If you look at a map of Sri Lanka (earth view) you’ll see the number of beaches it has is pretty spectacular. But, then again, just one hour away by plane is The Maldives – with picture-perfect white-sand shores. You’ve got a dilemma: which one should you experience? Here, I weigh up all your options, and discover that it really depends on what you want from your relaxation time.
It’s one of our most frequently asked questions when discussing holidays to either country. There is actually no set right or wrong answer, but I really want to give you a few pointers so that you can make an informed decision.
1. Which one is more beautiful?
The Maldivian beaches are picture-postcard perfect, with white sand, palm trees, shallow turquoise waters and tropical fish everywhere! It is just stunning. For some people, however, it’s too perfect!
Sri Lankan beaches are, by and large, quite rugged. They’re characterised by huge sweeping stretches of coarser sand and massive palm trees bent over by the wind. They’re loveable, but in a rough-around-the-edges kind of way.
2. I love swimming in the sea. Can I swim in both locations?
The Maldives is a sea swimmer’s paradise. Huge flat lagoons means you can swim right around most islands, or in large sections of some. Most will have at least a quiet side with no waves, so it’s easy peasy.
Sri Lankan beaches are a whole different ball game. Some are swimmable all year round, like Unawatuna – but at others there are a load of factors at play which mean you can’t swim – or safe swimming is never guaranteed. The tides, currents and weather all play a part. So, if swimming in the sea is important to you, you’ll need to seek out a swimmable beach to stay on (which often means it’s more built up) or take each day – and its sea conditions – as it comes. You’ll have to go with the flow, and safety first!
3. I love ‘doing’ stuff while I’m holiday. Won’t I get bored in the Maldives?
The Maldives is fantastic for water sports, snorkelling, scuba diving and boat trips. Culturally, it’s not on a par with Sri Lanka for the most part. If you get bored sitting around you might develop cabin fever on an island in The Maldives – for some though, it’s amazing how the days just fly by when you’re doing ‘nothing’!
Sri Lankan beaches are much better places to base yourself if you like to be able to go out for dinner, enjoy a drink in a lively town, take an excursion to somewhere completely remote, visit a local village or cycle around a paddy rice field. Water sports, snorkelling and diving are possible in Sri Lanka, but they’re a bonus rather than a guarantee and certainly not the reason for going; we’d certainly advise not trying to fit a square into a circle…
A beach stay in Sri Lanka is definitely going to work out cheaper than one in The Maldives. Apart from the fact that many people combine time at the beach in Sri Lanka with a longer tour of the island so the beach bit is simply an add-on to an existing itinerary, if you go to The Maldives you need to factor in the extra cost of a sea plane or a speedboat to get from your international flight’s arrival point on Male to the island where your resort is located.
Food and drinks in The Maldives are expensive because everything has to be imported. That doesn’t mean it’s not good value (or that prices don’t vary between resorts). But when comparing like for like, a Sri Lankan hotel of comparable standard and on the same board basis as a Maldivian one, will always be significantly more economical. In fact as a very rough guide, a 5* hotel in The Maldives will be double the cost of a 5* hotel in Sri Lanka, although it can also be much, much more! Plus of course, there are often alternatives to eating in your hotel in Sri Lanka, whereas in The Maldives you are a captive audience for the resort’s restaurants.
Getting to The Maldives can be a bit of a faff, and it’s even more of a hassle if you are coming from Sri Lanka. Is it really worth it for just 3-4 nights or is the balance between effort and reward only really achieved by a stay of 5 nights or more? If you are going to switch countries for your downtime on the beach it’s really important to consider this.
If you are already in Sri Lanka then it’s just so easy to find a lovely place in which to relax. Bear in mind that, after doing a ‘tour’, sometimes you are just so ready to get to a beach to have some chill time that it makes sense to pick Sri Lanka just for this reason alone.
In conclusion, I would say going to either destination makes for an incredible experience. My best piece of advice is, don’t force one into a bracket that it’s just not set up for. For example, you might not be able to go snorkelling from many beaches in Sri Lanka, but then it might be turtle season and you can see the babies hatch…magical. You might not be able to go out to a local eatery in The Maldives, but savouring some fine dining in a restaurant that juts out over a turquoise lagoon could more than make up for that in your eyes.
Absorbing the local sights and sounds of a Sri Lankan fishing village a short walk along the sand might be your idea of the perfect excursion; on the other hand, seeking out the magical colours of a Maldivian coral reef and spotting a whale shark sitting just off the island could be closer to your ideal beach holiday. It’s all about enjoying each destination for what they both are and what they can give. Ultimately they are very special in their own way, so enjoy!
For personalised suggestions for your beach stay, call us on 020 7924 7133 or request a call back here. For more inspiration on a beach stay in Sri Lanka, see our guide to the best ones here. For Maldives private island suggestions, take a look at our insider article.