Best Beaches in Sri Lanka – What to Expect and When to Go

July 25, 2017

Are you about to travel in Sri Lanka and planning to spend a few days at the beach during your trip?

Choosing which beach is right for your holiday in Sri Lanka is important – as the weather and conditions at Sri Lanka’s beaches can vary quite a lot from each other at exactly the same time.

For example, it could be raining at one beach and perfect at another at the same time. Either way, you don’t want to get your timing wrong. Nothing ruins a beach holiday like rain and rough seas and no sunshine! Knowing where to go and when for a beach stay in Sri Lanka is important.

We often get asked by our travellers to include a beach stay in Sri Lanka when we are creating a custom made Sri Lanka holiday for them.

Sri Lanka’s beaches are spread over different coasts – from the east to the south and west.

So here are a few pointers to help you decide which beach is best for you during your tour of Sri Lanka.

Aragum Bay

#1 Aragum Bay

Aragum Bay on the east coast of Sri Lanka is primarily a mecca for surfers. Long known for its different breaks and beaches surrounding the main town – the region still attracts a large surfing crowd and younger travellers. Large parts of the coast here are rough and unsuitable for swimming, (but good for seasoned surfers), though the main bay around the town has a popular beach area for swimming, boogie boarding and learning to surf.

Aragum Bay has a relaxed and casual atmosphere. There’s a noticeable fun, carnival-like atmosphere on the main beach – as people learn to surf, crashing and tumbling off boards and laughing, kids ride boogie boards and people enjoy the sunshine and cool water. There are dozens of shops hiring surfboards and offering lessons. There are plenty of bars and cafes by the beach, which lends itself to people lingering and having a good time. At night there is a party scene if you are looking for it. You can visit Aragum Bay any time from March to September. If you don’t want to surf and have small kids, this isn’t the beach for you. There are also limited options for high-end hotels here.

#2 Trincomalee

Trincomalee is also on the east coast of Sri Lanka. You can fly direct here from Colombo in under an hour, versus a drive of about 7 hours, making it the best option in terms of accessibility for a beach stay on the east coast of the country. Trincomalee is a better option for families – as the water is not as rough as places like Aragum Bay. If you are also looking for a spot with sandy beaches and the sweeping bays, Trincomalee is it.

From Trincomalee, there are also options for day trips – you can visit Pigeon Island, as well as go snorkelling and diving. While there is less of a `scene’  than Aragum Bay – there are a few restaurants and cafes if you want to dine outside your hotel/resort. There’s also Trincomalee itself, which is interesting for a half-day trip to see the fort, temple, fish market and local town. The best time to visit is again March to September. The stand out resort here is Jungle Beach by UGA Escapes, with its private beach frontage, lovely pool and natural environment. What we love about Jungle Beach is as the name suggests, the resort is set among the jungle. It’s not a standard, built up resort, rather individuals cabins dotted among the trees.

#3 Pasikuda

Pasikuda is also on the east coast – in between Trincomalee and Aragum Bay. Most of the resorts are located along the one main beach area. Again, these beaches are more suited to families – with sandy beaches and no real break for surfing. The downside at Pasikuda is there are not may options for dining outside your hotel, except to visit one of the other resorts nearby or for a basic meal of rice and curry in a simple local restaurant. So you will likely end up eating at your hotel/resort for most of your stay. Like the other beaches on the east coast, March to September is the best window to travel to this part of Sri Lanka.

#4 Bentota

Bentota is a popular beach option for visitors to Sri Lanka as it’s easily accessible from Colombo; you can reach Bentota from Sri Lanka’s international airport in about 2 hours. The beaches are nice here, though there is more development so you don’t see the wide sandy beaches, with sweeping bays that you find on the east coast. One of the good things about Bentota though is there are lots of restaurants and small hotels in the area, so there are plenty of options for meals. There are a lot of hotels to choose from at Bentota, with standards and prices to suit all budgets. There are also many private villas in Bentota, which are great for families or groups of friends travelling in Sri Lanka together. Bentota is a good option for a beach stay during the months June, July and August, and January to March.

#5 Negombo

Located about 20 mins from Colombo airport, many people often have a stay at Negombo when they arrive for their tour of Sri Lanka or at the end.

We don’t rate Negombo at all – we think it’s past its prime. Unless you are at a high-end hotel, which maintains its stretch of beach, we don’t think the beaches here are nice. Best avoided.

#6 Batticaloa

For the most down to earth and undiscovered beach in Sri Lanka, this small town on the east coast has a nice sandy beach, popular with locals. The area has a few good options for homestays and guests houses. There’s no scene at all – so if you want a few restaurants and bars, this isn’t the spot for you. Batticaloa can be a good option if you are more adventurous and want to avoid the crowds, and see a bit of local Sri Lanka. You aren’t likely to run into many, if any, other foreigners here. Again, February to September is the time to go.

A stay at any of these beaches of Sri Lanka can be included in a custom made Sri Lanka itinerary. We can also recommend a variety of accommodation options along the coasts.

You may also like to read our other Sri Lankan travel tips –  When is the best time to travel in Sri Lanka and Discover Sri Lanka’s Best Experiences and Luxury Hotels.