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Beach Life In Sri Lanka

Sun-kissed beaches, swaying palms and golden shores skirting the rippling blues, fringe the Paradise Island. These troves of sheer natural beauty in its raw element ensure that the Paradise Island more than lives up to its name. Which coastal shores are the best? We couldn’t choose… but here are our top picks we find undeniably irresistible.

1. Hikkaduwa Beach

Believed to be one of the isle’s 1st beaches to be discovered by tourists, the Hikkaduwa Beach pans out miles of golden coastline, dotted with the tropical swaying palms. Renowned for its untouched natural bounty, the beach is home to a coral sanctuary, within which diverse species of exotic fish thrive. The little islets located just off its golden shores are flanked by breathtaking coral formations, where troves of marine life including large sea turtles segregate. Located along the Southern coastal shores, the Hikkaduwa Beach is not without its own historical footprint. Submerged hundreds of feet beneath the rippling blues are over 4 shipwrecks that simply beg to be explored. To make this easier, little dive shops set up shop on the beachfront, offering everything from PADI courses to equipment.

With its waters being a popular hang-out spot for a large part of the water-sporting community, Hikkaduwa is marked as the 2nd best surf spot in the country. The sandy shores disappear a little Southwards from the centre of the reef but begins a wider, sandy-bottomed beach with waves that are just perfect for board and body surfing. Best surfing conditions from November to March, when the waves rise up.

2. Unawatuna Beach

A slice of Southern coastal bliss? The Unawatuna Beach is famed for many things, but mostly for its tranquil waters, golden shores, swaying palms and everything in between… all you need for that perfect seaside holiday. Its stunning tropical scapes have drawn in such a massive number of visitors, local and foreign, that the Beach is now known as one of the biggest tourist destinations in Sri Lanka.

The blues demand to be ridden. Snorkel or scuba dive into the ocean! If that’s not for you, tan on the shores under the tropical warmth. The Beach is renowned to be a turtle nesting site and you just might stumble into one or two amongst the sands. Go on exploring! A few feet along the Beach is a beautiful headland, entertained by the waves crashing at its base and stunning views of the Ocean - the ideal spot for photography. The Unawatuna Beach is not without its tropical secrets. Located quite close to the headland are a series of ‘secret’ or ‘jungle’ beaches, one of which is the Wijaya Beach. A pretty, white sanded coastal strip with towering Palms leaning over the water, the Wijaya Beach makes for a haven away from a haven. A natural swimming pool is formed purely by way of the coral reef formation right in front of the Beach, therefore sink right in! Locals around here know of the pure, adrenaline-pumping rope swing, fastened to the very top of a massive Palm that leans out across the waters. Bucket list worthy goals? The pictures taken of the Swing certainly say so.

Little restaurants and eateries line the Beach serving up local delectables. Take your pick! Retail hotspots are located right behind the beach, where a number of shops offer everything from souvenirs to clothes and jewellery.

Best time to visit: from late August to early September.

3. Koggala Beach

Miles of glistening, golden coastline has earned the Koggala Beach the repute as one of the longest Beaches in Sri Lanka. Perched along the Southern Coast, the Beach is a beautiful ballad of startlingly blue, crashing waves, warm sands to sink in and the tropical vibes that bathe you in the very best of what the Paradise Island has to offer. Locals and tourists often visit the Beach for the stunning coastal backdrops it offers for photography.

Thriving amongst the golden sands here are the rarest of Turtle species, namely the Loggerheads and the Leathery Turtle. Catch a glimpse of little Turtles or the nesting sites if you’re lucky! Snorkel or dive into the rippling blues and make the most of the sea, the sun and the salty, cool tropical ambience. The Koggala Beach is known as a Surfing hotspot and offers medium cross-onshore conditions and a powerful but short beach break - the perfect Surf setting for professionals. You may spot little turtles or even a White Tip Reef Shark in the waters! The blues have strong undercurrents therefore you may need to have quite a firm handle on your surfing skills. Expect normal yet frequent waves.

Beach-side restaurants are not far-off and are perfect for a little snack or two after.

Best time to visit: from July to September.

4. Trincomalee Beaches

The port city town of Trincomalee on the North East Coast of Sri Lanka is home to not just one but two famous Beaches: the coastal strips of Nilaveli and Uppuveli.

