If you’re longing for the ultimate beach experience in Sri Lanka, look no further! In this blog post, we’ve carefully selected the top 10 beaches the country has to offer. Prepare for an unforgettable beach holiday, complete with all the essential information you need for a perfect getaway.
Where to Find Sri Lanka’s Best Beaches
Sri Lanka boasts an array of remarkable beaches, spread throughout the country. Each beach area offers a unique experience for tourists. Along the southern coast, you’ll find bustling tourist hotspots, ideal for a luxurious vacation. If you head east, you’ll discover thrilling surf beaches. Moving up north to Trincomalee, calm waters, snorkeling opportunities, and captivating wildlife await.
To help you plan your Sri Lanka beach holiday, we have mapped out the 10 must-visit beaches in this blog. You can easily select the area that appeals to you the most and explore nearby beaches. Unsure about the best beach and area for you? Keep reading, and we will provide insights into what makes each beach special.
The Top 10 Beaches in Sri Lanka
#1. Secret Beach, Mirissa
Not a bad place to relax – easily one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka!
Are you interested in visiting a “secret beach” in one of the most popular beach towns in Sri Lanka? Of course, the answer is yes! Secret Beach, located in Mirissa, is a secluded and tiny beach that left me in awe. Crystal clear waters in a serene bay protected by rocks await you, a mere 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from Mirissa. The beach offers a small restaurant where you can enjoy food and drinks, and you can rent lounge chairs for just $3 USD per day. While the beach is now a popular spot, it still qualifies as one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. To avoid crowds, I recommend visiting Secret Beach in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s less busy. Midday tends to attract the majority of tourists.
Enjoy a Beach Holiday near Secret Beach: If you’re planning a visit to Mirissa, consider staying in the town for a few nights. This will allow you ample time to explore Secret Beach and other beaches on our list. Although there aren’t many hotels within walking distance of Secret Beach, staying at a hotel near Mirissa Beach and taking a short tuk-tuk ride to Secret Beach is a convenient option. Paradise Beach Club is a budget-friendly hotel right on Mirissa Beach, with a beachside pool, making it an excellent choice for most travelers. Remember, the best time to visit Secret Beach is between November and March when rainfall is minimal.
#2. Polhena Beach
Calm waters, pearly white sand, and amazing wildlife!
Imagine a vast calm bay with crystal clear water that remains shallow for hundreds of meters. Now picture that water filled with massive sea turtles. Welcome to Polhena Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. When I discovered this stunning beach, I was taken aback by the abundance of wildlife and the absence of crowds. Snorkeling with turtles became the highlight of my day. Polhena Beach is easily accessible, a 30-minute drive south from Mirissa. While many tourists visit Polhena Beach on a day trip from Mirissa, you can also visit from Galle, Matara, Unawatuna, or other coastal towns nearby. Rent snorkeling gear on-site to witness the wonders of the sea turtles. Remember to respect their natural habitat, keeping a safe distance, and refraining from feeding or touching them. Don’t miss the chance to visit the turtle hatchery and witness the release of baby turtles into the ocean. It’s an extraordinary experience.
Enjoy a Beach Holiday near Polhena Beach: Conveniently located near several tourist towns on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, Polhena Beach is a popular destination. Most travelers prefer to plan a day trip from Mirissa, which is only 20 minutes away. If you wish to stay closer to Polhena Beach for a few nights, you’ll find several accommodation options available. The area is beautiful and less crowded compared to nearby towns like Mirissa. Consider Amaloh Boutique Resort, perfectly situated near Polhena Beach, or stay in Matara, a 10-minute drive from Polhena Beach. Matara offers snorkeling tours to Polhena Beach.
#3. Hikkaduwa Beach
The beautiful Hikkaduwa Beach, Sri Lanka!
Hikkaduwa is another popular town along Sri Lanka’s southern coast, famous for its amazing seafood, affordable prices, and laid-back beach vibes. What truly sets Hikkaduwa Beach apart is its diverse range of activities. Whether you want to relax under the sun, swim with turtles, surf, paddleboard, snorkel, or witness the release of baby turtles, Hikkaduwa Beach has something for everyone. Despite not being the most visually stunning beach on our list, Hikkaduwa Beach’s variety of offerings make it one of my favorites in Sri Lanka.
Enjoy a Beach Holiday at Hikkaduwa Beach: Hikkaduwa Beach is conveniently located near Colombo, making it a great starting point for your Sri Lanka holiday. You can even book an affordable transfer from Colombo Airport straight to Hikkaduwa. Additionally, Hikkaduwa offers a range of accommodation options, great activities, and amazing restaurants. Its central location allows for easy exploration of other nearby beaches, towns, and attractions. For a budget-friendly option, consider Citrus Hikkaduwa, located right on Hikkaduwa Beach and renowned for its beachfront pool. It’s the perfect spot for catching a glimpse of turtles too!
#4. Mirissa Beach
There are so many cool bars and restaurants that you can find happy hour deals at any time of the day!
