Tangalle, located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, is the perfect destination for a south Asian beach escape. Though the region was devastated by a tsunami in 2004, the town is recovering, and tourism is growing. The area certainly has a lot to offer visitors. With endless palm tree-lined beaches, plenty of cheap beachfront accommodations, and fewer crowds than Sri Lanka’s more famous beach towns, Tangalle is a budget traveler’s paradise.
Most travelers only spend one or two nights in the area, but we stayed for two full weeks. We worked remotely during our time in Sri Lanka, so we enjoyed hitting the beach for a few hours every afternoon after we clocked out. Although our co-workers didn’t seem to appreciate the pictures we sent home of our “office.” I can’t imagine why!
We recommend staying in Tangalle for several days (or more!) if possible so you have time to thoroughly explore the area. The Tangalle coastline stretches for miles, and each beach has a unique vibe. Here is our guide to the beaches of Tangalle, Sri Lanka.
Further Reading: What to Pack for Sri Lanka: One Month in a Carry-On
Beaches of Tangallle, Sri Lanka
Though parts of Tangalle Beach are quite lovely, restaurants and guesthouses line most of this stretch of coastline, and some areas can become quite crowded.
Though Tangalle Beach wasn’t my favorite place to spend a quiet afternoon reading, it is a good spot to visit if you want to enjoy a beachside meal or drink. Just be warned that food prices at beachside restaurants tend to be more expensive than in other parts of Sri Lanka. But it’s hard to beat the views!
We enjoyed taking evening strolls or sunrise jogs along this beach because it is easily accessible from town.
Another plus is that this area is full of affordable beachfront guesthouses, so it is a popular base for tourists. If we were to return, we would probably stay closer to Tangalle Beach simply for the convenience.
Getting to Tangalle Beach
Tangalle Beach is fairly easy to reach by foot from town, and most tourists tend to stay in this area. If you don’t want to walk, you shouldn’t have to wait long for a tuk tuk (a three-wheeled taxi). They tend to congregate in this area due to the high volume of tourists.
Note: Sri Lankan tuk tuks don’t have meters. Always negotiate a price before getting into the vehicle.
Parewella Natural Swimming Area
The current is so powerful along much the coastline near Tangalle that swimming is dangerous and sometimes forbidden. If you’re ready for a dip in the ocean, head to Parewella Natural Swimming Area, a natural cove where the current is gentle enough for children to swim safely.
Just be warned that the Parewella Natural Swimming Area is a popular spot, especially with locals. Visit during school hours to avoid crowds.
Note: We didn’t see lifeguards at any of these beaches, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on your children, and take extra care if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Getting to Parewella Natural Swimming Area
The Parewella Natural Swimming Area is an easy walk from the main tourist areas. If you’d prefer not to walk, tuk tuks are rampant in this area, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting a lift.
Marakkalaoda Beach was my favorite place to plop down for a few hours of lazy beachside reading. We ended up on the lounge chairs behind The Chalet Restaurant nearly every afternoon. We thought the food somewhat overpriced, so we often ordered a drink or purchased a bottle of water and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out on the shaded lounge chairs.
The current at Marakkalaoda beach is quite strong, so we never ventured too deep into the water. We saw other people swimming though.
Getting to Marakkalaoda Beach
Marakkalaoda Beach is within walking distance of the “touristy” part of town. Just be warned that Tangalle’s busiest main road runs parallel to this beach. Walking along the street as tuk tuks and busses flew past flat-out terrified me at first, but I got used to it after a few days. If you’d rather take a tuk tuk, the journey from the other side of town should only cost a few hundred rupees.
To experience Tangalle’s unspoiled coastline at its best, head to Marakolliya Beach. Every inch of it could be photographed for postcards, and it was easily my favorite beach we visited.
We walked for miles along the golden sand on a Saturday afternoon and only saw a handful of other people.
If you get hungry or thirsty, there are a few beachside restaurants to choose from. But, as a whole, we found Marakolliya beach to be the most peaceful and least developed beach in the region. We recommend packing a water bottle and some snacks and claiming a quiet, deserted slice of the beach for the whole afternoon.
Unfortunately, the exceptionally strong current means most of Marakolliya Beach is often not safe for swimming. If you’re ready to take a dip in the water, head to the Medilla Natural Swimming Area in front of the Mangrove Beach Chalets.
Getting to Marakolliya Beach
Marakolliya Beach is more difficult to reach from Tangalle than the other beaches I’ve mentioned. We took a tuk tuk from town that dropped us off at a lagoon. From there we took a quick ferry—which was really more like a wooden raft with a rope pulley system—across the water. We didn’t have to wait long for the ferry. Once we were back on land, the beach was only a short walk away.
Tuk tuks tend to congregate around the ferry, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding one to take you back to town once you’re finished at the beach.
The ferry is free, but consider leaving a small tip for the men operating it in the stifling heat.
Most people visit Rekawa Beach for one reason: to see the sea turtles. We were lucky that our trip in February coincided with the sea turtles’ egg-laying season.
On our second night in Tangalle, we went on a late-night turtle-watching excursion with the Turtle Conservation Project Turtle Watch. We met in the visitor center where we browsed the various displays and listened as our guide gave us background information on the local sea turtles. When he got a call letting him know the turtles had been spotted, he led our group onto the beach where we watched a female sea turtle dig a hole, bury her eggs in the sand, and return to the ocean. Seeing a sea turtle in action was a pretty spectacular experience.
To avoid disturbing the turtles, our guide asked everyone to avoid using flash photography, touching the turtles, or blocking their path.
Unfortunately, some members of our group refused to follow directions—despite our guide’s frequent pointed reminders—and caused the animals unnecessary distress. If you choose to go turtle watching on your trip, please respect the turtles and follow your guide’s instructions. The turtles’ well being is more important than your Instagram story.
Be prepared for a late night and some waiting around as the digging process can take quite some time.
The excursion cost us 1,000 rupees and didn’t include the cost of transfer from Tangalle.
Getting to Rekawa Beach
The best way to reach Rekawa is by tuk tuk, which takes around 20-30 minutes. Our guesthouse house owner worked out a rate for the whole evening, and our driver waited for us during the excursion and returned us to our accommodations when we were finished. To save money, we shared our tuk tuk with the Australian couple who was staying next door. Though be warned that four adults in a tuk tuk makes for quite a tight squeeze!
What is your favorite beach destination?
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