Pottuvil is about the furthest place possible from Colombo Airport, and is known for its lagoons and beaches with surf. Around the southern beach already in the late seventies a ‘spontaneous’ surfers community took root, with shacks and guesthouses. Arugam Bay, or Abay in short, was born. The civil war (1983-2009) had a major impact on Arugam Bay just as on the whole East and North coast. The tourist village was never directly affected, mainly because it’s a Muslim not a Tamil area, but the ‘supply route’ (especially around Monaragala) was regularly affected by the Troubles. Hence tourists regularly had their tourist night bus joining an army-protected convoy, and this was a sure way to keep tourism on a low scale; add the 2004 tsunami which also caused lots of damage. Since 2009 however tourism here is back in full swing, and the traditional Unawatuna-like character of mainly small guesthouses is now being replaced by a mix of more upscale hotels and the low-key backpackers places. What remains however is the very laid back atmosphere, with lively restaurants and bars until late at night along the ‘main road’ (which runs between Pottuvil and the tiny Panama and Okanda villages, hence hardly traffic).
Cinnamon Air has seasonal scheduled flights from Colombo to the lagoon.
There is now two direct bus a day from Colombo to Pottuvil.
This bus leaves the Pettah Bus Stand in Colombo at 04.45 AM and arrives in Pottuvil at aproximately 14.30 PM. It is bus number 98 - Pottuvil Route. The price each way is 400 RS - plus 100 RS for each large piece of luggage. (120 RS is around $1 USD)
(The Pettah Bus Stand is the main Bus Stand in Colombo)
This is certainly the cheapest way to get from Colombo to Arugam Bay
You will find that there are plenty of tuk tuks in Arugam Bay. The most popular surfing points - Peanut Farm and Whiskey Point cost around 1000 Rupee for a return journey. Panama Point is another popular surfing point, you should be able to get a return for around 1500 Rupee (although some drivers will try to charge double this).
Scooters (or as the locals call them Scooties) can be rented for around 1000 Rupee a day, you will have to leave your passport with the shop you're renting the bike from. However driving in Arugam Bay is risky - there are often police checkpoints either side of the village (they usually set up near to whichever surf point is popular that day). If they stop you, you will be required to pay 2500 Rupee if you don't have a Sri Lankan driving permit (which can only be obtained in Colombo). You can turn around if you see their checkpoint ahead, but this will obviously result in waiting around for them to change the location of their checkpoint - which could be hours.
Arugam Bay is home to the Rice and Carry company which creates and sells a wide range of accessories all hand crafted by local women from recycled materials : purses, bags and more.
On the main road, many surf shops sell surf wear, surfboards and surf gears. Dylan's Surf Company sells only genuine articles from international surf brands.
Hideaway Savvy (facing Bay Vista hotel) sells premium textiles, sarongs, dresses and accessories from Sri Lanka and India.
MyRetroposter.com offers a wide collection of vintage travel posters picturing Arugam Bay and Sri Lanka which can be found in a few places in Arugam Bay and online on www.myretroposter.com.
Arugam Bay offers a wide range of cuisines from all around the world and for all types of budget. Restaurant prices tend to be slightly cheaper than on the south coast of Sri Lanka.
There are two liquor stores in Arugam Bay where you can officially buy alcohol. One is just opposite the Siam View restaurant on the main street. The second one is located south from the village on a small road accessible from the main road (turn right after the water tank) when you drive towards Panama. Please note that as this stores offer tables for their clients, they are considered as bars. Hence their prices are higher than in normal liquor stores.
As usual in Sri Lanka you recognize it by its bars.
Arugam Bay probably has the most accommadations in density in Sri Lanka. quality varies between Hotel and guesthouses. price can be as low as LKR 300 to LKR 4000. most accommadations are situated along Panama road.