Mount Lavinia – 6 Things to Do, Beach, and Best Food

Last Updated on by Teddy

Picture a mile of resorts, perfect beaches, and a sea breeze washing past your villa. Does that excite you? Fantastic! That means Mount Lavinia is where you need to visit; this beach resort town is located just ten kilometers south of Colombo. It is best known for its Golden Mile of beaches and resort hotels. It’s one of the few relaxing escapes near to the busy capital.

The origin of the name of the town is based on a beautiful—and true—story. In the early 19th century, the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Thomas Maitland, fell in love with a local dancer who performed at one of his parties. He defied convention and had her brought to his mansion by a secret tunnel. When Maitland had to leave Sri Lanka, he named the manor after his lover: Mount Lavinia House.

The Mount Lavinia Hotel is the heart of the city. It attracts movie shoots, wedding parties, beach lovers, and Ayurveda enthusiasts alike. Let’s learn more about this beautiful place.

Things to Do

Mount Lavinia Hotel

Built on a promontory overlooking the sea, the Mount Lavinia Hotel is set amongst some  stunning scenery, and has direct access to Mount Lavinia Beach. The original part of the hotel dates back to 1806, when it was the mansion home of the British Governor General of Ceylon who hosted important dignitaries in his time. As one of the oldest hotels in the country it has a colonial heritage feel to it with decor to match. Nowadays, it is a popular holiday resort and wedding venue (during wedding season the hotel can get busy, and service sometimes suffers). They have a swimming pool, restaurant, gym, and Wi-Fi.  

  • Location: No. 100 Hotel Road, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia
  • Transportation from Bandaranaike International Airport: Taxi or drive: 55-60 min
  • Website: https://www.mountlaviniahotel.com
  • Contact Number/Email: +94 11 2711711 | reservation@mountlaviniahotel.com

Sri Lanka Air Force Museum

Set over a vast area the Sri Lanka Air Force Museum is an intriguing place to spend a few hours. It’s a perfect day trip for visitors staying in nearby Colombo and will especially appeal to anyone interested in aircrafts. There are a variety of aircrafts on display including several English, Japanese, and LTTE aircrafts. The local guides are engaging while the interactive exhibits and flight simulator is fascinating. It is perfect for families with children thanks to the various hangers full of real aircraft, and the lovely garden area where children can run around. They also have a children’s play area and a gift shop. They sometimes hold model workshops, and you may be able to purchase models at the gift shop (although the shop may not always be open).

  • Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 9am-5pm
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Adults: $15; Children: $10.
  • Location: New Airport Rd, SLAF Base Ratmalana, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia
  • Distance from Colombo: 18kms
  • Website: http://www.airforcemuseum.lk
  • Contact Number: +94 11 2 625615
  • Note: Make sure to follow the strict designated boundaries as there are national security rules in place due to the local Air Force Base next door. Also be sure to check with the museum staff about restrictions on photography and videography. 

Mount Lavinia Beach

If you are in Colombo you should put Mount Lavinia Beach on your must-see list. It is a beehive of activity during the daytime and makes for a relaxing spot in the evening. Come sunbathe, watch the sunset, or take a stroll. It is a family friendly beach with some eateries situated along the beachfront. Swimming is not recommended due to the riptides, although you can stay close to the shore if you are careful (it is possible to use the private pool at the nearby Mount Lavinia Hotel for a small fee).

  • Duration: 3 hours (best time to visit 8-11am or 3-6pm)
  • Location: Mount Lavinia

National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka

The original land at the gardens was used by the Hagenback family in the early 1900s as a holding area for wild animals which were to be sent to Europe’s zoos. When their company went bankrupt the land was taken on by a government department as an entertainment attraction. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the focus become more about conservation and scientific research and the facility began to focus more on animal welfare and education. The venue has undergone refurbishments since then and is now a family friendly visitor attraction. They have a wide range of animals and birds, and are famous for their elephant show. The special animal shows allow guests to get up close with elephants, birds, and the resident sea lion; ticket prices are additional to entrance fee and cost from LKR 3,000 to 5,000. Shows run throughout the week so be sure to check the timings on their website (http://nationalzoo.gov.lk/zoo/activities/).

  • Duration: 2-5 hours
  • Opening Hours: 8:30am-6pm daily (last ticket sales 5:30pm)
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Adults: LKR 2500; Children: LKR 1250 Animals shows cost extra.
  • Location: 120 Quarry Road, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia
  • Distance from Colombo: 12kms
  • Website: http://nationalzoo.gov.lk
  • Contact Number: +94 11 2 712752

Sea Turtles Conservation Project

The “Our Turtle Conservation Project” has been running since 2003 with a small team of  volunteers and is funded by donations and entrance prices. The aim is to protect the local turtles and help with conservation efforts. Of the seven turtle species in the world, five can be found in Sri Lanka. At the onsite hatchery they have Leatherbacks, Green Turtles, and a Hawsbill. Visitors can hold the turtles as well as take photos with them. Some visitors find it to be a ‘tourist trap’ more than a sanctuary, while others value their visit here. If you have concerns make sure to do your own research before making a visit here, or indeed to any other turtle conservation projects, as the ‘money making’ aspect of it can be alarming for some visitors.

