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The 10 Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

Last updated : November 14th, 2019

beaches in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka was a trip of a lifetime! In the 4 years I have been traveling with Bailey, few countries have left such an impression on me.

Not only did we travel the entire country in a tuk-tuk that we rented but we also visited so many amazing places like Lipton Seat, the Nine Arch Bridge, and more!

However, if you ask me what shocked me the most about Sri Lanka, I would have to say it was the beaches.

I mean I expected the friendly smiles and the breathtaking wildlife encounters, but I never imagined being so blown away by Sri Lanka’s stunning coastlines.

From the west coast to the east coast the white sand beaches that surround this tiny island nation are gorgeous.

Despite the stunning coastline, there are a few beaches that stood out from the rest, and in my opinion, are the best beaches in Sri Lanka!

So what are they and where can you find them?

Well, keep reading and I’ll give you a great insight into the best beaches in Sri Lanka and where you’ll need to go to see them!

Related Read:   15 Best Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka

The Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

1. Secret Beach, Mirissa

Secret Beach in Mirissa is the best beach to relax at in Sri Lanka
Not a bad place to relax and easily one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka!
Location:Southern coastline only a 5-minute drive
from the town of Mirissa.
Rating: 5/5 – The natural pool formed between the beach
and the rocks makes this beach nothing short
of perfect!

Who wants to visit a “secret beach” in one of the most touristic beach towns in Sri Lanka?

Of course, you’ve answered yes!

Secret Beach is a tiny secluded beach located in Mirissa. It was one of the first beaches I visited and one of the best things to do in Mirissa. To say the least, this tiny secluded bay blew me away!

From Mirissa, the beach is only a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride away. Once there, you’re welcomed with crystal clear water in a calm bay that’s protected by rocks from the harsh swells.

At the beach, there is a small restaurant where you can buy food and drinks and they also rent lounge chairs for around $3 USD a day.

These days the beach isn’t that “secret” anymore and its shores fill up with tourists every day, however, it’s still one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka!

You can book a day tour to Mirissa from Negombo that inlcudes a visit to Secret Beach, or even better book a few nights in Mirissa!

2. Polhena Beach, Matara

enjoying the shallow waters of Polhena Beach, Sri Lanka
Calm waters, pearly white sand, and amazing wildlife!
Location:Southern Coast, 30-minute drive from the
town of Mirissa, or 10 minutes from the city
of Matara.
Rating:5/5 – You almost guaranteed to see huge sea
turtles here!

Picture this! A huge calm bay filled with crystal clear water 3 feet deep for hundreds of meters. Now take that picture in your head and fill that water with huge wild turtles!

Well, that’s what you can expect at Polhena Beach (aka Turtle Beach) on Sri Lanka’s southern coast.

When I first stumbled upon this stunning beach I was shocked. Not only at the wildlife but also the lack of people. I mean why weren’t more people visiting? Well, I quickly forgot about that and spent my time snorkeling with turtles for the entire afternoon.

To get to Polhena Beach you’ll need to take a 30-minute car ride south if you’re staying in Mirissa. At the beach, you can rent snorkeling gear and there is also a turtle hatchery on the beach. Here you can, on occasion, see baby turtles being released.

If you want to stay closer to Polhena Beach for a few nights there are lots of accommodation options available that you can book online! You can also stay in Matara which is only a 10-minute drive to Polhena. From there you can do a snorkeling tour to Polhena Beach.

This is easily the best place in Sri Lanka to swim with wild turtles for free and I can’t recommend visiting Polhena Beach enough!  

3. Hikkaduwa Beach

Hikkaduwa Beach Sri Lanka
Location:Within the town of Hikkaduwa on the south coast
Rating:3/5 – There is lots to do at the beach and town,
but the beach itself isn’t the most beautiful on this list

Hikkaduwa is another very popular town along Sri Lanka south coast. It’s famous for amazing seafood, very affordable prices, and that “laid back” beach vibe that makes for a great holiday!

