One of our all time favourite holidays has to have been to Sri Lanka. It has stunning landscapes, friendly people, adventure, beaches and more. With such a sheer variety of things to do, Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for a family like ours. While many families head there looking for adventure, others go seeking the best family beaches in Sri Lanka. And they are definitely worth the trip!
Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning if you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, I will receive a small commission of the sale. This is at no extra cost to you and will, most likely, be funnelled straight back to more travel experiences that I can share with you! For more information please refer to my Small Print Page.
Negombo is a great place for families in search of some instant R&R. It’s especially good if you’re not feeling like a long drive after getting off a long flight. Less than half an hour from Bandaranaike International Airport, the beautiful beaches are perfect for a chilled out week. They’re also a great way to start or end a trip in Sri Lanka if you have a late arrival or early departure.
Our week in Sri Lanka involved spending a couple of nights in Negombo at the end. We had had a busy week exploring Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Sigiriya and Dambulla. Taking the trains and being able to admire the stunning scenery in the Sri Lankan highlands had been amazing but knew that we couldn’t miss some time on the coast. Everyone we knew had raved about the beaches there and we were glad to slow down the pace a bit.
It didn’t disappoint. Although a little touristy, Negombo has a lovely chilled out vibe. We loved the restaurants on the beach and the community spirit with everyone flying their kites. I’d highly recommend the Jetwing Blue where we stayed for clean, spacious rooms and lovely facilities.
Don’t just stop there
That being said, if you’re feeling more adventurous and you have some more time, don’t just stop in Negombo… I know there’s so much more to discover so I asked some of my favourite bloggers to share their best beaches in Sri Lanka for kids and families. Head along to some of these other places to get your relaxation fix.
A few summers ago Ania from The Travelling Twins spent two beautiful summer months in Sri Lanka. They travelled about the island a lot, but most of their time was spent in the small village of Marawila.
Marawila is located on the west side of the island a little north from Negombo. It is a one hour drive by tuk-tuk from Colombo airport. Which makes it convenient to get to, but far enough away to be almost free from tourists. We rented a house in Marawila and spent our time either in its lush garden, wandering in the jungle or lazing on the beach.
The beach at Marawila is a mixture of fine light yellow and black sand with lots of picturesque driftwood. Over the two months, we had the beach to ourselves almost every day. Only occasionally we would have the company of tourists staying in the Club Palm Bay Hotel nearby. The Hotel’s luxurious restaurant and swimming pool are open to day guests. All this makes is a perfect Sri Lankan beach for families.
We would often walk down to the coast first thing in the morning to buy fresh fish from fishermen returning from early fishing with their catch. As an alternative to the beach, you can hire a boat to explore or fish in the lagoon and spot wild birds.
Carolyn from Happy Place Hunters sent me this super convincing description of Hiriketiya. After reading it, I immediately added it to the top of our list for our next trip to Sri Lanka!
Tucked away in a beautiful little bay on Sri Lanka’s south coast, Hiriketiya is a sweet little surfy haven in more ways than one; if the winds are howling elsewhere, it’s still relatively protected and calm here. It’s all palm trees and emerald green waters, peppered with a few board hire stands and little shacks to grab beer and food from – basically the perfect spot to get away from it all for both longer stays or just a quick day-trip seaside escape.
Although only 30 minutes from Matara, until recently its isolated position away from the major bus or train routes kept it off the tourist radar. However Western influence has fast crept in, although in a less obtrusive way than other popular southern beaches – or at least it seemed a lot less busy (and way more chillaxed!). It’s particularly popular with surfers, digital nomads, and Australians – there’s the cutest surf and yoga retreat here called Salt run by an Aussie couple who also have a hotel called Pepper and a seafood place called Squid, plus there’s barista-worthy coffee at another Aussie-run enterprise, The Grove.
Hiriketiya’s main activities centre around it’s stunning beach and small enclave of shops and accommodations that can be wandered the length and breadth of in under 10 minutes – so easily navigable for families with little legs in tow. Swim or hire a surfboard on the beachfront for just a few dollars per hour and marvel at this little slice of heaven from the water, or commandeer a beach chair and umbrella in front of a beachfront cafe and feast your appetite and senses with a ‘pinch yourself’ view.
