Arugam Bay. It felt strangely like I’d been before and yet I hadn’t; new and yet familiar. It was almost like Byron Bay, Phi Phi island in Thailand and Bali had a baby. With it’s own special Sri Lankan flavour. For those who have never heard of Arugam Bay before, it is a laid-back, colourful beach village on the east coast of Sri Lanka where the days are filled with surfing, beach hanging, yoga, eating and if you want, a lagoon or land safari. Each day in Arugam Bay was different, and each day I loved.
Arugam Bay is known for it’s world class surfing and there are multiple breaks on offer, some within a five-minute walk, but all within a half-hour tuk-tuk ride. However, unless you’re experienced, best to start with a lesson (usually at Baby Point – a great spot to learn). We used Dylan’s and had a great teacher, his name was Kooti. I have surfed before, but not much and was excited to get out there and live my best Blue Crush life. Kooti was tough on me, apparently my jumping up really wasn’t up to scratch – much too slow. And so when I went out there, I was able to get up okay, but Kooti would always give me a little push into the wave.
When I went to try by myself my weak little arms didn’t seem strong enough to paddle me into the wave to catch. Or maybe my timing was wrong. I may never know. Either way, after 2 days I decided to opt out and bury my head in my book. The boyfriend continued battling away out there, and after a couple more Kooti sessions was ready to graduate to a fibreglass board – whoop!
Yoga first thing or at the end of the day is a must do for any yoga lover, or anyone in need of a good stretch in Arugam Bay. There are lots of places offering yoga classes. We particularly enjoyed Hideaway’s classes next to their beautiful pool and Bay Vista’s on the rooftop. Hideaway specifically offered Acroyoga classes which was a lot of fun. From memory both were about 1000 Rupees per class / per person. I known Stay Golden and Sunset View Hotel also offer classes a long with a lot of other places, simply walk along the main street and you’ll see the signs for different places advertising the class times.
One morning we woke before sunrise to do a Mangrove Eco-Tour in Pottuvil. We loved this. So serene with the sun coming up as the main varieties of birds busied themselves. We saw 3 crocodiles and many elephants on the banks.
There is a lot of great food to be eaten in Arugam Bay. Pizza is particularly popular! The best pizza place is meant to be Pizza Hub (which also delivers) but we didn’t get there. We did however have great pizza at Seahorse Inn and Etnico. My favourite places to eat were for sure Hideaway (cafe for lunch, restaurant for dinner – and also their bar – Hide and Chill!), Gecko (homemade ice cream and cookies!) and Secret Garden @Mataahari (my favourite atmosphere of possibly anywhere I went in Sri Lanka, food is good and bonus, I met a lovely staff here). Other good places:
- Mantra (cute little place for dinner)
- Surf and Sun (lunch or dinner at this hotel is lovely, very bohemian)
- Spice Trail (fairly upmarket hotel – good for dinner)
- Bambini (institution, simple cheap and cheerful)
- Pretty much anywhere on the beach as it’s pretty magical eating on the beach!!
- I got some plain and vegetable roti from the street vendors – definitely do this one day for lunch, cheap and cheerful in the extreme
- The Society (just off the beach, lunchtime or breaky)
- The rooftop of Bay Vista (breaky or lunch, or maybe dinner/drinks too after it reopens at7.30pm post yoga)
- LeafandVine (lovely for dinner)
We originally booked 6 nights in Arugam Bay but extended and stayed for 8, I just loved it. If you had limited time, I would recommend a minimum of 3-4 nights, particularly as it takes some time to get to from the rest of Sri Lanka’s major towns.
WHERE TO STAY IN ARUGAM BAY:
- Spice Trail
- Stay Golden (only their cabanas)
- Surf and Sun
- Roccos (the most upmarket place on the main street, seems a shame not to stay somewhere a little more low key)
Arugam Bay still has a lot of small surf town charm, but looking at the growth of Sri Lankan tourism over the past few years, it’s safe to say that it won’t stay this way for long. It’s beautiful, colourful, bohemian and lively — a little oasis of good vibes.
Also note that their high season, and when the surf is at it’s best, is June until the end of the August. Outside of this season, the weather is still great but the surf is minimal. Restaurants and shops are open from February until October.