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17 of the Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

Charlotte Boswell

Situated in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, the beautiful island of Sri Lanka is blessed with diverse landscapes, rich culture and a spectacular coastline. With so many stunning and exotic beaches to choose from, we have put together a list of our favourite Sri Lankan beaches.

1. Mirissa

For spectacular sunsets and a taste of island life Mirissa is a perfect choice with its stunning beach located on the south coast of Sri Lanka. The crescent white sandy bay is lined with swaying palm trees and framed by crystal clear waters, ideal for swimming and surfing when the waves pick up. There are a cluster of guest houses and beach cafés close to the shore, as well as some excellent Ayurvedic massage centres. Mirissa is also known for its wonderful wildlife watching opportunities; in December observe turtle laying eggs, spot whales reasonably close to the shoreline or take a boat trip during December to April for ample sightings of whales and dolphins.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

White sand beach with palm trees in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Amila Tennakoon

2. Induruwa

The idyllic and tranquil beach at Induruwa is the perfect place to relax after exploring the culture, wildlife and highlands of Sri Lanka. Under two hours from Colombo, Induruwa Beach boasts golden sands edged by rolling turquoise waves one side, and emerald foliage and stacked rocks on the other. It is one of the quieter and cleaner beaches of the southwestern coast with a few lovely eateries and traditional market stalls. Induruwa is also a great place to explore the nearby lagoons and lakes, and the excellent Yagirala Rainforest with its lush green scenery and ample birdwatching opportunities.

Location: Southwest coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Large rocks on a sandy beach in Induruwa, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Hafiz Issadeen

3. Bentota

Situated a couple of hours drive from Colombo on Sri Lanka’s west coast, Bentota’s beautiful and relatively quiet beach is a wonderful choice for both adventure and relaxation. For water sport lovers, Bentota Lagoon provides a still haven for kayaking and paddle boarding, and the calm ocean is perfect for sailing, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling. On the other hand, Bentota is also renowned for its excellent selection of Ayurvedic centres and luxury spas relax for those looking to unwind. This stunning stretch of coast also offers chic accommodation and a range of recommended eateries and bars. 

Location: Southwest coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Wooden boat on a sandy beach in Bentota, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Amila Tennakoon

4. Uppuveli

Located on the Sri Lanka’s east coast just north of Trincomalee, the sleepy beach village of Uppuveli is well off the beaten track and a great choice for anyone wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the west coast. Due to the proximity of the former civil war zone, this bay is an unspoilt paradise of white sand and tumbling turquoise ocean. Locals are extremely humble and will welcome tourists to join in their traditions and festivities. There are a few simple guesthouses and boutique hotels being built and Uppuveli also offers some of the country’s best whale watching and diving.

Location: East coast
Best time to visit: May to September

Blue speedboats on the beach at Upuveli, Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka

5. Kogalla

If you are looking for a stress-free and peaceful beach resort, then Kogalla on Sri Lanka’s south coast is the perfect choice. Home to the shimmering Lake Kogalla, take a boat to explore and discover a cinnamon plantation, spice gardens and ancient Buddhist temples adorned with colourful murals and awnings. As far as the beach goes, Kogalla offers a striking stretch of white sand and clear tropical waters. It is also home to a rare species of turtle, namely Loggerheads and Leathery turtles, and in addition is a wonderful place to watch the local fishermen perched on wooden poles in the surf catching fish; a true Sri Lankan tradition.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Two people running on the beach in Kogala, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: .shyam.

6. Passikudah and Kalkudah

The east coast gems of Passikudah and Kalkudah are tropical beach resorts just a 30-minute drive north of Batticaloa. The two bays that are nestled together offer very calm waters which are perfect for swimming and sea-bathing due to the reef’s protection; you can often swim up to 200 metres from the shore. During September when the waves start to pick up, it is also an ideal spot for surfing and windsurfing. Just before sunrise it is recommended to head to the beach to experience the deep-sea fisherman return with their catch. Later sample their fresh seafood in a beachside barbecue restaurant.

Location: East coast
Best time to visit: May to September

Small wooden fishing boats on the beach at Kalkudah, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: eiko

7. Arugam Bay

Located on Sri Lanka’s southeast coast, the beautiful crescent-shaped bay of Arugam Bay is home to a famous point break making it one of the top spots to surf in the country. Arugam Bay Point is a preferred spot for surfers as at the tip of the bay waves can reach up to ten metres depending on the swell. This small village offers visitors a tranquil surfing vibe with its unspoilt, palm-fringed beach and is peppered with boutique shops, surfboard rentals and local restaurants. Arugam Bay is a great choice for those seeking a laid-back and charming beach resort.

Location: Southeast coast
Best time to visit: March to October

Colourful fishing boats on a palm fringe beach at Arugam, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

8. Kalpitiya

This delightful beach is not only a lovely area for lazy beach days but is also renowned for its excellent opportunities to spot majestic whales and playful dolphins in their natural habitat. February to March is the best recorded time to see excited pods of spinner dolphins and sperm whales, and there have even been sightings of the rare humpback dolphin in Kalpitiya’s waters. The 50km peninsula is studded with beautiful sandy beaches and is the perfect peaceful getaway after a busy itinerary exploring Sri Lanka.

