About this blog: A complete travel guide to Mirissa, the most famous beach town of Southern coast of Sri Lanka for whale watching, surfing and soaking in the vibes. Read on if you need a 3 days itinerary in Mirissa. Listed are the best things to do in Mirissa if you are traveling with family, specially during December holidays.
Located at the southernmost tip of the island of Sri Lanka, Mirissa is a picturesque beach town. One of the most sought after beach destinations of Asia, Mirissa is an idyllic retreat for surfers, honeymooners and digital nomads alike.
You can spend anywhere between 3 nights to a week in Mirissa depending on the kind of activities you want to do in this beach town. You can spend a week in Mirissa. You may stop by for a couple of days at Mirissa. Mirissa is the place you should be at the new years eve if you are spending your charismas vacation in Sri Lanka.
“Why don’t we come to Mirissa instead of Goa?” I exclaimed the moment I stepped into the beach. The other night, we made descend from the mountains of Ella, the central highlands of Sri Lanka and reached the Mirissa hotel by the end of the night. We could hear the sea road but had not witnessed the vast azure water-mass. Well for starters, we need a visa to visit Sri Lanka. Although it is rather easy for Indians to obtain a tourist visa for Sri Lanka.
Mirissa remains etched in my mind as a beautiful love song, an ethereal retreat that did not really happen. Or may be it did?
The winding roads running across the stretch of the ocean, the countryside dotted with dainty Dutch villas in bright yellow and blue hues, the abundance of sunshine, most perfect bowls of seafood stewed in coconut milk, palm trees swaying in mellow ocean breeze, I recall Mirissa in all her glory!
At night, we sat by the beach at Mirissa. The sea proceeded periodically to kiss our feet. With time, it started to roar and gobble us up. Despite the surreal beauty of the island, I remembered the imminent threat Sri Lanka faces of aggressive rise in water level due to climate change and global warming.
You should visit Mirissa if you are planning a Romantic gateway to Sri Lanka and want to spend a few days relaxing around the beach. You could see how life unfolds around the fishing villages, taste delicious Sri Lankan meal prepared from fresh local produce, learn the art of creating wooden Kolam Masks, take the long walks by the sea during sunset and find little turtles being hatches at the reservoirs, go on a few hikes, walk the stairs to the top of the light house.
Overall, I had little to no expectation from Mirissa except from a relaxing vacation to rejuvenate. Mirissa did not disappoint. I would recommend visiting Mirissa as a family, with little children, or for those who want to party at the beach during New Years Eve in Sri Lanka on a budget.
I would 100% recommend Mirissa for solo women travelers as it is one of the safest destinations in Asia. For moderate adventures like whale watching and small hikes, Mirissa is a good base as well. You easily make a base in Mirissa, rent a scooty and explore the nearby beaches of South coast of Sri Lanka.
If you are seeking more remoteness and less tourists, consider a stay near Tangalle or Hikkaduwa. The Weligama Bay is a high-end resort town near Mirissa, where we saw fancy restaurants and 5 star resorts and spotted many famous cricketers from the Sri Lankan cricket team. From Mirissa, you could easily do a day trip to Galle however I would highly recommend a stay at Galle at least for a couple of nights.
In this blog, I give you a rough idea of how to spend 3 days in Mirissa. I have also chalked a lit of must do things in Mirissa. It is a fairly busy tourist spot with a handful of interesting activities. Contrary to the popular belief, that Sri Lanka looks like a lot of Munnar or that of larger parts of Kerala, I found it offers a wide array of “different” cultural and natural experiences.
Things to Know before Planning a trip to Mirissa
Mirissa is a “busy” tourist destination in Sri Lanka. During the busy months (November to February), hotels in Mirissa sell out fast. Please consider booking a hotel before visiting Mirissa.
Mirissa is more famous than you would have thought. It is the heart of southern coastal tourism economy in Sri Lanka. Many restaurants and hotels abound the coastline. It is not exactly a calm and quiet spot however it is not as busy as Phuket or Langkawi. Not yet.
You could rent a scooty in Mirissa.
You could make it a base and explore many other beaches of interest (lighthouse, surfing bay, national parks etc) around Mirissa as a part of day trip plans. Within an hour and a half you can make a trip to Galle, a UNESCO heritage town at the west or to the Hiriketiya beach in the east famous for surfing.
