The west coast of Sri Lanka is similar to its south and east coasts with long stretches of sandy beaches. Close to the airport, the beach in Negombo is a busy one, but as you move north the beaches become much more quiet. There are many small towns along this windy part of the coast with great beaches that are slowly developing as tourist sites.
Negombo is usually a one-day stop either on arrival or before departure as its only a 30 minute drive from the international airport. We spent a few days here while waiting for our Indian visas to be processed. The tourist area is actually 2 km north of town where there are many hotels and restaurants for every budget. Most of them are on either side of the main road along the beach. People don’t stay here for long though because the beach is less than ideal. The sand is not as fine and there’s more litter on Negombo beach than in southern Sri Lanka. It’s also very wide beach so guests at beach-side hotels have a long walk to the water. Many of these hotels have their own pools so their quests don’t even bother with the ocean.
When we were in Negombo there was a full moon. Buddhist Sri Lankans follow the lunar calendar so every full moon, called ‘Poya’, is a holiday. During the day locals spent their holiday at the beach playing cricket, swimming and having picnics.
It is fairly windy in Negombo so the fishermen have created a new industry, ‘catamaran’ cruises. They have rigged their wooden fishing boats with home-made sails on wooden masts and added a small platform between the boat and the outrigger for tourists to sit. The ‘sailors’ are pretty aggressive salesmen too. We would tell them ‘maybe tomorrow’ when asked if we want a catamaran cruise. One sailor yelled back, ‘okay, 9am tomorrow’. When we saw him on the street the next night, he recognized us and yelled at us angrily for not being at his boat at 9am!
The town of Negombo doesn’t have much to offer. The historic Dutch fort has only a small tower left. The rest of the fort is a prison so is inaccessible. Beside it is a lovely Dutch Reform church with a view of Negombo Lagoon. The Dutch also left behind an extensive canal system. The canals look picture perfect with wooden fishing boats docked on the banks, but the smell that comes from them is repulsive. A canal tour is not recommended.
Further north, Kalpitiya is close to being an ideal beach. If it weren’t for the high winds it would be a busy tourist spot, but the high winds are why we went. Kalpitiya is well-known for kite surfing. It’s located at the end of a long, thin peninsula that is filled with coconut plantations. A long sandbar has cut off a portion of the ocean to form a flat-water lagoon. Strong winds arrive from the coast and are funneled along the sandbar. The winds are usually strong but consistent making it ideal for kite surfing and the flat-water lagoon is a great place to learn. There were dozens of people on kites along the lagoon and a few more experienced ones were on the ocean side. It looked like so much fun that we thought we’d give it a try. We took lessons thinking we’d pick it up right away, not realizing that it usually takes a few lessons before most people become proficient at kite surfing. We had a lot of fun and soon realized that this would be our next sport.
There’s a slower pace to everything on Kalpitiya beach. We saw a few fishermen, and locals picking clams, but not as many as we have seen on other beaches. There aren’t many roads close to the beach, so it wasn’t uncommon to see motorcycles and tuk-tuks on the beach. We were also lucky to have a great hotel right on the beach with incredible views. We could even see the kites flying high over the lagoon from our balcony.
In Kalpitiya town there is a 17th century Dutch Fort. The Fort walls were built of stone and shells and are at least 3 feet thick. The fort is within a Sri Lankan Naval compound, so to see inside we joined a Sri Lankan tour group and were escorted by a navy officer. We walked along the top of the wall where we could see the inside square. There aren’t many of the original fort buildings left, but the entire outer wall is still standing. Down the street is a Dutch Reform church with a graveyard from the same era. The church is being renovated so there wasn’t much to see yet.
With a beautiful sandy beach, a kite-surfing lagoon, Kalpitiya was a great location to end out trip to Sri Lanka.
Coming up next: Top 10 Pictures from Sri Lanka’s Coast
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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