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Sri Lanka’s East Coast: Best Beaches and Smiling Locals

Sri Lanka’s East Coast is far away but has the best beaches and friendliest locals. We stayed in some paradise-like beach resorts that made a perfect setting for our holiday.

We really liked the east coast. No tourists, no crowds, just us and the smiling locals. East coast must be what the old Sri Lanka used to be.

Few tourists have found their way to this piece of paradise which makes that you can easily find a beach for yourself and spend lazy days watching ocean waves, just doing nothing.

Selfie with locals, Sri Lanka's East Coast

Sri Lanka’s East Coast: selfie with smiling locals

Sri Lanka's East Coast beach

One of Sri Lanka’s East Coast beaches

Sri Lanka’s East Coast: a Rising Travel Destination

Why haven’t the crowds found the east yet? Since the area has been isolated from the rest of the island – for decades, for hundreds of years .

First there was no proper road and then the long civil war that hit the east very hard. And there was the 2004 tsunami that destroyed what was left. So Sri Lanka’s East Coast has suffered a lot and for long time periods.

But now Sri Lanka’s east is developing again. New hotels and resorts are built on the sandy coastline and locals that left abroad now return home and invest their money.

And the young look positively into the future. Sri Lanka’s East Coast welcomes tourists with excitement.

Girls at Passekudah Bay, Sri Lanka

 East Coast looking into the future

Sri Lanka’s East Coast on the Map


Here you can see the central part of Sri Lanka’s East Coast on the map, with our driving route from Trincomalee to Passekudah. To see the whole coast, zoom out the map.

The East Coast faces the Indian Ocean and is backed by jungle on the mountain side.

How to Get to Sri Lanka’s East Coast

How did we get to this remote coastline? We got there by car:

Connaissance de Ceylan car and driver

With a car and driver to Sri Lanka’s East Coast

In Sri Lanka people do something they wouldn’t do in Europe: in Sri Lanka it’s common to rent a car with a driver and that was how we were traveling as well.

Think about just relaxing on the back seat without concerns about driving and traffic. And you don’t even have to pay a fortune for that kind of luxury as many students do it too.

So the local travel agent Connaissance de Ceylan planned our trip and arranged our car and driver.

There are of course other ways too to get across the island. You can take a bus or train. Here is a train bringing travelers to Sri Lanka’s east:

Train to Sri Lanka's East Coast

Train to Sri Lanka East Coast

Train to Sri Lanka’s East Coast

And there are more ways to travel… These people are on the way east as well. Not a bad way either but we wanted more comfort.

Traveling to Sri Lanka's East Coast

Traveling to Sri Lanka's East Coast

More ways of traveling to Sri Lanka’s East Coast

And then after all driving: the coast and Trincomalee! And the Indian Ocean!

Finally on Sri Lanka East Coast!

Indian Ocean and Trincomalee beach!

Sri Lanka’s East Coast: Trincomalee

Trincomalee fishermen

Fishermen at work, Trincomalee

Trincomalee is the capital of the east and the island’s third biggest city. It’s much more a local than a tourist city.

Fishermen set sail from the sandy beach right in the city. The beach is called Dutch Bay and it’s both a beach and a fishing harbor.

Brightly painted fishing boats line the Dutch Bay and if you see someone swim they are most probably locals.

Trincomalee beach Sri Lanka's East Coast

Fishing boats lining the Dutch Bay of Trincomalee

Trincomalee fishing boats

An old outrigger canoe

Trincomalee fishing boats

Traditional canoes on the sand

Trincomalee fishing boat

Dutch Bay, Trincomalee

A Former Port of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

It’s hard to believe that the Trincomalee you see today has been a famed, well-known city, not only in Sri Lanka but globally.  Yes. it has. The other,, bigger harbor on the lagoon side used to be the whole island’s main port.

That was in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa eras. And not only that, Trincomalee was the main Sri Lanka port for the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British as well – until Galle and Colombo ports were built. After that Trincomalee was forgotten and today we only have these fishermen here.

Yet the Europeans left their fort that stands here after all centuries, civil wars and the tsunami.

Trincomalee Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick, Trincomalee

A Fishing City

But the fishermen, how do they prepare the fish they catch? They salt, hang and sell it.

This is how they do in Sri Lanka, they dry and eat fish. Just like our Lapland people hang and dry reindeer meat.

