Where jungle meets the sea: our guide to Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
Looking for the ultimate guide to Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka? From the best things to do, where to stay, how to get there, and where to eat - we’ve got you covered!
After a long and sweaty three hour tuk-tuk ride from Unawatuna, we arrived into Hiriketiya Bay on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
It was love at first sight.
Palm-fringed golden sands, surfers carving up sweet left-handers, cool cafes serving up incredibly fresh brunch worthy of any Melbourne cafe; this was a place so beautiful, so peaceful, and so perfect that we knew we'd definitely arrived in heaven.
Funnily enough, Hiriketiya wasn’t a stop we were planning to make on our original Sri Lanka itinerary, but with a need for just a little more ocean therapy before heading north and the chance to hang out with our new travel buddies Asja and JP from Travel Leap again, we decided to head to this jungle paradise on a whim - and boy are we glad we did.
What was once a sleepy hidden gem on Sri Lanka’s south coast with little more than a few wooden huts is fast becoming the ‘it’ place for digital nomads and their acai bowls, bronzed surfers riding waves all day long, and salty-haired wanderers chilling into a new level of zen. There are surf shops that wouldn’t look out of place in any cool coastal town, beachside bars serving up cocktails from mason jars, and even a co-working space (one of the first in Sri Lanka) has popped up in recent years.
Despite all this progress, Hiriketiya still manages to be the kind of place where thick jungle meets the sea and time becomes totally irrelevant - and we absolutely love it for it.
If you’re planning a trip along Sri Lanka’s southern coastline, you absolutely need to add a couple of days in Hiriketiya to your itinerary. From what to do, where to stay, and our favourite day trips, this is everything you need to know!
The best things to see and do in Hiriketiya and Dickwella
Surf, surf, and surf at Hiriketiya Beach
Slowly becoming one of Sri Lanka's premiere surf destinations, Hiriketiya beach is the perfect place to learn to ride the waves or to take your surfing skills to the next level.
Located on a horseshoe-shaped bay with waves rolling in almost all year (10 months in fact), Hiriketiya beach provides a challenge for all grades of surfer.
The smaller swell during the peak season (Dec - Feb) is great for beginners, while the waves are at their best during Aug-Dec, when intermediate/experienced surfers can take on the left-handers rolling perfectly into shore. Beginners’ can still surf during this time, but it’s best to try your luck on the sandier beach break.
Boards can be hired from the water’s edge, and for 250r ($1.50!) it's an absolute bargain. Be warned though - the waves get very busy from mid-morning to sunset, so we'd suggest surfing just after sunrise. Also, please remember to use surfing etiquette and respect the locals and their waves.
In our experience, Weligama may be a better place to learn to surf (that’s where we learnt!), although for those with better skills surfing in Hiriketiya Bay is incredible.
Where | Hiriketiya Beach
swim or chill at Hiriketiya beach
Not into surfing? Fortunately Hiriketiya beach is a great place to chill and while the days away.
During our stay we made a habit of heading down each afternoon to relax, swim, and watch the vibrant Sri Lankan sunsets light up the sky.
The palm-fringed beach isn't the widest nor the most golden-sanded in Sri Lanka, but the setting is magical and the water clear. Although surfers fill the bay come midday, there's always enough room to swim and there are even turtles that swim in the shallows if you're lucky enough to spot one!
If you're after a cheap eat, there's a small hut serving roti and coconuts to the left of the beach - although if you’re in a rush, be warned: we did have to wait about an hour for ours!
A daily dose of Yoga at Salt House
For those who love a yoga session or two on holiday (us!), Salt House in Hiriketiya is the perfect place.
With an open elevated Shala set amongst the jungles of Hiriketiya, a yoga session at Salt House is truly relaxing. Unless you do a vinyasa flow session, in which case it'll be truly exhausting.
Salt House also hosts yoga and surf retreats, so if you're looking to completely zen out for a week in Hiri you’d do well to join one of these.
They also have some of the most beautiful designed accommodation in Hiriketiya, check out prices and availability on Booking.com.
Where | Yoga at Salt House
Cost | Free for guests
Book | Salt House, Hiriketiya
Reviews | Read Tripadvisor reviews of Salt House here
south coast dreamin’: OUR GUIDE TO SRI LANKA’S UNAWATUNA BEACH + THE BEST THINGS TO DO!
Visit the southernmost point of Sri Lanka, Dondra Lighthouse
Although Hiri is amazing and you'll never want to leave, we do suggest you set aside a day to make your way to the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka, home of the beautiful Dondra Lighthouse.
