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10 BEST Beaches in Sri Lanka – ULTIMATE Sri Lanka Beach Holiday Guide

10 BEST Beaches in Sri Lanka – ULTIMATE Sri Lanka Beach Holiday Guide

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If you want to see the best beaches in Sri Lanka, then you’re in the right place. In this blog, we’ve narrowed down the hundreds of amazing beaches in Sri Lanka to the absolute TOP 10! We’ve also included important information to help make your Sri Lanka beach holiday the best possible!

Sri Lanka was a trip of a lifetime! In the 5 years, I have been traveling with Bailey, few countries have left such an impression on me. And in all honestly, the amazing beaches in Sri Lanka were one of the best parts!

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!

Where are the Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

The truth is that there is no one particular area where all of the best beaches in Sri Lanka are. Instead, all of these amazing beaches are spread across the country.

Each beach, and beach area, has something different to offer tourists. On the southern coast, you’ll find the busy tourist beaches perfect for a luxurious holiday. And on the east, you’ll find surf beaches. Head up further north to Trincomalee and you’ll find snorkeling, wildlife, and calm waters.

Above, I’ve mapped out the 10 beaches listed in this blog. That way, you can easily choose an area for your Sri Lanka beach holiday and visit a couple of the best beaches nearby.

Unsure of what beach and area are best for you?

Well, keep reading below and I’ll let you know what makes each beach special and why!

Related read: Check out the best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka

10 Absolute BEST Beaches in Sri Lanka

1. Secret Beach, Mirrisa

Relaxing in calm water at Secret Beach in Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Not a bad place to relax and is easily one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka!

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 beach blew me away!

From Mirissa, Secret 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” and its shores fill up with tourists every day, however, it’s still one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka! My best advice is to visit Secret Beach first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon when it is least busy. During midday is when the majority of tourists visit.

bailey sitting in the calm water at Secret Beach, Sri Lanka
Bailey enjoying the calm waters of Secret Beach

Enjoy a Beach Holiday near Secret Beach:

You can book day tours to Mirissa from Negombo that include a visit to Secret Beach. However, my recommendation would be to stay in the town of Mirissa for at least a few nights to have time to visit Secret Beach as well as a couple of the other beaches on this list.

There aren’t any great hotels within walking distance to Secret Beach. So instead, I recommend staying at a hotel near Mirissa Beach and then just jumping in a tuk-tuk to visit Secret Beach from there.

Paradise Beach Club is a reasonably priced hotel right on Mirissa Beach, only minutes from Secret Beach in a taxi or tuk-tuk. It has a beachside pool and would fit in most travelers’ budgets!

Secret Beach is best visited between the months of November and March. During this time, there isn’t much rain!

2. Polhena Beach

enjoying the shallow waters of Polhena Beach, Sri Lanka
Calm waters, pearly white sand, and amazing wildlife!

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 sea 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 tourists enjoying this gorgeous beach? 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 drive 30-minutes south if you’re staying in Mirissa. Most tourists come to Polhena Beach on a day trip from Mirissa, but you can also visit from Galle, Matara, Unawatuna, or other nearby coastal towns.

At the beach, you can rent snorkeling gear so you can get a good look at the sea turtles. The turtles are 100% wild and they simply like this area for the calm waters. Respect the turtles and their space by not getting too close, not feeding them, and don’t touch them.

There is also a turtle hatchery on the beach. Here you can see baby turtles being released!

This is easily the best place in Sri Lanka to swim with wild turtles (for free!) and therefore one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. For wildlife lovers, I can’t recommend visiting Polhena Beach enough!  

sea turtle in sri lanka swimming in the ocean
At Polhena Beach you can swim with these massive sea turtles!

Enjoy you Beach Holiday near Polhena Beach:

Polhena Beach is centrally located not far from many of the tourist towns on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. For this reason, most people hire a driver and visit Polhena Beach on a day trip from Mirrisa (20-minutes away.)

