A row of colorful surfboards and lights strung up on Hiriketiya Beach

Tropical Paradise: 15 Things to Do in Hiriketiya Beach, Sri Lanka (2024)

Hiriketiya is a delightful jewel on the coast of Sri Lanka. The whole of Sri Lanka is an amazing family destination. Though relatively small, you can experience jungles, arid plains, misty tea plantations, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and gorgeous beaches. In fact, our biggest dilemma when planning our family trip to Sri Lanka was which beach should we choose. We decided to explore several, but Hiriketiya Beach quickly became our family’s favorite beach in Sri Lanka.

While visiting Sri Lanka on our family year out with our kids when they were 5 and 8, finding a beach that was good for all of us was key. We were in Sri Lanka for January and February and loved “escaping winter” there!

In this guide, we’ll tell you why we love Hiriketiya Beach (and absolutely want to go back), all the best things to do in Hiriketiya, as well as where to eat, where to stay in Hiriketiya, and even the best day trips if you want to use Hiriketiya Beach as a base to explore farther. We’ll cover everything you need to know to enjoy a wonderful, relaxing vacation in Hiriketiya Beach.

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At the bottom of this post, download a free guide: 6 Safety Tips for Traveling with Kids: What You Should Know Before You Travel.

Where is Hiriketiya Beach, Sri Lanka?

Hiriketiya Beach is a small secluded cove on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, nestled between Dickwella and Nilwella. It’s about an hour east of Mirissa Beach, famous for its whale watching, and just under two hours from Yala National Park, with its abundant wildlife.

This horse-shoe-shaped bay is about a three-hour drive from Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), located just north of the capital of Colombo.

🏅 Editors Top Picks 🏅
Best Hotel: Dot’s Bay House
Best Day Trip: Private Galle Tour with River Safari
Best Fancy Night Out: Smoke & Bitters

Why Visit Hiriketiya Beach?

Hiriketya Beach is the right amount of secluded beach with a lively food scene, expat coffee shops and breakfast places, a relaxed beach scene for sunning or playing in the water, and one of the best places to learn to surf anywhere.

With warm shallow water, a sandy bottom where you don’t need to worry about hitting a rock or coral, and a gentle break that you can ride all the way back to shore, it is the perfect place for beginner surfers.

Three surfers on a small wave in Hiriketiya Bay

We visited Hiriketiya Beach with our kids in February. This laid-back beach was our first of several stops along Sri Lanka’s southern coast.

We came here right after our safari in Yala National Park and loved relaxing here. We also spent time in Hikkaduwa Beach, Mirissa, and Negombo. Don’t miss our full Sri Lanka itinerary for all the best sights.

Ready to Book Your Trip? Use our Favorite Travel Resources!

Lodging: Booking.com
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Airport Transfers: Welcome Pickups

Digital SIM Cards: Airalo eSIM
Travel Insurance: SafetyWing

Things to Do in Hiriketiya Beach

For a laid-back beach town in the middle of paradise, there is a ton to do on Hiriketiya Beach.

1. Learn to Surf

Hiriketiya Beach is a great place to learn to surf. The water is warm and shallow. The waves are gentle, and you can get an hour of instruction for less than 15 USD.

You will find the central part of the beach is perfect for learning to surf, while more experienced surfers will enjoy the left side of the cove, where the break is higher, and the far right of the cove is great for snorkeling and seeing fish.

We paid 12 USD for an hour of lessons for each of us (ask around for the best price and a teacher you feel comfortable with), which included on-shore instruction and help in the water.

The von Bergs on surfboards on the sand getting ready for a surf lesson in Hiriketiya

The water was shallow enough that even where we were getting up on the waves, the water was only about 5′-0″ deep or 1.5 meters. This made it easy for the instructors to stand and give those who needed it a push to get into the waves.

During peak season (December to February), the water is calmer and best for beginner surfers, the waves are bigger from August to December, which is better for intermediate surfers.

If you are into surfing, consider a surf camp– you’ll find surf and yoga packages for all skill levels. Often daily surf trips are organized to take you around Southern Sri Lanka to take advantage of current conditions.

2. Enjoy Some Beach Time

Hiriketiya Beach is not huge, but there is plenty of room to put down a towel and soak up some sun, enjoy the sand and the surf. The bay is in a horseshoe shape, with soft sand and gorgeous views all around.

If you want a lounger or an umbrella, there are lots of places waiting to give you one. You should not need to pay, just buy a drink or snacks while you sit.

3. Stretch out on Dickwella Beach

When Hiriketiya Beach feels crowded, Dickwella is a great place to get away from it all. Located just a kilometer to the west, and an easy walk, tuk tuk or scoot away, Dickwella Beach is expansive with beautiful waves and very few people.

You can still find good food and a few places for drinks and snacks (check out Wave Hiriketiya), but you are also likely to have the beach largely to yourself. The center of Dickwella is also the place to go for ATMs and other necessities.

Jungle and colorful boats on the shore of Dikwella Beach, Sri Lanka

4. Get Some Work Done

If you need a place to work with reliable internet, check out Verse Collective. Just across the road from the beach on the east side of Dickwella Beach, you will find one of my favorite places for coffee, and good internet.

If there is a downside to Sri Lanka, it is that getting onto reliable wifi is not easy and is often very slow. If you need to speed things up for work, Verse Collective is the place to go. You will pay a nominal fee and can sit and enjoy their lovely coffee, food, and snacks, as well as the views of the beach while getting that post up or video conferencing with work.

Dot’s Bay House has also opened a digital nomad space called Dot’s Surf Cafe which promises a workspace with WiFi, A/C, and even a soundproofed Skype room.

5. Listen to Live Music

Whether looking for a place to stay, great Western or traditional food, coffee, or drinks, or to relax and hear live music, Dots Bay House has it all. Located just off Hiriketiya Beach, you will find a relaxed atmosphere where you can sit for a meal or lounge with a drink and enjoy the vibes.

Dot's Cafe with colorful pennants in Hiriketiya Beach

As I write this I am looking back at the photos of the food I took and my mouth is watering. Sri Lanka has so many wonderful flavors and Dots does an amazing job of pulling them all together. We loved their traditional hoppers with all the sides, including curries and coconut sambal, while our kids were equally excited about their delicious French toast.

Hiriketiya Beach is not a loud “party beach”, but more of a laid-back, listen-to-some-music and chill kind of place.

6. Relax with a Coffee

Located just up the road from Hiriketiya Beach, is Duni’s Hoppers. This popular spot for breakfast and lunch also has great coffee. Open from 8:00 to 3:00 most days, this small place fills up quickly around meal times, so get there early.

cappucino with coffee art, a potted plant, and a bottle of water on a white table with sand behind

Duni’s Hoppers is named for a traditional dish called “hoppers”. This is Sri Lanka’s version of a crepe bowl and is served sweet or savory, and a must-try while you are there!

7. Visit a Buddhist Temple (or Not)

The Wewrukannala Viharay Buddhist Temple in Dickwella is famous for its giant seated Buddha. At 160 feet tall, it was built in the 1960s, though parts of the temple go back to the 1700s.

To get to the Buddha, you’ll journey through the “Tunnel of Hell” with lots of life-size grotesque statues of demons torturing sinners in various creative (and graphic) ways.

*Be aware, visitors report seeing an elephant chained up at the temple on a concrete platform. Sri Lanka has made strides toward protecting elephants, but you will still see them giving rides in tourist zones, and many temples keep an elephant for use in festivals. We recommend visiting ethical elephant sanctuaries. We had a good experience at this sanctuary in Cambodia.

8. Get a Massage

After all that surfing, you deserve a massage! Expect to pay around 6,000 rupees for a one-hour massage (about $19 USD).

There are several massage parlors around town that get great reviews. Try The Massage Shed Hiriketiya, Korale Massage, or Talking Fingers Spa.

9. Practice Yoga

You’ll find lots of options for Yoga around Hiriketiya Beach. Many surf camps offer a combo surf and yoga package. Here are some of our favorite yoga spaces to check out:

Salt House offers classes daily in several styles for all levels and it is free for guests. Classes are 75 minutes and offered every morning at 7:00. Non-guests are welcome to join for 3000 LKR (around 9 USD).

Dots Bay House also offers yoga classes twice a day in a beautiful open upper level looking out over the trees and ocean. The first class is every morning at 7:30 and costs 3000 Lkr (about $9) per person to drop in.

10. Enjoy Traditional Sri Lankan Food

From hoppers to roti, to many flavors of curry, there’s so much to love about traditional Sri Lankan food. We found that depending on the restaurant the spice level can vary dramatically.

Roti is a traditional Sri Lankan pancake-like flatbread (like a thick tortilla) made from wheat flour and has different ingredients cooked into it. These are smaller and thicker than the Indian version of roti.

