It was about 11:30 in the AM when we arrived in Hikkaduwa. The airbnb stay was in a nice neighborhood. Close enough to the beach and market but in a quiet area. I really liked how the house was so clean. Sri Lankans must really value cleanliness, or maybe Buddhists in general.
The walk to the main road where all the shops and restaurants were located was so pleasant. It reminded me very much of Southern plains (Terai) in Nepal where the vegetation, people, weather and even the smell are so similar. It was definitely more developed than the southern plains of Nepal though. On our way to the market and the beach, we were lucky to see a giant monitor lizard slowly swimming in a little canal. My boyfriend was so excited and was constantly on a look-out for interesting animals (butterflies, monkeys, birds, snakes, monitor lizards.. )
Upon seeing the beach right across the road, my hunger vanished and we went to the beach instead of first finding a place to eat. It was sunny, hot and the ocean was blue. Palm trees fringed the beach line and I preferred it so much over sitting on the scorching sun at its peak. The water of the Indian Ocean was so warm! I just loved it. I had read before going to Sri Lanka that most of its beaches had high waves and hence swimming wasn’t always easy, but although there were mild waves, I really enjoyed swimming in Hikkaduwa.
There were many, many tourists, to the point that I didn’t see any locals on the beach that day. My boyfriend came back really happy after his little snorkeling trip right at the beach because he spotted turtles and swam with them! Big and small ones. I wanted to relax before heading out for snorkel, although it was right at the beach. It started raining heavily later in the day so we decided to go eat something before coming back to the beach. We walked further away from the tourist shops and restaurants and found a local eatery. Let’s say it looked like a low-key eatery, but still aimed at tourists. We ate some delicious devilled chicken (Sri Lankan version of “chicken chilli” in Nepal) and friend rice with fish chilli sauce.
Later in the evening, we saw some baby turtles on the beach that were apparently just hatched from the eggs. They were such cute black tiny creatures. Walk during the evening on the beach was really pleasant. We had anti-mosquito creams so it wasn’t a problem.
The other day, we went to the beach early in the morning. It was so calming to sit and watch the ocean waves. Big friendly turtles greeted us at the beach and few tourists were busy feeding them seaweed and taking pictures with them. We snorkeled a little at the beach and I swam with the slow, relaxed turtle! But we wanted to snorkel somewhere deeper and hence we hired a Sri Lankan catamaran boat for a price of 1500 LKR (the originally quoted price was 3500 LKR) from a local fisherman who would take us to nearby rock islands for good snorkeling. Hikkaduwa has a protected coral reef and is one of the best places for snorkeling in Sri Lanka.
I LOVED the boat ride, although the islands were nearby. The blue ocean was so warm, and my feet touched the water as we rowed. It was lovely. The water wasn’t more than 3 meters deep but at least I could jump from the boat into the warm blue water. It was nice to snorkel in deeper water. We saw so many kinds of colorful fish and reef. We snorkeled well for over an hour until we got tired from swimming (and there were waves!) and decided to head back.
We spent the afternoon swimming, relaxing and being happy. Locals would come out on the beach during the evening. I noticed that the women didn’t swim and both men and women often bathed in full clothes near the shore. On our last evening, there was a group of Sri Lankan school girls, and they were so ecstatic to play with the waves. It was such a happy sight to behold. We later had grilled fish and chicken for dinner and went back to rest. Next day at around 10 in the morning, we took a train to Unawatuna, another extremely popular beach town in Sri Lanka.
The summary of my overall impressions about Hikkaduwa:
- Beach right across the main road, hence we had to cross the main road with overspeeding vehicles everytime to go to the beach.
- Very touristy, and hence the side-effects at the nature of locals towards tourists and prices.
- Good snorkeling. A boat hire to go to the nearby rock islands recommended if you plan to go to Hikkaduwa.
- Good for swimming. I especially liked the palm trees at the beach.
- The big, friendly turtles at the beach and swimming with them was definitely a highlight!
- I liked how it was close from Colombo.