These spectacular back-to-back beaches, 34km north of Batticaloa, present as stark a juxtaposition as you could imagine.
On one side of a narrow peninsula, the breathtaking white sands of sickle-shaped Passekudah beach are being developed as a kind of mini-Cancun, a government-driven ‘Special Economic Zone’ with 14 luxury hotels ultimately planned to ring the bay. Fishermen have also been ordered to move their boats away from the main beach. Sure, it’s a glorious stretch of sand, but for the next few years the immediate surrounds are a mess, resembling a building site, as edifices in various stages of construction emerge from scrubland.
Passekudah’s extremely shallow water heats up to bathtub temperatures on sunny days (you’ll have to wade out some distance for a good swim). There’s also lots of sharp coral mixed in with the sand, so take care if barefoot. You’ll often find busloads of Sinhalese tourists here; try walking north along the shore to avoid the crowds.
In contrast, Kalkudah beach, 2km away over the headland to the south, is deserted – save the odd fisherman and his boat. This fabulous stretch of golden sand was once lined with hotels, but these were destroyed in the civil war and 2004 tsunami. There’s little shade, but it’s a delight to explore; just wander along the shore until you find your own private patch of sand.