With that said, if you want to stay closer to Polhena Beach for a few nights there are lots of accommodation options available! This area is beautiful and much less busy than in nearby towns like Mirissa. Amaloh Boutique Resort is gorgeous and perfectly located next to Polhena Beach.

You can also stay in Matara which is only a 10-minute drive to Polhena Beach. From there you can do a snorkeling tour to Polhena Beach.

3. Hikkaduwa Beach

Hikkaduwa Beach Sri Lanka
The beautiful Hikkaduwa Beach, Sri Lanka!

Hikkaduwa is another very popular town along Sri Lanka’s southern 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!

Sure, Hikkaduwa Beach isn’t the most beautiful in comparison to the others on this list (it isn’t huge and is often busy), but the wide variety of things to do there makes it one of my favorite beaches in Sri Lanka!

baby turtle runs hatches and runs for the water at hikkaduwa beach, Sri Lanka
The turtle hatchery at Hikkaduwa Beach means you can watch baby turtles race towards the ocean!

Enjoy a Beach Holiday at Hikkaduwa Beach:

Hikkaduwa Beach is one of the closest beach towns to Colombo and is a great first stop on a trip around Sri Lanka! In fact, you can actually book an affordable transfer to take you straight from the airport in Colombo to Hikkaduwa!

Hikkaduwa is also the perfect beach destination for your Sri Lanka holiday. There are tons of great hotels, lots to do, and amazing restaurants everywhere. Not to mention, its central location makes exploring other beaches, towns, and attractions easy!

My personal favorite hotel at Hikkaduwa Beach is Citrus Hikkaduwa. It is super affordable but also really nice with a beachfront pool. The hotel is located right on Hikkaduwa Beach and this spot is where you’ll most likely see turtles too!

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!

I love Mirissa Beach for something very different than the rest of the beaches in Sri Lanka.

The reason?

Mirissa Beach isn’t the best beach for swimming 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 Beach 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!

Parrot Rock in Mirissa Sri Lanka
The view from Parrot Rock of Mirissa Beach! It is a huge sandy beach and definitely one of the top in Sri Lanka!

Enjoy a Holiday at Mirissa Beach:

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!

I spent 4 nights at a hotel across the road from Mirissa Beach, and I loved it! I climbed Parrot Rock for an amazing view of Mirissa Beach, went snorkeling, whale watching, visited Coconut Tree Hill, and of course, relaxed at the nearby Secret Beach!

So, to me, Mirissa is a great place to base yourself for at least a couple of nights. In fact, you could easily enjoy a week or longer in Mirissa!

There are hundreds of hotels for all budgets to choose from in Mirissa. I stayed at a really cute guesthouse near Mirissa Beach called Green Garden Guesthouse Mirissa. This is the perfect budget option, but they don’t have a pool and are a 5-minute walk from the beach.

For something a little more luxurious, I’ve heard amazing things about Randiya Sea View Hotel. Here, you’re right on the beach with a delicious onsite restaurant and bar!

5. Unawatuna Beach

stilt fisherman in Sri Lanka
Seeing the stilt fisherman do their thing!

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 on this list! But what is it that makes Unawatuna Beach 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 very 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 not very authentic and most of the fishermen 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! It is rated as one of the top surf beaches in Sri Lanka.

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

Unawatuna beach sri lanka
Unawatuna Beach from above in Sri Lanka

Enjoy a Holiday at Unawatuna Beach:

Out of all of the beaches on Sir Lanka’s southern coast, Unawatuna was personally my least favorite. However, those who like to surf will enjoy this beach more than me. So if that’s you, be sure to book a hotel and spend a decent amount of time here catching the waves!

For everybody else, my recommendation would be to stay in Hikkaduwa or Mirissa nearby and visit Unawatuna Beach on a day trip. You can take a surfing lesson at Unawatuna Beach or even go scuba diving!

6.  Nilaveli Beach

Nilaveli Beach Sri Lanka
Beautiful sunsets at Nilaveli Beach.

