The Weligama dining and shopping guide – 2018

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Contents

Welcome to Weligama

We just started to get frustrated and freak out. Five weeks in Sri Lanka and we hardly managed to do anything. We just wasted our time searching for a decent long-term rental, taking the kids to the beach every afternoon to make them happy and keep us sane. At least this was what we thought. And then suddenly we realised we found some really interesting restaurants/cafés and a truly amazing shop which is one of its kind in Weligama. I’m planning to launch a travel blog for the love of God!… Why not write a post on it?!

Taprobane Island in Weligama Bay, Sri Lanka
Probably the most beautiful spot in Weligama. Taprobane Island in Weligama Bay. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

So let’s take a look at the best restaurants and shops in the southern Sri Lankan surfer paradise, Weligama. These are places that stand out of the crowd with their style, quality and efforts on sustainability. Places where we can have really healthy food without having to make compromises. Where we can buy natural, even organic products, sometimes from local manufacturers, at reasonable prices. We are always searching for places like these, doesn’t matter on which part of the world we are. Looks like Weligama and its surroundings are not loaded with places like these so we’re really happy that we found a few real gems.

For us, it was trial and error. We didn’t really have time back home in Hungary to prepare for the trip and look for shops and restaurants in advance. Why should someone – looking for adventure and exploration – prepare for a trip that much? Well, two things. First, because I have two small children who love to travel but freaked out from relocating ourselves totally. And second, because there are a lot of crap places and I’m not happy to spend all my time on location looking for the really good ones.

Anyway, we bought some essentials, like natural cosmetics with us from Hungary. As it turned out some means not enough. We thought, hey, there is life in Sri Lanka too… and there’s Ayurveda… and a lot of tourists. There are much fewer natural cosmetics in the country than I expected. The few products you get here are either not exactly natural or natural but hard to get outside of the capital. Or ridiculously overpriced.

Back to the most important question for us. Sri Lanka. On long term. With kids. Will this be our new home?

What… are… these people… doing here… exactly?

If you didn’t read our About us page yet, we sold our house, our car and a large amount of our stuff in Hungary and set out for an open-end travel. One goal is to see if we can find a home and settle for a while in South Asia and travel the larger region from there. Quite a while and slow travel. Just to make this really easy and uncomplicated we do this with two small children, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.

After 6 years, we are back in Sri Lanka.

Is this the place we were looking for? Hard to tell, there’s no “wow, we found it” feeling. Fortunately, we have a few months to decide and in the meanwhile maybe discover some more hidden gems.

If you are only interested in the restaurants/cafés/shops we found great, simply jump to the end of this post. No worries, I do the same all the time with other people’s blog posts, even with the good ones. I call it “quick reading”. Authors of these blogs, I will read all your amazing material if I’ll have some extra time. Realistically that’s in about … 15 years.
I’ll keep updating this list. But only if we find places with similar quality and ambience.

Ok, back to the big question. Will we live here in the long term?

Well, after about 1 week my answer was a definite “no way”. After 3 weeks I changed my reaction to the more diplomatic “hm… maybe not”. I had a different Sri Lanka in my mind. A cleaner, friendlier… an “easier” Sri Lanka.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love this country. I think it is a WONDERFUL TRAVEL DESTINATION. Amazing beaches, hill country, ancient culture, animals, spices, tea… That’s why it came first on our “where to move” list because it was such a positive experience on our first trip. This is very different now and we’ll probably need all 6 months of our visa to get to some conclusion.

Experiences, experiences

There are a few things we pretty much expected… except for the third one maybe:

  1. there’s a huge difference between visiting a country as a traveller and living there in the long term. You just have different needs for the latter. Most of the time when travelling, a simple, clean room is enough and everything is more exotic, probably because you know it is just a trip and it will end soon. For the long-term, your needs can change drastically. Like I would so need a sidewalk, so when we want to walk from point A to point B with the kids I could get a feeling of… I don’t know… safety?!
  2. after many years of single/group/adult travel, hitting the road with small children is a totally different dimension, like the thing with the sidewalk for example.
  3. and here’s a bonus, we.are.not.young.anymore. I’m not saying we are old, but we’re not young either. Our needs for quality, comfort and a few other things have changed drastically. Ten years ago, on a longer trip to India, we ate a ton of street food. Basically, we ate street food almost all the time, finding ourselves in dodgy local restaurants quite often. We enjoyed it greatly and never – I repeat, never – did we have any problems. It was so much fun, part of the adventure. Now I get sick from the mere sight of a dodgy local restaurant. How did this happen?!
Street in Weligama centre
For many visitors, this is the most important street in Weligama with ATMs, the bus station and a wine shop. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

We have slowed down, spending more time in one place, travelling from there. Sometimes. We would like to see much more of the country but it’s just too much for the kids at the moment. They need the daily routine more than ever before, with visiting one of the two familiar beaches being the highlight of their day.

