There are many interesting things to do in Bentota, Sri Lanka.
A small town on the west coast of Sri Lanka, Bentota is about half way between Colombo and Galle. It’s a popular tourist destinations for foreigners as well as locals, especially for people coming from Colombo, so it can get busy at weekends.
Even if in the past the city was known as a spice trade centre, today, with its long white sand beaches, palms trees and its lagoon, Bentota is a quiet place where you can enjoy water sports, nature and sun. In addition, if you are a fan of history and architecture, there are many places that are steeped in history and design.
There are so things to do in Bentota and places to visit that you have plenty of options among which to choose. My advice is to stay there at least 3 nights – but if you want to take it easy and relax, you can even use an entire week.
In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Bentota and share some tips that will help you make the most of it.
15 Unmissable Things To Do In Bentota
Go cycling throughout the town and its surroundings
One of the nicest things to do in Bentota is to rent a bike or book a bike tour of the city and its surroundings. This is an easy way to get to know the place and connect with its nature, culture and inhabitants. Make sure to bike through the town, tea plantations, rice fields and coconut estates (where you can stop and have a look at how the coconut oil is extracted and its fibre is worked).
You will see Dutch houses, the beautiful Kande Viharaya Temple (more about that in a bit), you’ll cross a river, admire the lagoon and pass by Dedduwa Lake and several Buddhist temples.
TIP: The bike tour is best done early in the morning or in the evening, skipping the sunniest hours of the day. Tours have different length and prices, ask for a quote at your hotel or guest house.
Head to Bentota beach
One of the best things to do in Bentota is spending time at the beach. The surroundings of Bentota have several beautiful beaches. The nearest is Bentota beach, just next to town. The contrast between the golden sand and the green coconut tree, together with the turquoise water makes this place unforgettable.
You can indulge in the sun, have a long swim and walk on that soft sand, as well as enjoy some water sports including diving and snorkeling.
This idyllic place becomes even better at sunset.
GOOD TO KNOW: Swells often carry garbage to the beach, especially plastic. Please don’t add to it, do not to leave any garbage on the beach and always take it back with you. Even seemingly harmless waste may be swallowed by turtles and lead them to death. Small precautions can really make a huge difference.
Or Moragalla beach
Whether you are a quiet person looking for a peaceful place to sunbathe, read a book and relax, or looking for adrenaline, one of the best things to do in Bentota is spending time at Moragalla Beach.
Located between Bentota beach and Beruwala beach, this is a long white and golden sand beach with clear blue water, dense green vegetation and not many visitors.
There are places where you can organize snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, tube riding and banana-boat expeditions.
Moragalla Beach can be reached by tuk tuk, car and bike.
TIP: It’s best not to stay on the beach after the sunset.
Spend time at Dedduwa Lake
One of the nicest things to do in Bentota is wandering around Dedduwa Lake. This is a wonderful place just outside Bentota. You can walk through the cinnamon and rubber plantations, have a drink on a boat house or in a villa by the lake while watching the calm water or have a boat tour on the lake (best to book in advance).
One of the most beautiful views of the lake is from Lunuganga, Geoffrey Bawa’s house.
Enjoy the beauty of Lunuganga Estate by Geoffrey Bawa
If you only end up doing one of the many things to do in Bentota, it has to be this!
Lunuganga Estate belonged to the renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. He purchased the place in 1947 and for the following 50 years he worked to turn it into the masterpiece that it is now. Inspired by his brother Bewis and the great work he made with Brief Garden, Geoffrey Bawa left his career as a lawyer and became an architect, one of Asia’s most influential.
Located on the banks of the Dedduwa Lake, the garden at Lunuganga Estate was his creative laboratory for new concepts and ideas, in fact during his life Bawa continued to change and experiments with its spaces and structures – something which he did until he fell ill in 1998 (he died in 2003).
New gardens were created in place of the old rubber tree plantation and sculptures and artworks strategically placed to reveal stunning views, such as that of Cinnamon Hill framing the Katakuliya temple in the distance. Lunuganga is an open-air museum, a park, and a house at the same time. The Estate is now under the care of the Lunuganga Trust and the garden is open to the public for guided tours.
During the tour you will get a glimpse of the main house, the Cinnamon House and the house of the artist Ena De Silva.
