Sri Lanka’s Beaches And When To Go
January to April - Hot and Dry
From January to April, Sri Lanka experiences its peak season, with hot, sunny and dry weather throughout the country. It’s the perfect time of the year for visiting the coast, and the higher altitudes of the hill country offer a cool respite from the heat. April in particular can be very hot.
What’s the climate like in Sri Lanka between January and April?
The climate during these months tends to be quite hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine to bask in. The average day experiences anything from seven to eight hours of sunshine, more than any other time of year. As for the temperature, it’s pleasantly warm, though as it starts getting closer to April, the temperature starts rising. April experiences the warmest weather and the heat between 11am and 3am can sometimes be hard to tolerate, though if you stick to the south and the coast, the cool sea winds should make the hotter weather a lot more bearable. Rainfall is minimal at this time of year.
What beaches are swimmable in Sri Lanka between January and April?
You should find that pretty much every beach is swimmable from January to April. The hot temperatures and dry winds make these months the best time of the year to enjoy beach holidays. April in particular is very good for trips to the beach as the weather is at its peak and the days are sunny, hot and long. Along the south coast, the all-round, tourist friendly Unawatuna is a top choice, whereas Mirissa is particularly good at this time of year for whale watching.
Where not to go in Sri Lanka between January and April
Those with an aversion to particularly high temperatures may want to avoid visiting the Cultural Triangle during April. This is because temperatures there can reach as high as the mid-30°C’s. Those looking to climb Sigiriya Rock may want to avoid doing so during April, again because of the potentially high temperatures. From January to March, there’s really nowhere in particular that you should avoid going, since the weather is both pleasant and bearable throughout the whole country.
May to June - Monsoon Season In the Southwest
The southwest of Sri Lanka, including Colombo, Galle and Tangalle, experiences monsoon season during these months. It’s not as severe as the name suggests, as rainfall tends to be short and heavy and passes through quickly.
What’s the climate like in Sri Lanka in May and June?
If you’re staying in the southwest, the climate will of course be affected by the monsoon season, with frequent heavy showers that actually tend to pass quite quickly. Sri Lanka experiences two annual monsoons: this first one is the southwestern one (its winds blow up from the southwest) and is known as the ‘Yala’ monsoon. In May, the effects of the monsoon are more pronounced, whereas in June, the rains are usually less heavy and the winds less strong. When it’s not raining, it’s quite sunny with favourable temperatures. The northern part of the island doesn’t experience the effects of the monsoon so much, so it’s typically quite hot and dry.
What beaches are swimmable in Sri Lanka in May and June?
Throughout the months of May and June, you may see red flags put out by beachside hotels and resorts advising against swimming in the sea because of the monsoon weather. This tends to happen at beaches along the south and west coasts. However, there are still opportunities for swimming - it just depends on the beach and weather on the day. Generally speaking, June’s weather is more favourable as the effects of the monsoon start to subside, so you’ve got a better chance of finding swimmable beaches then; also in June, water sports and other water-based activities are fairly common. The north and east coasts are perhaps best for swimmable beaches at this time of year because the weather is better and you’ll rarely see signs telling you not to go swimming in the sea - the peaceful Arugam Bay, along with the unspoiled Uppuveli and Nilaveli are good choices at this time of year.
Where not to go in Sri Lanka in May and June
The southwest’s monsoon season is actually quite bearable since winds aren’t too strong and showers tend to be short. Therefore, even areas that experience monsoon weather in May and June, i.e. the west and south coasts, are very much still worth visiting. There’s no particular part of the country that you should outrightly avoid at this time of year. However, if you’re looking to avoid the monsoon and want better weather for guaranteed swimming at beaches, you ought to stick to the north and east coasts.
July to September - Hot and Mostly Dry
Falling between the two monsoon seasons, July and August tend to be hot and dry with the odd shower. It’s the second most popular time of the year to visit Sri Lanka after the January - April period. West and south coast beaches tend in the main to be too rough for swimming at this time of year.
What’s the climate like in Sri Lanka during July, August and September?
July in particular experiences effects of the summer monsoon, though it’s mainly in the south and western parts of the country; any rainfall is likely to be infrequent and minimal. It also experiences the fewest average daily hours of sunshine, with just three hours a day expected. During these three months, the weather tends to be hot and dry, while temperatures are on the whole fairly consistent. Winds and rain start to pick up towards the end of September, with cyclones starting to appear across the country, so August is often considered the best of these three months to visit.
What beaches are swimmable in Sri Lanka during July, August and September?
From July to September, a lot of beaches along both the west and south coasts will be marked as unswimmable. This is largely due to the sea becoming rougher due to the effects of the monsoon. However, that’s not to say there are no opportunities to go swimming in the sea at all: some beaches will be open for swimming, though only if the weather on the day permits it. If you’re visiting the west and south coasts, there’s no guarantee that the beaches will be open for swimming; however, if you stick to the north and east coasts, you should be able to swim the vast majority of the time since these parts of the country don’t experience the effects of the monsoon. Visit the west and south coasts during August - of these three months it has the most favourable weather - for your best chance at finding a beach where you can swim in the sea. Tangalle, backed by lush countryside, is a top choice during August.
Where not to go in Sri Lanka during July, August and September
There’s no particular part of the country that you should avoid visiting in July through to September. If you’re looking to go swimming in the sea, you may want to stick to the north and east coasts, where you’ll rarely find beaches closed off due to bad weather. In all, these few months are among the best for visiting Sri Lanka, though if there’s a time not to visit, it’s late September - choose August instead. This is because the second half of September sees the weather turn inclement due to the country’s second annual monsoon season starting.
October to December - Monsoon Season In the Northeast
The monsoon from the North East affects the whole of Sri Lanka with often heavy rain, albeit rather unpredictable in timing and intensity. It’s the least popular time for visiting Sri Lanka. However, after the monsoons have receded in December, it can actually be a pleasant time of year to visit with sparkling green scenery.
What’s the climate like in Sri Lanka during October, November and December?
With the country’s second annual monsoon, known as ‘Maha’ being in full swing, October tends to be the wettest month of the year across the whole island. Winds are usually quite strong and cyclones can be quite common. The north sees the most rainfall and thunderstorms, with frequent, sporadic showers and fewer storms elsewhere in the country. Favourable weather gradually starts returning throughout November and December, with temperatures increasing and rainfall lessening. Note that in the northern part of the country, the monsoon effects last longer, whereas along the south and western coasts, the monsoon effects don’t last as long and favourable weather returns sooner rather than later.
What beaches are swimmable in Sri Lanka during October, November and December?
Few beaches along the west and south coasts will be swimmable in October due to the increased rainfall and cyclones brought about by the monsoon. You’re more likely to find beaches open for swimming in November and December when the monsoon starts to subside and favourable weather conditions return. There may well be the odd few days where there’s no rainfall predicted and beaches are opened for swimmers. Hikkaduwa has long been a top choice with tourists and remains popular today, especially with surfers.
Where not to go in Sri Lanka during October, November and December
You should perhaps avoid visiting the Northeast during this time of year. This is because the monsoon blows in from the Northeast, so this part of the country experiences significantly heavier rainfall and stronger winds than elsewhere; the effects of the monsoon also last longer here. You may also want to avoid the west and south coasts during the first half of October when the monsoon is at its strongest; it’s by far the strongest of the country’s two annual monsoons.