Sri Lanka is famous for its scenic train rides and picturesque green tea country, but did you know that it’s also home to a number of beautiful beaches. That’s right, the country is full of gorgeous beaches, from mile-long stretches of sand to small little bays. Whether you want to visit some beaches as part of your travels around Sri Lanka or are simply looking for a beach holiday, read on to discover some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka.
1. Uppuveli Beach
Sitting on the northeast coast of the country, Trincomalee is a bit out of the way of the standard one or two-week itinerary of most visitors to Sri Lanka, and for that reason it still feels a bit like discovering a hidden paradise.
For the beaches here truly are paradisiacal. With some of the whitest sand you’ll find in Sri Lanka and miles of coastline, it’s definitely worth the detour here. The best area to stay is around the north of Uppuveli Beach where you’ll find guesthouses and some small local restaurants serving delicious fresh fish.
Talking of which, take a stroll along the beach in the morning and you can watch the fisherman hauling in their nets. They form a line along the beach and slowly but surely pull in their catch. It’s interesting to watch and in true Sri Lanka friendliness, you might even get called in to join the line.
A nice activity to do whilst here is to take the bus, or even walk all the way along the beach, to Fort Frederick. Built by the Portuguese in the 1600s on a headland jutting out into the sea, the fort is a historic spot, but really the main reason to visit is to see the Trincomalee deer which roam freely here. They’re super cute and will take absolutely no notice of you when you surely stop to admire them. At the tip of the headland is Sri Thirukoneswaram Kovil, a colourful Hindu temple with great views back over Uppuveli Beach.
2. Nilaveli Beach
Just north of Uppuveli is Nilaveli Beach, a long stretch of sand considered one of the best beaches in the whole of Sri Lanka.
When you’re done enjoying the beach itself, the most popular thing to do here is to take a boat trip to Pigeon Island which sits directly opposite. A protected natural reserve, the island is surrounded by coral reefs where you can snorkel with a high chance to spot turtles and reef sharks.
3. Arugam Bay
Like Trincomalee, Arugam Bay isn’t on the standard tourist route which tends to focus more on the south coast beaches. However, it’s become somewhat of a surfer’s paradise with lots of surfers setting up home here for the whole surf season to enjoy the waves. You’ll therefore find lots of surfer hippie cafes serving good coffee and smoothie bowls, and a lively vibe in the evening.
One of the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka and for good reason, Mirissa is a gorgeous sandy bay. There are lots of small beach bars along the back of the beach offering beach chairs and happy hour sunset drinks. After sunset the beach transforms with fairy lights everywhere and all the bars bringing tables out onto the beach so you can enjoy a freshly BBQed fish dinner with your feet in the sand.
Here you’ll also find the Instagram famous spot of Coconut Tree Hill. It’s a short walk from the main beach and so worth a visit, although note that it’s not as special as some of the photos make it out to be and there are likely to be others trying to get the same photo as you. It is, though, a great place to spot turtles, which if you keep your eyes peeled you can see swimming among the rocks on the right-hand side.
Just up the road from Mirissa is the long beach of Weligama. If you came to Sri Lanka looking to learn to surf then Weligama is your place. The water here is very shallow, with waves the whole way along and a sandy bottom, making it the perfect place for beginner surfers. The beach is lined by surf schools all offering lessons or board rental for cheap prices, and you’ll see surfers in the water all day long.
If you want a break from surfing, head towards the Marriott Resort. This huge hotel sits towards the east of the beach, and is pretty hard to miss, but just before it is a new development of restaurants, bars and small shops. There’s free to use bean bags in the shade of the palm trees and it’s a great place to just hang out. Plus you’ll find the best ice cream in the whole of Sri Lanka at the Isle of Gelato shop here.
Unawatuna is regarded as a bit of a backpackers paradise but in reality it’s simply perfect for any type of traveller. A small little village with one small road running through it, it’s a lot more walkable than the other places on this list which tend to be set along the main road. The beach is lined with bars and restaurants with free-to-use sunbeds when you buy a drink, and there’s a lively party vibe in the evenings, and especially on the weekend.
Diving is also a big thing here, with the eastern side of the beach being home to a number of highly rated dive schools offering trips for as little as €30 for 2 dives.
If you want a break from traditional Sri Lankan food or feel like a bit more of a fancy brunch, Skinny Toms is the place to come. Serving great coffee, delicious cakes and a variety of excellent brunch dishes (including amazing Sri Lankan egg hoppers) it’s the perfect place to spend a morning away from the beach.
7. Hiriketiya Beach
Although it’s along the popular south coast, Hiriketiya Beach is a true hidden gem. Just next to the small village of Dickwella and the longer beach there, it hasn’t seen the development of some of the other southern beach towns, but it sure won’t be long. A perfect semicircular bay, it’s extremely picturesque, with just a handful of restaurants and accommodation options and a great spot for surfing.
Sri Lanka hosts a number of beautiful beaches, the ones on this list and plenty of others, and there are surely more just waiting to be discovered. Be sure to visit some of the suggestions on this list during your trip.
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