Sri Lanka has fabulous sandy beaches, popular or deserted, sprinkled with fishing villages and coconut groves or backed by national parks. Some are good for swimming, others best for surfing or diving. There are turtle nesting grounds and coral reefs with multi-coloured fish. The east coast welcomes increasing numbers of visitors after the three decade armed conflict.
Sri Lanka has two monsoons, namely the South-west and the North-east monsoons, April to October on the south and west coasts, November to February on the east coast, so you can choose accordingly. There’s still plenty of sunshine during the monsoon but seas can be rough and humidity high. Strong currents may occur in some areas and it’s always wise to follow local advice.
Relax in Negombo, Beruwela and Bentota on the best beach resorts in the West Coast
Close to the airport, Negombo is a bustling resort with sweeping sands, restaurants serving lobster, prawns and seer fish and budget and luxury hotels. You can watch local folks fishing on the lagoon in traditional dug out canoes or hire a bike to cycle along the canals, built by the Dutch who came for the spice trade.
Further south, Beruwela and Bentota offer fine sands and usually safe swimming, wind surfing and other sports on the lagoon at the mouth of the Bentota river and quiet spaced out hotels, most scenic on the long peninsula between river and ocean. Nearby attractions include the Kosgoda turtle hatchery, the mask museums and traditional dances in Ambalangoda and a boat safari-ride to witness the naturally high biodiverse wetland environs of the Madu River.
These beach resorts are situated in the west coast and affected during the South-west monsoons, so the best time to choose them would be between October to April.
Explore the best beach resorts in the south – Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Weligama, Mirissa and Tangalle further down-south
Just 5 kms north and south of Galle respectively, lies the Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna golden beaches which are both sheltered by a coral reefs, both had once claimed to harbour more marine species than the Great Barrier Reef. You can surf in some areas and dive to explore reef and wrecks. Fishermen perched on stilts can still be spotted along the coast. Further down-south are the popular beach resorts Weligama and Mirissa respectively popular for surfing and whale watching. Lot of small tourist resorts and guest houses dot the coastline offering tourists a homely atmosphere free from local disturbances.
Tangalle Bay has enticing blue waters and pinkish sands but the safest beaches are out of town. There, small villages doze under the coconut palms and deserted beaches offer an authentic tropical paradise. Tangalle has a colourful market, fishing port and remnants of its colonial past. A short drive to the north is the stunning rock temple of Mulkirigala and to the east the Uda Walawe National Park where wild elephants roam undisturbed.
These beach resorts are situated in the south coast and affected during the South-west monsoons, so the best time to choose them would be between October to April.
Nilaveli, Pasikudah Arugam Bay – the best beach resorts in the east coast
Trincomalee is known for its deep water natural harbour, one of the hest in the world. The finest beaches are in the fishing villages of Uppuveli and Nilaveli, on a coast popular for surfing, scuba diving and whale watching. Closeby are hot springs, bird and wildlife sanctuaries and Pigeon Island, borne to the rare blue rock pigeons.
Pasikudah and the neighboring Kalkudah beaches have become a popular tourist destination amongst locals and foreigners alike. This is because they are known to have the longest stretches of shallow coastlines in the world. In other words, people walk kilometers into the sea because the water is only a few inches deep and the current is relatively weak compared to the rest of Sri Lanka’s coasts, which makes it a paradise for sea bathers and waders. Pasikudah is easily accessible from Trincomalee and Batticaloa.
Arugam Bay calls itself the end of the road, favoured by backpackers and acknowledged as among the top ten surfing spots in the world, number one in Sri Lanka. Surfing is best between Mae and October, with the biggest waves off Arugam point. Arugam is also a great place to see Sri Lanka’s wildlife, crocodiles in the nearby lagoon, leopards in the Yala East National Park, right on the doorstep.
These beach resorts are situated in the east coast and affected during the South-west monsoons, so the best time to choose them would be between May to June.
Further excitement and relaxation found in Kalpitiya on the north-west coast peninsula.
Far north in the western coast in peninsular area is Kalpitiya with the small close-knit fishing community dominating the lives of the local people, visitors can get a real insight into working life away from the city. The specialty of Kalpitiya is the seasonal whale and dolphin watching boat excursions would could be done between November and April every year. Apart from this Kalpitiya is also a hotspot for the extreme sport of Kite surfing and world renowned by international professional kiters. Leisurely boat rides up the lagoon and canoe trips down the river are a pleasant way of exploring the coastline, whilst 4WD jeep rides along the deserted sand dunes between the ocean and the lagoon offer a unique way of watching the colourful evening sunsets. For keen scuba divers and snorkelers, the large Bar Reef offer a plethora of delights. This reef is by far the most beautiful natural coral in Sri Lanka.