Sri Lanka kind of blew my mind. A lot of my friends had been surfing to Sri Lanka before, and they’d all absolutely loved it, so of course we were both super excited. But I just wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to love it. The little island completely won our hearts and it was hands down one of the best surf trips I’ve ever taken.
The Sri Lankans are some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met. It was so easy to travel round and organise what we wanted to do, and people couldn’t do enough to help us. It was great value for money, the food was yummy (although it does help that I love curry!) and the waves, well, the waves were pretty special too.
We packed a lot into the two weeks, so there’s a lot to cover. As always, all the info is broken down into sections, just click on the tabs to open them. And if you are planning a surf trip to Sri Lanka soon, feel free to hit us up for info!
The surf season in the south west of Sri Lanka runs from late October until early April. That’s not to say that there’s absolutely no surf during the rest of the year, but if you’re planning a trip outside of these months you might want to look at the East coast instead where it’ll be more consistent.
There really is something for everyone in this area, from lovely mellow beach breaks to powerful reef breaks. Tuk tuks are so cheap that you can pretty much visit a different break every day without it costing a fortune or needing to plan in advance. We stayed in Weligama for most of the trip and travelled up and down the coast to different breaks.
This is a super chilled beach break, perfect for learning, but there were still some lovely cruisy waves to be had out back. It’s a big bay, so even when it’s busy, you can usually find space away from the crowds, although most people surf bang in the middle of the bay by Weligama Bay Hotel and Samaru Beach. You’ll know where it is because there’s usually quite a few people in the water and there are surf boards for rent all along that stretch of the beach.
It was an easy paddle out and the waves were that lovely combination of not too powerful but also enough power to actually catch, even on a smaller board. We found that the waves started to close out a bit at low tide. Best time to surf here was the morning before the wind switched onshore and started to churn things up… if you’re up for sunrise it also means you’ll pretty much get the waves to yourself 🙂
There’s a right hand reef break at Mirissa that looked pretty fun, although we were pretty surfed out the day we visited so we didn’t get in. There are quite a few rocks as you get in and out though, but there’s a big stick sticking out of them so you can’t miss them! Watch out for sea urchins here too! There were also a few other fun looking waves close by to the south if you fancy exploring!
In between Weligama and Midigama, this tiny village, which is actually just one dirt road leading to the beach, has a couple of waves right out front, Plantation point and Coconut point, left and right point breaks, both that can peel for up to 400 metres. Some people will tell you it’s ok for beginners, although with the amount of rocks, I’d say that’s stretching it a bit, but as long as you are comfortable controlling your board and you’ve checked out where the rocks are, it’s a good introduction to reef breaks. There was hardly anyone there on the days we went, and again, best to get on it early before the wind does!
Midigama and Anghama
The home of legendary Rams Right, out front of the guest house of the same name, Rams is a fairly heavy reef break, and busy too. Needless to say, we didn’t surf here, but I know plenty of people who have and absolutely loved it. You’ll need to be on top surfing form though and be prepared to wait your turn! Lazy Lefts, a point break just up from Rams was much more our sort of thing, as the name suggests it’s a pretty chilled out left hand reef break. Although as one of the better known waves in the areas, it was still pretty busy, but it’s a lovely, mellow wave that peels nicely.
And if you’re feeling adventurous…
There are waves pretty much from Mirissa all the way up the west coast, many of them going mostly unridden, so if you want to go exploring there are plenty of empty waves to be found. Just be sure to check for rocks and rips before you go out, maybe best to check with the locals before you paddle out!
We took one board with us and rented another one. Renting a board won’t bust the bank in Sri Lanka… You can rent boards on the beach in Weligama for 300 rupees per hour (about £1.50) or 1000 rupees per day (about £5). Prices seemed pretty much the same in the guest houses and hotels. Generally boards for rent were NSPs, between 6’6 and 8’6 but there were a few fibreglass options to be had, including battered shortboards and the odd longboard. Go see Pragee at No Name on the beach in Weligama for good boards, fresh coconuts and one of the biggest smiles in Sri Lanka.
Weligama had the widest selection of boards we found. There were a few on the beach at Mirissa and Unawatuna, and in the guesthouses in Midigama and Gurubebila, but choice was pretty limited. If you’re fussy about what you ride, definitely bring your own board. (We flew with Etihad from the UK, and they let us bring a board as part of our 30kg luggage allowance for free, as well as out normal luggage… just make sure it’s well packed!)
