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17 Things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

17 Things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

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The east coast boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka and Trincomalee is one of the nicest. It’s also quieter than the touristic southern coast and offers a more relaxed vibe. Trincomalee ended up being one of the best places we visited in Sri Lanka.

But there is so much more to do than just relax on the beach in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

On my recent trip there, I was surprised by just how much there was to do and see in Trincomalee! In fact, I planned on staying for only two nights and ended up staying six simply because I wanted to explore more and enjoy what I think is Sri Lanka’s most beautiful coastline.

If you want to know the best things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka including the lesser-known attractions, you’re in luck – I’ve outlined them all below including a ton of useful info to help you explore.

Also, I’ve included a few “attractions” at the bottom of this blog that you maybe shouldn’t waste your time on. I read about these things to do in other blogs and to me, they were not that great and could easily be missed and instead focus your elsewhere.

Here are 17 awesome things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka as well as some other extra important info for visiting!

Things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

1. Snorkel at 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

One of the most popular things to do in Trincomalee is to visit Pigeon Island. Pigeon Island is easily one of the top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka as it offers visitors the chance to snorkel with some colorful fish, turtles, and even small reef sharks!

Pigeon Island is only accessible by boat as is about 2.5 kilometers off the shore of Trincomalee. Going there is an ideal half or full-day trip from Trincomalee.

There are a few downsides to visiting Pigeon Island though. The first is conservation. The island has suffered from over-tourism from both tour operators and tourists. This has resulted in damaging almost all of the coral near the island. So, don’t expect to see bright coral at Pigeon Island, and be careful not to touch or damage any coral that is left if you do visit!

Pigeon Island is also expensive. Since it is a national park the entrance fee is about 3,000 to 4,000 rupees per person. The more people in your boat the cheaper the entrance fee is (as you all split the cost of the boat fee and service fee which is separate from the individual per person entrance fee).

Expect to pay 2,000 rupees for a boat that sits 6-7 people and then the entrance fee on top of that. Snorkel gear will set you back another 500-600 rupees.

Save yourself the hassle and book your trip to Pigeon Island in advance on this awesome tour!

2. Go Whale Watching/ swim with whales

Whale watching in Sri Lanka
Whale watching in Sri Lanka

From June to August, whale watching on the east coast of Sri Lanka is a popular activity. On these once-in-a-lifetime tours, you can head out and see these majestic animals in their natural habitat – it’s mesmerizing! 

The whale watching season in Trincomalee technically starts in May and finishes at the end of October. However, it’s a very hit-and-miss at the start and end of the season. Luckily, most tour providers give you a 50% discount on another tour if you don’t see a whale. 

Whale-watching tours in Trincomalee cost around $40 to $60 USD and last approximately 2 to 4 hours. Tours generally leave early in the morning.

If simply seeing whales isn’t enough for you, then why not swim with them?! Trincomalee is one of the only places in the world you can swim with whales in the wild. Swimming with whale tours are heavily restricted, so they’re not cheap, but this is a bucket list experience worth the $220 USD. 

Regardless of which experience you choose, whales are a part of Sri Lanka and a must-see, in my opinion! 

3. Explore Fort Frederick and enjoy a juice with a view

View from Frederick Fort in Trincomalee Sri Lanka
The view from Frederick Fort is arguably the best thing about it!

Fort Frederick is one of the most popular things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. This Fort is hundreds of years old and has stood the test of time.

Today, you can visit the fort and explore the grounds. Below are a couple of temples you can check out within the Fort, but in my opinion, having a relaxing juice at the Fort with a view of Trincomalee is one of the best things to do at Fort Frederick.

Once you enter Fort Frederick, you continue along the road towards Koneshwaram Temple (the famous Hindu temple). On the way to the temple, there are many different vendors lining the walkway, many of these vendors are actually fresh fruit juice restaurants with an amazing view of Trincomalee and Uppuvali Beach.

On a hot summer day, this is the perfect way to relax – especially if you are doing a full day of sightseeing or just walking the hot grounds of the Koneshwaram Temple. The best part is, a juice costs around $1 USD!

4. Explore the colorful Koneshwaram Temple

Koneshwaram Temple in Trincomalee Sri Lanka
Hindu Temples are so beautiful and interesting! It must take some time to build them!

