It wasn’t even on purpose that I neatly divided my trip into three parts: culture tour during the first week, nature trip during the second, and now it’s the final countdown on the coast.
Beach Hopping from Mirissa.
But first I spent two thoughtful and memorable days in Tangalle.
- It’s Not So Easy to Be an Ex-pat
- Mirissa Beach
- Weligama Beach
- Turtle Bay
- Coconut Beach
- Midigama East
- Midigama Beach
- Practical Information
- Pinnable Pictures
It’s Not So Easy to Be an Ex-pat
I’m staying at a room in a lovely…yes, one could call it a mansion. My hosts are a couple from….well, he is a native Sri Lankan, she is from Ukraine, they were living together in Austria and he decided to come back to Sri Lanka due to the supposedly increasing xenophobia in Europe.
I say he decided although their wording is, of course, us. But she hates the heat and is all jealous that I’m going back to European winter in a couple of days.
She doesn’t like the beach – and is living now in one of Sri Lanka’s most popular beach destinations.
She doesn’t seem to be happy.
He neither, for that matter.
He hasn’t been living here for over twenty years. I assume that he has been back as a visitor, but now he wants to have a business here and seems pretty disenchanted and stressed out after only three months.
If you aren’t mindlessly euphoric in the very beginning, when do you plan to become mindlessly euphoric?!
I really wish them well, but I’m afraid that many hard, stressful, and disenchanting times lie ahead of them.
I Had That Dream, Too
I also wanted to live in the tropics for a long time. When I first visited Jamaica at the age of 24, the way of life took me by storm. Yes, I admit it, also my first Jamaican boyfriend took me by storm.
But it was mainly the rhythm of reggae, the beach life, the easy-going no problem, mon, irie-i.
My European life seemed so dull and grey and out of rhythm.
I travelled back and forth for a couple of years, constantly checking out my chances, got into a mess and dropped my Jamaica-plans for good.
Job-Interview in Mombasa
However, after that, I felt a bit disrooted and hooked to the idea of living in a tropical country doing….whatever.
I applied for jobs in tourism – and actually was invited to an interview first in Basel where the headquarters were and eventually in Mombasa where that company owned half a dozen of hotels.
Now, that was a disenchanting experience: All the Europeans working there seemed to hate everything African and were constantly complaining about everything local. The woman that interviewed me literally said that they are employing rather African men since the women are not so clean. All the conversations were on this level.
Wait a minute – I wanted to move to Africa because of…Africa and not to be the bored, frustrated white massa.
This is alluring only in Graham Greene’s novels.
This job was not for me – and I was not for them.
Life Changing Event
Since about six months after my Mombasa-trip, I got pregnant, the nomad lifestyle had to be postponed; until my daughter turned two and we moved for six months to Belize.
Belize is in Central America, but it still has a certain Caribbean feel to it. The language – the Patois or Pidgin English – is pretty similar, they listen to reggae and calypso – and in addition to punta rock, a very rhythmic, staccato-like music by the Garifuna, an indigenous ethnicity that came from Saint Vincent to the shores of Central America.
Anyway, so I was back to the Caribbean vibes – but how different that was with a toddler and responsibility and chores.
While others lived the life that had attracted me so much to Jamaica, I stayed home watching over my daughter. Not so different from Germany; only the weather was better.
By that time I had already buried the dream of the exciting, wild, and free life in a tropical region. With a smile and no regrets at all.
It’s nice to dance nights away, enjoying drinks, fooling around, But at least to me, it’s not satisfactory on the long term, it cannot be my personal meaning of life. And I also do not want to do….whatever. Not at my age. Not with a child.
Well, the child is 27 now – I could still go. But I’m not interested at all anymore.
A sabbatical – maybe.
But waiting tables just because the sun is shining?
For now, it comes down to a couple of trips every year.
The Other Man’s Grass Is Not Always Greener
Another reason is also that while I was living for months in Central America – after six months in Belize we also spent many months in Honduras and three months in Costa Rica – I’ve seen so many ex-pats being pretty unhappy.
They all had started with these really good ideas, some even had money to invest, some struggled a bit. After a couple of months, they always got frustrated. Because things are much more complicated. Because they got screwed over by their what they thought good local friends. Many of them backed away, lived in an ex-pat ghetto, threw themselves on each long term traveller like me – a person that carries a bit of their former life with her.
What’s the point of living isolated in a place where I slowly start to hate everything and distrust everybody?
Many of them had a heavy drinking problem – which is unfortunate since many ran bars.
By no means do I say that this has to happen to everyone. It also strongly depends on your expectations and plans. If a twenty-something goes for a couple of months to the Caribbean and works at a bar just for the fun of it – great idea! If a teacher or doctor is sent to work and help in another country – fantastic.
But if you leave your life behind to open a business in a country where you’ll always be an alien – and be treated accordingly…..well, I really wish them well.
After having been a bit disappointed by Tangalle, I chose Mirissa as my next destination. All I can say is: Well done – hence, life is a beach, after all!