GOOD TO KNOW: Bawa’s house has been turned into a hotel. If you want to experience the interior of Bawa’s house you can book a room.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Garden tours of Lunuganga estate start at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, and 3:30 pm. The entrance fee is 1500 Sri Lanka Rupees (LKR) (roughly $8). Tours last around 2 hours.
You can reach Bawa House by tuk tuk or by car from Bentota.
TIP: Make sure to wear shoes because the garden can get quite muddy during and after the rainy season.
Visit the Brief Garden by Bewis Bawa
Among that things to do in Bentota you will definitely enjoy there’s visiting Brief Garden. This enchanted estate consists of a house and a garden designed by Bevis Bawa, senior brother of Geoffrey Bawa who was obviously inspired by his work.
Located approximately 10 km away from Bentota, Brief Garden takes its name from Bawa’s father, a lawyer who bought this land with the money received after a successful legal brief. Originally a rubber plantation, in 1929 Bawa started working on this land and never stopped until his death in 1992. Throughout the decades, he created a series of gorgeous terraces that depart from the house and follow the slopes of the hill.
It’s a gorgeous tropical gardens inspired by the local traditions of Sri Lanka, with touches of Italian and English style in the landscaping. There even is a stunning Japanese garden.
You can also visit the house, where you will be able to admire sculptures and paintings by Australian artist Donald Friend, who spent 5 years on the property.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Brief Garden is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entry fee is 2500 LKR (little less than $14 USD). Though you can walk around freely, I recommend joining a tour to make the most of this place.
To get to Brief garden hire a tuk tuk (a return trip should be around 1000 LKR).
Try different water sports
This is one of the coolest things to do in Bentota, where the calm waters of the lagoon are the ideal environment for water sports all year round. I suggest water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, banana-boating and water-scooter.
Bentota is also very famous for diving: you will see a beautiful coral reef and colorful fishes, including lion fish and porcupine fish. Have a look around to find a good guide, it’s important to be safe when you go depth in the blue.
There are several centers where to try these sports.
Spoil yourself at a Spa
Between a bike ride and a swim, after long day in the sun, spoiling yourself with a spa treatment is one of the nicest things to do in Bentota. Most spas focus on ayurvedic treatments and you can pick between hot stone therapy, beauty treatments, aromatherapy, deep tissue massages, reflexology and much more.
There are several spas in town: Sahana Spa at Saman Villas, Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort and Ayurveda Shunyata Villa just to mention some. These are actually resorts where you can also sleep, eat and practice yoga as well as have treatments.
Catch the sun at Paradise Island
North of Bentota you will find Paradise Island, a sandy strip of land that enjoys a privileged position between the often rough waves of the Indian Ocean and the calm waters of the Bentota Lagoon. It’s worth going.
Go to Beruwala Lighthouse
Among the things to do in Bentota, make sure to go to Beruwala Lighthouse, built in 1889 by the Brits in order to warn ships of the dangers of underwater reefs. It’s located on the little Barberyn Island, a tropical paradise with high palm trees, submerged rocks, a 34 meter-high lighthouse overlooking the green island inhabited by crows that swarm noisily at sunset and a few ruins from the British era.
This is not always possible, but if it is make sure to climb up the inner staircase of the lighthouse to see the old lighting mechanism. Once you reach the top the 360 degree view is absolutely stunning.
This island is a paradisiac spot, far away from the crowds, where you can snorkel and sunbathe. You can get there on a 10 minute boat ride from Beruwala or Moragalla. Once there, a short hike will take you where the lighthouse is located.
Ask your hotel to look for a boat for you.
TIP: For a special view, try to go at sunset. There are trips leaving from Malubanna sports center.
Visit the Fishing Harbour in Beruwala
If you like fish and you’re early risers, one of the nicest things to do in Benota is visiting Beruwala Harbour. At about 10 minutes drive from town, you can observe the nets being pulled out of the water and boats being loaded. You can even arrange a fishing trip with the fishermen.
Do a river boat safari
Doing a boat safari is one of the best things to do in Bentota, which is home to the third largest river in Sri Lanka having. Boat safaris have different duration and can last anything from a couple of hours to the whole day. Whichever one you opt to do, make sure that yours include a visit of the mangrove lagoon as it’s truly gorgeous.
During the cruise you’ll get to see various species of birds (herons, cormorants, kingfisher and so on), bats, beautiful villas with direct access to the river, abandoned buildings, the mangrove and array of reptiles including snakes, lizards and crocodiles – though the latter ones are very rare now.