Palm-fringed shores, turquoise waters and pearly white sands… the Nilaveli Beach is a little Paradise haven all on its own, perfect for that sun-bathed tan and maritime adventure. Get on a 10-minute boat ride from the Beach to Pigeon Island National Park, famed for its thriving marine life including Turtles and Black Reef Tip Sharks and rich, colourful coral reefs. Snorkel through the waters or opt for a diving tour! The East Coast is popularly known for Whale Watching tours as well, particularly for the Sperm Whale, Bryde’s Whale and the Blue Whale. The Whale Watching on the East Coast runs from May to August with the best times to spot the majestic creatures being June and July.

10 minutes away from the Nilaveli Beach is the tropical wonderland of Uppuveli. Stunning coastal landscapes, warm local hospitality and Sri Lankan beach-side gastronomy round up the golden shores which draw in hundreds of visitors, local and foreign, almost everyday. Located quite close to what was formerly a civil war zone, the Beach is left beautifully unspoilt and has now earned itself a growing repute as a Whale Watching and Diving hotspot. Lounge about on the Beach on a sunbed or opt for a little Beach-side sport of sorts. Explore the Beach - in close proximity is the Swami Rock, the ideal spot for Diving, Snorkelling and Swimming.

Step into one of the Beach restaurants, tuck into delectable seafood and wash it down with a cold one. Dining on the Beach is another favourite past-time the coastal strip is known for, due purely to the glorious views of the ocean and the tropical surroundings, especially when the sun goes down.

5. Pasikuda Bay and Kalkudah Beach

Perched along the East Coast, the Pasikuda Bay is known for its white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a tropical setting that is the pure epitome of bliss. The golden flat bed makes the perfect spot for sea-bathing, a decent wade or a safe swim for around 200 metres from the shoreline. Tan on the beach, basking in the tropical warmth.

Pasikuda Bay is nestled on one side of Kalkudah Beach - their shared shores are fringed by reefs which double as protection, resulting in much calmer waves in this part of the East Coast. The Beach is considered a Surfing and Wind-surfing hotspot (particularly in September) therefore take to the rippling blues to try the waves out! Strolling along the tranquil coastline at the crack of dawn? Witness deep sea fishermen bringing their catch to the shores for vendors, who’ve travelled from all parts of the island, to buy off them.

Best time to visit: throughout the year.

6. Arugam Bay Beach

The Surf Capital of Sri Lanka. A popular East Coast tourist destination, the Beach lays out breathtaking crystal blue waters, Palm-fringed coastal shores and offbeat charm that only Arugam Bay can bring.

Known by Surfers for some of the “best waves in Sri Lanka”, the Beach draws in hundreds of Surfers, budding and professional, almost everyday but particularly in the surfing season from April to October. Surf culture is at all-time high during these months, with professional Surfers taking to the blues as face-offs against each other, in keeping purely with tradition. Annual international Surf competitions are held at the beach, doubling as platforms for Surfing talent to showcase their prowess and receive notable acclaim for outstanding feats in the blues. Surfers from all parts of the island and even tourists make Arugam Bay their home during these months, to witness or participate in the splurge of Surfing activities.

Arugam Bay Point, located at the tip of the Bay, is renowned to be quite the advanced Surfing spot, with the waves rising to a height of roughly 5 to 10 metres, based on the swell and oceanic conditions.

Looking for Surfing equipment and costumes? You won’t have to look far. In close proximity to the Beach are little shops and establishments that specialize in to-be-rented or purchased Surfing merchandise and gear and associated services. Surfing classes are offered in abundance by professionals, catering to varied levels and capabilities.

The waters are rife with marine life, making it a top Fishing spot in Sri Lanka. Stroll along the Beach at dawn or sunset to catch a glimpse of fishermen either loading their boats with gear, about to set off on a Fishing trip or unloading their catch for local vendors to choose from.

For commercial ventures, not far away from the Beach are a string of shops to purchase your daily essentials from while local delectables are temptingly served up at Beach-side restaurants.

Best time to visit: from April to October.

7. Negombo Beach

A tranquil, tropical paradise stretched along the West Coast. Located quite close to the ‘Bandaranaike Memorial International Airport’, the Negombo Beach has earned itself the repute as quite the tourist destination, purely due to its stunning coastal scapes and thriving local culture. Stroll along the shore, basking in the tropical warmth or lounge back on a sun bed or two for a tan. Famed as a Fishing hotspot, the Beach is no stranger to fishermen from across the island. Witness the sea-men practice traditional fishing methods on the rippling blues, on the outrigger canoe or the faster catamaran and the catch brought back as their pride and joy, to be sold to waiting vendors.