  • Duration: up to 2 hours
  • Opening Hours: Sun- Sat 8am-6pm
  • Cost for foreign visitors: up to LKR 1000. Donations are actively pursued.
  • Location: 73/23 St Rita Road, Mount Lavinia
  • Website: http://ourturtleproject.wixsite.com/otcp
  • Contact Number: +94 11 4 277195

Seafood Cove

The Mount Lavinia region is famous for seafood and offers many fantastic options. Enjoy a quiet meal in Seafood Cove situated in the grand Mount Lavinia Hotel, with its expansive views of the beach and the Indian Ocean. The restaurant serves an excellent choice of fresh seafood from its fish market – which can be grilled, sautéed, fried, or prepared in any style that you prefer. Prices for the fish are calculated per every 100g, and they have several seafood varieties on offer such as garupa, lobster, red mullet, and king prawns. There is a live calypso band in the evenings which adds to the scene as you enjoy a seafood dinner on the beach.

  • Opening Hours: Mon-Sun an a la carte menu is available during the daytime. Dinner service runs from 7pm to 10:30pm (Happy Hour 6-7pm)
  • Location: Mount Lavinia Hotel, 100 Hotel Rd, Mt Lavinia
  • Website: https://www.mountlaviniahotel.com
  • Contact Number/Email: +94 11 2711711 | reservation@mountlaviniahotel.com

Foodies Guide

Best Food Experiences

1. Hot Butter Cuttlefish at Loon Tao

Relax under the moon at Loon Tao, a place serving the best fish delicacies in Mt Lavinia. Located by the sea on a shack on the beach, Loon Tao is a seafood lover’s paradise. The menu is huge and has loads of veg options too but non-veg fare takes the cake. Relish the delish fish, shrimp, and crab dishes under the moonlight while listening to some perfect country music. The crispy Calamari is super delicious and an absolute must have. If you’re looking for some mouth-watering HBC, head Loon Tao where you’ll get the best finger-lickin’ Hot butter cuttlefish that you will savor for days to come. Beautiful setting by the Indian Ocean and delectable seafood – what more does one want?

2. Home-cooked food at The Angler

Heading a few hundred meters away from the sea you’ll see a line of large smooth barked palms and a yellow sign in a residential block. That’s The Angler – it is like entering into someone’s living room for a warm, homely dining experience. The cooking is the star of the place with fresh tuna curry cooked in coconut oil, served with poppadams and pickles. The authentic Sri Lankan food gives you a feel of the homestay and is super hygienic – fresh and direct from the market. You can also have their fish curry served with veggies and sambol.

3. Grilled steaks at La Voile Blanche

La Voile Blanche is a chic all-white washed beachside restaurant in Mount Lavinia. Although La Voile Blanche is a beachside restaurant, they don’t just focus on seafood. The restaurant is very famous for its delicacies straight from the grill – specially the steaks. With its fast service and friendly hospitality, this one scores higher than most beach side restaurants. The restaurant has a fairly wide variety when it comes to steaks. The menu comprises Tuna Steak, Rib-eye steak, Tenderloin Steak, Fillet of steer fish, Crab steak among others. The steaks come with seasonal vegetables, sauces and a side dish of your choice. If you still want to go for the tried and tested seafood, go for the seafood kebabs and mixed seafood platter. This quaint neat place with a backdrop of the mighty Indian Ocean is a must-visit.

4. Live Seafood at Seafood Cove

Seafood Cove has an excellent location on Mt Lavinia Hotel’s private beach area; you can enjoy your meal and take in the view of the ocean. For evening dinner the restaurant hosts a market where you select and buy fresh fish, prawns, lobster, etc. and then get it cooked the way you want. If the ocean’s catch your thing, this is the place where you can have a soup to mains meal consisting of the best of the sea. Start off with a crab bisque which is heavily spiced and contains the right flavor. For the starters, you can choose the fish and chips – trust us, they are the best in town! Choosing the mains is a little difficult because everything on the platter is so fresh and yummy that it’s tough to choose one. But , try the garlic buttered prawns, grilled tuna, and steamed garupa for a wholesome platter., while the crab fillets in aioli sauce are like a dream.