Mirissa Beach stands out from other Sri Lankan beaches for its unique charm. While it might not be ideal for swimming or sunbathing, Mirissa Beach offers something extraordinary – an electric atmosphere. The beach is lined with restaurants, but unlike elsewhere, the ambiance here is exceptional. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a refreshing drink while time passes by. Mirissa is also renowned for its blue whale sightings, making it one of the best places in Sri Lanka for whale watching. Hop on a whale-watching boat tour, witness these magnificent creatures, and then return to the beach for an ice-cold beverage.
Enjoy a Holiday at Mirissa Beach: Mirissa Beach is a highly recommended destination and one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. With a variety of activities to choose from, including climbing Parrot Rock for a spectacular view, snorkeling, whale watching, visiting Coconut Tree Hill, and relaxing at nearby Secret Beach, you’ll find plenty of ways to stay entertained. I stayed at a charming guesthouse near Mirissa Beach called Green Garden Guesthouse Mirissa, which I absolutely loved. For a touch of luxury, check out Randiya Sea View Hotel, located right on the beach, with a delightful restaurant and bar.
#5. Unawatuna Beach
Witnessing the stilt fishermen in action!
Unawatuna, a delightful coastal town situated between Hikkaduwa and Mirissa, offers a perfect stopover on a southern coast road trip. While Unawatuna is undoubtedly famous for its beach, I must admit that it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The beach can be overcrowded, and persistent sellers may bother those who prefer to relax without any distractions. However, Unawatuna is still a beautiful beach worth a visit if you don’t mind the crowds and vendors. Additionally, Unawatuna offers a range of exciting tours and experiences, including surfing, making it a popular choice among tourists.
Enjoy a Holiday at Unawatuna Beach: Among all the beaches on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, Unawatuna was personally my least favorite. However, for surf enthusiasts, this beach is perfect. I recommend staying in Hikkaduwa or Mirissa, both of which are nearby, and visiting Unawatuna Beach on a day trip. You can take a surfing lesson or even go scuba diving!
#6. Nilaveli Beach
Beautiful sunsets at Nilaveli Beach.
Nilaveli Beach, the first beach on our list along Sri Lanka’s east coast, is small but incredibly stunning. To be honest, selecting the best beaches on the east coast was challenging because they are all fantastic. Nilaveli Beach offers calm waters, pristine sand, and a peaceful atmosphere, all with fewer crowds compared to other popular Sri Lankan beaches.
Enjoy a Holiday at Nilaveli Beach: Many tourists visit Nilaveli on a day trip from Trincomalee, as it is only a few minutes away. However, consider staying for a night or two in Nilaveli to fully appreciate its local town vibe, less influenced by tourism. You’ll find plenty of homestays and small guesthouses offering affordable rates. Despite being small, they often provide comfortable accommodations. For example, Suman Beach Rooms offers a great budget option, while cabanas right on the beach provide a touch of luxury. Don’t forget to try out local restaurants during your visit, with Mama’s Juice Bar being a fantastic place to relax, offering lounge chairs, day beds, and delicious food!
#7. Dutch Bay Beach
I’m still amazed by how this stunning beach remains empty!
Dutch Bay is the least known beach on our list, yet one of the most beautiful. Located in Trincomalee, outside the Maritime Museum and near Fort Frederick, Dutch Bay is a hidden gem cherished by local Sri Lankans. Surprisingly, it has remained off the tourist trail, resulting in a tranquil and secluded spot. During weekdays, you can enjoy the beach without the crowds, relishing the pearly white sand and crystal-clear waters. Additionally, Dutch Bay faces a calm bay, ensuring a serene experience. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of around 200 dolphins, for the bay is a regular part of their journey.
Enjoy a Beach Holiday near Dutch Bay: Dutch Bay is right in Trincomalee, making it easy to visit if you’re staying in the city. I recommend booking a hotel near Uppuveli Beach, the tourist area of Trincomalee. From there, you can reach Dutch Bay with a short tuk-tuk or taxi ride. Blue Sand Beach Resort is a great budget option, offering prime beachfront location and spacious air-conditioned rooms. For a more luxurious stay, consider Amaranthe Bay Resort, perfectly situated near Uppuveli Beach and Dutch Bay Beach. Trincomalee has much more to offer besides its beautiful beaches, such as whale watching, Pigeon Island, and mesmerizing temples. Make sure to explore all the exciting things to do in Trincomalee before your visit.
#8. Marble Beach
Marble Beach was my absolute favorite in Sri Lanka! The water here is simply breathtaking and a must-visit!
I know I’ve said it before, but this time I truly mean it – Marble Beach is my personal favorite in Sri Lanka. What makes it stand out? Its cleanliness and pristine condition. The Sri Lankan navy owns Marble Beach, ensuring regular patrols and maintenance. As a result, the beach remains rubbish-free, safe, and an ideal place to relax on its stunning white sand. Snorkeling enthusiasts will find nearby coral reefs a delight, and you can easily rent equipment from lifeguards on-site. Marble Beach is also famous for its whale-watching opportunities from May to October. To satisfy your appetite, pay a visit to the reasonably priced Ralla restaurant, known for its mouthwatering seafood and refreshing drinks.
