The beaches in Sri Lanka are truly some of the best in the world. A small teardrop island located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the beaches in Sri Lanka have dreamy soft white sand fringed with palm trees and clear blue water. A diverse array of wildlife calls Sri Lanka is home, including tropical fish, sharks, turtles and whales. Many of the country’s beaches are considered some of the best surf spots on earth. That’s because they are exposed on all sides to the ocean, and the waves can be epic.
If you want to try your hand at watersports, learn to dive or take part in turtle conservation, Sri Lanka’s beaches make a perfect pit stop away from the often busy and relentless pace you will find in some of the country’s cities. So escape for a few days to some of these beautiful locations to catch your breath, relax and recover while you plan the next exciting stop on your travels. Here are some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.
- 20 Best Beaches In Sri Lanka
- Northern Beaches in Sri Lanka
- East Coast Beaches In Sri Lanka
- South Coast Beaches In Sri Lanka
20 Best Beaches In Sri Lanka
Northern Beaches in Sri Lanka
1- Manalkadu Beach
Beginning with Sri Lanka’s most northern beach, Manalkadu beach is a hidden gem if you have time to travel to the top of the country.
This beach is still relatively undisturbed by tourists and developments, but this means you will have the golden sand and clear waters to yourself.
This beach differs from many in Sri Lanka because it is home to the county’s longest group of dunes, which are an unusual landscape amid the usual jungles of the country.
2- Nilaveli Beach
Situated on the country’s north-eastern coast, Nilaveli Beach has swathes of untouched white sand and sparkling ocean views.
The beach is flanked by lagoons and a long stretch of palm trees and has a calm surf, and the shallow waters are what draw people from all around to this spot.
Slightly further up is Red Rock Beach, which is great to explore if you feel like stretching your legs.
Popular excursions from this beach include snorkelling and boat trips to admire the array of marine life in these waters.
3- Casuarina Beach
Situated in the Jaffna Peninsula, which is in the country’s north, Casuarina beach (also known as Casoorina) is popular with locals and tourists alike.
It is loved for its soft white sand and small waves, but also because it is shallow and not too rocky – which can be rare to find in the country.
The beach is also home to locally run cafes and a small but excellent ice cream van, and locals often play music into the evening here, so it can be an ideal beach to sip a cocktail as the sun goes down.
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East Coast Beaches In Sri Lanka
4- Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay tops many lists for the ‘best beach in Sri Lanka’ and is generally considered the best place for surfing in the country.
The beach is shaped like a small crescent moon and has a laid-back vibe, featuring small guest houses and hammocks dotted in between the palm trees.
The bay is also a great place to stop before continuing your travels, where you can grab a coconut, hire a surfboard for less than $5 and have a relaxing few days.
5- Uppuveli Beach
The waters here are incredibly calm and clear between April and October, and the shallows stretch for a few hundred metres before getting deep, which is perfect for paddling.
Uppuveli is also a beautiful long beach, so even if you visit in high season, you are likely to find a quiet and sunny spot all to yourself.
This beach is closer to Trincomalee than others which is useful for amenities, but on the beach itself is only Fernando’s Bar which serves drinks and gets lively each evening.
6- Passekudah Beach
Located in a cove of the same name, Passekudah is a long white swathe of beach popular with guests staying at the beachfront resorts.
Although many hotels own private stretches of the beach, there is plenty of room to find a sunny spot in the middle, as the ends of the cove can be slightly rocky.
At the south end, there is a public beach which is popular with locals on weekends.
The water here is also full of different species of coral, so it is an excellent place for snorkelling further out.
7- Polhena Beach
Although small, this beach makes up for it in beauty. Giant palm trees line the sand, and sea turtles can often be spotted swimming here.
The nearby coral reef protects the beach from any heavy swells and forms a shallow lagoon, great for swimming or paddling with small children.
The beach’s proximity to the city centre of Matara means this is a lovely afternoon escape from city life, but there are still plenty of places to find a bite to eat here.
8- Pigeon Island
Pigeon Island itself is a national park floating just off the north-eastern edge of the country.
The wildlife draws people to this beach, where the waters are teeming with coral reefs, exotic fish and breeds of turtle and shark.
The island houses a colony of Blue Rock Pigeons, hence the name.
The island’s beaches are the best to visit if you are into scuba diving, snorkelling or watersports.
You will need to take a boat from the mainland, so make sure to bring everything you need with you for a great day trip!
South Coast Beaches In Sri Lanka
9- Hiriketiya Beach
This beach is postcard-perfect and located on Sri Lanka’s southern coast.
It is filled with cafes, restaurants and surfboard hire shops so you won’t run out of things to do!
The beach is protected from heavy waves and winds by two hills on either side and is set back in a wide cove, while its waters remain at a balmy temperature throughout the day.