The scooty helps. Filling up fuel for the scooty is easy and often erratic. For example, we ended up purchasing a bottle of fuel from a grocery store where we had initially gone to enquire about a nearby gas station.
Mirissa is a favourite spot for surfers. They say the sea is calm once you have crossed the reef break for intermediate surfers.
Mirissa is a gorgeous beach in Asia to relax. We often forget how important it is to take some down time to rejuvenate and emerge back to the world. Mirissa is the perfect spot to get back the focus. You do not have much distraction in Mirissa. You do not have the fear of missing out of not taking part in a handful of activities. The food is delicious. the beach town is very affordable.
If you want to do nothing and spend your day idling around a beach, Mirissa offers some of the best beaches in this part of the world. The sea is calm. The weather is perfect. It is never too cold in Mirissa however the monsoon months from May/Jun and Sept/Oct are not ideal to visit Mirissa if you want to experience the island in all its glory!
Every year during the new year’s eve, Mirissa holds a beautiful beach party. I recommend you spend the night of 31st right at the heart of Mirissa beach and enjoy with the locals of Sri Lanka!
Favorite activities in Mirissa
We spent a week in Mirissa. While most of our days were spent relaxing by the beach, since we had descended from the central highlands of Nuwara Eliya and Ella, we wanted to take it slow and Mirissa was the perfect affordable base for it. However, Mirissa has a lot of exciting things to do.
We rented a scooty and explored a lot of beaches nearby. I recommend you do that too.
Finding the best beaches in Mirissa
From Mirissa to Unawatuna to the west there is a long stretch of easily navigable road. To the east, there is a road connectivity too although not always by the side of the sea.
The long stretch of beach by the town of Mirissa is pretty famous among the surfers and night life enthusiasts. To swim at the Mirissa beach in a safe space, head towards the left side of the beach. The right side of the beach is filled with pebbles.
At night, the Mirissa beach truly comes alive with number of beachside shacks hosting sit down dinner with fresh catch of the day. It is easily accessible and crowded.
The Secret Beach of Mirissa
It will take you a while to visit the Secret bech of Mirissa with upward and downhill steep roads but once you have been there you will probably spend a day at the Secret beach of Mirissa. It is secluded, not exactly the best place to swim but certainly the perfect beach with a laid back vibe, tucked at a corner where the world with its prying eyes would not find you!
The Weligama Bay is the upscale resort town near Mirissa. It has very calm water. The nightlife is NOT remarkable. If you want to enjoy a vacation at on end of the luxury resorts, Weligama is your best bait in the area. This is an ideal beach for surfing at Mirissa.
For every photography enthusiast, the Koggala beach is an ideal place especially during sunset. This is where the iconic stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka get into action. Stilt fishing is one of the ancient ways of catching fish in the island. Before the fishing trawler came into place, these stilt fishermen had fed the island and ensured the export lot is in place. However, with changing time, the stilt fishing has become a technique to amuse tourists only.
Keggala beach is situated next to a lagoon. Many high-end luxury hotels are nearby. If you are looking for a cheaper option to stay, Koggala can be it. However, as you drift further away from Mirissa, the nightlife becomes technically non existent. Eateries are less in number.
On the way to Unawatuna, you will come across Dalawella and Mihirpenna beach. Unawatuna is a very cute beach town with many cafes and souvenir shops and is the closest to Galle unless you have decided to stay at Galle itself. However the beach at Unawatuna was filled with pebbles. It is almost impossible to swim here.
The Dalawella beach on the other hand, famed for the rope swing shot during sunset, is a small but beautiful beach. It stages a stunning sunset, has a coral reef, is ideal for surfing. It is a good beach to swim and if you are lucky you may see turtles!
Along the left stretch of Mirissa beach, you will find a handful of interesting beaches as well. The stretch from Mirissa to Unawatuna is more famous to tourists. As a result the beaches of the left are often less crowded and surprisingly empty!
One of the longest beaches in the south of Sri Lanka Matara is a beautiful family friendly beach and located right next to the rock that houses a Buddhist Shrine. Matara fort is a historical landmark. You can easily spend a day here lunching at he Dutchman’s Street. I love the Prawn curry cooked in coconut milk they serve here which is an authentic Sri Kankan dish (no, it is not the Bengali Prawn Malaicurry).