As always, best to bring a spare leash and fins with you. There are a few places with wax for sale, including the little shop at Surf n Lanka in Weligama. We broke a fin on the rental board we had and it cost 3000 rupees for a new one, which is about £15.
You can also rent paddleboards on the beach at Weligama too. It’s a great place to try out surfing on a paddleboard if you haven’t before because the waves are so forgiving!
Accomodation ranged from basic rooms from 1500 rupees per night right up to $200 per night, and probably more in the hotels that were too posh to just wander into!
We stayed in Weligama at Weligama Ocean Breeze. It’s almost new, and because it’s on the other side of the road that runs along the beach, about half of the price of similar rooms actually on the beach. For 4500 rupees (about £20) we had a huge double room with a huge four poster bed, a balcony overlooking the beach, a fridge, spotless bathroom with hot water and aircon. The guys there are absolutely lovely, food was great and they have a good selection of surfboards to rent. It was also about 30m from the sea, so you could be out of bed and in the ocean pretty quickly. There’s more work planned at the hotel, including a swimming pool, I don’t know if it will stay that cheap once they’ve finished but definitely worth finding out!
There were about 5 hotels across the road actually on the beach. All looked to be pretty nice but they were mostly full when we got there, and a bit out of our budget anyway, starting at about $60 for a night. But then you are right on the beach! Further to the east of the bay there looked to be a few smaller (and more likely more affordable) places.
The Green Rooms, also looked amazing, although we didn’t actually pop in at the time, I really like what they’re doing with sustainability though so well worth checking out.
Eating in Weligama
Gecko: This gorgeous little cafe with its breezy balcony do the most amazing buffalo milk ice cream, great burgers, coffee and even a book exchange. These guys also have a guest house in Arugum Bay and if that’s half as lovely as this cafe I’d say it’s well worth checking out if you’re headed to the east coast.
The Roti Shop: Right on the beach, this shack does tasty, cheap rotis. We ate there a lot!
Jayabima Bakers: In town a few blocks back from the main street opposite the supermarket, this bakery sells all sorts of Sri Lankan delights, but most importantly they sell huge slabs of the most delicious coconut cake ever for about a pound… perfect for after surf snacks!
Midigama and Anghama
Rams is a legendary surfers hostel, right on the beach, there’s always a buzz and probably one of the most lovely places in the area. Rams was full when we were there but it’s always one of the first places recommended to me.
Our Twitter friends at Surf South Sri Lanka have got a few rooms here around a gorgeous green courtyard, but unfortunately they were full the whole time we were there. Well worth checking out if that’s where you want to stay.
We also heard good things about Villa Naomi, but again, they were full when we arrived. If you want a bit more luxury in Gurubebila Village, might be worth checking them out… rooms are €50
This is also where we found the cheapest and most basic rooms, including a lovely lady with just a wooden sign saying ‘rooms available’ about halfway down towards the beach on the left.
If you want to stay somewhere specific, might be best to book before you go, or get there early in the day… arriving later in the afternoon we found quite a few places already booked up.
There’s generally not much going on at night here unless you head to Unawatuna or Mirissa. In between, mostly it’s beers at the guesthouse or hotel you’re staying at.
We stayed here for a few nights before heading home. There’s not much in the way of waves but it’s a fun place to be for a few nights, especially at the weekend. We stayed at Weliwata Guest House, a gorgeous colonial mansion with the loveliest hosts ever.
Getting there and around...
I wouldn’t recommend getting a tuk tuk all the way from/to Colombo, even though you think it might be fun! You could get the bus if you’re feeling adventurous for about 20p, but because we only had a couple of weeks, and we had the surfboard, for ease of getting around we travelled most of our long distances by mini-van. They seem expensive when you’re there by comparison to everything else, but considering the distance you’re travelling, it’s not that bad. It cost us 10,000 rupees (about £50) for our own minivan back to the airport. You could easily fit 6 people in there plus bags etc so if you can find people to share with it’ll make it a lot cheaper.
If you’re headed straight to the beach, and you’ve booked accommodation, most places will be able to organise you a driver to pick you up from the airport.
If you need a driver to or from Ella, get in touch with Wasantha, a safe driver (not always easy to find in Sri Lanka!) and all round awesome guy. Call him on +94 (0)71 422 2800 or +94 (0)72 857 9617 or email email@example.com
To get around tuk tuks are super cheap, usually a couple of pounds, if not less. It was between 200 and 300 rupees to get around between beaches around Mirissa, Weligama, Midigama and Anghama. Most tuk tuks had straps to put the surfboards on top, or an old surfboard leash. If you find one that doesn’t another one usually will, so don’t be afraid to ask around. Don’t listen to the tuk tuk driver who doesn’t have a strap when he tries to convince you holding it sideways across your lap is a good idea… it isn’t!
