Venture to a palm-fringed cove on the Sri Lankan south coast and you’ll discover uber-fun Hiriketiya Bay surf. With a beach break and a reef to contend with, there’s something for all levels in this chilled coast town.
Hiriketiya Bay surf at a glance
- A sheltered beach break that’s great for beginners
- A heavy left-hand reef that runs fast and holds well
- Super-chilled and welcoming town
- Beautiful bay
- Quite far from Colombo airport
- A lot of construction going on (as of 2019/2020 season)
- Beach break closeouts
This is a part of our greater guide to Sri Lanka surf.
What will I find in this guide to surfing in Hiriketiya Bay
An introduction to Hiriketiya Bay surf
Two breaks; one beach – that’s Hiriketiya Bay. Set in a stunning tropical cove on the far southern edge of Sri Lanka (just about as far south as it’s possible to go and still find a surfable wave), this laid-back little town is swiftly turning into a mecca for surfers.
It’s risen from obscurity to a popular pitstop on the Sri Lankan surf trail in the last couple of years alone. That’s brought bigger crowds to the line up (though it’s still not too bad), along with more shops, restaurants and nice boutique hotels to boot.
One of the reasons for the popularity is the variety of surf that’s offered. As Hiriketiya Bay spreads along its 0.5-kilometre inlet, it goes from a heavy reef to a mellow beach break. The upshot? There’s something for a wide variety of surfers.
A sand-bottomed wave rolls into the surf rental shacks on the west side of the bay for novices. There are the peaks in the middle of the bay, which break over a deep rock reef and then go to 100-metre rides towards the sand. And then there’s the fast, walling left-hander that whips in on the east end of Hiri – leave that to the intermediates and experts.
A guide to the Hiriketiya surf season
We surfed in Hiriketiya for a whole week in the 2019/2020 season and didn’t see a day without good waves. That doesn’t mean they don’t come, but there’s a certain consistency to this spot.
December – March
Peak – the Hiriketiya surf season is really rolling in these prime holidaying months. Not only that, but the Sri Lankan weather is perfect on the south-west coast, as the monsoon shifts eastwards to Arugam Bay. Dominant swells come in from the west during this time, which cuts the power and sculpts a nice beginner wave on the beach of Hiriketiya. Intermediates might prefer to come in before that happens, but for first-time riders it’s a doozy.
April – August
As the storms set in across south-western Sri Lanka it’s time to batten down the hatches and crack out the raincoat. But monsoon doesn’t necessarily mean the end of surfing in Hiriketiya. You’ll often find the locals paddling out to catch the gnarly storm surges. And you might get lucky and find something rideable on the beach. It’s just not the most reliable time, and certainly not the best for learning.
August – November
This is a great time to plan a Hiriketiya surf trip. Not only are the waves enjoying changing swell directions that mix strong southerlies with less-powerful westerlies. The result? The left-hand point is working well. It’s got high walls and zippy rides for the intermediates and the pros. What’s more, there’s a good mix of waves coming in the sets of the Hiriketiya beach break. Some are high and fast. Some are low and mellow for longboarders. And yes, some are total closeouts.
Where is Hiriketiya Bay?
Huddled inside a wide scythe of a bay on the far southern edge of Sri Lanka, Hiriketiya is roughly midway between the towns of Tangalle and Matara. That puts it off the usual surfing trail of the island, but still within easy reach of the main resorts.
The nearest town is Dickwella. That’s relatively small but has all the necessary amenities – ATM, grocery shops, pharmacy. The nearest major city is Matara, around 14 miles to the west along the coast.
A guide to Hiriketiya Bay surf spots
There are two surf spots in Hiriketiya Bay. It’s the fact that they’re so different – one challenging, the other easy-going – that makes the town such an attractive prospect. On small days, you can usually head out and ride the more powerful reef. When things are blown out elsewhere, there’s good shelter that helps keep things surfable closer to the beach.
The Hiriketiya Bay beach break
Located on the western side of Hiriketiya Bay, the beach break is the most popular surf spot in town. It’s usually got a line up, but don’t be put off – there are plenty of waves to go around.
The sets that roll through here offer great variety for both longboarders and shortboarders. Some wall up for drop ins. Others are fat A-frames that glide neatly. Strictly speaking, the spot is a left-hander, but we’ve seen it go right, especially if you take off closer to the center of the bay.
