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Hikkaduwa is one of Sri Lanka's most popular surf destinations, with wide sandy beaches running the length of the town and plenty of buzzing nightlife spots. More interested in nature? You'll have the coral reefs of Hikkaduwa National Park and coastal jungle teeming with wildlife right on your doorstep. Visitors craving a glimpse of authentic Sri Lanka can hire a scooter and head just a few kilometres inland, where the roads wind through rural villages untouched by the modernity of the coast.
Look out for Hikkaduwa hostels that have a restaurant and bar on-site – in some you and your dorm mates could even sip cocktails on an outdoor terrace. You can stay in a brightly painted cottage with tropical gardens, or opt for a Hikkaduwa hostel where you can chill on loungers around an outdoor pool. Many hostels in Hikkaduwa have communal kitchens and several have free breakfast too, which is ideal if you're on a budget.
Galle Road is the main street through Hikkaduwa and it's along this bustling thoroughfare that you'll find most restaurants and shops. There are also a handful of relaxed beach bars on Narigama Beach to the south. Hikkaduwa Lake is a 40-minute walk from the town centre, and is popular for its wildlife and kayaking opportunities. For river safaris through the mangroves of the Madu Ganga River drive 35 minutes north to Balapitiya – the village itself is a hidden gem of sandy beaches without bars or crowds.
Water sports are Hikkaduwa's main attraction, with snorkelling around the coral reef on the north end of Hikkaduwa Beach and several diving centres running PADI courses. Surfing is particularly popular with beginners on the gentle reef breaks of Wewala and Narigama Beaches. Off the sand you can visit the Tsunami Education Centre and Museum with its sombre collection of photos from the 2004 tragedy that hit Sri Lanka's coast. Or you could take a short boat trip to the island that hosts the Buddhist temple of Seenigama Muhudu Vihara – where you might even be tempted by some of the slightly unconventional remedies for sale.
Fly to Bandaranaike International Airport to reach Hikkaduwa. From the airport you can take a shuttle (1 hour) into Colombo and from there either catch the train (2-3 hours), or bus (3 hours) to Hikkaduwa. Both the bus and train stations are in the town centre, close to the marina. To get around town walking is best, and to reach Narigama Beach or Hikkaduwa Lake take a three-wheeler taxi.