Within Fort Frederick, is the Koneshwarm Temple. The temple is located at the other end of the entrance and is the main attraction in the fort. The temple is one of the most sacred in Sri Lanka, and Hindu Priests or Pujaris conduct regular services.

The temple is beautiful and very well maintained. At Koneshwarm, you can actually go inside the temple and walk around viewing the different artwork and statues. While we were there, we got to see a service and eat some fruit offered to us by the worshipers.

Another cool thing to mention is the wildlife we saw near the temple, including Spotted deer (below) and even monkeys!

Spotted dear at Fredrick Fort
Seeing the Spotted Dear was really cool and the closest we got to see one in Sri Lanka!

Visiting the temple is free but you must have your knees covered. If you are wearing shorts they will provide you with a large piece of fabric to tie around your waist for free. You must also take off your shoes and pay 20 rupees to the man who stores them.

5. Take in the views at Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya

views of Trincomalee from Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya,
Views of Trincomalee from Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya,

While visiting Fort Frederick, stopping at Gokanna Raja monastery and viewpoint is well worth it. Here you hike up a few stairs to a large viewing platform located at the base of a tall white Buddha. The views of 

Trincomalee and Uppeveli Beach are incredible from here!

The walk to the viewpoint takes 5 minutes, and once you’ve checked out the view, you will be satisfied. The entrance fee is 200 rupees and is paid to the monk who lives in a home in the parking lot.

If you want to explore Fort Frederick, the viewpoints, and the temples with a guide, consider booking a half-day tuk-tuk tour! This tour will take you to all of the best spots, and it only costs a few dollars.

6. Relax at the beautiful Dutch Bay Beach

Dutch Bay, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Dutch Bay is a much nicer beach than Trincomalee and, on the day we went, it was almost empty!

Dutch Bay Beach is most commonly visited by locals on the weekends in Trincomalee. This means, that during the week the beach is almost empty. Making it the perfect place to cool off after visiting the fort, nearby temples, or the Maritime Museum.

Dutch Bay is located only around the corner from the Fort’s entrance gates and is a beautiful white-sandy beach. The waters are crystal clear and calm – perfect for a swim! The tour guide at the Maritime Museum even told us you can see large pods of dolphins here.

This is not only one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka but also Trincomalee!

7. Take a tour through the Maritime Museum

Maritime museum in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
We really enjoyed this museum and found it super interesting!

Museums typically aren’t my thing while traveling. Don’t get me wrong. Some are incredibly informative and crucial to understanding certain events in history.

But sometimes they can be boring, and in a beachside city, I expected a hot and sweaty building where I’d walk around wishing I was drinking a beer at the beach the whole time.

This didn’t happen at the Maritime Museum in Trincomalee. I went there with little expectation and was pleasantly surprised by how well-done the museum was. It wasn’t just the displays I enjoyed, though. We got a tour around the entire museum, where our guide gave us a ton of information about the displays and answered any questions.

The tour lasted for about 30 minutes, and at the end, he took us to the roof of the building so we could check out the views! I highly recommend stopping by while in Trincomalee. It was a great way to learn about some of Sri Lanka’s past!

Entrance to the museum is by donation, and we both gave $5 USD – a small price to pay for such an interesting museum.

8. Swim at the pristine Marble Beach

walking into the clear water at Marble Beach, Trincomalee
Marble beach was my favorite beach in Sri Lanka. The water here is so beautiful and a must-visit!

I have to admit, Marble Beach was my favorite beach in all of Sri Lanka!

The beach has pearly white sand, the swells are calm with next to no waves at all, and the water was the bluest color you could ever imagine. The beach is postcard-perfect, and it’s a place you should check out while in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

The exciting thing about Marble Beach is that it’s located within the Sri Lanka Air Force grounds. The air force maintains the beach and owns and runs the one restaurant and resort there.

There is a public access area where you can hang out on the beach and swim for free. But, if you want access to a larger, more exclusive section of the beach, you’ll need to buy something from the restaurant.

Marble Beach is located around 30 minutes from Trincomalee.

9. Eat Seafood at Ralla Restaurant

Eating seafood in Trincomalee
Crab might not be the easiest food to eat but it sure is delicious!

One of the best ways to enjoy Marble Beach is from the beach area in front of Ralla Restaurant. Here, you can get a table with a view or lay in a lounge chair on the sand.

But it isn’t just the better views and beach access that makes Ralla a great place to go, it’s the food!

