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By the time we reached the last week of our Sri Lankan adventure, we could not wait to get down to the south coast to the beach town of Weligama to enjoy 5 days doing not much.
The ancient cities, the high country and Galle had been amazing, but we were ready to stay still for awhile, especially as we had found a fabulous home on FlipKey where we could all have some space and catch up on some work, while still being close to the beach and the towns of Weligama and Mirissa.
Both these towns attract their fair share of tourists. Mirissa is a very popular option and we saw more tourists there than anywhere else in Sri Lanka. It has a very beautiful beach so it is not surprising.
Weligama is known for its surf. It is an easy town to be with a local centre with plenty of shops and restaurants and a train station in the middle. However, the beach is not comparable at all to Mirissa.
Weligama is a great place to come to learn to surf – and we saw many people doing just that! It feels far more local than the other beach towns we visited and there is a variety of eating options.
It is a fishing town and there are many boats on the (unfortunately) dirty beach. There is great seafood which can be eaten at the seafood shacks at dinner time.
It is a nice place to take it easy and it is very close to Mirissa – less than ten minutes in a rickshaw.
By J, I was at home with a sick Z.
May 4 was Buddha’s Birthday and we had been told there were celebrations in Weligama. The festivities were at night and S was keen to see it so off we went.
In the centre of Weligama there were lots of people on the move, many dressed in white. The main street had stalls set up selling religious related gifts and icons. Some people were giving out free ice cream (S loved this part), others were giving out free yoghurt. Nicest of all was a family who were giving out small bunches of flowers, for those people going to temples as offerings for Buddha.
Other than the giveaways, there wasn’t much celebrating. So after some advice we took a rickshaw to a nearby temple. The temple was very busy, lots of people there, many dressed in while, many with flowers, to wish Buddha a happy birthday. Around the temple, at small shrines, people were praying and laying offerings of flowers down as a monk chanted. We went inside the temple, where there were even more flowers. S laid her own bunch down.
Walking back to the centre of Weligama we passed the city council chambers, where everything was lit up and colorful. Some sort of fete was going on, with a concert, lots of lanterns and some side acts. There were lots of people who look like they’d come from temples and there was a real carnival atmosphere.
The main attraction in this part of Sri Lanka is the opportunity to go on a whale expedition to find blue whales. Large numbers of these whales can be found off the coast of Mirissa.
The tours supposedly start at 6:30am – although none of the boats on the day we did it left until 7:30. All the tours seem to be the same thing – boats with some seats and life jackets that supply breakfast and basically venture out into the ocean until they find whales. If they don’t, you can come back the following day for free.
April is meant to be a peak time and we were there right at the start of May so we were hopeful that this wouldn’t be a problem. May to July is meant to be more rough but since the monsoon hadn’t started yet, we thought it would be ok…
The boat set off at 7:30am along with two other boats. It was crowded and there is nowhere near enough seats for everyone. Thankfully most people headed straight up to the top deck where there wasn’t any seats so we had no problems securing them.
The boat ride was rough. The motion was relentless and we were all feeling ill shortly into the journey. S vomited multiple times as did many other people on the boat. They were well prepared with handing out vomit bags and taking the full ones.
After about an hour, they turned off the engine and we drifted for a bit. I had hoped that we were about to see whales but it didn’t happen and after awhile the engine was back on again.
About two hours after we set off – we finally saw one! A whale. It come up and down a few times before disappearing and we saw its tail the last time!
I must admit that I did not find the encounter very thrilling. It was quite a distance away, we barely saw anything and the brief glimpse did nothing to convey how big the whale might be or to give me the feeling that we were seeing some amazing big creature.
Awhile later we saw brief glimpses of another one then we started heading back.
One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had was whale watching in Argentina, so we were excited to have another opportunity. However, we did not find the tour lived up to the hype at all.
The pain of the journey was certainly not worth small glimpses, although it may be worthwhile if you have never seen whales before and if a glimpse would be enough to satisfy you (and if you don’t get motion sick!). Z never saw them at all. He just was never looking the right way at the right moment. There are far better opportunities for whale watching in this big world.
On the upside, on the way back we saw some schools of dolphins jumping up in the water which was just amazing.
