Highlights of Sri Lanka, for Families

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Sri Lanka is an amazing place to take your kids. This magical island combines low prices, friendly people, stunning coastline and a wealth of cultural and wildlife experiences. After months exploring Sri Lanka, these are our, and our kids’, recommendations for highlights of Sri Lanka for families.

Finding family accommodation in Sri Lanka is fairly straightforward but at peak time the island fills up, it’s best to book at least some of your trip in advance. We like to use Agoda as our favourite booking engine for Asia, you could also compare prices on your favourite hotel booking platform. Booking dot com works great for Sri Lanka too. I wouldn’t use Airbnb for Sri Lanka.

Prices for hotels and guest houses in Sri Lanka are easy on families, but beware of hefty admission charges at historic sites. These can really affect your budget.

Highlights of Sri Lanka for Families elephants

For more on travel in Sri Lanka, you need our Sri Lanka Travel Advice page. To check out all of our Sri Lanka content, and there is a lot, go to our Sri Lanka archives.

Highlights of Sri Lanka for Families

So let’s get into the highlights, what should your family see in Sri Lanka? Where you stay in Sri Lanka will affect this, but Sri Lanka is a small island, you should be able to see the sights from any beach hotel or resort by booking a tour or car with driver.

We’ll help you build your itinerary for Sri Lanka, take a look through these highlights, and decide which you most want to see.

Beaches in Sri Lanka

colours ambalangoda beach sri lanka
Ambalangoda Beach would be a good, quiet, choice for families. Watch the fishermen pull in their nets at dawn. ( More on Ambalangoda Villa stays here)

Sri Lanka is surrounded by glorious sandy beaches but not all of them are safe for families. Pounding waves and rips mean some beaches are best left to the surfers who flock to the islands. For more information on which beach to choose, visit our post on Sri Lanka’s Best Beaches.

If you want snorkelling consider Hikkaduwa, which has a Coral Garden. Unawatuna also has snorkelling, but we haven’t personally tried this. The “Golden Mile” has a more protected beach without as much surf or rips. Generally the beaches around Sri Lanka aren’t ideal for weak swimmers or kids, so try to get a beach-side hotel with a pool.

We have seen a lot of rescues around Sri Lanka, where swimmers get taken out in rips, so be careful.


Galle, one of the highlights of Sri Lanka
Galle’s fisherment, the markets and fort in Galle are a big highlight of Sri Lanka

Galle is the island’s southern capital and its ancient fort along with the nearby fish and produce markets make this a fun spot for kids to explore. Galle is approximately 130 Km south of Colombo, a 2-hour drive on the expressway, or you can take the coastal train south.

Fruit market Galle Sri Lanka
Taste local fruits at Galle’s fresh produce markets.

The sandy bay at Unawatuna is a short tuk tuk drive away, as are some magnificent boutique and luxury hotels and villas.

Galle Fort houses interesting shops and small museums and is a safe area for kids to explore. Read more on Things to Do in Galle here.


Temple of the tooth Kandy Lake

You’ll find Kandy in the relative cool of the hills. Kandy Lake is the setting for Sri Lanka’s iconic Temple of the Tooth, this site has a hefty admission fee but nearby temples are free to enter and non less fascinating. Your kids can walk around the lake spotting wildlife or hang out in Kandy’s many tea shops. You’ll find good shopping opportiunities here too. We like Kandy a lot but it’s a love it or hate it sort of place. Find more on Things to Do in Kandy here.

Search for hotels in Kandy here.


Elephants Pinnawalla Sri Lanka orphanage
Rescued elephants visit the river every day at Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage.

Your kids will be blown away by the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in the centre of Sri Lanka. In all my travels, I’ve never seen a higher concentration of elephants. Don’t miss the daily, scheduled, elephant river bath, seeing dozens of elephants rushing through narrow streets to the water is just incredible.

Ancient Sites

anurdharapura Sri Lanka King's Bath
Sri Lanka is littered with historic and ancient sites. Here the King’s Bath, part of the Anuradhapura ancient city complex.

Although Sigiriya is a stunning site, it’s maybe not the best of the Sri Lanka’s ancient sites for children. There are a lot of steps to climb, some of them are quite frightening and queues on the ascent develop at peak times. Towards the top there is also a danger of giant Asian hornet attack, noisy children can provoke them. For all of these reasons we held off on taking our kids to Sigiriya until they were 11 and 9. When we finally got there, they loved the whole experience.

Anuradhapura was a big hit with my kids. The Anuradhapura site sprawls and is best visited by tuk tuk. The ride a bit, walk a bit method suits kids fine. For tips on visiting Anuradhapura, click through. We can tell you how to save a lot of money on this one.

The Dambulla Cave Temples, north of Kandy are a little easier on children. There is a steep ascent, but it’s pretty safe to let the kids scamper up the wide stone steps marvelling at monkeys and giant tree squirrels. The museum and temple at the bottom of the hill is highly entertaining too.

Sri Lanka is awash with Unesco sites.


Highlights of Sri Lanka for families Kosgoda turtle hatchery
Absolutely a highlight of Sri Lanka for kids and families, who doesn’t love turtles? Here at the Kosgoda hatchery, one of the oldest and biggest on the island.

There are dozens of turtle hatcheries to visit in Sri Lanka, but beware, many aren’t ethically run. You also stand a good chance of seeing turtles in the wild, this is all but guaranteed in Hikkaduwa, where local giant sea turtles have been hand fed in the shallows for years.

Tea and the Highlands

Tea fields in Sri Lanka's highlands
Discover how tea is produced or enjoy cooler walks and hikes in Sri Lanka’s highlands.

Sri Lanka is synonymous with tea and it’s great for kids to see how it’s grown and produced. The best part of Sri Lanka for tea plantations is the area around Ella, you’ll experience some incredibly scenic train rides in this part of Sri Lanka too. We have more on Ella and Little Adam’s Peak with kids, here.


Wild Elephant Sri Lanka
This is a wild elephant at the roadside. The fence is to keep him safely away from traffic in central Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is home to leopard, sloth bear and wild elephant, along with hundreds of less high-profile species. If you can’t make it to the big wildlife reserves at Yala you’re still guaranteed plenty of wildlife encounters. Driving through the centre of the country your chances of seeing wild elephant from the road are high.

Don’t miss what will probably be a once in a lifetime experience to see blue whales off Mirissa.

I hope you found our introduction to Sri Lanka for families useful, don’t forget to visit our Sri Lanka Travel Advice page to help you plan your trip. To read more detailed Sri Lanka content, go to our Sri Lanka archives

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

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