The Best Beaches of Sri Lanka

by Sam Clark March 15, 2013 50 comments
One of the best beaches in Sri Lanka

Updated: July 2019

As Sri Lanka travel specialists, we at Experience Travel Group are often asked questions about the island (and we are more than happy to answer them!). But there is one question that we get asked more than any other: which beach is the best to visit in Sri Lanka?

It’s not an easy one to answer as there are so many great beaches. I’ve worked in travel for over twenty years, and the rugged beaches of Sri Lanka are some of my favourite in the world. However, the weather in Sri Lanka is quite complicated even on a fairly small island and sea conditions vary hugely.

As such, the best beach to visit in Sri Lanka depends to some degree on the weather. Sri Lanka is tropical and has no distinct wet season throughout the country. This means different beaches are better at different times. To further complicate the picture, safe swimming in the sea is only possible from certain beaches at certain time of year.

As a general rule, if you want to be assured of quality sun time on the beach and a calm and flat sea choose a southern or western beach from December through to April. From May to September, an eastern beach is your best bet.

Eastern beaches generally enjoy excellent weather from February to April too – but not always a flat and calm sea. Southern and western beaches generally have good weather from late July to September, but sea swimming is rarely safe at this time.

A disclaimer! Some years, the monsoons arrive early or late and sometimes do not appear at all! This changes both rain patterns and the behaviour of the sea. Our specialists are more than happy to chat through which beach might be the best option for your Sri Lanka holiday at the time you wish to travel – just let us know.

Some of the best beaches Sri Lanka are in Galle

Galle Beaches

Galle now jumps to mind when people think of a Sri Lanka beach holiday. The sleepy old port town, with its fine old walled Dutch Fort is surrounded by excellent beaches – though has none itself. It does make a great base for exploring the local beaches, as it has superb restaurants, great shops and a laid back, vaguely bohemian vibe.

The sea is generally safe for swimming during the January to March period and in sheltered parts outside of that time. Advice must always be sought though.

The nearby beaches of Unawatuna, Thalpe and Wijiya have a range of excellent accommodation and good beachside places to eat. There are places to swim in the sea which are sheltered and therefore safe most of the year. These beaches are particularly brilliant for small exclusive boutique hotels, such as Apa Villa and gorgeous beach villas like Southpoint VillaCape Weligama is a brand new exciting hotel which is making waves now too. For a counter intuitive suggestion, think about staying inland. The countryside inland from Galle is among the most beautiful in the country and that is saying something. You can still easily access the beach and hang out at places like Wijiya. Why House and Kahanda Kahanda are among the most beautiful hotels in Asia and watch this pace for a new hotel opening later on this year: Tri.

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Cricket Beach Sri Lanka

The West Coast

These are the famed beaches stretching from Colombo down to Galle – wide, sandy and palm fringed. Bentota Beach is the most famous, designated a tourist development location back in the 70’s, and it has thrived ever since. If you want water-sports, busy hotels, restaurants and day trips laid on, this is the place to come. Just south of Bentota are quieter beaches, but still in reach. A favourite hotel in the region is Club Villa. To the north beaches such as Wadduwa and Kaultara have several excellent hotels and have the advantage of being in easy reach of Colombo. The Reef is the pick of the hotels.

To the south, Hikkaduwa is generally for backpackers and party animals, whilst Balapitiya (pictured), Ahungama and Dodanduwa all have excellent hotels a quiet beach and easy access to Galle and beyond.

The sea is generally safe for swimming during the January to March period and in parts outside of that time.

Amanwella, south coast Sri lanka

Deep South Beaches

Mirissa is midway between Galle than Tangalle and is the pretty little bay that I and many others fell in love with when it was a tiny little fishing village 15 years ago. It still retains a backpacker vibe, but low key and fun and there are now some excellent hotels. As you go further down the coast, there are miles of golden sand beaches, with Tallala a stand out example. In the Tangalle area there are many fine beaches with Mawella reckoned to be the best. Tangalle is a quiet and sleepy and miles from the crowds of the west coast. Perfect for many and there are superb hotels such as Amanwella and Buckingham Place as well as lovely little villas such as Teak House. Staying at the Bawa designed Last House, would be a privilege for anyone. Beware though, swimming in the sea is very often unsafe in Tangalle.