If you are travelling with little kids or people that can’t wait hours to eat breakfast, we did not get breakfast until about 8am, and it was just rolls. Keep in mind that by this time, we all felt quite bad and none of us wanted to eat anyway! It is probably best to avoid breakfast if you think there is any chance you will feel motion sick – I very rarely feel motion sick and this ride was BAD!
You can buy this tour just about anywhere and there does not seem to be much variation except in the price. We paid 3,500 rupees per adult and the kids were free.
By far my favourite activity in Weligama and Mirissa was lounging at the beach. It is a beautiful, although crowded, stretch of sand.
The beach is lined with restaurants and hotels and it is easy to find somewhere to eat and drink. It’s more expensive than eating locally but the food was relatively good and still inexpensive. It was very worth it to be able to sit right on the sand and have a beer while watching the kids play. My only complaint is that on some parts of the beach, the restaurants pretty much take up all of the sand with water coming right up to the edges of the seats.
In the evening, many of the restaurants on the beach put out seafood so you can pick what you want to eat. The rest of the family particularly enjoyed one of these meals (I am vegetarian).
We loved staying at our Flipkey home in Weligama. We are a big fan of holiday rentals. The extra space and convenience of having a whole home just works so well with kids, and after two weeks of small hotel rooms, we were hanging out for the extra space and the kids having their own bedroom! We were also looking forward to the opportunity to self cater as we have not been fans of Sri Lankan food.
We were happy to find that holiday rentals are very affordable in Sri Lanka and that we could rent a great place and still stick to our AUD$110 a day budget for everything.
We rented a great two bedroom place with a huge lounge, separate dining room, kitchen, etc. Everything was clean and tidy and furnished nicely. We also had an ok internet connection.
Our favourite part had to be the huge balcony area and garden. It was a very easy place to hang out.
The other plus of this accommodation was having some great hosts that spoke good English. They organised our whale watching expedition, did our washing (for a fee) and helped us work everything out. Our stay was very smooth thanks to them.
The location is back from the coast. It is walking distance but we preferred the cheap rickshaws – it’s hot! It is easy and cheap to get into Weligama town, the beach or to Mirissa. There are some cheap local stores nearby or a supermarket is not far away. It was nice to be in an area where we were surrounded by locals rather than tourists.
You can check out the house here and rent it for yourself. We recommend it for anyone who wants a cost effective, easy stay in a lovely house. We paid about US$60 a night. There are discounts for longer stays. If you have a higher budget, there are also some amazing pool villas listed on Flipkey.
Our favourite place to eat in Weligama is in a great spot right on the beach.
There is a good range of food. We ate here most days and we were always happy with our meals, especially the potato salad and vegetable soup. There is more information here.
This place is right on the beach and in a pretty location. It is also very accessible from the main road. In the evening, they have fabulous drink specials and seafood laid out to choose from. It seems to get mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but we had no problems or complaints. They were especially friendly to our kids.
It is very easy to get to both of these places.
Weligama has a train station in the centre of town as well as a bus station. Getting here from Colombo or anywhere along the coast is easy and cheap. It is only a half hour train ride from Galle.
There are many buses between Weligama and Mirissa although at 300 rupees, we just caught rickshaws between the two.
We went over our AUD$110 a day budget here thanks to the whale watching. If we removed it, then we kept to the budget. This is such a bargain for a great place, good food and the lovely location.
They had a great time here, except on the whale cruise although they didn’t seem to mind that either despite the vomit!
They are always happier when we have more space so the holiday rental through FlipKey made this stop extra enjoyable. They loved playing at Mirissa Beach.
It was so nice to just stop for a second and enjoy where we were instead of running all around the Sri Lankan country side 🙂 Having good accommodation always makes us happy so this helped as well, as did the beautiful sand and water at Mirissa Beach. It was also nice to have alcohol far more readily available than what we have been used to in Sri Lanka!
This isn’t the most exciting of destinations. It is somewhere to just come and relax and enjoy. Given that is exactly what we wanted, we were very happy.
We much preferred Mirissa to Weligama, although they are so close together that it is easy to go back and forth. It was weird to be surrounded by so many tourists in Mirissa – there were far more than in Unawaturna which we did not expect. We loved it though and would happily spend more time in this slice of paradise.