We were headed to Kalpitiya, the kitesurfing mecca of Sri Lanka. After a 3-hour van ride north along the coast, passing Buddhist and Muslim temples, and Catholic churches, roadside fruit stands, and all other roadside shops typical of developing countries, we landed at our first extended stay in Kalpitiya (pronounced Cal-pee-tee-ya). My son and I were here to kitesurf and my wife and daughter to log some quality hours at the beach. We stayed at Kitesurfing Lanka (KSL), the largest and oldest kite school and camp in the region.
Kitesurfing Lanka is a kite camp, it is not a 5-star luxury hotel and that is why we chose it. Large 5-star resorts have not really made it to the northern part of Sri Lanka adding to the rustic charm of the area. We had a lagoon bungalow, basically a square structure with thatch roofing and four walls. We had a queen bed and two twin beds for the kids. All beds had mosquito netting (a must throughout Sri Lanka) and a fan, which was ample, along with the ocean breeze, to keep us cool throughout the night. There was a well-designed large semi-circular outdoor bathroom and with multiple showerheads; perfect for traveling families. KSL has accommodation to meet all sorts of travel budgets lending to a diverse clientele that comes here. Lodging included full board so we enjoyed great meals, three times a day, served by KSL’s amazing staff that was always smiling and pleasant. Raj, the resident barman and artist-in-residence, was always present behind the bar to offer a post-session cold beer or cocktail.
KSL is separated from the beach by small lagoon you had to traverse. The beach out in front was empty, devoid of all things tourist. There are a handful of small B&B’s on this beach and a small hotel further down, so other than the occasional tourist strolling the beach it is yours…all yours. The water temperature is that you could sit in it all day without a chill; exactly what we did day after day. My daughter took up skimboarding in the shallow entry beach while my wife honed her photography skills on the lush landscapes and beach scenery surrounding us; a perfect setup for kitesurfing families with non-kiting family members. Initially, I was a little concerned about the kids getting bored but this was never the case as the SUP boards, skimboards, boogie boards, slackline, and foosball kept the kids more than entertained. For the adults, mornings started with yoga under the gentle sway of towering palms adjacent to the beach and lagoon and very reasonably priced massages were available to soothe aching muscles after kite sessions or another tough day at the beach by the trained masseuse.
Around camp the KSL staff and kitesurfing instructors were all great, mingling with guests, making sure everyone was smiling and happy.My son and I went kiting from 1-5 every day with the other guests from KSL. Mischi Walter, a kitesurfing legend made sure guest were organized and on the truck to the short ride out to the lagoon every day. He was especially attentive to my son making sure he was paired with instructors that were familiar working with kids. In the end, my son can say he learned how to kitesurf from Morfil Khan, a former pro and renowned Sri Lankan ripper. Not everyone who learns how to kitesurf gets to do so in such a special place with special people. And, this is what ultimately separates KSL above other kite schools and destinations we have visited; the people and the level of stoke surpassed all other places we have been.
If the wind isn’t blowing or the family needs a break from the beach, day trips are available from your chosen hotel to neighboring national parks and for dolphin and whale watching day trips. We went dolphin watching and were amazed to see pods of hundreds of dolphins in two different locations. We threw a hand line over the side while watching the water boil with dolphins surfacing, jumping, and twisting in the air and we bagged three handsome yellowfin tunas that were prepared for us for lunch and dinner by the KSL kitchen staff. Nothing beats fresh sashimi and ceviche for lunch and grilled tuna steaks for dinner.
Kalpitiya is a hidden gem in Sri Lanka. While the Southeast coast is far more developed and visited by tourists, the northeast is still raw and undeveloped. However, with burgeoning ecotourism and kitesurfing activity, this area will not be like this for long. If traveling to Sri Lanka, do your family a favor and book into the area around Kalpitiya for a true Sri Lankan experience.