If you’ve heard anything about the sunny coast of southern Sri Lanka, you’ve probably heard of Mirissa. This beach town turned backpacker hub is known for its stretch of sandy beaches, cute cafés, and clear waters.
From everything I had consumed online about Mirissa, I imagined it to be a quiet beach down with the best brunches around. And whilst I can confirm that this Sri Lankan spot does host some of the best breakfasts I’ve had in the country, quiet it is not.
I’m guessing that what was once a sleepy surf town, lauded for its chill beachy vibes, has now become the ‘it’ place to be, leading to mass development of the area. I was surprised to find just how busy Mirissa was, with a busy main road running down the middle that buses and tuktuks accelerate down at full-speed, beeping as they swerve pedestrians.
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Mirissa. In fact, I did – very much so. But it certainly took me a moment to adjust my expectations of the place.
We had some of our best days in Mirissa – learning to surf with the best teachers, and chowing down on amazing food to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. And there are still certain spots in Mirissa, that still capture that laid-back vibe that we tend to crave (but more on that later!).
With the new buildings constantly popping up in a maze of side streets off the main drag, the best way to explore Mirissa is to go in with a plan.
This post shares the very best things to do in Mirissa.
The difference was probably more obvious to me than it may have been otherwise, thanks to my stop in Hiriketiya beforehand.
If you’re still looking for the quieter, sleepy vibe, then Hiriketiya is the place to be, by the way.
Top 3 Things to Do in Mirissa
If you’ve not got long here and are just looking to sample the highlights, here are the top three things to do in Mirissa. These are the things that you really can’t miss!
1. Take a Surf Lesson
The south coast of Sri Lanka is famous for its surf, with
For beginner surfers, nearby Weligama is the best place to learn, thanks to its smaller waves and warm waters. There are plenty of surf schools located along the stretch of Weligama beach.
But from personal experience, I’d highly recommend learning with Chuty’s Surf School. Although based in Mirissa, they do all of their beginner lessons in Weligama. You’ll meet them at the surf school in Mirissa, and they’ll take you over to Weligama in a tuktuk (included in the price of the lesson).
I have never been more impressed with a class or service than I have with Chuty’s Surf School. I ran to write them a review as soon as we left and found that I was in good company with 100% five star reviews – now that’s pretty impressive.
Their instructors were friendly, clear, and calm. They made learning to surf the most chill, enjoyable experience – a far cry from the hellish few hours I’d spent in Newquay on a school trip many years ago. Both Rory and I were able to stand up multiple times, leaving us feeling pretty chuffed about the progress we’d made.
If you’ve done some surfing before but want to improve your technique, Chuty’s also offers intermediate lessons, which take place right in Mirissa.
A highlight of our lesson actually came at the end, when we stopped on the side of the road for a fresh coconut. After sipping down on the hydrating coconut water, our surf instructor cracked them open and cut away the flesh, pouring honey on the top for the perfect post-surf snack.
2. Visit Secret Beach
Remember when I said that there were still parts of Mirissa that had managed to hold on to the towns sleepy beginnings? Secret Beach is exactly that!
Located a little out of the way, a good walk from the main road and bubbling hub of Mirissa, most tourists either don’t know about Secret Beach, or can’t bring themselves to make the trek over there.
Trust me when I say that it’s worth it!
It’s a 30 minute walk from Mirissa Beach, with one section entailing a seriously steep uphill climb. If you do choose to walk (we did!), try to avoid the hottest times of the day and make sure to bring plenty of water with you. We loved getting glimpses of the harbour and Sri Lankan homes on our way there. Alternatively, you can grab a tuktuk there for a much easier (though pricier) journey.
When you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful cove hidden amongst the jungle of palm trees. We visited in high season and, though there were other tourists, it remained incredibly peaceful. The best part of this spot is the breeze that cuts right through the sticky humidity of Sri Lanka’s heat. It’s the perfect place to relax with a book or take a dip in the calm waters.
While we were there, some local kids were messing around with a broken surf board they’d found – taking it in turns to hold it, whilst one of them would attempt a backflip off of the board. This made for some great entertainment and we watched with anticipation, cheering along with them when they managed the perfect flip.
3. Watch the Sunset at Parrot Rock
Parrot Rock is a burnt orange rock covered in greenery that straddles the small stretch of sand that divides two beaches in Mirissa. It’s one of the best places to watch the sunset, so head over there in the evening, if you can!
The other side of parrot rock, there are also a set of smaller rocks that make for a lovely photograph as the sun is going down over the ocean.
Things to Do in Mirissa
4. Climb Coconut Tree Hill
This iconic viewpoint may look familiar to you, if you’ve spent any time on the pages of popular travel accounts. Some places are popular for good reason. Coconut Tree Hill is a dusty orange hill, covered entirely in tall palm trees, giving it a distinctive look that necessitates the perfect photograph.
Although a magical spot to watch the sunset from, you’re best bet for a photograph is first thing in the morning, before the crowds descend.
