Things To Do in Hikkaduwa
The main things to do in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, are to surf and party. I, therefore, headed straight for there as I wanted to surf while I was in Sri Lanka and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I went out and partied during my two months in India, so I was craving a good night out by that point.
Things to do in Hikkaduwa
Beach | Turtles | Surfing | Snorkeling & Scuba Diving | River Safari | Tsunami Museum | Local Art | Railways | Shopping | Parties | Bonus: Day Trips
How to Get to Hikkaduwa
Train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa
I got to Hikkaduaw by train from Colombo. It took about 4 hours and was a pleasant enough journey (the information online gives very differing estimations as to the journey time for this route so leave more time than you think you need). It was the busiest of all the train rides I took in Sri Lanka though so if you can it’s worth getting a first-class ticket and booking in advance to get a seat. It’s not one of the train rides with the fantastic views either though so if you can afford to take a car this might be the journey to do it on.
There train costs between 80 cents to a couple of dollars depending on the class you take if you book at the station.
Bus from Colombo to Hikkaduwa
Getting busses around Sri Lanka is a lot more complicted than the trains therefore since there is a train that goes this route I’d strongly advise taking that instead. The train is also cheaper if you take the 2nd or 3rd class tickets.
Car from Colombo to Hikkaduwa
If there’s a few of your traveling for most of your travels around Sri Lanka it will be cheaper and easier to share a car. A car with a driver will cost you about $50 from colombo to Hikkaduwa and it cuts down the journey time to 2 to 3 hours.
1. Hikkaduwa Beach
Where it shows the main beach to be on google maps isn’t what I would describe as the main beach, it’s a bit further down from that past turtle beach, where Funky De Bar shows along the beach.
Along that part of the beach are rows of cute restaurants lining the beach. They all have cute shabby chic looks to while away the hours in. Like they’ve done in a number of the beach bars in Bali, especially La Brisa in Echo Beach, but these are the authentic versions. They’re all still really cheap, serve good eats and juices during the day and turn into party spots at night.
I only have 2 days in Hikkaduwa but I could easily have spent longer just enjoying the relaxing beach and wonderful beach cafes.
2. Turtle Beach
As I mentioned above Turtle Beach is between the train station and the main beach. There is a very good chance that if you walk by the point where this is shown on the map you will see turtles just hanging out on the beach.
Sadly though I think the reason they go to hang out on the beach there is because there are people selling food to feed to the turtles so they come up just to get fed. I don’t know how that sits from an ethical point of view, it’s probably not good though so if you do want to see them it’s probably best not to encourage the trade by buying food for them.
If once seeing the turtles you decide you’d like to see more there is also a turtle hatchery in Hikkaduwa just north of the train station.
3. Surfing in Hikkaduwa
The main beach in Hikkaduwa is perfect for learning to surf as there are small easy waves right on the beach. Almost every restaurant and bar along the beach rents out surfboards and offers lessons for reasonable prices.
There is also another break a bit further of a paddle out for more advanced surfers. Unfortunately, even though I surf a lot now, I was such a beginner at the time I couldn’t give you proper info on how big or good the waves were out the back there from what I remember but it’s known as one fo the best beaches in Sri Lanka for surfing.
And for beginners it’s great. Nice long stretch of beach break to fall off a lot on!
The hostel I was staying at wasn’t on the main surf beach contrary to its name, see below, so there was a bit of a walk along the beach to get to and from the hostel.
When I was there the best time to surf was early each morning. I didn’t know enough about surfing at the time to tell you whether that was because that’s when the tide is best for the waves or just how it always is unfortunately though.
Note: The best time of year to surf the west coast of Sri Lanka is November to March to avoid its rainy season. You’d be better off going to Arugam Bay on the East Coast if it’s the other half of the year.
4. Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
For those who want to get in the water and explore a bit more but don’t fancy being bashed about by waves making use of the snorkeling and scuba diving in Hikkaduwa will be the perfect alternative. You can hire boats, and gear, to take you out to the Hikkaduwa coral reef from the main beach and maybe see some of those turtles in their natural habitat.
The coral reef is actually also the Hikkaduwa national park making up one of three marine national parks in Sri Lanka. It’s a protected area because of the high level of biological diversity, so perfect for going snorkeling around.
If you fancy scuba diving instead there are shipwrecks to see off the coast which are one of my favorite things to swim around as they always make me feel like I’m in a James Bond movie.
You can do your open water qualification in Hikkaduwa too but nearby Koh Tao, in Thailand is the cheapest place in the world to do it if you’d rather wait till you make it there on your travels.
5. Hikkaduwa River Safari
The Hikkaduwa river/lagoon safaris go from a little bit further down south of Hikkaduwa. The main one available will take you around Donanduwa lake where you’ll see mangroves, iguanas, people fishing and a buddhist temple.
The tour itself only takes about 3 hours but you’ll need a bit of time to get to the start of it. You can either take a tuk-tuk there or ask the people you book the safari with to organize a pick up (if you can spare an extra dollar or two this is the way to go).
