By: Mikael and Thrillism
11 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
A typical day of surfing in Sri Lanka starts with strapping your board to the roof of a tuk-tuk and ends with sunset beach beers. What could be better than that? Not much, which is why Sri Lanka is one of the best island surfing destinations out there.
There are quite a few surf spots around the island to choose from – Weligama, Ahangama, Hikkaduwa – but Arugam Bay has and always will be one of the best. It’s the perfect destination for beginners just starting out, intermediate surfers who want to perfect their skills, and even advanced surfers who just want to rip.
Even though there’s an offseason when the waves aren’t really working, if you come at the right time, you’ll be rewarded with clean, reliable breaks all day long. Plus, it’s home to one of the best – if not the best – point breaks in the country.
Before embarking on your journey to surf Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka, read this guide for everything you need to know about the area, the waves, and the surf camps.
Once you arrive in Sri Lanka, which is located in the Indian Ocean about 20 miles to the south of India’s lowest point, there are a few options for getting to Arugam. Traveling overland can be done by bus or taxi, but this will take about 7 hours from Colombo (the capital) at the very minimum, and more like 10-12 hours if you go by bus.
The easiest and fastest way to get there is definitely to fly. The closest airport is Batticaloa, and the ride from there is about 2.5 hours south, but it’s a nice drive since it’s along the island’s eastern coastline.
Arugam Bay is a crescent moon-shaped slice of paradise on Sri Lanka’s Southeastern coast next to the bigger town of Pottuvil. With a population of just a few hundred and a single road running through town, Arugam is often described as the heart of Sri Lanka’s laid-back surfing scene.
This is a swing-in-a-hammock-and-just-chill kind of place, and while some people may find that boring, it’s far from boring for surfers. When you’re not in the water, you can spend your time
eating at oceanside restaurants and drinking with friends at your beachfront guesthouse.
This isn’t a “get wild” type of destination, and that’s actually what so many travelers most appreciate about it. Having a few beers at the end of the day is definitely an option, but Sri Lanka isn’t a party island. That means you won’t have a massive hangover as you’re surfing Arugam Bay waves.
Similar to India, Sri Lanka is veryyyy affordable, and it’s easy to spend lots of time here without spending lots of money. That said, most destinations have options for luxury-seekers, and although Arugam doesn’t have all that many, there are a few high-end places to stay if that’s what you’re into.
The amount you dish out on accommodations really just comes down to how much you are willing to spend. It could be as low as $5 per night on an Arugam Bay surf hostel or $95 per night on a fancy Arugam Bay surf resort.
In terms of other costs, like food and transportation, that also depends on what you want to spend. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, set aside about $30 per day (that includes accommodation, too).
One of the best things about Sri Lanka is that no matter when you visit, there’s always somewhere to surf. That’s because there are 2 different surf areas on the island, each with their own surf seasons. The waves along the southwest coast are working from November to March.
Any Arugam Bay surf report will show you that April to September is better for the southeast. The most powerful, consistent waves happen in June and July, but this is also when the beaches and breaks are most crowded.
To give you a clearer picture of when to surf and when not to surf in AB, here’s some helpful info on the Arugam Bay surf forecast throughout the year:
Arugam Bay Surf in December: Basically nonexistent.
Now that you know when the best surf conditions in Arugam Bay take place, the next step is figuring out where to go and which breaks are best suited to your skill level. There are quite a few Arugam surf beaches to choose from, and the Main Point of Arugam Bay is just one of them.
This long right-hand point break has a reef bottom and no wind protection, so it’s not great for beginners who are taking Arugam Bay surf lessons. There are two distinct sections of Main Point – a fast wall and a slower, longer peak, and both are fun rides for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Baby Point is where you’ll find the surfing “babies” where the Main Point wave ends. This tiny wave is gentle enough for your first time in the water, and don’t be surprised if you see a dog or two riding a board.
The most epic Arugam surf spot of all time is Pottuvil Point, and it’s actually one of the best waves on the whole island when it’s working. When that happens, you can expect rides as long as 800 meters, but this usually only happens in July or September.
Whiskey Point is right next to Pottuvil, but this one is much better for beginners who are just learning the ropes. The waves here break off a rocky outcrop near the beach, which creates the ideal surfing conditions. Depending on the direction, the swell varies from 1 to 4 meters.
