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7 Awesome Things to do in Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka

Last updated : January 4th, 2020

Nilaveli Beach Sri Lanka

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After exploring the tea fields around Ella, Haputale and Nuwara Eliya we were craving that beach life again. So we decided to head to Nilaveli Beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast to see what this little beachside town had to offer.

We heard that the best beaches on the east coast lay much further north than Arugam Bay. This meant we needed to travel that little bit further north, but wow, it so worth it when we arrived at Nilaveli Beach!

This place was beautiful. The sand was pearly white and the water was crystal clear! And to top it all off, there are also lots of awesome things to do in Nilaveli Beach.

Visiting Nilaveli Beach turned out to be a great choice and one I would highly recommend to others!

Here are the best things to do in Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka!

Book your airport transfer from Colombo to Nilaveli/Trincomalee!

7 Awesome Things to do in Nilaveli Beach

1. Swim with turtles and sharks on 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:A 10-minute boat ride from Nilaveli Beach
Cost:4,500 to 5,000 rupees per person including the boat ride
and entrance fee
Rating: 4/5 – A beautiful place to snorkel, however, it falls
short of a 5/5 because of over-tourism!

Despite what the name suggests, Pigeon Island isn’t about birds. This small island off the coast of Nilaveli Beach is actually one of Sri Lanka’s national parks.

The island has become famous for its marine life that includes a large number of turtles and black tip reef sharks. This along with a beautiful coral reef make it one of the best things to do in Nilaveli Beach.

As you can probably guess, snorkeling is the most popular activity on the island as well as just soaking up that island life on the beautiful beaches. Aside from snorkeling and just enjoying your best life, the island is also a great dive location and there are dive tours from Nilaveli and Trincomalee.

Getting to the island is easy by water taxi and they all leave from Nilaveli Beach. The water taxi to the island costs 2,000 rupees for up to six people. On top of that, you must pay the national park entrance fee which is around 4,000 rupees per person.

During the busy season between May and October consider booking your Pigeon Island tour in advance here.

Although considered the most popular thing to do in Nilaveli, over tourism has destroyed much of the corals on the island and in peak season the island becomes very overcrowded. With that said, it’s still a great place to swim with turtles and of course sharks!

2. Explore Fort Fredrick

Koneswaram temple in Fort Frederick
Koneswaram temple in Fort Frederick
Location:Trincomalee, around 20 minutes from Nilaveli
Rating:4/5 – An interesting place to visit that doesn’t cost a thing!

Fort Fredrick is a remembrance of a different time in Sri Lanka before regaining independence. The old fort was built to protect one of the most important strategic ports in Sri Lanka and although not much of it remains today, it’s still a great place to explore.

Within the fort, there are two temples worth visiting. One is the Koneshwaram Temple and the other is the Gokanna Raja Monastery.

The Koneshwaram Temple is a beautifully colored and decorated Hindu temple. The temple holds regular services throughout the day and visitors can actually wander inside and meet a Hindu Priest.

On our visit, we got to watch as ceremony and enjoy some fruit offered to us by the worshipers. It was a really nice experience and if you think the temples look nice on the outside you’re in for a treat when you get inside! The temple is free to enter but you must remove your shoes and cover your knees and shoulders.

The Gokanna Raja Monastery is less impressive than the Hindu temple but it is still worth visiting. Here you walk for two minutes up some stairs to reach a large Buddha statue. From here, the views of Trincomalee Beach are beautiful

In fact, the views of Trincomalee from the Fort Fredrick are amazing and we spent a good hour sipping a fresh fruit juice at one of the small restaurants that overlook the city. I highly recommend doing this especially after visiting the Koneshwaram Temple.

3. Head to Uppuveli Beach for drinks by the water

Sunset drinks at Fernando's bar is a great way to spend an afternoon in Nilaveli
Sunset drinks at Fernando’s bar in Upaveli
Location:Uppuveli Beach around 15 minutes from Nilaveli
Cost:500 rupees for a beer or 800 rupees for a cocktail
Rating:4/5 – Nice atmosphere and a great place to meet other

Upuveli Beach is a famous beach where many people stay in Trincomalee. Although a very similar beach to Nilaveli, Uppuveli Beach is lined with lots of restaurants and bars. This makes it the perfect place to head to for the day and enjoy a meal and drink by the ocean.

One of the best places to hang out at is Fernando’s Bar. This beachside bar has a large seating area in the sand and serves cold beers and food all day and night.

I actually stayed here for two nights and although I don’t recommend that (the hotel was terrible) the bar is a very lively place with a great atmosphere. 

If you have time and are craving some tasty Italian food then head to Gomesz’s Pasta Hut for some really good pasta! A dish here only costs around 600 rupees and it’s really good! My favorite was the Amatriciana – give it a go I promise you’ll love it!

4. Visit the Maritime Museum and Dutch Bay

The Maritime Museum in Sri Lanka is a great thing to do in Nilaveli Beach
Exploring the museum on a tour!
Location:Dutch Bay near Fort Frederick
Cost:By donation
Rating:5/5 – The most interesting museum I went to in Sri Lanka.
Dutch Bay is also very beautiful!