My first beach on the east coast is the small, but beautiful, Nilaveli Beach. To be honest, picking the best beaches on Sri Lanka’s 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 sand, lack of people, and unpolluted water – they are the perfect ingredients for a great beach!

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

Eating dinner at Nilaveli Beach
Eating dinner at Nilaveli Beach

Enjoy a Holiday at Nilaveli Beach:

Many people visit Nilaveli on a day trip from Trincomalee. Since it is only a few minutes away, Nilaveli Beach is super easy to get to from Trincomalee – just jump in a tuk-tuk or taxi!

However, if you have time then you should consider staying a night or two in Nilaveli!

I loved the local town vibe that was rather un-touristic. Many of the hotels in Nilaveli are homestays or small guesthouses with only a few rooms. This makes them very cheap and staying there is a rather unique experience. And even though they are small family-run guesthouses, many are quite nice and comfortable!

We stayed at Suman Beach Rooms and it was great. Super cheap, great location, and the owners were so kind! But if you want something a little more luxurious, consider getting an entire cabana to yourself right on the beach!

There are lots of local restaurants around and Nilaveli Beach too. One of the best places to relax was at Mama’s Juice Bar right on the beach. They had lounge chairs and day beds, plus, they served delicious food!

Overall, Nilaveli Beach is a great beach to relax at and escape the larger crowds, that other beaches in Sri Lanka seem to attract – definitely a top choice for a beach in Sri Lanka!

7. Dutch Bay Beach

Dutch Bay, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
I’m still not sure how a beach this beautiful is empty!

Dutch Bay is the least known beach on this list of the best beaches in Sri Lanka, 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 Lankans 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 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.

Sunset drinks at Fernando's bar is a great way to spend an afternoon in Nilaveli
Sunset drinks at Fernando’s bar in Trincomalee!

Enjoy a Beach Holiday near Dutch Bay:

Dutch Bay is right in Trincomalee, so if you’re staying here, then you can easily visit! I recommend booking a hotel right on Uppuveli Beach as this is the tourist area of Trincomalee. Then, visit Dutch Bay one day with a tuk-tuk or taxi.

We stayed at Blue Sand Beach Resort. It was super cheap considering the prime beachfront location and large rooms with air-conditioning. From here, Dutch Bay Beach is only a short 5-10 minute drive away.

Amaranthe Bay Resort is another fancier hotel located in Trincomalee. This would be perfect for anyone looking for a luxurious stay near Uppuveli Beach and Dutch Bay Beach!

Trincomalee is such a cool city and besides beaches, there is a lot to do here! From whale watching to Pigeon Island (more on that below) to temples, it really has something for everyone. Be sure to check all of the many things to do in Trincomalee before you visit so you can be sure not to miss out!

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!

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 are also some corals you can snorkel near the beach and you can rent equipment right from the lifeguards.

This coastal area is also famous for whale watching tours and is a great place to do it in Sri Lanka from May until October.

There’s also a really well-priced restaurant that serves amazing seafood and drinks at Marble Beach called Ralla!

MArble Beach, Sri Lanka
Look at that gorgeous beach!

Enjoy a Holiday near Marble Beach:

There is only one place you can stay right at Marble Beach and that’s the Marble Beach Air Force Resort. This place is beautiful, and if you can afford it, stay here!

Otherwise, you can book one of the many hotels in Trincomalee and just visit Marble Beach for the day.

Once at Marble Beach, be sure to eat at Ralla restaurant, go snorkeling, and consider going for a hike up Diamond Hill! But most of all, just enjoy relaxing at one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka! You’re guaranteed to love Marble Beach!

9. Arugam Bay Beach

Arugam Bay, one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka
Arugam Bay, one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka

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. In fact, it is the most popular surf beach in the country!

Arugam Bay Beach is a white-sandy beach with tons of areas to relax. All restaurants and hotels run parallel to the beach, so no matter where you stay, you won’t be far from the beach.

