About Negombo beaches
Negombo is a year-round destination boasting lovely golden sandy beaches, a recently restored old quarter and a charming old world fishing village atmosphere. Few fail to fall in love with the outrigger canoes and wooden oruwas (catamarans) that sail past the main hotel stretch daily.
For the best sandy beaches head for the main hotel drag, where it is possible to hire all sorts of watersports equipment and enroll on reasonably priced diving courses. An excellent diving spot where you can see stunning corals, groupers and all sorts of colourful fish, Kudapaduwa is a 40-year-old shipwreck about 75m (246ft) in length.
Beyond the beach:
In town there are remnants of the Dutch fort built in 1642, as well as some stunning old Dutch houses and fascinating Portuguese churches. Dawn bird-watching trips on the canals built by the Dutch are increasingly popular, or take an early morning tour of the country’s second-largest fish market, the llelama in Pitipana, at the north end of the town’s lagoon. There are daily fish auctions, a chance to meet the area’s colourful fisherman and even organise a fishing trip on one of the wooden oruwas. Other treasures include Muthurajawela, a 6,000-hectare (14,826-acre) protected marshland, which is home to 192 species of wildlife, including the adorable but endangered slender loris.
The 5-star hotel The Beach (Ethukala) offers excellent family facilities. The hotel caters to children from the age of six months right up to 18 year olds; organising supervised watersports, nature walks, cycle tours, boat rides, face painting, magic sessions, cooking lessons, singing sessions and daily games on the beach. Older children can learn to sail, snorkel, windsurf and even do a basic diving course.
Along Hotel Road there are places for teenagers to hang out, including Internet cafes to play computer games in, but not much more than that.
Two hours drive from Negombo is a romantic seaside town called Chilaw, famous for crabs, coconuts and curry, as well as its beautiful sea pearls. This is a great place to visit in August/September, because they hold an annual carnival in honour of Lord Shiva at the celebrated Munneswaram Temple. Trips to Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth and the cultural triangle can be organised through most hotels (although do bear in mind that this is a very long day trip, meaning an early start and getting back late at night). A must on every traveller’s list is a trip to the eighth wonder of the world, the fifth-century Sigiriya Rock Fortress, set on a 200m- (656ft-) high rock surrounded by water gardens. Here too are the extraordinary Sigiriya Maidens, a series of murals of women that represent the oldest-surviving examples of a Sri Lanka school of classical realism.