Over one thousand kilometers of sandy beaches encircle the Island. Sri Lanka is never out of season for a beach holiday. There is always some part of the beach that has friendly and warm waters. The beach resorts in the North Coast, West Coast, East Coast and the South Coast are popular among the tourists who enjoy taking a dip in the warm waters and relaxing on the sandy beach.
398 km. from Colombo, Jaffna has an austere kind of beauty that is vastly different from the rest of the island. Its virgin beaches and coraline coast, off shore islets, and the peninsula's very distinctive way of life can be an enigmatic experience for the individual traveller. Not to be missed are the sand dunes of Manalkadu - a miniscule desert whose sheer wildness will impress you. Casuarina Beach is situated at Karainagar and there are good beaches also at Santhakulam and Thondaimannar.
The Island is probably the driest, most barren area in Sri Lanka. The landscape features many baobab trees, probably introduced from Africa by Arab traders centuries ago. Mannar, the major town on the island, is at the southern end, joined the mainland by a 3 km causeway. It's not interesting apart from its picturesque Portuguese/Dutch fort. Talaimannar, near the western end, is about 3 km from the pier that was the arrival and departure point of the ferry for India that operated until 1984. A little farther west, an abandoned lighthouse at South Point marks the start of Adam's Bridge, the chain of reefs, sandbanks and islets that almost connects Sri Lanka to India. In the Ramayana, this is the series of stepping stones that Hanuman used to follow Rawana, the demon king of Lanka, in his bid to rescue Sita.
The West Coast broadly stretches from Mt. Lavinia, a southern suburb of Colombo to Mannar Island in the lower northwest. Mt. Lavinia and Negombo are considered the best developed beach resorts in this region. Isolated hotels have sprung up in most places along the western coastal stretch.
Placed 150 km north of the capital, Colombo, the Kalpitiya region is one of the most beautiful coastal areas located in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya is a peninsular that separates the Puttalam lagoon from the Indian Ocean and is a marine sanctuary with a diversity of habitats ranging from bar reefs, flat coastal plains, saltpans, mangroves swamps, salt marshes and vast sand dune beaches.
The major beach resort in the West Coast is Negombo which is a characteristic fishing town in Gampaha district, 37 km north of Colombo, merely 6 km from the International Airport. The wide sandy beaches and its safe sea attract thousands of visitors to Negombo. Set amid lush groves of coconut palms, it breathes the spirit of the sea. Negombo is also a gourmet's paradise with seafood in plenty. The fish market where there are busy trading of a variety of fish, prawns, crabs and seer that take place lively in the mornings, when the fishing crafts return to the shore with their catch, is a worth visiting place. The most popular fishing craft is the outrigger canoe called 'oruwa' dug out from a huge log which is seen in large numbers in the Negombo lagoon.
Situated in the South Colombo 12 km away from the city, Mount Lavinia is a suburb of always well known beach since the colonial time. The sea is a safe and popular bathing spot. Its clean sandy beaches, lies alongside a wind swept headland, are jutting into the waters of the Indian Ocean with softest sand and the calm and clear water. The name Lavinia reminds of a secret love affair between a British Governor and a local damsel who used to meet at the holiday house of the Governor, built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland, which now became part of the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel.
From April to October, the East Coast comes to life. It is one of the best stretches of beach in Sri Lanka. The Eastern beaches stretch for over 300 kilometers along which tourist resorts are developed.
If Sri Lanka is Serendipity, beach lovers will find lots of it on the east coast. The coast line here is uneven with many bays and sheltered coves. On some beaches here you can walk a mile into the sea.
Situated 257 km from Colombo, this city is the ideal refuge for the beach addicts. It comprises a fine natural harbor and excellent beaches. Horatio Nelson - the British admiral of the 18th century - had, on arriving at the Trincomalee harbor, described it as the finest harbor in the world. This beautiful harbor was in use since the days of the early Sinhala kings. At the site there is an old Portuguese/Dutch Fort which has an inscription above its entrance, made by Dutch in 1676, is reminiscent of the colonial rule. It was subsequently named 'Ford Frederick' by the British.