Completed in 1890, Dondra lighthouse is Sri Lanka's tallest, and in our opinion, most impressive (although the Galle Fort lighthouse pushes it hard!). The stunning coastal setting, beautiful palms, and lack of tourists means it'll be worth the effort to visit - trust us.
Entry is free and it's easy to get to - hire a tuk tuk to take you directly there, or catch the local bus from Dikwella to Dondra, and walk to the lighthouse from the town centre.
Where | Dondra Lighthouse Road, Dondra
Cost | Free entry
Opening hours | 09:00am - 19:00pm every day
How to get to Dondra Lighthouse | Local bus is 50r one way from dickwella
Tuk tuk 500-800r depending on passengers
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Dondra Lighthouse here
Sri Lanka’s other famous lighthouse: Your ultimate guide to galle Fort
Sunset drinks and chilled vibes at Dots, Hiriketiya
Sri Lanka isn't really a 'rave till sunrise' type of destination, but beach bars are pretty common across the island and one of our faves is Dots Bay House on Hiriketiya beach.
Set right on the beach, Dots is the most popular place to chill out and enjoy a sundowner or two, chow down on great western or Sri Lankan food, or simply relax and chat to fellow travellers. Happy hour occurs from 6-7:30pm (only applies to cocktails), and we definitely recommend the gin basil smash.
There's also a cool surf store if you're after some threads while in Sri Lanka.
A word of warning - prices can be a little inflated here, so it might be a 'visit once during your stay' kinda place for those on a budget.
Where | Dots Bay House, Hiriketiya
Book | Dots Bay House is also a guesthouse
Check prices and availability on Booking.com now
Reviews | Check Tripadvisor reviews of Dots Bay House here
Eat, work, speak, repeat at VERSE COLLECTIVE
If you're like us and work online, stumbling across somewhere as cool as Verse Collective on your travels is always a bonus.
One afternoon (with urgent-soon-to-be-overdue deadlines pending, of course) we paid them a visit. With fast internet, tasty food and refreshing drinks, it was a welcome relief from our cramped hostel room work sessions.
Located just off Pihimbiya beach in Dikwella, Verse Collective is one of Sri Lanka's first co-working spaces. It features a huge open plan layout, chillout couches, cafe, and a skate pipe, allowing procrastination sessions to take a whole new meaning.
Verse Collective also doubles as a hostel/guesthouse, with super cool dorm and double rooms in the complex, so if you're an 'eat, work, sleep, repeat' kinda person, Verse Collective is your place.
Where | Verse Collective, Dikwella
Opening hours | Daily - 7.30am - 9pm
Tripadvisor | Check Tripadvisor reviews of Verse Collective here
a unique culutral fix at Wewrukannala Viharaya Buddhist temple
Looking to explore something more than the beaches and breaks of Hiriketiya, our kind Airbnb hosts suggested we spend time at Wewrukannala Viharaya Buddhist temple, 1.5kms outside of Dikwella; "it's very unique, you must visit" they reiterated.
Unique is probably an understatement.
Wewrukannala Viharaya draws visitors from all over the country to see the giant Buddha statue, which at 50m in height, is the tallest in Sri Lanka. However, the most unique (and frankly terrifying) part of the temple complex is the Buddhist hall of horrors, a long corridor illustrated with ghastly depictions of Buddhist hell. With each step through the tunnel, we gasped with horror (and a little laughter) as each depiction became more and more shocking.
Highlights, if you can call them that, including sinners being disembowelled, viciously (and graphically) castrated, sawn in half, stabbed with spears, and being hacked to pieces.
It takes around an hour to explore the complex - just don't get locked in the hall of horrors, whatever you do.
Cost | 100r entry pp. A guided tour will cost 50r - 100r per person
enjoy a dreamy brunch at THE GROVE
A place so good, we came back three times, The Grove is hands down the best brunch we've had since leaving Australia three years ago.
For a start, the coffee was exceptional; something not so common on the palm-fringed shores of Sri Lanka. But where The Grove really blew us away was their delicious breakfast tacos, and rosti eggs benedict, with ingredients were so fresh and so tasty we were in foody heaven. If those options don't take your fancy, the smashed avo and assorted fruit plate are other options worthy of your time.
Located opposite Hiriketiya Beach in a beautiful, green setting, The Grove is run by a lovely Australian couple from Byron Bay, who've bringing the best in design and minimalism to Hiri. They also have a guesthouse on-site, so if you’re looking for some cool digs across the street from the beach, this is your place.