Did you know: Matara houses an Auditorium named after Rabindranath Tagore, the first noble laurate of Asia, a revered poet from Bengal, my home!
A protruding land housing an old lighthouse, Dondra beach is half an hour’s ride from Mirissa beach. You need a permit to climb atop the lighthouse. Dondra is the southernmost tip of the island nation of Sri Lanka. There is a scenic beach adjacent to the lighthouse however it is not swimming friendly. Close to the Dondra beach, stands the Dewandara Temple, a scared place for both the Buddhist and Hindu communities.
The beaches I have listed are the famous ones near Mirissa. You can always explore a bit and find your own secluded places however please be advices that tides may cause a rising water level. If that happens, the “secret groves” would not be very safe. Please be cognizant of that before going for coastal hikes and finding serene coves surrounded by rocs where locals do not frequent.
The coastal stretch of Sri Lanka is one of the most beaches in the world. Please do not litter or leave behind plastic waste. the marine life, including the turtles and coral reefs suffer heavy damage due to tourists littering.
The coconut hill of Mirissa
Swaying coconut trees along the coast of Indian ocean is a rather common phenomenon across Sri Lankan coastline. However the Coconut Hill of Mirissa, unlike any place I have seen so far, is a small mound of sand and soil 10 minutes off a busy street. Some hundreds of coconut trees stand in attention here as ethereal sunset takes place everyday. If nothing else, you should visit the Coconut Hill of Mirissa just to watch the sunset. Albeit there will be more people than trees thanks to Instagram, specially in season. But it is one of the views that you must not miss!
It was a short 10 min hike to the top of the hillock for the best view. There is a paved road with incline but the coconut grove was not stroller friendly.
Hiking atop the hill during daylight can be challenging depending on heat.
The Parrot Hill of Mirissa
At the end of Mirissa beach stand the Parrot Rock. Depending on the tidal waves, you can access the Parrot rock and even climb atop it to get a bird’s eye view of the whole stretch of Mirissa beach and sailing fishermen.
The Secret Beach of Mirissa
On the second day in Mirissa, we rented a scooty and headed out to a beach that the Map showed as “Hidden” and Off limit large vehicles. I am not sure if we ended up visiting that beach but we sure found a way to a beach that very few people frequented.
You could spend an entire day here. It was that pretty.
On the way to Secret beach, you can see a small village on the right side. Fishermen live there. Tiny houses with slopes made of coconut leaves, children playing in the mud. The Secret beach of Mirissa remains my favourite destination. Due to its obscure location not many people visit here. You need to hike a little more than 20 minutes to get there. there are markers on the road lest you forget the road.
Mirissa beach party
Being the prominent beach of the south of Sri Lanka, Mirissa holds a huge beach party at the end of the year with many tourists and locals flocking to the beach, stages with DJ and electric neon lights raving the dance floor. It is not a “calm and quite” destination to begin the year if that is what you are seeking. At the middle of the night, ships blow to wish you all a happy new year! There are fireworks. Abundance of beer bottles on the beach. I loved the new year beach party at Mirissa.
Surfing in Mirissa
Mirissa attracts surfers from every corner of the world with its relatively calmer water and profound wall like waves. Being a tropical destination, Mirissa always lets you dive into warm water, with pleasant surfing condition for all the 12 months. Mirissa is famous amoung surferes because of the well defined reef and pleasant setting among the palm fringed coast line.
Some of the best beaches near Mirissa to start Surfing for the intermediates are: Weligama (best place to surf for beginners), Koggala, Hikkaduwa, Tangalle, Matara beach and S K Town.
“When these turtles grow up, they come back to this hatchery, because they think this is a safe place for them to lay eggs.” My eyes swelled hearing this story.
On our way to Unawatuna from Mirissa, we stopped for a while at one of the many turtle sanctuaries of Mirissa. Sure it is an easy tourist trop however in the process if even one turtle get rescued, I believe that is one life saved.
We found turtles who consumed plastic and now mostly stay afload. Turtles stuck with fishing trauler nad now swims with a few limbs less. Some of them live long and can make transatlantic swim to destination as far as Africa. Although it is free to enter the turtle rescue centers it is assumed you will make some donation to run the show.
