Hiri had what I wanted: jungles, turquoise surf, beachside drinks, and all without the pretension of shallow tourism. Of all the things to do in Hiriketiya, our favorites were lazy breakfasts watching monkeys swing in the trees, observing the surfers at dusk, or my very favorite moment: an impromptu run into the warm ocean as the sun dipped below a sandy horizon.
Check out my other Sri Lanka blog posts: Jasper House Review: An Open Air Boutique Hotel in Hiriketiya 13 Things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka 16 Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka Colombo to Ella Train Journey: Everything You Need to Know Country Homes Review: A Luxurious Homestay in Ella, Sri Lanka 27 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Sri Lanka
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Gorgeous Hiriketiya Beach!
Is Hiriketiya Beach Sri Lanka’s hidden paradise?
Now, I won’t tell you Hiriketiya is a complete secret– and it only barely qualifies as a ‘hidden gem.’ There is most definitely tourism here, mainly in the form of Australian surfers seeking the next perfect wave. But it’s an idle kind of tourism, kept to the beach front and resulting in some incredibly trendy brunches and Australian-style cafes. Plus, you only have to go a couple blocks from the beach front to wind up in the jungled village populated by friendly local Sri Lankans.
So if you’re looking for a beachy escape in southern Sri Lanka, and the thoughts of overcrowded token stops like Mirissa or Unawatuna make you cringe, head to Hiri. This is a place that has the potential to explode in popularity – risking a Bali-esque eruption onto the Instagram explore page. Visiting Hiriketiya now, while it’s still sustainable, is a chance you might not have forever.
Related: 16 Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
Some surfers walking the path between Hiriketiya Beach and Dikwella Beach.
15 things to do in Hiriketiya Beach Sri Lanka 1. Take a surf lesson
Or just go surfing if you don’t need the lesson. Hiriketiya Beach is known, first and foremost, for its world class surfing. The horseshoe shaped bay is particularly unique in that it has two separate breaks. On the left hand side is a double reef with shallow rocks, providing a challenge to seasoned surfers. The right hand side is sandier, gentler, and appropriate for beginners. The bay is usually filled with surfers, dotted about on colorful boards, and is said to have great surfing ten months of the year (peak season being Aug-Dec, and Dec-Feb being best for beginners).
Renting a surf board is affordable – at Jasper House, where we stayed, it was $5 for a half day and $10 for a full day. Many stalls along the beach offer prices in the range of 250-500LKR ($1.50-2.75) per hour.
There are also plenty of options to take surf lessons – such as Hiri Surf School located along the beach. Although take note, these are generally private lessons rather than group lessons. This can easily be arranged through your accommodation or from any of the shops along the beachfront.
Related: Jasper House Review: An Open Air Boutique Hotel in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
Surf boards for rent at Jasper House!
2. Hang at Hiriketiya Beach and watch the surfers
It’s a life goal of mine to become competent at surfing, but, well, after a rather traumatizing experience attempting to surf in southern Portugal (involving a shoulder dislocation and a Portuguese ambulance, neither my own but nonetheless rather scarring), I wasn’t quite ready to get on the board again. Some day – definitely – but I felt so chilled out in Hiri that all I wanted to do was watch the pros.
If you’re an onlooker like we were, spend a happy and lazy few hours watching the surfers catch waves. It’s almost hypnotic. You can rent a cabana or beach lounge along Hiriketiya beach, or head to our favorite secret spot (#10 below!).
Dan watching the surfers ride waves.
3. Get an Ayurvedic massage
Sri Lanka is a hot bed of Ayurveda, making a beachside Ayurvedic massage one of the best things to do in Hiriketiya. There are plenty of places to get a massage and one doesn’t particularly come out on top (why not try them all?). Prices range from $21USD for the cheapest massages, to $60USD for the utmost, multi-hour luxury.
There are a few stalls immediately along the beach that advertise Ayurvedic massage, which you can book on the spot. Popular cafes/hotels Dots Bay House and Salt House both offer a full massage menu, too, which must be booked ahead. And for the ultimate luxury, head down to Jasper House where you can book a range of massages or treatments at their sister property, Talalla Retreat, a short 20-minute tuktuk journey away (which they’ll arrange for you).
