Weligama's name directly translates as Sandy Village, a title that perfectly captures the essence of this beach destination. Surf culture has transformed the long bay and palm-tree-fringed town into a traveller hub for those in the know. It still has an authentic Sri Lankan vibe: you can see traditional stilt fishing in the area. It's the ideal place to relax and walk along the shore in between sessions riding the epic waves and filling up on crispy bowl-shaped hopper pancakes.
You'll find surf and yoga hostels in Weligama, with a focus on food and wellbeing. There are fresh, modern spaces with beanbag-filled common areas and retro gaming corners, as well as converted Dutch-style colonial houses covered in murals. Choose a Weligama hostel with a rooftop terrace so you can check the surf conditions. Many Weligama hostels include handy extras like free Wi-Fi and linen, while some have on-site restaurants serving creamy coconut curries.
The main beach in Weligama is a long sandy stretch with plenty of room for sunbathing. Just around the corner, Turtle Bay is the place to go to rent surf and snorkelling gear. Climb up to the small clifftop in between the two beaches for views out over the sparkling sea. Mirissa is about a 20-minute drive from Weligama and is a little more upscale, with bars and restaurants where you can dine on local or international food with your toes in the sand.
Sri Lanka's southern coast is one of the world's best spots for spotting blue whales in their natural habitat. Organise a whale-watching trip with the vendors on the beach or in town and you'll be taken to Mirissa Harbour before setting off in a boat with the hopes of sighting these majestic creatures. Surfing is also high on the agenda: you can rent a board down on the beach. For swimming, try the right side of Bandrawatta Beach, about a 40-minute walk from Weligama, as it's quite sheltered.
Weligama is about a 2.5-hour drive from Bandaranaike International Airport. If you're not taking a taxi or a private shuttle transfer, you can jump on the airport express bus to Colombo's Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal and then change for Matara. From Matara, hail a rickshaw for the remaining 30-minute ride. Tuk-tuks will take you around the local area, although there are also buses and trains to other popular traveller destinations like Galle and Mirissa.