Following our stay high in the mountains around Haputale, we took a morning bus for the 7-hour journey down to Tangalle, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. For this part of our journey we were winging it, with nothing booked in advance. We were just looking forward to those fantastic Tangalle beaches.
We arrived in Tangalle following 2 cramped, frenetic, suicidal, gut-wrenching bus rides, but at least we had seats this time.
We hopped off the bus at the main Tangalle bus station and – avoiding the tuk-tuk drivers – headed back across the river. We were looking for the guesthouses strung along the 7 km stretch of Tangalle beach.
Having read some good reports, we were hoping to get a room at the Kingfisher guesthouse which was around 1 km from the bridge.
Along the way, we checked out 3 or 4 places offering rooms – none of which took our fancy.
When we finally got to the Kingfisher we found they were fully booked.
Gayana Guest House & Restaurant
After our long bus journey, we weren’t in the mood for an extended guesthouse search. We doubled back a short way along the road, and enquired for vacancies at the Gayana Guest House.
They had good rooms available – with balconies & beach view – and on the beach-side of the road.
The Gayana Guest House was about the 6th place we visited in Tangalle before agreeing to check in. The price at 2,500 rupees was reasonable, and the rooms were spacious, bright and airy – with a good-sized balcony overlooking the beach.
All rooms have large comfortable four-poster beds with nets in place.
The young lads that actually run the place are friendly and helpful, though we rarely saw the real management.
The location of this guesthouse for both beach and town is perfect, and if you like walking you can literally walk for hours along the beach eastwards from here.
We wouldn’t advise eating at Gayana due to their inflated prices, but nearby is the excellent Breeze Guesthouse Beach Restaurant. This beach restaurant is surrounded by flaming coconuts in the evening. Here, you can eat and drink very well and very reasonably, in a beautiful beach setting.
We actually returned to the Gayana Guest House for an extra night the following week, after a somewhat underwhelming stay further along the coast at Palm Paradise Cabanas.
The Breeze Beach Restaurant
We stayed in Tangalle for 4 nights and found ourselves returning to this little ‘Coconut Beach’ restaurant, not far from the town. The food is good and inexpensive, the service is friendly and the ambiance is very cool and relaxed.
The tables extend onto the beach, distinctly surrounded by a ring of flaming coconuts (in the evening). We ate full fish and rice and curry, accompanied by delicious salads and banana and pineapple lassies.
Some of the more well-known eating establishments further along the strip were packed out with backpackers who all seemed to have the same ubiquitous guidebook (and consequently had to wait hours to get served).
The Breeze Beach Restaurant just goes to show how well you can be rewarded if you are prepared to try some of the newer, up-and-coming restaurants and guesthouses in this area.
They also do breakfasts.
Tangalle boasts some terrifically long, unadulterated beaches. We literally walked for hours from our Guesthouse base. Tangalle beach stretches for around 8 or 9 kms eastwards as far as Turtle Point.
On the beach itself, don’t be surprised if you get roped into some beach fishing. In other words, helping the local fisherman haul in their catch of fish. If you get involved, make sure you wear a hat, as it can take quite a while to haul in the net…
If you go for a swim, avoid any rocky patches of beach as the waves can be quite unforgiving. It’s easy to get knocked off your feet by the waves and spun head over heels in the shallows.
In this case, grab a lungful of air and make sure you break surface again before the next wave hits you. There’s a powerful undertow which can pull you out of your depth if you’re not careful.
Half of the length of the beach is bordered to the north by the Rekawa Lagoon, providing a variety of backwater activities.
Tangalle town is a pretty small place, but you can get some very tasty snacks, the best being the fresh and spicy samosas. They sell other savoury deep-fried eats called “waddy” that are excellent for lunch.
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