5. Whale Watching
Mirissa is commonly cited as one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. It’s a particularly good place to spot the largest animal known to have lived on earth – the blue whale, who reliably swims closer to the shore than elsewhere on the planet.
When picking a whale watching company, it’s incredibly important to do your research and go with one that you feel is ethical. Many tour companies chase the whales and dolphins, in an attempt to get as close as possible to appease their customers.
I’d recommend choosing Raja and the Whales. Whilst we didn’t personally do a whale watching tour during our time in Mirissa, one of my favourite travel Instagram accounts @elmelling highly recommended them. She was super impressed with how ethical they were, sharing that they would wait in the prime spot for the whales and dolphins to make their way past, rather than chasing or feeding them.
If you do choose to take a tour, be ready for an early start. They usually depart around 6am and can last for up to 5 hours. Tours can also be quite the bumpy ride, thanks to rocky seas, so make sure to take some travel sickness tablets if this is something you’re likely to struggle with.
6. Go Snorkelling at Turtle Beach
One of the best things about the southern Sri Lankan coast is that you don’t need to pay to see wildlife. In fact, you can walk straight into the Indian Ocean from the beach and discover all sorts of tropical fish swimming about. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a turtle or two!
A lot of people looked at us like we were crazy when we packed these snorkelling sets for our 6 month trip around Asia. It turns out, it was one of the best decisions we made!
Whilst other travellers were paying to borrow snorkels from vendors at the beach, which had been used for who-knows-how-many mouths before them, we were happily donning our own from home.
We spent many a morning in Mirissa exploring the reefs off of Turtle Beach, swimming alongside brightly coloured fish of all shapes and sizes.
7. Visit the Surfer Hub of Weligama
Weligama is only a 15 minute drive away from Mirissa, so you can easily grab a tuktuk there and spend the afternoon café hopping or surfing some beginner-friendly waves. You can easily hire a board for an hour right there on the beach or organise some surf lessons.
If you’re travelling on a budget, catching the bus from Mirissa to Weligama is cheap and easy. Simply hop on the number 350, 32, or 2 bus at Mirissa bus station. This will take you to Weligama for only 100 LKR (about $0.30 USD or £0.25 GBP).
I wouldn’t recommend Weligama for a chill beach day, as it’s not quite as picturesque as the beaches you’ll find in Mirissa. There’s quite a bit of rubbish around and a number of fishing boats moored on the sand.
Weligama is home to some great brunch spots, however. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect smoothie bowl or avocado toast, we recommend checking out the following cafés in Weligama:
Layback is surf school with its own rooftop cafe. We loved the gorgeous design of this spot with its checkered rusty tiles. The food here was great although service was a little slow. But with great views over the concrete jungle below, you can’t really complain!
Ceylon Sliders is another hotel/surf school/cafe. They have a great menu and the people who work here are lovely. They also have a great shop selling Sri Lankan swimwear and clothing brands, which we loved.
This health-conscious cafe is the perfect eatery for any vegan, gluten free, or dairy free travellers. The outdoor seating area is lovely and the banana bread is a must-try!
Western-style bakeries are had to come across in Sri Lanka, but Nomads serves up some of the best baked goods around. They’re well stocked up on all my favourite – peanut butter blondies, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, and pastel de nata.
If you’re craving Italian food in Weligama, head straight to Rise, where you’ll find great pizzas and an array of pasta.
8. Have a Lazy Day at Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach is a long stretch of blue waters and fine sand. Located just off the main road, it’s easy to get to with plenty of cafes and restaurants lining the shore for refreshments. It’s a chill place to catch up on some sunbathing or get stuck into a good book.
My favourite time to visit Mirissa Beach though is at sunset, when it really comes to life. The sky lights up pink and purple and you can watch as the surfers catch their final waves for the day. You might catch some locals playing volleyball or paddling in the cooler evening waters.
The restaurants along the beach are busier this time of the evening with a man at every one trying to lure you in with the menu.
9. Visit Dondra Lighthouse
Dondra Head Lighthouse is located at the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. It’s also the country’s tallest lighthouse.
Many tourists skip this spot, heading instead to the better-known Galle Fort lighthouse. We, however, loved this quieter spot. The white lighthouse standing amongst the swaying palms makes for the perfect photo opportunity.
We also loved how peaceful it was here, with just a handful of people sitting on the wall watching the waves crash in and over the rocks. We visited Dondra on our way from Hiriketiya to Mirissa, so couldn’t stay long, but I could quite happily have spent an hour here with my book just enjoying the sound of the water below.
10. Eat the Best Brunch in Sri Lanka
One of the best things about staying in Mirissa is the extensive (and seriously delicious) food options available. Having stayed here for almost a week, we did a good job at sampling as many as we could. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!
Our all time favourite has to be Shady Lane. We’d seen plenty of people rave about this infamous spot on line, praising the amazing coffee and beautiful smoothie bowls. I was fully prepared for it to be all style, no substance – one of those Instagram-friendly places that always feels like a bit of a let down when you actually visit.