Racing from one place to another, schlepping a carry-on suitcase and a daypack-sized backpack with me that seems to get heavier from day to day even though I’m disciplining myself and postpone shopping to the very last day is fun, but it’s also exhausting.
I was very much looking forward to a couple – couple in the sense of several, not just two – of days on the beach, sunbathing, reading, sleeping, and cooling off in the ocean; maybe a little snorkeling. But other than that: Nada, niente, rien du tout!
There is one downside to this otherwise perfect concept: Days pass quicker, they become one long mass of time that just floats by. Time just flies by as you stay only in one place.
But in Mirissa, there is a perfect solution to this problem: The south coast between Mathara and Galle consists of many beaches, big and small. There are cozy little bays, difficult to reach and therefore pretty secluded. There are long spans of white powdery sand, and there are these standard beach-bed-in-front-of-beach-bar stretches of relaxed beach life.
All this within reach from Mirissa. People rent scooters and off they go exploring beach after beach.
As meanwhile everybody knows, I’m not driving. And I’m not riding a scooter – between all these maniacs on Sri Lankan roads – no way, José.
I’m a public transport gal and in Sri Lanka, I’m going by bus. If you can’t beat them, join them.
I believe I’m in danger sitting on that bus; but everybody outside the bus is the mad driver’s living target.
Exploring the beaches by bus is – alas! – fast and dirt cheap: Going from Mirissa to Waligama, the next beach town about four miles west, sets me back 15 cents; by private bus. The governmental is cheaper.
From Waligama, I took a tuk-tuk to Coconut Beach – about 1,25 €uro or 1.50 $ – and I think that he screwed me a bit over, but that’s ok.
I know: It is very tempting to just stay in one place and enjoy the ‘dolce far niente’ – especially after weeks of roaming the island.
Being Busy Doing Nothing
But why not doing nothing – but each day in another breathtakingly beautiful place? Beaches around Mirissa can be easily reached by bus, tuk-tuk, or a rented scooter – and every single of them is totally worth the “effort” of beach hopping.
Once a busy body, always a busy body: After two days I felt like wasting my precious days left away. Fortunately, Mirissa is the perfect place for both sides of the shimmering beach-medal: Offering many pretty different beaches that can be in about thirty minutes.
To get there, you can rent a scooter, hire a tuk-tuk, or hop on a bus; and that’s, of course, what I did.
A bus ride from Mirissa to Weligama sets you back 40 LKR – about 20 cents – and to Medigama 60 LKR. Buses are going every couple of minutes since this is the arterial road between the city of Mathara – by the way, totally worth a day trip – and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galle Fort.
I’ve put together dreamy pics along with the up- and downsides of each of the beach stretch – and urge you to invest a couple of minutes of your precious time to follow my lead as we are moving from east to west.
Let’s start with Mirissa, one of the most popular beach destinations on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This may sound much busier than it actually is since most of the regular beach babes stay at the touristy, walled hotel resorts.
However, Mirissa Beach impresses with
➕ good infrastructure
➕ beach chairs, umbrellas, and shady spots
➕ easy access, however, it is separated from the main road by buildings and greenery
➖ there is a bit of this hatable, sea-destroying entertainment such as jet-skis and motorboats going on
➖ the beach is busier hence less idyllic
Weligama is about 15 to 20 minutes from Mirissa – practically a stone throw away.
The beach is very close to the town center with lots of shopping and eating options as well as banks and ATMs.
Weligama Beach is nice because
➕ it’s very long and broad – excellent if you are into beach walks
➕ you get to see – and photograph – local fishermen doing their chores in the morning
➕ there is a good infrastructure, i.e. eateries, bars, and surf shops right on the beach
➖ is adjacent to the main road without much of a barrier like buildings or greeneries between
➖ can get a bit busy and is not very idyllic
Turtle Bay is a small stretch that you reach climbing over a hump, so that
➕ it is isolated and very quiet
➕ you can snorkel at the bay right from the beach
➕ however, there is a beach bar, a bit of shade and two makeshift beach chairs
Although it is a great place to get away from it all, you should consider that
➖ it is pretty difficult to reach: The way to the main road is quite far and the hump is really steep.
