Back in the 1970s, HIKKADUWA was Sri Lanka’s original hippy hangout, its budget guesthouses an attractive to the fancier resort hotels at Beruwala and Bentota. Subsequent decades were not kind to the town: rampant over-development led to the systematic erosion of the beach and the creation of a memorable line of concrete eyesores masquerading as hotels, while its famous Coral Sanctuary was reduced to a circus of boats chasing traumatized fish through a labyrinth of dead coral.
Over the past decade, however, Hikkaduwa has begun to rise, cautiously, from its own ashes, as the tourist hordes have largely ignored the town, flocking to newer and less spoiled destinations in further south, allowing it to recapture some of its former sleepy, slightly happified charms, The much-abused beach and Coral Sanctuary are now being gradually rehabilitated, while following the Tsunami many of the town’s bomb-shelter style hotels were demolished or newly renovated, meaning that the whole place is now looking better than it has for years.
It’s still far from unspoiled but compared to the somnolent resorts further north Hikkaduwa remains refreshingly lively, with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops to tempt you off the beach, and a crowd of predominantly young and independent travellers keeping things busy. Things are particularly lively during the annual five-day Hikkaduwa Beach Fest in July/August when visiting international DJs, musicians and dancers perform nightly for crowds of hedonistic locals and foreigners partying on the beach.