There’s beauty in places you have never sought in, and that could be a valid case for this fishermen town watching the ocean on the west coasts of Sri Lanka. Negombo is not popular, it is (very honestly) probably not worthy of all those extra eyes too, because it wants to stay its self, simple and slow-paced. Something which is not appreciated much by many fast-paced tourists today.
In a world that’s so soaked in chaos, Negombo is that escape from home, that run away from the busy city square which you’d wished for on nights when you drowned in your bed after an overwhelming day back at work. There’s little that is not already noticeable on the deserted streets of Negombo or the hustle free beaches we could point the finger at. Fishnets put up in sequence on the coastline and little thatched single-storeyed farmer and fishermen’s homes in the town, from the front yards of these little houses, innocent children peeking out at the corner shack by the road making all kinds of hoppers, curries, platters, and whatnot. Behind one of those shacks runs a lagoon, boats giving getaway rides into the thin strip of saltwater and sand, and indigenous birds watching all that from above your heads sitting on a palm tree by the land.
About 10 KMs from the Bandaranaike International Airport connecting the capital Colombo to the rest of the world, Negombo is more often the go-to town for backpackers. For those getting down at the international airport in the wee hours, Negombo is a more convenient choice than Colombo, which is 35KMs away.
For you, there’s this laid back coastal town where you can enjoy a stopover without worrying much about food and a decent stay. Chilling on the beach and strolling the market and having delicious Sri Lankan platters is what you can best enjoy while being in Negombo.
Where do you stay?
There are sea-facing resorts, local family stays, Airbnb rentals, and other options to choose from in Negombo. Our experience of staying at Ayurdaa Home and Ayurvedic Spa turned out to be a superb choice for a little under 31$ (about 5700 Sri Lankan Rupees) per day.
Our host Ayomi was an amazing host who woke up at 2:30 in the morning for us. She guided us to get through the tricky mud road entrance and then through a small lane covered with a thicket of trees and bushes, where even a single car would struggle to fit, finally reaching the rejoice center as I can clearly say now that it was one. Our UBER driver had to be convinced to take his car into the narrow lane (which, by the way, our host did as it seems she has been doing it for a while now).
The following day we had some lip-smacking tasty breakfast and dinner prepared by the host’s mother. This place sure has a calming charm engraved in its overall vibe. Chic wooden interiors and absolute peace in the surrounding gardens plus the idea of going for a spa make it a total win-win for us.
Our Sri Lanka journey was more like a loop that started from Negombo, then traveled up to the west coast, then to the north, touching the east coast and rounded down to the south, and finally ended here in Negombo, so we stayed once again in Negombo on our final days. This time at another homestay called Villa Shade.
Villa shade is one of those properties that feel like staying in the wilderness. I mean, you could roll your eyes in any direction, and palm trees, greenery, and flowers will dominate your view. The thick bunches of bamboo by the private cottages, a treehouse in the garden, the private room windows overlooking the garden, and a gigantic pool in the middle make a perfect combination. There were bicycles too, and our lovely hosts suggested a ride around the town and darn, to ride these cycles around the property was one way of loving Negombo all over again. The property has beautiful, yet minimalist styled rooms with a very rustic touch and feel to them, comfortable at best, this is an excellent choice of stay.
Where to eat in Negombo?
During our stay in Negombo, we thoroughly enjoyed the home-cooked food at our homestays. At Ayurda Home, our host herself is a fantastic cook, but we were lucky to have her mother too. She is fabulous at cooking traditional Sri Lankan cuisines. All the meals were finger-licking, and due to that, we couldn’t explore many restaurants in Negombo.
Our morning started with a sumptuous breakfast of toasted bread, coconut curry, beans, sauteed veggies, bananas, fresh coconut shreds, and coffee.
In lunch, we had String hoppers (Idiyappam), lentil, and coconut sambal. And dinner comprised of red rice, with veggies, greens, lentil, and papadams.
In a nutshell, if you stay at a homestay, don’t miss out on home-cooked food. That way, you get to taste the authentic local cuisines, and you support the family too.
But in case if you are staying at a hotel or a guesthouse where they don’t serve home-cooked food, you may head out to these places, and I am sure these places won’t disappoint you, as they were recommended by a local. First of all, if you see a roadside food shop with snacks at display in glass boxes in front, these are the local eateries in Sri Lanka that serve fresh food. We tried a few during our one month stay on this island, and they are a life-saver. You can get steaming hot String-hoppers, coconut sambal, and Egg-hoppers, lentil vada (fritters).
Queen’s restaurant is a good option for Sri Lankan cuisines with Vegan and vegetarian options. The pumpkin curry and dal (lentil) that comes in veg platter is a must-try. Right next to Queen’s restaurant is Cafe Enviro. This cafe is a good breakfast place and is famous for its fresh food, fruits, juices, and fantastic coffee. And if you choose to stay in Negombo on your last day in Sri Lanka and you are done with curries and rice, try the Bella Vita Pizza House. Fresh toppings, good mozzarella, and the wood-burned flavor make a perfect pizza and will surely amaze you.
What to do in Negombo?
From having Sri Lankan platters for a dollar to colorful tongue competitions at the beach popsicle cart or riding down a tuk-tuk across the streets, life in Negombo is basic. Some popular pastimes should be the following:
Serene, and relatively emptier than the popular ones, walking on the wet sands watching the sun drown in silence is as enticing as it might sound. Though not spotlessly clean, Negombo beach is still a better option for a great time in the city. A good time was spent here enjoying the sunset and dramatic hues afterward.
St. Mary’s Church
There sure is a trace of cultures blended into this city that many forget to notice. In particular, St. Mary’s Church is a novelty of art and culture coming from years of foreign influence on Sri Lanka. The column structure and gorgeous ceiling paintings make it worthwhile to excavate historical stories and legends about this town.
Rio Ice Cream
The famous ice cream giant from the north of Sri Lanka is a popular name in all of the country. All kinds of popsicles, natural fruit ice creams, shakes, and innovative desserts, this outlet at Negombo beach will drag you on its doors with the sweet, enticing fragrances that make it so irresistible. We couldn’t stop but gorge on their heavenly ice creams.
We spent our stopover in Negombo cycling around the town, visiting a few places that came across and enjoying our introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine. But if you are planning to stay here for more than a night, you can also take a boat ride in the Negombo lagoon; you’d like the biodiversity on this ride. A visit to the famous Negombo fish market is also a must-try. Psst! Go there early morning to see the action.
Of all that’s been here in Negombo for years now, there is strange connectivity (and a strong one) lives inside its people who are friendly and make this city less of a hot wheels setup and push it towards more of a calm and relaxing getaway. Negombo is a feel-good hack in Sri Lanka.