Close your eyes and picture a tropical beach paradise… No doubt you’re picturing a secret bay of turquoise blue ocean lapping gently onto soft, white sand, with tall palm trees swaying gently in the warm breeze. Am I right? The good news is that it exists in Sri Lanka – Hiriketiya.
A small, horseshoe-shaped bay near Dikwella, it is definitely the hidden gem of the south coast; although not quite the well-kept secret it once was. It’s the perfect place to come for a few days, whether you want to surf or just relax on the beach with a book. However, once you’ve tasted the laidback life of this little tropical paradise, it becomes very hard to leave and, if you’re like most people, you’ll be extending your stay as soon as you arrive. ( I meet people who had stayed months and were not planning on leaving any time soon!)
There’s no better way to kick start the day than on the mat and Hiriketiya Bay has plenty of great yoga classes and teachers. The popular Dots Bay House runs yoga twice daily: 8am in the morning and late afternoon at 4pm. Salt, a few minutes’ walk from the beach, also runs yoga twice daily in a beautiful yoga shala, where you can watch monkeys messing around in the greenery around you.
One of the real draws is, of course, the surfing. With good waves all year round, you’re guaranteed some action and it’s easy to rent a board on the beach. It has something for everyone: beginners can catch the smaller waves close to the shore, while intermediates catch the larger green waves in the centre of the bay. Experienced surfers can tackle the trickier reef breaks. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot turtles swimming below in the crystal-clear water.
When you’re hungry, you’re spoilt for choice for a bite to eat. The roti hut around the corner from The Grove is probably the most popular spot in town. You can feasibly have roti for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not get sick of it (believe me, I managed it!). It’s also the most budget-friendly option, as the restaurants can be quite pricey.
Salt, Dot’s Bay House and Aussie-owned The Grove are good bets for brunch, where you can find everything from avo on toast to smoothie bowls. If you want a simple fish lunch or dinner, head to one of the small restaurants on the beach where you can watch the gentle lapping of waves with a decent grilled fish a nice cold Lion beer.
Hiriketiya is a quiet spot– and most people like to get up early for a surf – but Dot’s Bay House is a nice place to spend a few hours in the evening with a cocktail and they regularly have live music.
Where to stay:
I stayed in one of the Dot’s Bay Surf Cafe dorm rooms, which was perfectly fine for a few nights, but if you want a bit more space there are plenty of guesthouses around. If you want to splash out, check out Jasper House and Salt.
Whether you’re in Hiriketiya for a few hours or a few weeks, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with the place. I couldn’t have been happier to discover this place on my recent trip to Sri Lanka. I can’t wait to get back here soon – and this time I might never leave…