The Ultimate Guide to East Coast Beaches of Sri Lanka

1. Trincomalee and Nilaveli

The beaches of Trincomalee are some of the most pristine in all of Sri Lanka.

Sixteen kilometers north from the Trincomalee city is the almost untouched Nilaveli Beach, whose soft sandy beach is just perfect!

This beach is known to be the most perfect beach in Sri Lanka. It surpasses even the most wonderful fantasy.

The name “Nilaveli” means “open land of the moon-shine” in Tamil. This mystical sounding name is a good description of the wonders of Nilaveli.

Here the knee-deep shallow sea stretches out for hundreds of meters before dropping off, making this area ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The white sands of Nilaveli Beach reach out to either side, hugged all around by palm trees and lush vegetation.

Swimming out from Nilaveli Beach, you can easily reach the vibrantly coloured coral reef which protects the shore. Here you can see a jungle of corals and sparkles of tropical fish with nothing more than simple snorkelling equipment. The waters are very calm, making this a perfect area for exploring the waters and the treasures within.

However, Nilaveli is not the best destination for those interested in high adrenaline water sports such as surfing and bodysurfing.

Close to the mainland is Pigeon Island; a popular tourist destination for water sports – especially snorkelling. It is still possible to reach the island by contracting the boat trip from Nilaveli. This is a chance to experience a true desert island in the Indian Ocean.

Close to the beach in Nilaveli, you can find several upscale resort-type hotels as well as lovely budget accommodation.

Nilaveli should be your first choice if you are searching for the most perfect beach destination in Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, Trincomalee – a simple harbor town that might not seem like the ultimate vacation destination at first, has some sweet surprises in store for you.

From its gorgeous beaches to fine dining experiences and beautiful views, Trincomalee has the total package. Enjoy a fun filled holiday by experiencing various water sports, whale spotting, and for the lazier vacationers, there is fishing and endless stretches of beach to walk on and watch the horizon.

You can also visit the enormous Dutch Fort Fredrick and the rebuilt Koneswaram Kovilis on the cliff of Swami Rock, making a fine day trip in the city of Trincomalee. Swami Rock is also known as Lovers’ Leap from the touching story of a Dutch officer’s daughter who, after her fiancé broke off the engagement, leapt from the cliff while watching her unfaithful lover’s ship sailing off into the horizon.

The Kandasamy Kovil is also worth a visit. This Hindu temple houses the rescued Swayambhu Lingam (a Hindu phallic symbol), making it one of the most important religious places in Sri Lanka.

The miracle in Trincomalle, Kinniya hot springs, is a must visit for anyone who wants to see wonders, or just wants to wash off their sins, whichever floats your boat.

Trincomalee is a small far-away place that will give memories we will hold close to our hearts for years to come.

2. Kalkuda and Pasikuda

Tied with Nilaveli for east coast’s crown jewel, Kalkuda provides a perfect setting for those who want to spend some time away from the city’s crowd and busy life.

To the north of Kalkuda lies Pasikuda and the shallow and the mysterious waters of the beach are calm and make you lose yourself in nirvana. The waters are very safe, so you don’t need to worry about the safety of you or your family.

The perfect ambiance and splendid setting makes it the perfect place for beach loungers and families. The nightlife is tranquil, people can relax themselves feeling the breeze.

Located 300 kms from Colombo the Pasikuda and Kalkuda beaches are amongst the Sri Lanka’s up and coming tourist hot spots. Untouched for two decades due to war that ended in 2009, these beaches now boast of best in class hotels and resorts. The blue waters and golden sand make them ideal for a beach holiday.

3. Arugam Bay: Feed the adventurer in you!

Arugam Bay is a great surfing destination on the East Coast of Sri Lanka, 320 kilometers east from Colombo.

It has a dry climate. From April through October the best waves in Sri Lanka wash up on the shores of Arugam Bay and surrounding beaches. Rest of the year it’s still a great place to unwind and drink a cocktail on the beach as the waters are calmer and better for swimming.

Arugam Bay is most popular among surfers. Within the town you can find many surf shops and schools to get you out on the waves as a beginner or pro.

The most popular spots for surfing near Arugam Bay are Arugam Point, whose waves on a good day reach 2 meters in height and offer a  400 meter ride, Potuvil Point, located 30 minutes north from Arugam Bay, and Crocodile Rock, 30 minutes south and offers a smaller swell, great for beginners.