Stilt fishermen at Mirissa- To photograph them or not?
One of the dying practice of Sri Lankan Fishing Community is stilt fishing. Similar to what I had experienced in Myanmar, the stilt fishermen of Mirissa stand on the long sticks planted on the soft sand of the Koggala beach. It is an ancient practice slowly being eaten away by the introduction of more advanced and automated fishing techniques.
however the Koggala Fishermen do it till date, not so much for fishing but it has got more to do with Instagram photo ps. You are required to pay a certain amount for to click those pictures at the stunning backdrop of a livid sunset scene.
I felt a mellow sense of desperation as the time I had visited Koggala was just after the Lockdown. Not many tourists were around. These people who had made their livelihood from photo ops had lost a lot during the pandemic period. Their tired face and eloquent eyes spoke volume of the hardship inflicted.
Shopping at Mirissa- One of the most rewarding tourist experience
The main Mirissa beach is dotted with many cafes and restaurants. The road next to it is dotted with pretty souvenir stalls and massage parlours and makeshift “Spa centers”. I recommend a visit to the souvenir stalls, especially to the shops that sells the wooden masks in bright red yellow and pink hues. They are believed to ward of evil eye and usually hung at the entrance of the door! Locals call them Kolam.
Massage at Mirissa
I have said this before. Mirissa is a poetry written in a laid back attitude. Going slow is the Mantra to live the proverbial island life in Mirissa. Massage parlous have mushroom around the main Mirissa beach where you can get a quick relaxing muscle pull. For all the hiking around the central highlands of Sri Lanka you have done, this massage is a necessity!
Rent a scooty
Renting a scooty in Mirissa is a quick and easy way to get around the island quickly. I recommend this especially if you are ,making a base at Mirissa and traveling to other Sri Lankan beaches. Most of the prominent beaches around Mirissa are within a distance of 1 to 2 hours drive. So why not?
If you are a traveling in a larger group, consider hiring a Tuktuk for the day!
We rented a scooty and the place offered us to fill the tank with petrol stored in a bottle of Coke! I mean this is not exactly a “legal” thing to do but we visited Sri Lanka right before the political mayhem of 2022 began.
In fact, it is possible to rent a Tuktuk while traveling in Mirissa. However road condition and traffic could be a bit tricky and I would not do it myself. I have seen westerners exploring the roads of Mirissa and nearby coastal town using a Tuktuk though. It is a good option if you are traveling as a family with kids. Renting a Tuktuk is very affordable option.
Day trip to Galle: UNESCO Heritage site
If possible stay for a night at Galle. If not more. Galle and the town of Unawatuna is a fun place and the vibe is pretty different than that of Mirissa, mainly due to their size differences.
However if you are really pressed for time, do consider a day trip from Mirissa to Galle. It takes an hour and a half to reach Galle from Mirissa. It used to be a port town in the ancient days. the Portuguese followed by the Dutch had built their small time residency around the Galle lighthouse. Some of the remains of those colonial time period remains and are highly preserved for tourists.
Granted it is a very touristy place and efforts are made to make the Galle town look the way it does. Small, Cute, perfect, Galle is truly a tiny bubble of dainty land by the sea which is oblivious to the colourful fishing towns from close by areas which look and feel very different. Galle makes an effort to look “European”. It was, back in 16th century, founded by European settlers and much of their antics prevail.
There are a handful of old time Dutch houses and hospitals which has now been converted into boutique stays. The town of Galle is dotted with pretty shops selling arts and souvenirs by the local artists which I recommend you buy.
Whale watching in Mirissa
Sri Lanka is one of the better places to go for whale watching. It is really affordable compared to that of European or Alaskan cruises. December is the time when whales migrate to the south and there is ample chances that you would be able to see a whale traversing the course.
The Whale watching tour in Mirissa lasts for about 5 hours, and pick up happens right from the hotel. It is around USD 60 per person.
There are many questions on ethic of whale watching, if they run close to the whales, or cut their natural course or create noise.
I would argue yes all those happens but then if you want to watch whales making those iconic across the ocean journey you need to know the art of diving. If not, these whale watching tours would be your best bait. Considering the price point, Mirissa is the best place to go for a whale watching tour.
