Despite being caught in the untold devastation of the infamous 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami that caused destruction across Asia, little Arugam Bay has made an exceptional recovery over the last decade to become one of the east coast Sri Lanka’s most charming coastal getaways.
Although Arugam Bay has just a few hundred permanent residents, this sleepy fishing village has become somewhat of a popular tourist attraction, particularly amongst beach lovers and surfers.
It offers travelers laid-back living, beach vibes, and a friendly community, and many visitors end up staying here much, much longer than they ever anticipated.
This is one of Sri Lanka’s best surfing spots and Arugam Bay is famed for its big breaks, while nature lovers can enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside, or even head further afield to the south coast national parks.
Sometimes though, the best thing to do in Arugam Bay is absolutely nothing at all, and in this charming little village, that’s fine.
To help you to plan your trip to Sri Lanka, here’s our guide to visiting Arugam Bay.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)
11 Best Things to do in Arugam Bay
Table of Contents
From surfing Arugam Bay’s huge waves to searching for crocodiles in the dense mangroves. Life in this charming Sri Lankan village can be whatever you make of it. To inspire you to visit, here are our favorite things to do in Arugam Bay.
1. Go Surfing
Arugam Bay is Sri Lanka’s best surfing destination. The windswept coastline and turbulent ocean make for an impressive location to hit the huge waves that are seen here regularly.
The surf here is so good that the professional circuit even visits Arugam Bay and international competitions are hosted here.
Pottuvil Point is one of the best-known surfing areas, especially for the experienced and professionals as here you can find 30-meter waves crashing into the shore.
Even if you aren’t into surfing this can be an incredible experience, especially watching the surfers out there battling against the waves.
There are more sheltered areas too though for those with less experience and in the village, you can find surf instructors ready to take you out and show you the ropes. And what better place to learn than at one of the world’s most iconic cuffing spots?
2. Check out Elephant Rocks
Elephant Rocks is found at the end of Arugam Bay and is both spectacular and scenic. These distinctive boulders overlooking the beautiful white sands of the beach and the crashing waves of the ocean.
Climb to the top and you are rewarded with one of the best vistas in the area as you can see for mile upon mile along the coast to either side of the rocks. It’s also one of the most surfed areas in Arugam Bay.
3. Visit the Pottuvil Lagoon
Pottuvil Lagoon is a beautiful piece of scenery that’s found just a few miles away from Arugam Bay on the way to Pottuvil town. This is one of the most important and diverse ecosystems in the area and one of the best things to do in Arugam Bay is to take a tour of the lagoon.
Mangroves surround the lagoon, providing the perfect habitat for all kinds of wildlife. You can encounter crocodiles, birds, and monkeys in this wilderness, while along the edge of the lagoon itself you will see local fishermen hard at work bringing in their daily catch.
The best way to experience the serenity is by canoe or kayak but of course, just be aware of the crocodiles.
4. Take a Stroll through Town
Arugam Bay may not be a big place but it sure is charming. While the beaches are great, don’t forget to spend at least an afternoon wandering the streets and poking your heads into the local stores.
There are some small shops that sell tourist ware. I also recommend taking some time to eat off your resort, checking out the local bars and eateries.
5. Enjoy the Beaches
Arugam Bay is renowned across the world for its spectacular coastline and incredible beaches. The scenery is absolutely serene, and one of the reasons that many travelers get stuck here and stay much longer than they ever intended.
This happens because of the easy beach life that’s waiting here. The closest beach to the village itself is Arugam Beach, a great stretch of golden sand that has not only some surf breaks but a laid-back vibe that will make you fall instantly for this destination.
Further afield you can easily take a tuk-tuk to even more deserted beaches that are just as spectacular. Another favorite is Whisky Point, just 15 minutes away, where you can surf or simply relax the day away in the sunshine without a care in the world to bother you.
6. Try Some Yoga
With its relaxed beach vibes, chilled out atmosphere and with ever-increasing numbers of visitors looking for more cultural experiences then Arugam Bay is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to visit for Yoga lovers.
These days there are more and more Yoga teachers and Yoga studios popping up across the village and along the wider coastline offering visitors not only breathtaking surroundings for the practice of Yoga but great value and excellent instructors.
Just ask around the village for the best of the local instructors or for the best local classes and sessions to attend.
7. Go on Safari in Kumana National Park
Kumana National Park – also known as Yala East – is one of Sri Lanka’s best national parks. It’s located to the south of Arugam Bay and it can be visited on a day trip while you are staying in the region.
If you need a break from the beaches and surfing then the green landscapes and diverse ecosystems of Kumana National Park is the place to visit.
Kumana National Park is best known for its extensive bird habitats, as the spectacular lagoons provide the necessary conditions to support a huge array of life.
As well as being a paradise for birdwatchers, Kumana is also home to larger animals too and within the park boundaries, you can find Sri Lankan elephants, wild boar and much, much more.
You can arrange a tour in advance or it’s easy enough to simply rent transport or take a public bus down the coast to the south to visit Kumana. If you want, you could even spend the night before returning to Arugam Bay to enjoy the laidback lifestyle and beautiful beaches once again.
