What are the best beaches of Sri Lanka? A beach guide to Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka has countless beautiful beaches. In the east, you will find miles of empty sandy beach, and in the south, there are many cute bays, interspersed with large rocks. Some coastal towns are perfect if you want to (learn to) surf, other beaches are suitable for relaxing and other bays you have to visit for their nice hotspots and restaurants. In this guide, I will tell you everything about the seven most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka and which beaches the best suit for your trip.

Sri Lanka: the perfect beach destination!

With 1340 kilometres of coastline and a wonderful climate, Sri Lanka is the perfect beach destination! What do I say, I think the beaches of Sri Lanka are among the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen (with formidable competitors such as Bora Bora and Ile Sainte-Marie in Madagascar). The water is very clear and the beaches are golden coloured with nice and fine sand. Also cool are the palm trees that you see everywhere on the edges of the beach. They really make the Sri Lankan beaches a tropical paradise.Blue Beach and pools at Nilwella

Which beach and which coastal town do you choose in Sri Lanka?

With so many beaches, you can get considerable choice stress, at least we had problems with that! Our solution: try out and visit many beaches in Sri Lanka. However, if you don’t have that much time or would prefer to stay a little longer in one place, then read on. We will tell you exactly which beach best fits what purpose! From surfing to relaxing and from partying to less crowded (remote) beaches! Something for everyone.Best Beaches of Sri Lanka Travel Guide Sri Lanka

Tip: Take the season into account, but not too much!

Sri Lanka has two different monsoons: from November to January the monsoon takes place in the northeast. This monsoon is also called the Maha. A lot of rain can fall, so not the best beach weather. The beaches in the southwest have better weather at that time.

In the southwest, you have the Yala monsoon. This takes place from April to July, so it is advisable to go to the northeast at that time.

However: due to climate change, the weather is not always easy to predict. In November we had beautiful weather in the northeast (Trincomalee), and in December we had to deal with quite a lot of rain in the south. So keep a close eye on the forecasts (we use the Accuweather weather app) and be a bit flexible!Charlotte walking on the beach at Talalla Beach

Which beach towns in Sri Lanka do you choose if you want peace and quietness?

Not in the mood for crowds of people? Looking for (almost) empty beaches that you have all to yourself? Then choose coastal towns Trincomalee in the east of Tangalle and Talalla in the south.

1. Trincomalee: miles of empty beaches in northeastern Sri Lanka

Trincomalee is a city in the northeast of Sri Lanka. In the area, you will find some wonderful beaches that few people visit. The most popular beach here is Uppuveli Beach, a nice beach with a few cosy beach bars. You will also find plenty of good accommodations here such as Silaa Cabana. Uppuveli Beach is only four kilometres away from Trincomalee.

Are you looking for really empty beaches where you can be alone with the waves and drink coconut just with yourself? Then go to Nilaveli Beach. This four-kilometre long beach is still completely empty in many places. On the weekends you see the local children playing in the waves, during the week there is hardly anyone. Nilaveli Beach is nine kilometres away from Trincomalee.Nilaveli drone shot

Another quiet beach is Marble Beach, 15 kilometres away from Trincomalee. This is part of the Air Force, so don’t be surprised if you see soldiers walking around. You can snorkel perfectly here! Best way to get there is to hire a scooter for 1000-1500 Rupi a day.

2. Tangalle: the less touristy south!

Tangalle is a city in the south, west of Arugam Bay. It is a handy base for national parks such as Udawalawe National Park and Bundala National Park, but you find beautiful beaches here too! On Tangalle Beach, a large bay with a long beach, you can still find some excitement with beach bars and nice restaurants, but on the smaller Secret Beach, you can hardly find anyone. Here the waves are perfect to play in (Ries is his favourite pastime on a beach). On this beach, you don’t see much else than rocks and palm trees. The only few beach beds that you can rent here are quite expensive (1000 Rupee, 5 Euro), so bring a towel and settle on the sand.Charlotte at Silent Beach

Another beautiful beach near Tangalle is Goyambokka beach. This is not busy but does have facilities such as restaurants with beach beds where you can lie for free when you have a drink.

Tip: looking for a nice hotel in Tangalle? Then take a look at the beautiful Ananya Beach Resort, this is on Tangalle Beach.Cheers to Lion Beer Sri Lanka

3. Talalla Beach: high waves and lots of palm trees!

Palm trees, high waves and a deep blue sea. Talalla is a wonderful beach where you have the feeling that you are the only one in the world. Perfect for a long beach walk! Hidden behind the palm trees you will find a number of restaurants and hotels, but these are well hidden from view.Talalla bay beachTalalla Beach Paradise walking couple

Please note: there is sometimes a considerable undercurrent which makes swimming potentially dangerous here. Often locals advise not to swim when the waves are high. However, if you are like my boyfriend (a good swimmer who has experience with sea currents), swimming and jumping into the waves is safe and a lot of fun. So, you will probably be the only one in the water next to some other tourists. Does this sound too scary, don’t worry, just splash in a swimming pool at one of the surrounding hotels!

We spent a morning on this beach at the beautiful restaurant Zephyr. With a nice swimming pool, large garden and tasty drinks, this is the perfect place to relax and enjoy Talalla Beach. Zephyr is really a jewel if you are looking for a fancy design hotel, we had a look inside and the rooms are beautiful, full of art and wonderfully large beds!

