Its a 4 hour journey by road from Colombo and approximately 5 hours by train. Buses are the most common method to get there, but cheaper trains go all the way to Matara. The cost is below Rs.200. If anyone considering to hire a vehicle, it also possible and it'll charge a higher amount.
It was gravely affected by the Asian tsunami in December 2004. Consist of two elements, the term Matara gives its meaning as the Great Ferry, that may be derived from the Tamil Matturai meaning "great seaport" or "great fortress". It is also thought as being derived from the mispronunciation of the word 'Matora' by the Portuguese who called it 'Mature' or Maturai in 1672. The native word 'Matora' might also derived from 'Maha Tera' meaning the place where the Great River was crossed. It was also called 'Maha Tota' (Malo Tota) or Maha- pattana, the great ferry. The word Mahathota might be derived from the Tamil Maha Ethara meaning "great ford". Today, the Nilwala River runs through Matara and it is said that there was a wide area where ferries used to cross. In 1673, the Dutch minister Philippus Baldaeus had called it 'Mature', in 1681, Robert Knox named it as 'Matura' and in 1744, Heydt called it 'Maderon'.