Sri Lanka’s south and south-west coast is brimming with beautiful palm-fringed beaches, superb surf and no end of trendy hangouts. The only problem? Deciding where to stay.
Worry not: from chic villas to hip hideaways, this list features a handful of our favourite spots down south. Some are right on the coast, others just moments away from tranquil bays or long stretches of golden sand – and all are sure to make your coastal retreat a real treat.
Whether you’re keen to catch some rays, take a tranquil dip or sample some of the island’s top surf breaks, there’s something here for everyone.
From £76 a night | Check availability here
A surfer’s paradise – the ever-popular breaks of neighbouring Kabalana, Midigama and Weligama within easy reach – Ahangama is swiftly emerging as the south coast’s trendiest beach town. Swim in a secret cove, catch the sunset as you nibble fresh seafood in cool cafés and soak up some of the best that Sri Lanka’s southern shores have to offer.
Hole up at pretty, pint-sized Abode Ahangama for eco-friendly chill in a striking 1950s villa surrounded by gorgeous gardens. With just four bedrooms, this feels almost like a private getaway and you’ll find it tough to tear yourself away from the tasty local breakfasts, the refreshing pool and the incredible on-site massages. Spot bright blue kingfishers flitting overhead and troops of monkeys swinging through the trees from your sun lounger, unwind in stunning open-air bathrooms and venture out for nearby surfing and yoga aplenty.
Salt House, Hiriketiya
From £72 a night | Check availability here
Horseshoe-shaped Hiriketiya Bay is one of the south coast’s hippest hidden hangouts. Just thirty minutes from Sri Lanka’s southern-most point, this little haven of buzzing cafés and beachside eateries has a wonderfully easygoing community vibe. Hiri is also a hugely popular surf spot, with the best breaks from August to December, and smaller beginner-friendly waves from December to February. The water’s also calm enough for a dip before grabbing an ice cream or a delicious roadside roti.
Stay at laid-back Salt House for long, lazy breakfasts, free surfboard hire and restful daily yoga. Bedrooms are bright and comfortable, with lovely open-air bathrooms and private terraces. Surrounded by lush jungle, with monkeys hopping amidst the trees, this is the perfect place to paddle in the plunge pool, pull up a stool at the bar and forget the rest of the world exists.
Owl and the Pussycat, Thalpe
From £93 a night | Check availability here
Twenty minutes by three-wheeler from Galle Fort, Thalpe promises beautiful beachfront bliss, within easy reach of brilliant heritage sights and bustling shops and eateries. Shallow water and rocky coves make for lovely dipping spots, while quiet stretches of coastline are ideal for long afternoon ambles. Cricket fans take note: nab a room here, and you’re a mere 9km from Galle International Cricket Stadium – ideal for the ultimate sport-and-sunshine experience.
Funky, fun and with fabulous food to boot, Owl and the Pussycat is a firm favourite of ours. With seventeen rooms and suites – many of which offer striking sea views – set around an oceanfront swimming pool and restaurant, this is a wonderfully whimsical place to unwind. Luxurious bedrooms are delightfully decorated with brightly patterned textiles and quirky tropical touches, while the friendly bar staff serve superb signature cocktails. Days of barefoot strolling await.
The Last House, Tangalle
From £102 a night | Check availability here
One of the south coast’s most famous spots, Tangalle is a highlight of many an island holiday. Explore the town, catch sight of whales and turtles, learn to surf or simply soak up the sunshine. Rather than stay in Tangalle itself, however, we’d recommend heading ten minutes along the coast to a very special beachfront property.
Perched amidst coconut palms at the far end of marvellous Mawella Beach, The Last House is an elegant six-bedroom oasis. Brimming with bright yellows, blues and greens, the property’s fame stems in part from its history as the final residential property designed by legendary Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Enjoy lazy afternoons on the long verandah, splash around in the courtyard pool under the blossoming frangipani, and step through the garden gate to sink your toes into the sand. True to Bawa’s signature style, the house is characterised by a gorgeous indoor-outdoor feel, simple antique furnishes and lots of light, making for an enchanting seaside stay.
Paradise Road The Villa, Bentota
From £99 a night | Check availability here
Just an hour and a half south of Colombo, the tropical beaches of Bentota beckon. Fringed with swaying palms and mangroves, this enormous sandy stretch is often empty save for brightly painted fishing boats and the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Amble along the sand, paddle in the saltwater spray and recline in the shade with a good book, before crossing the train tracks to return to the stylish tranquility of The Villa Bentota.
Converted by celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa as Sri Lanka’s first boutique hotel in the 1970s, this slick, sophisticated heritage property boasts fifteen sumptuous rooms and suites. Strikingly refurbished by the iconic Paradise Road brand, famous for their chic monochrome finish and antique furnishings, the hotel has become something of a design destination. Sip cocktails on the white sofas of the terrace bar, lounge by one of the hotel’s two pools or feast on local and international specialities in the smart candlelit restaurant.