Note: The menu caters for those craving western-style food, so don't expect too much in the way of local cuisine.
Where | The Grove, Hiriketiya
Cost | Coffees: 400r - 550r, brunch from 850r - 1200r
Opening hours | Daily, 8.30am - 9pm
Bookings | Book your stay at The Grove Guesthouse here
Reviews | Check Tripadvisor reviews of The Grove here
Traditional cultural experiences at Nilwella fishing village
While in Hiriketiya we wanted to get an insight into the traditional way of life of Sri Lanka's coastal fisherman, so a local recommended we check out Nilwella fishing village, just north of Hiri.
Arriving at 7am, we watched as wily fisherman slowly returned to harbour in traditional outriggers, their arrival triggering a frenzied auction amongst wholesalers looking to snap up the morning's catch.
It was all over in about 30 minutes, and while it was definitely an insightful experience, it shouldn't be top of your list of things to do in Hiriketiya unless you're seeking authentic, cultural experiences. Also - be aware that there are many packs of stray dogs around this area, and unlike the rest of Sri Lanka’s strays, these ones were a wee bit aggressive.
Where | Nilwella fishing village
How to get there | Get to Nilwella fishing village via tuk tuk, around 300r each way
a map of the best things to see and do in Hiriketiya and Dikwella
Visiting Hiriketiya and Dikwella? Use or download this map to your phone and follow our recommendations for the best things to do in Hiriketiya!
Plan your trip to Hiriketiya and Dikwella, Sri Lanka
where to eat in hiriketiya
We definitely recommend checking out the delicious food options in Hiri that we mentioned above, but we also feel it’s important to point out that these very trendy western-style restaurants in Hiriketiya aren’t the only places to get some grub whilst you’re here.
Local food in Sri Lanka is insanely good, and there are a few good eateries on the main Tangalle road, away from the ‘hiri bubble’ - we recommend checking them out at least one night that you’re in Hiriketiya beach area. Plus buying from local restaurateurs helps to empower and support the local community, not just the expats who now call it home!
WHERE TO STAY IN Hiriketiya and Dikwella
Honestly, in our view AirBnB is your best option when looking for cheap accommodation in Sri Lanka. We used it almost exclusively throughout our trip!
If you’re a fan of AirBnB, there are heaps of options available in Hiriketiya and Dikwella.
HIRIKETIYA MISSION HOUSE | a lovely family run guest house with minimalist rooms and the friendliest hosts alive! It’s about a 10 minute walk to Hiriketiya beach, but a short walk to the shops and restaurants of Dikwella town. We’d definitely recommend staying here.
MOND TREESCAPES | a beautiful, modern and minimalist tree house located in the jungles outside of Hiri. Pretty much the stuff of dreams.
Search for accommodation and book using our code to receive up to £30 off your booking.
If you’re after a more luxurious splurge, Hiriketiya and Dikwella is filled with mid to high end hotels, many with incredible views over the coastline.
HOW TO GET TO Hiriketiya and Dikwella
Hiriketiya Bay is on the south coast of Sri Lanka, right next door to Dikwella Beach and east of the southern hub of Matara.
If you’re travelling to Hiriketiya and Dikwella from anywhere on the southern coast, we’d recommend taking the local bus to Dikwella (depending on where you’re coming from, you may need to change at Matara bus station), then either walking down to Hiriketiya Bay from there or taking a tuk tuk the rest of the way.
The bus will cost around 100r per person.
BY TUK TUK
Normally, we’re all about taking public transport but on this particularly hot travel day, with our too-heavy backpacks full of gear we were transporting back to Australia after years away, and a desire to get to the beach ASAP, we have to admit we were (pretty easily) persuaded by an absolutely lovely tuk tuk driver to travel with him instead. He’d recently rigged up a stereo system, got us fresh coconuts on the way and was just a lovely guy to chat with about all things Lanka, so we’re happy to have splurged.
The tuk tuk from Wijaya beach/Unawatuna to Hiriketiya set us back about 3000r.
WHEN TO VISIT Hiriketiya and Dikwella
The absolute BEST time to visit Hiriketiya and Dikwella is between January - March, when low rainfall and calmer seas provide the perfect weather to explore and learn to surf.
Due to the horseshoe shape of Hiriketiya beach, swimming and snorkelling is safe basically all year round.
We’ve been told to avoid visiting during early January, when Sri Lankan holidays occur and the southern coast is teeming with local tourists.
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