I thought a fancy beachside restaurant like this would be overpriced with mediocre food, but I was wrong. I got a seafood platter that included crab, squid, fish, prawns, veggies, and rice for only 1200 rupees and it was delicious! Dan order fish and chips and got a massive portion for only 1000 rupees.

After seeing the prices of the seafood restaurants in Trincomalee this is very reasonable. I suggest visiting Ralla for lunch on a day trip to Marble Beach. If you buy lunch here you can enjoy this larger area of the beach as well as take full advantage of their lounge chairs!

10. Hike to the top of Diamond Hill

Marble Beach with Diamond Hill in the background near Trincomalle, Sri Lanka
Diamond Hill is the hill you can see in the background. We ate too much seafood to do the hike though!

There is a large hill right next to Marble Beach called Diamond Hill. For those who want a bit of adventure while visiting Marble Beach then climbing Diamond Hill is perfect. It takes about an hour to complete and is a fairly easy hike overall.

The views from the top are of the bay and the ocean – they are said to be amazing. Unfortunately, we spent too much time eating seafood and swimming to hike it for ourselves. If you do go, be sure to let us know what you thought!

11. Enjoy a sunset swim and beer at Uppuveli Beach

Sunset drinks at Fernando's bar, Trincomalee Beach
Sunset drinks at Fernando’s bar

Uppuveli Beach is the beach area in Trincomalee near most of the hotels and restaurants. Most people stay within walking distance of Uppuveli Beach while in Trincomalee making it the perfect place for sunset beers!

There are a few different beachside restaurants at Uppuveli Beach that will sell you a beer. Expect to pay around 500 rupees for a large beer (rather expensive for Sri Lanka).

The most popular place to go to among tourists is called Fernando’s. They have a really neat set up with swings, lounge chairs, and a loft. They also sometimes have a DJ or have a fire on the beach.

12. Go Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving in Trincomalee Sri Lanka

There are some really great places to go scuba diving around Trincomalee. Just jump on a dive boat and you’ll be off to one of the best places to scuba dive in Sri Lanka!

There are also a ton of scuba companies in town so prices are competitive and generally cheaper than Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Expect to pay about $70 USD for two boat dives.

Scuba diving around Trincomalee is best from April to September when the monsoon season is over. The most popular dives are all shallower than 18m making it perfect for beginners or those with their PADI Open Water certification.

13. Visit Nilaveli

Posing with our tuk tuk at Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka
Driving our tuk tuk on Nilaveli beach

Trincomalee is a big city, so oftentimes people prefer its small-town neighbor to the north called Nilaveli. Nilaveli town is located right on Nilaveli Beach. This town is home to lots of small guesthouses for visitors to stay, cheap restaurants, and the beach is gorgeous! Overall, Nilaveli is a more relaxed place than Trincomalee.

From Nilaveli you can also easily get a boat to Pigeon Island (it’s actually much closer) or a day trip to some of the other attractions in Trincomalee. For this reason, many people actually choose to stay in Nilaveli over Trincomalee, but you could also just visit on a day trip.

We drove our tuk-tuk there and loved it so much we spent a few nights in a small guest house. It was quiet but we just spent our days relaxing at the beach!

14. Go snorkeling at Red Rocks

Snorkeling at Red Rocks in Trincomalee
The Red Rocks was actually a really nice place to snorkel and there was plenty of fish around!

Snorkeling at the Red Rocks is a great alternative to going to Pigeon Island.

Right on the north end of Nilaveli Beach out in the water, there are some large rocks which as known as the Red Rocks. Around these rocks is a great snorkeling spot! It is easily reached from the shore and is a calm area for snorkeling with lots of colorful fish! We also spotted a crayfish!

Many companies offer tours to take you here but you can actually just go on your own if you want. Just walk to the end of Nilaveli Beach (about 15-minutes) or take a tuk-tuk. Once you reach the river mouth you’ll see the rocks. You can just snorkel on your own right from the shore here.

Renting snorkel gear for the day can be done in town from most restaurants or guesthouses for about 600 rupees for the day including fins. We rented ours from Mama’s Juice Bar.

15. Eat the best pasta at Gomesz’s Restaurant

Eating the best pasta at Gomez's Pasta Hut in Trincomalee
The Amatriciana was my favorite!

