When you read about the beaches of Sri Lanka, Tangalle might not always be at the top of the list. However, that only means that everyone else that read the same articles aren’t also going to be there when you arrive, doesn’t it? I’m notoriously bad a actually ending up at the beaches of the beach destinations I go to. There’s something about the mountains that always seems to catch my attention, and all of a sudden the vacation is over and I get back to the office without a trace of a tan, not counting the burned up nose and lips that high altitude will bless you with.
When we planned the Sri Lanka vacation, we knew that we would have to schedule a few beach days in there at the end, and so we arrived without a plan for where to go along the coast, that’s sprinkled with beach destinations. The obvious ones seemed to be Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa, but we were in peak season and simply decided to play a game of Booking.com roulette and let availability at a top-rated yet affordable property decide for us. And I’m so glad we did!
Getting to Tangalle from Udawalawe
We’d spent the night before in Udawalawe, waking up before dawn for a safari, and returned for a very late breakfast just before noon. Then we were ready to work our way toward the coast, which turned out to be very easy. The nice manager of our hotel helped us stop a bus on the main road, and we made the short half-hour hop to Embilipitiya, the nearest larger town which also serves as a transport hub. We didn’t see a bus for Tangalle, but a friendly attendant at the station pointed us toward another connection that would pass through there.
As our accommodation was a short hike out of the center of town we stayed on the bus past the station in Tangalle and were lucky enough to be dropped very close to where we were headed. I’m sure a taxi could’ve done the job much faster and less sweaty, but I find the busrides in Sri Lanka genuinely enjoyable, not to mention a lot cheaper.
Our homestay in Tangalle
When we started looking for accommodation on the coast I was a bit disappointed, as all of the recommended places from the guidebooks were already fully booked and prices for average-looking bungalows were insane compared to what we had paid in other parts of the country, and, frankly, what they probably should’ve cost. But since we didn’t have a preferred location, other than near a beach, we could search for anything. And what we did find was Dinuri Villa, a newly built addition to a family house, that offered two or possibly three homestay rooms. If you’ve never had the chance to stay at a place that has a 9.7 average from 35 reviews on Booking.com, this may be it, because it’s also one of the cheapest places we could find.
The family that runs it was so friendly and attentive, and really happy to explain the local customs or answer any questions that we had. One question I asked almost every day in Sri Lanka was the dinner time regular “what vegetable is this?”, because there was no end to the new flavors. And Dinuri Villa was no exception, because the dinners there really were something else. We would get so many different bowls of curries and vegetables, and they were all so good that we had way too much and didn’t save room for, you guessed it, the desserts. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I failed to take a picture of any of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Same with the breakfasts, all delicious and SO much.
One of my favorite things was that we got to have dinner together with the other guest that was there at the time, a Japanese woman traveling alone, and those encounters always add something to the trip. I cannot recommend this place enough, and as they were adding a few more rooms to the homestay when we were there, I believe more people will get the chance in the future. All in all, we paid just over 18 000 LKR (at the time around 115 USD) for three nights in an airconditioned double room with private bath, three massive dinners and breakfasts for two people, a load of laundry and a lot of snacks in between meals. Not bad!
The beaches of Tangalle
On the east side of town, there’s a long stretch of beach that’s lined with hotels and restaurants without seeming overly exploited. There’s a good mix of fishermen and tourists, and no massive package hotels but small ones with a few rooms each. Along part of the beach, breakwaters made of large rocks have been put up for a better swimming experience. We stayed on the west side, which also has a really nice beach, but it’s completely different.
There are a couple of local restaurants along the Pallikkaduwa beach, but for the most part it’s completely deserted. No one will bother you, and if you turn a corner, you’ll have it all to yourself. The waves are quite strong, as is the case all along the coast, but swimming is not a problem if you take it easy and don’t go too far out. There are many locals coming down here to swim, so just do what they do.
What else is there to do?
To be honest, we didn’t do much at all during our two days in Tangalle. Most of the guesthouses on the east side of town seemed to offer tours, such as whale watching in Mirissa and a day trip to Udawalawe, but we had already been to so many of those things, and needed to just kick back for a bit at the end of the trip. Instead, we just stayed on the beach, reading books, and taking long walks through town and out along the beach on the other side. It’s so nice to just have that time to pay attention to the surroundings, and stop to watch a pack of monkeys jump from tree to tree for half an hour.
I haven’t been to any other beach destination in Sri Lanka, but I would still recommend this one if you want a taste of local life along the coast and don’t need cocktail bars and surf shops.