Sun Aqua Beach in Sri Lanka

The East Coast

An entirely new region really for beach holidays in Sri Lanka, the east coast actually has the best beaches in Sri Lanka and certainly the best sea swimming.

Trincomalee itself has a beach, but as a large town it is not really a beach resort as such (just yet). Just north of Trinco though are the famed sandy stretches of Upaveli and Nilaveli. There are plenty of hotel options too – at the time of writing Anilana is the stand out option. There is plenty else to do and see round Trinco town too, which makes it a brilliant beach destination.

Further north, at Kuchaveli, still wild elephant territory there is some limited development including the gorgeous and secluded Jungle Beach.

A couple of hours drive to the south are is the famous Passekudah Bay. It is revered by Sri Lankan’s largely because of the wide gently sloping bay, which makes sea swimming safe year round and in season provides the kind of flat azure waters people dream about. It used to be dead quiet too – but now there are many hotels springing up. The pick of the bunch would be Uga Bay and the Anilana. The exclusive Maldives brand, ‘The Beach House Collection’ also has a hotel there, The Sun Aqua.

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View of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Beyond the beach

Worth noting that, in my opinion, Sri Lanka is far more beautiful inland than on the coast. The beaches are lovely –no doubt, but they are no better than those in neighbouring countries such as India and Thailand. Inland is where Sri Lanka really comes into its own. From the lakes and plains of the central region, to the tea clad hills and the lush tropical hinterland, Sri Lanka is possibly the most varied and beautiful island in the world – at least for its size. It is impossible to reach all of this variety and scenery from the beach, so I would suggest that you vary up your trip with a couple of inland stays too.

Tea plucker in Sri Lanka train track
Man rowing in a lake in Sri Lanka

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You can reach us on  0207 924 7133 or make an enquiry.

Alternatively, for holiday inspiration, take a look at our Sri Lanka home page.

50 comments

Jonathan October 13, 2013 - 5:24 pm

Hi there Sam. I read your cool blog on this page. Thanks. This about-to-be-first-time visitor to Sri Lanka would be grateful for some advice please? Thinking of the Southern areas you mention for a Beach holiday this December. Decent-quality accommodation.Maybe boutique-type (not a big, family-type hotel please!). But near great food spots. Good beach and swimming. Perhaps some Yoga. In Kerala last year, i liked Varkala for all of it’s excellent restaurants and vibe, but more for the super beach and swimming. Something similar, but perhaps a touch more chilled out? Any suggestions please? Thanks so much in advance. Cheers, Jonathan.

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Sam Clark October 14, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Hi Jonathan,

We’d be delighted to help further. You do actually have to be careful if you want a swimming beach in Sri Lanka in December – very few beaches offer guaranteed safe sea swimming at this time. I will ask one of my colleagues to drop you a line directly.

Kind regards,

Sam

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Creasey March 10, 2018 - 7:20 pm

Hi Sami have a boy of 12 would like to visit srilanka inlate December early January need a clear but flat sea can you recommend thanks

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Amelia Curran March 21, 2018 - 5:07 pm

Hi there

Thanks for your question. In Sri Lanka, it can be hard to guarantee a clear flat sea, but somewhere like Weligama or Unawatuna on the South Coast do tend to be swimmable all year round. If swimming in lovely flat water is a priority for you, you could also consider combining your trip with a stay in the Maldives? It’s very close geographically to Sri Lanka and is home to some of the world’s most most amazing sea swimming conditions. Why not have a look at our Sri Lanka/ Maldives combination holidays to see if this is the kind of thing you’re after? You can find this here: https://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/holidays/srilanka-maldives1

I hope you have a fantastic trip whatever you decide.

Many thanks,
Amelia

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Rajiv October 25, 2013 - 11:30 am

Hi Sam,
good information about beaches in SL.
We are visiting SL in the 1st week of November 2013 to see the wild life there. During the course we would be for 2 day relaxation at a good beach and resort.
Have shortlisted Unawatuna, Mirissa and Beruwala&Bentola.

Need to decide on any one of them. Not sure if our selection is correct and which one to select out of these.

