Sri Lanka’s East Coast That Will Leave You Speechless

By Ruskin Brodkin On Apr 12, 2023

Planning on spending more than a day or two in Sri Lanka? Make time to head over to the island’s eastern seaboard.

Being on the opposite side of the island and a minimum of a 5-hour drive from both the commercial capital, Colombo and the island’s main international airport, the east coast destinations tend to be less crowded than those of the west and south coast at most times of the year.

And there’s plenty to see and do!

1. Experience the Splendour of Untouched Beaches

Since the east coast beaches see less footfall than the beaches on the west, southwest and south coasts, they give off more of a feeling of being untouched.

Beaches like those of Pasikuda and Kalkudah also give off a bit of a ‘Maldives’ vibe thanks to generous expanses of shallow, clear waters that are a delight to wade in.

Some of the popular east coast beaches that you can explore are:

  • Trincomalee Beach
  • Nilaveli Beach
  • Pasikuda
  • Arugam Bay

2. Get your Surf On

Arugam Bay is one of the best destinations for surfing in South Asia and the go-to spot for surfing in Sri Lanka.

There are waves of all kinds to be ridden there and it has developed into a popular east-coast beach with plenty of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants for travellers to choose from.

The best part is that when the monsoon hits the southwest coast, you can head east to Arugam Bay to experience perfect beach weather.

3. Go Dolphin & Whale Watching

Head out into the waters off the coast of Trincomalee for a chance to spot dolphins (mainly spinner dolphins) and whales fairly close to shore! 

Blue whales are some of the most commonly sighted species of whale and can be seen as close as just 30 minutes from the coastline by boat. Sperm whales frequent these waters too.

4. Enjoy Some Snorkelling

Trincomalee is known for great snorkelling spots like Swami Rock and Navy Island.

The former spot, Swami Rock,  is situated below Trincomalee’s oldest temple. When you snorkel here, you will come across statues of Hindu gods and the Buddha in addition to many varieties of tropical fish such as groupers and trumpetfish. 

The latter spot, Navy Island is a relatively shallow stretch of water where you will find a mix of hard and soft coral as well as tropical fish, octopus, eels and other marine life.

There are also great snorkelling spots near Nilaveli Beach (which is located about a 25-minute drive from Trincomalee).

5. Go WWII Shipwreck Diving

If you know how to scuba dive, then you’ll love Sri Lanka’s east coast.

Off the shores of the east coast, you’ll find wrecks of ships that sank during WWII when the Japanese attacked such as the British Sergeant (which sank off the coast of Kayankerni) and HMS Hermes (which sank off the coast of Batticaloa).

6. Safari at Minneriya National Park

If you’re staying at a beach town around the central part of the east coast,  such as Pasikuda, you can easily arrange a day trip to the Minneriya National Park. In addition to the coastal experiences and attractions, a wildlife safari at the park is one of the popular things to do in Pasikuda.

The park is located about a 2-hour drive inland and Pasikuda Resorts like Uga Bay will help you organise a wildlife safari.

Minneriya is most well known for the annual elephant gathering that takes place during the dry season (July to September), but it’s a good park to visit year-round if you’re interested in viewing all kinds of wildlife, including many endemic species.

7. Make a Day Trip to Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

Similarly, if you’re based in an eastern coastal town such as Pasikuda or Trincomalee, you can plan a day excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Cultural Triangle.

The ancient Sigiriya Rock Fortress, for example, is about a 1 .75-hour drive away from Trincomalee and 2.5-hour drive from Pasikuda.

Ruskin Brodkin

Ruskin Brodkin writes for She is a graduate in journalism from the University of Maryland. Ruskin currently lives in Brooklyn, and she previously worked as a Television Producer on BBA International’s Squawk Box Europe. Ruskin has also been a movies reporter for Radio New Zealand.


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