Everyone’s visit to Sri Lanka will most likely involve a beach, especially if you have kids. Sri Lanka boasts some of the best beaches in the world and kids will love playing in the fine pristine sand and jumping in the turquoise waters. There are also some great surf spots for older kids. But how do you choose the best beach for your family?
We have only visited Mirissa and the beaches around Arugam Bay. So, we reached out to some top family travel bloggers to find out their favourites and provide us with the lowdown on the best family beaches in Sri Lanka.
But first, just a few things to consider…
Almost all these beaches have big waves and a strong current for the majority of the year. It is advised, especially if travelling with young kids, that a parent supervise in the water. Also, many beaches can get busy over the weekends with locals visiting . If you’re planning just a few days on a beach, try and time your visit during weekdays.
There are also the seasons to consider. As a rule-of-thumb, the south- and west-coast beaches are best from September to March and the north- and east-coast beaches are best from April to September. Although we visited the south coast (Mirissa) and east coast (Arugam Bay) in August and had lovely weather at both.
Tangalle (Dawn from 5 Lost Together)
The southern coast of Sri Lanka offers up many pristine beaches. Our favourite was Tangalle Beach where we had the beach completely to ourselves. At Tangalle you will find powder sand beach, turquoise waters and tall swaying palms. You can watch the fishermen heading out each day, enjoy some fresh seafood and breathtaking sunsets. The waves do get quite large and there can be strong currents, so we mostly frolicked in the water. We stayed in a little gem of a place called Moonstone Villas, where the friendly owner gave us great recommendations, we ate delicious curries and enjoyed the pool and outdoor spaces of the hotel.
Nilaveli (Yashy from Baby and Life)
Nilaveli beach located in the northern part of Sri Lanka is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka because of its unspoiled landscape and swaying palm trees dotting the entire beach area. Families will find soft sand here and kids will love roaming the shores in search of shells and crabs. We were staying at the Nilaveli Beach Resort during the off season (some undertows and rip currents during the off season) and had the entire resort and beach to ourselves (March to October is peak period and the water is safe and warm during this time)! Grandparents were able to lounge around and catch the stunning orange sunsets while grandkids and parents chased each other playing games into the night. If you’re looking for something to do beyond lounging on the beach with a coconut in hand, check out nearby Pigeon Island National Park which is home to many species of vegetation, coral and reef fish contributing to Nilaveli’s rich biodiversity.
Bentota (Katja from Globetotting)
We visited Sri Lanka nearly six years ago but it remains one of my favourite family holidays. When we visited, we spent ten days exploring the southern coast exploring the ancient fort of Galle, eating as much of the amazing Sri Lankan cuisine as possible and hopping from one beach to the next. One of our favourite beaches was Bentota, on the island’s southwest coast. It’s not the prettiest beach in the country but we loved it because there is so much to do there, in addition to the long strip of golden sand and warm, shallow waters. Nearby is Bentota Lagoon, a popular dive spot as well as Lunuganga, the Jungle Book-like gardens of architect Geoggrey Bawa (a brilliant spot for kids). Best of all, however, this area of Sri Lanka is home to a number of turtle sanctuaries, established to help protect these marine creatures. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to help release the baby turtles into the ocean. And finally, we loved this beach because it has a handful of beautiful boutique hotels that are both stylish and family-friendly!
Where to stay: Villa Bentota
Weligama (Elizabeth from Wander Mum)
While Weligama may not be the best known beach in Sri Lanka, it was one of my favourites during our stay. A little rugged in places, but quieter than nearby Mirissa beach, it was the perfect spot for us to relax. Staying at the nearby luxurious hotel Cape Weligama, we could hop in a tuk-tuk down to the fishing town of Weligama (much to my daughter’s delight). The thick sand was great for building sandcastles and it’s a good surf sport – particularly for beginners. Nearer the shore the waves were gentle enough for my daughter (who was three) to play. As dusk came, the locals gathered on the beach to delight at the striking sunset. As we departed, the waft of fish caught our noses from stalls which line the streets. A great spot to relax, play, try local dishes and people watch!
Mirissa (Sharon from Simpler and Smarter)
If your family loves beautiful beaches then you can’t go wrong with Mirissa. Mirissa is one of the most beautiful beaches I have visited. The sand is white and powder soft. The water is safe enough that my preschoolers could splash around without a problem.
It’s also very easy to visit with restaurants lining the sand. We could eat and enjoy a drink while the kids played in the sand. However, this is my one complaint about this beach as well as it was relatively narrow and the restaurants took up much of the space when the tide was coming in. We used Flipkey by TripAdvisor to find accommodation but there are plenty of guest houses by the beach.
