Sri Lanka - Budget vs Blowout
Head off on a trip of a lifetime...
The tiny tropical island of Sri Lanka is the destination on every surfer’s lips right now. Go for empty line-ups and barrel waves, stay for safaris, year-round sunshine, spa days and sambal curries.
Whether you’re a hotdogger or a total grommet, we’ve found the best places to dip your toe in the water - no matter what your budget…
Where To Stay: Duwa Villas, Ahangama
Nothing says ‘vacay like Kimmy K’ quite like a private colonial villa with butler service, perched on the edge of a river buzzing with awesome wildlife. Less than two kilometres from some of the best surfing spots in the Southern tip of Sri Lanka (where Duwa’s team can arrange as many lessons as you like), you’ll find tea plantations, a turtle hatchery and some incredible restaurants nearby - if you can tear yourself away, that is.
First up, there’s floating in your azure blue, river-view swimming pool to be done, followed by a bounce on your King-size bed and lounging in your cosy outdoor living room. Make like a Kardashian and hide from the hoardes of fans following you everywhere (when will those Tinder dates get they’ve been ghosted?!).
Think Netflix and chilling under thousands of stars, fireside BBQs, home-cooked meals in a kitchen so big and shiny you’ll cry, hours of soaking in luxuriously deep bath tubs… this is the place to relax and recharge (your brain and your phone, for all those rich-kids-of-Instagram worthy photos – when the Wifi’s this speedy, no one can stay unplugged that long).
Cost: From $1000 per night for a four person villa, including meals.
What To Do: Sunset paddle boarding
Paddle boarding through the villa’s lush backwaters is a thrilling and calming experience, all at the same time. See water monitors (giant lizards – cuter than they sound) and butterflies before gliding past your own verandah, casually waving to friends who were too lazy to peel themselves off their sun loungers and now kicking themselves for missing the experience…
Where To Stay: Tintagel, Colombo
A former Prime Minister’s actual house with its own *signature scent* spritzed around every room, Tintagel Colombo is legitimately luxe. Slap in the middle of the capital, this boutique 10 room hotel is the definition of bougie.
It feels like staying with a ridiculously cool family member… who happens to live minutes from the best restaurants, shops and clubs… has their own private lap pool and spa room… and lets you have the bedroom with the insane four poster bed, giant shower, and enormous TV. Oh, and the baths have squishy built-in neck pillows. Built. In. Neck. Pillows.
Grab a tuk-tuk to Kaema Sutra for perfect two egg Hoppers, the national dish made from rice flour and coconut milk (like pancakes, but 100x better), then book a super cheap spa day or swan around the designer shopping centres basking in the air con and pretending you can afford, well, anything on the shelves…
Cost: From $341 per night for an Executive room, on a bed and breakfast basis.
What To Do: Feast at Ministry Of Crab
Veggies, look away now. Throw on a bib, grab your tools and get stuck into the ginormous crustaceans plonked on your plate at Ministry Of Crab. Set up by renowned chef Dharshan Munidasa and cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, it sits in a stunning 400-year-old Dutch hospital. Finger-licking signature dishes centre around lagoon crab (up to a ginormous 2kg), prepared in one of four ways – chilli, pepper, garlic or Sri Lankan curry. Add oyster ‘shooters’ served with Dharsan’s 20 year old soya sauce recipe and pillow-soft Sri Lankan wood-fired bread to mop up the juices and you’ll roll home, a very happy clam.
Where To Stay: Galle Face, Colombo
Every Sri Lanka newbie should start with a night of pure indulgence at the iconic Galle Face; its ridonkulously huge ceilings, grand libraries and posho ballrooms dating back to 1864. Hundreds of celebrities have walked through its historic doors, including actual Princes and Princesses – you can wander through a hall of fame boasting snaps of celeb guests from Scarlett Johansson to Harrison Ford.
Start your day on the beautiful breezy verandah, stuffing your face at the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast (they’ve got everything from noodles to ice cream - drool), then plan out your day of sun, shopping or excursions. From Galle Face you can easily reach nearby city Kandy to check out awesome Buddhist relics, or jaw-dropping Sigiriya, a whopping great ancient rock fortress once ruled by a phenomenally extra King and Queen, who made hundreds of slaves build them a mountain-top palace.
Now, it's populated by hundreds of naughty monkeys who’ll try to steal your snacks. It’s still so perfectly preserved (including the giant Royal swimming pool, srsly) it’ll send tingles down your spine.
Cost: From $156 per night for a Superior Room, on a bed and breakfast basis.
What To Do: Don’t leave without a rather civilised picnic or game of croquet on the hotel’s famous South lawn, with a glass (ok, pitcher) of Pimm’s – a British tradition they’ve kept going for hundreds of years. Then cool off in the gorgeous salt water swimming pool overlooking the rough seas, where you can watch a stunning sunset, cocktail in hand, if you time it just right.
Where To Stay: Camp Poe, Ahangama
For the gnarliest surf experience on a tight budget, head straight for this super-friendly surf camp and yoga school. You’ll instantly make new pals as you greet the day in the specially-built yoga shala (there are two sessions every day, in a variety of disciplines), then tuck into a HUGE two course breakfast cooked by lovely locals. Full to bursting, head off for a day of chasing barrel waves on secret sandy beaches, before heading out for some drinks in nearby Mirissa beach, or back to camp for a British or Sri Lankan feast by moonlight.
Another night you might play darts, add to the art on the walls, listen to music or take a midnight dip in the camp’s beautiful pool. It's likely you'll be tired AF from an amazing day exploring local markets, trekking in the rainforest, or whale watching but you'll always find energy for a beer or two with new friends from around the world. Do NOT skimp on a day trip to Uda Walawe National Park - home to huge herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, it’s unforgettable.
Ben and Till, the young surfing instructors who run this laid-back surfer’s paradise, can tell you about brilliant local restaurants - but the camp vibe is so fun you’ll never want to leave. Bungalows, glamping-style tents and huts offer levels of accommodation to suit every budget, all set within the actual jungle. It’s buzzing with cool wildlife, so expect monkeys on the roof, and land monitors (giant lizards) in the walkways…
What To Do: Ride the surf, dude
Sri Lanka's south coast is paradise found for all surfers.
The best waves arrive in October until mid-May. From perfect sandy beaches for beginners, easy shore breaks for intimates to great reef breaks for the experienced, there's a wave for everyone. Ben and Till will find it for you no matter what the weather.
Cost: From $599 for full board surf and yoga week. Safari tents start at $40 per person, per night including two (amazing) meals.