The beach break starts roughly where the reef (see below) leaves off. However, names can be deceiving. If you choose a take-off point in the middle of Hiri, as most intermediates choose to do, you will be surfing over rocks for 50-100 meters before you enter the sand-bottomed section of the bay.
Total beginners can stick to the second waves that plump up nicely right in front of the surf rental shacks on the western end of the beach. That’s usually where the surf schools go, and it can be a nice practice spot that’s got sand underfoot the whole way.
Bad points to the Hiriketiya Bay beach break include closeout sets that seem to roll through without warning, and crowds.
The Hiriketiya Bay reef point break
Roaring into the headland on the eastern point of Hiriketiya Bay is the town’s upper-intermediate/expert reef break. Known for its quick, peeling left-hander that starts on the rocks by Peter’s Place bar, it’s got a fast take off section and ends up over some very shallow reefs that are infested with urchins.
If you can catch it, there’s a lovely ride that can take you from the headland all the way to the middle of the bay – some 150 metre at its best. The swells here can hold up to six foot.
Surf shops in Hiriketiya Bay
There’s really only one surf shop in Hiriketiya Bay. Luckily is a good one! Find Left4Days sitting under a cluster of lanky palm trees midway up the main road. It’s fronted with a grassy garden and offers coffees for sale. Small and compact, it’s housed in a re-used shipping container, but you’ll still be able to find all the necessaries: rash vests, wax, leashes, fins, sun cream.
There are currently no second-hand board sales available in Hiriketiya Bay. However, we used the pre-order facility at Left4Days surf shop and were really pleased! We got a neat 6-foot Highline that was great for a full Sri Lanka trip. Everything was paid online before we arrived and the board was there waiting for us when we got to Hiriketiya.
The best Hiriketiya beach hotels for surfers
You certainly won’t be short of awesome Hiriketiya Beach hotels. As of 2019/2020 season, there’s so much construction going on around town that an army of potential accommodations is likely to appear in the coming years. Some of the highest rated that are currently on the menu include:
Salt House ($$$)
Pricier than a lot of other places around, but still not seriously pricy, is the lovely Salt House. The little extra you fork out goes on some enticing luxuries, too. Room are done out with soothing whites and creams, organic materials, and four-poster beds. There’s one of the best garden pools around. And you get to enjoy the on-site eatery, which offers healthy breakfasts and fresh fruit juices.
Hiriketiya Beach Resort ($$)
It’s hardly possible to get any closer to the Hiriketiya Bay beach break than by staying in this acclaimed hotel. What’s more, the place has a touch of real class. There’s a long al fresco pool for when the sea’s a little rough. There’s a leafy garden for chilling in post-surf. And the rooms are modern and clean, coming with standard bathrooms (not one of those irritating wet rooms!).
Villa Hiriketiya ($$)
In a large garden under high palm trees on the main street of Hiri is this nice like L-shaped hotel. A small pool is the centrepiece. People gather there to swim and chat after a day’s surf. Rooms are compact but stylish, with atmospheric lighting and a certain Tiki flair to them.
Sea Port Hiriketiya ($)
Simplicity is key at Sea Port. Compact rooms with four-poster beds that have mozzie nets are the name of the game. You’ll get small, wet-room bathrooms ensuite. But most of all, you’ll be only a few steps off the Hiriketiya Bay surf spots for those dawn patrols.
No ultimate guide to Hiriketiya Bay surf could possibly be complete without at least a mention of Dots. The original café/bar/hostel/hotel in town, it’s garnered something of a rep for hedonism and fun. Some people complain about the noise from the stage when trying to sleep. Others love the vibes and the late-night drinking sessions.
Where to eat in Hiriketiya Bay
There are more and more places to eat in Hiriketiya Bay every month. It seems the surfers have brought business with them – and, of course, an appetite! Thankfully, there’s still a good mix of local Sri Lankan fare and the Yogi medley of poke bowls knocking about. Some of our top recommendations are:
The Grove Lanka ($$$)
You might pay a little extra for the food at The Grove Lanka, but boy is it worth it! From crunchy sourdough breads topped with avocado and eggs to spicy Mexicana tacos, the breakfast offering is something special. Coffee comes fresh and aromatic with compulsory latte art. But most of all, the seating is divine, under swaying coconut palms where sleeping dogs and monkeys are the regulars. Be sure to try it at least once!