Trincomalee is a city, and I know you didn’t come to Nilaveli to explore a busy Sri Lankan city, but there were a few things to do in Trincomalee really worth checking out and my favorite was the Maritime Museum.

I know it may not sound like the most fun day out but I was actually shocked at how great the museum was. One of the best things about it was that they have tour guides who take you around the museum and explain all the exhibits. We learned so much and enjoyed speaking with the guide that we stayed for well over an hour.

The tour lasts for around 30 minutes and is completely free. They do ask for a donation at the end and we each gave 500 rupees to our guide. The money goes towards the museum and the exhibits.

Another awesome fact about the museum is that it’s located across the road from Dutch Bay. This stunning bay is a weekend hang out spot for locals and honestly one of the nicest beaches in the area. Our guide at the museum said the bay is frequently visited by a pod of 200 dolphins but unfortunately they weren’t around the day we went.

Regardless, it’s worth making the trip here and it’s only 5-minutes from Fort Fredrick!

5. Relax at the beautiful 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:Marble Beach 30 minutes from Nilaveli
Rating:5/5 – Easily one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka and my
personal favorite!

Marble Beach was hands down my favorite beach in all of Sri Lanka. The beach is actually a good hour’s drive from Nilaveli but in all honesty, you simply can’t miss is – it’s just that beautiful!

The beach is on Sri Lankan navy land and there are two parts. The public side and the navy restaurant side.

The public side is a popular area for locals as it’s free to enter this area without buying anything. However, the restaurant/ resort side does require you to make a purchase at the restaurant or be a guest at the resort.

Of course, the resort side is much nicer in my opinion, so my recommendation is the head here for a meal on the beach. The food is really good and very fairly priced! For 900 rupees I got a large portion of fish and chips and Bailey got a seafood platter for 1,200 rupees.

If that’s a little out of your budget then just get coconut water. It will only cost you 150 rupees and you’ll get to enjoy the nicer part of the beach!

6. Join a Whale Watching Tour

Whale watching in Nilaveli Beach
Whale watching in Sri Lanka
Location:Tours leave from Nilaveli
Cost:$50 USD
Rating:5/5 – If its whale season this is a must at least once in
Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching! Between both coastlines (east and south), you can almost find whales every month of the year.

On the east coast, the season runs from May to August with the best times to see them in June and July.

There are three different types of whales you can commonly spot. They are the Sperm Whale, Bryde’s Whale, and the crowd favorite, the Blue Whale.

The Blue Whale is the largest living creature on earth currently and in the history of the planet!

Whale watching tours cost around $50 USD if you book on the beach. Most companies during the peak of the whale watching season offer the tour half price the next day if you don’t see any whale.

My best advice is to pick the smallest boat you can find. In places like Mirissa, they cram a huge boat with 200+ people making it less of an amazing experience!

If you’re visiting in peak season consider booking your whale watching tour in advance here!

7. Take an epic trip to Sigiriya to explore the ancient ruins

A magical sunset up at Pindurangala Rock in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
A magical sunset overlooking Sigiriya Rock
Location:Sigiriya, 2 hours from Nilaveli
Cost:$23 USD for a day trip on a tour
Rating: 5/5 – Sigiriya is a very interesting place and a must visit in
Sri Lanka

If you’ve not planned to visit the city of Sigiriya or Dambulla and spend a few nights, then I highly suggest visiting on a day trip from Nilaveli Beach.

Sigiriya is home to Lion Rock which is a Unesco World Heritage site and recently was proclaimed by UNESCO as the 8th wonder of the world! The rock is 200m high and at the top sits the ruins of an ancient palace.  Entrance to the rock is $30usd and for that, you also get access to the museum.

Aside from Lion rock, you can also explore Pidurangala Rock or the famous Dambulla cave temples. These temples are one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. They were carved by hand and are thousands of years old!

To put it simply I recommend spending a few nights in Sigiriya or Dambulla and only recommend a day trip if you simply don’t have the time!

This tour is a great choice if you want to go on a day trip to Sigiriya as it also includes pick up and visiting Dambulla too!

Where to Stay in Nilaveli

If you loved reading this post and haven’t booked your accommodation in Nilaveli yet then consider booking through the links below. We will make a small commission and the best part is that it won’t cost you a thing extra! Thanks a million!

Nilaveli Sand Life – If you’re after a great budget option right on the beach then consider booking here. Rooms start at $12 a night and the reviews here are really good.

Suman Beach Rooms – The Suman is a small guest house located near Nilaveli Beach. It’s a great budget option that only costs around $30 a night. The reviews online are really good and comes highly recommended.

Yaalu Maalu Chill – This place is perfect for couples and is located only 15m from the beach. Rooms are a little pricey at $50 a night but the breakfast is superb!

Villa Nilaveli – Villa Nilaveli is a small hotel that specializes ins mall private cabanas. It’s in a quiet beach area out of town but the location is said to be perfect and right on the beach. A cabana here is around $100 a night.

If you didn’t find the place you were looking for then click here to browse all the hotels available in Nilaveli!


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