That evening light on Hiri Beach… perfect!
4. Take a yoga class
A yoga class is a must in Hiriketiya Beach – take my word for it, it’s the perfect way to ground yourself and really tune in to this bay’s chilled out energy. There isn’t a yoga studio in Hiri but a few hotels in the area offer yoga classes, many in outdoor pagodas or ‘yoga shalas.’
I took a class at Jasper House, where we stayed, and it was perfect. Non-guests are also very welcome at Jasper House’s yoga classes, and actually make up about half of their yogis. So even if you don’t stay here (although I highly recommend it), put on your yoga pants and make your way to the left hand side of Hiri Bay where Jasper House sits surrounded by palms.
Yoga class is offered in an outdoor pagoda (entirely sheltered so class is still on if it rains!). You are surrounded by jungle and it’s a special feeling. I remember thinking in down dog, that this was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever practiced! Classes are offered twice daily (8am & 5pm), last 75 minutes, and cost 1,500LKR ($8.25USD). I recommend checking their weekly schedule as it may change.
Jasper House // Hiriketiya Rd, Nilwella, Sri Lanka
After a yoga class in the Jasper House outdoor yoga pagoda.
5. Stay in open air paradise at Jasper House
Speaking of Jasper House, it absolutely deserves its own mention as one of my favorite things to do in Hiriketiya. Yes, there are plenty of beautiful hotels in the Hiri Bay area, but none quite so unique as Jasper House. Read my full review of our stay at Jasper House here.
Jasper House is situated a two minute walk from Hiri Beach, along the Eastern point. The whole hotel has an open air concept. Our room had wide open windows facing out to the jungle and ocean, plus a private outdoor shower in the bathroom! The bed was covered in a mosquito net canopy to keep us protected, as we fell asleep listening to the rustling palms, and woke to the sound of the ocean.
Jasper House offers a full breakfast (plus a lunch and dinner café). There is a long outdoor pool which is one of the biggest you’ll find in all of Hiriketiya. There are daily yoga classes, plus surf boards and snorkeling gear for rent. And on top of it the staff is incredibly friendly! If you want a unique, one-with-nature kind of experience in Hiriketiya, I couldn’t recommend Jasper House more.
Check prices and availability for Jasper House here. Related: Jasper House Review: An Open Air Boutique Hotel in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
I loooved the outdoor shower at Jasper House.
6. Go tide pooling
It may be my marine biologist parents, but every time I’m near a beach I search out the best tide pooling. What’s tide pooling, you ask? Basically each time the tide goes out, water gets trapped in small nooks, crannies, or “pools” formed by rocks along the beach. These pools form their own, brief ecosystems, as often sea creatures are also temporarily trapped. You can peruse (but don’t touch!) for crabs, small fish, and other plants and animals.
With its sandy shores, Hiriketiya Beach does not make for the best tide pooling in the world. However there is definitely some to be found, particularly on the beach’s eastern/left-hand edge where it’s much more rocky (and where the advanced surfers cluster). So I recommend having a little exploration here during low tide. You may find some little crab friends like I did!
Found this little guy while tidepooling along Hiri Beach!
7. Munch and drink at Hiri’s trifecta of trendy cafes
I seriously thought about giving each of these café’s their own spot on this list of things to do in Hiriketiya because they are each so great! However they do go together as Hiri’s stand-out top three trendy cafes. Like I mentioned, Hiri has been described as “Bali 30 years ago” and with that title comes a new cropping of super yummy (and instagrammable) Australian-style cafes. These are:
Dots Bay – Set just off the beach, this is the perf spot for cocktails or brunch. The Grove – A block off the beach, this is a café and small hotel with outdoor seating. No happy hour but plenty of yummy food. We loved the loaded fries with tomatillo salsa for a midday pick me up. The fish tacos and brekkie tacos also come highly recommended. More than anything, though, the coffee is some of the best you’ll find in Sri Lanka. Salt House – Close to the beach as well, Salt House is a café and hotel that also has yoga classes, massages, a pool, and more. Plus the cutest fluffy live-in pup! We looooved the food here and it’s probably our top rec for dinner. I had the (locally caught) Mahi Mahi plus a massive mango and avo salad and it was perfect. Happy hour drinks run at about 500-750LKR and I enjoyed the Pina Colada!
