East Coast Sri Lanka Holidays

One of Sri Lanka’s best kept secrets is the east coast’s sugar white sands and warm shallow bays. Sail the sapphire waters and snorkel on the coral reef before the crowds catch on.

Sri Lanka’s east coast has the perfect trifecta of palm-flanked white sands, blindingly blue waters and 45-minute flights straight in from Colombo. Untouched by tourism, near-deserted beaches cast a magical spell and families can make the most of calm, shallow, swimmable waters and a summer season that matches up with UK school holidays.

In Trincomalee, wow factor white sands meet coconut-sipping lazy days and seasonal sightings of mighty whales in the wild. Further south, Passikudah’s gleaming oceanfront hotels have clear-cut family appeal. Come for swathes of pearly sands and a spectacular stretch of shallow reef coastline where you can wade out for miles no higher than knee-deep.

For hip cafes, seafood shacks and crescent-moon golden sands, head to tiny Arugam Bay. Watch surfers catch point breaks in world famous waves, stroll along the beach with a mango smoothie in hand and go elephant and crocodile spotting on a lagoon safari.

Call us today for a tailormade Sri Lank holiday, starting or ending on the east coast’s sun-splashed white beaches.

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East Coast Sri Lanka Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in East Coast Sri Lanka

Uga Bay

A contemporary and luxurious retreat overlooking idyllic Passikudah Bay, ideal for snorkelling an...

Anantaya Resort & Spa, Passikudah

An enchanting resort on the beautiful Passikudah bay with a rustic-chic design, spacious rooms an...

Uga Jungle Beach

Escape the bustle of modern life in this barefoot-chic and eco-friendly hideaway between the jung...

Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa

One of the first resorts to be built on Passikudah Bay, this charming bolthole has a prime positi...

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon

A laidback beach retreat with great food, friendly service and seasonal whale-watching opportunit...

Jetwing Surf

An eco-focused hotel with just 20 cabanas on the beautifully wild south-east coast of Sri Lanka.

Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing

We love this small-but-perfectly formed hideaway a few miles north of surfing hotspot Arugam Bay.

Polonnaruwa Kingdom Ruins

Brush off your explorer hat as you traverse the ancient second capital of the island and discover the monumental ruins of this glorious garden-city. Dating back to 1070 A.D, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is brimming with history and the on-site museum will soon have you up to speed. The ancient compact city is easy to navigate and filled with impressive architectural structures from the enormous Royal Palace that stands seven stories tall to more personal relics such as the King’s private swimming pool. During this five-hour tour you’ll have the opportunity to explore many of the city’s highlights including the beautiful white Kiri Vihara Dagoba which archaeologists found when clearing the area from jungle in perfect condition after 700 years. From evocative temples and shrines to the serene Sea Of Parakrama, this is one of the best -preserved sites in Sri Lanka and sure to create lasting memories for years to come.

• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Habarana, Kandalama, Passikudah and Trincomalee hotels

Good to know
Legs and shoulders must be covered, and shoes will need to be removed when exploring the temples.

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Sigiriya Rock Fortress (car & driver and stay-put excursion)

One of Sri Lanka’s most iconic landmarks, Sigiriya Rock is a sight to behold, towering 200 metres above the surrounding jungle. Formed from magma of an extinct volcano, the fortress was created over 1500 years ago by King Kashyapa and is considered one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, discover the vast history of the plateau at the onsite museum before making the climb up the vertiginous staircases to the summit passing impressive frescoes and the famed Mirror Wall and colossal Lions Platform as you go. From the top, explore the ruins of the ancient civilisation through the remnants of the palace and vast gardens and soak up the panoramic vistas of the jungle covered central plains.

• Duration: half day
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Habarana, Sigiriya, Kandalama, Kandy and Trincomalee hotels
• Available as a day trip for guests staying at hotels in Negombo

Good to know
For the most pleasurable experience we recommend organising this excursion first thing in the morning or after 4pm to avoid the heat of the day. While suitable for all, the climb to the summit requires a good degree of physical fitness.

