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Hikkaduwa Beach

Hikkaduwa has emerged as a modern destination for sun-seekers and wave-worshippers.

There is only one town by the sea that can boast of some of the best surfing waves in Sri Lanka, a long stretch of beach packed with restaurants serving deliciously fresh seafood, an equally long stretch of souvenir shops for the serious shopper, and guesthouses and hotels galore, from the cheap and cheerful to star-class, Hikkaduwa, and there is no other resort on the island like it.

Hikkaduwa is located 100km south of the country's capital, Colombo. The area is well-known for its coral sanctuary and the proximity of wonderful scuba diving sites to explore. With its unique beach culture, Hikkaduwa has long been the most popular diving and surfing area in Sri Lanka. In the centre of Hikkaduwa, a lagoon also creates a beautiful and safe snorkeling area. Further south, where the currents are stronger, surfing is the dominant water activity. The impressive coral reef runs just offshore and is populated by exotic fish and sea turtles that come ashore on this beach to lay their eggs.

For those interested in the sea, it is at its best for diving and snorkeling from November to March when the visibility is generally good. Hikkaduwa’s Coral Sanctuary, established in 1988, ensures the underwater world is accessible to all whether they can dive or not. Snorkeling in the shallow waters only 200m off shore is possible, and although the corals are dead in some places you can still come across a number of brightly-coloured fish as you float a few meters above. The less adventurous can always take a glass-bottomed boat ride, though this is environmentally questionable due to the pollution and negative effects on the already depleted corals.

Once you have washed the sand out of your hair it is time to do some shopping. Follow the Galle Road as it cuts through the town, while being very wary of the vehicles hurtling past, as they have little regard for the pedestrian on a shopping trip. Hikkaduwa comes into its own as the premier shopping destination for the backpacker. Clothes are tailored here to western tastes and in western sizes. Jewellery is not of the gaudy golden type, but the more understated silver type with beautiful semi-precious stones. There are dozens of souvenir shops with items from masks and puppets, to shells and corals, and from musical instruments to batiks and paintings. Do, however, be prepared to bargain – especially in the high season.

Music and Party Events Hikkaduwa by night means food, drink and dance. There is a wide choice of restaurants, offering excellent fresh seafood, lots of other travellers to meet and talk to, and menus that go far beyond rice and curry. If seafood is not your thing, then the excellent Restaurant Refresh has an amazing array of food and a stylish interior. Much less pricey is the wonderfully aromatic Rotty Restaurant. It is hard not to resist the freshly cooked “short eats” (snacks) if you feel like Sri Lankan tastes, or cheese, onion and tomato rotties for those missing western food. I dare you to leave without sampling the banana and chocolate rotties!