On Sri Lanka’s east coast is a famous little surf town called Arugam Bay. The main season of Arugam Bay is between March and October, but great weather can be expected all year round. Many people find their way to the bay for surfing, the occasional beach party, spotting elephants right from your tuktuk, going on a safari or relaxing on the beach. Arugam Bay is also known for some interesting historical and religious sights.
Arugam Bay (Arugambay) or Abay, as it is popularly known, is the unofficial name given to the bay south of the small town of Pottuvil, located in the Ampara District of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. The area was first introduced to tourism when adventurous backpackers and surfers visited the bay back in the 1970s.
Table of Contents
- Arugam Bay Season and Weather
- Nature and wildlife
- Historical and religious sights
- Where to eat
- Hostels & Hotels
- Where to buy alcohol
- How to get around
Arugam Bay Season and Weather
The main season in Arugam Bay runs from March to October, with peak season in the months of July and August. This means, in that period, you will get the sunniest days, the best surf, great waves, enjoyable sea to swim and when most activities will take place and most restaurants, bars, hotels and hostels are open.
Dry Season in Arugam Bay
March to September is considered the main dry season in Arugam Bay, although you could have a day or two of rain (you never know on a tropical island!). With March to June being the hottest and then from July onwards there is a bit more wind to cool you down.
Rainy Season in Arugam Bay
The main ‘monsoon’ in Arugam Bay is the Maha Monsoon, which lasts from October to January with a peak in December and January. However, this is not a period of constant rain. There can be a week of rain followed by days of sun.
Never trust the weather forecast
In general, in Sri Lanka, you cannot really trust the online weather forecasts. It often says it rains the whole day, but most of the time, you can ignore this. For the best advice, ask the locals!
Surfing in Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay is arguably the best place for surfing in Sri Lanka. With eight main breaks located just 20 to 40min away, you can surf at a new break every day of the week. It caters to both professionals and beginner surfers from all around the world.
Surfing can be done year-round, but the surf is at its best from May to October. During these 6 months, the swell from the south/south-east shifts sand transforming the bays for the perfect waves. The best months for surfing are in July, August and September as all the breaks will be in full throttle!
Surf breaks in Arugam Bay
- Main Point
- Elephant Rock
- Whiskey Point
- Pottuvil Point
- Peanut Farm
How to get to the surf spots of Arugam Bay
You can get to the different spots by tuktuk, which charges around 3000LKR to 6000LKR one way and can get quite expensive. Arugam Bay is also known for what they call the ‘tuktuk mafia’, which keeps prices high and allows only a maximum of two surfboards on the roof of the tuktuk, meaning you have to take a second tuktuk if with 2+ people.
For this reason, renting a tuktuk in Arugam Bay is your best bet when you’re here for the surf! We can provide you with surf racks
Swimming in Arugam Bay
If you are not an experienced swimmer, we recommend you to swim closer to the head of the bay where the waves are calm. Further out, waves tend to get bigger but also more exciting!
There are a couple of hotels with pools, mainly for in-house guests, but they could allow you to swim there after buying a ticket.
Nature and wildlife of Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay is remotely located on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka. Besides Pottuvil, Panama and Arugam Bay, it’s very lightly populated and covered mainly dry-zone forests. As it’s so remote, quite some wildlife can be seen in this area. Make sure you go spot some elephants!
Kumana National Park
To the south, near Okanda, you will find Kumana National Park. Originally part of the larger Yala National Park, bordered by the Kumbukkan Oya river, is also the border between the eastern and southern provinces. In this park, you will find a large variety of birds, deers, elephants, but also the occasional leopard and sloth bear. Safari jeeps can be organised from Arugam Bay itself, with which you can enter Kumana National Park after purchasing a ticket.
Just before you enter Kumana National Park, you drive through Kudumbigala Sanctuary. A semi-protected area with lagoons and waterholes. In this area, you can often spot elephants which are easily accessible tuk tuk from Arugam Bay.
North-east of Arugam Bay, when you come from Monaragala, you pass through Lahugala Sanctuary. A small park where many elephants can be seen drinking in the waterholes. Watch out when driving through. They often cross the road!
East of Panama, in the forest, is Crocodile Rock. Officially known as Panama Wewa, this place got its nickname Crocodile Rock from the many crocodiles that can be seen in the water. You can drive a fair bit around the park and for the adventurous ones, feel free to continue the drive into the jungle!