What I loved most about the beach though was the diversity of things to do in Hikkaduwa. Not only was Hikkaduwa Beach a great place to relax in the sun but you could also swim with turtles, surf, paddleboard, snorkel, and see baby turtles being released!

Basically, you could spend days here and do something different every day!

Hikkaduwa Beach is also one of the closet beach towns to Colombo and is a great first stop on a trip around Sri Lanka! Just don’t forget to book your hotel in advance as the best accommodation sells out fast!

You can book your transfer from Colombo airport straight to Hikkaduwa here!

4. Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
There are so many cool bars and restaurants that you can find happy hour deals at any time of the day!
Location:Right n the town of Mirissa on Sri Lanka’s
southern coastline
Rating: 4/5 – A massive beach with the best vibe – perfect
for surfing or partying!

I love Mirissa Beach for something very different from most of the beaches on this list.

The reason?

Mirissa Beach isn’t the best beach for swimming at nor laying on the sand and soaking up the sun. You see, the beach is lined with restaurants and although that can negatively impact a beach, Mirissa is different.

But why?

It’s the atmosphere! To say the least it’s electric and the all-day happy hour specials only make it better! There’s just something about Mirissa Beach that makes you want to sit back and enjoy a nice cold drink and watch time go by!

Mirissa is also one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see Blue Whales – the largest animal on earth! You can book a whale watching boat tour and see these incredible animals for yourself before returning to the beach for an ice-cold beverage!

For many, Mirissa will be high on your list of best places to visit in Sri Lanka and rightly so. There are actually a ton of awesome things to do in Mirissa and enjoying the bars that line the beach is just one of them!

Check out all of the amazing accomodation in Mirissa online – if you book in advance you’ll likely score a place right on the beach!

5. Unawatuna Beach

stilt fisherman Sri Lanka
Seeing the stilt fisherman do their thing!
Location:Right next to the town of Unawatuna along
Sri Lanka’s southern coast
Rating:3/5 – Great for surfing but a little bit on the
busy side

Unawatuna is a cute coastal town located smack bang in the middle between Hikkaduwa and Mirissa. It’s easily visited from either place and is a common stop on a southern coast road trip!

Unawatuna is easily the most famous beach in Sri Lanka so I just had to include it in my list! But what is it that makes it so great?

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s worth the hype.

The beach was made famous by Instagram but in my opinion, it’s not the best beach in Sri Lanka like the hype suggests. The beach itself can be very overcrowded and there are lots of sellers who walk the beach and tend to annoy those who don’t want to shop.

You can also often see the famous Stilt Fishman at Unawatuna Beach. While this is a very interesting and impressive way to fish, it is very authentic and most of the fisherman only do the job for payment from tourists (not to actually catch any fish.)

With that said, Unawatuna is still beautiful and well worth a visit if you don’t mind crowds and vendors! There are also plenty of great tours and experiences to keep you busy like surfing!

I guess we had such high expectations on this beach so we were a little disappointed overall!

Be sure to book your accomodation in Unawatuna in advance online!

Check out some great tours in Sri Lanka…

6.  Nilaveli Beach

Nilaveli Beach Sri Lanka
Beautiful sunsets at Nilaveli Beach
Location:In the town of Nilaveli, only a 15-minute
drive from Trincomalee on the east coast
Rating:5/5 – Quiet, clean, and utterly beautiful!

My first beach on the east coast is the small, but the beautiful, beach of Nilaveli. To be honest, picking the best beaches on the east coast was hard because they were all amazing!

It’s an easy bet to say the east coast has the best beaches in Sri Lanka. It’s the calm waters, beautiful sands, lack of people, and unpolluted water – they are the perfect ingredients for a great beach!

Well, Nilaveli has all of that and compared to other popular beaches around Sri Lanka, is far less crowded!

I loved the local town vibe that was rather un-touristic. Many of the budget to luxury hotels in Nilaveli are homestays with only a few rooms. There are lots of local restaurants around and the town itself is very cheap. One of the best places to relax was at Mama’s Juice Bar right on the beach!

Nilaveli is a great beach to relax at and escape the larger crowds that other beaches in Sri Lanka attract!

