Wondering if Mirissa is worth visiting? The answer is YES! Here are 9 fun things to do in Mirissa, and one thing NOT to do! Includes whale watching and practical tips!
There are many fabulous things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka. This is a great place to spend a few days enjoying the gorgeous beaches, learning how to surf, taking in the laid-back vibes, admiring Sri Lanka’s most amazing sunsets and – most importantly (provided you are going in the right season) – going whale watching.
Not only that! Mirissa has some very good accommodation options – making it a perfect destination whether you are looking to pamper yourself with a bit of luxury, or whether you’d rather save the pennies and want to stay somewhere more local or more budget-friendly.
In other words, you really have to add Mirissa to your Sri Lanka itinerary!
In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Mirissa, and one you really should avoid doing. I will also share some tips that will help you plan your trip and make it fully enjoyable.
9 Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One To Avoid
1) Whale watching
Of all the things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka, this is by far the most memorable one. You can’t do it year-round – the whale watching season is from November to April, with the best viewings between March and April. And even when you can actually do it, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will actually be able to see whales.
You will notice that there are several boats looking for whales, but they generally behave quite responsibly, keeping a good distance so not to disturb whales. Boat staff usually warns passengers about the presence of a whale in the distance, and observing the movements of the whale they will say “tail up!” to warn that the whale is about to show off!
During the tour, you also get to see dolphins and sea turtles.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Whale-watching expeditions cost around $50 USD. You will need to haggle a bit to make sure you are not being ripped off (or book online if you are not a fan of haggling).
Tours usually depart at 7:00 am from the harbor of Mirissa. You can expect to be out at sea for anything between 2 and 7 hours, depending on how lucky you are in spotting the whales. During the tour, you are usually offered some sandwiches, fruit and water.
TIP: Make sure to take some motion sickness pills. Boats don’t usually go out at sea if the water is rough, but you never know!
2) Spend time at the beach
Mirissa and its surroundings are packed with beautiful beaches, and it’s pretty obvious that one of the nicest things to do there is spending some time baking in the sun and then getting in the water to cool down a bit.
There are various beaches you can pick from. The most obvious choice is Mirissa beach, which is actually very clean and lined with beautiful palm trees and where the water is nice and clean. You will find places to rent chairs and umbrellas, or simply put your towel on the soft sand. Scattered along the beach you will find several places where you can get snacks and drinks.
3) Visit Parrot Rock
Parrot Rock is actually located on Mirissa Beach. You can walk there quite easily from the beach via the water – but make sure you try to do so during low tide, as the water may turn wild. The views of the surroundings from there are truly beautiful.
4) Go to Secret Beach
Secret beach is not really that secret. I guess the name is due to the fact that you can’t get there that easily – you will need to arrange a tuk-tuk to get there and even so, you will have to walk for around 10 minutes to get to the beach as the road is to steep for tuk-tuks. It is a lovely, small secluded beach with a shack selling coconuts and incredible sunset views.
5) Learn how to surf in Weligama
Weligama is one of Sri Lanka’s prime locations for surfing. The beach is truly lovely – long, sandy, lined with palm trees. Waves are constant, but the best ones come with the tide so the best time to go surfing is around sunset. You will find lots of places along the beach to rent a board for around 400 LKR (around $2 USD) and even many surfing schools.
6) Go snorkeling or diving
The reef is a perfect place to go snorkeling or diving and there is lots of beautiful marine life you can observe – you will even see turtles. You can rent snorkel gear directly at your guest house, or alternatively join a snorkel or diving expedition. Snorkeling tours are in the range of $30 USD, whereas diving is a bit more expensive.
You can also go to Polhena Beach by yourself – it’s said to be an excellent location to spot sea turtles. Make sure to bring snorkeling gear!
7) Admire a fabulous sunset
Sunsets in this part of Sri Lanka are out of this world. You can decide to simply go for a walk along the beach (I love Weligama sunsets the best!) or even enjoy a sunset dinner in one of the many small restaurants that pop on Mirissa Beach at that time of day.
8) Go on a day trip to Galle
Galle is one of the nicest places to visit in region, and at an easy distance from Mirissa Sri Lanka. The city has many interesting sights – most of them all concentrated in Galle Fort. The city, which has a lovely colonial feel, dates back to Portuguese rule of Sri Lanka (but the Dutch colonizers also left their touch) and it can be easily visited in half a day.
You can decide to spend a few days in Galle – but it’s a bit expensive by Sri Lanka standards – or you can go there on a day trip.
9) Take in the views from Coconut Island
One more for the views! Around 15 minutes from Mirissa Beach there is a coconut farm located on a hill, from where you can get impressive views – especially at sunset. You can get walk there from one of the restaurants in the area, or via a short walk in the water (again, watch the tide). Remember that coconuts may fall from the tree when ripe, so watch your head!
Don’t take photos of the stilt fishermen
With all the things to do in Mirissa Sri Lanka, also comes one that I recommend avoiding.
Contrary to what many think, stilt fishing is not an ancient tradition. This practice dates back to WWII, when fishing spots were incredibly crowded due to food shortages, and some men decided to overcome the crowds by trying to fish directly int he water, at times placing their stilts directly on the coral reef.
Between the 2004 tsunami and the fact that the monsoons make fishing very seasonal, this “tradition” is disappearing and there really are no more stilt fishermen in southern Sri Lanka. The ones you see are fake, and this is a massive tourist trap.
Those you are likely to see around Mirissa are mere models, posing for photos in exchange for a fee (usually around 500 Sri Lanka Rupees, but it may be more at sunset, because that’s when the best light is: there are fixed rates depending on the time slot you are trying to photograph), with a proper business organizations that goes from signs pointing to the areas where you will find the fishermen, to men actually collecting money before you can get any close for photos, and even some chasing tourists who have a camera on their neck so that they don’t dare take photos without paying.
Some may say that this is the only form of livelihood for the models and the people in the organization. But is it, really? Or is it more likely to be just a way to rip off tourists and make easy money?
It’s not for me to say whether it is right or wrong to pay for a photo – I am not a fan of it, but that is completely up to you. My guide explained that behind the stilt fishermen posing for photos there is some sort of a criminal organization, with lots of drug and alcohol abuse involved, and I’d rather not finance that.
The overall experience of photographing the stilt fishermen is kind of sour – very well described in this post.
Mirissa, Sri Lanka Practical Info
Where to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka
Mirissa has some very good accommodation options and you are bound to find something that suits your budget and taste – whether you stay in the actual city or in its immediate outskirts such as Weligama.
This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka:
How to get to Mirissa
There’s no airport in Mirissa, but you can easily get there by public transportation from most places in Southern Sri Lanka.
The easiest way to get from the airport to Mirissa is to take a private transfer. Alternatively, take the bus to Matara and from there a tuk-tuk to Mirissa.
From Galle, you can use one of the many local buses that connect Galle to Matara and get off in Mirissa. Although Mirissa is only 36 km away from Galle, the journey can last up to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
From Ella, you will have to take a bus headed to Matara and then a tuk-tuk from there. Alternatively, take a bus to Badulla and get off in Mirissa. The overall journey will last around 4 hours.
How to move around Mirissa
The best way to move around Mirissa Sri Lanka is by tuk-tuk. Remember you always have to haggle the prices!
When to visit Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and you may end up catching some rain even if you do your best to avoid it. In general, the best season to visit Sri Lanka is December to March.
Whale watching season in Mirissa Sri Lanka goes from November to April, with the best months being March and April.
Looking for more Sri Lanka posts? Here they are!