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The Best Beaches to Visit in Sri Lanka

Picture of Yana Spencer-Sokirzhinskaya
Updated: 4 September 2017
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. We bring you the pick of the bunch, from tourist hot spots and surfing meccas to far-flung secret hideaways.
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Unawatuna Beach

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 its sheltered position in a bay that makes it perfect for swimming. It’s very 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.

Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka

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Bentota Beach

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.

Bentota Beach, Sri Lanka

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Weligama

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 its stilt fishermen who uniquely cast their nets while perched atop poles some 20–30 metres (65.6–98.4 feet) from the shore. Thanks to its sheltered position, the bay is also a great place for novice surfers to catch their first wave.

Weligama, Sri Lanka

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Hikkaduwa Beach

Palm-fringed Hikkaduwa Beach is famed for its 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 off the shore where you can spot vividly coloured fish and even 300-year-old giant turtles. For those who like to party, the Hikkaduwa Beach Fest in July or August is definitely one to catch.

Hikkaduwa Beach, Sri Lanka

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Arugam Bay

Travellers flock to Arugam Bay for its perfect surfing and legendary Friday night beach parties, but they stay for the chilled-out vibe of beach shack cafés, 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.

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

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Tangalla Beach

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.

Tangalla Beach, Sri Lanka

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Nilaveli

If you are looking for a picture-perfect beach practically to yourself, then you should definitely make the trek to this quiet shore in the northeast near Trincomalee. This long, calm stretch of sand is lapped by a very 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 completely unspoilt, with no bars or restaurants.

Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka

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