Please help us select or recommend any other good one.

REgards
Rajiv

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maria June 9, 2014 - 7:45 am

Hi Sam! thanks for the information. I would like some detailed advise where to have nice weather and beaches during July, also if you could help us with a itinerary for around 10 days with some beach cost days and also inland jungle days! thank you!!!

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Sam Clark July 22, 2014 - 12:33 pm

Hi,
Many thanks for your enquiry.
We’ve replied to you directly to see if we can help further. We have a brilliant special offer right now on the beaches of the east coast – perfect during July through to September.
Many thanks,

Sam

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Hannah January 11, 2015 - 9:25 am

Hello Sam, I have found your views very helpful and just wondered if you could possibly help further.

Again, like most I am stuck in deciding which area and hotel may be the most suitable to spend 5-7 nights during my first visit to Sri Lanka.

Myself and my boyfriend (23,26) will be visiting in April for 17 days, we wish to spend a fair chunk of our time in an area in a hotel (boutique ideally) that offers beautiful beaches, yoga, walking, snorkelling but with access to local restaurants/ bar but not to busy in terms of nightlife but does have some night life, and also authentic where we can get involved and really engross ourself in Sri Lankan culture.

Would you be able to make any suggestions and what might be a recommended route for us?

Thank you,

Hannah

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LucyReeve January 16, 2015 - 3:37 pm

Hi Hannah,

Thanks for your message! One of our Sri Lanka specialists will send you an email to discuss your trip further.

Best,

Lucy

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Sally February 7, 2016 - 6:55 am

Hi Sam
I’m also interested In a 10 days beach holiday for end of July/start of August. Any info/tips of locations in Sri Lanka would be appreciated.

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Philly Baines February 8, 2016 - 9:17 am

Hi Sally,

End of July/ start of August is a very good time to go. This page on our website explains the main regions you might like to visit: https://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/info/sri-lanka-by-region

Otherwise it might be an idea to talk with a Sri Lanka specialists to discuss what is right for you personally. Our number is 020 3355 2507 and in the I’ll ask someone to get in contact privately via email to offer preliminary advice.

Hope this helps!

Philly

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Dolly Kaur CORRADINI August 6, 2014 - 6:55 am

Hi Sam, Me and my husband are planning to visit sri lanka in September for around 12 days. We are thinking of hiring a car to visit some of the beaches around galle and the inland mainly Sigiry, Kandy, Anuradapura, Nuwara Eliya. Do you think it is a good idea, or shall we book a tour with a driver?

thanks
dolly

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Sam Clark August 22, 2014 - 3:55 pm

Hi Dolly,
Thanks for getting in touch!
I’d generally advice against self drive in Sri Lanka. The roads are poor and the signposting is non existent, so unless you are very experienced at driving on Asian roads I’d say it wasn’t a good idea. Due the perceived insurance risk, the cost is not that much higher for hiring a chauffuer guide for the duration of your tour. All Experience Travel Group holidays feature our experienced driver/guides. The majority of people come back say that they were the best thing about the country: they give such an amazing insight into their country, showing you things you couldn’t possibly see on your own. As many of the places we visit are a little off the main tourist trail – you would struggle to find them with a chauffuer-guide!
Please do fill in your details here if you’d like us to put something together for you. It would be our pleasure to make some suggestions!http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/make-enq?src=header-button
Regards,
Sam

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Harriet August 14, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Hi Sam,

Thanks for the info. Me and my friend are visiting Sri Lanka the 2nd and 3rd weeks of September and would love some advice on where to go beach-wise in the second week? We’re both 25 and would like somewhere reasonably priced with a fun yet chilled vibe, where the beach is stunning (i get the impression this is everywhere!?), the weather is likely to be great (unpredictable, i know) and the sea is safe. Any recommendations would be gratefully received. Thanks!

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Sam Clark August 22, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Hi Harriet,

That’s actually a reasonably tricky request in September. The sea in Sri Lanka is unpredictable, so apart from a few sheltered bays, there are very few places we can guarantee safe swimming at this time of year. Plenty of great pl;aces o stay and if you’d like our suggestions please put in an enquiry on our site here:
http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/make-enq?src=header-button
Regards,
Sam

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Farah August 18, 2014 - 10:38 am

Hi Sam.. Thank you for providing the information above. My husband and I are planning a trip to Siri Lanka end of september begining of october -as a Family trip with our 2year old son. We want to hit the right resort with a nice beach which is safe to swim in. Also, if the resort is close to a nice town with restaurants and shops. Please can you recommend a 5 star resort with a good number of restaurant and outlets .. Many Thanks.

