Golden sand. Emerald waters. Unspoiled beaches. These are some of the reasons we chose Tangalle for an awesome 20 days of beach bumming, yoga and Sri Lankan cuisine (and a bit of work). Having already visited Galle and Mirissa in the first week of our 1 month South Sri Lanka trip, we were looking forward to settling down in a quieter part of the South.
Tangalle or Mirissa?
If you’re thinking of exploring Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern beaches, chances are you’ve come across this question. There’s no right or wrong, but in our personal experience, we wanted to stay at a beach town that was not crowded and commercialized so that we could really experience the local atmosphere. Upon some research, we read that the string of golden sand beaches in and around Tangalle are some of the best in the country and happen to be less discovered than Mirissa. We also watched some videos on Youtube showcasing Tangalle beaches and we were completely sold!
During our 3-week stay, we had plenty of time to enjoy all Tangalle has to offer. Here are some of the activities waiting for you there:
Enjoy tranquility at Silent Beach (or Godellawella Beach)
Silent Beach is definitely the most picturesque beach we have seen and kept coming back to over and over again for sunbathing and yoga. Parts of exclusive Amanwella hotel is located here, so you will be sharing it with their guests, but we have rarely seen any at all! Awesome swing that’s setup towards the far end of the beach will keep you entertained for hours on end. There are no bars here so be sure to bring your own snacks/drinks.
Travel time from Tangalle town: 5 minutes by bus
Cosy up at Goyambokka Beach
Goyambokka Beach is a small beach with a couple of bars offering beach beds, food, and drinks. We loved this place for two reasons – it’s a fun place to swim and it’s bordered by scenic rocky coves on both ends. You can also walk to the gorgeous Pallikaduwa beach right next door that’s adjacent to the luxury Anantara hotel (The vibes at Pallikaduwa are definitely a little more upscale than in Goyambokka!
Travel time from Tangalle town: 15 minutes by bus
Surf at The Hiri (or Hiriketiya) Beach
Hiriketiya Beach is hidden within a shell-shaped cove that makes it the coziest beach of all. We walked here through an overgrown jungle-like pathway following the sounds of chill house emanating from beyond the palms. The first thing you’ll see is the white sand and the surfers floating out in the ocean waiting for the waves. A group of hip-looking instructors by the colorful surfboards are ready to take you on your first surf lesson or rent you a board.
Travel time from Tangalle town: 20 minutes by bus
Enjoy the natural pool at Tangalle Beach
Truth be told, after spending a few days on Silent beach we snubbed Tangalle beach thinking it was never going to match up with beaches west of the city. Of course, we couldn’t be more wrong. Tangalle beach starts at a fishing port and carries on for miles to the northeast. After walking along the golden sand for just over a mile we stumbled on Marakolliya & Medilla section of the beach. Although most of the beach is not great for swimming, the Medilla section is protected by natural rocks from the oncoming waves giving the area a pool-like feel. The Mangrove Beach Resort has a very cool bar facing the swimming area, with beach beds and a great drinks menu. Grab a beach bed, order a drink and enjoy the chilled atmosphere with very few people around.
Travel time from Tangalle town: 15 minutes by tuk-tuk
Pick your favorite from the trio of beaches at Dickwella
Dickwella Beach stretches out along the town of Dickwella. The beach is quite flat which we thought would make it more comfortable for swimming, but the waters here were quite rough. Even though there are some bars and resorts along Dickwella, the long beach felt a little somnolent with some noise sipping through from the main road. To the west of the resort, there are two smaller but more comfortable beaches linked up by a small cape. We sunbathed here for a while away from the noisier Dickwella beach.
Discover hidden beaches
Beyond these, there are other smaller beaches hidden all along the coast east and west of Tangalle. Although small, some of these are secluded and are waiting to be discovered.
Climb the Mulkirigala Rock Temple
Roughly 17 Km north of Tangalle is the famous rock temple that has been here for over 2000 years. At 200 meters high, it takes 533 steps to reach the top of the temple. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be done in one go as there are 5 terraces laid out at different levels. At each level, you can enter the caves housing huge reclining buddhas with beautiful wall-to-ceiling paintings. Once at the very top, we were greeted by a troop of cheeky monkeys playing about terrace gates and posing for pictures!
Walking through a little pathway around the white stupa, you will spot a little opening amongst the trees that leads to a flat section of the rock. Here is where you will get the best views of the surrounding jungle and the hills of Sinharaja forest in the distance.
How to get there: We took a combination of two buses from Tangalle – Beliatta (35 Rps one way); Beliatta to Mulkirigala (bus towards Meditia, 28 Rps one way). It is only 5-7 min walk from Mulkirigala bus stop to the temple. Entrance ticket: 500 Rps.
