The coastline of Sri Lanka is lined with such beautiful beaches, you could never get bored of hopping between them. One of the last stops on our 3 weeks through Sri Lanka was the town of Mirissa, where we stayed 5 nights.
Mirissa is the perfect place to let the days slip by without a care in the world. It is a cross between the busy Unawatuna (north) and the peaceful Tangalle (south), therefore making it one of our favourite beach towns of Sri Lanka.
Palm trees? Check. Affordable accommodation? Check. Clean beach? Check. Happy hour cocktails? Check. Whale Watching? Check.
I mean how could you not love it here? Here are 6 reasons we loved Mirissa and why you will too.
1/ The Clean, Beautiful Beach
Mirissa Beach is beautiful. It had enough going on to give it an atmosphere without being overcrowded. Palm trees lined the outskirts, the sand was clean and the water was an incredible combination of blue and green. Beach chairs are available, as well as plenty of sand to lay a towel, with food and cocktails just a few steps away. We were never bothered by hawkers trying to sell us tacky souvenirs, massages or braid our hair. We were left alone to relax, read and enjoy ourselves. Something so simple, but it’s quite hard to find the right balance.
We were never bothered by hawkers trying to sell us tacky souvenirs, massages or braid our hair. We were left alone to relax, read and enjoy ourselves. Something so simple, but it’s quite hard to find the right balance.
In between both the beaches, there’s a small rock in which you can climb to the top for great views of Mirissa as well as the neighbouring beach (don’t worry about the sign that says private property). During low tide, you can walk around the rock pool but be careful of the pointy sea urchins.
2/ Water Sports
Surfing – Surfing is becoming more and more popular in Mirissa, especially for beginners to intermediates. Rent a board from the corner of the beach and practice catching those waves! Board rentals are 350 LKR ($2 USD).
Snorkelling – The waters near the reef are great for snorkelling. Some guesthouses will provide you with snorkel gear, unfortunately, ours didn’t and we paid (too much) for a morning snorkel tour to swim with the turtles (2000 LKR, $13 USD). The tour was a bit of a joke (broken masks & fins) and absolutely overpriced (2-minute boat ride, literally) but we saw turtles, so hey! If you have a bike you can ride to Polhena Beach and try your luck seeing them there, this is free.
3/ Whale Watching
Whale watching is one of the main reasons people visit Mirissa, especially during the season from October – May. During this time you are 99% guaranteed to see whales just meters from your boat and if you don’t, you can head out another day without paying again. On our day, we saw 4 blue whales and a pod of dolphins.
What is the best whale watching company?
There are SO many tour companies that run these whale watching tours, so it was quite overwhelming to decide which one to go with. Whale watching tours range from 1500 LKR – 6000 LKR ($10 USD – $40 USD). A pretty big difference if you ask me. Ultimately, the cheaper the price, the less comfort & service you’ll get. Pretty simple right?
The cheaper companies jam pack their boats with people and from our point of view, it looked as though the boat could tip at any moment. Not only that, they don’t follow the marine observation guidelines, which is something we feel is pretty important.
We went with Whale Watching Club Mirissa who fell halfway between the two (4000 LKR, $26 USD) and we were satisfied with our choice. We had plenty of space to move about the boat, they provided us with snacks, drinks and had really friendly staff.
It’s great to save money but when it comes to things like this, a little extra goes a long way.
The morning started at 6:00 am and it took us around 2 hours before we saw a blue whale. Our driver tracked one of the whales for the remainder of the time and he surfaced 4 or 5 more times throughout the trip. Gosh, they are just SO big and incredible. We also saw a pod of dolphins, a bunch of jumping fish and the occasional vomiting tourist.
A little word of advice… if you are prone to seasickness, take a tablet prior!
4/ The Diverse Food & Drink
Apart from eating vegetable rotis (all day, every day), we did venture out for a proper meal every so often. These were some of our favourite restaurants.
