Arugam Bay – Surfing, Best Attractions, & Travel Guide

Last Updated on by Teddy

What if there was a vacation spot that excited both your adventurous spirit and the loner in you?

Arugam Bay is one of the greatest surfing destinations on the East Coast of Sri Lanka, and is located 320 kilometers east from Colombo. From April through October, the best waves in Sri Lanka hit the shores of Arugam Bay and its surrounding beaches. And for the rest of the year, it’s still a great place to unwind and drink a cocktail on the beach. Swimming can also be taken up as the waters are calm.

Dolphin watching, diving, and snorkeling are also hugely popular activities in Arugam Bay, thanks to the coral reef located just offshore. They are home to breathtakingly colorful tropical fish and aquatic plants – a paradise for the underwater photographer in you!

Now, for that loner in you. If you’re keen to get away from the ocean and its activities for a day, a huge reservoir is the main draw for leisurely walks. In July and August, more than 150 elephants come to quench their thirst here, bringing with them a host of brightly colored aquatic birds.

Food options are ample in town with a large variety of cuisines and restaurants. And to get your much needed shut eye at the end of the day, the backpacker hostels, resorts, and everything in between will come in handy. The crowd here is mostly laid back, making Arugam Bay a great destination for anyone wanting an escape from the otherwise busy world.

Things to Do

1. Go Surfing at Arugam Bay

Popular for being one of the top surfing destinations in Asia, Arugam Bay has a choice of beautiful surf spots thanks to its location in between two headlands. The most raved about spot is ‘The Point’ at the southern end of the bay. From April to October is when you’ll see the professional surfers in town. There are many quality surf shops to make surfing here memorable for you, even if you are just a beginner trying to look cool in your vacation pictures. You can also arrange tour guides to show you around the local area and go see the natural landscape here.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Price for surfing packages varies depending on your tour operator –  please be careful of scams when renting surf lessons, boards, and equipment.
  • Location: Beach Road, Arugam Bay 32500, Sri Lanka.

2. Whiskey Point

Whiskey Point has all the waves you’ll need and is only a 3-minute walk by the beach from Pottuvil Point. Whiskey Point is known for its smaller waves that are perfect for a swim or for sun bathing and relaxing away from the busy surf points. You can enjoy some lovely sunsets from here, and there are some good restaurants nearby where you can relax and enjoy the views.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Beach Road, Arugam Bay 32500, Sri Lanka.

3. Go Underwater

Get away from the overly walked on land by going in the opposite direction on your vacation. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and other activities will take you out to the water. Hire quality diving instructors, and get ready to be awed by the larger fishes like hump head wrasse, rock cod, reef sharks, and mantra rays, all of whom are attracted to the clean, warm waters of Arugam Bay. The most raved about dive site is are the ‘Basses Reefs’.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Price varies depending on the local operator.
  • Location: Beach Road, Arugam Bay

4. Kudumbigala Monastery

The Kudumbigala Monastery is a beautiful, ancient complex that is steeped in history. Originally built for meditating monks, this monastery takes you back to a time that was focused on peace and tranquility. The highlight of this ancient relic is the unique cylindrical-shaped stupa on the mountain top which you can walk up to – the view is worth the climb.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Beach Road, Arugam Bay

5. Muhudu Maha Viharaya

Muhudu Maha Viharaya is known for its 3 meter tall statue of the standing Buddha, with two bodhisattva figures at his sides. Ask local guides about the legend of Princess Viharamahadevi. The ancient ruins of Muhudu Maha Viharaya are about 2,000 years old, making this building one of the most significant structures of ancient Buddhist Sri Lanka. The best time to drop in is early mornings and evenings, as during the afternoon the stone is too hot to walk on barefoot (remember that you must take your footwear off inside the temple).

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: There may be a small fee to climb the lighthouse tower
  • Location: Pottuvil, Arugam Bay

6. Pottuvil Lagoon

You are mistaken if you thought people flocked to Arugam Bay just for the beaches and surf spots. At Pottuvil lagoon you can enjoy a leisurely boat ride and watch the local wildlife such as elephants and monkeys, as well as adore the birdlife. The sunset views from here are pretty spectacular too.

