Sri Lanka’s Best Beaches

Sri Lanka’s Best Beaches

Sri Lanka    02.09.2014    David Abram

Although the island is loaded with cultural attractions, Sri Lanka is, for many visitors, all about its beaches. Resorts that were little more than backpacker hideaways before the end of the civil war have grown rapidly over the past few seasons.

However, plenty of unspoilt corners remain. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back break somewhere tranquil, an inspirational snorkelling or diving centre close to a coral reef, or the bright lights of a fully fledged five-star on the sand, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Sri Lankan beaches come in many and varied forms. While the coast around Galle in the southwest is dominated by archetypal palm-backed paradise coves, the wilder, windier east and northwest are more wave-lashed, with generally longer stretches of sand and less development. Accommodation is also varied, ranging from large, international-style resorts to pretty boutique places in off-track locations.

Here’s a rundown of our favourites:


Bentota’s huge expanse of palm-backed, spray-soaked golden sand is home to some of the island’s top beach hotels, ranging from five-star palaces to boutique hideaways, plus loads of watersports and boat trips on the Bentota Lagoon.


Sri Lanka’s party beach, Unawatuna is far from pristine but remains an enjoyable place to while away a few days, with plenty going on at all times of the day and night from yoga classes and diving trips to beach BBQs and full-moon parties.


Small but perfectly formed beach, especially pretty after dark when its lantern-lit waterfront restaurants get going, serving up some of the island’s finest seafood. It’s also the best place to go whale-watching in Sri Lanka, with majestic blue and sperm whales regularly sighted just a few miles out to sea.


A picture-perfect stretch of Sri Lankan coast, featuring idyllic white-sand coves, turquoise waters and thousands of tilting palm trees leaning towards the sea.

Arugam Bay 

Remote east-coast beach, popular amongst surfers for its world-class waves and with a host of other nearby wildlife and cultural attractions including majestic elephants, mangrove forests and jungle monasteries.

Uppuveli & Nilaveli 

Miles of sleepy and utterly unspoilt beach book-ended by temple-topped Swami Rock and tiny Pigeon Island, home to some of Sri Lanka’s best snorkelling.


A string of pristine and still largely undiscovered beaches fringe the beautiful Kalpitiya peninsula, north of Colombo, complete with Sri Lanka’s finest cluster of eco-lodges, top-class kite surfing and spectacular pods of spinner dolphins.