best beaches in sri lanka

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka

When it comes to beaches, Sri Lanka has it all. From scuba diving to whale watching, surfing to sunbathing, there’s something for everyone. During my 3 weeks stay in Sri Lanka, I got to spend 8 glorious days exploring various beaches in the south. There are many beaches to choose from, but these are the ones I got to visit and enjoyed.

Best Beaches in Sri Lanka by Activity

  • Mirissa Beach – nightlife, dolphin & whale watching
  • Weligama Beach – surfing, remote working and co-work spaces
  • Unawatuna Beach
  • Hikkaduwa Beach – scuba diving, snorkelling and turtles
  • Bentota Beach – higher-end resorts
  • Tangalle Beach – Secluded and Off-the-beaten-track
  • Negombo Beach – water sports, city break from Colombo

Mirissa Beach

Mirissa is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular beach towns; famous for its long beach, nightlife and whale watching. Located in the Matara district of the Southern Province, Mirissa can be easily accessed by car or bus. I was able to catch a 6-hour bus directly from Ella down to Mirissa. If you’re travelling by train, the nearest train station is Weligama, approximately 2km away.

Mirissa is most famous for its blue whale watching, with the best time of year being between December to April. You’ll find a number of different Whale and Dolphin watching tours available along the beach. However, after hearing how tour operators regularly chase the whales for tourists, I decided against going on a tour.

black sand beach mirissa
One of the black sand beaches near Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach is also a great place to stay if you’re looking for nightlife. Out of all the beaches, I found Mirissa’s nightlife to be the best. From cute bars to live music on the beach, this hippie beach town will keep you entertained throughout your stay!

Coconut Tree Hill

Coconut Tree Hill is one of the most famous photo spots in the beaches of Sri Lanka. To access Coconut Tree Hill, you have to walk about 20 minutes down Mirissa beach or along Matara Road. Make sure to wear proper, stable shoes as you will have to climb up a fairly steep hill to reach the top for photos. As you would expect, there was a queue of people taking photos so prepare to wait a while.

After spending a few magical days in Mirissa, I took a tuk-tuk down the road to Weligama.

Weligama Beach

Weligama is a charming coastal town that’s known for it’s surfing for all abilities. There are a number of surfing options you can sign up for, whether it’s your first time (like mine!) or a seasoned surfer. One of my favourite things about Weligama was it’s beautiful bay, that was lined with coconut palm trees and local seafood eateries. Great for evening strolls!

Weligama has also become known in recent years for its co-working spaces. There’s a community here of remote workers, and long-term travellers, who have chosen Weligama as a place to work from. From this, you’ll be able to find a plethora of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy after a day on the beach, or a day working!

Unawatuna Beach

Along with Mirissa, Unawatuna is the other key beach town to visit in Sri Lanka. With beautiful beaches, great snorkelling, nightlife, many eateries and good transport links to surrounding areas, this is a great place to visit! You’ll also find a good range of accomodation here, from cheap backpacker hostels to upmarket hotels.

If you’re staying in Unawatuna, I would highly recommend visiting the Dutch-colonial town of Galle. Located just a short train or bus ride away, Galle is the perfect day trip from Unawatuna.

Another beach to look out for in Unawatuna is Jungle Beach. Again, it’s a great place to snorkel, relax and enjoy the tiki-style beach bars! I found Unawatuna also had good nightlife.

From my experience, I recommend using Mirissa or Unawatuna as a base and doing day trips to surrounding areas like Galle, Hikkadua and Weligama.

unawatuna beach sri lanka

Hikkaduwa Beach

I did a day trip to Hikkaduwa Beach and loved the combination of lively atmosphere with natural beauty! This vibrant stretch of coastline is known for its lively restaurants, bars, and shops, catering to a wide range of visitors. I mainly went for the snorkelling and to see the turtles, but I was so impressed with the cute coastal town itself. It was easy to grab the bus from Mirissa and spend the day marvelling at the stunning marine life, colourful fish, intricate coral formations and…the turtles!!

To see the turtles, go near Hikka by Tranz at Cinnanom and see them swim up to the shallow, rocky area and sand. Hikkaduwa Beach is also known for its diving schools and different surf lessons available. I didn’t book anything in advance but was able to go snorkelling after speaking to different shops along the coast.

Bentota Beaches

If you’re looking for a little more luxury, head to Bentota – home to many upmarket resorts and world-class hotels. Bentota is also famous for its spas and wellness centres, so be sure to . After having a traditional Sri Lankan massage, head to the stunning Bentota beach to relax. As I was on a backpacker budget, I never stayed here but it’s on my list if I ever get back to Sri Lanka!

Tangalle Beach

The beaches in Tangalle are truely hidden gems, home to unspoiled stretches of golden beach and crystal clear waters. It’s a great area to come for a quieter snorkelling and swimming experience, away from the more crowded spots in Sri Lanka. I also enjoyed exploring the surrounding fishing villages. You have a few beaches to choose from here, including Medaketiya beach¬†and Silent beach. I found it interesting that despite being a short ride from Mirissa, the vibe of Tangalle was totally different. It felt more authentic and much more relaxed.

I went to Sri Lanka in February 2019, and with the increasing rise of social media, Tangalle Beach might be less untouched than when I went.

Negombo Beach

Negombo Beach is located an hour drive north of the capital, Colombo, making it a great day trip to escape the bustling city. It’s also very close to the international airport, so it’s worth visiting if you have a day to kill before or after a flight. The beach itself is known for it’s long stretch of pristine beach and activities. You can choose to partake in water sports like windsurfing and jet skiing. Or opt for a more chilled day with seaside restaurants or Ayurvedic massage spas. The beachfront is dotted with vibrant fishing boats and lively markets, which are fun to walk through.

Other Beaches to Consider

A few other beaches worth checking out include Nilaveli Beach and Arugam Bay. I didn’t have time to visit either, but these are beaches i’ve consistently heard good things about.

Arugam Bay is located on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka and is known for its world-class waves. If you’re looking for big swells, check out this area. The bay itself is also known for its laid-back vibe and stunning sunrises over the Indian Ocean.

Nilaveli Beach is known for its seclusion an serenity, with white sand and crystal clear waters. If you’re looking for a quiet, tranquil beach away from other tourists, this could be one to check out!

So whether you’re looking for something adventurous and active, or a more laid-back and secluded, Sri Lanka has beaches for everyone! I’ve just added all the beaches I got to experience during my time in Sri Lanka, but there are lots more to choose from. The whole south coast is full of cute beach towns that are easily accessible by bus, train or tuk tuk.