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The best beaches in Sri Lanka

Discover some of the most breathtaking beaches along Sri Lanka's spectacular coastline

© BT Images

Surrounded on all sides by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has plenty of beautiful beaches for you to retreat to when the tropical temperatures get a bit too close for comfort. Beach bums can catch some rays at a quieter beach such as Passekudah Bay, there’s SCUBA diving for all you adventure enthusiasts at Hikkaduwa and party people can make themselves at home on the dancefloors of lively Unawatuna beach. Sandy shores, beautiful views and sumptuous seafood are guaranteed at all of our recommended beaches – and don’t forget to Instagram a sunset to make all your friends jealous.

Hikkaduwa Beach

Hikkaduwa Beach is well-known for its uniformity with the sunny-side of life. Be it sunbathing, sea-boat rides, scuba diving and snorkeling by the reef or even surfing, the coastal waters of Hikkaduwa is just the place to find the picture perfect scene for sea, sun, sand and much fun.  Renting or buying almost any form of swim gear is easy here, with the Hikkaduwa town at a mere arm’s length from the beach. Shops here have been catering to tourists for many years and are amply seasoned in knowing their wants and needs, away from home. From scrumptiously affordable seafood restaurants to garments of any sort, the Hikkaduwa beach has a long running ‘thumbs up’ reputation by its countless visitors.  Unlike in the past, when it took several hours to get here, Hikkaduwa beach can be reached in under  an hour and half on the Southern Expressway, from Colombo, and many other coastal and non-coastal cities alike. Peak visiting months include November and April, however January to March is also recommended.

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Hikkaduwa

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna beach draws both local and foreign visitors who have come to love this paradise isle profoundly, as well as the newbies. Unawatuna brings to life incalculable resorts, hotels, restaurants and small kiosks selling various goodies from seafood to clothing. Although most Galle town beaches on the one hand lure visitors through its irresistible magnetism of  sun, sea, sand and relaxation, Unawatuna beach is all those and also an ideal place to take a dip in the ocean or indulge in some waters sports with family. Take the Southern Expressway from Colombo for a quick beach getaway or even a spot of sea turtle watching. For beautiful weather and calmer seas visit in November or April.   The beautiful bay of Unawatuna was formerly renowned worldwide for its beach but erosion has shrunk it, although its popularity for after-beach action remains undiminished.

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Galle

Nilaveli Beach

Here’s where turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean kiss the sands, where heart beats rise and fall to its timely harmony. It’s not always that you see paradise in all its splendour, at Nilaveli, under 20 kilometres from Trincomalee town, the simplest pleasures are usually priceless.  Whether you engage in a short boat ride to Pigeon Island, a delightful little landmass with its own coral reef, a few minutes from the coast, scuba diving, snorkeling or even waiting it out on the Nilaveli shore building sandcastles – any pick for that matter is quite surely going to be an experience that should not be missed.  This maritime escape has also had its share of history, with its days of yore spanning as far back as the Second World War.  Best recommended times for visits are May to September.

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Trincomalee
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Passekudah Bay and Kalkudah Beach

Located in the East Coast of Sri Lanka, a visit to the shores of Passekudah is an experience in itself. Passekudah Bay is to the north of Batticaloa nestled on one side of Kalkudah beach.  A perfect spot for sea-bathing, Passekudah Bay’s flat bed is a great opportunity to take advantage of a good and safe wade or swim to as far as 200 metres from the shoreline.  The shared shores of Passekudah and Kalkudah are reef secured and thus the ocean waves are a lot calmer in this part of the Eastern Coast. Around dawn, and if you’re lucky enough to be up that early, sights of deep sea fisherman bringing back the previous night’s catch on to the beach can be seen, where many vendors from the island over await their best buys.  The Kalkudah beach is ideal for surfing and wind surfing during the month of September, which is also considered the best month to visit the East Coast.

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Kalkudah

Arugam Bay Beach

Arugam Bay is famous for its surfing points that attract surfers from around the world. Many of them make Arugam Bay their home during the surfing period, which is from April to October. Arugam Bay Point, which is at the tip of the bay is considered to be an advanced point, where the waves can rise to a height of five to ten metres depending on the swell and oceanic conditions. As such Arugam Bay point is a haven for experienced surfers.    The actual ‘bay’ of Arugam Bay is peppered with small cosy hotels. One area of the beach is full of fishing boats as that is the livelihood of the coastal area, but this does not disturb the surfers.

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Arugam Bay

Negombo Beach

An Ideal beach town for sun and sea lovers and about an hour’s journey from Colombo, Negombo is also a short trip from the airport in Katunayake.  With fabulous sunsets, strolls along the shore, little shops selling garments and souvenirs, live bands playing, restaurants peppering almost the entirety of the seaside strip, water sports at the beach park; fishing, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba, are a part of the everyday sights, sounds and things to do, when in Negombo.  This beach town is easily accessible from E03 expressway while leaving from Colombo to the airport or after arrival in Sri Lanka. A short stay on your way, if time permits, would be something to experience.

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Negombo
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Galle Face Green

With activities spanning from kite flying, to fishing, to football and beach volley ball to exercising on the Green lawn facing the blue, to jogging alongside the ocean, from chomping down on hawker recipes that line the walkway just over the beach, to an easy check-in at the many star as well as budget hotels conveniently rimming the shore, and most of all before you do, playing a game of tag with the frothy waves until you finally give up…. Galle Face Green, bustles with life, long into the evening.  Located close to the south of Fort town, Galle Face Green is a renowned landmark in Colombo. The opportunity to make the most of the sea, sun, stars, sand and stay is right here by this lively coastal marvel.

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Colombo 3

Kalpitiya Beach

Two words; Whale. Watching. But there’s always the ever so charming beach to make the most of your trip to Kalpitiya.  Be there as early as seven in the morning and head off on a boat from coast to spot the spectacular creatures of the sea, dolphins and whales. Expect to see giant flips of tails or even flashes of playful curiosities from the friendlies. February to March is the best recorded times for sperm whale sightings, and acrobatic pods of spinner dolphins. The rare humpback dolphin is also been known to show up in the waters of Kalpitiya.  November to April is recommended for calm seas and the sun kissed beach and a 160 kilometre journey from Colombo is well worth it for not only is the ocean safari breathtaking, unless your prone to a bit of sea sickness, but fun on the beach is equally pleasurable.

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Kalpitiya

Tangalle Beach

Hidden deep in the southern coast, the beaches of Tangalle are made for the visual admirer. With the ocean set in dark blue and you with a fresh drink in your hand ready for a relaxing stay, then you would be in the right place.  If you do fancy a spot of sea bathing then head west of Tangalle town to where a few naturally secured bays between rocky promontories caress calmer waters. Sunbathing on the other hand is recommend for the east part of town where the warm sandy beaches are far too irresistible to pass on a tan.  Take the Southern Expressway to Tangalle to cut your journeying time by half and be sure to keep these months in mind; November to April and May through October, for best climatic conditions.

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Tangalle
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Bentota Beach

Calmer ocean, scuba, snorkeling, sailing, deep-sea fishing, water skiing wind surfing, kayaking or canoeing, but who’s counting. Bentota beach is equipped for activities for virtually all sea goers looking to have a great time.  Even the choice of accommodation has its advantages from luxury to budget. Finding places to stay is quite convenient if you book early or even if you’re passing through. However during peak season, it may be a task to infiltrate.   This part of the southern coast is easily accessible via the Southern Expressway. Best recommended times for safe swimming conditions plus a range of other water sports and excursions is November through April.

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Bentota

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