Definitely head to these cafes during your time in Hiri. Check their schedules as each offers live music or events on various days of the week, too. Like we did, you can bop between all three until you find your favorite.
Salt House is a super cute hostel and cafe. We had one of our favorite dinners here. They also have live music a few times per week!
8. Chow down at a traditional Sri Lankan curry buffet
Hiri is definitely a hotspot for that special brand of aesthetically pleasing western café that draws instagrammers and brunch-lovers in droves. Still, I’m a firm believer that when in Sri Lanka you just need to partake in the local cuisine. Both Dan and I hadn’t ever had Sri Lankan food before we stepped in the country, and let’s just say we became a bit addicted! Red rice, mango lassis, eggplant moju, pumpkin curry, ash bananas, crisp roti, piles of kottu… the list of delicacies goes on.
When in Hiriketiya Beach I encourage you to look beyond the western cafes and dig in at some locally owned Sri Lankan restaurants. The good news is that Sri Lankan food is generally much more cost effective – an all-you-can-eat veg curry buffet typically runs at 500LKR ($2.75). Our favorite Sri Lankan restaurant in Hiriketiya is Peppermint Lounge – an unpretentious family-owned outdoor restaurant set a five minute walk back from the beach along a dirt road.
Peppermint Lounge //Hiriketiya Beach Rd, Dikwella, Sri Lanka
Some traditional Sri Lankan curries at Peppermint Lounge in Hiriketiya. Only 500LKR!
9. Have a pool day
Although there are so many things to do in Hiriketiya, I’d encourage you to spend a significant amount of your time just relaxing. And with the southern Sri Lanka heat and humidity, one of the best places to do that is by the pool! You won’t have to worry about getting in the path of an oncoming surfer during “rush hour” (Hiri bay can get a bit crowded).
Many of the hotels in the area advertise pools, but from what I’ve seen they are mostly plunge pools – good for a dip to cool off, but not big enough to swim or splash around. We were sooo glad that Jasper House, where we stayed, had one of the biggest pools in Hiriketiya. It was long enough to do laps and wide enough to play some silly games. And with only 12 rooms in the whole property the pool never got too crowded to enjoy.
Check prices and availability at Jasper House here.
I had the pool to myself at Jasper House!
10. Relax in the free cabana at the end of Hiriketiya Beach
Like I promised, I’m letting you in on a little secret – the best spot to sit on Hiriketiya Beach! At the end of the eastern/left-hand side of Hiri Bay, just before you reach Peter’s Place Restaurant, there is a little wooden cabana situated over the water. Unlike the cabanas and lounge chairs along the sandy central beach, this is completely free. It’s first come first served but we found it empty quite a few times – and people are generally willing to share.
This area is much quieter than the main beach, as the only people who usually walk out this far are staying at Jasper House or one of the few home stays on the point. It was our favorite spot for surf watching, reading, and napping in the shade.
The free cabana at the end of Hiriketiya Beach.
The free cabana makes for the perfect spot to watch the surfers!
11. Chill, snorkel, or SUP at Dikwella Beach
If you get tired of the surfing and side-to-side beach lounge chairs, head the five minute walk to Dikwella Beach. Dikwella Beach is literally just the next bay over from Hiriketiya Beach but it has a totally different atmosphere and scene. Meaning, while Hiri is bustling with fun-loving surfers and #brunchgoals, Dikwella is a serene long stretch of sand where most people are “busy” napping in the sun.
If you love a long beach walk like I do, head to Dikwella Beach (at low tide – this is important) and walk the length. You can also rent a lounge chair and shade and camp out on the sand. We recommend Machan Place, a little locally owned hut, essentially, that rents out lounge chairs, snorkeling gear, and stand up paddleboards. We paid 300LKR ($1.65USD) for a two hour rental, but it’s only 600LKR ($3.30USD) for the whole day. If you want to swim in the ocean, I recommend Dikwella Beach as opposed to Hiriketiya Beach as there’s no chance of intercepting a surfer. In fact, I swam here at sunset and I was literally the only person in the water!
Stand Up Paddleboarders at Dikwella Beach.
