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Nilaveli Beach is located only a few kilometers away from the city of Trincomalee. This tiny town is perfect for those wanting a relaxed beachside stay in Sri Lanka. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Nilaveli, Sri Lanka as well as the best things to do!
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 were on the east coast, but much further north than Arugam Bay. This meant we needed to travel that little bit further north, but wow, it was 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
|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, which includes a large number of turtles and Blacktip reef sharks. This, along with a beautiful coral reef, makes 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. Aside from snorkeling and just enjoying your best life, Pigeon 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.
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!
During the busy season between May and October consider booking your Pigeon Island tour in advance.
2. Explore Fort Fredrick
|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 gaining 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.
On our visit, we got to watch a ceremony and enjoy some fruit offered to us by the worshipers. It was a really neat experience and the inside of the temple was also very beautiful. 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 view of Trincomalee and the beach is beautiful
You can also stop at one of the many small restaurants around Fort Frederick. Some of these restaurants offer amazing views of the ocean and the Trincomalee coastline. We spent an hour sipping on delicious juices and watching the ocean. I highly recommend doing this after visiting the Koneshwaram Temple.
3. Head to Uppuveli Beach for drinks by the water
|Location:||Uppuveli Beach is around 15 minutes from Nilaveli|
|Cost:||500 rupees for a beer or 800 rupees for a cocktail|
|Rating:||4/5 – A nice atmosphere and a great place to meet other travelers|
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 is at 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.
4. Visit the Maritime Museum and Dutch Bay
|Location:||Dutch Bay near Fort Frederick|
|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 of the exhibits. We learned so much 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
|Location:||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-owned restaurant/resort 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
|Location:||Tours leave from Nilaveli|
|Rating:||5/5 – If it’s 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 offer the tour half price the next day if you don’t see any whales.
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 to secure your spot!
7. Take an epic trip to Sigiriya to explore the ancient ruins
|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. The 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 some of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. They were carved by hand and are thousands of years old!
Where to Stay in Nilaveli, Sri Lanka
Nilaveli is a cute town with a ton of guest houses and smaller hotels to choose from. No, you won’t hire-rise chain hotels like the Hilton, but you will find quaint beachfront villas and local hospitality.
The best part about staying in Nilaveli is that it is cheap! You can get a really nice room or villa for a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
Plus, Nilaveli is a very small town so no matter where you stay you’ll always be close to Nilaveli Beach!
Below, we’ve carefully handpicked the best places to stay in Nilaveli for all budgets! We’ve chosen these based on where we stayed while we were there, other hotels we checked out, and recommendations of friends!
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 of the hotels available in Nilaveli!
Where to Eat in Nilaveli Beach
Nilaveli is a small town so don’t expect to see fast-food chains or any fancy restaurants. Most guesthouses will serve food and there are a few tiny family-owned restaurants around town.
We ate at several different places in Nilaveli Beach and one particular restaurant stood out for us, Mama Mia Restaurant and Juice Bar. This family-run restaurant is located right on the beach and has lots of chairs and huts for relaxing.
Mama Mia Restaurant also has delicious food at cheap prices. We loved the food here so much we ate here a few different times.
Getting 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…
I hope you have a great time in Nilaveli and make the most of the gorgeous Nilaveli Beach. Feel free to ask us any questions by leaving a comment below!
Also, be sure to check out all of our other Sri Lanka blogs as well as some of our favorite articles such as: