AS island nations go, Sri Lanka is blessed with beautiful beaches, fabulous seafood and plenty of places to enjoy ocean sports like surfing ...

AS island nations go, Sri Lanka is blessed with beautiful beaches, fabulous seafood and plenty of places to enjoy ocean sports like surfing and diving. Of course, the No.1 to do when visiting Sri Lanka's beaches is swim, but here's a few other things you might like to try. || Negombo Beach sunset. Photo Credit: Kate Moore


Plan to hit Negombo’s west-facing public beach about an hour before sundown to enjoy the festivities. When swells are rough through summer and into autumn, families gather on the beach to splash about in the shallows, build sand castles and dig deep moats that fill when the water rushes in. Negombo’s beaches are patrolled by police lifeguards, but don’t let the name fool you. They’re there to enforce red flags posted on the beach to signal that the surf is dangerous. The west-setting sun is a spectacular sight and innocent frolicking of families in the splash makes for a fun, local evening out. || Negombo Beach kite tails in the wind, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Kate Moore


Kite flying is a popular pastime across much of South East and South Asia but Sri Lanka takes the sport seriously. All manner of shapes and sizes can be seen high in the sky and the best place to see the most spectacular kites, and even have a go at flying one yourself, is along a beach. Kite sellers arrive early on Galle Face Green, along the western facing beach of Colombo, but it’s early evening that you’ll see the real action. Skies become dotted with kites, some so high you’ll be craning your neck and peering to see them. Kites are cheap to buy and though they may not survive your rookie attempts, it’s fun to live out your childhood kite-flying fancies and pick up a few tips from the pint-sized pros. || Negombo Beach prawn vadai, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Kate Moore


As the sun dips on Sri Lanka’s beaches, the smell of hot coconut oil and deep fried lentil patties, or vadai, soft shelled crab and other cheap seafood eats wafts down across the sands. Food vendors on Negombo’s public beach set up inside mobile carts, while at Galle Face Green, in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, permanent stalls open early in the evening and operate well after sunset. A feed of prawn vadai will cost you less than $1 and is cooked hot and fresh in front of you. Finish off with a faluda-flavoured ice cream from Elephant House - Sri Lanka’s answer to Mr Whippy. || Mirissa Beach seafood dining, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Kate Moore


Sri Lanka’s fish markets pull in bountiful hauls and come early evening, the catch of the day is laid out for diners to pick and choose from. Along Sri Lanka’s east coast, at seaside villages like Mirissa, restaurants set out lantern-lit tables on the sands and entice would-be diners with fresh fish, lobster, crabs, squid and prawns to be hand-selected, weighed and tempered in butter, garlic, ginger and fresh herbs, served with a plate of chips, fried rice and a beer. A single fish, or a small selection of crab, squid and prawns easily feeds two people and comes in at about $30 - a little less or more depending on what seafood you’ve chosen. With the waters lapping quite literally at your bare feet and table lanterns softly flickering up and down the beach, it’s a magical setting for a standout dinner. || Galle Face Green kit seller, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Kate Moore


Hawkers can be a beach hazard for tourists and you will find them plying their wares along Sri Lanka’s shoreline as well. That said, in the off seasons (Sri Lanka's summer months) there are very few and rather than push their wares, they're more likely to stop and have a natter about the cricket. As with all hawker negotiations, if you’re not interested, be respectful but firm with a shake of the head or hand early in the transaction. You don’t need to be rude and a friendly face or smile can go a long way without signalling an intent to buy. If you are interested be prepared to enter a friendly barter. Be reasonable and enjoy yourself. It’s not worth being combative for the sake of a couple of dollars. Enjoy your trinket and the memory of the transaction. If you’re not sure, there are plenty of fixed price souvenir stores.

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