Hambantota, the main city of Hambantota District is located near the 148th mile (238-km) post along the Colombo-Galle-Matara-Tissamaharama highway.
Legend has it the archaic name of Hambantota appears to have been Sampanthurai. This word Sampan is said to have been derived from the Malay word meaning navigators, as the Malays, in the olden days were sea-farers who had come in their sailing vessels for barter trade. The word ‘Thurai’ means a port – a Tamil derivation. Another version, In the legends, ‘Hamban’ is popularly known as an ethnic group called ‘Malay’ or ‘Muslims’ and ‘thota’ means where those groups were landed. During British rule, Hambantota became an important district. The colonial rulers had left their indelible marks on Hambantota. In the past, Hambantota was a sleepy old sea-side village reminiscent of those grand old days of Leonard Woolf, who was the Assistant Government Agent-Hambantota (1908-11). He was a literary scholar being the author of the fascinating novel – ‘The Village in the Jungle’, that gives a vivid description of old Hambantota district which was plagued then with Malaria, poverty, and how British used the jungles of Hambantota as their famous hunting grounds. His printed diaries (1908-11), are filled with authentic
records of the life and times of the hardships of those starving but grief stricken chena (slash and burn agriculture) cultivators. Hambantota also from time immemorial has been a thriving fishing centre. Today, Hambantota is an enchanting seaside resort where there is a network of tourist hotels, Inns, restaurants lined along the seashore and it’s interior. Also, the district has many salterns, national parks, bird sanctuaries, historical, cultural, and archaeological sites.