This is an excellent opportunity to explore the coolest, most interesting places to eat, get caffeinated properly and shop in Weligama.

»Best restaurants-cafés-shops in Weligama«

We found some hidden (or not so hidden) real gems here in the south which we want to share with you. Except if this results in finding full house every time we go to one of these places. Then I’ll have to rethink this whole sharing thing.

All of the cafes on the list are actually restaurants at the same time.

Do note that these restaurants don’t have alcohol on the menu. No need to panic, it is allowed to bring your drink (beer or wine) with you at most places, just ask.
These are relatively small places, can get extremely crowded in the main season, let’s say from around Christmas until mid or end of February. I would advise you to make a reservation or at least check the opening hours. Our kids, for example, weren’t too happy when we dragged them through the town in the biggest heat of the day, just to find a table for us only for the third try. We found two of the restaurants on this list closed on New Year’s Day. If improvisation is not exactly your thing, try to inquire in person or on the phone since not all of these places update the temporary changes on social media.

 ⇒ Aloha Home and Kitchen

This is one of the best things that happened to us in Sri Lanka. The atmosphere is really cool, the quality of the food is yet very high. Hard to find these two things at the same time. The decoration is fresh, real seaside ambience. The team is really friendly, in a way that we felt quite like home immediately. The menu?… My God, the menu… THE MENU!

The dishes are interesting and healthy at the same time, which is a big achievement. It’s clear that they have put a massive effort into choosing the materials very carefully, to create healthy and nourishing food and drinks. Those desserts! And real coffee! You can have BREAKFAST ALL DAY (during the opening hours, of course) which is just brilliant. One doesn’t get discriminated just because she doesn’t wake up with the sun (I’m talking about someone else, not myself… of course). For the record, if I wish to have porridge or granola at 8:30 pm, I’ll get porridge or granola at 8:30 pm. Just forget all your preconceptions about porridge. This is another porridge-dimension.

I could start to list our favourite dishes here, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense to type in the WHOLE MENU CARD. You can find it on their website here. There’s no wifi in the restaurant but at least this way you can concentrate on the food. It’s worth it.

Update! Now you can use the wifi in the restaurant too… but concentrate on the food, please!
Aloha Home and Kitchen, one of our favourite spots in Weligama
Hanga enjoying that we are the only guests at Aloha. This was pre-season, in November 2017. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

There are 3 double rooms with free wifi. The room guests get a 20% discount on the menu. There’s even a ping-pong (table tennis) table and a skate ramp on the ground floor. Yes, you can skate on the ground floor of the building. My kids love the ramp and I love the fact that they don’t have skateboards yet so they are only playing around on it. Too much worrying? Yeah, maybe… no, definitely. There’s a small shop on the restaurant floor offering swimsuits and different accessories, with surfers in mind.

There are new items on the menu card since I started to write this post. They have grilled items now and cheesecake just to name a few. CHEESECAKE! This is something to appreciate in Sri Lanka.

This link will take you to Agoda. Using it costs you nothing. We get a commission from Agoda after every completed booking.

 ⇒ Kaori Café and Villa

This is another big favourite of ours, run by a very nice Japanese-Sri Lankan couple. Opened recently, very wisely with only a few items on the menu and two rooms. Now they are running with 7 rooms and a broader choice on the menu.

You can find both Japanese and Sri Lankan dishes here. Easy to feel the care and love they put into cooking. Like real homemade food. I was in bed all day the other day with flu-like symptoms. In the evening I was begging the family to go and have a soup (this café is only a few metres from where we live – perfect). I didn’t have to beg too much, the kids are mad about the place, mainly because of the Japanese owner lady, Kaori. I had the soup and I was completely fine in the morning. Now, this is what I mean under real homemade food.

Playing while waiting for our food at Kaori Café in Weligama
Playing while waiting for our food at Kaori Café. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

The design is clean and simple, very welcoming. The seafood soup is our firm favourite, but they have SUSHI, MISO SOUP and CHICKEN RAMEN too. You can have breakfast here too, until midday, and you can choose between continental and Japanese dishes. Another favourite of our family is the herbal drink they serve, a real treat for the stomach.

REAL COFFEE! Espresso, cappuccino, latte, macchiato, affogato… 6 years ago we found no trace of these in Sri Lanka.

We had one of the best wifi here – although we didn’t try all the restaurants in Weligama. Another huge plus is that they have a generator, so in case there’s a power cut (and there will be) and I have to use the internet, I just drop by and continue with my work.

Cappuccino at Kaori Café, Weligama, Sri Lanka
I am a victim of regular power cuts. Cappuccino at Kaori Café. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

This link will take you to Agoda. Using it costs you nothing. We get a commission from Agoda after every completed booking.

 ⇒ Ceylon Sliders

I am a huge fan of boutique hotels, so I was especially happy to find this place.

