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For most vacationers, the beach resorts of Negombo are the obvious choice!
Negombo is a small city containing Sri Lanka’s first beach resort and is located less than 40km north of Colombo (it’s even closer to Bandaranaike International Airport). It faces a lagoon, and is known for a one hundred meter canal that runs through the city. You can get a unique perspective on this city by booking a canal boat tour.
The economy of this small city is based mainly on tourism, making it a very accessible beach destination. Negombo is also an important cinnamon producing area. Thanks to well-maintained, sandy beaches, water sports have a major place in Negombo with everything from wind surfing to diving or even dolphin watching. Shops and activity schools abound in this quaint little spot. But don’t worry! There’s even more to do in Negombo.
Things to Do & Attractions
1. Negombo Lagoon
The Negombo Lagoon is a shallow body of water that is about 35 square meters. You can enjoy a boat tour or water sports here. Located just eighteen kilometers away from Bandaranaike International Airport, it is worth a quick visit when you are arriving or departing.
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Location: Negombo
2. Dutch Canal (Hamilton Canal)
The Hamilton canal is fourteen kilometers long and connects Colombo to Negombo. The canal is hugely popular among foreign tourists, especially after its recently concluded renovations. Fishing villages, small factories, and nature areas dot the canal; some areas are picturesque while others are dirty. A boat trip on the Hamilton canal towards the lagoon is highly recommended, and will give you an opportunity to enjoy the local flora and fauna (carry some sweets with you to throw to the local children who sometimes wait on the canalside).
- Duration: Around 3 hours
- Location: Custom House Road, Negombo
- Contact Number: +94 11 2 693748
3. St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church is currently undergoing renovations, and there is nothing hugely exciting about a visit to this venue. Dating from the late 19th-early 20th century, it took about 50 years to build the church. There are a few interesting architectural details with the beautiful paintings on the nave a highlight of any visit. It is situated in the Grand Street at the center of the town.
- Duration: 1 hour
- Location: Main Street, Negombo
- Contact Number: +94 31 2 222128
4. Muthurajawela Marsh
The Muthurajawela Marsh is a small but enchanting wetland located toward the southern end of the lagoon. In English, Muthurajawela Marsh literally translates into Supreme Field of Pearls and that’s no exaggeration! Its vibrant birdlife and beautiful scenery make it a picture perfect destination for a boat trip. Expect to see purple herons, kingfishers, cormorants, and many more.
- Duration: 3 hours
- Cost for foreign visitors: The Muthurajawela Visitor Center open from 7am-4pm, and you can pre-book boat tours for around LKR 1,500 (it is best to plan boat tours for earlier in the day at 7am, as during the heat of the day the birds will be resting and you will be unable to see much wildlife).
- Location: Negombo, Sri Lanka
- Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Muthurajawela-Visitor-Center-250445615008991/
5. Angurukaramulla Temple
Best known for its six-meter Buddha statue, Angurukaramulla Temple is over a hundred years old. The temple’s dragon entrance is equally impressive. Other highlights include murals inside the temple that describe Buddha’s journey towards enlightenment, and an adjacent stupa with a beautiful interior.
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Cost for foreign visitors: Recent entrance charges have been put into place, with entrance costing anywhere from LKR 1-2,000 per person.
- Distance from Colombo: 37kms or up to a 40 min drive
6. Negombo Beach
With its beautiful expanse of golden sands, Negombo beach is a great place ft enjoy a beach walk and watch the sunset. Swimming is not advised here though to the heavy waves and the murky water. It’s a good option for a quick visit when arriving or departing the country. If swimming is important to you, make sure to book accommodation with a pool. There are lots of local eateries nearby.
- Duration: 1-3 hours (depends on how long you want to stay)
- Location: Negombo
7. The Dutch Fort
The Dutch Fort is a throwback to the 17th century when a Dutch town was located in the area. Nowadays, the majority of the fort is being used as a prison and there is very little to see. If you are visiting the nearby Negombo Fish Market then it may be worth passing by for a quick look.
- Duration: 30min -1 hour
- Cost for foreign visitors: Although technically there is no entrance price, they do have a donation box.
- Location: Esplanade Road, Negombo
8. Dutch Clock Tower
The clock tower dates back to the 17th century, but it has not been well-maintained. It is the definition of a ruin (and there is no clock in the town). Make a visit here only if you have a good reason to, as there is not much to see and the surrounding area is run-down.
