The first time we heard about Hikkaduwa was from an old hippie man who owns an antique store in Philadelphia. Back in 2016, we celebrated Paul’s birthday with a weekend trip to Philadelphia. We loved visiting the city – the history, art, and culture kept our attention.
One afternoon wandering around after seeing the Magic Gardens we walked into the antique store on Spruce Street. No one was in their but the old hippie dude with a long gray beard and long hair. I feel like he was wearing an earring too, but I forget. After talking about his store and Philly, we started talking to him about traveling the world. Turns out he was really well-travelled. He told us about his favorite places. He said, if you’re looking for a really surfer town paradise, you gotta check out Hikkaduwa.
“Sri Lanka, maaaan” [said in Big Lebowski voice].
“Oh, wow … ” I think until that moment we had never thought about Sri Lanka before.
He went on to describe eating fresh grilled fish and drinking coconuts on the beach after surfing in the morning. We were hooked.
We started researching it, and it looked like Sri Lanka had been a favorite of late. It’s ridiculously affordable, beautiful nature, temples, beaches, good food, and definitely a “off the beaten track” appeal.
Sri Lanka proved to be all these things and more. It’s definitely less developed than other Asian destinations. This is one of the reasons I think we liked it so much. Places weren’t over crowded and seemed “authentic” – not changed due to a tourist complaining about it.
Where to eat in Hikkaduwa
We liked Neela’s and the Drunken Monkey. In my opinion, Neela’s had the best curry in town and Drunken money had the best papadam. Both places are right on the beach so you eat al fresco with your feet in the sand, listening to the ocean waves hit the shore and the occasional Bob Marley tune through the speakers.
Nordic House Luxury Burgers was a great cafe. They have wifi, good burgers (as their title suggests), and strong coffee.
Funky de bar was party central. We only went there one night for a few beers. That night happened to be karaoke night. I heard the best rendition of Elvis Presely’s “Suspicious Minds” I have ever heard in my life from the mouth of an old, sunburnt, overweight man with a thick unintelligible cockney accent. I heard his accent before and after his performance. That said, this place seemed shady and people were definitely doing hard drugs behind and in front of the bar. So just be really careful there and I wouldn’t advise staying too long if you choose to go there.
Drinks at Joint in Southwind were fun. They have tiki torch lighting and beach chairs next to the ocean.
Cafe Ceylon was also a great place to watch the sunset with some beers. It’s a ways down the beach and real quiet.
What to do in Hikkaduwa
Relax – This is the perfect place to do absolutely nothing. Laying on the beach was the majority of what we did and that’s what we wanted. The stretch of beach is long and there are plenty of places to sit. The sun is STRONG, so definitely dip out of it once in a while to the nearby restaurants/bars.
Buy locally, handmade clothes and batik – There are tons of clothing stores on the main street, Galle Road, that offer tailor-made pants/dresses/shorts or hand sewn clothing for next to nothing. Paul and I bought several pieces and they still hold up, no tears. And they are the perfect beach wear! In fact, I’d say just buy beach clothes when you get there instead of bringing them. You’ll also see HANDMADE batik! If you see one you like, get it. Batik is an art work and one of a kind if handmade. Our host mom made them and we bought hers. We will cherish them forever!
Scuba diving, snorkeling, walking near the coral reef – We saw people scuba and snorkel, but we didn’t try it. We did walk by the small strip of coral life on the beach and looked around. We saw sea cucumbers, urchin, tropical fishes, coral, and starfish. One guy even picked up a HUGE sea urchin and I got to hold it in my hand. It was the biggest urchin I’ve ever seen! Twice the size of a baseball. People would see sea turtles come visit in the early morning hours, but we were never there early enough.
Go Surfing – Paul tried and it was rough out there! I didn’t try – I already knew it was going to be out of my skill level (which isn’t high for surfing by the way) and opted to lay in a cabana during his surf lesson.
Go to other beach towns nearby – There’s Unawatuna, Mirissa, and Midigama down the coastline.
Turtle Hatchery – This place was a hatchery and rescue for sea turtles. If a sea turtle is found missing a limb or injured, the owner has the local fishermen bring it to the hatchery. They put the injured turtle in a large tank and slowly, over months, heighten the water level. Once the turtle heals and is used to swimming deeper/ocean level again they place it back in the ocean. They also rescued little turtle egg patches and have them safely born in a hatchery setup mimicking the beach.
The hatchery was ran by the owner’s father. His father died so his sister took it over. During the 2004 Tsunami, the hatchery was completely destroyed. The sister and her entire family died in the tsunami. Her brother came back to Hikkaduwa, rebuilt the hatchery, and reopened the place. This was a very hard story to hear, but the hatchery seems like it’s doing a lot of good for the local sea life.
Watch the sunset – We tried to catch the sunset on the beach as often as we could. There is ample seating and the sunsets in Hikkaduwa were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Usually the sky would begin as a blue, teal, and orange then morph into a lavender/blue backdrop for a neon, bright red and pink ball of fire sun setting.