Hiriketiya is one of those sleepy Southern beaches that - after being 'discovered' by backpackers - is not so sleepy anymore. Locals can kick themselves for not finding it earlier, but tourism also brings restaurants and hotels and things to do besides swim.
It's a little tricky to find the place because (thankfully) the road there hasn't been plastered with signboards yet. About an hour's drive from Matara, take a turn to your right just after Dickwella, find Hiriketiya road and hey presto you're on the beach.
This beach is great for surfing. If you're a beginner, this is the place to graduate to after you've tried the baby waves at Weligama. This little bay is only half reef and rock, but that half tends to get most of the good waves in some months, so watch out for that. You can rent boards for Rs 200-300 by the bay itself.
If you'd rather just chill without exerting yourself on your holiday thank you very much Hiri still has a lot of beach front unclaimed by gaudy businesses, ala Mirissa. Find yourself a cool spot under some trees, bring your blanket and book. And also your king coconut which will contrast beautifully with the sand and your suglasses for that Instagram pic.
This beach is also not that uptight, one night a few of us simply decided we wanted to light a bonfire and went ahead and made a huge one. No one said anything. Be safe with fires though, only do it if you know how to.
The surge of tourists means that there are plenty of places to eat and drink. And unlike some other spots (*cough* Mirissa *cough*) they aren't all homogenous, boring-looking places that often try to ban locals. Places along the beach in Hiri aren't cheap, but since the clientel is low-budget tourists, they're not exactly exorbitant either. And so far they don't seem to be racist.
Dots Bay House is a great spot that has occasional gigs featuring local artists and even a market or two sometimes with local artisans. A little way up the street, Salt serves up some great grub, just like The Grove close by. Some spiffy pizza can be found at Beach House, which is also a fantastic place from which to sit and enjoy the sea. Hiri has a few more unique places with their own thing going for them, watch YAMU for reviews on most, if not all, of them eventually.
Hiri is mercifully devoid of organized infrastructure, still hanging on to a jungly, village charm (yes I know that sounds elitist, and no I didn't ask the people there if they wanted organized infrastructure). But that also means that you can easily get lost along the little pathways that lead through the bogs, marshes and mangroves to the beach. It's fun because you know you'll eventually run into someone. I mean, this isn't the Empty Quarter, relax.
Your best bet is probably AirBnB. Though AirBnBs elsewehere along the coast are known to annoyingly deny locals, places in Hiri still seem chill. Again this could be because of the relatively low traffic. Hostels also exist in places like Dots Bay House. The cheapest you can get for one person is probably going to be beyond 2.5k though. Also hey, why not take a tent and camp out?
A nice spot in the South with a bit of everything, go there before it becomes insane.