Sri Lanka’s South Coast Beaches – Worth Visiting In Low Season?
You’re in Sri Lanka, it’s low season in the south, but you really want to hit some of the south coast beaches to see what they have to offer. Well, this was exactly the conundrum we had while we were in Sri Lanka. We decided to go for it and head down to Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches. In total we visited four beach towns as we made the journey around the south coast (technically Hikkaduwa is on the west coast, but we’ll count it as the south for the sake of this post).
There are the obvious cons to visiting places during the low season (hence why it’s the low season and the least amount of people visit during this time), but there are also pros at the same time. The pros might not be for everyone, but they could be perfect for others. It all depends on your preferences and tastes.
The pros related to travelling in the low season are; cheap and quiet accommodation, also you won’t need to book ahead meaning you can haggle when you reach the accommodation, empty beaches and no waiting around at restaurants for a table to free up.
Along with the pros, there are also cons related to travelling to the Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches in the low season. These cons are; more chance of poorer weather (not always though), rough seas (often too rough to swim in) and less atmosphere in areas with bars and restaurants.
High season for Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches runs November-April. We visited the south coast in August, so literally right in the middle of low season. The following is my experience with travelling to Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches during the low season. Obviously, I cannot guarantee what weather you will experience, this is always a bit of a gamble. However, this article will give you a good idea on whether each destination is worth visiting during the low reason or not.
Sri Lanka’s South Coast Beaches
The first of Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches I visited was Tangalle, also know as Tangalla. Tangalle is a fishing town located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Tourism is a big deal here and it’s one of the reasons the town has grown into the modern day Tangalle which lines the shore today.
We weren’t 100% on whether we should even go near the south coast with it being mid low season, but we made the decision, stuck by it and found ourselves laying on the beaches in Tangalle during August.
So, the question is, was it a good or poor decision on our behalf visiting during low season?
Let me tell you, the beaches to the east of Tangalle town are beyond beautiful. We spent the majority of our time lazing around on Medaketiya Beach. Imagine this, the blazing sun and not a cloud in the sky, kilometres of deserted golden sand, lined with picture perfect, idillic palm trees, with the rough low season waves crashing onto the shore, well that’s exactly how Medaketiya Beach could be described during the days we spent there lying on the sand. It doesn’t sound too bad does it? Add all the latter to a very quiet, near deserted low season beach and in my eyes that’s the recipe for a perfect few days.
Combine a day at this picturesque, beauty of a beach, with a night spent drinking a couple of ice cold local Lion Beers and indulging in fresh, flavoursome seafood at one of the many restaurants touting for your business which line the beach. Does this sound like a perfect day and night for you? It certainly does for me. A few well needed, lazy, faultless beach days and relaxed nights, is very much how our time in Tangalle could be described.
Is Tangalle worth visiting in low season – Yes
The cheap and readily available accommodation, beautiful hot weather and most importantly the straight off a postcard beaches, which are literally near enough deserted, all make for a perfect stay in a beach town for me. That’s why I’m recommending Tangalle is worth visiting in low season.
Another one of Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches is Mirissa. This beach town is located 48km to the west of Tangalle. Mirissa is also another town which owes much of its growth to tourism.
Mirissa has a bohemian vibe, with bright and edgy artwork scattered down the little alleyways and roads. Along the crescent shaped beaches there are small, laid back restaurants with thatched palm leaf roofs and reggae music playing all day long. These chilled out beach restaurants are perfect for a bit of fresh seafood and an ice cold refreshing drink in a break from the afternoon sun.
At the moment, the development remains fairly low key in Mirissa, with the majority of restaurants and hotels being small, rustic establishments. That is for now of course, who knows what will happen in the future. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t change too much though. The town has a nice relaxed feel and it really doesn’t need to change that.
Mirissa’s main attraction is whale watching, and that’s definitely clear to see when you walk around the town, with every guesthouse and tour agency advertising for it. Unfortunately for us, the whale watching season runs November-April/May, so we didn’t get to see the largest mammal on the planet, even though we would have loved to! The whale watching boats do still go out to sea in the low season, but they are expensive trips and in my eyes, not worth the money if the chance of seeing a whale is low.
Although the beaches are beautiful, they are smaller than Tangalle’s beaches, therefore more crowded, so you definitely don’t end up with a beach to yourself. The waves are quite rough and swimming probably isn’t advised, though plenty still did, including myself.