The beach is also becoming more popular with tourists and remote workers and provides some great cafes and brunch spots to relax or work from – think avocado toast and ice-cold lattes.
10- Mirissa Beach
Mirissa Beach is famed for its vibrant beach bars and restaurants and the tranquillity and cleanliness of the area.
The most popular thing to do here, besides swimming and snorkelling, is enjoying the spectacular sunsets that are on offer in this unique location in one of the local drinking spots or beach bars.
To get the best views, wade out to Parrot Rock in low tide just off the shoreline. Here you can climb a set of stairs that will give you sweeping views over the beach and surrounds.
11- Medaketiya Beach
Medaketiya is the main beach in Tangalle, bordering luscious jungle.
A small area of the beach is used by local fishermen, which is fascinating to watch.
This breathtaking beach is one of the larger south coast beaches but features restaurants and small guest houses right the way along, so you won’t be short of places to stay.
Medaketiya has something for everyone because it stretches for kilometres into the distance.
The further you walk here, the fewer crowds you will find, so it’s best to start early and find a soft patch of sand towards the far end.
12- Koggala Beach
Nestled on the southern coast near Galle, Koggale beach is the best place to sample some of the freshest seafood around.
Along with the usual ocean activities, you can also do surf lessons and watch baby turtles hatch at the right time of year, which is an unforgettable experience.
The biggest draw here is the famous Sri Lankan stilt fishermen who appear here in the day, and this is a fantastic spot for some photography or just a lazy day admiring the best of what Sri Lanka has to offer.
13- Talalla Beach (South)
Just four hours away from the fort city of Galle, Talalla beach is one of the most tranquil in Sri Lanka.
This hidden gem is still largely untouched by big resorts and tourists and remains relatively quiet apart from a few friendly locals.
Talalla is genuinely the one beach where there is only one thing to do – nothing. So this is the ideal place to feel the sand in your toes, pack a great book and chill out.
Many nearby hotels offer classic Ayurveda massages, which will be the cherry on top of a very relaxing few days.
14- Wijaya Beach
Not far from the more popular Unawatuna, Wijaya beach (sometimes known as Dalawella) is a secluded and lesser-known spot to see Sri Lanka’s diverse marine life.
The main focus for visitors is the small lagoon which is perfect for snorkelling and opens up into the ocean, which is where you can get up close and personal with turtles.
The Dalawella swing here is a picturesque spot to get that perfect Instagram shot, and the locals will be more than eager to be your photographer.
15- Weligama Beach
Loosely translating to ‘Sandy Village’, this local hideaway is true to its name.
Weligama is near a small fishing village and is the best place to learn to surf.
There are over 50 surf schools on and around the beach, so you won’t be short of choice, and in the evening, refuel yourself with something tasty from the night seafood market.
Weligama is positioned on the side of Sri Lanka that is more prone to wind and waves, making it a popular spot for windsurfing, sailing, and deep-sea fishing.
16- Bentota Beach
On Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, Bentota is a lively town whose beach stretches for miles and miles.
So you’ll already know what to expect when this beach ends up in a place called Paradise Island.
Canoe Rock, Hundirangala and South Reef draw divers from around the world to see a spectacular range of wildlife in these crystal waters, or you can also kayak if you’re feeling active.
Bentota is the perfect short escape from Galle, only an hour away, for a full or half-day excursion.
17- Unawatuna Beach
Arguably the country’s most famous beach, Unawatuna is popular with locals and tourists alike.
However, the middle and northernmost ends are much less busy if you need a place to set up camp for the day.
At the north end lies a beautiful pagoda, and if you head here towards the end of the day, the sunset is stunning.
Unawatuna is also the secret entrance to the lesser-known Jungle Beach, on the other side of the thick jungle and catering mainly to locals drinking away the weekend.
18- Induruwa Beach
Once a quiet and unheard of fishing village, Induruwa has grown into a Mecca for tourists, surfers and locals.
A local market and selection of recently opened shops have improved this sleepy area and safaris on the nearby river.
The beach is home to a turtle conservation project which you can take part in if you want to combine wildlife with giving something back.
19- Hikkaduwa Beach
Hikkaduwa is a long stretch of multiple beaches, but all of them offer something wonderful for any traveller.
Whether visiting the coral sanctuary, swimming in the lagoon or admiring a nearby historical buddha, you’ll need a few days here to make the most of it.
There are also four shipwrecks just off the beach, providing an exhilarating half-day adventure if you’re a seasoned diver.
20- Mount Lavinia
Immediately south of Colombo, this is a great first stop upon leaving or arriving in the country.
Due to its proximity to the city, it is a tourist hotspot and is host to many bars and beach clubs filled with people in the evenings – great if you’re in the mood to party!
Most importantly, it is known for its so-called Golden Mile, a string of connected white sand beaches where you can grab a deck chair and settle in for the day.
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