These are two of the more popular beach towns on the Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Located about 30 minutes apart, they’re pretty similar, a nice stretch of sand lined with bar/restaurant/guesthouses. Every night these places put out all their tables and chairs and everyone eats and drinks out on the beach. It’s pretty tame, everything shuts down around midnight and maybe one of the bars will try to get some sort of party going.
There’s not a ton of stuff to do outside of laying at the beach if you’re not a surfer, but Unawatuna does have a couple of shipwrecks that you can dive at, where Mirissa is known for it’s whale watching tours. Although the amount of time you spend battling the choppy seas only to see the back end of a whale for a few seconds didn’t exactly sound worth it to me. As for the scuba diving, the current was too strong to do the well preserved wreck so we had to settle for the one that was in pieces, not really the most spectacular dive! Overall I liked Mirissa a bit better because it’s easier to find accommodation right by the beach, it’s slightly more upscale, a little cleaner, and has less Russians. But either way it’s best to rent a scooter so you don’t have to limit yourself to just the beach, as there is lots of great scenery all around the coast!
From Ella it took me about seven hours on three different buses to finally get to Mirissa. When these bus drivers get on the open road it feels like you’re in the movie Speed or something, no going below 50mph! These guys spend half the time in the opposite lane blaring on their horn and overtaking every possible vehicle, forcing oncoming traffic off to the far side of their own lane. And its so silly because then eventually somebody pulls the ropey thing that signals they want off and the driver has to slam on the brakes, pull over, and then try and retake all the cars that just passed them all over again. I mean what’s the point of being a maniac driver if you have to stop all the time?!
Anyway, I got dropped off on the main road in town, and found the place that was recommended to me. It was between Christmas and New Years so unfortunately it was all booked up. But there was a new hostel right across the street, and being the lazy person that I am, decided that was my best option. Apparently hostels are popping up all over Mirissa and Unawatuna this year. The owner of this place (Colors Hostel) said that last year there were five hostels in Mirissa and this year there’s now twelve! People are very optimistic about the continued increase in tourism in Sri Lanka. I even noticed it a bit myself when I posted some photos on facebook and a bunch of people asked for travel advice because they were headed there soon or were thinking about going. I guess Sri Lanka is the place to be!
The hostel itself had a nice open balcony on the top floor and big long table for people to hang out at (very important!) and speakers – all you need really. So I met some pretty cool people there. Although it was kinda weird because everyone was either Australian, Dutch, or American and hardly anyone from anywhere else, and there’s just not that many Americans in Sri Lanka to begin with.
Most people there were content to just chill on the beach all day, which I’m happy to do for an hour or two, but I also wanted to do some exploring, so I made to sure to find the nearest scooter rental place. It’s so incredibly nice to be able to go wherever you want, whenever you want. I can’t live without my scooter! And Sri Lanka has a long gorgeous beachside road, plus lots of smaller roads that snake their way throughout the countryside. There’s nothing like cruising around on well paved, winding country roads early in the morning or around sunset. Good stuff. I even stumbled upon a snake farm one of the days.
So I was enjoying my time in Mirissa and decided to stick around for New Years Eve, when there would be lots of big parties on the beach. The owner of the hostel suggested going to an all white party, which sounds a bit weird saying, but it’s just a party on the beach where you have to wear all white clothes. We ended up buying tickets for $40 a pop, which I thought was a bit crazy for Sri Lankan standards, but that’s New Years Eve I guess. Overpriced NYE parties are certainly not limited to the States! So we all went to the market in town to buy white clothes, as most backpacking types don’t wear too much white because it gets dirty and disgusting wayyy too quickly.
As I was kind of expecting, the party was kinda pretentious and lame. The $40 didn’t even get you free drinks, and the drinks of course, were not cheap. Our section of beach was fenced off from the rest, very exclusive indeed! There was the DJ at the front and lots of cheap white plastic tables and chairs in the sand. The crowd was somewhat surprising, mostly well-to-do Sri Lankans and not that many foreign tourists. Bathroom facilities were lacking, so it was a long line whenever you had to go. I mean it was still fun, but I much rather would have been at one of the many free parties going on further along the beach. Oh well!
The next day I had to say goodbye and get back to Colombo as my visa was now one day past the expiry date. Uh oh!