Kottu is another popular dish and one of our family’s favorites. This is made by cutting up the roti into small ribbons while on a grill, then mixing it with vegetables and egg or meat or cheese. This Sri Lankan dish reminds me of mie goreng from Indonesia or Yakisoba in Japan.

Hoppers are thin crepes that are named after the bowl they are cooked in. Just as the batter starts to get crispy, a whole egg is added on top. They are often served with curries, sauces, or sambals and can be eaten like a taco, or with a knife and fork.

Close up of a hopper in Sri Lanka showing the batter, egg, and curries
Breakfast hopper from Duni’s Hoppers

Curries served with spicy coconut sambal is another Sri Lankan staple. What we love about Sri Lankan curry is that you can easily get vegetarian versions, and the traditional method involves serving 5-8 different dishes at one meal, so you get a few bites of many different flavors.

We’ve pulled together some of our favorite restaurants below for everything from a fancy night out to an excellent cup of coffee.

Excursions from Hiriketiya Beach

Some of the best things to do in Hiriketiya Beach involve taking an easy day trip to some of the amazing sights in the area around Hiriketiya. You’ll have a relaxed beach to come back to after a day of adventures in the surrounding area.

11. Go on a Whale Watch from Mirissa

The town of Mirissa is about a one-hour drive from Hiriketiya and is well known for its whale watches. We spent a few days here and didn’t love the beach, or the busy road through town.

However, if you’re interested in seeing whales, this is the place to go. The sea here is quite choppy, so be prepared for sea sickness even on a “quiet day”. We had what was called “calm seas” when we went, and our oldest still spent some of the ride throwing up.

Von Berg family on a boat during a whale watch from Mirissa

The most common whales off the coast of Sri Lanka are the pygmy blue whale, a little-known sub-species of blue whale. Reaching 24 meters when fully grown, or about one and a half double-decker buses, they are the smallest of the blue whales.

We went with Whale Watching Club and were very happy with the experience. We never felt that they were crowding the whales or other boats, the information was great, and the food was good as well!

Book Now: Mirissa Whale Watch

12. Go Snorkeling or Diving at Nilwella Underwater Gallery

Called the Blue Beach Underwater Gallery, snorkelers and divers will find a small town built beneath the water. Sculptures and discarded vehicles were placed by the Sri Lankan Navy to create a tourist attraction and also regenerate coral. It’s located off the shore of Nilwella Beach, just East of Hiriketiya.

Blue Beach is actually a private island that is accessible from the mainland at low tides. You can camp here with permission and a small fee to the owner. This beach is easy to walk to from Hiriketiya Beach, just follow the road that meanders along the coast.

Family walking along the side of the road with palm trees and jungle all around

13. Check out the Hummanaya Blow Hole

This blowhole is a natural phenomenon that blows sea water 80-100 feet into the air. It’s the largest blowhole in Sri Lanka and the second largest in the world. (The Kiama in Australia is the largest). Try to time your visit to high tide, when the spray is the highest.

Turn right at Kudawella Beach, and follow the coast. It should be about a 15-minute drive from Hiriketiya Beach. You’ll pay to park and then walk into the blowhole, which involves a bit of stairs. Entrance fee 250 LKR (about 0.80 USD).

14. Visit Donda Point Light House

Donda Point Lighthouse is the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. From here, it’s only water between you and Antarctica!

The lighthouse was built in 1889 and is closed to the public. There is a snack cart, a juice bar, and two nearby beaches that are wonderful to explore. This area is about a 30-minute drive from Hiriketiya, so hire a tuk-tuk.

15. Explore the Dutch town of Galle

The Portuguese first built Galle in the 16th century during their conquests. In the 17th century, the Portuguese were forced to surrender to the Dutch East India Company, who then fortified the battlements and built their headquarters at the Galle Fort. The Dutch held it until the end of the 18th century when the British took over (and who called Sri Lanka “Ceylon”), preserved the fort, and used it as their administrative headquarters for the area. Here you’ll find a unique mix of Asian and European influences, unlike other parts of Sri Lanka.

Old Town Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plan to spend a couple of hours here as you’ll find trendy shops, restaurants, and people playing cricket! Explore the Galle Fort, pop in to see the Dutch Church, and then wander around a bit more.

The Galle Lighthouse is the symbol of the town, and the oldest lighthouse in Sri Lanka. Head to the walls of the fort to watch the sunset.

