Tour guide to Arugam Bay Sri Lanka !
“ Unwind, relax and catch some waves!” This could be one of the slogans to attract tourists to Arugam Bay. However, Arugam Bay’s reputation is so widespread among surfing specialists for its unique point break that it hardly needs such a catchphrase.
Located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, about 380 kilometres from Colombo, Arugam Bay or “A Bay” has come a long way from being just a small quiet fishing village with a predominantly Muslim population. To locals, it is known as an ideal weekend getaway for the joys of water sports. To overseas visitors, Arugam Bay is probably the most tourist-friendly destination, tucked away from organised tours, where serenity and sports combine marvellously!
Although most of the structures in the area were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, it has recovered marvellously thanks to its popularity among travellers and the determination of the locals.
How to get to Arugam Bay and how to get around
Getting There - Road
Arugam Bay is easily reachable by road. If you do not intend to hire a chauffeur-driven car for your whole stay, almost all hotels in Arugam Bay can arrange for a pick-up from Colombo airport for about Rs.15000 (the journey lasts 8 hours).
The cheapest way to reach Arugam Bay is to take a bus from Colombo. There is a luxury bus service that costs only about Rs.1000. Buses leave at 9 pm daily from the Sri Lanka Tourism Office near the Immigration Department in Maradana (Colombo 10) and arrive at Pottuvil at around 5 am. This is often the most popular option with travellers since you do all the travelling overnight and wake up to the sights and sounds of the beach.
You can take a train to Batticaloa (100 kilometres to the north of Arugam Bay) and follow it up with a bus to Pottuvil. This is an option you must consider if you wish to experience an authentic train travel in Sri Lanka.
For a unique experience, try the Sri Lankan air taxi that lands directly here at Arugam Bay! The service operates directly from the main Sri Lankan airport at Colombo and can take 15 passengers at a time. The entire journey is 90 minutes and can be booked via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also fly in from Mattala airport near Hambantota.
Top tourist attractions in Arugam Bay
Located right on Arugam Bay’s scenic beach, most surf schools offer surfing classes for beginners during the season (March to October). The instructors here are very helpful and will teach you how to master the waves. Given the friendly atmosphere here, irrespective of your age and culture, you are bound to have a good time. You can probably even boast forever about having learnt to surf in this lost paradise in Sri Lanka!
Other advanced surfers can rent boards and equipment from these schools as well.
The Kudumbigala Monastery is an abandoned complex tucked away in the hills, near the Yala National Park. It has great historical significance as it was built in the 2nd century BC by King Devanampiya Tissa, who introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There are over 200 caves and sand buildings with ancient inscriptions.
History lovers will surely enjoy a day in the hills, surrounded by monks, soaked in the ancient culture of the country.
What to visit near Arugam Bay
Magul Maha Vihara
North of the Lahugala Kitulana National Park are the ruins of this temple that is worth a visit. Lahugala is 2 km off the main Monaragala – Pottuvil road some 5 km from Pottuvil.
The forest area around offers a beautiful setting for the shrine complex that is reached by a causeway flanked by a lotus-filled reservoir. The outer yard bordered by a stonewall encompassing seven ponds and the central courtyard hosting an image house with a lot of detail are an exquisite sight to the eye.
A Bo Tree and a Stupa built on a high terrace with three staircases leading up to it, all of which are in a good state of preservation, complete the setting. The moonstone at the entrance of the shrine is unique as it bears elephants mounted with mahouts, a feature unseen elsewhere in the island. The oldest archaeological evidence found in the form of a stone inscription states that the temple was constructed for the wedding of King Kavantissa (205-161 BC) and was renovated by Vihara Maha Devi, the wife of Buwanakabahu IV and later by King Parakramabahu V during the 14th century.
Arugam Bay has a five-star beach!
The crescent-shaped sandy beach with waves any surfer in the world would love to catch makes the beach at Arugam Bay a spectacular holiday in itself. There is no doubt that most visitors have only one thing on their mind after a vacation here: to return here at the earliest.
The tourist-friendly people, the down-to-earth eating and lodging facilities and the general laid back feel make this surf destination one of the best in its kind on the island.
Places to admire wildlife near Arugam Bay
Lahugula Kitulana National Park
One of the smallest national parks in the country with an area of 1,554 hectares, Lahugula is home to the Sri Lankan elephant and over 400 unique species of birds. Designed as a sanctuary, it became a national park in 1966. The park can be visited with the help of tour guides who can help you navigate through the dry evergreen forest. Dawn and dusk are the best times of the day to be here, as you will definitely catch glimpses of elephant herds.
The different reservoirs and tanks here are definitely relaxing. Also note that in its southern part, the park contains the historic site of Maha Vihara Magul..
Activities for children in Arugam Bay
Why not combine your surf classes with cooking lessons and earn a double degree in riding waves and cooking curries? Many establishments that offer boarding and lodging often organise cooking classes where participants learn how to make traditional Sri Lankan dishes. The classes are about two-hours long and involve a visit to the local market to buy the necessary ingredients. You can make an entire meal from scratch and note down recipes and treat your near and dear back home to some of your newly acquired talents.
A unique and enjoyable way to train your taste buds, cooking classes are a hit with everyone in the family.
Great things to see in Arugam Bay
28 km from Arugam Bay lies Okanda Beach, a regular spot for both the religious and the surf-centred.
On the religious side, Okanda is popular as a pilgrimage station for the Pada Yatra in July that extends through the east coast and ends in Kataragama.
On the surfside, a short drive through a jungle path leads you to great surfing line-ups on offer: two intermediate ones and one advanced level surf point. Waves can be as high as 8 feet on the main surf point and the rides can be as long as 300 metres off both left and right handers. The currents here are pretty strong and the presence of rocks make surfing dangerous... something you will absolutely have to bear in mind if you are with inexperienced teenagers (especially due to the absence of any life guards here).
A walk on the beach here is absolutely peaceful as there are no major lodging facilities that favour mass tourism. You can also set out for a jungle safari to encounter wild elephants at the Lahugula National Park! This entire region is a Heritage Conservation Zone, meaning that traditional laws take precedence here.
A short walk through the Okanda-Kudumbigala region will give you a quick introduction to the history and customs of ancient Sri Lanka, including sacred groves and local myths.