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Dambulla Cave Temple

A fantastic stopping off point when travelling between Habarana or Kandalama and Kandy, the famous cave complexes of Dambulla are a haven for those interested in Sri Lanka’s rich history. Dating back to the first Century BC, this ancient cave temple has been a pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus for 22 centuries and is still a place of holy importance to this day. There are over 80 documented caves at the site, but with around an hour to explore, this excursion will guide you through the major highlights which are spread over just five of them. Adorned with statues of Gautama Buddha and ornate ceiling paintings, the iconic temple is brimming with artefacts depicting the island’s glorious past and is not to be missed.

• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Habarana, Kandalama, Kandy and Passikudah hotels
• Available as a day trip for guests staying at hotels in Negombo

Good to know
Legs and shoulders must be covered, and shoes will need to be removed when exploring the temples.

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Crab Curry Cooking Class

The shallow lagoons off the east coast of Sri Lanka are rich with edible crab species and a Sri Lankan crab curry is a regional speciality. During this half-day experience, you’ll visit a local guesthouse and discover how to make this flavourful dish – a skill that will allow you to bring the taste of Sri Lanka home with you.

• Daily departures from Passikudah
• Operates year-round
• Private experience

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Kumana National Park by Jeep

Join a half-day or full-day game drive to experience the spirit of Kumana National Park. Kumana National Park is a well-known eco-tourism attraction and bird sanctuary where many birds breed and roost. One of the most significant features of the park is the Kumana Villu, a 200-hectare natural swamp lake fed by the Kumbukkan Oya through a half-mile-long narrow channel.

• Daily departures from Passikudah or Trincomalee
• Operates year-round
• Private experience

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Get to know East Coast Sri Lanka and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +5½ hours


Sri Lankan Rupee


Colombo 10½ hours


Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam & Christianity


Sinhala and Tamil

Sitting northwest of Batticaloa, Passikudah shines with summer vibes from April to September and is a fabulous beach holiday destination. Passikudah Bay has pristine sands and calm, warm, shallow waters that are excellent for family swimming. With healthy coral reef and a colourful underwater scene, it’s a great spot for snorkelling, whilst divers are spoilt with the 1942 sunken wreck of HMS Hermes. May to September is the east coast’s whale watching season: boat trip out to deeper waters for an almost guaranteed glimpse of blue whales, sperm whales and spinner dolphins.

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The port city of Trincomalee is famed for its deep-water natural harbour, Tamil Hindu culture and footprint-free white sands. Trinco Beach is great for waterports, Nilaveli beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling and Uppuveli beach is perfect for oceanfront dining. Pigeon Island National Park sits one kilometre offshore and is an incredible gin-clear water spot to snorkel among angel, parrot and trumper fish. Trinco is home to one of Sri Lanka’s most important Hindu temples, the colourful Koneswaram Kovil perched on ocean facing Swami Rock, which is also a breathtaking vantage point for seasonal whale watching.

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Arugam Bay
With its right hand waves and honey-hued sands, slo-mo and low-key Arugam Bay draws surfers from all over the world. Expect salty hair, drop-in yoga classes and plenty of space to throw down a towel on a beautiful beach until sunset. There's also lots to explore; drive out to super scenic Panama Tank, take a trip to Lahugala Kitulana National Park for sloth bear and elephant sightings, cruise along Pottuvil Lagoon in search of crocodiles and visit the 2,000 year old ice-white Muhudu Maha Vihara Buddhist temple.

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When it’s monsoon season on the west and south coast, it’s sunny on the east. The best weather here is between April and September, coinciding with UK school holidays, and the east coast’s waters are shallow and glass-like, perfect for swimming with tiny tots and teenagers. Our handpicked hotels all offer direct access to silky soft beaches and many feature family-room options such as the two bedroom Villas at Uga Bay and Anantaya Resort & Spa.

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Reaching the East Coast
The almost untouched east coast of Sri Lanka can be reached by car, but it takes a long time. For an easier, quicker and more luxurious experience, avoid the roads entirely and fly directly from Colombo in just 45 minutes. Cinnamon Air offers daily domestic flights from Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport to Batticaloa International Airport and Trincomalee – China Bay Airport. The flights have been synchronised to coincide with the arrival and departure schedules of international airlines. This means connecting your flights is easy and convenient with minimum time spent waiting around. You can of course add domestic flights at any point during your itinerary and there is even the possibility to charter flights to suit your own itinerary.

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East Coast Sri Lanka Weather

Mar - Sep