Go on exploring. Scour the on a canoe Negombo Lagoon! Located close to the Beach, the Lagoon is renowned not only for the Promfret, Lagoon Crab and Lobster that lives amongst its waters, but for the surrounding tropical conditions that make the ideal bird-watching site.

Delve into the ocean. The blues of the Negombo Beach Park are a hotspot for Kite-surfing, Snorkelling and Scuba Diving! Catch a glimpse of the majestic Whale or Dolphins as they frolic through the waters.

The heartbeat of the local culture is not too far off. Just off the Beach, streets lined with shops and establishments of sorts offer everything from souvenirs to garments and footwear, while live band performances fill the air. Beach-side cravings are catered to on-site restaurants, known especially for the delectable seafood and Sri Lankan cuisine perfected.

Best time to visit: from March to September.

8. Kalpitiya Beach

If glimpsing the majestic creatures of the blue is what you’re after, the waters of the Kalpitiya Beach are positively rife with frolicking Whales and Dolphins. Take on Dolphin or Whale Watching tours or simply lay back on the shores and you may see a few. The best time to witness Sperm Whales or energetic pods of Spinner Dolphins is from February to March. You may even catch a glimpse of the rare Humpback Dolphin if you’re lucky!

Embark on 4WD jeep rides along the deserted sand dunes between the Ocean and the Lagoon, the perfect spot to take in the glorious sunset. Sheltered from the Indian Ocean by a sandy headland, the Lagoon lays out calm waters, the perfect spot for Kitesurfing with no sudden gusts of wind to look out for. The largest coral reef in Sri Lanka, the Bar Reef, is simply an hour’s drive away from Kalpitiya. Snorkel or Scuba Dive into the waters, home to a variety of tropical fish, Manta Rays, Reef Sharks and Turtles. Fishing in the waters of the Kalpitiya Beach is a common profession in the local community. Witness tireless fishermen bringing in their previous night’s catch to be sold to waiting vendors.

Apart from the marine highlights, the Beach makes the perfect coastal getaway, with breathtaking ocean views, sun-kissed golden shores and island life teeming with local hospitality. If you’re planning on taking on the blues, November to April is recommended for calm seas.

Best time to visit: from November to April.

9. Mirissa Beach

Tropical Paradise at the heart of a town absolutely thriving in rambunctious party life. The Mirissa Beach is famed for its stunning coastal scapes, Palm-fringed golden sands and the cheer-ribbed lively atmosphere that welcomes in hundreds of local and foreign visitors annually. Clear blue, lively waters beg to be Surfed, Snorkelled or Swum in. The left side of the Bay is a well-known Snorkelling hotspot while the right side of Mirissa Beach is famed for Surfing.

A distinctive feature of the Mirissa Beach is Parrot Rock, a small rock island located close to the Mirissa Beach entrance. An isolated island viewpoint, Parrot Rock offers breathtaking views of the Ocean, a coconut tree hill located to the left and of Mirissa Beach itself. Getting to Parrot Rock may be a bit tricky. Wade through water (the water levels may even reach your waist depending on the tide and the time of day) and climb up a rocky staircase to the top of Parrot Rock.

Mirissa Beach is known for occasional Dolphin or Whale sightings therefore take on Dolphin or Whale Watching tours particularly during the period from December to April. Blue, Bryde’s, Sperm, Fin and Orca Whales have been spotted while Common, Bottlenose, Spinner, Risso’s and Striped Dolphins frolic in the waters as well. Turtle nesting spots may be stumbled on amongst the sands as well. Rent a boat and embark on a Fishing trip with the locals near the coral reef. A River Safari is another glorious means of immersing in nature at its finest. Don’t forget to visit Mirissa’s Secret Beach, which lies quite close to the main Beach. With pristine, white sands, clear turquoise blue waters and tropical greens dressing up the background, this cosy little strip is heaven on Earth, your very own little tropical hideaway.

Restaurants are aplenty. Stroll along the Beach and choose from a string of bars, offering cheap drinks and the day’s catch on the Seafood menu.

Best time to visit: from December to April.