Location: West coast
Best time to visit: November to April

Dolphin leaping out of the sea at Kalpitia, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Amila Tennakoon

9. Dickwella

Renowned for honeymooners, this romantic hideaway offers breathtaking scenery and is the perfect spot for those looking for serenity. Dickwella Beach on the southern tip of Sri Lanka provides a gentle shore which is ideal for swimming and snorkelling and a secluded, shaded bay idyllic for an afternoon of relaxation. Outside of Dickwella you can find a 50m tell seated Buddha, an exotic coral reef and also the only blowhole in the country, Hummanaya, which is a fantastic spectacle to watch as the sea water sprays vigorously through the rocks.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Large palm trees swaying in the wind at Dikwella, Sri Lanka

10. Tangalle

Hidden deep in Sri Lanka’s southern coast overlooking the Indian Ocean, Tangalle Beach offers stretches of sandy shoreline dotted with rocky coves and green palms. It is one of the more developed beaches in the region and offers a wealth of accommodation from simple seafront guesthouses to boutique hotels and larger luxury resorts. Tangalle is wonderful for relaxing, soaking up the sun and taking a dip in the blue waters, however if you are feeling a little adventurous head to the nearby Mulkirigala rock temples or Rekawa which is Sri Lanka’s premium spot for turtle-watching.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Rustic beach bar on the sand at Tangalle, Sri Lanka

11. Hikkaduwa

Without a doubt, Hikkaduwa is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular beaches. The seaside town on the southwest coast offers the ideal setting to spend a whole day relaxing, eating fresh seafood and sipping cocktails beneath the swaying palm trees. Hikkaduwa is also home to one of Sri Lanka’s two marine national parks which features various coral reefs, tropical fish, hawksbill and green turtles and blacktip reef sharks. The clear shallow waters provide a perfect environment for snorkelling and experiencing the beautiful underwater world.

Location: Southwest coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Coral reef and colourful tropical fish at Hikkaduw, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Amila Tennakoon

12. Negombo

Only an hour’s drive from Colombo, Negombo features an ideal beach popular with both locals and visitors. Due to its proximity to the international airport, it is a popular area for travellers to rest after their long-haul flight, unwind and acclimatise before heading off to explore Sri Lanka. Stroll along the shore, barter in the artisan souvenir shops and relax on the golden sands of Negombo. Come evening, enjoy the spectacular sunsets and discover the myriad of beachfront restaurants and live music bars that pepper the seaside promenade. 

Location: West coast
Best time to visit: November to April

Wide sandy beach at Negombo, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Ronald Saunders

13. Unawatuna

Close to charming Galle on the island’s south coast, Unawatuna is a great beach choice for those wanting to combine the coast with the cultural splendours of Galle’s Fort and characterful historic town which is part of UNESCO World Heritage. Although Unawatuna has become one of Sri Lanka’s busiest beaches, it still boasts inviting waters for swimming or water sports and can be a good spot to see sea turtles. As the day comes to an end, enjoy the beautiful sunsets where pink and orange hues light up the sky and chose from a number of excellent seafood restaurants.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Turquoise sea and sandy beach at Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

14. Nilaveli 

The blue Indian Ocean waters and soft white sands of Nilaveli Beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast makes for the perfect spot to spend lazy days. Steeped with history dating back to the Second World War, Nilaveli’s warm and clear sea is a haven for marine life and this beach is a popular spot for diving. Take a short 20-minute boat ride to the paradise island of Pigeon Island, a national park that offers idyllic powdery sands, bubbling rock pools and a wonderful range of corals to enjoy shallow snorkelling.

Location: East coast
Best time to visit: May to September

View over smooth rocks to the sea at Nilaveli, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Alexey Komarov

15. Hiriketiya

From Dickwella Beach, cross through some coconut plantations and you will find the hidden gem of Hiriketiya. This stunning horseshoe bay is framed by palm trees and inviting turquoise waters where you can swim or even surf when the waves are a little stronger. Discover the beach huts selling fresh fruit juices and pancakes for breakfast, and tasty Sri Lankan street food and beers in the evening. You will experience a true paradise at Hiriketiya and find all the locals truly welcoming.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Dramatic rocky palm fringed beach at Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: Jan Arendtsz

16. Weligama

Weligama meaning ‘Sandy Village’, is a lively fishing town with a charming beach that features a lovely sandy bay, luxury hotels and a wealth of restaurants and bars. One of the main attractions at Weligama are the stilted fisherman; local men fishing in the shallow waters upon stick seats. Visitors are able to take photos of this classic Sri Lankan image, however you will be asked for a small fee to do this. Weligama is also known for its excellent surf conditions and awe-inspiring sunsets as the sky is highlighted in orange and red hues just before dusk.

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

Orange sunset over the sea at Weligama, Sri Lanka

17. Polhena

Another of Sri Lanka’s tropical paradise beaches, Polhena, lies on the southern coast of this island. The unspoilt bay features a natural pool created and protected by the coral reef and is a wonderful spot to swim in the calm waters. The 4km reef offers some beautiful and untouched aquatic life so is also a great opportunity for avid snorkellers. During your time and Polhena you can also observe turtles from the turtle view balcony terrace, watch locals practice acrobatics on the beach and take a boat trip down the river to spot crocodiles and beautiful birds. 

Location: South coast
Best time to visit: November to March

People enjoying the beach and swimming in the sea at Polhena, Sri Lanka

Photo credit: travelmag.com

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