But I don’t like dried fish, I always tried to avoid eating dry fish wherever I went in Sri Lanka. It is hard and salty, maybe sometimes ok if it’s a small fish. But these big ones, they are nice to look at but I don’t want to see them on my plate:

Fish drying, Trincomalee

Dried fish in Trincomalee

Drying fish on Sri Lanka's East Coast

Shop for dried fish, Trincomalee harbor

Drying fish, Trincomalee

More dried fish hanging, Trincomalee harbor

Sri Lanka’s East Coast is quite different from the west. And its people are different. The east is a mix of Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim people so there’s a wide range of religions as well.

Trincomalee has a famous Hindu temple that makes the city a holy site for Hindus, and other religions have their own worship places too:

Christian church in Trincomalee

Christian church, Trincomalee

Sri Lanka East Coast mosque

An east coast mosque

Trincomalee home

A typical Trincomalee home

East Coast Villages: Nilaveli and Uppuveli

Sri Lanka coconut thatched house

Uppuveli village, Sri Lanka’s East Coast 

Most tourists don’t stay in Trincomalee though, they head up the coast to the small villages of Uppuveli and Nilaveli. Both have long sandy beaches and some accommodation, ranging from budget to luxury.

Nilaveli beach is the wider and longer of these two. Nilaveli hotels are located in a coconut forest and they are not directly by the main road while in Uppuveli everything is closer to the highway.

Both villages are still authentic and quite undeveloped but there are the basic services.

Nilaveli roadside view

Uppuveli village 

Trincomalee goats on the road

Goats crossing the highway

Nilaveli roadside cow

Cow on the roadside, Nilaveli

Nilaveli Beach Resorts

Nilaveli has a few beach hotels along the sandy coastline, a bit hard to find in the coconut forest, but there they are, facing the sea.

We came to Sri Lanka’s East Coast for the fine beaches. And we wanted to test what beach resort life is like – and here in the coconut forest was our first resort, the Pigeon Island Beach Resort.

Basically when we travel we want to drive around and see places, but sometimes it’s fun just to take it easy for a while. Spend a day just doing nothing, staring at the sea or reading a good book. Sri Lanka’s East Coast is the place for that and this was our first hotel:

Pigeon Island Resort

Pigeon Island Resort

Pigeon Island Resort, Nilaveli

A beach resort couldn’t be better located. Pigeon Island Resort is right on one of Sri Lanka’s best and widest beaches, the 4 km long Nilaveli Beach, backed by a lush jungle. There is some distance to the main road so you don’t hear the traffic.

We really needed this kind of resort after the exhausting drive. We wanted to relax and take in the Indian Ocean atmosphere. This place met our needs, it was very relaxing, quiet and nice –  just us, the sun, the waves and the jungle birds.

Pigeon Island Resort pool Nilaveli

The pool, just for the two of us

And the pool: we had it to ourselves. There were not many other guests at daytime and most of them were on the beach. But at dusk it changed as tour groups arrived. Bus loads of tourists touring the island came and stayed the night and they all left in the early morning.

So dinner time was very busy and the daytime was peaceful.

Pigeon Island Resort pool

Pigeon Island Resort pool, Nilaveli

Pigeon Island Resort gardens

Tropical East Coast nature

Pigeon Island Resort beach Nilaveli

Wave-gazing on Nilaveli beach

One of our Sri Lanka dreams was to stop, sit and enjoy the sun and the ocean – and now this dream came true. Driving 1600 km in two weeks and seeing most of a country is a top thing to do but in between you need a break.

Clas was wave-gazing and wondering how they made these coconut parasols and how long they will last. I was more in the tropical ocean waters and looking at the palms and the jungle from that perspective.

Nilaveli Beach is a perfect beach, and this section of it was – just for us!

Pigeon Island Resort beach

Coconut sunshade

Coconut leaf sun shade

Pigeon Island National Park

The National Park of Pigeon Island is just offshore and we could take a boat trip and see the famous corals. No – we want to stay in this place!

Trincomalee is some 15 km south but we saw it already.

What more should I think about before falling asleep: the dinner will be in three hours and there will be live Sri Lankan music.

Pigeon Island Resort beach Nilaveli

Nilaveli beach

Our room was very good. First of all there was a huge balcony with jungle views and we had private stairs down to the where the pool was. And the room: it was huge too and the bathroom was big enough for both of us at the same time :).

Pigeon Island Resort room balcony

Our balcony had forest, pool and ocean views


Our Pigeon Island Resort room and bathroom 

So this was the first of the three east coast resort hotels we tried, a bit older one but very nice and cozy: Pigeon Island Resort

But we also tried a newly built resort in the same area, Trinco Blu in Uppuveli.

