The name Hikkaduwa is thought to have been derived from the two words Ship Kaduwa, with Ship being the shorter version of Shilpaya which refers to knowledge in Sinhalese and Kaduwa which means sword. It is believed therefore that the name Hikkaduwa means sword of knowledge.
Hikkaduwa is located on the Coastal or Southern Rail Line (connecting Colombo through to Matara). It is also located on the A2 highway, connecting Colombo to Wellawaya, which runs mostly parallel to the shore, through the town.
Hikkaduwa's beach and night life make it a popular tourist destination. It is a well-known international destination for board-surfing. The town was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's television show No Reservations.
Hikkaduwa was affected by the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake along with nearby villages Telwatta, Paraliya (Queen of the Sea rail disaster), Dodanduwa, Kahawa and Rathgama. In the aftermath of the tsunami, many of the families who had lost everything were given sewing machines as part of the relief operations. As a result, the town has a multitude of tailors who will custom make shirts, pants, and shorts.
• Hikkaduwa beach - reputed as the second best surfing spot in Sri Lanka.
• Hikkaduwa Coral Sanctuary - located a few hundred metres offshore. The sanctuary has approximately seventy varieties of multi-coloured corals.