9 Things to Do in Arugam Bay – Surfing, Nature, and Heritage

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. Surfing – What Arugm Bay is all about

Image of Arugam Bay the best surfing locations in Sri Lanka
Arugam Bay the best surfing locations in Sri Lanka | Source: Thomas Wyness /Dreamstime.com

Arugam Bay, a mecca for surfers, is a beautiful town in Sri Lanka, and it draws tourists from all over the universe every year. The beach is among the top ten surfing destinations in the world, and it is quite famous for its outstanding waves with an average height of 1.5 to 1.2 meters. You will find several surfing points in Arugam Bay that are making it easy for them to enjoy the water exercise with passion and dedication with its excellent conditions. The most suitable time to hit the land of the village for this activity is from April to October.The wind is predominantly offshore during the peak season with an average water temperature of 28 degrees and air temperature of 32 degrees. A long right-hand break close to Arugam Bay is Arugam Point, which has up to 2-meter waves on a perfect day, and a surfer can ride up to 400 meters. Other points are also there at a distance of 30 minutes, and all you need is to explore them entirely. Surfing would be fun in Arugam Bay, and you can take help of any surfing center as there are many near the beach.Well, the points are highly essential for any surfer, and it is better to understand the requirements of them before starting the activity.

Here are the complete details of renowned surf spots in Arugam Bay.

2. Arugam Bay Beach – Relish some great moments

Image of beach in Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay beach | Source:  Bambara/Shutterstock.com

Probably the most beloved attraction in Arugam Bay, Arugam Bay Beach, lies on the Indian Ocean, in the dry zone of the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka, and it is famous for its world’s best surfing destination. Situated 2.5 kilometers south of Pottuvil, which is a beautiful small town in Ampara District, and it is quite a sweeping sandy beach facing the village of Arugam Bay. Best known for outstanding waves that draw surfers all around the universe, Arugam Bay Beach is a year-round destination for surfing, but it would be perfect if you schedule your trip between April and October, and the average wave height is from 1.5 to 2.5 meters. When it comes to the surfing point, the famous ones include Pottuvil point, Crocodile point, and Main Break. Other than surfing, you can enjoy snorkeling adventures and Scuba Diving, too. If you are expert in diving, you must hire a boat and visit Basses Reefs, which is best for advanced level divers.

Moreover, relish melodious voices of various species of birds, and some sea animals are also there to entertain the visitors. If you want to view off-shore Dolphins at the Arugam Bay Beach, travel to the place between May and September, and a two-hour boat trip into the sea will fulfill your wish. The surroundings of the beach will leave you awe-inspired, because a beautiful Pottuvil Lagoon, mangrove, wildlife parks, and a plethora of hotels, restaurants, and bars are there for sightseers and travelers.

You should visit the place and witness everything by yourself.

Duration: 4-5 hours | Cost: Free | Opening hours: 24 hours | Address: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka | How to get there: call a three-wheeler to reach the beach

Image of Sunrise in surfers paradise Arugam Bay
Sunrise in surfers paradise Arugam Bay | Source:  Bambara/Shutterstock.com
Image of People relax on the beach Arugam bay
People relax on the beach Arugam bay | Source:  Bambara/Shutterstock.com

3. Enthralling Snorkeling Adventures

Image of Beautiful girl snorkeling in the Indian Ocean
Beautiful girl snorkeling in the Indian Ocean | Source:  ohrim/Shutterstock.com

Snorkeling is as essential for beach lovers as swimming, fishing, surfing, and diving, and Arugam Bay is a national hub for all these activities in Sri Lanka. To get the world-class snorkeling experience, visit the Arugam Beach, and rent snorkel and necessary stuff to watch the inner universe of the sea. Arugam Bay Beach is the perfect place to snorkel, and the best season for this activity is from April to October. The water of the bay is too comfortable for snorkelers, divers, and surfers, and you can watch dolphins and other aquatic animals if you visit the place in the right weather. Tropical fishes are also living in the waters of Arugam Bay, so arrange a tour to watch picturesque and panoramic views of the beach, and for experiencing snorkeling, you can hire a guide or an agency, too.

