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Arugam Bay

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Arugam Bay is a city in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

Understand[edit]

Arugam bay waves

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).

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Cinnamon Air has seasonal scheduled flights from Colombo to the lagoon.

By bus[edit]

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)

  • Cost: 600Rs (plus luggage) non a/c bus; 1800Rs a/c bus
  • Journey time: Approx 7 (night) to 10 (day )Hours
  • Comfort: Quite a stressful journey - but very cheap!

This is certainly the cheapest way to get from Colombo to Arugam Bay

Get around[edit]

Tuk Tuk[edit]

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).


Arugam bay map

Scooter[edit]

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.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Boat trips on Pottuvil lagoon. They're best done near sunrise or sunset, as wildlife is best then. Count for a 2 hour trip in a crammed local fishing canoe to reach the far end of the lagoon, where mangrove habitats and with some luck wild elephants can be seen; for the rest lots of things to experience for bird-lovers. The boats moor near the lagoon bridge, walking distance from the north end of the beach (e.g. Stardust); Hilton Guesthouse in the middle beach area organises trips with road shuttle included.
  • Safaris to Yala East (Kumana) park. Wildlife here is for the northern half similar to Yala zone 1 park including leopard and sloth bear. The southern half is more of a wetlands area with a huge river delta. Visitor volume is significantly lower than Yala zone 1. Depart around 5 AM from Arugam for 6 AM park entrance, or be back 7 PM after 6 PM park closure. The towns closer to the park (Panama and Okanda) hardly have jeeps for hire, so most people book the jeep from Arugam - making the trip a bit more expensive than e.g. Yala-1 with jeep hire from Tissa. On the way to/from the park (depending on morning or afternoon trip) also pay a visit to Panama Tank, the large lake close to Panama town; often lots of crocodiles are visible there (from a safe distance of course).
  • Also Lahugala park is interesting; a lot smaller than Yala East but also a lot closer to Arugam Bay. Acually it borders the Pottuvil lagoon, the wild elephants visible from there are in this park. The park is mainly known for elephants, and can be discovered by jeep just as the others.
  • If one walks to Crocodile Rock (a few km south of the village) near the lagoon around dusk or dawn, sometimes one can see groups of wild elephants coming to the lagoon and sea.
  • Dolphin watching. Several places organise boat trips in season (May to September).

Do[edit][add listing]

Arugam Bay Surf club Code of Conduct

Buy[edit][add listing]

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.

Eat[edit][add listing]

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.

Drink[edit][add listing]

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.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

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.


  • Moon Eyes Beach Hotel., Main Street, Arugam Bay, Pottuvil (At the north end of the main strip, just before the bridge to Pottuvil), 0094-757574749 (), [1]. Two new bungalows with en-suite bathroom and two thatch cabanas with shared bathroom. All are clean, fan-cooled, with double beds. Free wi-fi and shared kitchen and dining area. Grocery store on the premises. 1 block from the ocean. Family-owned and run, helpful and friendly. Owner, Thaseem, will cook meals by request and organize tours, tuk-tuks, and vehicles for hire. Rs. 1,000-3,000 depending on the season.  edit
  • East Surf Cabanas, Arugam Bay (opposite the water tower), 0779829439, [2]. checkin: 1pm; checkout: 10am. tucked away from the noise, yet only 8 min walk to the beach and shops. there are 6 eco cabanas, and 2 family rooms with view, an organic restaurant offering local seafood and fresh veggie dishes. Yoga, surf lessons, massage, cooking classes, safaris, and modern postcards are a few of many things that are offered. U$20.  edit
  • Emma home-stay, Panama rd, Arugam Bay (right in the middle of the bay, next to Ali's restaurant), +94777644565 (). This place is straight on the beach like 8 min from the main surf point, there are simple regular rooms, 2 bungalows on the beach and 2nd floor with 2 rooms, private terrace with ocean view and a kitchen. It is a home-stay with flexible local host, nice guys run this place and you can survive the heat in the chillout with fan and hammock. $10-50 depending on the room and the season.  edit
  • Hipster's Hideout Arugambay, Hipster's Hideout, Panama road,Arugambay, +9477 419 5320, [3]. Located on a lush piece of land on the main road, 8 min walk from the main surf break and easy access to the restaurants and hangouts in the little surfer town of Arugam Bay. Hostel with dorm rooms, private rooms, chillout area, hammocks and tents for travelers who are easy going. The hostel offers breakfast, smoothies and snacks and can organize surfing lessons, safaris etc.  edit
  • Upali Beach Surf Resort (Eco-friendly Glamping Surf Resort), Main Point Arugam Bay (Southern tip of the bay), +94771128866, [4]. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 11am. Upali Beach is an eco-friendly glamping surf resort and cafe nested at the southern tip of the bay between a sand dune, the jungle and Arugam Bay main surfing point. While it has no road access, it can easily be reached after a 5 minutes walk from the main beach entrance (Siripala place). It offers 12 cabanas ranging from $20 (Kiosk) to $175 (Jr Suite Cabana) depending on the season. All cabanas have fans (no AC), electronic safe or safe box, plug points to charge your devices and wifi. From 20$.  edit


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