Sri Lanka is one of 2019’s most raved about destinations. Skip the tourist traps and head for the palm-fringed fishing port of Tangalle where surfers flock and seafood is fresh. We’ve rounded up the best places to eat, sleep and experience the south coast.

One of the most talked-about travel destinations of 2019 – and not merely in light or in spite of recent headlinesSri Lanka has year-round appeal. Visitors to the Southern Province often overlook Tangalle in favour of the well-trodden Mirissa or Galle. Yet this fishing port’s quiet charm, scarcer crowds and attractive new openings make it not just a beautifully understated town to visit after a safari in Udawalawe or Yala, but one which easygoing travellers should prioritise over more saturated spots on Sri Lanka’s southern trail.

Situated in the Hambantota District, Tangalle is a palm-fringed patchwork of small bays and beaches, collectively forming one of the country’s largest bays and protected from the ocean by an enclosing reef. The coastline is populated by sashaying trees and striking rocky headlands to the west, and stretches of secluded, white-sand beaches to the east. Inland, lush jungle and paddy fields tended to by farmers paint a rural scene. The air is saturated with a laid-back surfer attitude; time here moves at a gloriously glacial pace – sprawl on the beach lulled by the rolling waves, stirred only by the calls of fishermen hauling their catch.



Uniting luxury, nature and wellness, Amanwella is a sanctuary that echoes Tangalle’s charm. Part of the Aman family, the resort is a haven of clean lines and natural materials inspired by modernist pioneer Geoffrey Bawa. Wander through the sprawling coconut grove to the hotel’s secluded beach or take in views of the Indian Ocean from the 47m-long infinity pool. Each of Amanwella’s 30 understated yet elegant suites are married to the surrounds with floor-to-ceiling windows and large, sea-facing terraces. Add to this the special touches of highly conscientious staff and you’re guaranteed an unforgettable stay.

  • +94 47 224 1333
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  • Bodhi Mawatha
    Wella Mawatha

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort

Opulence is what distinguishes this latest addition to the Anantara group. Spread across a 21-acre coconut plantation, Anantara Peace Haven’s 152 rooms include beach-view apartments and stand-alone cottages. Opt for a villa to enjoy a private plunge pool. Blooming lotuses and indigenous design beckon you to a world of relaxation at the award-winning spa, where therapies include chakra crystal balancing and circulation-boosting massage. Don’t miss Verala a sea urchin-shapped teppanyaki restaurant, or Il Mare, for an Italian-inspired menu. Something you need? Your accommodating villa host is but a WhatsApp message away.


For luxury at a modest price, this boutique hotel is 8km inland from coastal Tangalle, situated in the peaceful rural village of Aranwella. Colonial design is married with modern-luxe comforts. Stroll from your minimalist suite, across Maya’s beautiful two-acre nature garden, to the outdoor pavilion for a herbal massage. This is rejuvenation at its finest.


Moon River Seafood Restaurant

Seafood is what Tangalle does best. Within the surfer-friendly Unakuruwa Bay, the rustic Moon River Seafood Restaurant serves produce caught by local villagers. What this surf shack lacks in elegant decor, it makes up for with its exquisite prawns – try them, and let the rich, salty flavours of the sea do the talking. More than just a great spot for watching the world go by, the restaurant has its own seasoned surf teachers, should you fancy hitting the waves.

Aga Surf View

A stone’s throw from Moon River, Aga Surf View is a collection beachfront cottages overlooking Unakuruwa Bay in which you can stay – but we love it for the restaurant. Owned by the lovely former surfer Najee, its kitchen rustles up noteworthy fragrant seafood curries zinging with lemongrass and chilli, and tempered by sweet coconut. Saunter there one evening and dine under cosy, date-worthy lighting against the backdrop of lapping waves and smooth jazz.

The Restaurant, Amanwella

For a first-class dining experience, try Amanwella’s main restaurant where you can enjoy delectable Asian and Mediterranean dishes and a superb arrack sour backdropped by coconut groves and local musicians’ melodies. For seafood cooked over a coconut charcoal grill and refreshing salads, Amanwella’s Beach Club restaurant should be your first point of call.

  • +94 47 224 1333
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  • Boddhi Mawatha
    Wella Wathuara


Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Start your day off at the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, one of the oldest sanctuaries of its kind on the island. It’s frequented by over 150 species of birds, which flit around picturesque mangrove lagoons creating a kaleidoscopic effect. The 6am boat tour is well worth the early wake up.

  • +94 47 498 5055
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  • Gurupokuna Road
    E.J.A.P. Buddhi Priyankara
    1/81, Bataata South


A little further afield is the enigmatic Ussangoda, one of Sri Lanka’s newest National Parks, distinguished by its scorched red earth and starved of trees, an archaeological phenomenon which many believe was caused by an ancient meteor hitting the ground. Positively Martian.

Hummanaya, Wewurukannala Vihara and Mulkirigala Rock Temple Excursion

Venture 30 minutes’ drive west from Tangalle and you’ll reach Hummanaya, Sri Lanka’s only natural blowhole which spurts water around every ten minutes (the rougher the sea, the greater the crescendo). This can easily be worked into a half-day excursion that takes in the Buddhist site of Wewurukannala Vihara, home to Sri Lanka’s largest seated Buddha that towers some 160ft. Navigate the temple’s Tunnel of Hell, in which life-size depictions of sinners are disemboweled by demons and dunked into boiling cauldrons. Half an hour away is the Mulkirigala Rock Temple, an ancient Buddhist monastery carved into a mountainside. A 500-step climb up to its labyrinthine chambers and caves make locals refer to it as “little Sigiriya”.

Rekawa Beach

While there’s plenty on offer to satisfy more active travellers, the allure of Tangalle’s tranquil beaches is hard to resist. With its carefree surfer’s sensibility, the joy of doing nothing in a palm-fringed paradise such as this never felt so rewarding. Rekawa Beach is a popular spot for watching marine turtles lay their eggs at night. Hire a snorkel and swim out to sea – there’s a good chance you might spot turtles happily bobbing along in their natural habitat.

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