It is not guarantied that you will catch those gigantic marine animals in their natural habitat however you will surely see the beautiful dolphins.
Snorkeling with Turtles is another marine activity you can do in Mirissa. The crystal clear waters of Indian ocean lets you
When in Mirissa, eat good food
Mirissa offers some of the finest dining places in the whole of Sri Lanka. Part of it can be credited to the fact Mirissa is a hotspot for tourists from different parts of the world as well as there is a thriving local community. Mirissa has a fix for all kinds of craving, from Pizza to Thai to off course the best of Sri Lankan Cuisine!
Following is a list of good places to eat in Mirissa. We have been to each of them and tried their food and loved it.
- Brizo beach Restaurant: Right on the Mirissa beach, well lit romantic set up. usually serves fresh catch of the day grilled or cooked the way you want. On a side, you may order rice.
- O Mirissa Cafe and Bistro: Recommend the ricotta ravioli. Pizzas are amazing.
- Dewmini Roti Shop: Local roti shop with a twist in the menu and probably one of the most sought after places in Mirissa. Recommend their avocado, cheese, tomato roti. One of the most authentic Sri lankan Meal experiences in Mirissa.
- Fujisan: Located closer to Weligama Bay, this is a Japanese place which a wide selection of sushi and shashimi. Decent food, nice cocktails.
- Petti Petti: Located close to the famed Parrot rock. petti Petti offers a chill vibe with a pool facing the beach. The pool is accessible to walk in guests who dine here. Food is good if not great!
- Margherita Italiano: Can not recommend enough for the pizza, specially the Anchovy pizza.
- Concept La mer: A romantic restaurant with beautiful atmosphere for a date night with the perfect authentic Sri Lankan food. They have interesting cocktails to go along for the evening.
- Ceylon Curry House: If there is one place you need to go in Mirissa to eat rice and Curry it is the Ceylon Curry House. It is a no frill place with the most delicious Sri Lankan Food in the beach town!
- The Dutchman’s Street: High-end romantic place right by the Matara beach that has a very beautiful indoor sitting area with a handful of antic items selected from around the globe. Try their Sri Lankan specialty for sea food curries. Reservation recommended.
- Deltano Woodfire Pizza: If it is Pizza it has to be Deltano in Mirissa. They have a wide selection of Pizza. You can customize toppings. Slightly higher priced than other places but it has a nice beach view sitting area and free parking. Try the Hawaiian Pizza at Deltano Mirissa.
- Shady Lane: Famous for the loaded Smoothy bowl, poke bowls that make rounds on your IG feed. A great place to have breakfast in Mirissa, specially for vegans. Plenty of light meals and vegetarian options.
How to spend 3 days in Mirissa
Day 1 in Mirissa:
Reach Mirissa early in the morning. Stay close to the beach.
Spend the day idling around the beach. You can indulge in surfing, snorkeling or just find a spot and read a book.
At night, the beach bars are a good place to dine in and enjoy the fresh catch of the day.
Day 2 in Mirissa:
From Mirissa, you can make many day trips to nearby attractions. Depending on your itinerary, and how fast you want to travel, consider visiting some of it.
- Day trip to Galle, the Colonial city
Galle is famous for cobblestoned old Portuguese/Dutch city built in the 16th century. There is a lighthouse, old church that reminds you of offbeat destination of Old Goa, Old Phuket Town. It is well kept, touristy and expensive. I would recommend staying at Galle for a couple of nights. however if you are tight on time, a day trip is a good option. it is located at a distance of 1 and a half hours from Mirissa.
- Yala National Park
Famous of leopards, crocodiles and countless Asian elephants, Yala National Park is a must visit destination in the south of Sri Lanka. it is located at a distance of 2 hours from Mirissa beach town. You can make a day trip and opt for a 4 hours jungle safari.
If you are not going for the day trips from Mirissa, considering you have counted for days at these destinations, I suggest rent a scooty and explore the Mirissa beach town. You can visit the shops where they sell Kolam masks, visit the cute cafes around the town that serve authentic cuisine, hike the famed Coconut grove of Mirissa during sunset.
