Sri Lanka’s west coast shows the island at its most developed, its most Westernised, and its most tourist-oriented. A string of fine beaches, backed by hundreds of hotels and guesthouses of all sizes and standards, dot the coast from Negombo in the north to Hikkaduwa in the south. Despite increasing development in other parts of the island, the large resort hotels of Negombo, Kalutara, Beruwala and Bentota – all reachable from the capital, Colombo .
The south coast is one of Sri Lanka’s most rewarding places to visit. This is the island in a microcosm: gorgeous beaches, colonial townscapes, stilt fishermen, superb wildlife parks and Buddhist shrines and temples aplenty – not to mention the island’s most alluring selection of places to stay, from luxurious beach hotels to atmospheric colonial-era villas. Active types will find a never-ending range of things to see and do here although, despite piecemeal development around the coast, much of the region’s charm lies in its somnolent and quintessentially rural atmosphere. Innumerable comatose villages nestle in the shade of toppling palm trees, and the pace of life is unashamedly indolent. For proximity to more action, look for resorts near Galle.
Sri Lanka’s east coast is unquestionably beautiful, but was off the tourist trail for many years due to the long-raging civil war, compounded by the damage wrought in the 2004 tsunami. However, in the years following the civil war's end in 2009, there has been slow and steady reconstruction and the region is now finally looking to the future with renewed confidence. Its major towns – Trincomalee and Batticaloa – are bustling with life and commercial activity while ongoing development promises to finally start unlocking the massive tourism potential of the superb coast – albeit at the inevitable cost of changing its formerly remote and magically unspoilt character for ever. Check out Passikudah Bay for some of the best new hotels.