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon

Trinco Blue by Cinnamon Nilaveli

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon, Uppuveli

We left south and stopped at Uppuveli. Just briefly, having lunch at Trinco Blu. They specialize in a tasty buffet lunch and our driver said we should try the Trinco Blu lunch.

That really was a good one, we sat in the main restaurant that was open to the sea. You can see the restaurant and my picks from their dessert table below.

The other photos show the Trinco Blu pool that we didn’t try. But the pool looks inviting and the beach is just behind. Such a peace here too, and such a harmony.

Trinco Blue by Cinnamon Nilaveli

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon pool


Buffet lunch of Trinco Blu by Cinnamon

This was just a brief stop but what we saw we liked. Trinco Blue, too, looks like a good choice for a Sri Lanka east coast beach vacation.

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon

Driving along Sri Lanka’s East Coast: Trincomalee to Passekudah

Sri Lanka East Coast fishermen and nets

Fishermen taking in their nets

Sri Lanka’s East Coast is a land of rural coastline with occasional fishing villages. Painted boats and fishing nets, all in colors.

East coast’s Tamil people like strong colors and so do the fish, they like the colored nets. It takes many men to take in the night’s catch.

Colorful fishing net

East coast fishing nets

Sri Lanka East Coast fishing net

Fishing nets on sand

Sri Lanka East Coast fishing boats

Fishing boats in many colors

Sri Lanka's East Coast ,lagoon

A seaside lagoon

Sri Lanka East Coast fishing boat

A traditional Sri Lankan outrigger canoe

Sri Lanka East coast lagoonside boat

Fishing boat on the lagoon shore

And here again, they dry the fish in the tropical sunlight and sell their catch on the roadside. This is what the villages are basically like.

Sri Lanka East Coast fish drying

Fishermen working with their catch 

Sri Lanka East Coast salted fish drying

Fish drying on nets

Roadside huts

Typical East Coast village view

Since much of the coastline and all roads were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami there is lots of rebuilding going on. The roads are in a bad condition and need more repairing.

Sri Lanka East coast road workers

Road workers at work

Sri Lanka's East Coast locals

Locals in a village

Sri Lankan funeral procession

Funeral procession

Sri Lankan pink house

East Coast home

Sri Lanka goat crossing street

Goat on the highway

Other main sources of income are farming and cattle raising. That means roadside rice fields and cows and bufffaloes on the road.

Buffalo herd, Sri Lanka East Coast

Buffaloes eating grass

Buffalo owner with his herd

A Sri Lankan buffalo owner

Buffaloes, Sri Lanka East Coast

Some more buffaloes

This man is bathing in the river, with his cows. Cows of course have to be washed at times.

Sri Lanka's East Coast, bathing cows

Rice fields and cows bathing in the river

Sri Lanka East Coast, cow owner and cows

A smiling cow owner

Sri Lanka East Coast, cow owner and cows

Presenting my cows

Sri Lanka’s East Coast: Passekudah Bay

Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa beach

Sri Lanka’s east coast: Passekudah Bay 

The drive from Trincomalee to Passekudah is not long but knowing the road conditions and the amount we stopped it’s a miracle it only took half a day.

We had heard Passekudah Bay is an amazing place, yet it surprised us. This place is like a paradise! 2 km of soft sand and shallow waters, and again no people, no crowds, nobody at all on these fine beaches. Can’t wait getting into the water.

On Maalu Maalu Resort beach

Walking along Passekudah Bay, Sri Lanka

Passekudah Bay used to be sheltered by offshore coral reefs but a lot of corals have disappeared, partly torn down by the tsunami and partly by people. It is a huge disaster but they are now planting the corals again. It needs a lot of work and one day the reef will be back where it was.

The tsunami destroyed everything here including buildings and rebuilding started in 2011. New hotels now appear on the shoreline. The first of them was Maalu Maalu which means fish fish. We were staying in the fish hotel and that’s why I put my fish dress on.

Today there are a dozen resorts in all, all with beach access.

On Maalu Maalu Resort beach

Maalu Maalu Resort beach in Passekudah 

Where to Stay: Maalu Maalu Resort

Maalu Maalu Resort, Passekudah

Maalu Maalu Resort, Passekudah

Maalu Maalu Resort looks like a Sri Lankan fishing village. Hotel buildings with their coconut leaf roofs and wooden walls look older than they are, yet they were built in 2011.