You can book a wide variety of tours in Nilaveli including airport transfers.

7. Dutch Bay, Trincomalee

Dutch Bay, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Not sure how a beach this beautiful is empty!
Location:Within the city of Trincomalee on the east coast
Rating:4/5 – Small and quiet beach that’s very easy to get to!

Dutch Bay is the least known beach on this list but one of the most beautiful!

It’s located right in the city of Trincomalee outside of the Maritime Museum and near Fort Frederick. Local Sri Lankan’s love this beach, but for some reason, it’s remained off the tourist trail. During the week the beach isn’t busy at all and there is plenty of sand to relax on!

Dutch Bay is dead calm because of the direction the bay faces. Its sand is pearly white and the water is crystal clear – you really can’t ask for much more!

Oh, except the fact we were also informed that the bay is regularly visited by a pod of around 200 dolphins! Of course, you’ll have to be lucky to see them, but it’s still an awesome opportunity.

You can book your accomodation in Trincomalee here!

Related Read:   17 Things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

8. Marble Beach

Marble Beach, Trincomalee Sri Lanka
Marble beach was my favorite beach in Sri Lanka. The water here is so beautiful and a must-visit!
Location:A 30-minute drive from Trincomalee on the
east coast
Rating:5/5 – This is my absolute FAVOURITE beach
in Sri Lanka

I know I say this a lot, but I’m serious this time! Marble Beach is my favorite beach in Sri Lanka!

The reason?

It’s the cleanest, most well preserved and looked-after beach in the country. You see, Marble Beach is owned by the Sri Lankan navy and they both patrol and look after the beach.

For this reason, it’s rubbish-free, safe, and a great place to spend some time relaxing on the stunning white sand! There is also some corals you can snorkel near the beach and you can rent equipment right from the lifeguards.

The beach is located around a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride from Trincomalee. This coastal area is also famous for whale watching tours and a great place to do it in Sri Lanka.

There’s also a really well-priced restaurant that serves amazing seafood and drinks at the beach! Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Marble Beach and I guarantee you will too!

9. Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay, one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka
Arugam Bay at sunset
Location:Sri Lanka’s south-eastern coast only 4km
from the small town of Pottuvil
Rating: 4/5 – Perfect for surfing

Arugam Bay is easily the most popular beach on the east coast of Sri Lanka. This stunning bay is famous for surfing and the laid back lifestyle that comes along with it.

The best time to surf in Arugam Bay is between the months of May to October when the swells on the west coast disappear.

There are plenty of cheap places to stay, board rental shops, and surf schools around. And the best part? It’s surprisingly cheap!

If you’re not a surfer, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of other things to do around Arugam Bay and the nightlife is one thing that attracts many!

One of the best and most famous party hostels is the newly opened Hangover Hostel. Here you can enjoy a great social atmosphere that may have you missing the better part of your day!

You can book transfers and tours in Arugam Bay in advance online to avoid any hassle while you’re on holidays!

10. Pigeon Island

pigeon island near trincomalee
Swimming beach and bay on Pigeon Island National Park just off the shore of Nilaveli beach in Trincomalee Sri Lanka
Location:An island off the east coast near Trincomalee
and Nilaveli
Rating:4/5 – Great for snorkeling a but a little bit
expensive to get to

Pigeon Island is a small island off the coast of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The entire island and the surrounding water is actually a national park and is protected because of its very beautiful and unique ecosystems.

One of the biggest drawcards to Pigeon Island is the marine life which includes turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks. These guys are so common in the area that you’re almost guaranteed to see them!

Tours to Pigeon Island run from Trincomalee or Niliveli. Although not cheap, most of the funds do go towards preserving the national park!

Pigeon Island is the most unique beach on this list and a worthy beach to finish this list with.

Related Read:   14 Best Things to do in Haputale, Sri Lanka

And there you have it – the 10 best beaches in Sri Lanka! These beaches are not only the most beautiful, but the ones that I think you’ll have the best time at!

Relax, snorkel, surf, and enjoy! I’m sure that Sri Lanka’s beaches will impress you just as much as they did for me!


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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