If you do a full day cruise you even get to see a traditional village where you’ll have lunch.
TIP: Make sure your boat includes an English speaking guide or else you’ll miss on a lot of what this river has to offer!
Excursions are organized by hotels, guest houses and water-sport centers. The price depends on the duration and on the number of people on the boat.
Visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery
Due to the fact that sea turtles are on the verge of extinction in Sri Lanka, several projects have been launched to protect, rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles. Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery was established in the 1980s and it is one of the 18 hatcheries in the country. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.
At the hatchery you will get to see several species of turtles, ranging in size from the egg till the elderly age; some with disabilities and others that were injured by fishermen, plastic garbage or bigger fishes. The eggs are taken away from the beach in order to protect them from predators like birds, dogs, crabs and poachers. They are gathered and preserved until they are hatched; and they are eventually released in the ocean.
Several volunteers works on this project.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The hatchery is located between Bentota and Ahungalla and you can get there by car, tuk tuk, bike and public transports. The entrance fee is 1000 LKR (around $5.5 USD) for adults and 500 LKR for children; opening hours are from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on Sunday and Monday. All the earnings go to the project. Donations are welcome.
Join a yoga class
A yoga class is one of the nicest things to do in Bentota. It’s a great way to relax the body and free it of its tensions.
There are several schools where you can attend a session. Experienced teachers will guide you through the various postures, breathing techniques and meditation.
Shopping at Ambalangoda
If you want to buy something typical Ceylonese as a souvenir, one of the nicest things to do in Bentota is heading to Ambalangoda, a coastal town which is about 24 km from it, on a shopping spree.
This town is known for the manufacture of ancient wooden devil masks, which has been passed on from one generation to the other. Many people in Sri Lanka still believe that afflictions and diseases are caused by demons and these masks are worn during dances that evoke the demons. Different masks are used for different purposes.
It certainly is a nice souvenir to bring back home.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can get to Ambalangoda by car, train or bus that run on a daily basis.
Visit Kande Vihara Temple
Finally, among the things to do in Bentota there is visiting Kande Vihare Temple. Located on the mountain crest, from which its name is taken, it can be easily reached by bicycle, tuk tuk or car.
The temple was founded in 1734 and since 1904 it’s been used by monks, who are still been found there. It’s a place of education for other monks.
Next to the temple there is a huge statue of a cross-legged Buddha, one of the tallest of Sri Lanka overlooking the entire surrounding area. It was finished in 2006. Once inside you’ll find the Relic chamber, one of the oldest and the most beautiful room in the temple. Make sure not to skip the image house, the stupa and the bo tree, which dates from more than 300 years ago and has a spiritual and religious significance – it is thought to be a holy tree among the Buddhists.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The temple is open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. There is no entrance fee though donations are welcome. Make sure to be dressed modestly. Mornings are best to visit if you want to observe the rituals.
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To Bentota, Sri Lanka
Where to sleep in Bentota
There is no shortage of good places to stay in Bentota. The following is a selection of the best:
- Lunuganga Country Estate: Sleeping at Geoffrey Bawa’s house is something unique, an experience itself within the travel. Located outside Bentota, on Dedduwa Lake the hotels provides adults-only accommodation with a restaurant, a shared lounge and a garden.
- Avani Bentota Resort: This resort, by the beach, was designed by Geoffrey Bawa. With luxury rooms, several restaurant and a water sport centre you will get pampered.
- Mahi Villa: Top quality for a very reasonable price, this Villa is located in Bentota and offers a garden, a terrace by the lake and a restaurant.
How to get to Bentota
You can easily reach Bentota from Colombo by train, bus (get off at Aluthgama and then take a tuk tuk) or by car in two hours. An additional part of the highway was opened at the end 2019 so now it’s even faster to drive from the airport to Bentota.
How to move around Bentota
The best way to move around Bentota is by bike and tuk tuk. Remember you always have to haggle the prices!
When to visit Bentota
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and you may end up catching some rain even if you do your best to avoid it. In general, the best season to visit Sri Lanka is between December and March.
Other useful information
Make sure to check if you need a visa before you travel to Sri Lanka. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – get a visa waiver. You still have to apply for the visa traveling, but don’t have to pay for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.
Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
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This post was written by My Adventures Across The World contributor Elisabetta Tavani.
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine.