Surf Sri Lanka: Arugam Bay
January 1, 1970
by Buddheesha Pahathkumbura
Any Sri Lankan beach looks gorgeous, but they all have characteristic differences. So, a question to ask yourself before planning a beach trip in Sri Lanka would be, what would you like to experience? If you are looking for a new spot to surf at or if you are simply looking for a place to learn surfing at, Arugam Bay is a great place to start. While there are many Sri Lankan beaches more than appropriate for surfing, Arugam Bay stood out to me during my search due to its surf schools (since I was a beginner), the beautiful location, and all the popular surf spots nearby such as Peanut Farm Beach, Pottuvil, Elephant Rock, and Panama Beach. All of these locations are short tuk tuk rides away. While you can travel to Arugam Bay at any time of the year for a tropical vacation, if your main goal is to surf, the Arugam Bay surf season is between the months of May and October.
Note: To get to Colombo from the airport you could catch a bus, rent a car, and call a taxi service such as Uber. In Sri Lanka Uber operates in Colombo and the suburbs of the city, at the moment.
We took one route to get to Arugam Bay from Colombo and a completely different one to come back home because, Sri Lanka may be a small country, but the scenery and landscapes change every hour, no matter where you go. Here are the two routes:
The route across the country
You could take public transport. This could either be a scenic train ride or an adventurous bus ride. While buses can take you all the way, train routes end midway, and the journey will have to continue by bus. Each mode of transport is unique as you will pass by amazing scenery along the way.
Optional: You can even break the journey at Kandy for a day to stroll through the ancient city and even visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Not only will you get to see an ancient city, it will give you a much needed break as this route is a long one.
Note:- The bus will not stop directly at Arugam Bay, but the stops are close enough and a short Tuk Tuk ride will get you to surf spots, restaurants and hotels.
Renting a car is a popular among tourists as there are some good car renting companies in Sri Lanka and most companies offer the option of either renting with a driver or without a driver. (Travel time: Approximately 7 hours, not counting stops.)
The route along the southern coastline
This route is for lovers of sun, sand and the sea! For most part of the journey you will be travelling along the southern coastline of the country, fishing villages, and stretches of coconut cultivation.
Again, if you’re renting a car you can map the journey out along with stops and breaks as you will drive by other beautiful beaches. (Travel time: Approximately 7 hours, not counting stops.)
This route could also be achieved by public transportation, but it must be split between a train ride (From Colombo to Matara) and a bus ride From Matara to Pottuvil). The closest bus stop to Arugam Bay is at Pottuvil, from there, catch a Tuk to complete the journey. (Travel time: Approximately 9 hours, not counting stops.)
Optional: You could break the journey at Galle, Matara or any other southern tourist destination such as Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Ahangama, Weligama or Mirissa for more beautiful surf spots, but make sure there are direct buses to Pottuvil from your location. If not, catch a bus or Tuk back to Matara to catch a bus that will take you to Pottuvil.
What You Can Experience
Note: When you’re travelling within the Arugam Bay area (if you don’t rent a car), Tuk Tuks are going to be your friends, because they are usually faster and more efficient than local buses. In some areas you can even rent bikes.
To find out about more about getting to our favorite surf spots and other locations, we asked for recommendations from the staff at our hotel as they were more up-to-date with the local travel patterns. Safety and efficiency were our main priorities.
Many surf schools and camps at Arugam Bay and Pottuvil offer Kite Surfing and Wind Surfing. Surfing in general can be enjoyed at locations such as Peanut Farm Beach, Pottuvil, Elephant Rock, and Panama Beach. Get a feel for the local culture by visiting historic temples such as Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Jungle Ganesh Kovil or Sangamankandy Pilliyar Kovil, and Kudumbigala Monastery. Experience a serene boat ride and the possibility of seeing elephants at the Pottuvil Lagoon. Pottuvil is also known for Wave Flow Yoga and their massage treatments.
Food and beverage
The Seahorse Inn and Pizzeria (Mediterranean), Maleena (Italian), and Tandoori Hut (Indian) are vegetarian and vegan friendly options to try. Hideaway Resort Restaurant at is a little pricey, but it is known for a great breakfast or lunch during the day and drinks at night. For a local touch at good value for money, try Bambini’s Café.
If you would like to splurge on accommodation, hotels such as The Spice Trail, Arugambay Roccos and Upali Beach Surf Resort are great in terms of location and comfort. If you would like great value for money instead, you could try places such as, Coco Bay, Shell Resort, Surf Camp Arugam Bay and East Surf Cabanas. If you are on a tight budget, hotels such as Garden Cottage Arugambay, Arugambay Surf Resort, Arugam Bay Ocean Beach Hotel and The Long Hostel will provide the comfort you need for a very affordable price.
If you are taking the bus, the nearest bus stop that takes passengers to Colombo is a short tuk ride away (e.g. Pottuvil-Colombo). Once again, if you want to take the train, the journey will have to be split between a bus ride (e.g. Pottuvil to Matara) and the train (e.g. Matara to Colombo).
Approximate Cost Per Day/Per Person
Not counting travel to and from Arugam Bay, but just the expenses within Arugam Bay per day including accommodation, travel, food, beverages, excursions, surfing instructions and gear per person on average, it would be about US $150. This is assuming that the traveler would splurge approximately $130 on accommodation per day. However, as there are many wallet-friendly hotels and hostels that are great value for money at Arugam Bay, this amount projected will dramatically reduce accordingly.
Traveling to and from Arugam Bay via public transportation would cost approximately $20 per person. Renting a car would be convenient but significantly more expensive and pricing could vary from one company to another.