6. Tsunami Museum
The 2004 tsunami badly affected many parts of Sri Lanka, with Hikkaduwa being one of the areas that was hit. We only ever hear about the destruction the natural disaster caused to Thailand, and beaches like Koh Phi Phi, as they’re much more touristy but it also had a huge effect on India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia. I didn’t know that at first when I visited the area but as a result, there is a Tsunami museum 5 km north of Hikkaduwa Telwatta. It shows photos of the tsunami and the devestation is caused, even engulfing a train filled with passengers. While I was there I heard stories from locals of escaping, a theme that carried on as I traveled down to Galle which was also affected.
It could seem like voyeurism going to look at the photos but at the same time seeing and understanding is what will make people more informed and cautious in the future.
I never knew until I started traveling Asia that Tsunami’s start with what looks like an extremely low tide as the water is sucked back before coming in.
It’s important we understand them to protect ourselves and others.
7. Safon Robes Art Gallery
Safron Robes is a beautiful Gallery, split over 4 floors, right near the center of town. It has vibrant paintings and traditional artifacts. The aim is to get you to buy the items obviously, but even if you’re backpacking and don’t have a lot of space in your bag it’s well worth a visit to see the local art.
Running through the center of Hikkaduwa are the train tracks, therefore, I frequently see people suggesting walking along the railways to get some cool pictures for the ‘gram.
Even when I first went to Hikkaduwa in 2015 and people had only really just started using Instagram this way the people I was with were trying to get these photos.
Obviously you’re an adult you can do what you like, all I will say is those are live, active railway lines. I like being alive. HBU???
At least this guy is walking along the railway for a reason.
The road behind the beach in Hikkaduwa is lined with shops all selling bikinis and board shorts and activewear. It’s all locally made rather than big brands but good quality. I got board shorts there for a couple of pounds that lasted me years.
And what’s even better still is, if you have a couple of days, you can get custom make bikinis and beachwear for less than you’d normally buy them off the rack back home.
10. Party in Hikkaduwa
For a small town the Hikkaduwa nighlife is surprisngly good. As it’s a small town, like with the Canggu nightlife in Bali, there tends to be one place each night that has a good party so make sure you find out which one it is if you want to go out as everywhere else will be dead.
At the time of writing this the nights are as follows:
Thursday nights – Funky De Bar
Friday nights – Vibration Music Bar The Vibe
Saturday nights – Mambos Place (Mambos has accommodation and a restaurant as well as being the most popular venue on Saturday nights in Hikkaduwa. Plus if you like them in Hikkaduwa you can also visit their sister location in Arugam Bay on the East Coast)
Sunday nights – Top Secret (As well as being the place to go on Sunday nights Top Secret is also listed on Happy Cow #veggie/veganwinning)
So you’re aware some of the firework shows they do at the beach bars are set up dangerously close. It’s kind of funny how insanely close they are but actually they’re really dangerous at the same time. Take a couple of steps back, so you don’t have to do what this guy did.
Bonus: Day Trips
There are a number of day trips you can do from Hikkaduwa as well if you won’t have time to stop at too many locations afterwards and would rather be grounded in one place.
Udawalawe National Park is one of the most popular ones to do. You leave Hikkaduwa in the morning and then spend about 3 hours in the national park seeing wild elephants and crocodiles and birds. The journey there each way is about 3 hours so it will be a long day to do the safari tour but well worth it if that’s the only chance you’ll have to do a land safari while in Sri Lanka.
Another popular day trip is to go to Mirissa to go whale watching. You can easily do this yourself by going down to stay in the area too but there are organized tours if you’d rather just go there for the day.
Other day trips include guided tours of Galle and the fort however you can also just hop on a train yourself to travel the 10 minutes down there if you wanted to visit for a day rather than making it the next stop on your Sri Lanka itinerary.
Sunset at Galle Fort
Where to Stay in Hikkaduwa
I stayed at Hikka Train Hostel @ Surf Beach the first time I went. It was a nice hostel although it felt a little more like staying in someone’s house. It was clean, had a good breakfast and the lady who ran it was lovely. It’s far away from everything though. It’s about a 30 minute walk to actually get to the beach most people hang out and surf on plus the hostel is quite a way down a side street therefore not great if you ever wanted to walk back on your own in the evening.
I’d recommend trying to stay closer to the main beach (that being the one along from the one that is marked as HIkkaduwa beach on google maps). Unfrotunately most of the cheaper accommodation and hostels are over that way though.
Lucky Beach Front Hostel is your best bet if you’d like to stay in a hostel to meet others, keep costs down but be as close as possible to all the main action in Hikkaduwa. This hostel is still near to the station but it’s right on the main road so no sketchy walks home and night and much quicker to get down to the main beach from.
I love Drifters Hotel and Beach Restaurant just because it’s connected to one of the cute cafes that line the beach and what more could you want than to wake up and just roll out onto the beach and into a deck chair. They have a swimming pool there too.
If you just want to chill by a pool and enjoy a resort like feel while you’re in Hikkaduwa definitely check out Coral Sands Hotel. It is a bit further away from the main activity, between turtle beach and the train station, but you’ll probably want to spend more time in your accommodation there anyway.
How Long to Spend in Hikkaduwa
At least a couple of nights. If you’ve got time you could happily spend a week or more here enjoying the beach, surfing and parties.
Moving On: How to get from Hikkaduwa to Galle Fort
Approx 10 mins on the train
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