We’re sitting under the canopy of a rickety, bamboo-thatched hut. It’s open on three sides, offering up views of the languid comings and goings along the beach. The floor is an extension of the golden sand that meets the azure sea. On the wall behind us is a massive poster of a chilled-out Bob Marley. There’s a rectangular cut-out in the wall next to Bob, with a view into the rustic kitchen, where a couple of ladies are sharing laughs as one of them prepares Mike’s fruit juice. This place has become our favourite spot for a break during our long beach walks. Maybe it’s the combination of the beautiful beach, mellow vibe and no decision making except for which direction to walk that’s making me feel unusually content. A young man with a big smile brings Mike his juice, and me, my king coconut. Life is good here on Tangalla Beach.
Sri Lanka is blessed with superb beaches. From great surf breaks, to fancy resort areas, to party hot spots, there’s a beach for everyone’s taste. The choice is overwhelming. Being a bit of a beach snob, I researched long and hard before deciding on Tangalla Beach (also spelled Tangalle), along Sri Lanka’s southern coast, for our short beach fix. Our criteria: gorgeous beach, quiet, good for long walks, local character, moderately priced small guesthouses, and restaurants in walking distance.
Bingo! In addition to hitting all our criteria, Tangalla Beach also has a charming Bohemian atmosphere that reminded me a bit of my beach bumming days in Thailand in the early ’90s. Much of its beachfront infrastructure is simple and just a little rough around the edges. I hope it stays that way.
Tangalla is actually a series of beaches that stretch for many miles northeast from Tangalla town. While the beaches have different names, they are a continuous stretch of sand (or at least as far as we could walk). The further east from Tangalla town, the less busy and developed the beaches become. Having said that, even Medaketiya Beach, the closest to town, was not busy. However, we found the development there not as attractive as further on, at Marakolliya Beach, where we stayed. With just a smattering of small guesthouses lining the stunning beach, Marakolliya is perfectly located—close enough to walk to many restaurants, and far enough to practically have the beach to ourselves.
“Which direction should we walk today?” That’s the toughest decision we need to make during our breakfast at the lovely beachfront Serein Beach Guesthouse. I opt for heading left (east), away from town. There are only two or three little guesthouses past our place; beyond those, all we see is an endless tract of golden sand and surf. Much of this stretch is too dangerous for swimming but it’s utterly breathtaking. We pass the occasional walker; mostly we’re on our own. I’m feeling incredibly happy walking along this wild, palm-fringed beach. As the heat of the day increases and our water bottles run low, we sadly need to turn around. The only downside of this direction is no beach huts selling cold drinks.
The next morning, we turn right (west) toward town. Just a few hundred meters away is a rock breakwall that provides shelter from the waves. We take a long swim. Well, not exactly a swim, more a lazy hanging-out in the almost freakishly warm water. We continue our walk until one of the many little beach huts lures us in for a fruit drink. There’s more activity on the beach as we get closer to town—locals are fishing, mending nets and socializing. Our turnaround point today is Tangalla’s harbour with its colourful fishing boats in various states of endearing decay. We do it all again in reverse order with the addition of a beachside curry lunch.
We came to Tangalla Beach with the intention of exploring the area—renting motorbikes to see neighbouring beaches, kayaking at the nearby lagoon—but that didn’t happened. We were so content with our daily walks that we never managed to pull ourselves off Tangalla Beach. I have no regrets.
Zoom in on the map and you’ll see the location of our guesthouse—Serein Beach.
A few cautions and tips:
- Tangalla is glorious, but because of the strong surf, it may not be appropriate for families with small children or those wanting to do long swims.
- It’s easy to be swayed by beachside ambiance, but we found better value restaurants along Pagngnawasa Mawatha, a pretty tree-lined road that connects the beach road with the highway.
- Of the beachfront places, we enjoyed The Lounge—a cool hangout with great drinks and healthy, contemporary cuisine.
- If you can drag yourself off the beach, the rock temples at Mulkirigala, 16 km from Tangalla, are definitely worth a visit. We stopped in on the way to Tangalla. More on Mulkirigala in another post.
- Enroute to Tangalla, coming from the west, we stopped for lunch at Hiriketiya. It’s a lovely crescent of sand that attracts a young surfing crowd. We also had a quick peek at Talla Beach….oh my! It’s another beauty and worth checking out if you’re looking for a quiet option (though less amenities than at Tangalla).