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Although friendly and good natured, Sri Lankan society has traditionally tended toward the conservative and slightly reserved, an image somewhat at odds with the cheerful beach parties and raves now springing up in certain enclaves along its shores. But as the Sri Lankan tourism industry grows ever more vibrant, many Sri Lankan holiday destinations are gearing up to welcome an ever broader range of visiting tastes. Alcohol is freely available, unlike in many of Sri Lanka’s neighbouring countries, which are dry.
Several beachfront centres have grown into devoted haunts for the surfing and diving crowd, as well as the lively, laidback nightlife that tends to accompany these travellers. For a long time, the competition for best Sri Lankan beach party town was a toss-up between Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna. Both offer white sand beaches, tropical greenery and colourful coral reefs to enchant divers and snorkelers, as well as a range of tourist facilities and activities to tempt both independent and package travellers looking for a charming seaside retreat.
Unfortunately, Unawatuna suffered greatly as a result of the 2004 Christmas tsunami, and has yet to get entirely back on its feet. Still, there’s no question that the town is open for business, and still offers the slow pace of life and slight feeling of idyllic isolation that make it a little different from many beach resorts, with a lively beachfront café culture for evening socialising.
Hikkaduwa is one of Sri Lanka’s chief surfing destinations, and its reputation as a surf hotspot has transformed the town from a tiny fishing village to a bustling tourist capital. After a day basking in the waves, it is a brilliant place to eat, drink, dance and socialise in casual style, with a range of beachfront bars, restaurants and shops geared to cater to visitors.
The capital city Colombo is the best place for those seeking a western-style nightlife as part of their Sri Lanka holidays. The restaurants and bars in the city’s 5-star hotels are now supported by a range of independent establishments, including pubs, nightclubs and sparkling Vegas-style casinos (known here as clubs, as technically gambling is not allowed), with something for every taste and budget. The live music scene is particularly good, with bands and venues catering for a variety of ages and interests.
The video below gives a taste of the nightlife at a typical Sri Lankan beach party destination.