Enjoy a Holiday near Marble Beach: There is only one place to stay right at Marble Beach, and that is the Marble Beach Air Force Resort. If you can afford it, this resort offers an incredible experience. Alternatively, book a hotel in Trincomalee and visit Marble Beach for a day trip. Once there, don’t forget to sample the delicious food at Ralla restaurant, go snorkeling, and consider hiking up Diamond Hill. Most importantly, cherish your time at one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka – Marble Beach will leave you mesmerized!
#9. Arugam Bay Beach
Arugam Bay, one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka
Arugam Bay, the most renowned beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast, attracts avid surfers and offers a laid-back lifestyle. Known as the country’s premier surf beach, Arugam Bay Beach boasts white sand and numerous spots for relaxation. All restaurants and hotels are conveniently situated parallel to the beach, ensuring that you’re never far from the shore. While it may not be the perfect beach for non-surfers, Arugam Bay still offers a relaxing holiday for tourists seeking a peaceful getaway.
Enjoy a Holiday at Arugam Bay Beach: The ideal time to surf in Arugam Bay is from May to October when the swells on the west coast recede. You’ll find plenty of affordable accommodation options, board rentals, and surf schools located near the beach. Consider booking a surf school that specializes in all things surfing. You’ll eat, breathe, and sleep surfing! The best part? It’s surprisingly affordable! Even if you’re not a surfer, you can still enjoy Arugam Bay. Explore the area and revel in the vibrant nightlife. The recently opened Hangover Hostel is a renowned party hostel, offering a fantastic social atmosphere. For a touch of luxury, Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing is an exceptional choice.
#10. Pigeon Island Beaches
Swimming beach on Pigeon Island National Park, just off the shore of Nilaveli Beach in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.
Pigeon Island, a small island off the coast of Trincomalee, is a national park known for its breathtaking beauty and unique ecosystems. This protected island and its surrounding waters are home to a diverse range of marine life, including turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks. If you visit Pigeon Island, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to witness these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.
Tours to Pigeon Island depart from Trincomalee or Nilaveli. Although not cheap, the fees help preserve the national park.
Enjoy a Holiday near Pigeon Island: Pigeon Island does not offer accommodations. You can only visit the island during the day and stay at a hotel in Nilaveli or Trincomalee. To reach the island, you must take a boat from Uppuveli Beach or Nilaveli Beach. The boat ride is affordable, but expect to pay more than $30 USD for the national park fee. Visiting Pigeon Island on weekdays is recommended to avoid the large weekend crowds.
Getting Around Sri Lanka
To explore all of these fantastic Sri Lankan beaches, you’ll need a reliable mode of transportation. Here are a few options to consider:
Rent a Tuk-tuk
Renting a tuk-tuk is the most popular and enjoyable way to travel around Sri Lanka. During my trip, I opted to rent a tuk-tuk, and it was an amazing experience. Tuk-tuks are easy to drive, affordable to rent, and provide unparalleled freedom. If you choose to rent a tuk-tuk, I highly recommend using Tuktuk Rental, a reputable company offering well-maintained tuk-tuks. Not only will you receive excellent service, but your rental will also support local families as Tuktuk Rental operates by renting tuk-tuks from them. Use the coupon code ‘DEST’ to enjoy a 5% discount.
Hire a Driver
If you’re only planning to visit a few destinations, hiring a private driver is a convenient option. Sit back and relax in an air-conditioned vehicle as your driver takes you to your next destination. You can hire highly-rated drivers in advance, and they will pick you up directly from the airport upon your arrival. Arrange for a driver to take you to your hotel in Mirissa, Galle, Bentota, Unawatuna, or Kandy. If you prefer, you can book a driver to accompany you throughout your entire week-long trip. Car transfers can also be easily organized through your hotel.
Take Public Transport
For budget travelers with plenty of time, public transport is an option. Buses and trains are readily available throughout Sri Lanka, and they are incredibly affordable. However, keep in mind that public transport can be uncomfortable as many buses and trains lack air conditioning. These forms of transportation can also be slow due to frequent stops to pick up passengers. Although popular among budget backpackers, public transport is not the most comfortable way to travel. Nevertheless, it is safe and allows you to experience local life.
That concludes our list of the top 10 beaches in Sri Lanka. These beaches, chosen for their beauty and the amazing experiences they offer, are sure to leave you awestruck. So, relax, snorkel, surf, and enjoy your time exploring Sri Lanka’s marvelous beaches. I guarantee they will captivate you just as they did for me.
If you’re planning to discover more of Sri Lanka, be sure to check out our other Sri Lanka blog posts, including 25 Unforgettable Things to do in Sri Lanka, 21 Things to do in Sigiriya, and our Guide to Udawalawe National Park Elephant Safari.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an incredible beach holiday in Sri Lanka!