous stretch of beach just a few kilometers north of the city, Uppaveli was our home during the week we spent in Trincomalee. A chain of hotels lines the coast, but we had the beach almost entirely to ourselves. After trips to action-packed cities like Kandy and Jaffna, a little sun, sand and solitude was exactly what we needed.

Dream Vacation

We stayed in the Aqua Inns, which has just recently come under the management of Fernando and Jo. They were still in the process of sprucing the place up, but our room was comfortable, clean and had an incredible view of the ocean (ask for room 115 for the view). The best part of the Aqua Inns is Fernando’s Bar. A stilted beach hut with cozy furniture and a breeze, this was my unofficial office during the week. And it was here that we spent every evening, with a cold beer or arrack.

There’s not much to Uppaveli Beach apart from the warm water, fine sand, and utter natural beauty, but what else do you need? We walked one day towards the north, where a small river empties out into the sea. After crossing the river, we arrived at a small rock outcrop with a beach made of coral and, just past that, a neat Hindu temple. That was a fun twenty-minute hike, and afterwards we felt another beer at the bar was totally justified.

Location of the Aqua Inns our Map
Trincomalee Hotels

Asia Beach Vacation
Traum Strand Sri Lanka
Blowfish
Dead Turtle
Sri Lanka Super Star
Sri Lanka Shell
Drying Fish Sri Lanka
Fishing Blog
Fishermens Friend
Uppaveli-Beach-Trincomalee
Fisher Bay Trincomalee
Beach Kovil
Fernandos-Bar-Trincomalee
Dream Beach Sri Lanka
Stranded Boat
Pink Beach
Trincomalee Boat
Beach Jog Jogging
Palm Beach
Uppaveli Beach
, , , , , , , , , , ,
April 2, 2012 at 8:25 am Comments (8)

Delft Island

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

The large, windswept island of Delft sits twenty miles off the mainland; about as far away from a city as you can get in densely-packed Sri Lanka. After an 80-minute bus ride to Kurikadduwan, we took a ferry to the island, and almost immediately upon disembarking from the ship, Jürgen realized with a cry that his camera battery was out of juice. I instinctively started backing away from him. A Jürgen who can’t take pictures at a wild, remote island is a dangerous, unpredictable Jürgen.

Pigeon House Delft Island
“Oooh… retro filter makes anything cool!”

What could we do, but push forward with our day?! The next ferry home didn’t leave for four hours, so we hired a tuk-tuk to take us on a tour of the island’s highlights. Jürgen was forced to make peace with the only backup camera we had: a four-year-old iPhone. The rest of the day, I’d be listening to sarcastic gripes like, “I’m going to win Photographer of the Year with this photo! National Geographic, here I come!”

Anyway. Delft was gorgeous despite our inability to properly photograph it. The dry, windswept landscape is home to a group of wild ponies, a strong military presence, and a human population of about 5000. Our tour started at the Old Portuguese Fort, built entirely from corals fished out of the ocean. To get there, we followed our driver into the back yard of the island’s hospital, and were free to climb to the top of the ancient ruins.

Next up was an old, ruined stupa. Not too exciting, but the long drive required to reach it impressed upon us the size of the island. Then, we visited the Pigeon House which… was a pigeon house, built by the Portuguese; pigeons were apparently the main method of communication back then. Luckily, the next stop on our tour was more interesting. An immense baobab tree in the middle of the island. Delft is the only spot in Sri Lanka where you can find these trees, which the Portuguese brought over from Africa. Amazing, and probably the highlight of our tour.

No, the highlight was the beach. We spent about an hour on a lonely patch of sand, taking in the sun and bathing in the lukewarm water of the Indian Ocean. It was so relaxing that Jürgen even forgot about the empty battery. Refreshed, we headed back to the ferry (which was free, by the way) and made our way home. Delft Island is one of the more difficult spots in Sri Lanka to reach, but there are plenty of reasons to make the trip. Just please, charge your camera battery.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Jaffna Hotels

Delft Ponies
Delft Island Beach
Coral Wall Delft Island
Jaffna Island
Old Fort Delft Island
Climbing On Ruins
Delft Dutch 1905
Buddhist Ruin Delft Island
Growing Stone Cobra Delft Island
baobab tree Sri lanka
Day Trip Islands Jaffna
, , , , ,
April 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm Comments (6)

Casuarina Beach on Karaitivu Island

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Hotels in Jaffna

You’d think that, for a long, narrow strip of land which juts out into the Indian Ocean, finding a beach on the Jaffna Peninsula wouldn’t be a big hassle. But reaching the two beaches we visited during our time in the north required a degree of planning and force of will normally required for tasks like composing a symphony, or cooking a seven-course meal. To arrive at Chatty Beach, we had to rent bikes, ask seventy guards for directions and battle through an unbelievable headwind for miles. And getting to Casuarina Beach was no easier.

Darmatic Beach

Karaitivu was the second of three western islands we visited during our stay in Jaffna (the others being Kayts and Delft). We arrived at the bus station equipped with a map, and freshly educated in pronunciation by the owner of our guesthouse. “Ka-rye-tee-vah! Faster! No accents! Like it were one crazy syllable!” Alas, the guys working at the bus station still had no idea what I was saying. Giving up, I just pointed at the map. “Ah, Karaitivu!”

The two attendants helping us were soon joined by a curious cadre of four other bystanders, all discussing which bus we should take, and where we should really be going. One guy was convinced that we’d do better to visit Nanaitivu — another island which he considered more interesting. And amid all the discussion and confusion, we nearly followed him onto the wrong bus.

The twenty-kilometer ride took over an hour to complete, and we were dropped off in a dusty town with one store and three people. Now, just an easy mile-long hike separated us from the crystal blue water and white sand of Casuarina Beach. On arriving, we were overjoyed — exactly as we had hoped for! A gorgeous stretch of sand extending for kilometers along the northern coast of the island, bordered by the shrubby Casuarina trees which lend the beach its name. We decided to escape local bathers, and walk towards the lighthouse on the northwestern tip of the island before sitting down: a plan that would be our undoing.

A few minutes before reaching the spot we’d chosen to set up our towels, the skies suddenly darkened. This had been a sunny day! After the stressful journey to even arrive at the beach, the rain began almost the instant we sat down. Having fun, Jaffna?! We think you’re hilarious, too!

We swam for a bit under the rain, but soon packed it up and started back home. Sigh. It wasn’t the most successful of our day trips, but despite the trouble, it was nice to see such a pristine bit of nature. With a bit better luck and (especially) our own transport, it would have been a great day out.

Location of Casuarina Beach on our Map
All Of Our Published Travel Books

Causarina-Tree
Retro Beach
Jaffna Light House
Causarina-Fishing
Storm Sri Lanka
Net Packs
Pointy Fish
Flying Fish
Double Eagle
Causarina-Beach
I love This Beach
, , , , , , ,
March 30, 2012 at 10:18 am Comment (1)

« Older Posts

The Rocky Southern Coast of Sri Lanka An unbroken string of tiny towns and hotels stretches out to the east of Galle. The busy road which hugs the coastline passes through Unawatuna, Dalawela, Thalpe, Habaraduwa, Midigama, one right after the other; each offering tourists an insane number of places to stay and things to do.
For 91 Days