Sri Lanka is an island nation. That means we are surrounded by the ocean and here in South Asia, its the Indian ocean. Sri Lanka is very well known for its beaches. The white sandy East coasts, golden sandy South coast and the bronze North West. That’s right, the North West, specially the sands on the coast of Wilpattu National Park is bronze in color which also earned Sri Lanka one of its ancient names “Thambapanni”. Today, while some of these beaches have been visited by many travelers from around the world, its pristine nature and the thrill never ceases to exist.


So how do we answer this question? Simple. There is not one particular beach we can say is the best beach. I’d say it purely depends on what you are looking to do. If you are an avid surfer, someone who is looking to simply disconnect, or someone looking for a bit of nightlife, Sri Lanka being a small island, packs quite a punch. This article should help you decide where you want to go and when.

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The West coast beach starts from Negombo? Nope. I’d say it starts from Kalpitiya. Surrounded by many little fishing villages, Kalpitiya in the North West shores is one very laid back beach. A well known fact about Kalpitiya is the endless number of dolphin sightings you get to experience during a boat ride. Its island like structure on its own with a lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other side makes it very unique when compared to other beach spots in Sri Lanka. What’s fun is, Kalpitiya is more frequented by travelers during the off season when the winds are strong. Yes, this is the best place to test your skills at Kite Surfing in Sri Lanka.

Negombo which is about 2 hours South of Kalpitiya is one of the best “party” beaches in Sri Lanka which is also the closest beach destination to the International Airport. It’s only a 20 minute drive from the airport and generally a very lively location with a lot of hang out spots, great beach resorts (one even designed by Geoffrey Bawa) and good nightlife. We don’t recommend long stays here as it’s not as secluded but we think 2 to 3 nights before hopping on a plane headed home or as you land in Sri Lanka is the best time to get acquainted with Negombo.

After Negombo, the next beach spot is Colombo. Yes, it is also the financial capital of Sri Lanka and the busiest of all. While it’s a great city for night life and amazing cuisine, the beach here is somewhat inaccessible around the heart of Colombo but further South towards Mount Lavinia, it gets better. Two colonial Hotels boast their presence overlooking the Colombo beach. What’s best in Colombo is the combined view of a developing city and the ocean.

As you travel further South of Sri Lanka you come across more amazing beaches to sit and relax on. Starting from Wadduwa the whole coastal route from there on is all amazing beach locations. Kalutara and Bentota once were considered the luxury suburb for the Colombo elites. Back in time, these 2 cities were the go to locations to put up private beach bungalows and villa’s which have today been converted into amazing boutique properties. Locations beyond Bentota are somewhat towards the South coast.

The South coast is one of Sri Lanka’s most rewarding places to visit. This is the island in a microcosm: gorgeous beaches, colonial townscapes. Stilt fishermen, superb wildlife parks and Buddhist shrines and plenty of temples

Ideally, the South coast starts with Hikkaduwa. A name known around the world for its nightlife. Somewhat overrated these days, but Hikkaduwa starts the surfing culture that goes on to the rest of the South coast. With new off-the-beaten path beaches coming to light, Hikkaduwa is now more frequented by local travelers than foreign although that changes completely during the Winter. Hikkaduwa is also famous for snorkeling. Probably the only place in Sri Lanka where you can take a glass bottom boat ride to see the underwater glamour. Hikkaduwa is home to the many dive shops as well.

Galle for example, is a great beach destination. Travelers from around the world know Galle Fort but not what’s around Galle which I have already covered above. Galle Fort however, is not really a beach spot, It’s more a colonial city (Really tiny when compared to the many others around the world) with its old world charm. Best to spend 2 nights here than more because it’s quite busy during Winter and Summer equally. The preserved architecture from the 16th Century to the 20th Century while being occupied by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British is one of its main attractions..