You will find many lagoons around Arugam Bay to do a lagoon safari, many of which will be promoted by various tuktuk drivers. But the one we feel is the most authentic and original is the one at Urani Lagoon. Just north of Arugam Bay and is run by the local lagoon fisherman, so while you have a good time, you also support the local community!
Historical and religious sights around Arugam Bay
In most parts of Sri Lanka, also around Arugam Bay, you will find many interesting historical and religious sights. All a bit out of town, but definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a change from the surf!
About 45 min south, just passed Panama in the Kudumbigala Sanctuary, you will find Kudumbigala Monastery. This monastic complex was built in 246 BC, during the time of King Devanampiyatissa. It was first built as a refuge for the Buddhist monks who wanted to get away from the busy cities. Now monks still inhabit the complex and you are able to visit it as well. There are many caves and paths to explore, but the highlight is the view from the top of the large rock!
Muhudu Maha Vihara
Muhudu Maha Vihara is a Buddhist temple located next to the beach in Pottuvil town, a short drive from Arugam Bay. Built over 2000 years ago, what now remains are some great ruins and a big white stupa.
Tharulengala Rajamaha Viharaya
A little out of town, but well worth the drive as you have a chance to spot some elephants! Tharulengala Rajamaha Viharaya or Tharulengala Forest Hermitage was built in the 2nd century BC on a 600+ feet rocky outcrop. Great views from the top and interesting ruins with wall paintings.
Where to eat in Arugam Bay
As more and more people are finding their way to the bay, so are the choices of restaurants and places to eat.
Some would even say it is a bit overcrowded, with every single building on the main road now calling themselves a restaurant – mostly with similar menus and overpriced local food. Always good to see what is out there before you settle yourself somewhere to eat.
Tip: if you just want a simple Sri Lankan dish, we recommend getting into one of the real, local restaurants in Pottuvil town. They still charge a bit more to foreigners, but much less than the local restaurants in Arugam Bay.
If you are looking for something else than your regular kottu, rice and curry or any other Sri Lankan orientated dish, then there are a few places that help you fulfil your hunger. We have listed a few of them, which we recommend you to check out!
Authentic Thai food is served from one of Arugam Bay’s oldest running restaurants! The best part? They never close for the season.
The name already is amazing. We all know what it is derived from, but it’s brilliantly found by Asian standards! The best wood-fired pizza in Arugam Bay is a great choice for meat-eaters, but unfortunately for vegetarians, there is not much choice (yet!). Check their website out. They are located off the main busy road in the village, which makes the experience nicer. Best of all: they do delivery as well!
Fantastic place for people looking for a more western meal! A bit expensive for the average backpacker but still worth it! A mix of Pacific Rim cuisine with Mediterranean influences is how Hideaway describes their dishes. They have fresh fish every day and use organic ingredients where possible.
For all the authentic Indian food lovers, head over to Tandoori Hut, located just off the main road. Delicious, quality dishes with a great choice of vegetarians as well.
Find accommodation in Arugam Bay
Nightlife in Arugam Bay
Over the years, nightlife has increased significantly. Where the beach parties in the early days were pretty limited, it was followed by a party at a different venue every single day of the week during the season!
But recently, due to political and religious reasons, the parties are again somewhat limited. However, from Thursday to Sunday, you will find a decent party with smaller ones on other days in different locations.
Arugam Bay Beach Parties Schedule
- Wednesday – Ocean Sky Bar
- Thursday – Poolparty at the Blue Wave Hotel
- Friday – Sababa Surf Cafe, Whiskey Point – this is a bit north of Arugam Bay!
- Saturday – Mambo’s, right at the main point and the most famous and longest-running party in Arugam Bay.
Parties usually start at sundown, gets busy around 9 – 10 pm and can go on till sunrise!
Where to buy alcohol in Arugam Bay
Now here is the tricky part about Abay – only a very few places have a licence to sell alcohol legally! Due to this, your drinks can get a bit pricey, and if you do not want to buy it at one of the bars (which is more expensive, obviously) there are two liquor/beer/wine stores in Arugam Bay:
- Subshi Beer Shop – right on the main road, opposite of Siam View.
- Palm Grove Holiday Inn – just south off the main road.
Tip – If you are looking for beers, bottles and wines at normal rates. Your closest bet would be the village of Siyambalanduwa. There you will find New Sanath Wine Store, and it’s about a 45min drive from Arugam Bay. Recommend getting all your mates together for the night’s order and drive there to get it – saves you a lot of money!