Nine Reasons Why We Were Disheartened By Sri Lanka’s South Coast

Nine Reasons Why We Were Disheartened By Sri Lanka’s South Coast

Last month, we were in Mirissa. Off-season Mirissa is where you don’t see overcrowded boats chasing waves, and each other to see a glimpse of world’s largest mammal, the blue whale. Instead, it’s where your quick strolls turn into long walks along the sandy shore. It’s where you visit the same local-run garden cafe three times a day. It’s where wee crab friends run back to the ocean as the clouds pass by and skies turn into colours you cannot name. It’s where you lie down for hours on abandoned resort sunbeds for free.

We love Mirissa. We absolutely loved it. But deep down, Mirissa, and the entire South Coast make us cringe. Here’s why:

  • It’s polluted. While Sri Lanka’s becoming the ‘it-destination’ and tourism industry is taking over the island like never before, pollution is one major problem the island has to face. The beach is mostly polluted. The roads are littered. Plastic bottles and polythene bags are a common scene in small water canals.

Mirissa NatnZin Pollution

Pollution Mirissa NatnZin

  • It’s ‘crowded’ even during the off-season. While this might not be a reason to cringe, our (mostly Zin’s) idea of a beach, is, complete isolation with a hammock to lie down and sip a margarita (and a cup of chai, too). The main beach of Mirissa was pretty crowded when we visited it. However, we walked about one and half kilometers and found a few nice, isolated spots to while away the time. Okay, sugar plum, what we are trying to say is, the tourism industry is really taken over the island. Yep!


  • There’s no local life. We don’t know about you  but one of our favorite things about traveling is, to embrace and enjoy the local life. To get an idea about the cultures and traditions. We absolutely love it. And in Mirissa, there’s absolutely no local life. Every house is a guesthouse. Every twenty-some boy is a surf instructor or a “beach boy.” Same applies to the entire South Coast. We agree that tourism has brought them a source of income. But when every wee house turns into a hotel/resort/guesthouse solely to earn money, discriminate locals and treat the travelers with no proper hospitality, it’s a big NO-NO. See: this isn’t bashing about locals who run guesthouses. The foreign-run resorts and luxury ‘hotels’ are cringe-worthier. We wonder how local life used to be before tourism industry took place in the island.


  • Hotels. Resorts. Guesthouses. Hostels. Any other sort of insane name you can give to a room with a bed. Yep! They are everywhere. Every house is one of those. Everything. And EVERYONE FIGHTS FOR THE BEST “SEA VIEW.” (See: “Parrot Island  View”)


  • YOU WILL LOSE IT. Okay, everyone, every sugar plum, listen! What might have brought the tourists here? What might have opened up the tourism industry in the South Coast? The beaches. Those sandy far-stretched beaches once existed. Now, there’s only a little of it. Kudos, humans, you’ve killed it. There’s coastal erosion. Plenty of it. Some parts have become narrower than ever that in some years, the waves may wash you over as you’re sitting in a Matara-Weligama private bus. Yay!
Hotels Mass Tourism NatnZin
A list of hotels/guesthouses/villas in one tiny street towards the village-side in Mirissa.
  • Where is the ‘local’ traveler? We are not talking about Colombo ‘hipsters’ who occasionally drive their Porsche Down South and call them “travelers.” We see plenty of sarong-wearing-hipsters with a foreign accent. When Zin was young, she traveled with her dada who used to point out each and every river stream and talk about its history. About local life years back. About when Sri Lanka actually produced sugar in factories in Kantale. Where are they? Where are teachers you can learn while you travel? Where are those curious learners who want to learn about new places? About its culture? About its long-lost romance? This is the thing. If Zin brings her mother here, mommy dear would feel insecure. She did, in many places. How sad is it that you feel insecure in your own country because ‘westernization’ has taken over it.


  • There’s discrimination. While we didn’t come across any sort of discrimination during our time in Mirissa, we’ve heard plenty about it. Mirissa has a bad reputation for that. Many budget, mid range and even luxury accommodation options don’t welcome locals. And many high-end restaurants will probably think we locals have no money to pay their bill. This is common in the entire island that when we book budget accommodation options, we always see if the owner is foreign. Sad to say that we’ve never faced discrimination by foreign owners/hosts but locals. A nation where locals discriminate against their own – do you need any reasons for the island’s unsustainable development?
  • Feminism/freedom doesn’t mean it’s right to roam around the streets in a bikini. Or absolutely ‘short’ shorts. When you go to a place, respect the local culture. There’s absolutely nothing ‘local’ in Sri Lanka’s Down South that it’s become kind of normal if you have a white skin. But you can occasionally spot an old grandma with a frowned face. We wonder how their lives used to be years back.
  • Sexual harassment. There’s plenty of it in the island. Mostly, in many occasions, it may not go beyond usual catcalling. Many solo female travelers we’ve met has faced some sort of physical harassment as well. And listen, not only white females face this. Local women face this the most. Everytime. The patriarchal society has normalized it for years that many locals think it’s absolutely normal to catcall a girl. Your ‘ah-nangi’s’ make us girls cringe. It’s become a major cause of Zin’s social anxiety as well. How many times would you think before taking a crowded local bus?

