The south coast of Sri Lanka is a palm tree paradise. They adorn the seashore, beautifully littering the landscape…
Whether you’re coming on the train from Colombo or experiencing life on a Sri Lankan bus from the Hill Country or east coast, this is how you will know when you’re close to Mirissa.
From the east is Tangalle with its own beautiful beaches, with Galle on the west side offering Dutch and British architecture to explore.
Mirissa is nestled between the two and near here is where I recommend you stay – at one of three Lantern Boutique hotels.
All situated side-by-side on a picturesque stretch of the beach, where you will see nobody other than the occasional local wandering by.
The Riso and Amour Beach Villas and Ubuntu Boutique Hotel offers a more relaxed environment than a usual hotel, with private and communal areas for guests to relax and feel right at home.
There is a kitchen with all necessary amenities and drinks, with staff always on hand for all services and then next door, at the signature Lantern Boutique Hotel, is a restaurant and bar.
Even here there is a similarly laid back vibe, giving all the comforts of a hotel without the formality, creating a beach getaway for travellers who appreciate an authentic and intimate vacation.
The Lantern Mixing Pot Restaurant offers international cuisine with unique local flavours, a selection of mouth-watering traditional Sri Lankan dishes, tapas-style barbecue nights, with a team of chefs who strive to meet your personal requests.
The menu is impeccable from morning to evening. Breakfast includes Sri Lankan hoppers, three egg omelettes and a full English, while the main menu offers staples such as salads, soups, pizzas and Sri Lankan rice and curry.
These are joined by stand out mains such as Kandy black pepper crusted steak, tamarind glazed seared yellowfin tuna, roasted spice and coconut beef served with saffron risotto, black pork Bolognese, and mushroom stuffed curried eggplant.
All made with fresh organic ingredients from the hotels’ estate and all fish and seafood is caught daily by the staff. One afternoon we had the pleasure of watching one young man from Lantern make his way into the shallow water of the sea with a fishing line, to top up the stock.
We were fortunate enough to join Chef Sumith Bandara in the kitchen one afternoon for a demonstration of how to make traditional Sri Lankan curries, which we then happily devoured for lunch.
The design of each hotel is chic contemporary and elegantly laid out. My room, which overlooked the pool and ocean, had an open plan feel with the large bed, armchairs, bath, a huge shower space, and bathroom facilities semi open plan with large movable wooden doors.
On the bottom floor are magazines, books, sofas, kitchen tables, green space and outside you will find sun loungers, hammocks, pools and the occasional water monitor scurrying around.
Mirissa is famed for its surfing, so there is always a good atmosphere to be found day and night should you choose to drag yourself away from the serenity of Lantern and head into town.
It is most famous for whale watching, an excursion the hotel will happily arrange on your behalf.
Blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, orcas (known as killer whales) are all found off the coast of Mirissa, along with dolphins, flying fish, turtles, manta rays and whale sharks.
However, I did not go whale watching during my stay. The laws regulating the industry have changed in recent years and boats are not allowed to get too close to the whales – and rightly so!
However, this means that the incredible photos you see online or on posters isn’t the reality today. Now, if you see whales, it will be from a distance and you may only be able to spot a fin sticking out of the water. Many bloggers who went last year wrote about how disappointing and anticlimactic it was.
Additionally, while some trips take just a few hours until whales are seen, others can take up to eight hours so it is a big sacrifice of time.
On the other hand, dolphins aren’t too hard to find as they love to show off and happily swim close to boats.
A night at Lantern Sri Lanka costs from £115 p/p (bed and breakfast). Find out more at lanternsrilanka.com.