Negombo is a beach resort close to Colombo airport !
Negombo offers a decent beach with a wide array of activities and hotels to suit every budget.
Negombo is situated just 8 km north of Bandaranaike International Airport. This combination comes in handy if your flight arrives late or departs early and if you are not planning a stay in Colombo.
The town passed from Portuguese hands to Dutch hands for four years between 1640 and 1644 before the Portuguese retook it. When the British arrived, Negombo fell easily into their hands.
Negombo is famous for being one of the places where catamarans were invented. It remains a town where the sea is the principal source of occupation and leisure.
How to get to Negombo and how to move in and around
For around Rs.1500 any taxi will take you to Negombo from the airport. If you need to go to Colombo, it will cost you about Rs.3000. You can also take a bus or a train to go to Colombo for under Rs.100.
There are many guesthouses all along Lewis Place, the road that runs north of the railway station after St. Sebastian Church and the adjacent cemetery. There is enough choice to suit any budget.
Restaurants in Negombo generally offer quality food at very reasonable prices. However, it is better to avoid very spicy food if it is your first day in Sri Lanka.
Top attractions in Negombo
A trip to the daily fish market next to the beach will allow you to get a close look at typical fish market. You should not mind getting there early in the morning (the activities dwindle down by around 10 a.m.). You will also need to be immune to the smell of both fresh and dry fish.
The population of Negombo is predominantly Roman Catholic. This is why Negombo is sometimes referred to in Sri Lanka as ‘Little Rome’.
Negombo boasts of some of the most ornate Portuguese-era Roman Catholic churches such as St. Mary’s Church, St. Sebastian's Church and the Church of Our Lady of Snows.
Around Christmas time, you can admire several nativity scenes set up in every corner of the town. St. Mary’s Church, the biggest in Negombo, is well known for its interior decoration especially the painted ceiling and a replica of the Lourdes grotto outside. If you are traveling with young kids and you happen to be here during school hours, do not hesitate to visit the kindergarten next door where teachers and students love to have young visitors occasionally.
Places to visit around Negombo
For travellers seeking to spend a few hours in a fishing village, Waikkal can offer a wonderful opportunity. At only 10 km north of Colombo, Waikkal is a more authentic option if you wish to spend your first or last night in Sri Lanka (the international airport is only 17 km from here). If you are spending just the day you have a choice of things to do: a quiet walk along the coast, a boat trip on the Maha Oya river, sighting fishermen returning with their day's catch on their catamarans and/or a meal in one of the major hotels along the coast.
If you wish to stay in Waikkal, be sure to reserve in advance as there are not many quality hotels available here. It is better to re-confirm your booking three weeks before your arrival.
Marawila is about 20 km north of Negombo on the Puttalam Highway. It has a high percentage of Catholics and pilgrims flock here especially during Easter and Christmas. The sea is very beautiful but can be quite rough. There are a few shops to buy souvenirs like batiks, tea and spices. It takes about an hour to reach Colombo from Marawila.
If you would like to experience a mix of warm sandy beach on one side and a breezy lagoon on the other, Chilaw can be a wonderful choice destination during your holiday in Sri Lanka.
Situated just 50km north of Negombo and 80 km from Colombo, Chilaw is a beautiful village. A must-see feature of Chilaw is the picturesque fish market that is open every morning.
The Muneeswaram temple, with the original foundations dating back to the 14th century, is worth a visit too. Allow your children to buy fresh coconut and offer it to the gods. The offering is done by breaking the nut with a smashing throw against the floor. Children definitely love this particular ritual.
During the temple festival in the Hindu month of “Aadi” (around July and August), Chilaw gets a lot of pilgrims and visitors. At other times, it remains a cosy village that offers peace and quiet to travellers.
Negombo beach is the place to relax for tourists
The beach in Negombo used to be devoid of any charm until some time ago the authorities cleaned up the place and made it more hospitable to tourists. There is a string of hotels of all sizes along the beach that offer all amenities you would require. Of special mention is the wonderful atmosphere here on weekends when families with children take over the place.
Wilpattu National Park is located not far from Negombo
The nearest place to admire wildlife in a magnificent surrounding is the Wilpattu National Park that lies further up north. It takes about 2 hours to get there from Negombo. A drive up to the Kankaniyamulla Forest Reserve, a forested area set aside for preservation or controlled use, through the Dikkele Forest Reserve can be of some interest.
Activities for kids in Negombo
If your children fancy other things than just swimming, take advantage of your stay in Negombo to give them the opportunity of trying a water sport. Water-based activities are not only alternatives to swimming, they are also a good way to keep the whole family together and share moments that will light up your photo album. Negombo has many water activities to offer. These include diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, water skiing and wakeboarding.
Boat rides on the inland waters
The Muthurajawela Marshes, situated just south of Negombo, spreads over an area of approximately 6,000 hectares inclusive of the Negombo lagoon. The waters of the wetlands mingle daily with seawater that is brought from the ocean during high tide and the continuous mix of these two waters over time has created a coastal ecosystem that is biologically diverse and brimming with fauna. The groves and swamps that characterises the mangroves offer a perfect family outing.
If you are interested in exploring it plus catch glimpses of different types of birds, butterflies, fishes, crocodiles, monitor lizards and pythons.
You can book a 2 to 3 hour trip at the Muthurajawela Marsh Visitor centre. A typical boat ride takes you around the groves including lessons like how to pluck and peel coconuts. Settle for a reasonable price before you leave. Be sure to carry a hat, sun block and water with you.
Other things tourists can enjoy in Negombo
Cycle around Hamilton Canal
Whatever be your age, whether you are traveling single, in a group or as a family, a great way to make use of your time in Negombo is to explore the canals all along the coast. The authorities have very beautifully renovated the 22km stretch of the Hamilton Canal that runs from the Ma Oya River to the mouth of the Kelani River. You can go on a boat ride on this canal too and admire the multiple sceneries along the route.
Another way to explore the waterway is to hire bicycles and just follow the canal.