Bentota, Sri Lanka
Beloved for its Indian Ocean-washed shores, this seaside retreat is famed for its action-packed watersports and tranquil coves. The resort hotels dominate the narrow promontory to the north of town, so those seeking seclusion should venture to Bentota’s pristine southernmost sands. Here, you can spend lazy days blissfully soaking up rays, diving into the fish-flanked depths, or sheltering in grand gardens tucked neatly into the hinterland.
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When to go
December to April is the most popular time of year for tourists who like their climate sunny but not sweltering; the sea is also at its most serene. By May, humidity soars, storms intensify and the rain falls in short, sharp bursts until June, then again from October to November, with less frequent showers in-between. The northern summer months see increasing amounts of visitors – especially holiday-heavy August – but the monsoon-mashed sea means that aquatic activities are restricted to the lagoon.
PlanesSri Lankan Airlines (www.srilankan.aero) is the only carrier flying direct to Colombo’s Bandaranaike Airport (www.airport.lk) from select European destinations and Sydney. One-stop operators include Emirates (www.emirates.com), Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com) and Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com). Sri Lankan Airlines also operates a daily Air Taxi (www.srilankan.lk) service from the airport in 15-seater Otter planes (minimum four people) that drop you atop Bentota’s lagoon in less than an hour.
TrainsThe rocky two-hour rail ride from Colombo’s Fort station south to Bentota (www.railway.gov.lk) offers a multi-sensorial cultural immersion, both inside the carriages and out. Train travel is spectacularly cheap – a one-way ticket costs around US$1.50 – so crowded carriages are to be expected.
AutomobilesSri Lanka’s traffic-choked roads are dreadful, and there’s really no reason for you to self-drive. Hayleys (www.hayleys.com) can arrange tours and transport around the country. Alternatively, organise with your hotel in advance to have a chauffeured vehicle (either car or minivan) pick you up from the airport. Transfers to Bentota by road usually take two-and-a-half hours.
TaxisTuk tuks are perfect for short trips around town and are in plentiful supply – touting drivers even trawl for tourists on the beach. None are metered so agree on a fare before you ride – and don't be afraid to haggle. For longer jaunts, book chauffeured cars through your hotel.