Tangalla Beach, Sri Lanka: Which direction should we walk today?

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Happiness at Tangalla Beach

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.

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We’re very excited when we first see 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.

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Simple beachfront structures are the norm at Tangalla.

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Rustic spots to eat, drink and relax dot the shoreline.

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Words to live by.

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.

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View to the beach from Serein Beach Guesthouse.

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Walking east, just steps from our guesthouse there’s very limited infrastructure.

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Soon, it’s just us and the endless stretch of golden sand.

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.

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A sheltered swimming spot.

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Our favourite cold drink stop.


Locals bringing in the nets after a morning of fishing.


Tangalla harbour.


The paint jobs on many of the boats are awesome.

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).






Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Tangalla Beach, Sri Lanka: Which direction should we walk today?

  1. Pingback: My favourite beaches from around the world | Writes of Passage

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  7. Gorgeous beach scenes and the description of the peacefulness makes them doubling enticing. So many spots in this world are now overrun. As you say Thailand in the early 90’s. I wish we had gone then. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue. It’s a really special spot. With the terrorist attacks this past April, I imagine it is even more quiet these days….good for visitors, but crappy for those employed in tourism.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful photos!!! Sri Lanka is on my list – soooo many places to see, so little time! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brian Foster

    Lovely chill out.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m impressed by your beach research and its results! I am bad at picking beaches, maybe because they are rarely at the top of my list of travel priorities. But there are times I DO want a few lazy days on a shore, and it’s hard to get it just right – not too fancy and antiseptic, but not too grungy either. This looks like a real winner!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Lexie, I like your description: not too fancy, but not too grungy. That’s exactly how I felt about Tangalla, and I loved its wild, remote feel while still having a comfortable place to stay and lots of food choice. We were starved for a few days of chilling on the beach after months of nasty weather here.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You made me miss Tangalla and Sri Lanka. You really brought the feel of the area in the post. I can still picture our morning coffee with our Bob Marley barista!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know what it’s like in Calgary, but the cool rainy weather in Vancouver this weekend is making me miss that beach. I could easily have spent a few more days at Tangalla. Thanks again for the recommendation.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I remember the first time I saw a beach in Sri Lanka I was immediately caught by the color of the sand. As opposed to white, black, or pink beaches in Indonesia, Sri Lanka’s golden beaches were truly a treat for the eyes. I stayed in Hikkaduwa which also has nice beaches albeit in a busier setting — a big hotel was under construction when I went in 2015. This looks like a perfect place to unwind, read some books, and just walk around every morning and afternoon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good observation about the sand colour Bama. It really does have a very inviting hue. Coming from Canada in early March, a tropical beach is a big draw for us, regardless of the colour😉. I wish we could have added another beach stop, but with limited time and so many other attractions we decided to stick with one.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. josypheen

    Niiice! I can see why that’d be a pleasant decision! Both directions look gorgeous!
    Was the water pretty warm?

    The Mulkirigala rock temples sound fantastic too. I can’t wait to see that post too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love this post Caroline. I felt like I was there and at the same time wished I was! What a perfectly beautiful spot. Great photos – so enticing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alison. It was a fun one to write on a cool, rainy day here in Vancouver. Unlike my stoic neighbours I can’t get myself into our water…especially not after Tangalla Beach!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Mike Hohmann

    Lovely spot, Caroline! Great opening picture of Mike with his juice drink and Bob Marley looking over his shoulder. Given the big smile on his face, am I to believe he’s drinking only a fruit juice? 😉 The colorful shoreline and busy harbor with all the brightly colored fishing boats looks very enticing. Love the picture of the two of you seated, Marley in the background -frame it and put it on the wall somewhere -the only thing missing in that photo… is me! Wish I could have been there w/ you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know Mike, there are moments when everything just feels right and good, and sitting there in that little hut was one of those—and, yes, that’s even without an alcoholic beverage!

      Liked by 1 person

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