12. Try the tire swing at Machan Place
Another good reason to camp out at Machan Place on Dikwella Beach is the tire swing right next to it! For some reason, everyone wants to go on a beach swing in Sri Lanka. And I don’t blame them – I gave it a shot and it was super fun. Swings seem to come and go, but we loved the tire swing next to Machan Place on Dikwella – hanging from a palm and set in front of some colorful Sri Lankan fishing boats, it was the perfect set up.
There was a second rope swing further down on Dikwella Beach, and I’ve also read there is another rope swing in front of Mahi Mahi Place, a restaurant on the next bay over. We didn’t want to make the trek over yet another bay so we were happy to find the rope swing at Machan Place!
The tire swing at Machan Place!
13. Grab a drink (or do some co-working) at Verse Collective
If you’re spending the morning or afternoon at Dikwella Beach, pop over to Verse Collective while you’re there. In addition to an Aussie-inspired café menu, you can also get top notch specialty coffee, spritzers and iced teas to cool off, or even a cheeky cocktail.
Inside, Verse Collective is a pretty cool co-working space and boutique. Featuring indoor swings and a rotating photography exhibit, it’s definitely worth a wander through. They also offer accommodation here so it’s worth checking out if you’re a digital nomad!
Verse Collective // Pehebiya Rd, Dikwella, Sri Lanka
Verse Collective – a coworking space, hostel, and cafe just off Dikwella Beach.
14. Watch sunset at Hiriketiya Beach or Dikwella Beach
Sunset on Sri Lanka’s south coast is a stunning affair. It’s treated almost like a daily ritual, as salty surfers and beach bums alike congregate by the water’s edge, awaiting the blast of colors. We tried watching sunset from the free cabana on Hiriketiya Beach on our first night, and discovered that thanks to the bay’s eastern point topped in dense jungle, you don’t actually see the sun dunk into the ocean, but rather prematurely dip behind some palm trees.
We found that Dikwella Beach offers a slightly better vantage for sunset. With its long sandy coastline you can easily see the sun make its full journey into the sea. The beach is also emptying at this time of day, offering a private and intensely calm experience. I didn’t take any sunset photos at Dikwella Beach myself as, overwhelmed with that boom of gratefulness I often get during special travel experiences, I dashed off into the warm sea as the sky lit with colors – camera not in hand. I would, of course, recommend you do the same.
Sunset on Hiriketiya Beach.
15. Try one of these day trips from Hiriketiya
If you want to base yourself in Hiriketiya Beach for more than a few days, I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of its location and going on some daytrips. To do these daytrips, you can hire a tuktuk (easily found on any street, and usually a group of them hang out at the eastern end of Hiriketiya Beach). You might also want to arrange an official tour which can be done through your hotel.
Dondra Lighthouse – This is the southernmost point of Sri Lanka and is a 30-40 minute drive from Hiri. It’s also the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka! Wewurukannala Vihara Temple – This temple in Dikwella is home to the largest Buddha statue in all of Sri Lanka. Buddhist Sri Lankans from all over the country flock here as it’s a sight to be seen! It’s a 30-45 minute walk from Hiri, or a 10 minute tuktuk. Entry is 100LKR which is less than $1USD! Safari – Going on safari is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka. From Hiriketiya Beach, you can arrange a safari in either Yala or Udawalawe national parks. It will involve an early wakeup call and be a full day affair, but when elephants and leopards are involved, totes worth it. Tangalle – This beachy town is one of the most popular stops in Sri Lanka and also has great surfing. It’s only a 30 minute tuktuk journey from Hiriketiya and worth visiting. Galle – Galle was our next stop after Hiriketiya but you can definitely do it in a day trip. From the iconic lighthouse to walking the fort walls, you really shouldn’t miss Galle when in Sri Lanka. You can read my post about all the things to do in Galle here. Related: 13 Things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka
The iconic Galle lighthouse! We loved walking the Galle Fort walls at sunset.
How long should you stay in Hiriketiya Beach?
One look at Hiri’s ever-expanding salty-haired expat population and you’ll know the answer to this question: Forever! Just kidding (maybe).
You can experience so much of what Hiriketiya has to offer with a three night, two full day stay. But like I mentioned, it makes a fab spot for day trips along the south coast and up into the national parks, so you could also stay here five nights or more.
Related: A Complete Guide to the Colombo to Ella Train Journey
Sunset surfers in Hiri Bay.
How to get to Hiriketiya Beach Sri Lanka
Hiriketiya Beach is tucked along Sri Lanka’s southern coastline. As it’s not a metropolis by any means, there aren’t many public transport options that lead directly to Hiri. If that’s your pleasure, you’ll likely have to combine it with a short tuktuk ride.
By train | You can reach Sri Lanka’s south coast through the Colombo to Matara train line. From Matara it is a 45 minute tuktuk or 1.5 hour bus (#32-1) ride to reach Hiri. Book train tickets here.
By bus | There are various bus options depending on your starting destination, but you should disembark at Matara for all of them. For instance from Ella to Hiriketiya take bus #31 to Matara station. From Matara again either take tuktuk or the local bus (#32-1) to reach Hiri. Book bus tickets here.
By taxi or tuktuk | Definitely the easiest way to reach Hiri, which is conveniently located just off Tangalle highway. This is how we reached Hiri and what I’d recommend if you have a limited time in Sri Lanka, although it is definitely the most expensive option.
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Your route depends on your starting point. I personally use Rome2Rio which is a multimodal application that tells you all the possible ways to travel between two points!
A surfer riding a wave along Hiriketiya Beach.
Where to stay in Hiriketiya Beach
We loved staying in a homestay in Ella, and I generally recommend that type of accommodation in Sri Lanka, but if you’re looking to splurge on a boutique accommodation – Hiri is the place! Here are a few places to stay in Hiriketiya for various budgets.
Jasper House ($$) – Where we stayed a two minute walk to the beach, and absolutely fell in love. Not your average hotel as it’s open air (featuring private outdoor showers!). Has included breakfast, daily yoga, a swimming pool, surfboards, and more. Read my full review of Jasper House here.
Salt House ($$) – Eight rooms, some with AC, in this funky boutique hotel and café, just a block off Hiri Beach. Features a pool and outdoor yoga shala, plus our favorite eats in all of Hiriketiya! The room rate includes surfboards, yoga, and brekky.
Airbnb ($-$$$) – With rooms as low as $7/night and ranging to luxury villas, Airbnb is a great option in Hiriketiya. Use my code for up to $55 off.
The stunning pool at Jasper House!
What to pack for your trip to Hiriketiya Beach
I’m working on a full Sri Lanka packing list, but in the meantime it’s important to mention some bits and bobs you should not leave out of your suitcase. Of course bring the normal shirts/shoes/clothes (pack modestly, especially in Hiri you should remember not to walk around in your bikini and trunks off the beach as it’s disrespectful to locals). Here are some things you might miss:
Travel wifi | We used Tep Travel Wifi in Sri Lanka and couldn’t have survived without it. Read my full review here. Hand sanitizer | A necessity in Sri Lanka. Bring a big bottle plus smaller, clip on hand sanitizers. Bug spray | You need bug spray in Sri Lanka, and we found especially so in Hiriketiya. We brought this exact one which is deet-free and super effective. Sunscreen | An absolute necessity for Hiri’s sunny beach days and surprisingly hard to purchase when you’re there. Toilet paper | I’d also advise a plastic zip lock bag to keep your TP from getting gross in your luggage. Filter water bottle | Kicked myself that I forgot my favorite travel filter water bottle. You can read my full review here. The water in Sri Lanka is unsafe to drink, so a filter bottle will save you some money and prevent buying disposable plastic bottles! Packing cubes | My saving grace traveling Sri Lanka. These are the ones I use. Camera | I use the Canon EOS M6 which is mirrorless, lightweight and perfect for travel. The iPhone 11 also takes incredible photos and is even more portable. Quick dry towel | Definitely worth having for ocean dips, especially if you don’t want to rent a beach lounge chair or cabana. I’ve traveled with this one for years.
Collecting coral and shells along Dikwella Beach.
We said a sad goodbye to Hiri, watching out the taxi window every last minute as the bay vanished behind us. From there, we headed to Galle, and you can read all about things to do in Galle here. Alternatively, you could reverse our Sri Lanka itinerary and head north to Ella next. Read my full guide to Ella here.
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