I really like this style and everything in the place and it makes me think about an Indian Ocean island and that’s exactly where we are. This is the kind of place many people dream of but don’t know where to find it.

A fishing village on poles, built on the sand. Coconut groves around and a stone’s throw to the Indian Ocean.

Maalu Maalu Resort beach walkway

Walkway to the beach

This grey boardwalk shows you the way to the beach. The wood is too hot to walk on as is the sand next to it – our paradise island is in the tropics and it’s so hot here…

And did I mention the pool? The pool has the same tropical water temperature as the ocean and you don’t feel cold entering the water. Too hard to decide where to go first, beach of pool?

Pool or Beach?

Maalu Maalu Resort Passekudah

Pool or beach, which one to choose?

Maalu Maalu Resort pool area

Maalu Maalu Resort pool

Most guests are staying around the pool. So we took sunbeds and found a shelter. If you get thirsty there is a bar with fresh coconuts on the table – a bar made of an old wooden boat.

Maalu Maalu Resort beach bar

Pool bar: fishing boat with coconut roof

We normally don’t spend our days in a resort without going anywhere but Sri Lanka’s east coast is different. Every single detail in Maalu Maalu needs that we look at it so we have to stay and not leave….  and we only left the resort to walk up and down the 2 km beach.

Maalu Maalu Resort beach walkway

Walking to the ocean beach

Maalu Maalu Resort beach chairs

Sun chairs and the beach

Maalu Maalu Resort flowers

Fresh flowers in water bowl, changed each morning

Staying in a Fishing Hut

Our room was in a chalet built on poles and we were staying upstairs. Garden view, pool view and sea view, our balcony had it all. And sofas.

Maalu Maalu Resort rooms on poles

Our Maalu Maalu fishing hut

The exterior looked traditional a bit worn out but at the inside it was all modern. The room had all you need for a relaxing stay: good air conditioning, no mosquitoes inside nor outside, lots of space for luggage and changing clothes, a big bathroom and a sunny shower area.


Our Maalu Maalu Resort room

Hoppers and Crayfish

The restaurant had an exceptionally good service and great meals, we mostly had two or three waiters around us and they genuinely seemed to like serving us.

Sri Lankan hopper breakfast

Sri Lankan hopper for breakfast

This is a part of my breakfast: fruits, pastries and a hopper with egg and pepper. The chef fries it at request in a deep iron pan. So good!


Lunch with sparkling water

And too soon after breakfast it was  lunch time and then the dinner. Simply too much but sometimes you need this kind of things. At home you couldn’t eat this amount and sit this long at the table three times a day  – but this is holiday…

But where do these fresh fruits and vegetables come from? And the fish and the lobsters? The fish comes from here, less than 1 km from the resort:

Passekudah fishermen

Fishermen leaving the shore

Village fishermen leave to the sea at sunset and return when the sun rises.

They push their boats into the sea, set light in their lamps, throw their nets in the deep waters and start their night shift. In the morning they return with their catch, fresh fish, lobsters and giant crayfish. And we enjoy them. Hard work which I can appreciate after they explained it to us.


Passekudah Bay fishing boats

Candlelight Dinner

Maalu Maalu Resort candlelight dinner

Candlelight dinner on Sri Lanka’s East Coast

The friendly locals work at night and we instead dine crayfish on the soft sands.

You hardly see the crayfish nor the curries you add to it but I can tell you it tastes so good. The crayfish here is at least hundred times the size of the ones we catch in our lake back home. And they add at least hundred times more spices. In Sri Lanka it’s an art how they use spices.


Beach bar evening drink after sunset 


You can find the Maalu Maalu website here: Theme Resorts, Maalu Maalu

Someone had drawn this heart in the sand and I shared it to my dear ones at home, wishing they could join us here, right now:

Wish you were here

Wish you were here

Back home, and can’t help dreaming back to the tropics and to Sri Lanka’s east coast.

Wishing I wash there…

Our Sri Lanka road trip was made in cooperation with the Sri Lankan travel agent Connaissance de Ceylan and Theme Resorts & Spas hotel chain, but like always all opinions shared in this blog post are our own.

Our Sri Lanka Road Trip Continues

Sri Lanka’s East Coast was a part of our Sri Lanka two week itinerary which you can see on the map.

After Passekudah Bay we turned inland and back to the Cultural Triangle. Happy and relaxed after a few resort days and ready for new sights.


More on our Sri Lanka Round Trip on the trip’s main page.

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One comment

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