Hiri Five 80 ($$$)
Hiri Five 80 can feel like a social club. It’s just so easy to meet and mingle with other surfers in this laid-back lounge. A pool table helps break the ice, as do the hand-mixed cocktails – mojito anyone? Food wise, you’ll find Mediterranean salads, stacked burgers, hand-cut fries, smoothie bowls for breakfasts, and more chia seeds than you can shake a longboard at. In all, this is a great place for a bite and a chillax.
360 Seacoast ($$)
In a big, grassy garden just behind the main beach is this casual café chain. A menu of the usual staples – fried rice, Sri Lankan curry, roti – meets a few western dishes – think club sarnies and chips. Chillout tunes are the backdrop. The beers are cold. The staff are friendly.
Malu Poke ($$)
Surfers gather for juices and healthy breakfasts in this charming little café-eatery on the west side of the beach. Facing straight onto the beginner-friendly Hiriketiya Bay surf spot, it’s a fine option for charging the batteries before a lesson. Expect fresh mango juices, morning poke bowls bursting with coconut and fruit, and a particularly nice Sri Lankan coffee.
Peter’s Place ($$)
The sole eatery on the west end of the bar, Peter’s Place is perfect for a light snack, some stir-fried kottu rotti, or a chilled lassi. The food is well made and the prices are average. The real draw is the outdoor seating. It’s got a front-row view of a the Hiriketiya Bay surf reef, so you can spot people dropping in as dine.
Garlic Café ($)
For cheap, tasty, authentic Sri Lankan eats, we say there’s only one game in town: Garlic Café. Under bamboo covers next to Left4Days surf shop, this one offers a bargain evening buffet. It’s all you can eat for 500 LKR (as of November 2019). Dals, Sri Lankan soya, pumpkin curry, poppadum, and rice is all part of the deal. A beer sets you back just 250 LKR.
Digital nomads in Hiriketiya Bay
Hit the mud track (or grab a tuk tuk) to the beachfront of Dickwella. That’s where you’ll find Verse Collective. It’s a chic and stylish space that combines skate ramps with co-working areas (and not ones you have to register and pay for, either!). The menus follow the East-London school of cooking – think sourdough toasts with beansprout slaw and smashed avo. The internet is fast (at least it is for Sri Lanka). Interior tables have loads of plugs. We’d recommend coming early and trying for a spot under the fan – it can get hot.
Things to do when you’re not surfing in Hiriketiya Bay
Hiriketiya Bay isn’t just for surfing, you know. Some people come here without even knowing there’s a beach break and a gnarly reef on the menu! So, if you want to drop the board for a spell, consider some of the other top activities this region has to offer:
Laze on Dickwella Beach
A mere 15 minutes walking around the headland from Hiriketiya Bay can whisk you to the wonderful stretch of sand that is Dickwella Beach. Almost totally deserted when we visited at the end of 2019, it’s fringed by stooping palms and the occasional quiet hotel. The water is crystal clear and the waves can be high – though they aren’t surfable.
Safari in the Yala National Park
Cheetahs, elephants, chital, and all manner of strange exotic birds awaits in the Yala National Park. This is one of the most iconic sanctuaries in all of Sri Lanka. You’ll need to get an organised tour to do this one on your day off from the Hiriketiya Bay surf breaks. Or, better yet, book somewhere nearer to the park so you can rise early and have a better chance of seeing the animals.
How to get to Hiriketiya Bay
Although it’s one of the farther-flung surf spots on the Sri Lankan south coast, it’s never usually a problem to get to Hiriketiya Bay.
Most travelers will opt for a private transfer straight from the airport in Colombo. That’s particularly helpful if you’re coming in with a surfboard. (Bear in mind that Qatar Airways remains the surfer’s favourite – they allow boards to be checked as part of luggage allowance, and as an extra to your existing bags).
There are regular local buses that also run the route along the main roads of the south coast. Look for the ones heading to Dickwella – the nearest town to Hiriketiya Bay. They’re sure to be the cheapest choice (a couple of hundred rupees each way).
Getting from Ella to Hiriketiya Bay is another popular way of coming to the south coast. We recently did that trip on a local bus and it cost a mere 250 LKR each. Granted, we didn’t have our surfboards with us and we stood for most of the journey, but it was an experience!
Trains might be more comfortable. Regular services run along the south-west coast of the island. They link Colombo with Matara, going through the handsome colonial city of Galle along the way. You can get off at Matara and grab a local tuk tuk straight to Hiriketiya Bay. Be sure to haggle.
This ultimate guide to Hiriketiya Bay Surf is always being updated and changed. If you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, we’d sure love you to get in touch. You can use email or just drop a message in the comments below.