In search of paradise, treehouses, and culture
When in Hiriketiya…
After constant cajoling from friends to visit this “hidden beach” that’s apparently a backpacker’s paradise, a perfect four-day holiday week made a trip to Hiriketiya possible.
“Surfer’s paradise”, “sleepy southern beach stretch”, and “undiscovered gem” are some of the words used to describe Hiriketiya, located about an hour’s drive from Matara.
Happening upon the beach stretch itself was akin to unearthing a lost earring from the sand; there was surprise and celebration.
Although “undiscovered” is probably not the best word to use now to describe this southern stretch of beach, Hiriketiya does offer something unique – a concealed cove that lures and seduces people who wish to enjoy just a few, simple things – the waves, camaraderie with fellow travellers and good food and drink.
It’s hard to miss the elongated boards that almost everyone seemed to be carrying on the beach, and a glance at the sea will tell you those in the sea were no different. Surfing seemed to be the order of the day in Hiriketiya; while some tourists were reclined on vacant spaces along the beach, most of them didn’t want to leave the sea until they absolutely had to, making best use of their time catching the best waves till sundown.
There is very little else to do, really, and even if you’re clueless about surfing, you feel drawn to try it out (even if to make a fool of yourself!); you can rent surfing boards along the beach stretch itself and have one of the instructors show you the ropes.
For those who choose to stay on the shores, relaxing with a good book or music, there are the juice bars and food spots offering a small but good selection of food and drink; something I opted to do promptly. Food is priced slightly higher than your regular street-side kade (a grilled chicken dish costs around Rs. 1,400), but not too bad as to warrant complaints; the portion sizes make up for the prices too.
Surfing or otherwise, the waves seemed to lure everyone in for a dip during the course of the day. There’s plenty of shallow sea for you to relax in comfortably before the bigger waves reach you. If you’re not a surfer, just settling in closer to shore and watching the pros do their thing is quite pleasant.
The running theme of the trip seemed to be “stumbling on gems” and Dots Bay House, an idyllic restaurant and guest house was one other. It’s easily the most sought after place in Hiriketiya, and the “why”, was established when I walked in there in search of dinner.
Located on the beach stretch itself, the place had successfully attracted all the surfers and general Hiriketiya vacationers with its casual ambience, minimalist decor with a focus on pastel shades, cement benches, and good music. This particular night featured The Drift, a six-piece band from the streets of Colombo that was keeping attentive customers grooving to Funk, Soul, Jazz, RnB, and Pop.
The food at Dots is an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan and Mediterranean cuisine, and they offer happy hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Dots rice-bowl and the Dots burger are must-tries! In addition to being a popular spot come dusk, the place is also open for breakfast and has a range of vegan options, fresh smoothies and juices, and Illy coffee throughout the day.
The guest house has five private rooms, two bungalows, a cabana dorm that sleeps five, and studio hostel beds.
If you’re on the lookout for more options, Salt House and Hiri Five 80 are two other places worth checking out.
Sleeping in the trees
Airbnb is the most convenient and efficient way to book a place to stay at in Hiriketiya; you really do find spots that have good reviews and are decently priced. If the sight of monkeys swinging lazily from tree to tree when driving up the road to my choice of accommodation for the holiday wasn’t unusual enough, the sight of a cute and cosy treehouse atop a rugged path, overlooking a little stream, put the stamp on “unique”.
Vishwa Tree House is literally one minute’s walk from Hiriketiya beach and is managed by the host Priyantha and his wife Deepika; the place is named after their son Vishwa. Housing two private rooms with attached bathrooms, the newly-constructed wooden house has a shared balcony terrace which offers the best vantage point to see the monkeys getting up to mischief in their natural environment.
There’s free parking on the premises, free WiFi, and a shared kitchen space where you can cook your own meals. You can also ask for your meals to be provided by the host, for which you’ll be charged an additional amount of course.
Despite it being an open space and literally positioned amidst a dense patch of trees, there was no worry of mosquitoes or any other insects bothering you. Do request for the entire treehouse if you’re booking the place though; nothing like having the entire hut to yourself without having to worry if your music is too loud for whoever’s occupying the other room.