10. Bentota Beach

The glorious Water Sports Hub, stretched along the West Coast. With its calm, rippling blues and ideal tropical settings, the Bentota Beach draws hundreds of Water Sports enthuses to its waters for Snorkelling, Water-Skiing, Wind Surfing, Canoeing and Swimming. The Bentota Lagoon that lies behind the Beach is famed for being a Kayaking and Jetskiing hotspot.

The Bentota Beach is known for the occasional Whale sighting therefore do book yourself a Whale Watching tour to catch a glimpse of the marine wonder. A River Safari or boat trip will have you exploring the Mangroves and tangled waterways while discovering more on what thrives beneath the waters.

Lounge back on the Beach and bask in the tropical warmth. Being relatively less crowded compared to other Beaches, the Bentota Beach is the perfect coastal hideaway to take in the Sun, Sand and Sea and immerse in one of Sri Lanka’s magnificent tropical Paradises in all its natural glory.

Best time to visit: from end-August to mid-October.

11. Galle Face Green

One of Colombo’s most frequented attractions and ocean-side urban park. The Galle Face Green, with its crashing waves, thrilling views of the seas and tropical charm, is a sight to behold. Stroll along its green lawns, occasionally showered by cold sprays from the ocean. On the far right side of the Urban Park, a viewing point, elevated a few feet above the sea, offers an up close look at the grandeur of the rippling waves.

If not for the majesty of the sea, Galle Face Green is famed purely for rich local retail life that offers everything from food to toys of sorts for the little ones to enjoy as they stroll along the green lawns. Families and visitors young and old flock to Galle Face Green, either to settle down on the grass for a picnic and bask in the tropical ambience of it all or to let the little ones choose their toys from the vendors, be it bubble-makers or shaped balloons. The Urban Park is quite a popular spot for Kite Flying, especially during the season. Visit during the months of August and September to see kites, varying in colour, type and sort, dotting the skies. International kite festivals are held during these months at the Urban Park as well. Despite Galle Face Green being a site of constant bustle and activity all day, best visit after 4.00pm to witness the beautiful sunset.

A section of the Urban Park is dedicated solely to a line-up of vendors, food stalls and little eateries. Here, Menus comprise local street food, Indian, Arabic and Sri Lankan cuisine, at quite reasonable prices. A popular street food delicacy often tucked into at Galle Face Green is ‘isso vadai’ (a fried local relish made of dhal and topped with prawns) and ‘manyokka’ (cassava chips).

Best time to visit: all year. Recommended to be visited after 4.00pm to catch the sunset.

Interesting Facts

Certain Beaches are associated with Sri Lankan history, such as Nilaveli Beach. The history of the Beach spans as far back as the Second World War and is located next to a ‘Commonwealth War Cemetery’, where brave solders of different nationalities are now laid to rest.

Times, Seasons and Times

Planning on indulging in water sports? Generally located around or in the vicinity of most Beaches are a line-up of retailers and service providers, offering everything from water sports equipment and gear to watersports suits. Professional classes on Diving, Snorkelling and Surfing are additionally offered, catering to both the beginner and the more advanced.

The Surfing Season for Beaches along the South Coast will be from November to May while the Season for the East Coast will be from April to October, when the waves are much longer. The main spots for Surfing are on the South West, the South and the East Coast.

If Snorkelling is what’s on your mind, discover the underwater world at its best from November to April on the South and West Coasts and from April to September on the East Coast.

The main Kitesurfing season in Sri Lanka takes place from May to September while the winter season, which calls for colder winds, takes place from December to mid-February or early March.

Don’t forget to pack along the essentials! Plenty of sunscreen is a must. Each Beach is located close to little retail areas, where you can do a bit of shopping for anything you may need.

Discover the surroundings. As much as the listed Beaches are popular coastal havens, there have been troves of secret little Beaches around and about the main coastal strips as well! The Unawatuna Beach is one such example, where locals discovered the series of jungle beaches located closeby. It maybe quite possible to discover an off-the-beaten track or two, a little away from the main, bustling area of the Beach. Hike along and explore!

The Beaches of Sri Lanka are the epitome of rich, tropical beauty, the very essence of why Sri Lanka has earned itself repute as the Paradise Island. Each Beach has its own natural secrets and highlights that have made it the top coastal pick as voted by locals and foreigners time and time again. With pristine, golden sandy shores, palm-dressed coastal troves and clear, turquoise waters… what’s not to love about life along the Sri Lankan Coast?

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