Once a sleepy fishing village near Dickwella town, Hiriketiya Beach has blossomed into a hub for surf-loving travelers seeking out trendy cafes, co-working spaces and boutique hotels in Sri Lanka. Hiriketiya, or “Hiri” as it is affectionately known among the expats and Sri Lankans, has quickly become one of the most popular beaches in southern Sri Lanka.
It’s not difficult to see why Hiriketiya is one of the top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. The bay is lined with hundreds of coconut trees swaying with every wisp of gentle breeze that blows through, and Hiriketiya Beach features a glimmering beige shoreline and translucent water.
The transformation over the years was truly eye-opening and bittersweet: I first visited Hiriketiya in 2015 when there was nothing but one lone beach shack cafe and a few local restaurants in the village. We sat on the white-sand beach drinking coconuts that had been plucked that very morning, and rushed back into the water to surf wave after wave. These days, when we are not working at home in Sri Lanka or off on a road trip around the island you’ll find us sipping on a flat white, surfing or checking on our villas in Hiri.
Today, Hiriketiya Bay is almost unrecognizable with almost every square inch of the shoreline occupied by restaurants and surfboard rental shops, and once-empty plots of jungle have made way for hotels, coffee shops and guesthouses. Such is the dilemma of development in countries such as Sri Lanka that are heavily reliant upon tourism – on the one hand, precious job opportunities have been created, on the other, there is often overcrowding (and the problems that come with heavy traffic) and a shift in the traditional way of life.
I’d like to take this opportunity to set the tone for this “best things to do in Hiriketiya” guide because I’m hoping it won’t be your typical listicle: visitors should take the time to not only research what to do in Hiriketiya, but also understand why Hiriketiya is so special and how to keep it that way for years to come.
Read on for my guide to Hiriketiya and how to be a mindful traveler when visiting this idyllic coastal paradise.
Traveling to Sri Lanka? Check out my collection of Sri Lanka destination guides and travel tips for a perfect journey.
How to get to Hiriketiya
Where is Hiriketiya? Hiriketiya village and Hiriketiya Beach are located on the eastern end of Dickwella town, about half an hour’s drive from Matara or three hours from Colombo.
The easiest way to get from the airport to Hiriketiya or Colombo to Hiriketiya is by private car and should cost you approximately 16,000 LKR (or US$85-90). Alternatively, you can also take the train, bus or highway bus to Matara city and switch to a tuk tuk (3-wheeler).
If you are traveling southbound to Hiriketiya from Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Ella, your best bet is to organize a one-way car transfer which will take you anywhere from 3-6 hours. There are also buses and trains via Colombo if you are not short on time. However, I must warn you that it always takes longer than planned to travel around Sri Lanka, so set aside some extra time for the wild elephant roadblock, tuk tuk traffic and surprise detours.
If you are traveling along the south coast from Unawatuna, Weligama, Ahangama, Polhena, Madiha, Mirissa, Tangalle or thereabouts, it is also possible to take a tuk tuk to get to Hiriketiya on the scenic coastal road in an hour or so depending on traffic. If the tuk tuk driver isn’t sure where to go, tell the driver to head to Dickwella town – just make sure you agree on a price with the tuk tuk driver before the trip!
If you are traveling westbound to Hiriketiya from Arugam Bay, be prepared to be sitting for a long stretch of time. The drive will take anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on how enthusiastic your driver is. There are also public buses from Pottuvil to Matara, though if you miss the direct buses then you will need to transfer at Monaragala in Uva province.
The good news is, once you are in Hiriketiya Bay it is very easy to get around on foot or by tuk tuk. The beach is in walking distance from most accommodation, and you’ll find local supermarkets, bottle shops, a bus depot, pharmacies and ATM machines in Dickwella town. There are also several day spas and even a new French hair salon if you’re looking to treat yourself to a relaxing spa day.
Best time to visit Hiriketiya
The “best” time to visit south Sri Lanka is widely considered to be December to February as the weather tends to be less rainy. However, don’t let the “rainy season” stop you from visiting southern Sri Lanka in the other months, because the weather is actually fabulous throughout October to April, and the shoulder seasons tend to be far less crowded and hectic.
Can you visit Hiriketiya during the monsoon season? Yes! During the other half of the year from May to September, the monsoon season brings westerly trade winds, rain storms and bigger swell. Luckily, many of the bays along the deep southern coastline of Sri Lanka have headlands that offer protection from the turbulent weather and allows you to still make the most of the sandy beaches and swimming spots.
Though there is more rain on average during this time of year, the strong winds tend to quickly blow the squalls away leaving an ample amount of sunshine. It is fairly infrequent for the rain to linger for days at a time. In short, for a buzzing atmosphere and guaranteed good weather, your best bet is to visit from about December to April. For thinner crowds and consistent weather, you can visit Hiriketiya any time of year outside of the peak season.