➖ it is only a really small bay – you have to be in need of total relaxation to enjoy it an entire day
➖ although there is a bar, they do not serve always food and the choice – also of drinks – is limited
Coconut Beach is the most ‘untouched’ of the bays I’m listing here which can be a plus since
➕ it is secluded and undisturbed
➕ albeit with a beach bar within reach
➕ there are high waves that make it a perfect spot for surfers
➕ in the early morning and late afternoon, you can see the famous stilt fishermen (and hope that they are real and not just a tourist attraction)
➖ it is a bit difficult to reach since the way to the main road is quite far
➖ there is very little shade – around noon practically none at all
➖ despite its secluded location, it has a busier vibe to it since there are many surfers, especially in the afternoon
Now this stretch of the southern coast is like from a rum-commercial: A long, white stretch of powdery sand, turquoise waters….hold it, here comes the list with the perks:
➕ it is pretty remote and only accessible through a narrow trail so that you are sharing it with only a handful of people
➕ it lies hidden behind the guesthouses and greenery that separates it from the main road
➕ the water here is comparatively calm so you can actually float and swim
➖ it is a bit difficult to find
➖ there are not beach chairs and very little shade, especially around noon
➖ there is no infrastructure whatsoever, you have to bring all your snacks and your water with you
At the end of the Midigama East part, there is a creek and as you cross the bridge, you’ll get to my least favorite beach, Midigama; but I’m no surfer, therefore I’m listing the advantages for those who come here to ride the perfect wave:
➕ The water is pretty open, therefore there are high waves making it perfect for surfers
➕ It’s right next to the main road so that surfers don’t have to carry their boards forever but can practically hop from their car into the water
➕ There are some stands selling snacks and drinks right on the beach and Midigama town is just across the road in case you need something in particular
Being so centrally located, of course, bears some pretty obvious disadvantages:
➖ it is right next to the main road – noisy and a bit dirty, too
➖ it is pretty short and narrow
➖ and therefore relatively busy and noisy since there are many surfers coming and going
If you’re willing to invest more time, there is a beach-option one hour to the east and another one about one hour to the west – and both are not worth the hassle.
One hour to the east – with a short change of buses in Mathara – is Tangalle with many small bays. Not bad, but nothing special.
I spent one night, went to two different beaches – and continued to Mirissa.
Once upon a time, Unawatuna is said to have been a nice, tranquil beach with great snorkeling options.
Well, as time has passed, Unawatuna became a horrible, mass-touristy beach full of nasty, big hotels, beach restaurants – totally not worth the trip.
So, these are my picks.
Have you guys been to this area and experienced additional beaches? Me – and the other readers – would appreciate your personal Yea and Nay.
How To Get There And Around
A tuk-tuk or private taxi cab charges around 10$ for a ride to Galle respectively to Tangalle. The public bus, however, costs a couple of cents. It took it for both legs of my trip.
The same public bus takes you to the different beaches as described above.
There are places renting out bicycles and scooters. I personally would not like to ride a bike next to those ruthless Sri Lankan drivers.
Good place to sleep
I was not as thrilled in Mirissa as in other places, but that was also because I didn’t like the room the Deepika Hotel* initially had booked me in – and the alternative was for four people. Although they made me a price since I stayed there by myself, it was still the most expensive accommodation of my entire Sri Lanka-trip; and by far not the nicest one.
However, the location was perfect – on the main road, however quiet. Practically across the road from the beach and with a bus stop right in front of the gate.
Since Mirissa is quite touristy, you’ll find accommodation for all budgets – and you can find the perfect place for you on this map*:
Best place to eat
There are many beachfront restaurants serving Sri Lankan curries and international snacks such as burgers. At none of those restaurants, food was overwhelming; it was rather bad and it was very far from being cheap.
Much better options are the small diners along the main road.
Right next to the Deepika Resort – ‘resort’ is what they call it…. – is, for instance, Maggie’s Roti Skip, a small, simple restaurant serving good curries and roti, the Sri Lankan flatbread. They are open daily from 8 a. m. to 9 p. m.
A real treat is Dhana’s Curry Pot, another small restaurant offering an all-you-can-eat buffet for an incredible 400 LKR – about two bucks! You can fill your plate with two different kinds of rice – white and red – and about four different veggie curries and some crispy papadum. Each dish is just delicious so that the value of money is just fantastic! Dhana’s is open every day from 7:30 a. m. to 10 p. m.
Best place to shop
There are some shops and stalls along Mirissa’s main road selling all sorts of souvenirs at ok prices. If your next stop is Galle, you might want to consider doing your souvenir shopping at Mirissa since at the stores located within the Galle Fort, you’ll pay triple of these prices.
The best place to buy tea, spices, sweets, and snacks such as cashew nuts is Cargills supermarket. They have a wide range of quality teas packed in cute, elephant-shaped tin boxes and many more. Be aware that Cargills at Galle does not have those, but there you can buy them at Keells which, however, is quite a walk from the Fort.
If you are interested in buying ceramics, there are stands along the main road past Weligama beach – at the stop where you have to get off to walk to the Turtle Bay Beach (see above). They do not cater particularly to tourists, so if you are into this sort of handicraft, here is the perfect place to browse.
What to See
I’m an avid solo-travelling woman. Since solo-travel doesn’t equal solitude, I love to join organized tours here and there. They allow me to meet fellow travellers – for just a short moment or a lifelong friendship.
Therefore, here are some great ideas of what to do and which tours to join during your stay in Sri Lanka*:
Here is a map with all the beaches and places mentioned in this post so you won’t get lost:
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Sri Lanka? Then go to the main post and take your pick! There you’ll also find valuable general information that will make your trip smoother.
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