Is Mirissa worth visiting in the low season – Maybe
Mirissa is only worth visiting in low season if you have time on your hands, in my opinion. The beaches aren’t anything special, Tangalle’s are much nicer, the town is lovely, but whale watching is the main attraction here and it’s really not worth the money if you’re on a budget, unless there is a very good chance you are going to see one. My recommendation would be to visit Mirissa if you’re here in low season only if you have the time, but if not, skip it, giving you more time to explore elsewhere.
In the Galle region of Sri Lanka, lies one of the most recognised and popular of Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches, Unawatuna.
The first thing you notice about Unawatuna compared to many of Sri Lanka’s other towns, is that there are much more bars and alcoholic drink choices available here. We weren’t in Sri Lanka just to get drunk, then wake up at midday too hungover to do anything, but we jumped at the chance for a few drinks in Unawatuna after not drinking a drop in The Hill Country and only having the odd beer in the beach towns previously.
I really liked Unawatuna. It was one of my favourite places in Sri Lanka. We weren’t a 100% about going to the popular beach town at first. After reading up on the Unawatuna, it was pretty much 50/50, some hated the place, some loved it and some were neither nor, just suggesting it’s average. We were literally going through the town on the bus anyway. What some people love in a place others hate, so we made the decision to check it out for ourselves.
Compared with Tangalle and Mirissa, Unawatuna is much more developed. There are plenty of overpriced large resorts here leading up to the beach. Lonely Planet certainly gives the town a bad reputation, due to the development. In some ways I agree, pricey resorts and overpriced restaurants aren’t my cup of tea. However, the town is much more lively than its neighbours to the east and offers a different experience.
Unawatuna Beach isn’t the nicest in the world and if people came here and spent all their time on that beach, I could understand why they wouldn’t enjoy it. However, a few kilometres east down Matara Road, lies the much more appealing and relaxed Dalawella Beach. Just because you’re staying a few hundred metres from one beach, doesn’t mean you can’t explore the area and spend your day, at by all accounts, a more superior beach, does it?
Dalawella Beach in the low season isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the weather wasn’t too great when we were there and the sea is unsafe to swim in. The beach is very quiet though, the sands are clear of rubbish and sewage, in fact the beach is an enchanting white colour. There is also a rope swing hanging from a tall palm tree, which makes the visit worthwhile alone.
Is Unawatuna worth visiting during low season – Yes
There is a bar scene in Unawatuna. Plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from during low season. A quaint, scenic beach down the road. Also, Galle is around the corner, so you can always make a day trip to explore the famous city walls.
I wouldn’t describe our previous destination, Unawatuna as booming, but there was a bar scene and it make for an enjoyable night out. From what I read I expected our final one of Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches, Hikkaduwa to be fairly similar. I can confidently say, it wasn’t.
Before arriving in Hikkaduwa, we heard that there was a lively backpacker scene there. We didn’t expect a non-stop party due to us travelling there is low season, but we expected a few lively-ish bars and restaurants with a few people enjoying themselves.
We were way off with our expectations. Hikkaduwa was a strange place. It was like a ghost town in some places along the beach. The beach was deserted, but it wasn’t the same feel as Tangalle, it was like something had happened and everyone had fled from the town, if that makes sense. Many of the restaurants looked like they had closed down. There was a lack of nice, cheap restaurants to choose from. As for the bars, where were they? We only found one while we were there.
Both of the beaches were dirty, full of litter all the way along and they weren’t appealing in slightest. Not at all what you’d come to expect from a Sri Lankan beach. Even the surroundings to the beach were ugly, with a car park or something along them lines being freshly tarmacked right next to the sands edge.
I was puzzled how a destination with so much hype and praise, could be so different to what I’d heard and come to expect. Maybe the town is much different during the high season, I’d like to know, but during the low season it was boring, ugly and uninviting.
Adding to all of the above, the weather wasn’t too great during our stay. The majority of the time, the skies were overcast, with the odd sunny spell. On a positive note, the accommodation is aplenty and cheap.
Is Hikkaduwa worth visiting during low season – No
My advice would be to drive right through Hikkaduwa during low season. There’s literally nothing about this town which makes it worth the visit. Spend less time on the south coast by skipping Hikkaduwa and spend time at the east coast beaches, as well as the much more appealing south coast destinations.