I was so far from the truth. Shady Lane was the best brunch we ate in Sri Lanka. The food was amazing, the vibes were immaculate, and the staff were lovely. I can’t recommend it enough.
They also have a little shop upstairs with lots of cute items that I had to pry myself away from for the sake of my backpack space.
More Things to Do in Mirissa, Sri Lanka
11. Take a Yoga Class
Wanting to make the most of the chill beach vibes? Why not take a yoga class during your stay in Mirissa.
There are a number of different yoga classes in town, ranging from pacy vinyasa flows to the more gentle and calming yin yoga practice.
Surf & Yoga Mirissa are a surf and yoga retreat, where you can enjoy packages up to two weeks long. All classes take place in their relaxing jungle shala and equipment, including mats, blocks, and belts are provided, so you can show up as you are.
12. Have an Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massages are believed to be a way of healing the body of negative emotions and increasing rejuvenation, through blood circulation and muscle relaxation. The massage involves medicinal oils and herbs that are selected carefully for each individuals needs.
Massages here in Sri Lanka are also considerably cheaper than in the UK. At one of the top-rated spas in Mirissa (Badora Spa), you can get a 90-minute full body massage for only £11 GBP or an Indian head massage for only £8.50.
13. Sample Some Sri Lankan Fruit
The fruit in Sri Lanka is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Unlike the bland, unripe stuff you’ll find in UK supermarkets, everything here is bursting with flavour.
You’ll see plenty of fruit sellers on the side of the road in Mirissa. We bought some rambutan (our favourite!) for only 100 LKR (about $0.30 USD or £0.25 GBP). The little girl selling them was so happy to hand them over and it felt good to support a local family, whilst also enjoying some delicious fruit.
14. Visit Unawatuna
Unawatuna is one of the most popular beach towns in Sri Lanka, thanks to its buzzing nightlife, beachy rope swings and copious restaurants. Only 45 minutes from Mirissa, you can easily grab a tuktuk or catch a bus for a laidback day trip.
Unawatuna is another great option for beginner surfers with its smaller waves. So, if Weligama doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, maybe head here instead.
15. Visit Historic Galle Fort
Not far from Unawatuna is the historic city of Galle. Take a walk around the old fort town and look out for the influences of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists. Stop in at one of the lovely restaurants here and shop at the independent stores.
You could easily visit Galle and Unawatuna in the same day for the perfect day trip from Mirissa.
Where to Eat in Mirissa
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to food in Mirissa with a heap of different options available. If you’re after some affordable, traditional Sri Lankan food, head to one of the all you can eat curry and rice buffets, such as Maggie’s Roti Shop or Dhana’s Curry Pot. You can also get some delicious roti at the now famous Dewmini’s Roti Shop.
If you’re looking for some more up-market restaurants that sell Western food, however, check out some of our favourites below:
Shady Lane is our favourite brunch spot in the whole of Sri Lanka. The food here isn’t just easy on the eyes, it also tastes amazing. From perfectly poached eggs to the fluffiest banana pancakes, they just get everything right. Check out their cute shop while you’re there and try not to buy everything in sight.
Concept by La Mer
This laid back boho spot offers up some of the yummiest food in Mirissa. Their burgers are particularly delicious. We ordered the mushroom burger and the shrimp burger and loved both. We actually ended up coming back here on our last night in Mirissa for one final taste of their amazing food.
There are very few places in Sri Lanka where you’ll find genuinely good Italian food. Owned and run by Italians, this place knows exactly what they’re doing when it comes to good pasta. They also serve up some great gelato, if you find yourself with an ice cream craving.
The only downside to eating here was the amount of mosquito bites I found on my body afterwards. Make sure to bring a strong repellant with you when dining at Milky Wave.
Hima serves up the best ice cream in Mirissa (dare we say better than Milky Wave?!). It was creamy and delicious with plenty of flavours to choose from.
Koral Cafe was newly open when we visited and we fell in love instantly. The smoothie bowls we had here were fantastic and the staff here are some of the kindest people we’ve met in Sri Lanka. Please support this lovely cafe!
Things to Do in Mirissa FAQs
The beach town of Mirissa is located on Sri Lanka’s south coast, about 2.5 hours drive from the capital of Colombo. It’s close by to a number of Sri Lanka’s other popular surf towns, including Weligama, Hiriketiya, Ahangama, and Unawatuna.
I recommend spending at least 2 nights in the Mirissa. If you’ve not got long in Sri Lanka, this is the perfect amount of time to get a good taste for the place, whilst still being able to explore other amazing spots, such as Hiriketiya and Ella.
If you’re in Sri Lanka for an extended period of time e.g. a month, then up to 5 nights will allow you to enjoy a slower pace, exploring all that Mirissa has to offer.
December to March is the ideal time to visit Mirissa. This is the dry season, allowing you to properly enjoy the beach and hiking activities. It’s also the best time to visit for both surfing and whale watching, making it a winner all around in my eyes.
Plan Your Trip to Sri Lanka
Check out my other Sri Lanka blog posts to help you plan the perfect trip to this underrated island: