This story was inspired by: Sri Lanka Uncovered
Sri Lanka is blessed with over 1,600 kilometres of beaches set against the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. The palm-tree dotted coastlines, either rocky or sandy, will enchant you with their natural beauty. If enjoying watersports, observing cultural traditions or dancing the night away on the beach speak to your inner travel junkie, then why haven’t you booked your next tour to Sri Lanka already?
See for yourself why travellers from all over the world are jetting off to this beautiful island nation. To make things even simpler, we’ve ranked the best beaches in Sri Lanka to make planning your next adventure one step easier.
Ready to start the adventure already? Take a look at the most popular tours travelling through Sri Lanka.
Idyllic, charming and popular for a reason, Unawatuna’s most notable features include palm-lined beachfront, glimmering turquoise waters and activities available for every kind of traveller. The beach has come a long way since its devastation in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which resulted in most of the original beachfront being washed away. It has since regained its footing as a favourite amongst visitors and locals alike. Here, you can enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming or simply stretching out for a tan.
Unawatuna is also a breeding ground for sea turtles and you’ll even be able to see these endangered species up close at one of the local conservation centres. If you’re concerned about choosing the right one, join a group tour with a reputable operator who ensures their travellers are supporting responsible eco-organizations.
See Also: How to Spend 2 Weeks in Sri Lanka
If spotting elusive marine wildlife appeals to you, then Mirissa will not disappoint. One of the country’s main whale and dolphin watching locations, Mirissa Beach is another spot in Sri Lanka that’s enjoyed by everyone. Nearly 95% of the beach is sandy and rock free, with resorts and guest houses set back from the shoreline. The end result is that you often feel as if you’re completely alone while taking your early morning stroll down the beach.
And of course, you can also go swimming! Just be mindful of where you dive in as there can be strong currents and riptides. On the right side of Mirissa Beach is where the biggest waves break, making it the perfect spot to surf. In fact, this particular beach has transformed into somewhat of a surfer’s paradise in recent years. If you love catching a wave, you’ll adore Mirissa.
Literally translated to “sandy village”, Weligama is yet another charming beachfront on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. We love this sandy spot because it exudes levels of extravagance that you’ll be hard-pressed to find on any other beach in Sri Lanka. Modern luxury hotels sit perfectly juxtaposed against the shoreline, with chilled-out music hanging in the air to create the perfect carefree vibe. Snorkel, surf or swim at your own pace.
Weligama beach is also where you’ll see the iconic stilt fisherman, where men sit perched atop wooden crucifixes far from shore and dangle fishing rods into the water. There’s a common misconception that this practice comes from ancient times when in reality it’s no more than 80 years old. If you’re in search of something a little more timeworn then this beach also has something for you!
Take a short walk from the beach front to visit the Rock of the Leper King which was carved into the surrounding sometime between the 6th-9th century. It allegedly represents Avalokiteshvara, a king who became afflicted with leprosy and was told in a vision that the cure was to ingest coconut pulp and water for three straight months. Once he was healed, he commissioned his figure to be carved into the rock you’ll see in Weligama. The point? This beach really is home to it all: luxury, relaxation and legend.
Hikkaduwa used to be little more than a sleepy fishing village on the south coast of Sri Lanka, but in recent years its evolved into a vibrant party destination. There’s plenty to keep travellers busy both during the day and well into the night. During the day surfers of all skill levels can try to catch a wave at one of the beach’s three main breaks.
Divers can enjoy the warm waters while exploring enchanting shipwrecks and observing beautiful schools of fish in their natural habitat. Other options to keep you entertained through the balmy, sunny days include visiting the nearby Kosgoda Turtle Sanctuary, the Tsunami Museum or getting fitted for some custom-made clothing thanks to the abundance of skilled tailors in the local area.
At night, however, is when Hikkaduwa really springs to life! You can expect countless different clubs and bars to turn on their funky lights, turn up their awesome music and begin pouring cocktails like it’s going out of style. Just be careful because sundown will turn into sunrise faster than you think in Hikkaduwa!
See Also: Read our Sri Lanka Travel Guide
Luxurious resorts? Check. Honeymooner bliss? Check. Calm waters that make for perfect afternoons spent swimming? Check, check and check! We adore Dickwella for the secluded and tranquil environment it affords to its visitors. In fact, plenty of people say that it can feel like you’re the only person for hundreds of kilometre, perfect for anyone trying to get away from it all.
If you decide you need a little more action to break up the peacefulness then head over to the nearby Hiriketiya Bay where you can go people watching and catch a wave or two. Visit one of the beach huts and sit down to a plate of banana pancakes and a glass of freshly squeezed fruit. Afterwards, work off the pancakes by jumping in the bay’s sparkling waters and go snorkelling amongst the sea turtles.
Another favourite amongst the “treat yourself” traveller type, Bentota is more or less epicentre for spa treatments and wellness getaways, making for the perfect retreat after or even during an exciting tour of the country. Sprawling under a seemingly endless canopy of palm trees, the beach is home to plenty of luxury hotels that offer homoeopathic Ayurvedic healing services, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems.
If you’re in search of something a little more adrenaline-pumping, than opt to go water skiing on the choppy waters of the Indian Ocean, cycle through the nearby city or simply taking a river cruise down the Bentota Ganga.
At the north end of Bentota beach lies a little place called Paradise Island, a narrow piece of land that provides access to both the wild Indian Ocean and the calm waters of the Bentota lagoon. Once you reach it, you’ll quickly understand how it got its namesake.
Negombo Beach is on the edge of a modest little coastal town with a small-world vibe that’s ideal for newcomers to Sri Lanka. You can take part in almost any kind of water sport imaginable, enrol in diving courses or just kick back and relax with a drink beachside. Although the beach in itself is certainly beautiful, you’ll definitely notice more pollution than others throughout the country which lowers its ranking on our list.
That being said, its close proximity to Bandaranaike International Airport and the bustling city of Colombo makes it the perfect beginner’s beach for your arrival in Sri Lanka.
Have we missed any of the top beaches in Sri Lanka? Tell us in the comments below so other travellers can explore the best beaches in Sri Lanka!