Approximate 3 hour drive South of Colombo, lies the busy beach town of Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 100 km (62 miles) from Colombo. Sri Lanka’s longest-established budget beach hangout, Hikkaduwa offers a lively down-market alternative to the more sedate and expensive resorts at Bentota, Beruwala and Kalutara, and attracts a stream of surfers, divers and party-loving sun-worshipers. Uncontrolled development has taken a massive toll here, however, with a long string of unregulated and trashy development which has eaten into the beach and polluted the environment, while the proximity of the noisy Galle Road, which ploughs through the heart of the town, adds a further layer of noise and pollution. This is still a very popular Sri Lanka Tour destination.
Hikkaduwa remains modestly popular, mainly thanks to its diving and surfing possibilities, to its cheap accommodation, and to its lively youthful atmosphere which offers a refreshing alternative to the more staid resorts further north.
Hikkaduwa’s principal attraction is its Coral Sanctuary, immediately off the
beach in the middle of Hikkaduwa town. Unfortunately, the magnificent coral gardens here have now been more or less killed off, though the gardens are still home to a colorful variety of tropical fish, as well as the occasional visiting turtles. The safest way to see the marine life and few patches of surviving coral is to take a ride in one of the many glass-bottomed boats which whizz around the sanctuary. Many Sri Lanka Holiday Packages offer this as an excursion, and is best to opt for it if your Sri Lankan Travel agent is offering it. Alternatively, rent a snorkel and flippers and take to the waters yourself, though the numbers of boats darting around the sanctuary can make this an unnerving experience.
Hikkaduwa is also one of Sri Lanka’s main diving centres, with a number of well-established schools offering dives for experienced scuba divers and PADI licensed courses for the uninitiated. Dives includes a number of interesting wrecks and underwater rock complexes.
South of Hikkaduwa the town of Dodanduwa is home to a florid Buddhist temple, the Kumarakanda Vihara, whose grand flight of stairs – more reminiscent of a Portuguese baroque church than a Buddhist temple – offer a welcome touch of distinction to the drab Galle Road. A couple of kilometers inland, the placid Ratgama lagoon boasts rich birdlife and is a popular Bird Watching destination. What’s more it offers and island with a serene Buddhist hermitage; boat trips can be arranged through local touts, either at the lagoon or on the waterfront at Dodanduwa. Once again it’s best to ask your Sri Lanka Travel Agent to book this in advance to avoid paying unrealistic rates.