Located in Trincomalee district, 271 from Colombo or 14 km from Trincomalee, Nilaveli is a prime beach resort in the east coast. It is ideally suited for sun bathing, swimming and diving. Also, at few meters off shore, there is a small rocky island that is good for snorkeling. All water sports are available here including fishing and sea angling and whale watching in the sanctuary. In 1985, Nilaveli was the venue for the 1985 International Funboard Championships.
Further east, 314 km from Colombo, in Ampara district is a most beautiful bay good for surfing. Arugam Bay is a fishing village with a wide, sweeping beach in front of the village itself that has a low promontory and is good for swimming. The East coast offers unlimited possibility for many kinds of water sports and underwater photography. The many ship-wrecks of the coast are a tempting challenge to many divers.
Kalkudah & Passekudah
A 2 km-long Kalkudah Bay, 32 km north of Batticaloa, is one of fine beaches in the east coast that is well protected from the monsoon by the off shore reef. Passekudah Bay is another wide beach with the length of 4 km located to the south of Kalkudah and is a lovely bay with clear water. The combined area of Passekudah and Kalkudah was declared as a National Holiday Resort in 1973. This is an ideal site for bathing, windsurfing and water skiing and is a well frequented tourist center with a modern hotel and related facilities.
The city is like most other coastal townships that were under Portuguese and Dutch rule. A Dutch Fort stands close to the Batticaloa lagoon. The most famous attraction of Batticaloa is the 'Singing Fish'. On a full moon night, between April and September, there is a faint but distinct musical sound (described as the type of noise produced by rubbing a moistened finger around the rim of a wine glass) rises from the lagoon water, this sound is attributed to a noise emanated by one kind of fish found in the lagoon.
The southern coast is the most popular among tourists and comes to life mainly from October through April when the monsoon moves northeast and the sea becomes calmer with blue sky. It is an ideal place to go on a vacation. The main beach resorts are at Beruwela, Bentota and Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna.
56 km. south of Colombo, Beruwela marks the beginning of a 130 km. stretch of beach where resort development has taken immense strides in the past few years. Good bathing may be had in the bay all year round
Situated in Galle, a district that is 62 km southwards of Colombo or 4 km southward of Beruwela, the Bentota Resort Complex is a romantic rendezvous of river and sea with several hotels, railway station, post office, shopping arcade, cafeteria and an open air theatre showing folk and mask dancing with clusters of palms overlooking everything. There is also an abundance of water based recreational activities in the area.
The beautiful coast of Ambalangoda is a half an hour drive from Bentota or 86 km from Colombo. It is a fair-sized town that has a beautiful sweep sandy beach to its north. It is also home of devil dancing and mask making. Colorful masks worn during traditional dance are carved out of soft wood and brightly painted. Other products such as batiks and hand-woven cottons are also found here.
98 km. south of Colombo, Hikkaduwa is the place for underwater delight. Site of the famed coral gardens; hire a glass bottomed boat or goggles and flippers and explore the fantasies under your feet. Don't purchase or encourage sale of corals
116 km. south of Colombo, is the most important southern town with an old-world charm. Believed to be the 'Tarshish' of the Bible, its natural harbour was a famous fort in days gone by. Famous for its Dutch fort, lace making, ebony carving and gem polishing.
27 km. from Galle with its picturesque bay, and an off shore islet where a French Count built his dream house, Weligama is where you will see the famous stilt fishermen.
Unawatuna is 4 km southeast of Galle or 120 km from Colombo, and is a beautiful wide curving golden beach in the south that is popular and safe for bathing by which there is a reef protecting it. It is popular for travelers because at this beach there is no annoying road right to the beach unlike some other places such as Hikkaduwa. However, during public holiday, the beach can get very crowded.
Situated on the Matara road 4 km southeast of Weligama, Mirissa marks for one of the country's most beautiful beach. Its headland separates its small fishing harbor from its beautiful curve of sandy beach with calm, clear waters. Mirissa is the alternative for quieter place to Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa.
Situated 195 km from Colombo, Tangalla is one of the nicest spots along the cost, particularly if you want somewhere to find a place to laze and soak up the sun. Tangalla's series of bays are the modern attraction, white sandy beach of Medaketiya shimmer away from the northeast to smaller bays on the west. However, some of the beaches in these bays shelve off very steeply and the resulting waves make them dangerous for swimmers. The town pretty much reminds of the Dutch period, for example, the Rest House was once home of the Dutch administrators.
Information provided by Sri Lanka Tourism Board.