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Sam Clark August 22, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Hi Farah,
We’d be delighted too and so we have emailed you directly.
Regards,
Sam

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Sara August 23, 2014 - 4:30 pm

Hi Sam
My friend and I are travelling to SL in the October half term . We are looking for a nice beach hut that has both tranquility but also a bit of fun night life close by..Where would you suggest and what’s the sea like at this time of year?

Many thanks

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Sam Clark September 1, 2014 - 1:38 pm

Hi Sara,
In Sri Lanka it is always a balance between tranquility and night life! They don’t co-exist in the way they might in Thailand – especially not in October, which is very much off season. I’d probably suggest staying somewhere near Galle at that time. There are some lovely quiet hotels near enough to Unawatuna and Galle to ensure some fun nightlife. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by beach hut though. That can cover anything from super cheap and basic to ultra luxurious! If you want to enquire directly on [email protected] one of our consultants will definitely be able to help.
All the best,
Sam

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Lynley jenness August 26, 2014 - 6:03 am

Hi, we (2 adults, 2 kids 8&9) are in Colombo for a tournament and wondered where is the best place to go for a day trip for beach swimming from here, tomorrow (Wednesday) or thursday. Do you suggestions and costs? We were thinking of hiring a taxi between us but we are unsure where to go as it looks like the beaches might not be safe for swimming in August.
Thanks,
Lynley

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Sam Clark September 1, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Hi Lynley,
There is no easy day trip to go swimming in the sea from Colombo. It is usually possibly to dip in Negombo, though no always and if not, perhaps go further up the coast, where the sea is cleaner. It is not really a question we would usually encounter to be honest, we arrange holidays which take in different aspects. For a great day out from Colombo I’d suggest going inland and swimming in a lake or a river!
All the best,
Sam

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Steve Miller September 2, 2014 - 6:52 am

Hi Sam…

We are a family of 5 planing to arrive on the 28th of December for 7 nights..Children aged 6-8. We want to do safari in Yala but getting conflicted information about number of days to spend there.

We don’t want too much travelling so thinking of splitting the journey to Yala with 2 nights on the beach 1 night in Yala and then 3-4 nights back on the beach. This would then break the journey up to/from the airport to Yala. Feasible?

We were thinking of more culture as well, but just don’t think spending endless amounts of time in a car would be good for 3 young children.

Final q… if we take a private driver…does he stay with you the whole time? Ie. where do they sleep etc etc..

Cheers in advance.

Steve

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Eloise October 23, 2014 - 10:35 am

Hi Sam

I am so pleased to have stumbled across this! I wondered if you could help me find somewhere to go with my husband. We love beach hut/cabana living as aposed to large hotels, but more comfortable than basic back packer places. We would love to be on a beach that we can swim on, though I know from comments above this could be tricky in December. I have been to Passekudah a long time ago, it was great – but no swimming with very big hotels popping up. We were thinking east or south. If you have any ideas it would great thanks.

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Sam Clark October 28, 2014 - 5:03 pm

Dear Eloise,

Great question! I’m afraid that in December, that is very hard to guarantee safe sea swimming at this time of year. Passekudah is definitely out of season and in December, I’d say south was a better bet. There are a number of places that have sheltered bays though.

I’ll get on of our consultants to contact you directly and see what would be best to suggest.

Best,

Sam

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Mike December 2, 2014 - 3:20 pm

Hi Sam,

Thanks a lot for your blog and especially this overview. I’m planning to visit Sri Lanka with my wife in mid-March for two weeks to enjoy cultural fundamentals in the centre of the country for a couple of days first and then to move South for a safe swimming and a kind of quiet romantic surroundings there and I’m currently stuck in too many choices and advices on where should I go. My options up till now are Mirissa and Tangalle (Mawella is the option, probably).
Could You please share your point on the best hotel/beach/region for my purpose?
Many thanks in advance.

