Arugam Bay is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka. When the weather is favourable (May to October) this is the place to be. It has the best surf and the best parties. It is a not big town, with one long beach, one quality surf break and one main road that runs parallel to the coast. But everything you need to have an amazing time in this chilled out piece of paradise is there.
This old house transformed into a hostel is one of the only places in Arugam Bay with dorm rooms. There are 3 rooms that each have 4 beds and an air conditioner. There is a kitchen that can be used if requested, a common area inside where breakfast is served as well as a small social space outside. The house is surrounded with a nice garden.
Sights and Highlights
Kumana was previously known as Yala East National Park and it is contiguous with Yala National Park. The entrance to Yala national park is quite a drive from Arugam whereas Kumana is very close. I don’t think Kumana has quite as many elephants and leopards compared to Yala, but you can still see them. The best reason to head to Kumana rather than Yala is that there are far less tourists and less jeeps touring around here. Kumana is also one of the best places for bird watching in all of Sri Lanka.
Arugam Bay is most famous surf spot on the east coast and probably all Sri Lanka. It’s a long right hand point break which offers a variety between long walls with great shape and the odd barrel. The wave breaks over reef with several different sections. Arugam Bay attracts a solid surf crowd. You’ll find lots of Aussies, Germans and Israelis here and everything in-between. Besides the main break in Arugam Bay, there are numerous other popular break no more than a half hour tuk-tuk ride away. A detailed list of surf spots near Arugam Bay can be found at SafaArugamBay.com/the-location/surf-spots.
For general information on popular Sri Lanka dishes, check out my article Sri Lankan Food on a Budget. Arugam Bay has all that Sri Lanka has to offer when it comes to food with many decent and cheap restaurants all along the main street. However there are also some decent non Sri Lankan eateries here. I liked the little burger place, Hello Burger, for good burgers as well as the pizzas at Maleena Arugam Bay and Pizza Point. The food at Ranga’s Beach Hut was also exceptionally good. If you choose to stay there then you need not go very far for your meals.
Every Night is Party Night
Arugam Bay has an active party season whenever the surf conditions are good (May to October). Each night of the week a different bar/hotel hosts a large party event with cheap happy hour specials, often live music and a dance floor. The parties start of pretty casual but by the early hours of the morning they become a raving dance party. Ask any of the locals in town or look out for flyers in the street to find out where the party is each night of the week. Its definitely the place to be.
There are a bunch of bars tucked away inside various hotels and guesthouses in Arugam Bay. A lot of them are good choices for evening drinks, perhaps before heading out later in the night to the party. But Hideaway seemed to be the nicest, most chilled and also most popular. Every evening people would congregate for drinks here during happy hour (2 for 1 cocktails). A really nice bar.
Tuk-tuks are the best way to get around Arugam Bay. Most guesthouses or hostels will have a few resident drivers that can be relied on for their service. If you want to check out one of the surf spots out of town, you can arrange for a driver to take you there and then meet you afterwards at an agreed time to head back to Arugam Bay. In this situation it is easiest and more reliable to book the driver through your accomodation.
Getting In and Out
If you want to get straight from the airport in Colombo to Arugam Bay, catch the direct bus. It is bus no 98 and it departs twice a day at 5 am and 8 pm. The journey will be around 8-9 hours during the day but maybe only 7-8 at night and cost around 650 LKR.
An even better option is a private A/C bus. It departs Colombo daily from Maradana Zahira College car park (opposite Maradana Train Station) at 8pm and arrives at Pottuvil Bus Station around 3.45 am, the price is about 1800 LKR, and if you have extra luggage they will charge you 450 LKR more. If you are coming to Sri Lanka purely to surf in Arugam Bay, this is your best option.
Ella is relatively close to Arugam Bay, but to reach it you will need to take multiple buses. The first bus you want is the one that goes from Pottuvil to Monaragala. In Monaragala you can transfer to a bus to Ella.
When I was in Arugam Bay I was informed that there was a direct bus available each morning that departs from Arugam Bay arriving in Matara on the south coast. I did not get up early enough for this bus and so opted to take two buses instead. The first takes you to Monaragala from Pottuvil. A second bus can then be caught in Monaragala all the way to Matara. The buses are very easy to catch but the whole journey will end up taking about 8 hours. Just head to the bus station and as around. Lots of people will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Batticaloa is just 100kms to the north of Arugam Bay and can be reached by public bus. For information on departure times for this trip, check out WelcomeToBatticaloa.com/available-facilities/