Private Galle Tour with River Safari

If you have more time, consider a Private Day Tour to Galle and attractions in the area. This seven-hour private tour includes a safari on the Madu River, a visit to a Sea Turtle Conservation Center, and a visit to a natural moonstone mine. You’ll also visit the community Tsunami museum where you’ll learn how Galle was affected by the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia, and of course, spend some time in the Galle Old Town,

The river safari is one of the best things to do from Galle- you’ll take a boat through the mangroves, and may see crocodiles, monitor lizards, monkeys, and possibly Komodo Dragons!

Book Now: Private Galle Tour with River Safari

Bonus Activity: Go on Safari at Yala National Park

Ok, so you’d be better off spending more than a day at Yala, but if you have limited time, we still recommend a visit to this park.

On the day trip from Hirikeyiya, you’ll have an early morning drive of about 2 hours (with a 4 am pick up), followed by a half-day safari. This is the best place in the world to see wild leopards as well as other animals like water buffalo and elephants.

Book Now: Safari at Yala National Park

von Berg family in a safari Jeep in Yala National Park with the guide standing in front with his arms crossed
Hanging out during our Yala safari

We’ve got a full guide to Yala– if you can, spend at least one night here so you’ll have a full day in the park.

When is the Best Time to Visit Hiriketiya Beach?

The best time to visit Hiriketiya Beach is in its “dry season,” with relatively low precipitation and cooler temperatures in the mid-80s F (high 20s C) from December through March. This is also the best time for beginner surfers.

From May to August, the southern part of Sri Lanka is in its Yala monsoon season, while the northern part of the island’s Maha monsoon season is from October to January.

After the monsoons pass, from September to December, is when you’ll find the best waves in Hiriketiya for intermediate surfers.

Where to Stay in Hiriketiya Beach

There are an increasing number of options when it comes to accommodation in Hiriketiya Beach. Here are three of our favorites:

Bay Hiriketiya: Great Family Rooms

🌟 Rating: 8.0/10   ✅ Family Rooms   ✅ Steps from the Beach   🔎 Check Rates

Outside of Bay Hiriketiya with balconies and railings

This is where we stayed when we visited Hiriketiya. The rooms are lovely and quiet with A/C and plenty of room for us to spread out. There is an outdoor restaurant in front, with swings the kids loved messing around on.

Family rooms are hard to find in Hiriketiya, so this place worked well for us. The best part is it is located very close to the beach (but not on it, so you have some peace).

Book Now: Bay Hiriketiya

Dot’s Bay House: The Center of the Action

🌟 Rating: 8.5/10   ✅ Restaurant   ✅ Yoga & Surf Shop   🔎 Check Rates

Dot’s is the center of the action- they have a buzzing restaurant, a space for yoga, a new digital nomad cafe, live music, open mic events, board games, and more. You’ll see people hanging out with their surfboards or their laptops. Located just off the beach.

Book Now: Dot’s Bay House

The Yard Hiriketiya: Quiet relaxation

🌟 Rating: 9.6/10   ✅ private garden   ✅ romantic   🔎 Check Rates

The Yard is slightly farther back from the beach, but an easy walk to everything you need. It gets amazing reviews. Great for couples or smaller families, or families with older kids willing to take two rooms next to each other.

Book Now: The Yard Hiriketiya

Where to Eat in Hiriketiya Beach

There are so many great places to eat in Hiriketiya Beach. We could easily write an entire post on just the food. Here are also a few places that you simply should not miss.

As Hiriketiya has evolved from a series of dirt roads and surf huts to a travel destination with higher-end hotels, the food here has also changed. You’ll find a wide range of local dishes that are very inexpensive, but you’ll also find European-style breakfast and brunch for tourist prices.

We found some places where we could find food and drink for our whole family for $10 USD, and places that charged more than that per plate.

Roti Hut

The Roti Hut is just a little cart alongside the road. But it has become an institution (you can find it easily on Google Maps) and it is great for lunch or a quick dinner. This is about as authentic as it gets. Sri Lanka does not do anything fast, as all food is prepared fresh and from scratch while you wait.

Girl in an orange tshirt with a closed mouth smile holding a fresh coconut roti in Sri Lanka
E with Coconut Roti from the Roti Hut

Here you’ll find traditional roti (coconut is our favorite) as well as different versions of Kottu (roti cut up with veggies). This version can be quite spicy.