Surfing is not only part of the way of life in Arugam Bay, in a lot of ways life there depends on it! After the 2004 tsunami, surfing helped to stabilize the economy in the area by drawing many tourists to the area for the love of surfing.

Each year there are international surfing events in the area, bringing in a very necessary economic gain to the region.

Even if you aren’t a surfer, Arugam Bay offers many attractions to entice all kinds of travellers. Between May and September is the season for dolphins and there are several agencies offering two hour boat trips out to see them. Well worth it for a glimpse of these magnificent and playful creatures!

Diving and snorkeling are also popular in Arugam Bay, mainly due to the coral reef located just offshore, home to hundreds of varieties of colorful tropical fish and aquatic plants – a paradise for underwater photography.

For the more advanced divers, the Basses Reefs are the main attraction as these reefs have world-class diving conditions. For the adventurous diver, there are many shipwrecks to explore but be cautious for safe diving conditions as many wrecks may be unstable.

If you’re keen to get away from the ocean for a day, inland there are equally as many attractions as in the sea!

Just two kilometers inland from Arugam bay is the picturesque Potuvil Lagoon where you can contract a tour with a local fisherman who will bring you through mangrove swamps which sparkle with tropical birds, lizards, crocodiles and even elephants.

The Yala East National Park is another not-to-miss ecological adventure – the park is the other half of the Yala West, which is divided by the Kumbukkan Oya River. Yala East is home to many species including leopards, elephants and other mammals and tropical birds. Within the park is the Kumana Bird Sanctuary and near the sanctuary there is a large nesting ground for aquatic birds (May-June), and during this time you can be lucky enough to see painted storks, and even the black-necked stork which is one of the rarest birds in Sri Lanka.

To see elephants your best bet is in the Lahugla National Park, 15 kilometers inland from Arugam Bay. A huge reservoir is the main draw, and during the months of July and August over 150 elephants come to rehydrate, bringing with them a spectacle of aquatic birds.

There are many different restaurants in the town, several of which are owned and run by expats who can offer an interesting glimpse into local life in the Bay. For lodging there are backpacker hostels, resorts and everything in between.

In Arugam Bay you can easily let the days slip away, enjoying the scenic beach and taking slow-paced walks around the area. The crowd here is mostly the laid back sort making Arugam Bay a great destination for anyone wanting an escape from the busy world.

4. Batticaloa: The Land of the Singing Fish

Batticaloa is a small, beloved beach town full of culture. You don’t want to miss the wonderful beaches, delicious seafood, or encounters with locals.

Batticaloa is a city with a population of 95,000 people on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. It has an intangible charm, magnified by the palm-filtered sunlight glancing off the nearby lagoons. Around town, the beaches are gorgeous if a bit desolate. Batticaloa has suffered from severe civil strife in the past, but it feels peaceful, even mellow, now.

Batticaloa is an ideal place for people who want to explore religion, culture and the beauty of Mother Nature. Food lovers can also hop on to the next plane and visit the town as it offers a blend of culinary heaven.

Although there are no “must see” sights in Batticaloa, the city is very charming and a great starting place for pristine beaches just a stone-throw away, including Kalkudah, Pasikudah, and Kalladi beaches.

A visit would not be complete to the city of Batticaloa without a visit to the historic district, or “Old Batti” as it is lovingly known by many. By night, Old Batti is eerily quiet and wandering through the mysteriously silent streets is a wonderful experience. Visit Batticaloa Gate or St. Anthony’s church for a little slice of history.

Exploring culturally diverse neighborhoods like Puliyanthivu, Kallady, and Navalady will open you to a melting hotpot of cultures. The co-existence of numerous churches, temples and mosques would give you an idea of the religious tolerance amongst the locals and a feeling of holistic co-existence and mutual trust.

Because of strong currents and seas, we only recommend strong swimmers try swimming here, but there are plenty of other things to do! Soak up the sun on sandy beaches. Or, pamper yourself to a Ayurveda treatment at one of the local resorts.

Diving schools here specialize in wrecks and Batticaloa has a good one: the HMS Hermes, a British ship that was sunk by Japanese bombers in 1942. This dive is for certified Tec divers, but there are several other rock dives in the area for those less advanced. The five-day certification course required for extreme dive can also be completed here. Dives cost US$40; the open-water course is around US$ 350.

No matter what you decide to do here, you’ll enjoy your time in Batticaloa.

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