Away from the hustle and bustle of Colombo, Mount Lavinia is a little bit quieter and a little less crazy and there's always a bit of a sea breeze in the air. To get to Colombo's main districts, it's as easy as hopping on a bus or a rickshaw on Colombo-Galle Main Road, but when you're in Mount Lavinia it's worth taking some time to get a little bit lost exploring the back streets and to breath some fresh air along the seaside.
If you want to stay in Mount Lavinia, there are some nice houses on Airbnb. Sithila Villa is one option. Tucked away off Colombo-Galle Main Road, you'll find your room on the top floor while Chandana and his family share the house below. The room is simple but comfortable and the large open rooftop gets a cool breeze and has some great views of the surrounding area. You'll find other similar villas and bungalows with a bit of colonial architecture and a relaxed vibe.
Many of these villas are tucked away down Mount Lavinia's back streets and getting to and from the main road involves memorising a combination of twists and turns that have you crossing over small bridges, between high walls, and past colourful houses. Even seemingly abandoned buildings are painted in vibrant pinks, greens and blues. Flowers and greenery peek over every fence, growing over houses, gates and sidewalks. There's a lot of beautiful houses and as long as you know how to get back, it's worth taking a bit of time to wander through the smaller streets to really get a feel of the area.
Colombo-Galle Main Road isn't the most interesting part of town. There are a few supermarkets and other stores, but it can be hard to spot the handful of smaller restaurants and stalls amongst them. On the Eastern side of the street, keep an eye out for a small secondhand bookstore on the corner of a side street between Sri Dhammadara Mawatha and Chakkindarama Road. Inside you'll find stacks of books from literary classics to Sri Lankan poetry and 1940s English language textbooks. It's a tiny store, but you can spend a fair bit of time browsing the shelves.
To the West of the main road, you'll hit the beach. There are quite a few hotels in the area, the grandest by far is the Mount Lavinia Hotel. It was constructed as the Governor's residence in 1806 and has since been converted into a 275 room hotel. There are smaller hotels that dot the beach, as well as cafes and restaurants like Buba Beach Seafood Restaurant.
Mount Lavinia has a long sandy stretch of beach. The water is tempting, but there can be strong currents along Colombo's coastlines, so you might be safer enjoying it from the shore. A little down the beach, past the restaurants, is somewhere a little more special. The Our Turtle Conservation Project sea turtle hatchery, where there's a possibility you might see one of the seven species of turtle that lay along Sri Lanka's beaches.
From the beach, you can cross over the railway tracks, and even these are a site worth seeing. The Mount Lavinia train station joins up the busy city with quiet seaside life. Mount Lavinia may not be a number one tourist destination in Sri Lanka, but if you find yourself with a few days in Colombo, it's a fine part of town to stay. It's the sort of place where you don't need a full itinerary of things to do. You just need a cold bottle of water, a bit of time, and some good walking shoes.