TraveLynn Family also visited Mirissa. We loved the palm-fringed shoreline which provides lots of shade for playing in the sand. We stayed at Lashan Guest House. It’s tucked away in a quiet area 400m from the beach, but the owners will happily drop you at the main beach in their tuk-tuk.
Unawatuna (Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters)
We’ve travelled around Sri Lanka for a month with our 2-year old and have seen quite a bit of the country. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best season to visit the East coast and we mainly travelled inland. We did visit one beach town and stayed there for a few days: Unawatuna. Despite being a popular tourist destination, it doesn’t have that massive touristic feel. The beach is pretty good for young kids, and we especially enjoyed a little fresh water creek on the far west side of the beach. It’s just in front of Sunrise Seafood Restaurant and near Submarine Dive Center.
Since we were staying in Unawatuna with some friends we met on the road, we opted for an Airbnb rental house (Kumudini’s Villa). With our little one not liking the Sri Lankan food and being on a budget, it was great that we could self-cater.
Hiriketiya (Evie from Mumpack Travel)
Hiriketiya on Sri Lanka’s beautiful south coast is the perfect family beach break. Surrounded by palm trees and a jungle that reaches right to the white sand, the horseshoe bay’s soft waves break close to shore for kids to learn to surf on, with a bigger surf out the back for mum and dad. Only minutes away from the larger towns of Tangalle and Matara, Hiri also has a few small cafes with good coffee and local and western food (we loved The Beach House). Hour long kids surf lessons from friendly locals – including board – cost $20 AUD, and the small amount of accommodation ranges from guesthouses to boutique hotels. Where to stay: Jasper House.
Hiriketiya also gets a vote from Ruth McAllister-Kemp:
Trundle down a bumpy lane to reach Hiriketiya Beach, a few miles from the
World’s largest sitting Buddha in Dikwella, on the south coast. Enjoy clean sands and a local vibe. With two almost-not- there beach bars and no loungers, this is back-to- basics seaside fun. Surfers are happy out near the breakers to this deep cove (aka Horseshoe Bay), whilst locals and visitors play in the waves. Get there early to watch the fishermen. Beware the semi-domesticated dogs and the coconut coir stagnant pool water at the back – the locals sometimes release it into the sea across the sand bank. Where to stay: Salt House.
Hikkaduwa (Mary from The Abbottses)
Having stayed most of our holiday in Colombo, we decided to head over to Hikkaduwa, a seaside town known for it’s strong surf and beaches. We stayed for 1 night in a lovely hotel next to the beach called Villa Paradise. The kids loved collecting shells and getting knocked down by waves on the beach. Repeatedly. And we just absorbed the stunning crystal clear waters and white sand.
Hikkaduwa is also known for it’s home to turtles and exotic fish. We visited the Turtle hatchery, which is a charitable mission that rehabilitates older turtles who had been damaged during the tsunami in 2004, as well as rescuing turtle eggs. The kids absolutely loved getting close to the turtles, and they even got to hold them too!
Arugam Bay (Susannah from Our Tribe Travels)
As a family we have such fond memories of Sri Lanka and Arugam Bay stands out as one of the highlights from our 3 week trip.
We loved it because the main stretch of sandy beach has calm and clear water – perfect for families with little kids. Our son, who was 3 at the time, loved the warm water and gentle waves.
For a total change of scenery we would walk a few hundred yards around the headland to reach the popular surfing beach. We spent many afternoons enjoying fresh juices and beer in the little beach cafe whilst watching the surfers perfect their skills.
Arugam bay is a little piece of paradise.
Elephant Rock Beach (Jenny from TraveLynn Family)
Well of course I had to include my favourite too :-)! We also loved Arugam Bay, but more as a base for all the beautiful, quieter beaches around. Jump in a tuk-tuk from Arugam Bay and head South from town, turn off the road on to a un-marked, bumpy track towards our favourite – Elephant Rock Beach. From the small sandy carpark it’s then just a short walk across the sand, a scramble over the the big Elephant Rock (make sure you wear sturdy shoes, especially if carrying the kids) to one of the most beautiful stretches of pristine sand we have ever seen. Grab a coconut or cold drink from one of the make-shift shacks and watch the surfers, or walk further along the arc of sand and enjoy a family wave-jumping competition. A return tuk-tuk from town including a 2 hour wait time is LRK1400. We recommend staying at Elephant Road Beach Resort in Arugam Bay.
Do you have a favourite family beach in Sri Lanka? If you are a blogger and have one to add that isn’t in this list, please drop us an email and we’ll include it.