Here are a few more waves to surf in Arugam Bay that you’ll definitely want to check out:
If you’re looking for a more intensive Arugam surf camp, Safa is one of the best, especially if you’re also interested in wellness and yoga. The Arugam Bay surf yoga camp put on by Safa lets you pick and choose what suits your surf and travel needs, and if that includes chilling and relaxation, by all means, chill away.
“Known for its great waves and chilled surfer vibe, it is the perfect place to learn to surf and our team at SAFA (Surfing Access For All) are the best one to teach you.”
– Safa Surf Camp
The camp is located just south of the Bay at Sand Dune Beach Hotel, so you won’t be in the heart of the action, but it’s just a 2-minute drive to the Main Point break. There are a couple of week-long packages to choose from as well as a 4-night option, and each one includes accommodation, daily breakfast, surfing, and yoga.
Safa’s a great choice, but if you prefer to stay right at the Bay, Upali Beach Arugam Surf Resort is the better alternative. This location is as good as it gets, literally steps away from Main Point. That means there’s no need for a tuk-tuk ride to get to the best surf spots. The coolest part, though, is that this is a glamping resort, which combines the rustic feel of camping with luxury.
“Upali Beach Surf Resort is an eco-friendly resort enjoying a one of a kind situation, just in front of Arugam Bay main surfing point where our guests can enjoy the best serendipity.”
– Upali Beach Surf Resort
The Arugam Bay Surf and Sun is another great choice is you’re on the hunt for an Arugam Bay surf yoga retreat. It’s a great choice for beginners since Baby Point is just a 5-minute walk, and Main Point is only 5 minutes further. Aside from the nearby surf spots, the rooms here are stunning, but, like most places on the island, there’s no AC.
“We love sharing with our guests what we know and understand about our surroundings, using the resources that we have, making it a truly local and authentic experience.”
– Surf N Sun Arugam Bay
This surf school offers lessons, full courses, and affordable board/equipment rentals to anyone in Arugam Bay. It’s a great choice if you already have your accommodations booked and just need a surf provider to teach you the ropes. Dylan’s is backed by Billabong, so you know it’s gotta be good.
“Our Surf School offers both single surf lessons for the ones who just want to give it a try and longer surf courses for anyone wishing to spend a bit more time in the water.”
– Dylan’s Surf Company
Star Rest is run by Budget Surf Tours Arugam Bay, and this 6-day camp is one of the most affordable options in the area. For a low all-inclusive price, you’ll get 14 hours of surf lessons, 5 nights accommodation, a yoga class, a massage, daily breakfast, airport transfer, all transportation to surf spots, and even a sunset picnic outing to Crocodile Rock.
“Star Rest Surf Camp experienced surf instructors will be there to guide you through two hours of surf lessons per day… You can also enjoy daily drives to local surf spots.”
– Star Rest Surf Camp
This is a small town, but since it’s so popular for its laid-back vibes, there’s no shortage of Arugam Bay surf accommodations to choose from. We’ve already mentioned a few of them, but here are a few more for all budgets and comfort levels:
Lonely Planet ranked Hideaway Restaurant as the top choice for international food in Arugam. It’s classy and fancy with a menu that changes daily based on the freshest ingredients from both land and sea. Everything is locally-sourced here with lots of choices for veg, vegan, and gluten-free dishes.
If you’re looking for something a little less fancy, Siripala Place Surf Cafe is casual but still insanely delicious. The specialty here is seafood, and you know that you’re getting the freshest fish because you can literally see it being unloaded from the nearby boats and hauled into the kitchen.
For local Sri Lankan cuisine, very few places compare to Samanthi’s Kitchen. Run by a family of always-smiling women, this eatery is as good as it gets when it comes to local flavors.
Plan on spending most of your time in the water if you visit during the Arugam Bay surf season, but try to set aside at least a day or two for other activities. Sri Lanka is a stunningly majestic place with lots to see and do, and some of the best attractions are just a short drive from Arugam.
When you’re not surfing and chilling, here are a few more ways to spend your time:
Are there any pro surf competitions hosted in Arugam Bay?
Yes, just search “Arugam Bay surf” on YouTube and you’ll see some videos of pro surfers shredding at the most recent Arugam Bay surf competitions and contests. The Arugam Bay World Surf League was even hosted here in 2019, and the first National Surfing Championship happened here in 2018.
What are the best Arugam Bay surf spots for beginners?
Baby Point is by far the best novice-friendly spot in the bay, but there are plenty more nearby surf spots that most beginners can handle. Whiskey Point, Peanut Farm, and Elephant Rock are a few more.