Sri Lanka’s beaches are world-renowned, with something for every purpose, whether you want to relax on sun-warmed sand, challenge yourself with first-class surf, or dive some wonderful wrecks. You’ll find fabulous wildlife and ancient sites within easy reach of the coast, and the dual weather system means there’s always sunshine somewhere on this fascinating island.
If you're planning a family holiday, the chances are you'll be travelling during the school summer break, when the weather will be best on Sri Lanka's East Coast. Not only will you find fantastic sands and relatively undeveloped coastlines, but you can spot whales from the shore in places such as Trincomalee, where you can also catch boat trips out to see a variety of marine life. Play on the sand, snorkel the shallows, head inland to see the elephants in a national park, and feast on all manner of Sri Lankan snacks - it's the perfect place for a summer holiday.
Where to stay in Sri Lanka's East Coast: Jungle Beach by Uga Escapes
Arugam Bay, which is closest to Yala National Park, is a world championship surf venue and one of the world's most famous places to catch a few breaks on your holiday. You'll find good surf here between April and October, with the majority of breaks at their best from July into September. This is a popular time to visit, so for a quieter experience you might consider heading to neighbouring bays, where the waves are also excellent and the beaches are arguably nicer.
Where to stay in Arugam Bay: Hideaway
Tangalle, on the south coast, is a sheltered bay where relaxation is the name of the game. Super-deluxe resorts such as the Amanwella offer superb accommodation and attentive service, leaving you to divide your down-time between the soft golden sand and the sumptuous spa. You'll be close to key sites such as historic Galle fort and several National Parks, and Tangalle town is full of interesting restaurants serving local seafood.
Where to stay for ultimate relaxation: Amanwella
There's nothing quite like an island hideaway for the ultimate romantic 'getaway', and former celebrity playground Taprobane is one of Sri Lanka's most famous private islands. However, for a more barefoot luxury approach, we love Jungle Beach, a deluxe resort on a mangrove-covered stretch of sand just north of Trincomalee. Its gorgeous thatched lodges sit hidden amongst the undergrowth, but you're only a few steps away from a stunning sandy beach that goes on for miles.
Kalpitya Beach, near Wilpattu National Park on Sri Lanka's north-west coast, is a superb sandbar washed by a gentle curve of ocean. The beach encloses a tranquil lagoon, where beginners can learn the basics and freestylers can try out new tricks. Diving is also good in this area, and dolphin sightings are frequent. Winds average 18-20 knots between May-October, and a good range of accommodation means you won't be short of creature comforts.
Where to stay in Kalpitya beach: Palagama Beach Resort