Sri Lanka has long been one of South Asia’s most popular holiday destinations, ideal for combining a cultural tour with some downtime at the beach or for a seaside escape spent in uninhibited relaxation at a resort.
Travellers to Sri Lanka are spoilt for choice with so many idyllic beach destinations to choose from in all corners of the island.
1. Unawatuna Beach
While most beaches in Galle town lure visitors with the irresistible magnetism of sun, sea and sand, Unawatuna Beach is perfect for taking a dip in the ocean, partaking in water sports with family and friends or even turtle-watching. The beach is most enjoyable in April or November where seas are calm, and the weather is just right.
2. Nilaveli Beach
At Nilaveli Beach, under 20 km from Trincomalee town, is where the Indian Ocean’s turquoise waters kiss the sands and heartbeats rise and fall to its timely harmony. Here, travellers can partake in short boat rides to Pigeon Island (a quaint landmass with its own coral reef, located a few minutes from the coast), enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling or even simply, relaxing under the sun. This particular maritime escape is also rich in history, with its days of yore dating back to the Second World War. The best times to visit Nilaveli Beach are from May to September.
3. Kalpitiya Beach
Kalpitiya Beach is best known as an ideal spot for whale watching, though its beach is spectacular in its own right. It is best to arrive at the beach no later than an hour or two after sunrise and embark on a boat ride from the coast where you will be able to see dolphins, whales and other exotic ocean fauna in their element.
The best times to catch sperm whales and pods of acrobatic spinner dolphins in action are from February to March. For those looking to soak up the sun, relax and unwind, November to April are the ideal times of year for calm seas and weather that isn’t too hot. Many tourists staying at Cinnamon Hotels and resorts in Colombo are known to make the 160 km journey from the city for ocean safaris, beach fun and whale and dolphin watching.
4. Arugam Bay Beach
Arugam Bay is a fantastic surfing destination located on Sri Lanka’s East Coast, around 320 km from Colombo. Surfers from all over the world are known to make their way to Arugam Bay beach during the surfing season from April to October when the best waves wash up on its shores and that of the coastal vicinity.
The beaches most suited for surfing are Arugam Point, whose waves reach heights of up to two metres on a good day: Pottuvil Point, which is a 30-minute drive north of the Bay, and Crocodile Rock, located 30 minutes away, south of the Bay, whose smaller swell is preferred by surfing amateurs.
5. Hikkaduwa Beach
Hikkaduwa is an idyllic, quaint Sri Lankan town ideal for underwater adventure, beachside frolicking and exploring. It has long remained one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka, atop most backpackers’ bucket lists for surfing (from November to March), scuba diving, turtle hatcheries, “Tsunami Museum”, lakes and Buddhist temples.
Two or three villages south of the resort area has been transferred to a 4 km strip of hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and guesthouses.
An impressive coral reef runs offshore that is populated by exotic fish and sea turtles that visitors can travel on glass-bottomed boats to explore the wonders of the deep while keeping their feet dry.