This remote village is located on the island’s southeast coast, near to the Yala National Park. This makes it a perfect option if you start suffering from animal fatigue (think castle fatigue but furrier). With waves roll in all the way from the Antarctic, Arugam has earned something of an international reputation in the surfing world. This conclusively puts it on the list of Sri Lanka's best beaches. The surf season runs from April to October and you can rent boards right on the beach if you don’t have your own. If you’re not into surfing, swim in the well-protected inner bay, explore the mangrove lagoons and soak up the chilled-out atmosphere.
Sunset as seen from Elephant Rock near Arugam Bay © Shanti Hesse / Shutterstock
The southern end of Bentota beach is home to a nice collection of small scale luxury hotels marking it out as a stylish alternative to the west coast’s louder resorts. Just south of the train station, you’ll find a broad swathe of sand in front of thick thickets of palms. It’s one of the most winsome beaches on the island. At Bentota’s northern end, you’ll find Paradise Island. This thin spit of land separates the Indian Ocean and the tranquil waters of the Bentota Lagoon. Behind the lagoon, the Bentota Ganga river provides the perfect conditions for jet skiing, speedboating, water skiing and windsurfing. The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery is also nearby.
Golden sands and palm trees at Bentota Beach © EvgeniiSakaliu / Shutterstock
This laid-back beachside village sits in the south of the island near to the Dutch Fort and port city of Galle. Mirissa's fine stretch of sand backed by verdant coconut palms and world class blue whale watching make this pretty little bay one of Sri Lanka's best beaches, if not one of the country's most appealing places. It’s lively after dark with a thriving bar scene that glows with charming strings of fairy lights.
The pretty little bay of Mirissa near Galle © inigolai-Photography / Shutterstock
Hikkaduwa is another south coast beach that’s especially popular with backpackers. It’s an energetic spot, featuring plenty of restaurants, bars and shops. Each July, Hikkaduwa hosts Beach Fest, a five-day music festival that draws international DJs and revellers galore. The surf is another attraction that brings people to this shore, with the season running from November to April. You'll also be able to experience outstanding snorkelling at the Coral Sanctuary just a couple of hundred metres offshore. A word of advice, it’s illegal to take coral and shells out of the country.
Picture perfect Hikkaduwa on the south coast © Thomas Dekiere / Shutterstock