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Arugam Bay is one of Sri Lanka's most famous sports. Well known for its parties, beaches and surfing, there is so much to do in this vibrant and touristy area of Sri Lanka.
To ensure you have the best time, I’ve put together a list of the top 11 things to do in Arugam bay alongside information on the best time to visit, nightlife, food, accommodation and much more.
There are a variety of ways to get to Arugam Bay and I’ve broken it down from different popular areas:
Colombo tends to be the starting point for a lot of Sri Lanka adventures and if you’re heading straight to the bay from there, you have a variety of travel options.
Uber: Because you’re in the capital, you can make use of Uber. According to the online Uber fare estimate, it costs LKR13,429-17,874 to get to Arugam Bay. This is around £60-70 with baggage (it can be cheaper depending on the time of day and season). It’s about 7 and a half hours (so consider how amazing that price is). If you have 4 people in your uber then it’s only £15 ish each which for convenience and aircon, is not a bad price.
Bus: You can take an overnight bus to Arugam Bay with luxury options, i.e AC. If you’re looking for a cheaper way to get there then this is a good choice, but it will take around 10 hours. It’s about 1000 for a luxury bus which is around a £5 and if you want a local bus its around 500, so about £2.50.
Train: You can also get the train to Arugam Bay, but this will take the longest. Basically, you have to take the train to Ella, then change to Arugam Bay, BUT, this does mean you’ll be taking the worlds most beautiful train ride, Kandy to Ella. you’ll have seen the pictures of this all over Instagram. So if you aren’t planning on staying in Ella for a few days (which you should), you can still experience the hill country this way.
Tuk-Tuk: Your final option is to rent out a tuk-tuk from Tuk Tuk Rental for the duration of your stay in Sri Lanka. This gives you the freedom to drive wherever and whenever you want. It’s an AMAZING experience and we had ours for 4 weeks for $18 a day. An experience like no other.
If you’ve been visiting the hill country of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella, then it’s not too complicated to get to Arugam Bay in search of beaches and sun. You can either get a bus or train. It’s about a three-hour journey and there are lots of travel agents in Ella who can arrange your journey for you.
If you have your tuk-tuk then you’ll be driving there and you’ll probably meet some elephants along the way!
Arugam Bay surf season and tourist season runs from June/July/August/September
September is the very end of the season with the closing parties happening on the second last to last week but there is still stuff going on. We visited in September, just the end of the season and there were still plenty of people but no surf left (basically).
Don’t visit after October as everything will be shut down. Accommodations will close, and food places will close so as you can imagine, there won’t be much of an atmosphere.
If you’re planning on surfing and partying then you could easily spend like a week in Arugam Bay, but I personally think the optimal time is 4-5 nights. We stayed 4 nights and probably would have stayed longer if it was peak season.
Read Also: What to see in Sri Lanka
So now we’ve sorted out all the logistics, it’s time to check out the top 11 things to do in Arugam Bay
Perhaps one of the most obvious things to do in Arugam Bay is surfing. There are many surf spots around Arugam Bay and something to suit everyone. Below I list the most popular spots, but Bradley is working on a guide on the best surf spots in Sri Lanka which will go into far more detail.
For now, this website provides good information.
If you don’t know how to surf, then Arugam Bay is a good place to learn. It’s more expensive than other spots, so if money is an issue, then the South Coast is cheaper to learn.
Arguably the best area to catch the sunset in Arugam Bay is elephant rock. Elephant rock is located on the East of the bay and it will give you beautiful views of the area once you climb up. If you are driving on your own, then take a left at the sign for the navy camp. There is usually somewhere there, so ask them for directions. Otherwise, a tuk-tuk will take you as far as they can.
The tuk-tuk safari is growing in popularity every year. Basically, there is a national park around 30 minutes outside Arugam bay that allows you to drive through for about 20 minutes before you hit the entrance and have to pay. This means that tuk-tuks can go down and you can spot lots of animals including, elephants, deer, birds, crocodiles, buffalo and if you’re lucky, maybe even a leopard.
Most tuk-tuk drivers will take you on a tuk-tuk safari if you ask, and the best time to go to catch elephants is around 3 o'clock. We did our own tuk-tuk safari because we had our own tuk-tuk. We didn’t get to see any elephants which were a disappointment, but we went in the morning which was the wrong time (we had to leave that day), so definitely go at 3 o'clock!