Planning your trip through Sri Lanka? Then read this blog with the ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary! Including tips and an overview of all the highlights in Sri Lanka. 

Which beach do you choose in Sri Lanka if you want to surf and you like a bit of hippie vibe?

Looking for the best surfing beaches in combination with a relaxed vibe and accompanying fancy (hip) restaurants? Then choose Arugam Bay in the east or Dickwella in the south.

4. Dickwella: (learn to) surf and nice hipster bars!

Dickwella (also called Dikwella) is really my favourite coastal town in all of Sri Lanka. It is located in the south, between Tangalle and Talalla Beach. Dickwella is not as busy and touristy as Unawatuna or Mirissa. It has plenty of nice facilities. You will find many digital nomads and expats living in Sri Lanka for a few months a year. As a result, the atmosphere is pleasant and most people know each other. A kind of cosy little village full of surfers, hippies and hipsters.Swing at Dickwella beach

Dickwella has several beautiful beaches nearby. Dickwella Beach is a long, quiet sandy beach where you will only find a few beach chairs and coconut vendors on the eastern side. The waves are pretty strong in Dickwella Beach so here you only see the advanced surfers.

If you are not yet a great surfer, the nearby Hiriketiya Bay is perfect for practising your surf skills. You can rent a surfboard here for a few euros, surf lessons are cheap and the waves are relatively low. Tired of surfing, Hiriketiya Bay has plenty of cosy restaurants where you can relax. Also nice are the different yoga studios that are close to the beach.Blue Beach at Nilwella

Curious about what you can do in Dickwella? Read our Dickwella travel guide!

5. Arugam Bay: the surf hotspot

In Arugam Bay, it’s all about surfing. This great spot is the surfing mecca of Sri Lanka. Some bays have high waves, others are more suited for beginners. The atmosphere is relaxed, perfect even when you are not surfing! In the evening the surfboards are set aside and most surfers sit around a campfire on the beach, how cosy! Arugam Bay is located in the southeast of Sri Lanka.

Hotel tip: unfortunately we had to skip Arugam Bay due to bad weather. But from a surf girl, we heard that Surf N Sun is a wonderful hotel to stay and the location is perfect.Surf Sri Lanka

Which coastal town in Sri Lanka do you choose if you want to party?

Beach clubs, restaurants and parties with your bare feet in the beach. Are you looking for beaches with enough facilities, then the beach towns below are a perfect match for you!

6. Mirissa: trendy beach bars and cocktails on the beach!

Mirissa has grown rapidly from a sleepy surf beach with only a few roti huts to “the place to be” in southern Sri Lanka. Nowadays you will find more than enough restaurants where you can shoot the perfect Instagram photo or eat an ice-cold Acai bowl. Shopping for a new bikini or beach outfit is also possible here, on the main road that runs along the coastline, you will find more than enough stores.

Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach lies right in the centre and is a beautiful bay that is big enough for everyone. There are big waves here, perfect for bodyboarding and more than enough fun beach clubs. Happy Hour runs from four in the afternoon to eight and cocktails are not expensive.Marissa beach bedsMarissa beach waves

Another beach is the (not so) “Secret Beach“. Everyone eventually visits this beach, but we found this bay a bit disappointing. It is a very small pebble beach with many rocks and one beach resort. This place is great for enjoying the sunset and have a beer at the campfire, but this beach is not suitable for tanning or swimming all afternoon.Secret beacn

Tip: if you are looking for a less touristic beach town, go for Dickwella. We preferred Dickwella above Mirissa, which in our opinion was just a bit too busy.

Would you like to surf and still be close to Mirissa? Weligama is eight kilometres away from Mirissa, where hundreds of surfers lie in the water every day. Don’t be afraid, the beach is so wide that you don’t notice the other surfers. According to Ries, this is the best place to learn surfing in Sri Lanka. The waves a perfect and easy to catch. Besides, it is a bit quieter here and you have a few bars where they sell smoothie bowls and avocado toast too.

Tip: do you rent a surfboard and do you have to sign a “waiver”? Then check your board well for damage. Sometimes a surfboard renter tries to fool you in terms of so-called damage that you would have made. To prevent yourself from this energy-drainer after fun hours of surfing, just take pictures before you rent the board and you will be fine.

Is your next destination in Sri Lanka the beach town of Mirissa? Read our blog!

Surf beach

7. Unawatuna: many beach facilities, family hotels and crowds

Unawatuna is one of the most famous beach locations in the south of Sri Lanka. It has become a big city, with most tourists sitting around Unawatuna Beach. In a long street that winds along the bay, you find dozens of restaurants, beach clubs and coffee bars. Unawatuna beach is also a fine beach, but certainly not very charming anymore. You can compare it to the crowded beaches of the Costa Brava in Spain or Kreta in Greece. All facilities someone potentially needs are available here. This is also the place where all big tour operatours locate their guests. As a result, with all the big busses, the traffic is sometimes crazy (even on a bike or scooter you cannot avoid the traffic jams).

A more authentic beach, just four kilometres from Unawatuna, is Dalawella Beach. The beach is relatively narrow here, but it is much quieter and you have some nice beach clubs here too. In the sea, you will find a natural swimming pool, with calm water that is protected by rocks from the rest of the sea. Dalawella Beach is perfect when you travel with children and want to sit in a relatively quiet place with many facilities. For example, consider Rockside Cabanas hotel, wonderful accommodation on the beach.Delawella Beach Ries struggling with life

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