Negombo is for many tourists to Sri Lanka their first view of the Indian Ocean such is its close proximity to the airport and it will be for many a disappointing experience. Negombo lacks the charm of many Sri Lankan fishing villages turned into semi resorts, with an average beach and overcrowded sea front, but it does have a fascinating harbor with one of Sri Lanka’s largest fishing fleets and some houses and churches of colonial architectural interest.

The beach is large by Sri Lankan standards and one of the better ones for beach games. It lacks though the element of tropical fantasy that you find elsewhere on Sri Lankan beaches. There are too many big package holiday hotels and cheap and charmless beachside bars of the egg and chip variety. The Rodeo pub is the best of an average bunch, serving decent food and with a lively atmosphere.

Negombo is also the closest thing Sri Lanka has to a gay resort. Homosexuality is illegal in Sri Lanka, but there is a tolerance to it and the chances of a tourist being prosecuted for a homosexual offence are pretty much nil. Discretion in public is the way to go, but at hotels such as Dickman’s Resort anything goes.

Negombo is the home of Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka a throw back from Portuguese days and the churches are grand and imposing and well worth a visit. Likewise taking a tuk tuk around Negombo and its suburbs is a rewarding experience with lots Dutch and Portuguese town houses, administrative centers mingling with traditional Singhalese homesteads. Few places in Sri Lanka offer such architectural diversity.

The old Dutch canals are still in working order, though a day trip on a boat becomes a bit much due to the heat and rather similar scenery. Two hours is more than enough. The fishing port is a blaze of colour with the fishing boats and exotic fish, but sadly a lot of fisherman live in near poverty so if you do get chatting to someone you like don’t be scared to chuck them a dollar or two.