The Best Beaches to Visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is home to a selection of beautiful sandy beaches
Sri Lanka is home to a selection of beautiful sandy beaches | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Yana Spencer-Sokirzhinskaya

Ask 10 different people in Sri Lanka to tell your their favourite beach, and you will receive 10 different answers. The only thing they will agree on is that the island offers a fantastic choice of sandy shorelines to explore. So whether you’re interested in the surf breaks of Arugam Bay or perhaps the chance to see stilt fisherman at Weligama, here are the top Sri Lanka beaches.

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1. Unawatuna Beach

Natural Feature

Aerial. Beach view in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka.
© Marius Dobilas / Alamy Stock Photo
This beach near Galle is one of most famous in Sri Lanka, and it deserves a mention thanks to its crescent of golden sand and sheltered position in a bay that makes it perfect for swimming. It’s popular with both tourists and locals (who often stop by for an afternoon frolic in the surf). This sandy locale is an ideal spot for those who like a few facilities; there are sunbeds to rent, exotic fruit sellers, and plenty of small restaurants and boutiques just a short walk away.

2. Bentota Beach

Natural Feature

Sri Lanka, West Coast, Bentota, beach and river of Bentota, aerial view
© Tuul and Bruno Morandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Just a two-hour drive south from Colombo, this long expanse of sand on a small peninsula at the mouth of the Bentota River is a perfect escape from the city. For those seeking peace, Bentota Beach is often near-deserted, but for those of a more active disposition, there are plenty of exciting activities on offer, such as snorkelling, canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet skiing, diving, or even taking a river safari into the mangroves to spot crocodiles.

3. Weligama

Natural Feature

Sri Lanka, Southern Province, South Coast beach, Weligama beach, Stilt fishermen on the coast
© Tuul and Bruno Morandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Taprobane Island, known locally as Yakinnige duwa (She-devil’s island), is not the only unusual thing about this wonderful sandy bay in the southwest between Galle and Mirissa. Weligama is also famed for being a place where stilt fishermen cast their nets while perched atop poles some 20m-30m (66ft-98ft) from the shore. The bay is also a great place for novice surfers to catch their first wave.

4. Hikkaduwa Beach

Natural Feature

Exotic plants on a sandy beach of indian ocean
© Givaga / Alamy Stock Photo
Palm-fringed Hikkaduwa Beach is famed for strong surf, soft sand, and welcoming vibe at the bars and restaurants strung along the strip. It’s a great place for snorkelling, with coral reefs just offshore where you can spot tropical fish and even giant turtles. For those who like to party, Hikkaduwa Beach Fest in July or August is definitely one to catch.

5. Arugam Bay

Natural Feature

amazing beach and draws in the sand in Arugam bay, Sri lanka
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Travellers flock to Arugam Bay for perfect surfing and legendary Friday night beach parties, but they stay for the chilled vibe of beach shack cafes, yoga studios and hammocks strung amid palm trees. Add to the mix a gorgeous, long sandy beach, and you have all the makings of an awesome break.

6. Tangalla Beach

Natural Feature

Extremely beautiful vivid sunrise under the coconut plams on Sri Lanka beach. Panoramic photo
© Filip Fuxa / Alamy Stock Photo
With soft, white sand stretching as far as the eye can see, fringed by palm trees, and washed by a gorgeous turquoise sea, this beach, located in the southeast, is a great place to get away from it all. Sample seafood fresh off the boat from the simple restaurant shacks dotted along the beach. It’s not suitable for swimming as the current is too strong (be warned), but there is a sheltered cove nearby where you can take a dip.

7. Nilaveli

Natural Feature

Nilaweli beach and pigeon Island Sri Lanka
© Eranda Ekanayake / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for a picture-perfect beach practically to yourself, then make the trek to this quiet shore in the northeast near Trincomalee. This long, calm stretch of sand is lapped by a warm and crystal-clear sea. There are usually some gentle waves, which makes it ideal for kids to splash about and go bodyboarding. It’s unspoilt, with no bars or restaurants.

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