- Duration: 30 mins
- Location: Poruthota Road, Negombo
9. Abhayasekararama Temple
A smaller version of Angurukaramulla Temple, but one of the more interesting Buddhist temples, Abhayasekararama Temple is a great place to visit. Located in the center of Negombo, the temple is about three hundred and sixty years old. It has retained many of its original paintings and statutes. Be sure to follow religious modesty rules and cover your shoulders and knees, and take off your footwear before entering. The temple is usually packed on full moon days.
- Duration: 1 hour
- Location: Temple Road, Negombo
10. St. Anne’s Church
St. Anne’s Church is a pleasant-looking church with a warm ambiance. It is hugely popular among foreign tourists as well as locals, and their Sunday service is open to all worshippers. The architecture is interesting and the surrounding gardens are beautiful and peaceful. In the evenings the church is lit up, while there is an occasional night market nearby that you won’t want to miss.
- Duration: Less than 1 hour
- Location: Angurukaramulla, Negombo
11. Fish Market
Have you ever wanted to watch fishing boats come in with their catches? This is the spot for you. Head to the Negombo fish market and buy your own fresh seafood, such as lobsters, prawns, and crabs. If you want to see bigger fishing boats visit the fish market early in the morning before 7am. Remember that this is a working fish market, it is smelly and you should expect to see lots of guts and gore – may not be suitable for children.
- Duration: 1 hour
- Location: Negombo
- Note: You can take pictures here although do ask before taking pictures of locals. It is also possible to ask (and pay) someone to give you a tour, but you can also explore on your own.
Best Food Experiences
1. Seafood on display at Coco Beach
Negombo pays homage to the culinary art of seafood using spices and flavors from around the globe to tantalize your taste buds. Prawns, lobsters and crab — these are the specialty dishes whether you dine in a ‘home-style’ restaurant or the commercial outlets. Start your gastronomic adventure with Coco Beach — where the pub faces the road and the restaurant stretches on to the beach. Here, after sifting through the day’s catch, the seafood is taken to Coco Beach for its evening seafood display on an ice bench; diners pick and weigh their seafood and pair it with their preferred method of preparation and other mains. How cool is it, right? It’s like an exhibition of sea food where the best is showcased for you so that you can choose the right one for a culinary treat. Try their starters such as oyster platters, baked crab and baby clams – yum is the word.
2. Curries at Lords Restaurant
For a creative eating experience, Lords is the best with a hybrid of Western and Eastern flavors. Highly recommended are the Thai and Sri Lankan curries – you just can’t miss their prawns, spinach, coconut crème curry and the chili crab curry. For vegetarians, you have the creamy jackfruit, coconut and arrack curry to gorge on. The chef’s special here is the prawn, coconut and arrack curry – what a combination! What makes the seafood here special is their signature Jumbo Prawns which are hatched by eggs in Negombo and then released into the large lagoon. The company then pays the fishermen to catch the prawns when ready and sell back at the market price – now that’s an interesting transaction!
3. Seafood cheese kottu at Sameeha
We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we say Sameeha rules the region when it comes to Negombo kottus. Their seafood cheese kottus are bomb and come loaded with plenty of pieces of fish, prawns, and cuttlefish. The kottu is intensely heavy and creamy, and the strips of rotti used in it are huge, not the tiny chopped up ribbons of dough that you usually get in the north, south and the east coast. You can also go for their chicken cheese kottu, a whopping platter enough for four, with chunky dory pieces and chicken—moist and creamy to melt in your mouth. And if you still need a reason to head here, we’ll give you one more. This family restaurant is open 24/7 to entertain your cravings.
Where to Eat
Negombo has scrumptious food! An experience not to be missed. Make sure to carve out time for delicious food and fine dining experiences. It will be worth every Rupee you shell out.
We list 7 best places to satisfy your taste buds in Negombo. We have done our best to cover all budgets.
1. Black Coral Restaurant ($$$)
Jetwing Beach Hotel, Ethukala, Negombo| +94 31 2 273500 | www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingbeach/black-coral
Renowned for its exceptional haute cuisine, Black Coral also offers an exceptional selection of wines. Whatever palette you crave, however acquired your taste is, this place will charm you with its luxurious settings and delectable food. Their Go Sri Lankan menu is a must try for anyone who loves rich tasting food.
