Sri Lanka holidays: Beaches for everyone

A small tear-drop shaped island off the southern coast of India, Sri Lanka is often called the jewel of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautiful country with a lot to recommend it as a holiday destination, from the hustle and bustle of Colombo and Kandy, to the splendours of the ancient city of Sigiriya, and abundance of wildlife. But no trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without exploring some of its brilliant beaches. Sri Lanka's beaches are world famous, with many protected as heritage sites.

Sri Lanka holidays with fantastic beaches
Sri Lanka holidays with fantastic beaches © Anton Gvozdikov -

Sri Lanka holidays: beaches for everyone

There really is a beach for every mood in Sri Lanka, and, thanks to its relatively dinky size, there is no need to pick just one. Travelling between them is easy, either on tourist buses if you are feeling adventurous or by hiring a car and driver. Below is a guide of some beaches to consider:

1. Chilled out surfer: Arugam Bay

For a beach where the vibe is uber-relaxed, the waves are exciting and the dreadlocked outnumber the non-dreadlocked look no further than Arugam Bay on the south-east coast. The hotel options are low key, including a number of beach huts run by colourful characters, who came on a holiday and never left.

Arugam Beach, Sri Lanka
Arugam Beach, Sri Lanka © Dhammika Heenpella - Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The main beach is covered in fishing boats, but a short walk will bring you to the surfing spots that earned Arugam Bay a place in the top 10 surf beaches in the world. Arugam Bay also hosts an annual surf competition, which attracts pro and amateur surfers from around the world.

2. Five star luxury: Negombo

One of the closer beaches to the capital city of Colombo is the lovely Negombo, a traditional sandy beach with plenty of world-class hotels and restaurants. Negombo is conveniently located near to the airport, so would be a great option for a few days of relaxation before leaving the island.

Misty dawn on Negombo Beach
Misty dawn on Negombo Beach © Peter Chou Kee Liu - Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The well-heeled visitors to this beach enjoy its buzzing nightlife and party scene, the smart shops and chic seafood restaurants. The many historical buildings in the town make it as appealing away from the sand as on it.

There are some truly unique and special luxury resorts popping up in Sri Lanka, it is worth searching for something a bit different. For the luxury experience, many 5-star hotels will let you use their facilities for a small fee, although this may result in a rather deflated feeling when returning to a beach hut with no air con.

3. Underwater adventurer: Unawatuna and Trincomalee

Sri Lanka has many wonderful spots to explore beneath the waves for the experienced and novice scuba diver. The hub of the 'scuba scene' is probably Unawatuna near the fort town of Galle, which has remarkable biodiversity and is where the serious divers hang out.

Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka © Bernard Gagnon - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Another option for great diving is up at Trincomalee in the Northeast especially if you are visiting Sri Lanka between April and October. The beaches at Trincomalee are gorgeous and you will find more of a mix of holidaymakers. With hot springs and day trips to nearby islands, Trincomalee would be best for a group including hard-core divers and those who prefer to keep their heads above water.

4. Nature Lover: Mirissa Beach

For me no look at Sri Lanka's coast would be complete without a mention of Mirissa Beach on the southern tip of the island. It is secluded with fewer tourists than other beaches and it is simply stunning, like a cartoon tropical paradise.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka © Peter Q - Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Most of the accommodation options are fairly basic, but it is worth the small possibility of sharing a room with a cockroach to see the sunsets here. They are out of this world, breath-taking, life changing sunsets; I can still see them when I shut my eyes.

Sri Lanka holidays: even more beaches

This barely scratches the surface of what Sri Lanka holidays has to offer in the beach department. Also worth noting are Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Kalkuda, and Pasikuda, although watch out for the cows on Pasikuda, they can be feisty.

Weather wise, the best time for Sri Lanka holidays is between the end of December and the beginning of April. Sri Lanka has quite a unique climate, with the east and west of the island having slightly different timings to their wet seasons. Generally the east of the island is slightly hotter and drier than the west, especially during the northern hemisphere summer, while in the mountains rain is spread more evenly through the year.

For the latest deals on beach holidays to Sri Lanka visit Mercury Holidays and TUI. Alternatively, visit our dedicated holiday deals page for more special offers and last minute deals.

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Tillie Sklair

Tillie Sklair

Article updated on Monday 7th October 2013 in: Adventure Asia Beach Nature

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