Buses are ridiculously cheap too, and alway a lot of fun, as long as you get on the right one!
Other stuff to do….
Around the south west of Sri Lanka there are countless things to see and do, making it the ideal place for a trip with someone who doesn’t surf.
There are heaps of other watersports options, from paddleboarding and kayaking to snorkelling and diving. You can even rent jetskis or go wakeboarding off the back of one if you fancy it. Mirissa and Unawatuna definitely catered to this side of things more.
It seems that almost anyone you speak to along that stretch of coast can take you on a trip to see Mirissa’s famous blue whales. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see lots of dolphins on the trip, but the whales are a little more elusive. A lot of the operators in Mirissa had signs up telling you how many whales, dolphins and turtles they’d seen… no one had seen a whale the day we went. John from St Ives (Hi John!) saw a couple on his trip. We decided not to go in the end, some people we spoke to loved it, others weren’t too fussed
The beauty of Sri Lanka is that it’s actually quite a small country, which means you can get around to see loads of things fairly quickly. It seems daft to travel all the way to Sri Lanka and not see some of the other things the island has to offer. We spent four days up in the Hill country while we were there, which was absolutely awesome. I always feel nervous missing out on wave time on a trip like that, but in this case it was totally worth it.
We spent a few nights in Kandy, and visited Sigiriya, a World Heritage Site, which is basically an old monastery built on top of a giant rock. You have to climb up to the top on what are just metal steps in the side of the sheer rock face… not recommended if you’re scared of heights, which it turns out I am! Well not necessarily all heights, but I definitely didn’t like only being attached to a step 200m up by just a few metal rods! That said, it is an incredible site and the views from the top are insane!
There are temples galore in Sri Lanka. Now whilst they are often amazing and the level of work that has gone into them is really incredible, after temple number 4 or 5, I was a bit templed out. Visit a couple for sure, but I kind of think that once you’ve seen one…
Lots of people told us that Sri Lanka has some of the best train rides in the world, so we decided to take the train from Colombo to Kandy and then from Kandy to Ella a few days later. We weren’t disappointed. The train winds its way through the mountains slowly, clinging impossibly to sheer mountain sides, but the views are amazing. You can hang right out of the windows or even the doors if you want to.
From Kandy to Ella, get the early train if you can, as we ended up doing half the trip in the dark… without being able to look out the window it got pretty boring pretty quickly, and after our train broke down I had a serious sense of humour failure. Note to self, next time, check how long the train ride is, so that when a six hour trip, that you thought would take three but actually turns in to nine because the train keeps breaking down, you at least have some food and water and a place to stay when you arrive at the other end.
Ella was an unexpected highlight of the trip. The little town in the Hill Country was just awesome. One of those places you instantly feel at home. You can go on loads of walks right from the town, through tea plantations, including Little Adam’s Peak, which has cool views of all the surrounding mountains.
In Ella, we stayed at Rawana Holiday Resort – Great value rooms with huge balconies and amazing views. Also the best curry I have ever eaten in my life – seriously, even if you don’t stay here, come for dinner. Make sure you book before 5 o clock! I can’t find a website for them anywhere but you can call them on +94 (0) 57 222 8794.
We also had an ayurvedic treatment while we were in Ella, perfect for tired muscles, which included a herbal sauna and what can only be described as a coffin full of steam that you lie in. Felt good afterwards though!
Finally, on the way back from Ella to the beach, we visited Uda Walawe National Park in search of wild elephants. We weren’t disappointed! Pretty much halfway between Ella and Weligama, we literally rocked up, hired a jeep from outside the park and off we went. You pick up a guide at the office, who helps you find all the animals. We saw around 40 elephants, including lots of little ones. We also saw lots of water buffalo, a jackal, heaps of birds and some pretty big crocodiles. We didn’t see any leopards, but I think they’re pretty rare. It looks like you would expect Africa to, and was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We paid 11,000 rupees for the jeep and a guide to ourselves, and entry to the park. Again, one of those trips where the more of you there are the cheaper it gets.
Have you got any other places you’d recommend in south west Sri Lanka? Or do you want to know more? Feel free to shoot across any questions on email or leave them in the comments below.