2. The Vu Restaurant ($$$)
249/15, Lewis Place (Beach Road), Negombo | +94 (0)772 667 667 | www.thebeachhotel.com/vu-restaurant
Offering ultimate rooftop dining experience, The Vu literally has the best view in all of Negombo. This is the perfect place for a family dinner or a romantic one too thanks to the late hours—it’s open until midnight. Fresh seafood, grills, Asian fusion, Italian, and international cuisines are their forte. They serve a famed breakfast too. Minimal decor with stylish prints and good ambiance, this place is the epitome of fine dining.
3. T Lounge by Dilmah ($$)
No 112, Poruthota Road, Negombo
Run by one of the most prestigious tea brand in Sri Lanka, the name itself speaks for the quality! Sri Lankan tea and English food is what they offer. The ambiance is extremely comfortable, with a wall showcasing all types of teas imaginable. Take a sip of warm or cold tea in this air-conditioned haven after a hot day strolling through Negombo.
4. Rodeo Pub & Restaurant ($$)
35A Poruthota Road | Ethukala, Negombo
The Rodeo Pub and Restaurant serves alcohol and has upbeat music playing throughout the day. This is definitely the perfect place to go with your friends for zippy cocktails. Their seafood dishes are to die for, and their lobster is a must try.
5. The Coco Beach ($$)
155 Poruthota Road | Palangathure, Negombo
Coco Beach is a tastefully decorated place with dimmed lighting, wooden furniture, unique picture frames. The wet bar lets you choose the fish you want to eat, and within the next hour, it’s on your plate! It might seem a like a long wait, but if reviews are anything to go by, it’s worth it.
6. Pancake House & Restaurant ($)
227 Lewis Place, Negombo
This blue-and-white eatery offers a variety of cuisines, authentic Sri Lankan being one of them! They pride themselves in serving the best local food in town, so if you want the real deal for a very low cost, this is the place to eat at. Pastas are a must try here, especially if you accompany it with their famous chilled beers.
7. Mamo the Burger Joint ($)
Have a juicy, meaty burger on your mind? Mamo the Burger Joint is where you need to head! Famed for being one of the best burger joints in town, they also offer the lowest priced burgers while not compromising in taste. This eatery has a variety of combo deals that are perfect if you want a filling meal for a reasonable price.
If you need more options check our complete list of Negombo’s best restaurants for more options.
When to Go
Best time: The best time to visit Negombo is from August to December as the climate is a little easier to bear.
Time to avoid: If you want to avoid busy tourist season, when prices increase for travel and accommodation, then do not travel here in July, August, and January. Visitors are also advised to avoid traveling to the country from May to July/August due to the monsoon season.
Getting-In and Around
Negombo is located on the South-West coast, has good transport links, and is not too far from the country’s largest city Colombo.
Colombo: It’s a relatively quick taxi drive from Colombo at 35minutes. If you take the bus it will be an hour journey.
Galle: Take the train to Colombo Fort station from Galle, from where you can take a Bus. The journey takes about 4 hours. A taxi ride from Galle to Negombo will only be about 2 hours using E01 expressway.
Kandy: Take the train to Gampaha station, from where you can take a bus/tuk-tuk to Negombo. It will take about three hours. The taxi to Negombo will save you half an hour.
Ella: The taxi to Negombo will take about 5 hours. There are daily buses from Bandarawela to Katunayaka and will take about 8 hours. You can then take a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride to Negombo.
Dambulla: A taxi drive will only take about 2.5 hours. If taking bus you will have to go to Kurunegala first and then get a bus Negombo.
There are plenty of accommodation options at Negombo from cheap hostels and beachside rooms, to middle and high end hotels that would cost from $70-180 per night. Consider renting a room at a homestay where you live with a local family; usually priced around $20, they may include breakfast (although AC may incur and additional charge). Local eateries are few but they offer both western and Sri Lankan dishes, and, if you don’t order seafood, you can easily find a good meal for around $5.
A few of the local attractions (including religious venues) have entrance charges, or offer tours for a price. For local areas like markets you can arrange a local tour guide on the spot, but make sure to agree your price before you start exploring (feel free to haggle politely).
Negombo is not too far from Bandaranaike International Airport, which makes it a popular location with tourists as they arrive and leave Sri Lanka. The attractions here are not as fascinating as in other towns, but for a quick visit you can find something that will appeal to you from boat tours to visits to religious venues.