If Sri Lanka is not already on your ”need to visit” list, you need to make this tear-shaped island a bucket list destination, STAT. Sri Lanka offers unique culture and fragrant tea plantations, traditional fishermen towering over the ocean on stilts and some of the most beautiful train rides on the planet. One of our absolute favourite things about Sri Lanka are the drop-dead-gorgeous beaches which are usually deliciously void of tourists compared to other tropical destinations. Here are our picks for the best beaches in Sri Lanka.
Unawatuna is the most famous beach in Sri Lanka and draws in the biggest crowds. The beach sits on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, 20 minutes outside of UNESCO protected Galle Forth. Due to its popularity with visitors, Unawatuna Beach offers sun beds for rent and tourism infrastructure ranging from beachside restaurants to a variety of water sports. The beach has white sand and clear waters and its also home to sea turtles.
Arugam Bay is located on the less visited east coast of Sri Lanka. The bay has a beautiful crescent shape and it’s known as the best surf beach in Sri Lanka. The area has a laid-back feel, with most shops and restaurants lining a single road running parallel to the beach. Next to the great surf breaks, Arugam Bay offers cute beachfront restaurants and a relax pace of life that allows you to channel your inner Robin Crusoe.
Mirissa is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, Mirissa offers a nice alternative to Unawatuna – the two beaches sit some 40 minutes from each other. Mirissa maintains the relaxed feel of a classic beach retreat, with casual eateries lining the white sandy beach. The waters are very clear, so the beach is also great for snorkelling.
Hikkaduwa Beach sits on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast and is easily reached from Galle – the drive over takes just 30 minutes. This is a great beach destination, as Hikkaduwa offers a world of activities, as well as housing restaurants and a few nearby temples for you to visit. You can surf and snorkel in Hikkaduwa – if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of a sea turtle. There are many Buddhist temples in the surrounding area and you can also visit Tsunami Honganji Vihara, a giant Buddha statue erected in remembrance of the victims of the 2004 tsunami.
Nilaveli is often mentioned as one of the absolute best beaches in Sri Lanka and deservedly so. Located on the island’s north-eastern coast, Nilaveli offers ideal white sand shaded by Instagram-ready ready palm trees. Due to the somewhat remote location away from Sri Lanka’s main tourism hubs, Nilaveli remains relatively quiet most of the year. This means you can enjoy all the fun activities available on the beach, including surfing, snorkelling and diving without getting lost in the crowd.
Dickwella is a great beach for swimming, as the beach is protected by reefs and sandbars. The beach is located on Sri Lanka’s south coast and it’s easily accessed from Galle and other tourism hot spots. The beach has white sand and good waters for snorkelling. The surrounding area is dotted with upscale resorts, but the beach is less crowded than Unawatuna
Weligama is a lively beach which brings together local fishermen and visiting beachgoers. It’s also known as one of the best surf beaches in Sri Lanka. You can also dive and snorkel in Weligama, as the bay is protected by a coral reef. One of the high lights of visiting Weligama Beach is witnessing the traditional stilt fishermen at work.
When to Visit Beaches in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has two monsoons which affect the weather. The Yala and Maha monsoons dictate when is the best time to visit the many beaches in Sri Lanka.
In a nutshell, if you want to enjoy best possible beach weather in Sri Lanka, the following rule applies:
- Travel to the east coast between May and September
- Visit the western beaches between October and January
As for the rest of the year, you can visit any beach in Sri Lanka and expect sunny weather. Read more about when you should visit Sri Lanka.