Where to stay in Hiriketiya
A few years ago, we set out to create a small, boutique space where we could stay and also host friends and family who were visiting Sri Lanka. The result: twin one-bedroom villas with private plunge pools which we poured our hearts into, and which was brought to life by talented local builders, artisans and carpenters.
The elevated villas were built using local Kumbuk timber which is known for its natural weather resistance (perfect for the Sri Lankan monsoon season), and built around existing coconut, jackfruit and mango trees to preserve the original landscape. With sustainability at the forefront, the Sam & Lola villas provide UV-filtered drinking water to reduce plastic consumption, uses environmentally friendly cleaning products and conducts off-site recycling.
We filled Sam & Lola’s (named after our beloved dachshunds!) with carefully curated decor and furnishings and designed the space to be a tropical hideaway – we want our guests to fall in love with Sri Lanka the same way we have! If waking up to jungle views, tropical foliage and the occasional visit from our island peacocks and cheeky monkeys sounds like your idea of a dream holiday, we’d love to host you! You can check our rates and availability via AirBnB for Villa Sam here and Villa Lola here.
For more options, our friends in the area also run accommodation at Verse Collective (great for longer stays, offers dormitory options and a beautiful co-working space and recording studio), Salt House (daily Yoga classes, on-site cafe and pool), and Sukha House (great for families or travelers who are looking to self-cater). Alternatively, you can check out more hotel and guesthouse options in Hiriketiya using Booking.com or via AirBnB.
Best things to do in Hiriketiya
Now that you know a little more about how to get to Hiriketiya and when to visit, it’s time to plan your Hiriketiya itinerary. However, make sure you set aside plenty of time to do nothing but take in the stunning scenery and landscape that this part of Sri Lanka has to offer!
1. Cafe hopping
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to where to eat in Hiriketiya. Hiriketiya offers numerous cafes and restaurants serving delectable dishes to suit every type of traveler. Here are some of our favourites!
Verse Collective: excellent burgers (try the faux jackfruit “pulled pork” burger) and breakfast. Come here for a delectable flat white (or try the “Magic” if you need a stronger caffeine fix). The team at Verse have also started offering dumplings!
Mond: a trendy cafe with a beautiful rooftop area. Mond offers a solid selection of breakfast and brunch items, as well as cold-pressed juices and coffee.
Malu: come here for your poke bowl fix.
Smoke & Bitters: Sri Lankan-inspired fusion beachfront restaurant offering excellent dinner and bespoke cocktails.
Salt House: great cafe with a wide assortment of menu items – try the vegetarian pad thai.
The Grove: spacious open-air cafe in front of Hiriketiya Beach. Try the fish tacos, or head to their sister beach shack Moana for a quick bite.
2. Swim and surf at Hiriketiya
Hiriketiya is home to a few of the best beaches in south Sri Lanka. At the horseshoe-shaped Hiriketiya Beach you’ll find a string of beach cafes and fun waves for beginner to intermediate surfers. Hiriketiya bay is protected from wind and swell which makes it a perfect year-round swimming spot, especially in the shallow sandy shore area, however you do need to be careful of the rip current on the right hand side and the occasional sea urchin. There are several surfboard rental shops along the beach as well as instructors offering one-off lessons if you want to try your hand at surfing.
There is a left hand point break at Hiriketiya Beach as well as waves through the middle of the bay, and the occasional right hander depending on swell direction and wind. Drop-ins and snaking are not uncommon due to the number of people surfing here during the peak season, so for experienced surfers looking for more advanced waves we recommend taking a tuk tuk to SK Town, Rams or Madiha.
Guess what? The namesake Hiriketiya Beach isn’t the only beach you can visit if you’re staying in the area! Pehebhiya Beach is a neighboring long sandy beach on the fringe of Dickwella town, known for its crystal clear water, cute little beach cabanas and a picturesque beach swing. We do not recommend surfing at Pehebhiya Beach due to the shallow shore break. You can get to Pehebhiya Beach from Hiriketiya Beach easily – they are approximately 5-10 minutes away on foot from one another.
3. Practice Yoga
Sri Lanka is one of the best places to learn and practice Yoga, and Hiriketiya has become a haven for Yogis thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and a number of shalas that have opened their doors in recent years. Yoga-lovers can head to Jasper House, Salt House or Dot’s for regular drop-in lessons. Classes usually cost 1500 to 2000 LKR a pop, or you can purchase multi-class passes for longer stays.
4. Indulge in a sunset cocktail (or three)
The location of Hiriketiya makes it a perfect place to watch the sunset on the south coast. Both Verse Collective and Smoke & Bitters offer a wide array of cocktails and unobstructed sunset views – you won’t want to miss the iconic pink and purple sunsets of Sri Lanka!
If you are on a budget you can also pick up a bottle of local Lion beer from the supermarket in town.
5. Visit the local market
Dickwella town is home to one of the most colourful and happening local markets – head here to check out the colourful local produce. If you’re lucky and visiting during the right season, you might even be able to try the local delicacy – rambutan!
