Beaches of Sri Lanka — where to surf, where to relax
With a coastline spanning 1600 kilometres, Sri Lanka has no shortage of beautiful beaches. An island nation situated along the tropical equator, Sri Lanka is abundant in golden sand beaches, lush greenery and plenty of sunshine all year round. With so many choices, you may be wondering if every beach offers the same experience or not. In fact, some beach destinations have a lot more to offer than the others. Here’s a breakdown of Sri Lanka’s beach destination from north to south, east to west, and what makes them all special.
Eastern Sri Lankan Beaches Finest beaches, corals and scuba diving
The two major cities on Sri Lanka’s east coast are Batticaloa and Trincomalee. Batticaloa is a quaint little seaside city famous for its Dutch fort, shallow lagoons and backwaters flowing out to sea. Trincomalee on the other hand, is a major port city on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Famous for its harbour — the world’s second largest natural harbour — Trincolamlee (Trinco for short) is home to the finest beaches this side of Sri Lanka. Just across from the harbour is the palm-fringed Koneswaram beach. And a short distance from the beach is Koneswaram Temple, a popular tourist attraction given its location atop a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. And next to the temple is the cliff unfortunately named ‘Lovers Leap’. Don’t ask why.
Uppuveli and Nilaveli beaches were badly affected by the 2004 tsunami, but after the conflict of the north ended, these two beaches in the north east started to see a slow influx of visitors seeking sunshine and seclusion. Just 1 kilometre off the coast of Nilaveli is Pigeon island. Accessible by boat, the Pigeon Island National Park has one of the best coral reefs in all of Sri Lanka, making it a very good scuba diving spot.
|Uppuveli beach, although badly affected by the 2004 tsunami, it has started to see a slow influx of visitors seeking sunshine and seclusion.|
A drive south from Trincomalee are the bendy beaches of Pasikudah and Kalkudah. Often shared by just you, cows, stray dogs and a few fishermen, these isolated shorelines have become a popular spot for snorkelling, scuba diving and catamaran sailing. During off-season, it’s so sparsely populated that it feels like you have kilometres of sand all to yourself. But that may soon change as Pasikudah and Kalkudah has seen many projects kickstarted recently to turn these beaches into an upmarket destination.
Then there is Arugam Bay. Situated in the south east, this place is surfer’s paradise. Hands down the most popular seaside destination for surfers in Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay welcomes pros and amateurs alike.
South Sri Lankan beaches Blue whales, dolphin watching and tourists beach resorts
Hikkaduwa, south of Colombo, is one of the most developed and the most tourist-oriented beach destinations in Sri Lanka. Renowned for its beach nightlife, Hikkaduwa’s popularity garnered the attention of famous chef Anthony Bourdain, who filmed an episode of his hit television show No Reservations here.
Just a few kilometres from the town of Galle is Unawatuna, popular for its corals, rich biodiversity and colonial landmarks. At the southern edge of Sri Lanka lies Mirissa, a laid-back beachside village, more popular for being one of the best spots to go whale and dolphin watching.
|Mirissa, a laid-back beachside village, more popular for being one of the best spots to go whale and dolphin watching.|
A relatively less-frequented beach destination is Weligama Bay. Situated at the southern tip of Sri Lanka, Weligama Bay is considered by many to be the best location to spot blue whales — the largest animal in the world. From November to April, blue whales are relatively easier to spot, giving us mere humans a chance to witness the gigantic inhabitants of the ocean. There are several tours that take visitors out to sea and some even take you underwater to get a better look.
|Weligama Bay is considered by many to be the best location to spot blue whales — the largest animal in the world.|
Western Sri Lanka beaches Corals, sperm whales and golden beaches
Sri Lanka’s largest coral reef, all of 307 km2 wide, is situated off Kalpitiya in the north-western district of Puttalam. Needless to say, this makes it one of the best scuba diving and snorkelling destinations in the country. Kalpitiya is comprised of 14 off-shore islands, and visitors to this coastal village will see vast saltpans and mangroves swamps aside from the sand dune beaches. A major fishing village, don’t be surprised to see a few fisherman standing on wooden stilts in the sea trying to catch fish. The fishermen of Kalpitiya have mastered the art of stilt fishing, and although the trade is on professionally on the decline, tourism has made stilt fishing a photo op for passersby. None the less, stilt fishing makes for quite a viewing when lying on the beaches here.