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LucyReeve December 8, 2014 - 9:30 am

Hi Mike, thanks for your note. I’ve asked one of our Sri Lanka specialists to get in touch with you by email to discuss your trip further, I hope that’s OK? Kind regards, the Experience Travel Group Team.

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Leslie March 8, 2015 - 8:14 pm

Hello,

My family (kids: 23, 20,17 years old) and us, parents are coming to Sri Lanka the end of March through April 10th. We love to hike, bike, swim/snorkel and want to know the best itinerary without sitting in a car for too long. We want to see the best of Sri Lanka. Not interested in a Safari or in the elephants either. We want to stay in 4 star accomodations and don’t like to move out of a place everyday. We prefer to see fewer places and more of each place.

Thank you for your help.

Leslie Ratner

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LucyReeve March 12, 2015 - 9:01 am

Hi Leslie,

Thanks for your enquiry. One of our Sri Lanka specialists will be in touch very soon.

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john April 8, 2015 - 12:11 pm

Hi

I am going to be traveling to Sri Lanka in July. I will be traveling solo. I would like to spend 3 or 4 nights on a nice calm and relaxed beach. Beautiful and not too many tourists. Any ideas. I would like a cheaper hotel but not back packers. Any ideas? The other days I would like to go see leopards in a National Park and/or go to a tea plantation and visit Kandy area.

John

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Jasmin June 20, 2015 - 6:50 pm

Hi Sam,
Great to have stumbled across this. My family and I (two daughters 5 & 7 when we travel) plan to go to Sri Lanka in July next year for 3 weeks. We have plans roughly sorted for the first two weeks, but the last week we would like to stay at a quality boutique hotel on a beach. We’re getting conflicting advice about where is safe to swim and would welcome any advice you can give. Being able to swim in the sea of utmost importance and the further south we could be during our last week the better.

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LucyReeve June 22, 2015 - 10:06 am

Hi Jasmin,

The Lantern in Mirissa could work for you: http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/hotel/lantern. However you’re more than welcome to speak to one of our consultants as your requirements are quite specific – what is the best number we could reach you on?

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zainab ansari July 13, 2015 - 12:15 pm

hi, we are a group of friends (25 to 26yr olds) travelling to sri lanka end of sept for a week, we prefer nightlife, beaches, and a little bit of adventour experience. could you suggest an itnenary, of places we should visit to have a good time

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Sam Clark July 15, 2015 - 8:15 am

Hi Zainab,

Thank you for your enquiry. One of my colleagues will contact you directly.

Regards,

Sam

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Fitore September 2, 2015 - 5:10 am

Hi,

I am planning a holiday in Sri Lanka with my mum in mid November. We have never been there and have no idea where to begin planning! We like beaches, resorts, sight seeing, markets and safaris. What can you recommend for us?
Thank you.
-Fitore

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LucyReeve September 4, 2015 - 9:54 am

Hi Fitore

Thank you for your enquiry.

The best way to cover all of your requirements would be to do a tour of the island, with a relaxing few days on the beach at the end. This way, you can enjoy the huge variety that the island has to offer and the diverse range of sights, wildlife and natural beauty on offer. With this huge range, we feel that no two tours should be the same so would recommend speaking to one of our experts, who will be able to discuss the right balance for you and suggest a package that would be your perfect holiday. If you would be interested in this, please feel free to give the team a call on +44207 924 7133 or send us an email to [email protected].

A good place to start, would be to have a look at our great range of classic holidays – http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/holidays/classic-tours – and in particular our essential holiday – http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/holiday/classic-itinerary. Hopefully this will give you some ideas about what can be included and what you might enjoy.

I hope that helps!

All the best,

Lucy

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Doria September 16, 2015 - 3:59 am

I am off to Sri Lanka tonight! I used to live there and go back every year. I have already been to most of these beaches but plan to explore the ones you talked about that I have not been to yet.

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Linda Sandhoff September 16, 2015 - 9:41 am

Hi Doria,

Have fun!