Jenny from Travelynn Family and her family spent an epic few weeks in Sri Lanka. I loved reading about their adventures exploring the Southern parts of the country. I was thrilled when she offered to share about her favourite beach.
Now when I tell people that Arugam Bay is our favourite beach for kids in Sri Lanka, I don’t actually mean the beach at Arugam Bay itself. This main sandy arc gets awfully busy, especially at weekends, and gets rather taken over by surfers. And although the town has a great selection of restaurants and bars, it is the nearby beaches that provide the serious WOW factor. But, as there are no accommodations options at these other beaches, you need to base yourselves in Arugam Bay.
We stayed at the super chilled and relaxed Elephant Road Resort, which is an oasis away from the backpacker enclave of the main strip, and is run my pro-surfer Miki who knows ALL the best spots in the area. It was he who pointed us in the direction of nearby Peanut Farm Beach and Elephant Rock Beach; both just a 5 minute tuk-tuk journey away. They were both seriously stunning stretches of sand, but our favourite was probably the latter if we had to choose between them.
Both locations are very remote and you will need to arrange a pick-up time with your tuk-tuk driver. On the beach you’ll find a shack selling cold drinks and coconuts. Pack sun screen and maybe a parasol (if you can borrow one from your accommodation) as there is no shade at the beach. And as with all the beaches around Arugam Bay, parents will need to supervise children in the water as the waves are big and the current strong – but lots of fun! There’s a reason why it’s such a popular surfing hang out!
Pigeon Island (Trincomalee)
Penny from Globe Trove headed to Pigeon Island. I hadn’t previously heard of it the picture alone was enough to convince me it belongs on the list!
One of the nicest beaches that I have visited with my family in Sri Lanka was the beach on Pigeon Island. Okay, if I am honest, I have to say that there are two beaches though they are technically connected. They just open out on two sides of the gorgeous island and have access to two different ecosystems of marine life if you may.
Pigeon island is a national park on the east coast of Sri Lanka. To get to it, you need to pay an entry permit and hire a boat to take you across. Once there you can stay for as long as you like unless you are on a timeline to reach somewhere else. I would suggest heading out early so that you get there before the hot afternoon sun. Note however that food is not allowed on the island and they are trying to maintain that.
Snorkelling out from these beaches is an experience in itself with the gorgeous range of coral that are present. Tides are however something that you should pay attention to. Keep an eye on the flags that warn you about when the water is too shallow. You don’t want to hurt yourself on the coral below. Also, if you are not a good swimmer, wear a life jacket. Not just because of your safety but because I have seen many people step on the coral just to stand up. Coral takes decades to grow: respect the conservation efforts and be environmentally conscious.
If you are in the vicinity of Trincomalee, don’t forget to add this beautiful island to your list. It is well worth the trip.
Not far from Pigeon Island is Uppuveli. Bron from Smiths Holiday Road was kind enough to share a beautiful description with us.
Just north of Trincomalee on the East Coast of Sri Lanka lies the beautiful beaches of Uppeveli and Nilaveli. We arrived by local bus and found a guesthouse right on the sandy beach to stay. Palms filled the guesthouse garden and mosquito nets covered the beds. From the balcony you could see the ocean and little wooden huts lined the beach to give you shelter from the hot midday sun. Next to the huts were small beach restaurants surviving local curries and fresh fruit juice. It reminded me of Thailand almost 20 years ago.
The waves were small and warm enough for the kids to jump in and on occasion we even saw small silver fish jump with them in a out of the water. The sand is clean and the water clear during the peak season of Summer in July. We jumped on a boat and saw spinner dolphins jumping through the waves. Another boat took us to Pigeon island to snorkel amongst the reefs. We saw much mine life and it was the perfect spot for the kids to learn to snorkel. The best part of the day was early morning when there were no footsteps on the sand, when all the fisherman would head out in their long boats and bring back their catch and you could watch them reeling their nets in quite often with a local cow walking past to greet you.
The place we stayed was called Shivas Beach resort ( that term is used very loosely!) for $55 Aud a night. Coconut Palms for dinner is the place to try.
So there we have it, Wanderlusters. Have you booked your trip to Sri Lanka yet?!
I’ll be adding to this post over time so please do get in touch if you have any recommendations!