We could go on about how island’s unsustainable development (mainly a reason due to its rising popularity in tourism industry) makes us cringe. Here’s the thing. In a few years, some of these beaches won’t be there. So if you are heading there now, here are a few useful/sustainable tips:

  • Use when you book accommodation options. Read the reviews carefully. is the ONLY 100% reliable booking site as every review is from a guest who stayed at a certain property. You can’t fake them. And due to policies, hotels can’t turn you down even if you are local. Yet, we’ve heard about a few occasions where this still happened. So read the reviews. And if you ever had a bad experience, write it down. It may help another traveler. Same goes with a good experience, too.
  • Use Airbnb. We love Airbnbs as they give you a sense of local life and in most Airbnbs, you are living with a family. Airbnbs become your home, too. Read the reviews on Airbnb before you book. We’ve met some amazing people when we’ve stayed at Airbnbs. (Also read: Natural Mystic Sanctuary: Finding bliss in Deniyaya)
  • Don’t litter the environment. Please, love it!
  • Dress up appropriately according to the place and time.
  • Don’t feel insecure about taking the public bus/train. Don’t think that driving your own car and staying at a luxury resort is the ‘only’ cool way to travel. Travel as you prefer it and the way you could afford it. Be true to yourself. Sri Lanka is where “I’ve never taken the bus” makes one a cool kid! Wrong. It does not. Absolutely not. Here’s a cool fact: when you take public transport, you are doing a tiny bit of good to the environment that can have a major effect. 1 train instead of 100 cars minimize the carbon emission. You are traveling responsibly. Yes, you are, cool kid!

After all, it’s still the island of ours. We love it. The ocean takes the sorrows away despite being loaded with pollution. Palm trees dance slowly to the sea-breeze. Castle-like clouds go pass by and at dusk, sun sets and paints skies in an unimaginable palette. The island is where everything and anything is possible.

Have you been to Mirissa yet?

Nathan and Zinara


25 thoughts on “Nine Reasons Why We Were Disheartened By Sri Lanka’s South Coast”

  • I’ve never been there, but feel rather sad at your description of the area. Not being a beach person, my travelling has been largely inland and I’ve not encountered so many of those problems. I’m very aware of their existence, though, and the points you make at the end are very good ones. They are common sense and, really, every traveller should be aware enough to follow them.

  • I have never been to Mirissa before but I feel sorry for this tourist attraction. I would prefer an unknown but clean and pure place with fresh air and beautiful view. Hope that one day, all of the problems here, especially the heavy pollution, can be solved so that we can come and enjoy Mirissa, and the entire South Coast.

  • I think I’m going to have to pass on visiting here. I hate to see beautiful places covered with trash, and I do not handle sexual harassment well.

  • As much as I lovr traveling, I’d definitely pass on visiting this place too. But thank you for sharing your experience. Maybe its worth it for the sandy beaches?

  • thanks for the honest opinions. This is not somewhere I am looking to go with all the trash and sexual harassment. I will take your word and skip it!

  • Awww! I’m a total beach bum and this just breaks my heart seeing these photos. I don’t understand how people could trash and lay waste to such a beautiful resource.

  • I’ve never been but judging from all the trash, it’s probably not a place I’d enjoy. Granted, some places I do enjoy have trash everywhere because people are slobs, so I might check this place out once just to see.

  • It is sad to know how that when a place becomes popular that attracts tourist, there will be many negative changes. I hope someday people will realize that they are destroying the nature because of money.

  • Ohh so sad to read about this. I hope that people will be responsible enough to clean up their trashes and make proper disposals. I guess this is not just in this place but many places has this case. Local people and tourists should all be responsible.

  • This environmental situation is so sad to hear. For so many years I’ve wanted to visit Sri Lanka. Now, with your post and photos, I’m really giving it a second thought. So disappointing to find out about this area’s extreme pollution.

  • I’ve not been to Mirissa but judging from the trash photos, this is my breaking point. I hope the city cleans up before they lose tourists visiting their island. Thanks for sharing!

  • I feel so sad with these revelations. I can relate to this because some of our local beaches are also being polluted by human. I hope the local residents and the government should do something to change the place’s current state.

  • Oooooh come ooooon.. am a solo travel girl and I left my job and came down to Mirissa to start up a hostel. Better you both see the world with practical end too… Bulshit… Seriously.. am NOT agree to anything except crash thing, a bit again… Coz in some places that can be.. that also again issue of musiple council.. Plz do not publish bulshit and make negative comments, perspectives among travelers who love over the moon. Nothing will be perfect in this world. If you hate those stay at home and sleep… Am Sooooo serious. I came down to live here coz this is the most amazing beach in Sri Lanka… Please use bit of your brain cells before you do bulshit like this… (And you must publish this comment)

  • It’s like traveling to Syria because you have money and finding out that there is a war going on and blogging about what a shitty place it is to visit. There are more than enough amazing places to visit in Sri Lanka for everyone’s personal interests. Mirissa has its own vibe and so as Kandy. You don’t go to Kandy to get the experience of Mirissa and you don’t go to Mirissa to get the experience of Kandy.

    “There’s no local life. We don’t know about you but one of our favorite things about traveling is, to embrace and enjoy the local life. To get an idea about the cultures and traditions. We absolutely love it. And in Mirissa, there’s absolutely no local life.” Since you both were looking for THE LOCAL LIFE, clearly Mirissa is not the place to explore. You go there to experience the sandy beach, the nightlife, to relax and to party. Try contacting local professional guides if you don’t know where to travel and experience LOCAL LIFES, the village experience and Sri Lankan tradition.

    You both are Sri Lankans, you know more about the country than the travelers who read this BLOG. Try writing local newspaper articles and informing the Government official about what bothered you during your travel before trash talk about your own country and trying to ruin the image of this beautiful paradise.

    And its pretty clear that you both wrote this article because of some PERSONAL VENGEANCE with some incident happened during your visit to Mirissa.

  • This kind of negative posts which discourage foreigners to visit Sri Lanka should not be in public. South Coast is not as bad as mentioned here. The points discussed here are common to any area or any country. There are no perfect places nor perfect people. If you really love Sri Lanka, what you should have done is something different. I see you as an enemy of the country.

    Remove this post…

  • 2019 – Mirissa: became worse. same as weligama, midigama, kabalana etc. sad, but everything you described is true.

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