The next most notable beach spot is Unawatuna. Unawatuna is a very cozy beach spot. One of the best beach stretches and one of my personal favorites to spend the New Years Eve. Unawatuna is frequented by a lot of European travelers. You will meet many locals who speaks a combination of European languages here. Unawatuna is also one of the best places to go Diving. During winter, when the water is clear, you will see a lot of travelers on boats heading to catch a glimpse of the marine life.

Followed by Unawatuna are a galore of beaches that are perfect for Surfing. Thalpe, Ahangama, Midigama, Weligama, Mirissa are some well known spots frequented by surfers. During the winter season, you will see many on the line ups from sun-up to sun-down. Weligama is perfect for beginners as it’s a bay which is less affected by the winds while Mirissa consists of advanced surf breaks that’s perfect for goofy footers. The water is turquoise blue in the South coasts and Mirissa is one of the best examples to see that. Mirissa also has a large fishing harbor and is also a well known starting point for whale watching enthusiasts.

From here on, the beaches are more for relaxing. Locations like Dickwella, Tangalle, Hambantota all have great many resorts and boutique villa’s perfect for those who are looking for a bit of luxury and seclusion. This doesn’t mean the other spots I mentioned above don’t have that, but these cities are more laid back. It takes close to 6 hours to reach these locations from the Airport. That means it’s not the best option for a quick getaway stay.

After Yala National Park, or rather Kumana National Park (Yala East), is where we draw the line between the South and East Coasts. The South East coast is very different, the lifestyle is far more laid back than the South coast, less touristic a decade ago, but with the increased fame for surfing and the backpacking culture, the South East coast started seeing a great influx of travelers. Places like Arugam bay, Okanda, Panama are great for Surfing. Arugam bay is in fact a location that hosts a WSL (World Surf League) event once a year. The main left break is one of the most sought surf breaks in the whole of South Asia.

From Arugam bay, further towards the North are beaches that are more known to seafood lovers. Batticaloa is home for some of the best sea crab in Sri Lanka. Batticaloa even has its own crab curry named after the city which has earned a bit of worldly fame.

From Batticaloa, the next best beach you can stay and relax on is Pasikuda. A planned beach spot perfect for travelers who are looking to rest and relax. One stretch of beach in Pasikuda consists of some world class resorts but the 8 hour drive from Colombo discourages the short stay travelers. While there are not many places to stay in these locations, it’s less recommended for its remote nature and accessibility.

The best East coast beach however, is, Trincomalee. The amazing white sand, the thick bush jungles closer to the shore makes Trincomalee one of the world’s most sought after beach destinations. Like Pasikuda, the location of Trincomalee discourages short stay travelers. Trincomalee is also home to a Natural seaport and is one of the best places for wreck diving. Yes, history dating back to World War II lies under the water of the Trincomalee shore

Sri Lanka is a tropical country where a bit of rain is also expected here and there all throughout the year. We recognize the major changes in 2 main seasons; Winter and Summer. Winter is from November to about April (the following year). Summer is from May to October of each year.

The best area to travel during winter is the West & South coast. The waters are much calmer, the land breeze makes it easier for surfers to catch long unbroken waves and of course the humidity that makes these coasts very warm. Since most part of Winter season in Sri Lanka coincides with European Winter, many travel to Sri Lanka just to escape the chills.

So naturally Summer is summer almost everywhere. The west and south coast will be windy and the waves will be choppy. It’s alright to travel and relax. But, if you are on a summer holiday, would you really want to go to a beach that is not going to be much fun? East coast however, is very calm during the Summer period. So surfing, diving and other fun beach activities can be done here while relaxing.

I did leave out a few names which I think are best left alone to be more secret hide outs. If I told you all about it here, you wouldn’t appreciate its beauty and the trouble you would take to reach those spots. Sometimes what you get to do in these locations are what makes them special.

Hint: Secret Surf Breaks, Surfing and snorkeling with turtles, blow holes, cliff tops… Yep. Sri Lanka has it all.

Planning a beach holiday? speak to one of our experts. Just drop us an email on info@panoramicvacations.com