Day 3 in Mirissa:
Start the day early and go for whale watching tours. These are conducted tours that follow the path of migrating whales to the southern team on the waters of Indian ocean. It is a rare experience and very much worth the money you pay in Sri Lanka. However, the question remains how ethical these tours are, given tour guides can (and they do) push the fleet for more sighting and thus more tips.
Once the tour is done, you can spend the second half of the day exploring the secret beach of Mirissa. It is a bit far from the main Mirissa beach. The secret beach requires you to hike a bit. Since the access to secret beach is a bit difficult to navigate, not many tourists visit here. It is beautiful with gorgeous azure water and ripples. However there is a monopoly of one single cafe in the beach. Food was decent if not something to go speechless about.
A good way to experience Mirissa is to walk the entire width of the Mirissa beach, from south to North. In the process you will encounter many locals, beach bars, cafes, shops and massage parlors.
Best time to plan a visit to Mirissa
Please keep in mind that the east and the southwest coast of Sri Lanka has different season of monsoon. While November to April is a great time to visit Mirissa, the beaches in the east coast say Anugam Bay etc will receive rainfall. While the beaches of the southwest coast is wet, the beaches of the east coast will be dry and smiling bright under a clear sky.
For Mirissa, the best time to visit is the drier month starting from the end of November to the beginning of June. While April to June will be excruciatingly hot summer months, the sea will be pleasant. Mirissa beach will be easy to access.
I made a mistake of visiting a Thai beach during monsoon months. I regret the decision till day. the sky is overcast with dark clouds, the sea is mellow and scary with huge waves, the vibe was off. Do not visit Mirissa or any beach destination during rain.
Sri Lanka does not really have a winter so you can omit that option.
What should be an ideal budget to spend 3 nights in Mirissa
For 3 nights in Mirissa, we had spent a total of around USD 400 including shopping souvenirs.
Hotel Stay: USD 180 (the price changes based on season demands) including breakfast
Activities: $60 for whale watching per person. If you visit Galle or Yala national park, you will pay some more. Account for USD 100.
Scooty rental: USD 5 to 10 depending on the model you take. You have to keep a certain amount as deposit money. Please ask the hotel to arrange for a scooty from a trusted source.
Food: USD 50 for two including a diverse options between cheap eats and classy cafes.
Shopping: I bought a couple of Kolam masks and paid USD 120 for them.
Generic travel advice would be to visit Mirissa during shoulder season for cheaper accommodation.
Is Mirissa safe for solo women travelers
While I explored Mirissa with my husband, I can tell you I will totally visit Mirissa as a solo female travelers. Having traveled in the Indian subcontinent alone for more than 3 years (as a local), I can tell you which are the places best suited for women. I under women face different challenged based on the skin tone, the colour and curls of our hair and the language we speak. however, Mirissa is an all accepting beautiful beach town!
Sri Lanka has had a difficult past with turbulent political history.
Tippping in Mirissa
You are not required to tip in Mirissa, mainly because many of these restaurants or cafes are family run. More often than not, it is the owner who is serving you food directly from the kitchen where the women is preparing the dish. I would not say tipping is discouraged though.
Sri Lankan economy is heavily dependent on tourist footfall. Mirissa in particular sees seasonal surges in economy. It is a great gesture to tip your server if you are satisfied with the service provided. Overall, Sri Lanka is an inexpensive destination if you consider the close competitions (think Maldives or Goa, even some of the beaches in Kerala). A little tipping would not hurt.
We visited Mirissa by the end of 2021. It was the time the island nation was emerging out of a long spat of pandemic. We needed to carry vaccination certificate, many rounds of RTPCR tests, be wary of people, wear a mask all the time. Many tourist establishments had shut down. the Russian tourists were lounging at the beac fo Mirissa as Goa (the Indian beach destination which is where most of the Russians visit) had closed down.
I recall talking to a local fishermen whose son had to join back the fleet making transatlantic journeys to be able to earn daily living due to dearth of tourist economy. Fast forward a couple of years and things have changed significantly. However, the imminent goal of the Sri Lankan tourism sector is to imbibe responsible tourism programs to mitigate the threat of climate change. With a sea slowly engulfing much of the island nation, many of the coastal villages are facing a threat to be completely wiped out. The progress would not happen overnight but the locals say how they sea the sea coming closer to their home.