- Coco Loco – (shown above). This cafe was such a welcome change from the staple curry, rice and noodles for breakfast. They had organic smoothie bowls, fresh juices and avocado toast! Hidden away on a side street, this cafe is definitely worth the visit.
- Hangover Hostel Cafe – If you need a burger fix, look no further. The “suicide burgers” were legit at this hostel cafe.
- No 1 Dewmini Roti Shop – Delicious rotis both savoury and sweet, including a banoffee roti (can you just imagine the excitement on Jacob’s face?), shakes, kottu, rice and curry (which needs to be pre-ordered a day before). Everything is very cheap and delicious!
- Kama – A modern beachfront restaurant with really delicious cocktails. Especially the frozen Margaritas. Happy hour 6-7pm.
- Zephyr – One of the nicer restaurants in Mirissa with a variety of different cuisines including fresh seafood, literally on the beach.
Nightlife in Mirissa
We were in Mirissa just after the high season but there was definitely a lively atmosphere happening once the sun went down. 90% of bars have happy hour during sunset, and cocktails are as cheap as 300 LKR ($2 USD). If you’re looking for a party, watch for the giant light that shines in the sky once the sun sets and listen for the 9:30 pm fireworks. The parties rotate between all the beachside bars which makes it easy to decide where to go!
5/ Affordable Accommodation
If you like your accommodation you’re more inclined to leave with a good impression on a town/city. We absolutely loved our accommodation at the Dream Palace Family Guest House, ($20 USD Double Room). It was our favourite of the 3 weeks in Sri Lanka because the location, staff, rooms & comfort of the beds were a 10/10. Great value for only $20 USD!
6/ Beach Hopping by Scooter
As I’m sure you know by now, hiring a scooter is the best way to see the coastline of Sri Lanka. We spent the day beach hopping and here are some of the beaches we visited.
Weligama (10 minutes from Mirissa)
Weligama is a popular surf beach just around the bay from Mirissa although it still seems quiet due to its size. Surf schools and rentals fill the beach and the waves are good for beginners to intermediate surfers. The town is quite chaotic and we only passed through but we did visit a great hostel on the beach; “Hangtime Hostels” that has an awesome rooftop restaurant.
Dalawella (15 minutes)
Dalawella is one of the most family orientated beaches we came across. The mornings are best for swimming due to the low tide as the current is rather strong in the afternoon. Dalawella is clean, has a few great beach front hotels/restaurants and of course the famous swing (in front of Dream Cabanas). If you have the time, stay for the sunset!
Koggala-Stilt Fishermen (35 minutes)
Stilt Fishing is a traditional way of fishing in the shallow waters of Sri Lanka and although it is still common to occasionally use this method, it is now primarily a tourist attraction. As you drive up or down the coast you’ll notice a few beaches with stilts in the water, but good luck finding one with “real” fishermen.
We stumbled upon this one and found it to be one of the most popular. Unfortunately, the local “Fishermen” won’t get on the sticks unless you pay them upwards of 1000 LRK ($6 USD) each.
Note: They will take money from everyone taking a photo so don’t try and use the same tactic we did and wait for a bus of people to come… whoops! They chased us back to our bike, fishing rod in hand! Some tourists have been charged over $40 USD for a photo. Seriously?!
Tip: Head just around the corner where no one is and you can take your own photo! If you do it with them there, they want another 500 LKR ($3 USD).
Unawatuna (1-1.5 hours)
Unawatuna is the busiest of all the beach towns and our least favourite of the beaches because of it being overdeveloped and one of the most touristic places in Sri Lanka. It really lacked the hospitality we had received everywhere else on the island.
Unawatuna beach itself was clean and the water was one of the calmest places to swim, it also had the largest amount of beachfront restaurants along with many shops, guesthouses, souvenir stores and tour offices… and tourists. We used Unawatuna as a base to explore many other beaches, as well as the Galle Fort.
The Beaches of Sri Lanka don’t disappoint. We loved them all for a variety of reasons but Mirissa and Hiriketiya (see our Tangalle post for more information) were by far our top 2 choices!
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Married Days Survived: 760