I know, I know…while in Sri Lanka you should eat Sri Lankan food. But, just in case you’re craving something different then I thought I should let you know about this little gem we found.

Gomesz’s Pasta Hut is amazing! It is a small locally owned restaurant in Trincomalee offering incredible pasta with homemade sauce.

Gomesz himself is a really nice guy and takes a lot of pride in his food. He is famous for pasta but he also offers plenty of other items on the menu such as seafood and pizza.

The prices are also very reasonable and you can get a large serving of pasta for 500-750 rupees.

16. Day Trip to Sigiriya or Lion’s Rock

Watching the sunset over Sigiriya Rock
Watching the sunset over Sigiriya Rock

If you aren’t on a long trip and traveling all around Sri Lanka, then consider just going to Sigiriya on a day trip. On a map, Sigiriya looks like a fair distance from Trincomalee, but in reality, you can get there in under 2 hours.

On a day trip to Sigiriya, you could climb the famous Sigiriya Rock (also known as Lions Rock) or even go on an elephant safari in one of the nearby national parks.

If you don’t want to climb Sigiriya rock then Pindurangala Rock is another easier (and cheaper) alternative.

There are tons of awesome things to do in Sigiriya so we honestly only recommend doing a day trip if you’re short on time!

This tour is great value at only $23 USD per person and will take you from your hotel in Trincomalee to Sigiriya Rock, Pidurangala Rock, AND the Dambulla Cave Temples!

17. Salli Muthumariamunam Kovil

Salli Muthumariamunam Kovil Temple in Trincomalee Sri Lanka
The temple with an ocean view!

Just north of Uppuveli Beach is a Hindu Temple right on the water’s edge. The setting is simply gorgeous as it looks out onto the ocean and there is a small area across the road from the temple where all of the fishing boats are stored.

The temple is a bit aged and has lost some of its vibrant colors making it a little less impressive than I would’ve expected. We’ve included it on this list of things to do in Trincomalee because it was on just about every blog we read before arriving and it seems as if many tourists make their way here.

However, in all honesty, it’s not that amazing and we also got chased away by a dog just after taking the photo above. Save yourself for stunning temples such as the Dambulla Cave Temples – one of the best things to do in Dambulla!

A Couple of Things I would NOT do while in Trincomalee….

St. Mary’s Cathedral – We went here and it was very average. It was kind of a pretty church but not really worth going if you ask me.

Kanniya Hot Springs – These are more like hot wells. The locals go here for ceremonial purposes and I think it should be left for the locals and not become a tourist attraction. Not to mention there is no need for hot water when the weather is super hot already!

Related Read:   The Truth about Udawalawe National Park - Safaris and More!

Where to Stay in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Amaranthe Bay hotel Trincomalee Sri Lanka
Photo Credit: Amaranthe Bay hotel in Trincomalee

There are a ton of great places to stay in Trincomalee. Below I have listed our favorite places based on location, price and reviews!

Low BudgetThe Social Shack is exactly as the name suggests, social. It is a centrally located backpackers hostel offering dorm rooms with or without air conditioning. The staff are very helpful and the hostel is relatively new and modern.

Mid-range Budget The Blue Sands is where we stayed. This hotel is right on the beach and offers beautiful rooms at a budget price. The included breakfast is tasty, the rooms are comfortable, and the location couldn’t be better.

LuxuryAmaranthe By Resort & Spa is perfect for those looking for a quiet and luxurious stay. It has a massive pool and offers amazing food. For a real treat, book the room with the Jacuzzi!

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…

standing in the water at Marble Beach near Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Thanks so much for reading our Trincomalee, Sri Lanka blog!

I hope this blog has helped you keep busy while in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka! Let me know if you do any of the above activities and what you thought! Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments below – we get back to everybody!

Happy travels and enjoy Sri Lanka!

-Bailey

Keep Reading

We’ve literally written dozens of informative blogs about Sri Lanka that will help you plan your trip. Some of our personal favorites (that you might like too) are:

Things to do in Sri Lanka – A list of the most amazing things we ever did in Sri Lanka!

Lipton Seat, Sri Lanka – Lipton Seat is one of the best viewpoints on Sri Lanka. This guide includes everything you need to know before you go!

Things to do in Ella Sri Lanka – As one of the most popular tourist towns in Sri Lanka theirs plenty to do, even on a short visit!

Guide to Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka – Why this little beach town is so awesome and how to best spend your time there!

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