This is a wonderful example of a small boutique hotel, priced accordingly, hosting a café and a SHOP. They offer surf lessons, board rental and daily yoga on the rooftop. I’m not a surfer but I love their motto “Celebrating surf culture on Sri Lanka”. It is so refreshing to find such a professional concept. For me personally, the biggest plus is their shop, as there’s nothing like it near and far. Thanks to this shop, now I have a mosquito repellent that works and that I can put on the kids without any worries. Pretty useful in a country where Dengue fever still occurs.

Organic products at the Ceylon Sliders shop, Weligama, Sri Lanka
Organic products at Ceylon Sliders, Weligama, Sri Lanka, 2018. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

In the SHOP you can find organic cosmetics, tea, coffee, spices, jewellery, watches, mugs, handmade high-quality surfboards, amazing surfer swimwear, just to name a few. Let’s just stop here for a second. They sell swimwear, and? Why is that a big deal?

Naively I thought that I can buy swimwear on every corner here. After all, Weligama is a beach town, a surfer paradise, and it is located on the south coast of the country, where visitors from all over the world are pouring. Well, I was right, except the buying swimwear on every corner part. We didn’t by swimwear for Hanga back home, have spent three months here already, checked in Colombo too, and she still doesn’t have one.

Did you know that such a thing as a reusable straw exists? You can find that too in the Ceylon Sliders shop. As well as 100% biodegradable yoga mats. Recycling at its best. I love it! The shop is open every day until 5:30 pm.

I deeply respect the unbelievable amount of energy and effort put into collecting so many high-quality products. Some of these even come from local manufacturers.

Now let’s see the café. The kids fell in love with the place instantly, and so did we. COFFEE is fantastic, actually, one of the best I had so far in Sri Lanka, and the food shows that you are in the hand of professionals here. Like the fact that the half of a lime you get with your mindblowing avocado toast is lightly grilled. Just a little detail but can have such a big impact.

Have you been missing real, quality coffee lately, just like me? Relax. Breathe. Now try to imagine the moment I ordered a coffee latte at Ceylon Sliders and the staff asked me if I want single or double…

Café latte and avocado toast at Ceylon Sliders
Café latte and avocado toast at Ceylon Sliders. Breakfast in heaven. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

Just like the other places on the list, you’ll find that they are continuously developing at Ceylon Sliders. These days they are upgrading the menu with some amazing new dishes. Can’t wait! At the moment the café is only open until 3 pm.

Update! Ceylon Sliders café is now open until 9 pm daily.

You can find them on social media, here.

 ⇒ Soul Café

Another cool place, located – just like the other three restaurants on the list – on the Galle-Matara main road. The menu is relatively short and is split into breakfast (served until noon) and afternoon dishes. It really doesn’t matter what we order, everything we get is perfectly prepared, very tasty and healthy. The tuna fillet with potato is my personal favourite here. It was a huge surprise, looked like a simple dish when it arrived then escalated into a celebration of flavours and texture.

The menu at Soul Café, Weligama, Sri Lanka
The menu at Soul Café. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

There are a few excellent desserts too, you can find those on the board, together with the drinks which are exciting, healthy and also very tasty. REAL COFFEE! Actually, I’m wondering how good could that restaurant be that doesn’t have real coffee and I still want to write about it. There is free Wifi, but somehow I always had connectivity problems here. Small shop selling items like organic tea, spreads, swimwear, jewellery. When I write small, I mean small.

To the end

The list above was created because although there are a lot of restaurants in Weligama, we found that only a few places had the ambience and quality of service for ultimate relaxation, serving healthy food and drinks made of mostly local, carefully chosen ingredients.

Although all four restaurants are on the busy seaside Galle-Matara main road, the majority of tuk-tuk drivers don’t know these places. It’s interesting given the fact for example that there are about 3-4 tuks waiting for a ride approximately 5 metres to the entrance of Soul Café. Every single day. So if you need to use a tuk-tuk I would advise you to check what is in the surroundings of the place you want to go to. If the driver doesn’t know your chosen restaurant by name, try to tell him about the surroundings, he might know some of these. Also, be prepared that they are going to ask for at least double price and not all of the tuk drivers are willing to haggle. Some just drive away instead. But this is going to be the topic of another post…

Tuk-tuks waiting in front of Soul Café in Weligama, Sri Lanka
Tuk-tuks waiting in front of Soul Café. Photo © Szilvia Molnár

The work of the restaurant and hotel managers can be much more difficult here than let’s say in Europe. I could have a peek into their world in the last 3 months and see the difficulties that almost all of the entrepreneurs are facing. I have a deep respect for the managers of the above-mentioned restaurants for their enthusiasm and abilities to provide such high-quality service and make travellers like us happy.

I’m going to update and broaden this list if we find places that are as interesting, inspirational and high quality as the ones above.

Been to Weligama? Did you find a restaurant/café that could be added to the list? Tell us, so we can check it out too!

Take care!

Szilvia x

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