Mingle with the locals at the Tangalle town markets
At first sight, Tangalle appears to be a little dusty and busy. But there are a few interesting things to be discovered. Firstly, the central bus station can be used as the hub for exploring all of the surrounding areas. Next door, the local food market comes alive on Wednesdays and Sundays with vendors lining up floors with a vivid array of exotic fruits and vegetables. It’s fun to roam around discovering and sampling unfamiliar produce. If you look up, you may spot a few monkeys watching you (and your shopping) from the roof tiles.
5 minute south, you will find a small beach leading up to a fishing harbor. We met a fisherman who described their experience with 2004 tsunami and invited us to check out their fishing boats. It was then worth walking to the nearby Dutch Rest House and Court Complex where we could see glimpses of local history and view the images of the devastation caused by the tsunami.
NATURE & WILDLIFE
Catch the humming at Hummanaya Blow Hole
The humble village of Kudawella is home to nature’s unique phenomenon – a coastal blowhole shooting up streams of water to heights of 20-30 meters with an accompanying sound of an air blow. Pick a day that’s too windy for the beach and enjoy the peculiar attraction for 30-40 mins.
How to get there: A 15-20 minute bus ride from Tangalle towards Matarra (35 Rps one way). Entrance ticket: 250 Rps
Go on a safari adventure
Safaris are a very popular activity in Sri Lanka and luckily the two most famous national parks, Udawalawe and Yala, are within a 2-hour drive from Tangalle. We had already been to Udawalawe on our previous trip so this time we opted for the relatively undiscovered Bundala National Park. Sprinkled with waterways, clear lagoons, and sandbanks, this park is home to a wide range of wildlife. The highlight is the variety of local bird species – more than 200! There is also a small population of elephants (around 30). Hiring a private car for the day is recommended.
- Related post: Bundala National Park – is it worth visiting?
Meditate at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary
Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is a tranquil area of wilderness and home to a large number of migratory birds. You can take tuk-tuk here early morning or at dusk to practice some meditation in an incredible setting with a little breeze and the sound of the birds!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
For rice & curry head to Swastika Hotel – a casual joint that has been recommended to us by several locals.
The most delicious and crispy hoppers can be found at New City Hotel And Restaurant right next to Cargills supermarket.
We absolutely loved Mangrove Beach Cabanas Restaurant for drinks and small bites on the beach.
If you visit Goyambokka beach, you have to try the small takeaway spot My Place located right opposite the beach entrance on the main road. It is run by a friendly local family that serves the most delicious array of curries for a super reasonable price. We loved it so much we ate there more times than we’d like to admit!
If you fancy some coffee or juice in a chic Western-style cafe, head over to The Grove. The garden seats are where you’ll love to relax after a swimming session.
WHERE TO STAY IN TANGALLE
Our priority was to immerse ourselves in a local environment and create a daily routine. For that, we picked a small village of Goyambokka, a couple of kilometers west of Tangalle. Here, we settled in a small family-run Grand Residence Hotel. We really fell in love with this place. Not only due to its surroundings and proximity to some of the most gorgeous beaches we have encountered in Sri Lanka, but also the hospitality of our hosts! Read reviews and book here.
Our room was spacious and had a top floor balcony where we could meditate and do yoga in the mornings. The breakfast was great, our hosts – honest and accommodating. Because we were staying in off-season, both the hotel and the beaches were free of crowds most of the time, something that made our stay that much more special.
- Browse all Tangalle hotels and B&Bs here
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO TANGALLE
- Getting to Tangalle from Mirissa: We negotiated a tuk-tuk from Mirissa to Tangalle (Goyambokka) for 2000 Rps which took about 1 hour (45km). We felt reasonably safe riding the long distances with our Tuk Tuk drivers. The only downside is that you are exposed to an occasional wave of exhaust fumes from bypassing vehicles. Wearing a light scarf helps.
- Safety: Wherever we went in South Sri Lanka we always felt safe. In general, people are nice, kind and welcoming. Most people speak some level of English so don’t be afraid to ask questions if need be.
- Local price vs Tourist price: Quite a few (in fact majority) times you will be quoted the “tourist price”, which we found to be anywhere between x1.5 to x5 of a price asked from a local. If you come from a country with a strong economy/currency the price will still feel cheap, we still found it frustrating figuring out the fair price of many items.
- Main Highway: Most of the coastal locations in South Sri Lanka are located off the A2 highway. The traffic here is somewhat heavy with a constant flow of buses, tuk-tuk and the rest. Thus, I would suggest factoring in the proximity of your accommodation to the highway to gauge the noise levels!
- Beach Beds: Similar to elsewhere in the south, the general rule here is that the beach beds are free of charge as long as you purchase a drink of your choice. Sometimes resorts allow us to lounge without bothering us to buy a drink (just ask the host).
- Seasons: The high season in the South / East is between November and March. We were visiting in July which meant that we generally had the beaches for ourselves and were able to negotiate prices (transport, services) at 15-20% discount. Note that the ocean is fairly rough at this time and tide seems to be higher than in high-season making it less pleasant to swim.
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