Where to Eat

Options for delicious food abound in Mount Lavinia. Our top recommendations are:

1. La Rambla

La Rambla is famous for traditional Sri Lankan delicacies. They cook their food in the authentic Sri Lankan style! There are many eateries La Rambla eateries that specialize in Asian, English, Chinese, and continental foods.

2. Loon Tao

Loon Tao is another popular restaurant right on the beach. They specialize in Chinese, Shanghai, Szechuan, and yummy seafood.

3. Bu Ba

Bu Ba is definitely a hidden treat! This awesome seafood pub is right on the sandy beach and immensely popular.

4. Governor’s Restaurant

No—you did not guess it right, this place is definitely not owned by the governor! However, this restaurant is immensely popular for it’s sprawling buffet and the multiple cuisines they serve.

Where to Sleep

There are multiple options that cater to different tastes. Check out any of these below.

1. Mount Lavinia Hotel

Do you have a rich taste and a desire to experience the best? Mount Lavinia Hotel is definitely the place for you to stay. With an impactful history and fantastic service, this premium hotel is an iconic landmark in the region.

2. Tropical Inn

Managed by a family and operational for more than three decades, this highly rated hotel is known for its comfortable ambience and unmatched hospitality.

3. Royce Hotel

Located a stones throw away from Mount Lavinia beach, this charming hotel is top rated and provides many facilities like airport transfer, free Wi-Fi, attached washroom with hot shower, and more.

4. The Villa in Lavinia

This place is known to provide accommodation at affordable rates without compromising on quality—it’s a very popular hotel. It’s tastefully decorated and equipped with stunning architecture to cater to your needs.

When to Go

Best time: The best time to visit is from January to March when average temperatures hover at 30°C.

Time to avoid: The monsoon season comes twice to Sri Lanka: May to July, and October to January. It is during May to July that the Southern coastal towns are affected by the monsoon so it is best to avoid these months.

Dress Code

It’s tempting to walk around in your beachwear while visiting the southern beach resorts of Sri Lanka, but please do remember that the country has modest dress customs so carry a shawl, a shirt, or other coverup with you while you go out and about. Both men and women must cover their shoulders and knees when visiting religious sites, and you will also have to take off your footwear or any hats. Tip: Bring a bag with you to store your shoes so that you do not lose them while you are visiting temples.

Getting-In and Around

Mount Lavinia is located in the South-West of Sri Lanka and is not too far from the capital city Colombo. Visitors can travel here by train or by car.

Colombo: It is around 15km from Colombo to Hikkaduwa. The train takes about 25-30 minutes and costs less than a hundred rupees.

Negombo: The train to Mount Lavinia takes about 2 hours. You can save time by taking a taxi. It is also possible to take the bus to Colombo, and then take a train onwards to Mount Lavinia.

Galle: The distance from Galle is about 110km to Mount Lavinia. The train takes just under 2 hours. Driving there by car will save you 30 minutes.

Kandy: Consider taking the train which will take about 4 hours and will cost less than 500 rupees. To save some tine you could take the train to Colombo and then take a taxi to Mount Lavinia – this option will save you about 1 hour.

Ella: Ella is around 200kms from Mount Lavinia. The train takes far too long at about 11 hours, but it is the cheapest transport option costing less than a thousand rupees. The quickest option is a taxi which takes about  4 – 5 hours.

Dambulla: It’s about 180kms from Dambulla to Mount Lavinia. It takes about 6 hours by bus. A taxi takes half the time.

Budget

Hotel options in the Mount Lavinia area vary considerably from basic rooms (~ $10) to grand hotels with ocean views (~$100). Be sure to book your accommodation in advance as popular venues can get booked out during the busy season and the best rooms can be sold out for wedding bookings. There are cheap eateries where you can buy snacks and dishes for as little as $6. Dinner at nicer restaurants can cost anywhere from $25 to $80, and you should expect to pay more for fresh seafood.

Make sure to budget for taxis to and from the airport as they can be overpriced (if you are able to arrange a tuk tuk you will save some money). Consider hiring a tuk tuk driver for a few hours if you head out to attractions which are further afield; it is better to have a driver wait for you when you are finished exploring, than try to look for a taxi in a secluded area.

In addition to ticket prices for attractions, you should factor in extra money that you may spend in the gift shops or as donations (however you do not need to give money unless you want to, so please do not feel like it is required). Feel free to tip service people or drivers if you are happy with their professionalism.

Clearly if you want a fun time with a little history—and great architecture—on the side, then Mount Lavinia is the stop for you! Savor an Ayurveda treatment, or relax and sunbathe at the beach, or indulge in some regional shopping. Not only can you enjoy some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka—and the greatest food—but there’s plenty of interesting sites to keep you busy.

Visit the landmark Mount Lavinia Hotel, eat at Sea Food Cove, and don’t forget to stop at the National Zoological Gardens!