Sam

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Rachael October 15, 2015 - 10:56 am

Hi I have booked a 16 day holiday with my boyfriend in Sri Lanka for the beginning of feb 2016 for the last week we will be travelling from Yala national park to a beach for 5 nights then on to Colombo, I have read lots of different reviews on all the beaches and i still have no clue on where is best for us to go. I know we will want to have a really nice relaxing time with lots of sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea but also have the option of nice places to eat and a few bars. My boyfriend also wants to be able to go diving as well. If anyone could point us in the right direction that would be so helpful.

Rachael

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Sam Clark October 15, 2015 - 11:17 am

Hi Rachael,

Personally, I’d say that Mirissa would best match that description. Safe swimming at that time of year, some low key bars and restaurants and some lovely hotels. There is some diving off the coast if he went round to Unawatuna which is not too far away (mainly wreck diving). We have some fantastic excursions off shore and inland from there which are offered as part of our tailor-made holiday packages.

Anyway, we’d love to help you out so if you’d like us to put together a suggestion and holiday for you, do please contact us by filling in the form here.

Many thanks,

Sam

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Philly Baines October 15, 2015 - 11:17 am

Hi Rachael,
Sri Lanka in February will be great – weather is fantastic. For sunbathing, swimming and diving your best bet is the East Coast – diving on the South Coast is not so good. Have a look a Nilaveli Beach Resort. There’s a few beach bars around there and whilst it’s quieter than its counterparts on the south coast, it will be very idyllic. Hope this helps! http://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/hotel/nilaveli-beach-hotel
Philly

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Rachael October 15, 2015 - 3:04 pm

Hi Philly, thanks for your advice but does the east coast not suffer with monsoons during february?

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Philly Baines October 20, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Hi Rachael,
East Coast monsoon is over by December time so February should be fine.
Philly

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lily December 16, 2015 - 4:23 pm

Hi Sam : ) lovely blog.
curious if mirissa beach has ok swimming the first week of January. I have only heard lovely things of this beach but not of its swimming conditions. also curious if swimming at night is to be avoided…. creatures, roughness, etc… thank you in advance.
xx

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JT June 18, 2016 - 9:19 am

Hi Sam,

My wife and I are coming to Sri Lanka November 20-25, 2016. We will fly into Columbo and want to stay in a fun beach town where we can walk to some cool bars/pubs/restaurants and also where we can do a day trip for a safari to see elephants, leopards, and monkeys. We were thinking of Hikkaduwa. Do you recommend that or is there a better place? Which safari do you recommend? Thanks

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Philly Baines June 18, 2016 - 9:30 am

Hi JT,
Hikkaduwa is a good option, you could also consider Unawatuna – it has a lot going on around it. Depends on your exact preferences but the latter is a little closer to Galle with its heritage and culture. Regarding Safari, I’d recommend Uda Walawe National Park – you can see orphan elephants at the Born Free’s Elephant Transit Camp: https://www.experiencetravelgroup.com/sri_lanka/exp/elephant-transit-camp – Best of luck on your trip. (Philly, Blog Editor)

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Collins June 30, 2016 - 1:07 pm

Oww, you make me feel like going on a holiday now!!!
btw, beautiful images

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Philly Baines June 30, 2016 - 4:48 pm

Glad you enjoyed it!

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Ali Alhassan August 1, 2016 - 11:11 pm

Hi Sam.. Thank you for providing the information above. My wife and I are planning a trip to Siri Lanka end of september begining of october -as a couple trip . We want to hit the right beach which is safe to swim in. Also, Please can you recommend a good beach for us .. Many Thanks

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Philly Baines August 2, 2016 - 3:14 pm

Hi Ali,
Sure – best to ask one of our country specialist on 0207 924 7133 to tailor this into a wider Sri Lanka holiday. So glad you enjoyed the post.
Best wishes,
Philly (on behalf of Sam)

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Vanessa March 14, 2018 - 9:04 pm

Hi

I am hoping to travel to Sri Lanka for Christmas and New year. I have been looking online on various sites and trying to shortlist resorts and good beaches.

It seems Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Mirissa and Welligama are coming out tops. I am looking for somewhere quite lively, (female travelling alone), with good nightlife, and facilities, and with a nice, picturesque beach where you can swim safely without being battered by the surf and strong current.

Do you have any recommendations please?

Reply

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