  • Duration: 1-3 hours
  • Cost: Prices depend on the boat operator – but it will be approximately LKR 2,500 for two people (remember to tip the boatsman).
  • Opening Times: 6am-8pm
  • Location: Pottuvil, Arugam Bay

7. Yala National Park

A famed safari destination, Yala National Park is home to many elephants, leopards, wild buffaloes, white cobras, and a lot of rare and exotic bird species. You can arrange tours of the area as you are take around to seek out the wildlife (during busy times these tours can get quite hectic.) The national park is vast – you will definitely forget how many hours you spend here because it can be extremely captivating, especially for the nature enthusiast in you.

  • Duration: About 3 hours
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Entry tickets: Adults – $15; child – $8 and there will be an $8 charge per jeep and a 15% VAT charge. Tour prices: $40 for half day; $75 for full day – tour rates are for one jeep with maximum of six people.
  • Location: Palatupana, Yala
  • Website: https://www.yalasrilanka.lk/wildlife.html

Foodies Guide

Best Food Experiences

1. Hummus and chicken sandwich at Break Point

Well of course Sri Lanka is famous for its authentic fare, but it is not far behind in adapting the western flavours too!

Get a taste of Lebanese and international cuisine at Break Point that serves the best hummus in town. Being the only place to serve Lebanese cuisine, it is a tad bit expensive but totally worth it when it comes paired with homemade paired with pita and stuffed falafel.

You might have a hard time finding this small, narrow food joint, but a little search and asking the friendly people out there and you’re good to go. Also try their ‘biggest submarine sandwich’, cake of the day and super refreshing iced tea that makes Breakpoint a must while in A-Bay. 

2. Vegetable Tempura at Zephyr

Zephyr’s beachside location makes it a perfect place for tourists, especially the couples. With a backdrop of the roaring waves, relish the assorted vegetables in the spiced up vegetable tempura.

If you’re one who wants to revel in the seaside fervor and can’t do without the ocean goodies, go for the wasabi prawns and fish bites. The dark lantern lit pathway leading closer to the shore sets the mood perfectly for this beachside haven.

The soothing beats at this rustic bar and restro will be on your top list of holiday chilling when in A-Bay. Don’t forget to try the cocktails – they have a wide variety of fusion cocktails to sum up your dinner date.

3. Authentic and international flavours at Hideaway Resort Restaurant

Arugam Bay is an escape and Hideaway is an escape within an escape.

Hideaway has been there for most of Arugam Bay’s modern history, starting from the late 1970s. Known for its perfect combo of authentic and western cuisine, there’s something for everyone at this resort restaurant.

The dinner menu at Hideaway is limited and changes often, depending on what produce is fresh and in season. For seafood lovers and the experimental souls, try the jumbo prawns – huge and so fresh that you feel they are straight from the ocean. Perfectly cooked, they are accompanied with crushed potatoes, salad and a flavorful herb garlic butter.

Meat freaks can go for the pork tenderloin, wrapped in bacon and served with chorizo. Om nom nom your way to another dish from up in Italy – the lemon chicken pasta with a strong emphasis on flavor of tarragon and parmesan, carried by a strong brown butter. 

As much as their dinner is loved by one and all in A-Bay, so is their breakfast set up.

Where to Eat

Apart from the above, Arugam Bay has an elite option of cuisines for visitors at fully fledged restaurants. Local seafood is very famous here and the restaurants serve both Sri Lankan delicacies as well as international cuisines.

Find few of our trusted places in Arugam Bay covering both budget and luxury travellers.

1. Kottukal Beach House, Jetwing ($$$)

Kottukal Beach Road, Pottuvil 32500 | +94 775348807 | www.jetwinghotels.com/kottukalbeachhouse/dining

Dining at this beach restaurant will be an unforgettable experience for anyone. Be it traditional Sri Lankan food, or a Western favourite, they have it all. Dine under the stars in utmost luxury while you eat mouthwatering meals cooked by experienced chefs.

2. Breakpoint ($$)

80, Main Street, Arugam Bay

Breakpoint is a unique food experience with a specialty in Israeli food. Dive into the exotic tastes of food at Breakpoint while you view the scenic beauty that Arugam Bay offers. A truly wonderful culinary experience that is not to be missed!

3. Mr. Fisherman ($)

Panama Road On the beach, Arugam Bay

Serving fish and chips with a Sri Lankan twist, this is a famed hangout for anyone who ventures into Arugam Bay. After a hot day out gallivanting, if Mr Fisherman finds you and invites you for a deliciously cooked lobster meal, don’t miss it! It might seem strange in the beginning, but when yummy food finds you, it is always a moment to say yes.

