Mirissa smelled of heavy salty wet air, damp greenery, and petrol fumes. I arrived there on the afternoon from Colombo and thick tropical rain had splashed on my train. The track which had briefly run along the coast was smooth and the views were worth the ride. Mirissa arrived amidst lush coconut plantations, wet paddy fields, rich red earth roads and lots of dripping umbrellas. The locals and taxi drivers had come rushing to meet the train and a pool of people had filled the little station. It was a bit of a strange sight to see so many people on such a tiny train station and it took me quite some time to get out of the crowd. Bargaining for a taxi ride to the main village again meant more delays and I finally reached my guesthouse a couple of hours post-arrival at the station.

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Lovely Mirissa

Mirissa is a backpacker’s paradise

My guest house was a locally run budget on the beach shack, and it was clean and comfortable. I could see the aqua green sea from my wooden porch and the breakfast of Lankan appams and curry were wholesome. It was quite a blessing that the Mirissa guest house was pretty worth every penny because I hardly made any efforts to explore the much renowned Sri Lankan beach destination. Famous as one of the most appealing places to spend by the sea in southern Sri Lanka, Mirissa is a popular backpacker “hanging the hat” kind of a place. The beach is quite pretty and it has a fine golden sweep of sand. Lush dense coconut forests encircle the curving beach and a small rocky outcrop creates a picturesque headland at one end. Sunsets are spectacular there and on a clear evening, stars shine bright and hard.


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Experience the local life

Slow travelling is the best way to enjoy Mirissa

The beach despite being nice is not very becoming since a busy highway runs right next to it and the entire stretch along the coast is a swish of various types of touristy housings. From ugly modern concrete blocks to rustic charming resorts, Mirissa‘s accommodations draw hordes of young travellers. It is also well known as a whaling destination and there are excellent chances of spotting the blue and sperm whales close to the shore. This, however, creates an environmentally hazardous situation during whaling season and Mirissa‘s sea is choppy.  The best way to enjoy Mirissa is to just laze in the hammock, sip tender green coconuts and relax your hours away. That is exactly what I did and once, on a very early golden dawn, I ventured out into its busy fish market. That is perhaps my nicest Mirissa memory and the sight of colourful fishing boats docking to unload glistening catch was a mesmerizing sight. The rest of Mirissa was pretty forgettable and it was a relaxing filler in the midst of my hectic Sri Lankan work assignment.

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A picturesque train ride to Mirissa from Colombo

Mirissa Travel Tips

How to Reach

By Bus: There are regular bus services between Mirissa and a number of places in Sri Lanka, including Colombo and Tangalle. In Mirissa, buses drop off passengers near the beach from where tuk-tuks are required to reach the accommodations.

By Train: I went to Mirissa by train from Colombo and it was a beautiful journey along the coast. A 2nd class train ticket from Colombo Fort station to Mirissa costs 220 rupees whereas a 3rd class train ticket comes for only 120 rupees. There are no seats allotted in the 3rd class and it can get pretty crowded.

Private transfer: Many travellers look up Sri Lanka Backpackers and Backpacker Taxi Share Sri Lanka on social media to share private transfers with other tourists. Sometimes, these transfers make more sense in regards to accessibility. For example, getting to Mirissa from Ella and Nuwara Eliya is quite hard by public transport and if you travel by bus you will need to make at least one change. A shared taxi in such cases turns out to be boon and the costs seem quite nominal.

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The train to Mirissa goes along the Sri Lankan coast

Getting Around

Getting around in Mirissa is easy, with plenty of tuk-tuks. They accept only cash and negotiate the price before getting in. To explore the surrounding areas, it makes sense to rent a scooter or hop on one of the buses passing through the main road.

Best Time to visit Mirissa

Mirissa’s peak season is between December and March. January, February, and March are the driest months. April and May tend to be the hottest months, but the increase in temperature leads to more rainfall. Remember that Sri Lanka as the country has 2 different monsoon seasons.

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The train goes through lush green countryside

Things to do in Mirissa

Whale Watching

  • The main whale-watching season in Mirissa runs from November to April, with sightings on around 95% of trips during this time. These tours also run from May to October tours still run, but sightings are less common due to rougher seas. Many times tours are cancelled at this time due to the weather. May and June in particular are bad months.
  • Apart from the blue whales, Mirissa’s coast hosts an abundance of marine life including dolphins, orcas, sperm whales, whale sharks, turtles and more.
  • Whale watching tours cost around 4000-6000 Rupees per person and prices do vary between operators. There is a government tax of approximately $18.50 USD to pay, which is sometimes included in the price of your tour. It is recommended going with a responsible ethical tour operator even though it may cost a bit more.
  • Tours depart early, and a tuk-tuk comes for pick-up at 5.45 am. It is a half-day tour.

Surfing and other water sports

  • Mirissa has one of the nicest stretch of sand in southern Sri Lanka. The sea is a bit rough here and swimming conditions vary in different parts of the beach. For your own safety, it makes sense to ask a local or at your guesthouse about the safe areas to swim before venturing into the water. It’s more of a surfer’s paradise and there are some excellent surfing schools in Mirissa.
  • Apart from whaling, various snorkelling “safaris” and numerous other watersports, including sportfishing and sea kayaking, as well as cruises around the bay and beyond, can be arranged with Mirissa Water Sports.
  • Mirissa has some relatively large waves. It is a great place for beginners and intermediate surfers. Coconut Tree Hill is a popular spot for riding the waves.

Sunset spots in Mirissa

  • The best place to watch the sunset in Mirissa is Coconut Tree Hill. There are two ways to reach Coconut Tree Hill. You can either walk along the main road out of Mirissa town until you reach Maison D’hotes Sanda Beach. From there take the path on your right until you come to a gate, behind which you walk directly to the palm trees. Alternatively, you can walk from Mirissa beach along the seafront past Parrot Rock and continue until you reach the palm trees.
  • The Secret Beach offers one small bar, a local woman selling coconuts, and incredible sunsets. Search on Google Maps for Secret Beach bar and hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you there. From where the tuk-tuk drops you off, the Secret Beach is 10 minutes downhill walk.
  • The Parrot Rock sitting on Mirissa Beach is a small rock that you can climb up to have a better view of the area. It requires a bit of a walk through the water and is highly inadvisable during the high tide or rough seas.
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Lush and green is the southern part of Sri Lanka

Other travel tips for Mirissa

  • There are plenty of low and medium budget accommodations in and around Mirissa and you will need to go to Weligama or Matara for most services.
  • Mirissa has a small market, grocery stores, internet cafe, and a payphone near the 149km marker.
  • Mirissa is mostly a cash-only kind of destination.
  • The most popular day trips or onward destinations from Mirissa are Unawatuna and Galle Fort.
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Village of Mirissa as it looked at my first glance

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Mirissa Beach is a pretty place on a clear day

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But it has no spectacular charm and

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Is a predominantly low key destination,

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For enjoying slow travel and local life.

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The best thing to do

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In Mirissa is to let your hair down

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And do nothing.

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Unwind, enjoy the sea,

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Soak in the local culture,

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And go for photo walks.

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Mirissa is a spa for the soul.

NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.