Duration: 1.5-3 hours | Cost: It varies | Opening hours: 24 hours | Address: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka | How to get there: Take an auto ride to reach the bay

Image of Girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater
Girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater | Source:  Tropical studio/Shutterstock.com
Image of Man snorkeling underwater looks reef fish
Man snorkeling underwater looks reef fish | Source:  Damsea/Shutterstock.com
Image of Woman with mask snorkeling in clear water over vivid coral reef
Woman with mask snorkeling in clear water over vivid coral reef | Source:  Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com

4. Scuba Diving around Basses Reefs

Image of Divers scuba diving looking at sea turtle and fish under wate
Divers scuba diving looking at sea turtle and fish under wate | Source:  Kzenon/Shutterstock.com

The paradise for water sports enthusiasts, Arugam Bay Beach, is an all-rounder beach, where surfers, swimmers, snorkelers, and divers can relish their lives with fun and enjoyment by taking participate in these activities. Though Arugam Bay is quite an excellent option to engage in water-related exercises, however, if you are expert in Scuba Diving, you need to hire a boat to reach Basses Reefs; Great and Little Reefs, where divers visit to enjoy the world-class diving experience. Nestled on the South East Coast of Sri Lanka, off the tiny fishing village of Kirinda, Great and Little Basses Reefs are the reason behind many wrecked ships, and the ruling British government erected two lighthouses in both reefs in 1873 and 1878. These are still operating and entertain visitors with their stunning buildings and surroundings. Diving would be a real fun around Basses Reefs because of powerful current and rough sea conditions, shipwrecks, shallow water, and beautiful aquatic life. The perfect time for scuba diving is from Mid-March to April when South Western monsoons are about to start on the island. The coin shipwreck in Great Basses lying in the depth of 20 meters is the prominent one in the site. On the other side, the copper shipwreck in Little Basses, which is a Dutch wooden steam-ship with the hull made of copper plates, is 18-20 meters deep, so arrange a boat from Arugam Bay Beach and visit Basses Reefs to enjoy scuba diving.

Duration: 3-4 hours | Cost: 6000-8000 (It depends on packages)

Image of Underwater view of scuba diver swimming sri lanka
Underwater view of scuba diver swimming sri lanka | Source:  Dennis Connelly/Dreamstime.com
Image of Big green sea turtle and scuba divers in bright blue clear water
Big green sea turtle and scuba divers in bright blue clear water | Source:  Daniel Wilhelm Nilsson/Shutterstock.com
Image of Divers unload empty cylinders of air
Divers unload empty cylinders of air | Source:  Free Wind 2014/Shutterstock.com

5. Ancient Kudumbigala Monastery

Hey all the history enthusiasts, if you want to find numerous monuments at one land, then visit Sri Lanka. Yes, the country has many to offer, and one of the most bizarre places is Kudumbigala Monastery, which is probably the only architecture with a cylindrical dagoba, and Maithree Upasaka discovered it in 1954. Hidden inside a thick forest off the Panama-Kumana road, Kudumbigala Monastery lies on the highest side of a massive rock, and within the cliffs, you will view small caves.

As per the historical sources, King Devanampiyatissa constructed this mesmerizing hermitage in the 2nd Century BC, and it spreads on the area of about 600 acres. With over 200 rocky caves lined with a series of frescos and murals, the monastery is highly picturesque and adorable. About 11 miles away from Panama, the monastery is in dense forest, so you have to trek through it to get to the entrance gate of the rock, and after reaching that point, you will view a box with the statue of Buddha and a large dagoba. Moreover, a holy Bo tree, a white standing statue of Buddha, and a few monks are also there, and they will make your trip even more engaging and remarkable. You can calm your nerves in the peaceful and serene environment of Kudumbigala Monastery, so make a plan as soon as possible.

Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours | Cost: Free | How to get there: Hire an auto for reaching your destination

6. Muhudu Maha Viharaya – A sacred temple

Image of Beach Stupa (Muhudu Maha Viharaya) in Pottuvil Arugam Bay
Beach Stupa (Muhudu Maha Viharaya) in Pottuvil Arugam Bay | Source:  Miles Astray/Shutterstock.com

Beautifully nestled in the town of Pottuvil, boarding the sea in the eastern coast of the country, Muhudu Maha Viharaya is a 2000-year-old temple with two Bodhisattva statues, and it’s a unique example of a mind-blowing architecture. Dates back to the era of King Kavantissa, who ruled the Ruhunu Kingdom for a very long time, many people believe the monument belongs to the 2nd Century BC, and it placed on the location where he (King) married his love, Princess Viharamaha Devi. Muhudu Maha Viharaya is quite close to the beach, and it makes the location even more captivating.

Visit the temple, and explore every nook and corner of the place, you will witness various artifacts and exhibits related to Buddha and the monks who used to live there. The remnants of Muhudu had faced plenty of renovations, and once it was a large temple with hundreds of acres land, but with time, it shrunk to near about 3 acres only. Pottuvil is a Muslim majority land in Sri Lanka, but you can still find a lot of monuments belonging to Buddhist and other ethnic groups.

Please plan your tour either in the early morning or in the evening, because you can face hot weather from 11 am to 3 pm. Moreover, it’s better to hire a private car or an auto from your hotel that can give you pick and drop as public transportation is not available in the area of Muhudu Maha Viharaya.

Duration: 1-2 hours | Cost: Free | Opening hours: Dawn-Dusk | Address: Pottuvil, Sri Lanka | How to get there: Grab a taxi or a private car to reach the temple

7. Kumana National Park (Yala East National park)

Image of Monkey in Kumana National Park
Monkey in Kumana National Park | Source:  Ragul JB/Shutterstock.com

The heart of southeast Sri Lanka is stealing others’ hearts for a quite long time. Yes, you are reading about Kumana National Park, formerly known as Yala East National Park. Consider it the well-preserved and well-known ecosystem attraction with plenty of fun things to do. With its 18,149 hectare area, the park is also famous as a bird sanctuary because of various species. One of the worth visiting highlights of the park is Kumana Villu, which is a natural swamp lake of 200 hectares, and you can imagine how massive and beautiful it would be.

Located at the mangrove swamp where many water birds nest in hot months, but you can view spoonbills, herons, pelicans, white ibis, cormorants, and painted storks at any time of the year.

Moreover, a rare species of the black-necked stork is also present over there, and the Kumana Bird Sanctuary, erected in 1938, which is a vital part of the Yala East Park, is highly distinctive, and it houses over 250 bird species, including grey-headed fish eagle, orange-breasted green pigeon, Indian peafowl, lesser whistling duck, and Sri Lanka junglefowl. Other than birds, mammals are also there to entertain visitors, and some of them include leopards, elephants, deer, and bears. When it comes to vegetation, Kumana showcases kumbuk trees, mangrove trees, and Karan fern, and there are also some open marsh areas in the park. The Kumana National Park is a jewel of southeast Sri Lanka, so discover the place and experience wildlife safari. Explore a bungalow located in the park, where visitors can stay and enjoy their trip as many days as they want.

Duration: 3-5 hours | Cost: 4500-5000 LKR | How to get there: Arrange for a safari jeep

Image of Sri Lankan elephant
Sri Lankan elephant | Source:  Lee Gillion/Shutterstock.com
Image of Asian openbill wading birds in Kumana National Park
Asian openbill wading birds in Kumana National Park | Source:  W. Bharatha/Shutterstock.com
Image of Indian peacock in Kumana National Park
Indian peacock in Kumana National Park | Source:  W. Bharatha/Shutterstock.com

8. Lahugala National Park

Image of Swamp in Lahugala National Park
Swamp in Lahugala National Park | Source:  Bihrmann/Shutterstock.com

Bring some colors to your trip and visit Lahugala Kitulana National Park, which is quite famous among the sightseers for being the most priceless conservation area for not only elephants but endemic birds and other species of animals, too. Situated about 13.5 kilometers away from Arugam Bay, this smallest national park in Sri Lanka has the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana, and Sengamuwa, and it first designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1966, but later, it upgraded to a rank of a national park in 1980.

