Negombo has its beach, its own fish market, in fact two, its nightlife and wonderful people coupled with a lot of cool things to do. If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Negombo including great places to visit and experience, here are ten of them.
- Be a local in Negombo
In other words, through somewhat different – be a traveler, not a tourist! Be spontaneous. While you’re covering the guide-book attractions, think about the forgotten destinations, too. Get out of your comfort zone and WALK! Yes, instead of getting into an air conditioned coach, locals walk. They cycle in their daily life. If it’s possible, hire a bicycle for a day and paddle around the city. You will meet a lot of interesting people. The elderly people are so fantastic and they will share a lot of things about the culture, and traditions of Negombo. Stay in a hostel and meet other travelers. Hangover Hostels in Katunayake is an amazing place to stay and by far, our fave hostel in the island.
- Morning Walk Through The Dutch Canal
The Dutch Canal is a wonderful place, specially in mornings. Walk along the recently rebuilt pavements and you will see a lot of small and mid-sized boats passing through the canal. Old uncles mending fishing nets, little kids, half-naked, doing peek-a-boos out of their windows. Fiberglass boats being moored to aside. A few cloth racks in front of old, beautiful rustic walls and hipster street art. After all, the Dutch canal is not just a canal that’s too long.
- Escape to Morawala Beach
Remember when we told you that elders are the nicest? They in fact are. When we were exploring Negombo and were a little lost, albeit delightful, we met an old uncle near the Negombo Lagoon (lagoon? Oh yes, more of this later), and he shared us information about some of the hidden places. Morawala beach is one. It’s about a 20 minute walk (2.5km) from Negombo Lagoon and seemed to attract both locals and foreigners. There’s space just to relax. And unlike other beaches in Negombo, it’s clean so you can take a dip. On our way to Morawala, we found two rustic cars – vintage, a simba-like puppy being pampered by his owner and a beautiful church with kids playing cricket in the backyard.
- Brunching Local
Brunch? Our brunches are more like “lunners?” (If brunch is a thing, why not “lunner,” right?) But hey let’s keep it for another day. There are many local kades (small shops) – we Sri Lankans call them “hotels” – serving traditional Sinhala and Tamil food. We walked into a small shop serving Jaffna food and ate a plate full of dosai with curries and saambar. It only cost us Rs.120.
- Buy Some Fish from The Local Fish Market
If your hostel/hotel allows you to cook, like how the super cool guys do in Hangover Hostels, why not buy a few fishes, fresh, straight from the sea/lagoon to the market, and try being a chef tonight? Trust us, that’d be a lot of fun! There are two main fish markets in Negombo. One is situated around the lagoon, called ‘lellama,’ and was a busy, happening place when we went there. It’s a place full of lot of fun and excitement. Fishermen, butchers, consumers – you will meet all kind of people here.
The other fish market was near the sea and right on the beach. It’s a place full of local fishermen stretching out miles and miles of fish to dry in the sun so they become ‘dry fish’ – we call them ‘karawala.’ A dry fish curry tastes oh-so-good. A must-try if you are visiting Sri Lanka.
- Soak into the Architectural Wonderland
Negombo is a place with colonial architecture and it’s mainly visible in their beautiful churches. St. Mary’s Church on Main Street was one of the places we fell in love with. Negombo has a majority of Roman Catholics and therefore, you will find a church in every street you walk by.
St. Sebastian’s Church is another beautiful place where you feel yourself at peace. Serene. The kids, at the church participating for a drawing competition, were, little-camera-shy-s. In other words, extremely adorable.
- Negombo Bazaar
Negombo Bazaar – the ultimate market of overflowing anything and everything – doesn’t always happen. Consider yourself lucky if it happens once you’re based in Negombo. It’s a cheerful place full of interesting corners and people with big grins. An elephant hippie pant here costs Rs.300. Serve yourself a glass full of ‘saruwath’ drink and say hi to this guy selling Sri Lankans spices if you see him next time.
If you need a cuppa and a place to just relax for a while, there are many cafes with quirky decor in Negombo. But the Icebear Century Café on Main Street was our favorite, and easily reachable. It’s a spacious café serving cakes, tea, coffee and fresh juices coupled with quirky ambience. A cup of coffee or tea here is around Rs. 250 – 300.
- Take The Fast Track to Cultural Sites
Before the dust, make your way to Angurukaramulla Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple embedded with history and culture. One corner of the temple is paintings of Sri Lankan kingdoms – from the first king to the very last in Kandyan Era. There’s a little place called “apaaya” (hell) inside the temple. Pay no more than Rs.10 at the entrance and discover yourself what the hell is this hell!
On Sea Street, there are two beautiful Hindu temples. Kaaliamman Kovil and Sri Vinayagamurthi Temple – two colourful places that speak culture, traditions and history. There were too plantain (banana) plants brought and kept in front of the Kaaliamman Kovil. Plantain Trees in Hinduism symbolizes eternal life and succession of off-spring.
- Sunset at Negombo Lagoon
There are many locals operating boat tours through the lagoon. And we think evening – around 4.30 or 5pm is the best time to visit the lagoon. Why? Because there’s no sunset like a Sri Lankan sunset. And you will never get enough of them, specially since this one is in a boat around a lagoon in a bustling city. You will be taken to a few small islands in the lagoon and will have a chance at feeding the fishes. Expect to pay Rs.3000 for one person.
- Eat, Drink and Repeat!
This one will cost a little too much but if you’ve saved enough money, head into a pub or a seafood restaurant. Walk along the sea street and you will find a plenty of options. Lords Restaurant & Night Club (located on Poruthota Road), Rodeo Pub, Café J by Jetwing Hotels and Mad Dogs from Heritance Negombo are some of the places we would recommend.
Negombo is not just a pit spot before you say goodbye to this sundrenched island. It’s indeed, a colourful place with wonderful people, vibrant and so full of life. We hope you spend a few days in Negombo, find your freedom and soak up the atmosphere of this bustling city.