Eat your meal standing up, find a stool near the cart, or take it with you!

Malu Poke

Right across the street from Hiriketiya Beach, Malu Poke has a lovely courtyard to sit in and enjoy the evening. You will be greeted and given a menu to fill out and build your own poke bowl.

First choose your protein, a base, your veggies, a crunch, and an add-on. Have a beer or try one of their delicious iced teas, made fresh daily.

Dots Bay House

We loved Dots for brunch and dinner! At Dots, you will find a mix of traditional and Western flavors with fresh local ingredients. They also have great coffee, delicious fruit juices and shakes, and fun cocktails.

Smoke & Bitters

If you are looking for a fun night out and something a little more complex and upscale, check out Smoke & Bitters. People travel to Sri Lanka just to make a pilgrimage to this restaurant. Make a reservation in advance or you are likely to be disappointed.

This bar and smokehouse has made a name for itself since it opened in 2020 and has been called the best bar in Sri Lanka, as well as making it consistently into Asia’s Top 50 Bars in 2022 and 2023.

Exterior of Smoke & Bitters restaurant at night in Hiriketiya

Smoke & Bitters is all about the experience. You have beautiful sunset views over the water, and several of their cocktails arrive with an expressive puff of wood smoke.

We visited for Valentine’s Day and found the food less memorable than we were hoping, but this place gets five stars for the experience. All of their dishes are “touched by smoke”. We tried the pork ribs and the jumbo prawns.

Since we don’t eat a lot of meat, and were dining with our kids, we found the menu a bit tricky. I didn’t love getting my hands messy tearing into the whole prawns. Other options included pulled goat tacos and smoked harissa pumpkin.

How to Get to Hiriketiya Beach, Sri Lanka

Here are the best ways to get to Hiriketiya Beach, whether you are flying into Sri Lanka or coming from another town.

Private Transfer

The fastest way to get to Hiriketiya Beach from either the airport or Columbo is by private taxi. This will take about three hours. When we were visiting there had just been a gas shortage and prices fluctuated widely. A recent quote was around 30,000 Lkr (95 USD).

There is no Uber in Sri Lanka, but they have an app called Pick Me that works in more metropolitan areas. In other areas, you’ll need to talk with your accommodation to help you book the next round of transportation.

If you are coming from Ella or other parts of Sri Lanka, a private transfer is your easiest option. For shorter journeys, take a tuk-tuk, for longer journeys on dusty roads or with more luggage, opt for a car.

The Scenic Train

A great alternative is to take the train. There is a direct route from Colombo Fort Station to Wewrukannala Station, which is just 9 minutes from Hiriketiya Beach by car or tuk-tuk.

The train will take you between 4 and 5 hours and is also a great way to see the country as it winds along the coast for much of the ride. A reserved seat will cost you around 4,300 Lkr (14 USD).

Taking the Bus

There is no direct bus from the Colombo center to Hiriketiya. The best option is the express bus from Makumbura to Matara. Buses run every hour throughout the day and the ride is about an hour and a half and costs around 3,000 Lkr (10 USD).

You will need to get to Makumbura, either by bus, car, or tuk-tuk and then from Matara to Hiriketiya, which is another hour by car or tuk-tuk.

FAQ: Hiriketiya Beach, Sri Lanka

Can you swim in Hiriketiya?

Yes, you can swim in Hiriketiya Beach. The water is warm and much of the bay is quite shallow.

What is the climate in Hiriketiya?

Hiriketiya has a tropical climate which is warm, humid, and rainy year-round.
In general, the weather is around 85 F (28 C) all year round. October through March is the dryer season and December through February tends to be the high season.

Is Hiriketiya worth visiting?

Yes, Hiriketiya is definitely worth visiting. Winter in the northern hemisphere is the perfect time to visit, for some welcome sun, beautiful water, wonderful beach, and a chill and relaxed vibe that brings people back year after year.

Is Sri Lanka expensive to visit?

It depends upon your perspective, but coming from the US or Europe, Sri Lanka is very inexpensive. Western food and specialties will always be more expensive than the local fare, but you can find lodging, transportation, and food for less than you would in other parts of Asia.

There You Have It: Hiriketiya Beach, Sri Lanka

Hiriketiya Beach is famous for its world-class waves, and warm waters in a community that is small, but rich in culture and flavors, with a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.

There was so much we enjoyed about this Sri Lankan surf town, we can’t wait to go back and visit and I think if you got this far, you will love it too!

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