With an area of 1,554 hectares, the land support an abundance of sacciolepis interrupta, which is a grass species, and Asian elephants love this tropical grass. Moreover, the park is a feeding ground for the giant elephants, and you can view up to 150 herds of known species in the place with ease. When it comes to other animals, grey langur, golden jackal, endemic toque macaques, deer, and the sloth bears are also present in the park.

Birdlife is also quite diverse in the location, so visit the site and discover waterfowl, dry zone forest birds, and raptors.There is a mesmerizing tourist site near Lahugala National Park, which is Magulmahavihara, and King Kavantissa built this monument for Viharamaha Devi, so whenever you hit the land of Lahugala Kitulana Park, make sure to unveil this archeological landmark, too.

Duration: 3-4 hours | Cost: 1000-1500 LKR | Opening hours: Early morning to evening | How to get there: A three-wheeler will take you to the National Park but will ned a safari jeep to go inside

9. Day trip to Maligawila, Buttala, and Monaragala

Image of The Maligawila Buddha largest statue
The Maligawila Buddha largest statue | Source:  MediaNation/Shutterstock.com

Spend an entire day wandering in the streets of some of the best places in Sri Lanka. Yes, if you’re currently staying in one of the hotels of Arugam Bay, then start planning your tour to Maligawila, which is a tiny village in Buttala Town, situated in Monaragala, the second-largest district in Sri Lanka offering various historical sites. A small town in Sri Lanka, Maligawila, is about 5.6 miles away from Okkampitiya and 9.3 miles south from Monaragala in the Monaragala District. Filled with plenty of archeological monuments, but it is famous for one temple, Maligawila Standing Buddha Statue, which is 45-feet-tall, and it got fame because it carved from a single piece of limestone rock. It is the monument from the 7th Century AD, and it belongs to the first Aggabodhi, who was a monarch from the southern kingdom of Ruhunu. It’s the top-rated temple in the vicinity of Buttala. If you are thinking of visiting the Maligawila Buddha Statue, they should consider another archeological site known as Dambegoda. Dambegoda Bodhisattva Statue, located in a remote area off Buttala, Monaragala District, is a historical artifact made out of limestone rock, and you have to climb numerous steps to reach the top of the monument, where surrounding become more beautiful and picturesque. Since Monaragala District has plenty of archeological sites to explore, have a look at one of the stunning temples, Buduruwagala Temple. By paying a small entrance fee of 200 LKR, you will get an opportunity to view seven Buddha statues along with other gods, and they all date back to the 10th century. There are many other sites in the district, and some of them include Galabedda, the 12th-century-old Ruhunu King’s residence, Yudaganawa, which is a beautiful temple overshadowed by the giant stupa, and Dematamal Viharaya, an orangish-brown stupa located in the center of a paddy field dating back to the 3rd century BC.

Duration: 8-10 hours | Cost: Transportation cost | Opening hours: Dawn to Dusk | How to get there: Hire a tuk-tuk or a car for a few hours to reach your destinations with ease

Image of The Maligawila Buddha statue
The Maligawila Buddha statue | Source:  MediaNation/Shutterstock.com
Image of Maligawila Buddha statue
Maligawila Buddha statue is one of the highest carved sculpture of Buddha | Source:  eFesenko/Shutterstock.com

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

Image of Traditional Sri Lankan breakfast crepes.
Traditional Sri Lankan breakfast crepes. | Source: Hannah Govan /Dreamstime.com

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

Image of The fish curry is the most popular dish Sri Lanka
The fish curry is the most popular dish Sri Lanka | Source: Evgeniy Fesenko/Dreamstime.com

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

Image of Grilled lobster with salad and lemon sri lanka
Grilled lobster with salad and lemon sri lanka | Source: Tanyashir/Dreamstime.com

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

Image of Rice and curry sri lankan cuisine
Rice and curry sri lankan cuisine | Source: Ppy2010ha /Dreamstime.com

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.

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!