But wait, that’s not all….
Day trips from Hiriketiya
There are also plenty of things to do near Hiriketiya – its location near the southernmost tip means that you can easily swing east or west and use Hiriketiya as a base for exploring more of what the south coast has to offer.
For example, you could visit the Paravi Duwa in Matara, a “floating” temple connected to the mainland by a short foot bridge; stop at Dondra Head Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka at 49 metres tall; check out the Japanese Peace Pagoda near Unawatuna; snorkel at Jungle Beach; climb Parrot Rock and snap photos at Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa; go on a wildlife safari at Udawalawe or Yala National Park and watch orphaned baby elephants being fed at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home; visit the Handunugoda Tea Estate and plantation; explore the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort and much much more.
For more ideas you can check out this guide to Sri Lanka’s south coast.
Ready to book your beach getaway? Check out Sam & Lola’s, our boutique pool villas a short stroll away from Hiriketiya Beach, or look at more hotel and guesthouse options in Hiriketiya using Booking.com or via AirBnB.
Responsible travel in Hiriketiya
Last but definitely not least, be a mindful traveler so that the tourism is sustainable for Hiriketiya and its inhabitants. Making sure that Hiriketiya remains pristine is not only important for future travelers to Sri Lanka, but also for those who have called Hiriketiya “home” for generations. Here are some do’s and don’ts if you plan on visiting Hiriketiya.
- Dress appropriately – the local community in Hiriketiya has encountered some issues with tourists walking around in swimwear. While this might be socially acceptable in some other destinations in Asia, it is absolutely frowned upon in Sri Lanka. It is considered culturally offensive to drive shirtless on a scooter or walk around town and villages in a bikini or swimming trunks. Save the swimwear for the beaches.
- Ask your hotel about waste processing and disposal – with more visitors comes the inevitable, more waste. The local council offers recycling services so ask your guesthouse, hotel or restaurant where the waste goes.
- Bring your own water bottle – many places will offer free drinking water, so minimize your plastic consumption and bring your own refillable bottle. Tap water is not safe to drink in Sri Lanka, so we offer UV-filtered drinking water at Sam & Lola’s for our guests!
- Eat and shop local – there is an amazing selection of fruit and produce in Dickwella town. Bring your own reusable shopping bag and hit the local stalls!
- Consider visiting during off-peak and shoulder seasons – this is a big one and one that I wish more people would consider. Many hotels and restaurants either run a skeleton crew or shut down completely during the off-peak season – not only do businesses run at a loss, but staff are often left without a salary. There is no reason why you shouldn’t visit Hiriketiya Beach outside of the peak season and help support the tourism industry through the lean months – you’ll also be rewarded with crowd-less beaches!
- Be fair when negotiating prices – I’ve witnessed tourists negotiating down to the last 10 Rupees (5 US cents!) with tuk tuk drivers, and while I understand that people have travel budgets that they need to stick to, I wish more people would understand that there is not much point in bargaining to within an inch of your life. If you feel that you are being overcharged and scammed just say “no, thank you” and walk away. However, if it is a matter of 50-100 Rupees difference, just remember that there is a cost to doing business and providing a service – including time, fuel and vehicle repayments.
- Keep the noise down – many villagers still reside in Hiriketiya and are trying to live their daily lives without hindrance. If you are visiting Hiriketiya, try to be mindful and respectful of the local community.
- Leave no trace – when you are visiting Hiriketiya Beach or Pehebhiya Beach, take your trash away with you. Self explanatory.
- Donate to WeCare – WeCare Sri Lanka is a charity that provides veterinary care for Sri Lankan street dogs. They also run many neutering and vaccination programs for dogs in south Sri Lanka and beyond. Chances are, if you see a dog in Hiriketiya it would have been treated and cared for (for free) by the vets and nurses at WeCare Sri Lanka. You can donate to their efforts, or if you are visiting Hiriketiya or the south coast for a few months you can also volunteer at their shelter. At this time they need long-term volunteers (1 month+) for a variety of tasks.
- Be mindful of your water and electricity consumption – water is a valuable resource in this part of Sri Lanka, and any additional usage beyond what is provided via the local supply has to be brought in via water bowsers. Similarly, any electricity beyond what is available via the local power grid must be supplied by diesel generators.
- Don’t feed the wildlife – Sri Lanka is a tropical island, and has an abundance of wild animals living close to human settlements. This can be an amazing experience to see from such close quarters, but please avoid feeding or interacting with the monkeys and other wildlife. As rabies is still an issue in Sri Lanka, you should also not touch any stray dogs and head straight to the hospital if you are bitten or scratched.
For more advice about what not to do in Sri Lanka check out this guide here. If you are headed to Sri Lanka and looking for more travel tips, you can read my express 1 week Sri Lanka itinerary here, or plan a longer trip using this 2 week itinerary around the island.
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