There is also a museum the entrance of the national park which is free to visit. So as well pop in as you're there. If you wish, you can do an actual safari, but you have to rent out a driver and a jeep.
This is located in the tuk-tuk safari route and it offers beautiful views of the area. (You might spot animals from up here!). There is also a bell that rings around 3-4 pm each day which is a magical sound to hear. It may not be the easiest of climbs, but it's certainly worth it.
Arugam nightlife used to be CRAZY, beach parties, all night long, but restricts have been placed, and whilst the parties may not be as crazy, they’re still pretty damn good. You have two “main” hot spots for partying.
This is mambos and Whiskey Point.
Mambo's have a beach party every week (Sat night), and the week we were there, they said they weren’t having a party, but we turned out with a group of people we gathered and we had a pirate party, then more and more people came and it actually became a beach party. ( I should have been a party planner in another life :P)
If you’re in peak season then there will be parties all the time and lots of opportunities to meet people in hostels etc. But, at the end of the season, that’s more difficult.
So, Bradley messaged the Sri Lanka backpackers group on Fb asking if anyone was around for drinks because we were planning on going to Mambos and we met an awesome group of girls and had a great night with them! So don’t be afraid to ask on FB.
The other great party spot is Whisky point which is Fridy nights (which is about 15ish minutes from the main strip). You can get “free” accommodation out to the point, but you’ll have to get a tuk-tuk back.
The whole strip of Arugam bay is filled with bar areas for drinking and cocktail offers to get you started.
Just because you’re not surfing (i.e me) doesn’t mean you can’t chill and relax on the beach. One of my favourite relaxing beach spots was Whisky point. There is an awesome beachfront restaurant there that has cool beach shacks on the actual beach for sunbathing. They also do delicious food and drinks. So, order some food and relax on the beds whilst watching the surfers catch some waves.
Head for a scenic and relaxing boat trip at the Pottuvil Lagoon (north of the bay). It’s a gentle boat ride which provides opportunities for seeing local wildlife. The afternoon is a good time to visit. There are lots of tourist companies on the street which can arrange this for you.
Yes, eating food shouldn’t really make a list of top things to do in Arugam bay, but here it is! The food is plentiful, diverse and cheap. Before I got to the bay I did some research on prices of food etc, and one blog said you can’t get a meal for less than $5. Maybe that was in peak season (but I can’t see it being that high), but anyway, most meals cost around $2-3.
Kottu Roti is a widely available here and it's delicious. There is also a pizza place called pizza hub which is the number one restaurant in the bay on TripAdvisor. We can recommend it. It’s about £5 for a pizza, which is more expensive, but it's a family run business and made with wood fire oven. They are delicious and they even do delivery which is perfect if you’re hungover! :P
There are countless hotels that offer free yoga, even on the rooftops. Even at the end of the season, they were still advertising yoga in some hotels, so if you want a chance to find inner peace, then this is a good spot to do so. It’s also a nice way to meet other people.
If you’d like to explore some temples whilst you’re visiting Argaum bay, then it’s good to take some day trips. This one has made my list of top things to do in Arugam bay because it’s not too far away. It’s located around 1 hour 30 minutes away, and you can explore the full Ampara area in general afterwards.
It’s a very calming temple is a serene area, so it’s a nice area to escape the madness of the bay.
Book yourself into a nice hotel, chill on hammocks, read books, swim and drink cocktails. Basically, RELAX. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing, especially if you’ve been travelling through Sri Lanka for a while (like we had).
Arugam Bay is filled with brilliant places to stay and has something to suit all budgets. We stayed in a place called the Lazy Bay. It was just off the main strip, like literally a 2-minute walk. The rooms were clean, big, comfortable and the staff were brilliant.
But, we’ve put together a whole guide on the best accommodation in Arugam Bay, so you can find the best place to stay.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my post on the top things to do in Arugam Bay. If you’ve got anything you think I should add to the list, then comment below and I’ll pop it in!
If you’re looking for your next place to go after Arugam Bay, I suggest two places. If you want more beaches and sun, then head to Unawatuna, or if you want cooler weather and breathtaking scenery, then head to the hill county area of Ella and Nuwara Eliya.