Guide to Sri Lanka's Surf Mecca | Arugam Bay
You never know what you'll miss most about a place until you've actually been there. For Sri Lanka, I was expecting to miss a little surf town and the beaches. But what I'll really miss are the neon orange sunrises and the fiery red sunsets reflecting off of rice fields, a misty tree line in the background. I'll miss the stray cats more than the stray dogs, who have families of fleas the size of my pinky nail burrowed into their neck hair and jumping off their backs. I'll miss the lime green bee eaters with their long tails perched on electricity wires and the graceful white egrets in the wetlands. I'll even miss the murders of crows that seem to have won the evolutionary fight against hordes of pigeons, making those smart jet black birds far more common to see than a gray pigeon. I'll miss strapping our surf board rentals on top of a tuk tuk and only arriving at a surf break after some very questionable off roading. I'll miss trickle (pronounced "treekle") and rotis, rice and curry, and iced coffee. I'll miss locals who share their waves and scooting around with air (although not necessarily fresh) blowing against my skin. I'll miss the slow and spotty wifi that forced me to disconnect and enjoy the true lifestyle of expats in a surf town. I'll miss seeing elephants at dusk, picking marshy grass with their trunks and swish swishing it in the water to clean it before placing the whole bundle in their mouths. I'll miss lilypads and lily flowers, fresh juices, and arrack. I'll miss $2 beers and $3 omelettes. I will miss Arugam Bay far more than I thought I would. Sri Lanka, "the wonder of Asia", I will miss you.
What to Do in Arugam Bay
SURF | Arugam Bay is a surfing town, so if you’re making the trek across Sri Lanka to come here, you have to get in the water. The following were the best beaches in Arugam Bay for surfing for us because they offered waves for both the more advanced surfers in our group and the beginners: Arugam Bay, Whiskey Point, Lighthouse Beach, and Peanut Farm.
PONTOON RIDE TO SEE ELEPHANTS | Not far outside of town in Pottuvil Lagoon, you can hire a sunset pontoon to see the local elephants (pricing is around $20/pp). Each evening before dusk, the elephants come out of the forest to feast on grass along the water, making for a consistent and entertaining display for locals and visitors alike.
Nice to know…
Most places ask or appreciate if you leave your flip flops at the door or in the sand before entering a store or restaurant. This helps limit the amount of sand that gets tracked in.
Tipping is usually included in the form of a 10% service charge. From there you can round up to the nearest hundred rupees, but it's not necessary. Anything over that is not customary.
Where to Stay in Arugam Bay
Surf N Sun | Starting at $80 USD/night for an air conditioned room
You can't beat the combination of price and ambiance that Surf N Sun offers in downtown Arugam Bay. See our full review here.
Hideaway Resort | Starting at $102 USD/night for an air conditioned room
Also located in downtown Arugam Bay, the Hideaway Resort offers modern bohemian rooms and offers wonderful amenities like a pool, yummy restaurant and bar, and yoga classes.
Of course, Arugam Bay is a surfer town, so there are plenty of budget, hut-on-the-beach type of accommodations as well. We prefer to pay a bit more for air conditioning and design.
Where to Eat in Arugam Bay
Bites for coffee, pastries and dessert.
Seahorse Inn for pizzas in a relaxed courtyard; great place to try the local drink, arrack.
Love Beach Bar for a refreshing smoothie or iced tea midday.
Hideaway Resort for outdoor garden dining with string lights overhead.
Gecko Restaurant for cold beer and a hearty English breakfast near the water.
The Broken Tea Cup for smoothie bowls and coffee.
Stop in Ella on Your Way to Arugam Bay
The route to Arugam Bay is long. At least 7 hours in the car. So even if your main reason for visiting Sri Lanka is to surf, we recommend a couple nights among the tea fields in Ella. Ella has become a pit stop for travelers and as such, offers a handful of comfortable places to stay and eat.
Where to Stay in Ella
98 Acres | Greenland Estate, Passara / Namunukula Road, Ella
Nestled among the hills of tea plantations, the bungalows at 98 acres create the perfect setting to enjoy a local pot of Ceylon tea on your balcony or on the patio of their outdoor pool. Thatched roofs and views of Little Adam's Peak make you feel a world away.
Where to Eat in Ella
Chill | A23, Ella
A world mix of cuisine and an array of organic juices, Chill is the place to do just that. The top floor of this refined hippie hangout particularly evoke the feeling, with bean bags for chairs and low tables. Hand painted murals, open air dining, and raw wood pillars and beams create a cool atmosphere.