Arugam Bay is one of Sri Lanka's most famous tourist spots.
The area is 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 15 things to do in Arugam bay alongside information on the best time to visit, nightlife, food, accommodation and much more.
I hope you enjoy…
There are a variety of ways to get to Arugam Bay. But I recommend using 12Go Asia as the best way to compare route and pricing options.
You can take day and overnight buses to Arugam Bay, with varying degrees of comfort. If you're coming from somewhere like Colombo, which is a hot 10 hour journey, I recommend splashing out for an air conditioned bus. Which will still only cost you roughly 1000LKR.
There is a train network across the country connecting many of the biggest destinations. Again, if you're coming from somewhere further afield, then you may need to change somewhere else. These journeys can be much quicker and not very expensive either. Plus, if you're travelling form the north, you get to take the epic Kandy to Ella train ride.
The best way to get to Arugam Bay is by your own private tuk tuk. We rented our tuk tuk in Colombo and used it to travel all over Sri Lanka. Check out our guide on renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka, and also pick up a 5% discount code.
If you're coming from Colombo, you may also be able to arrange a private transfer through one of these apps. They can be much more expensive (LKR13,000 - LKR 18,000), but also much quicker and more comfortable.
When it comes to getting around Arugam Bay, you’ve got a couple of options at your disposal.
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.
For more options, we’ve put together a whole guide on the best accommodation in Arugam Bay, so you can find the best place to stay.
So now we’ve sorted out all the logistics, it’s time to check out the top 15 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 you can check out Brad’s guide on the best surf spots in Sri Lanka for more options around Arugam Bay and Sri Lanka.
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.
Going on safari in Sri Lanka is one of the big reasons people choose to visit this incredible country, and the tuk-tuk safari is growing in popularity every year.
Basically, there is a national park around 30 minutes outside Arugam bay called Kumana National Park 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 was 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 at the entrance of the national park which is free to visit.
So you 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.
If you do decide to take a safari experience inside the park, then you find out all the information you need below.
Book: Check GetYourGuide
Opening Times: Check Official Website
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 if you like epic views.
For more info, check out this guide on Tripadvisor.
Arugam Bay nightlife used to be CRAZY. With beach parties all night long.
But restrictions have now been put in place, and whilst the parties may not be as crazy, they’re still pretty damn good.
You have two main hot spots now: these are Mambos and Whiskey Point.
Mambo's have a beach party every week (Saturday night), and the week we were there, they said they weren’t having a party, but we turned up 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 Facebook 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 Friday nights (which is about 15 minutes from the main strip).
You can get free transport 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.
Read Also: Our Sri Lanka Packing List
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.
This is one of the most popular things to do in Arugam Bay, especially because there is a chance to see crocodiles (we saw one massive one dead on the side of the road- eek).
There are lots of tourist companies on the street which can arrange this for you.
The food in Arugam Bay is plentiful, diverse and cheap.
Much more so than other parts of Sri Lanka where you sometimes find yourself limited for choice.
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 is truein peak season, but for us most meals cost between $2-3.
Kottu Roti (the most popular local dish in Sri Lanka) is 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 $6 for a pizza, which is more expensive, but it's a family run business and made with a wood fire oven.
They are delicious and they even do delivery which is perfect if you’re hungover! :P
Surfing towns and yoga often tend to go hand-in-hand, so it’s no real surprise that yoga is on the list of great things to do in Arugam Bay.
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.
I’m not a massive yoga buff (I used to do it when I was younger), but yoga is a great way to stretch those muscles after a day of surfing.
Arugam has such a laid back vibe, and a lot of people come here for one reason: to relax!
It’s the perfect location in Sri Lanka to do so. Simply book yourself into a nice hotel, chill on hammocks, read books, swim and drink cocktails.
Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing, especially if you’ve been travelling through Sri Lanka for a while (like we had).
If you want to immerse in the local culture, a visit to the Muhudu Maha Vihara is a must! This stunning white temple is nestled in Pottuvil, which is just 10 minutes’ drive away.
In fact, you can spot the unique architecture and its stupa ruins right from Arugam Bay.
It’s a Buddhist temple built more than 2300 years back by King Kavan Tissa. Now, several stone pillars still stand tall inside the temple. You can also see statues of Buddhas and ancient royalties!
It is said that this spot was where Princess Devi landed after being cast out and later met King Kavan Tissa. This temple holds a fascinating history, and I recommend booking a local guide to show you around.
The view along the path from Arugam Bay to Panama Tank is incredible. It will take roughly 20 minutes, but the landscape is very picturesque!
You’ll be basically driving towards the village of Panama and through Panama Tank, sometimes also called Crocodile Point. Why? Well, because you’ll see lots of crocodiles lounging around the area.
It’s best to leave these predators alone, but witnessing such majestic creatures in the wild is an experience in itself.
Not only that, you will pass breathtaking scenes of rural villages, coasts and lush forests. Not a bad place to take some Instagram shots.
Once in the village itself, you can easily spot rare birds flying in the sky. Perhaps because it’s really close to the Kumana Bird Sanctuary and Heritage Park! That’s another great destination to visit here if you have the time.
If you’re not big on the partying scene or prefer a more relaxed evening, I’d definitely check out Hideaway Arugam Bay!
This boutique guesthouse used to be the holiday home of the Tissera family, who has now opened their doors to host guests. I personally find family-run businesses to be the best way to experience the local vibes.
However, it’s more than just a place to sleep! Hideaway Blue is a chill cafe that serves hearty meals and fresh smoothies.
Or stop by Hideaway Chill during sunset for some tropical cocktail. The happy hour is between 6-8pm, and you can order some wood fired pizzas as you watch the night sky sets in.
While not strictly in Arugam Bay, Lahugala Kitulana National Park is only 20 minutes away by car.
What’s so unique is despite being one of Sri Lanka’s smallest national parks, it is home to the local elephant species and some endemic birds. Imagine, just 15.54 km² of land area! But it’s still considered as an important conservation area for these animals.
The park itself is mostly dry forest regions where 150 of these Sri Lankan elephants feed. If you want to see them visit the watering hole, it’s best to come around sunset.
Oh, you can also spot other creatures like jackals, sloth bears, or even leopards! I really think this park is a must-visit for any animal lover.
Opening Times: 6am – 6pm
It feels like going to a beachside destination in Asia is incomplete without enjoying a nice massage. In Arugam Bay, you can even try out the local Ayurvedic treatment.
Originating in India, this traditional medicine involves one or a combination of these options: yoga, herbal medicine, acupuncture and various massage techniques.
You might consider stopping by the Arugam Bay Ayurveda Treatment Centre to treat any existing conditions you have. Still, as with any traditional alternatives, it’s wise to be careful and think twice before following recommendations.
It’s also possible to book a week of specialized treatments to address your health more specifically. You can easily find the practice on Google Maps, as it’s located right across the Buddha statue on the main road.
Alternatively, the Deergayu Acupressure Center and Spa is a great place for regular massages or therapies. You can get facials and various nail care too!
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 worry though, the south coast is bursting with surf in Mirissa and Unawatuna.
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 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.
If you’re looking for your next place to go after Arugam Bay, I suggest two places.
If you choose the southern option, be sure to take the Kataragama road. Which takes you directly past elephants who head to this road every day in order to be fed by passers by.
If you have your own tuk tuk, then it makes this experience even more awesome!
Here's a pic from our journey here ...
Do you have any questions about visiting Arugam Bay?
Or perhaps an extra tip for what to get up to there?
Awesome, just leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!