Depending on the season, sperm whales gather in pods of 20-30 and if you are lucky, you may even spot a giant blue whale or two. Otherwise, there are plenty of dolphins to be spotted all year round.
|The fishermen of Kalpitiya have mastered the art of stilt fishing.|
The large resort hotels are mostly located in Negombo, Kalutara, Beruwala and Bentota, and is the main engine of the island’s consistent package-tourist industry. Negombo beach is the closest beach from Bandaranaike International Airport. Referred to as the “Golden Mile” for its long, golden sand pristine beach, Beruwala beach is the first major resort locality in the south western coastal belt. Both Kalutara and Beruwala beaches are also good spots to witness stilt fishing, which is on display by a few fishermen here.
The Bentota National Holiday Resort Complex is strip of land off Galle Road that is home to a range of luxury hotels and shopping arcades. If you are an aspiring diver seeking PADI certification, Bentota beach is also a good place to come as many of Sri Lanka’s best diving schools are situated here.
Northern Sri Lankan beaches Unspoilt beaches with crystal clear water
Relatively unexplored, northern Sri Lanka was largely affected by the 30-year conflict that plagued this region until 2009. With the war long over, northern Sri Lanka is slowly opening up to tourism. The main city of Jaffna is where most tourists would land up north if flying from Colombo. Although tourism infrastructure is still under-developed, this means the beaches up here are virtually unspoilt and devoid of chain resorts and the rabid commercialisation seen elsewhere in Sri Lanka. Of note is Casuarina Beach. A long stretch of powdery white sands, clear blue water and a handful of tourists in sight. The beach gets its name because of the many casuarina trees that line the beach, making it a little different from your usual coconut tree setting.
While not exactly a beach spot, when in the north, one can’t miss out on the chance to take a dip at Keerimalai Miracle Springs — situated right next to the sea, west of Palaly. Only the walls surrounding the springs separate its waters from that of the sea. And despite being so close to the sea, the water inside the spring is fresh from the underground. It’s truly a miracle.
|Casuarina Beach, a long stretch of powdery white sands, clear blue water and a handful of tourists in sight.|
Sri Lankan Spa and Ayurveda
When you are not lazing on the beach getting tanned or just taking in the warm waters, visitors to Sri Lanka’s beaches can enjoy the many other facilities that are now commonplace throughout the above destinations. Many beach resorts offer Ayurveda treatments, the centuries old holistic practice of body healing. These include warm oil massages and soothing therapeutic body cleansing treatments.
And when you are done with all that, there’s the amazing seafood and local cuisine to try. Do not miss the chance to sample dishes like the Sri Lankan Chilli Crab, or the spicy Crab Curry that tastes great with Hoppers (a pancake-style bread made using rice batter). If you wish to sample some local alcohol, ask for ‘toddy,’ a spirit created from the sap of palm tree or coconut trees. It’s highly refreshing! For something non-alcoholic, you can’t visit Sri Lanka and not try wood apple juice. We highly recommend this fruit drink.
The beaches of Sri Lanka have at least one or two things that set them apart from each other. Some are more commercialised than the others, but it’s only a matter of time before the present “undiscovered” gems of Sri Lanka’s coastline make the pages of your favourite guide books.
So it seems like there’s a lot to explore in Sri Lanka, doesn’t it? Check out our various Sri Lanka tour packages and get ready to pack your bags for some sea and sunshine!