The coastline of Sri Lanka provides hundreds of miles of golden sandy beaches, with palm trees and crystal blue waters. Natural harbours, lagoons and coral reefs are just some of the sights you can see, and the tropical climate provides the perfect setting for a relaxing trip to the beach.
Sri Lanka has approximately about 300 hotels in the entire country (in contrast to over 50,000 in the UK), and so the beaches are not crowded. From any of the beach resorts, there are a wide variety of day excursions which provides visitors many options apart from the beach. Sri Lanka has two monsoons, the first in May / June, and the second in October / November.
On average there is over six hours of sunshine a year. The South West monsoon affects the sea on the south west coast only in May and June. There will be occasional rain showers on the south west coast, but there is an average of six hours of sunshine a day. Heavy rain is generally experienced in the evening for two hours. The seas on the south west coast are best November to April, which is why most diving is done at this time of year.
The North East monsoon affects the sea on the East coast only in October and November, however the beaches on the East coast are not currently developed. Occasional heavy rains in the cultural triangle can also be expected. Average temperatures are around 80F or 27C, and April is the hottest month of the year. Humidity year round is around 60-70%.
The following are some of the more popular beach resorts in the Sri Lanka amongst travellers from the UK & Ireland.
You can also check out Sri Lanka Beaches on our live Google Map:
Negombo is very popular as it is only 30 minutes or so from the airport, and nearby Lewis Place is a hive of activity. Most of the hotels are on a stretch of beach a few minutes north of the town and there is a variety of accommodation standards as well as many small bars and restaurants. This beach resort is popular for those who like to have a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from outside their hotel. The beach is very wide and the town itself is based around the fishing community. An early morning visit to the harbour to watch the fisherman bring back their catch is popular, and some travellers buy fresh fish and get their hotel or a restaurant to provide a barbeque for cooking.
Mount Lavinia is just 30 minutes drive south of Colombo's city centre, making it by default the city's beach resort. The Mount Lavinia Hotel, the old colonial home of British Governor Barnes, is now the biggest landmark on the beach. The hotel also celebrated its 200 year centenary in 2006. With a view of Colombo's skyline and a magnificent beach, the pool terrace provides a nice spot to enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea or an arrack (local coconut based spirit) at sunset.
There are many smaller hotels and guest houses on the coast. This is a popular base for those who wish to spend some time exploring Colombo whilst on the beach. A train ride to Colombo is the fastest way to get into the capital.
Wadduwa / Kalutara
Wadduwa and Kalutara are the first beach resort areas south of Colombo. Whilst there are many hotels along this stretch they are interspersed between little villages, so village life continues unaffected. There is little activity outside the hotels, and this means that travellers who are in search of a non-touristic experience enjoy this area. Kalutara town is a bustling with activity.
Beruwela is one of the most active beaches. Protected by a reef, the water is very calm, shallow and the beach wide. There are many hotels all literally next to each other which means that the beach is a great meeting place. It is common to find cricket, beach volley ball or football games being played on the beach.
Bentota is the premier beach resort region in Sri Lanka and is home to some of the finest luxury and upmarket hotels, resorts and Spa retreats in the world. Situated where the river meets the sea, Bentotota beach faces both the ocean and also has a tropical lagoon and river, and offers a huge array of water and water based adventure activities including swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, jet-ski, windsurfing, parasailing and river safaris.
Many of the hotels have the river on one side and the beach on the other. The beach is one of the widest and calmest on the south west coast, and the river also allows for excursions up river and also for sea planes to land on the river for quick transfers to other parts of the country. Bentota is excellent for all: families, couples and honeymooners.
The next bay along south of Bentota is where many of the small boutique hotels are also situated. The town of Bentota is very small, but most people visit the town just north called Aluthgama which is a few minutes away. There are very few restaurants outside the main hotels.
Hikkaduwa is one of Sri Lanka's main surfing beaches. Seeing dozens of surfers out at sea at 6.30am is a common site, as is partying at one of the many beach bars till well past midnight. Hikkaduwa is for the young and young at heart. There are a few established hotels, and many small guest houses. Once popular for snorkelling and diving, many steps are being made to re-establish the protection of coral in the area.
Galle: (whale watching nearby)
Galle is arguably the best known coastal town. The Dutch Fort is one of Sri Lanka's UNESCO World Heritage site and home to some of Sri Lanka's best boutique hotels and houses. The Cricketing Test ground of Galle is another well known venue and one that thousands of English cricket supporters have come to know and love. Galle is also home to the second harbour for the country (the first being Colombo). Galle is also an important economic town, a town with colonial links and buildings, and one where cottage industries like lace making, ebony carving and gem polishing are still practiced.
In Galle, directly in front of the old Dutch Fort are the Sea Baths and Jungle Beach, a natural 'hard to get to' beach that delivers a true unspoilt 'out of the ordinary experience. West of Galle before busy Hikkaduwa is a series of unspoilt clean beaches located between Narigama and Dodanduwa.
Vijaya beach, 10 kms from Galle with a great beach restaurant right on the beach is like your local pub (but with a beach/tropical twist!) back in the UK as a lot of expatriate Brits gather at this well known watering spot. It has a small natural lagoon and a (sort of!) natural jacuzzi in the rocks. It's usually not frequented by locals either.
Talpe is a kilometre stretch of wide pristine white sand with a reef, so much of it is safe for swimming with some parts also good for surfing.
Unawatuna, the first bay around about 5km southward from Galle is a lovely and unspoilt beach that is great for diving, snorkelling, wave surfing and deep-sea fishing. This lovely 4km crescent sweep is unofficially ranked as amongst the twelve best beaches in the world. It has superb sheltered areas for swimming, and a fairly accessible and well-preserved coral reef for snorkelling.
For scuba divers, there are several wreck dives about 30-40 minutes out from the beach by boat. This natural bay is home to a relaxed beach community of guest houses and restaurants on the beach. Many of the guest houses are on the beach, and during the day the beach is dotted with beach umbrellas and sun worshippers lying at the edge of the waters. The more adventurous go snorkelling in the calm Indian Ocean before an afternoon siesta. By night, the beach transforms itself with bars, music and great fresh seafood restaurants.