Book your Safari in advance before you visit for the best quality. Private Tour: Kumana National Park Safari
8. Search for Elephants in Lahugala National Park
Lahugala National Park is a hidden gem that’s found close to Arugam Bay. Despite only being just 10 square miles in area, this national park protects a wonderfully diverse array of wildlife.
The lagoon found here has long been the watering hole and feeding area for a large population of Sri Lankan elephants.
These majestic animals are easy to spot within the confines of the park and it’s one of the best places to visit to see elephants in the wild. Compared to other national parks in the country, such as Yala to the south, Lahugala is a quiet and peaceful place that attracts few visitors throughout the year.
9. Take a Dolphin and Whale Watching Trip
A great activity to take on while staying in Arugam Bay is a dolphin and whale watching trip. Between May and September, it’s likely that you will see dolphins and whales migrating along the coastline.
Huge Blue and Sperm whales can be spotted out to sea and you can join a boat tour that explores the coast on the lookout for these amazing animals. Do keep in mind that outside of the prime whale months that viewing them can be an elusive experience.
10. Go to Panama
Panama is a small village that’s found south of Arugam Bay. It’s a sleepy little village and a wonderful place to see local life as it really is and as it would have been in Arugam Bay before the surfers and tourists arrived.
Near Panama, you can also visit Panama Tank, a lovely lagoon that forms a beautiful and diverse little ecosystem. You can enjoy the peace and quiet and hear the birds chirping in the trees.
Be careful though, and stay away from the water, because there are some fearsome crocodiles living here too.
11. Visit Muhudu Maha Vihara
Muhudu Maha Vihara is a wonderfully distinctive temple that’s located along the coast towards Pottuvil. This Buddhist temple is pure white in color and in the bright Sri Lankan sunshine quite literally shimmers in the light as you near it.
The temple is ancient and is thought to have been constructed by a local king over 2000 years ago.
Arugam Bay Travel Planning Tips
How to Get to Arugam Bay & Best Time to Visit
All international flights into Sri Lanka arrive at the Columbo airport, our preferred airline is Sri Lankan airlines when we’re planning travel to Sri Lanka.
Arugam Bay is located on the south-east coast of Sri Lanka, north of Yala National Park and south of the city of Kalmunai. The major transport hub for Arugam Bay is the town of Pottuvil which is located just a few miles to the north. Cinnamon Air offer flights from Colombo to Pottuvil.
Most travelers will choose to take the bus if arriving from the Sri Lankan capital. This is a journey of at least 8 hours. Getting around the local area is best done by hiring a tuk-tuk driver, or if you are feeling adventurous just hiring the tuk-tuk and driving it yourself.
The best time to visit Arugam Bay is during the dry season, which roughly runs from April to September, however, the monsoons in Sri Lanka can be unpredictable.
Businesses are generally open for the tourist season which usually falls from February through to November depending on the rains. June to August is the busiest period of the year when the waves are at their biggest and surfers flock here.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)
Where to Stay in Arugam Bay
Despite it being small, there are a number of options to consider for a visit. We stayed at the Arugambay Roccos and this property is right on the beach with comfortable bungalows overlooking both the beach and their spectacular pool.
They also have an onsite restaurant that prepares many different traditional Sri Lankan dishes.
Other hotels to consider in the area:
Looking for a complete tour of Sri Lanka?
- Sri Lanka Encompassed 14 days Colombo to Mirissa – Explore Sri Lanka’s diverse cultures, vibrant colors, white sand beaches, tea plantations, rock fortresses and swaying palm trees of this tropical jewel. Just like all of G Adventures tours, this tour is about more than just beaches and stunning views, it’s about the inspiring people you’ll meet along the way as you explore Sri Lanka.
- Discover Sri Lanka 12 days Colombo to Negombo – (National Geographic Tour In Partnership With G Adventures) Become enchanted by Sri Lanka as you explore Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Dambulla Cave Temple and as you stroll through the tea plantations and spice gardens. Explore Wilpattu National Park with a local forest ranger in search of elephants and leopards. Come away with a deep understanding of why early Arab traders called this country “Serendib,” a name gave English speakers the word “serendipity.”
- Sri Lanka Express 8 days Negombo to Unawatuna – Explore Sri Lanka’s natural highlights and incredible culture on this eight-day tour. Take in a spice plantation, look for elephants on safari in Udawalawe National Park, and visit a stunning tea plantation. Wrapping up in Unawatuna, this tour is designed for add-on beach time to complete your vacation.
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Colombo to Mirissa
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Colombo to Negombo
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Our trip to Arugam Bay was in partnership with Cinnamon Hotels. All experiences and opinions are 100% mine, as always.
More on Sri Lanka:
- Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: Our Ultimate Guide
- 10 Sri Lanka Beaches You’d Be Foolish to Miss
- 9 Epic Reasons to Visit Mirissa, Sri Lanka
- 10 Epic Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
- Yala National Park Safari: Only Guide You Need
- Safari Guide to Kaudulla National Park
- Kumana National Park: The Only Safari Guide You Need
- Boogie Boarding in Sri Lanka