4. Bambini’s Café ($)

188, Sinna Ulla Pottuvil, Arugam Bay

A family friendly affair, this place is a must visit if you want an authentic rice and curry meal by the beach. A true Arugam Bay experience with no frills, this place offers the most delicious meals at a very low cost.

Or check our complete list of Arugam Bay’s best places to eat.

Where to Sleep

Visitors looking to enjoy their holidays surfing their heart out and relaxing in the tranquility of exotic beaches have a plethora of options as far as accommodation is concerned. There are many hotels and resorts which are available within the vicinity of the sea:

1. Stardust Beach Hotel

Stardust Beach Hotel makes for a perfect start to you holiday with facilities such as a private beach garden, yoga and massage sessions, and rooms with a sea view. There is an aura of calming reassurance as soon as you step through the doors – exactly what you need to wind down after a busy day exploring.

2. The Danish Villa Hotel

A beautiful villa located just 100 meters from the white sandy beach, the villa secludes you from the buzz of Arugam Bay and provides you with the quiet you need to get a good night’s rest.

3. Upali Beach Surf camp

An eco-friendly resort at the hottest surfing point of the bay, this is a must for the surfers who want to be up early and catch a wave before the beach gets crazy.

4. Arugam Bay Surf Resort

Located just a few minutes away from the bay point, this peaceful, quiet resort is like good wine – it has aged charmingly over time and takes you back to the days long gone.

5. East Surf Cabanas

The tranquility of the area makes this the most unique place to stay at in town. Beaches are the ultimate destination for vacation, but the messy sand doesn’t pass the door at this quaint hotel where you can enjoy clean rooms.

When to Go

Best Time to Go: April to October. The sea remains safe for both surfing and swimming.

Time to Avoid: November to March is the monsoon season – the weather will not be pleasant and most outdoor water activities will be cancelled.

Dress code

When visiting this region please do bear in mind the modesty dress code of the country. When you are not on the beach it is best to cover your knees and shoulders – this applies to both men and women. One idea is to carry a shawl or shirt with you so hat you can cover up when you are out and about. If you want to visit a religious site like a temple you will have to follow the modesty dress code, and you will have to remove your footwear on entry (Please note that some religious venues may have particular rules of their own).

Getting-In and Around

Traveling from across the different regions of the country to the East can be quite a lengthy journey. Here are some transport options:

Colombo: A taxi direct to Arugam Bay will take five hours. To save some money you could take the train from Fort Station to Elle (have a stopover there), and then take a taxi to Arugam Bay – this journey will take about eleven and a half hours. If you are taking the bus, go to Monaragala or Katharagama from Colombo and then transit to Arugam Bay .

Airport or Negombo: Take a taxi to Katunayake Airport Bus Station from where you can journey onwards by bus to to Kataragama, and then take a taxi to Arugam Bay. The journey will take about twelve hours in total. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Arugam Bay from Negombo; it will take about six to seven hours.

Galle: The taxi from Galle to Arugam Bay takes almost five hours. Or, you can take a bus from Galle Bus Station to Monaragala or Katharagam, from where you can take a taxi onwards to Arugam Bay – this journey will take at least seven hours.

Kandy: The taxi from Kandy takes four hours. Or, you can take the train to Ella Station from where you can reach Arugam Bay via Wellawaya by taking the Bus to Pothuvil.

Ella: The taxi to Arugam Bay takes about three hours. Alternatively, you can go to Wellawaya and from there take a bus to Pottuvil, and after that it is a five minute taxi ride to Arugam Bay.

Dambulla: You can take a taxi directly to Arugam Bay and it will take about five hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Dehiattakandiya from where you can travel on to Pottuvil, from where it is a five minute taxi ride to Arugam Bay.

Budget

There are a wide variety of accommodation options at Arugam Bay, with budget rooms available for as little as $8! Mid-price options are available from $30-50, and higher priced rooms are priced from $130-230.

With so many restaurants and local eateries in town you will always be able to fond a decent meal for a good price. Value meals start from as little as $5, while you can expect to pay more for seafood dishes.

Visiting Arugam Bay will give you the best of both land and sea entertainment in just one trip. The surfers, foodies, shopaholics, loners, long walkers, swimmers, wave catchers, and the people watchers, Arugam Bay has something for you all. Eat great food, sleep in good beds, wake up to breathtaking sunrises, and end a well spent day by the waves and under the stars at the exotic and charming Arugam Bay!