Although not the best beach for non-surfers, if it’s still a very relaxing holiday spot that attracts plenty of tourists.

arugam bay sunset picnic
Arugam Bay Beach is also famous for amazing sunsets! Photo Credit: Kottukal Beach House

Enjoy a Holiday at Arugam Bay Beach:

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. You can also book a surf school where you’ll eat, breathe, and sleep surfing!

And the best part? It’s surprisingly cheap!

If you’re not a surfer, don’t worry, there are 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!

If you want a luxurious hotel, then your choices are more limited. Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing is the best in the area though and you won’t be disappointed!

10. Pigeon Island Beaches

Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka
Swimming beach on Pigeon Island National Park just off the shore of Nilaveli Beach in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit Big Stock

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 their 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 of all the beaches in Sri Lanka and definitely worth a visit!

A shark swims at Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka
A shark swims at Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka

Enjoy a Holiday near Pigeon Island:

There is no accommodation on Pigeon Island. You can only visit the island during the day and stay at a hotel in either Nilaveli or Trincomalee.

The only way to get to Pigeon Island is on a boat. You can either book an organized tour or just jump on a boat from Uppuveli Beach or Nilaveli Beach. The boat ride itself is cheap, but expect to pay more than $30 USD for the national park fee.

It is best to visit Pigeon Island during the week when fewer people are there. During the weekends, it can be very busy!

Getting Around Sri Lanka

tuk tuk parked at the beach in mirissa sri lanka
We rented a tuk-tuk for our entire trip around Sri Lanka.
Watching sunsets in Sri Lanka from our tuk tuk
Tuk-tuk is a great way to get around Sri Lanka.

To visit all of the best places in Sri Lanka, you’re going to need a mode of transport. You have a few choices when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka:

Rent a Tuk-tuk

Easily the most popular (and most fun) way to travel around Sri Lanka. We actually rented a tuk-tuk on our trip and absolutely loved it! Tuk-tuks are easy to drive, cheap to rent, and the freedom that comes with your own wheels is unmatched.

If you do decide to rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, be sure to go with a reputable company that provides quality tuk-tuks, such as Tuktuk Rental (who we rented from.) These guys not only offer an amazing service, but their tuk-tuks are actually rented from local families, providing income for the local community.

If you decide to rent from Tuktuk Rental, be sure to use the coupon code ‘DEST‘ for 5% off!

For more info, read our blog: The Truth about Renting a Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka.

Hire a Driver

If you’re only planning on going to a couple of destinations, then a private driver is not a bad idea. In the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, your driver can take you to your next destination. All you have to do is sit back and relax!

You can hire highly-rated drivers in advance to pick you up right from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka. This driver will take you to your hotel in Mirissa, Galle, Bentota, or Unawatuna. Whereas this driver will take you to Kandy.

Of course, every time you want to change destinations you will have to arrange for another driver (unless you book this driver who will drive you around for an entire week). Car transfer can easily be organized through your hotel.

Take Public Transport

This is a choice I only recommend for those on a very tight budget and with plenty of time. Public transport is everywhere in Sri Lanka in the form of public buses and trains. It is also very cheap, costing less than a couple of dollars per journey.

However, it isn’t the most comfortable way to travel. The buses don’t have air conditioning and neither do many train services. They can also be slow-moving, stopping every couple of minutes to pick up more passengers.

With that said, public transport is popular with budget backpackers, and it is mostly safe. This is one way to travel for those who want to get around as the locals do!

Before you go…

Bailey poses on Coconute Tree hill, Sri Lanka
Thanks for reading our blog and I hope you have an incredible beach holiday in 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!

If you’re planning to travel more in Sri Lanka then be sure to check out all of Sri Lanka blogs, or some of our favorites including:

25 Unforgettable Things to do in Sri Lanka

5 BEST Colombo City Tours + Our Top Choice

21 Things to do in Sigiriya

Guide to Udawalawe National Park Elephant Safari


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