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The Rocky Southern Coast of Sri Lanka

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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
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April 28, 2012 at 5:52 am Comments (3)

Unawatuna

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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
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April 27, 2012 at 10:46 am Comments (7)

The Bizarre Landscape of Ussangoda

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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
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April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am Comment (1)

Tangalla Days

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Dream Beaches

We arrived in Tangalla with mixed emotions. Now on the southern coast, we were undeniably in the final stretch of our tour through Sri Lanka. There was still a lot to see — the attractions of the country’s southern extreme are considerable — but our journey’s approaching end was tangible for the first time. Still, we’d only have a few days in Tangalla, a small town which occupies some of the island’s most beautiful coastline and offers a number of memorable excursions. No time for moping.

Peacock-Rock
Peacocks like to preen atop big rocks. Showoffs.

After unpacking, we set right out into the city. The majority of Tangalla’s hotels and guesthouses are found outside town, toward the east. Which is fine. The town itself isn’t going to win any awards for beauty. A single strip runs through Tangalla, with the usual array of Sri Lankan shops and noisy activity. After our initial exploration, we would venture into town only in search of cheap eats and to get to the bus station.

Tangalla’s harbor is probably the only in-town attraction worth a look. An outrageous number of colorful boats clog the port, all of which were unloading stinking fish when we arrived. The fishermen were boisterous sorts, encouraging us to come aboard their ships (doubtless in search of a few extra bucks).

But though the town is forgettable, our time in Tangalla was anything but. Amazing nature, fascinating culture and interesting day trips are within easy reach. Plus, the beaches are beautiful… if difficult to swim at. Perhaps it was the time of year (early April), but the waters were stormy, and attempting to bathe in the powerful waves was terrifying. I mean, exhilarating. No, wait — actually, I do mean terrifying. Our favorite beach-side game became guessing which tourists might brave the sea, placing bets on whether they would survive, and then debating whether we’d jump in to help save them.

Location of Tangalla on our Map
Great Places to Stay in Tangalle (we chose Nugasewana Eden)

Famous-Mercedes
Tangalle-Bus-Stop
Tangalle-Fisherman
Harbor-Tangalle
Boats-Tangalle
Catch of the Day
Sri Lanka Parrot
Pheonix-Beach-Back
Weird-Fruits
Paradise Beach Cabanas
Sand Stepper
Small Tangalle Island
Stranded Boat
Tangalle Bay
Adventure Couple
Dream Vacation
Paradise-Beach-Tangalle
Storm in Sri Lanka
Rough Sea Tangalle
Sri Lanka Yoga
Palm Sunset
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April 21, 2012 at 6:22 am Comments (4)

Let’s Go Surfin’ Now at Arugam Bay

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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
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April 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm Comments (3)

The Beach at Nilaveli

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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
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April 6, 2012 at 10:32 am Comment (1)

Uppaveli Beach

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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
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April 2, 2012 at 8:25 am Comments (8)

Casuarina Beach on Karaitivu Island

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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
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March 30, 2012 at 10:18 am Comment (1)
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