Arugam Bay is a small laidback surf town on Sri Lanka’s east coast, some 350 km by road from Colombo. There are not a lot of direct options to reach Arugam Bay, except when you take the taxi or tuk-tuk. You can also reach it by bus, but this mostly involves a transfer.
How to get to Arugam Bay
When travelling to Arugam Bay from any point in Sri Lanka, you can choose from 3 options: by train, by bus, and by taxi.
Getting to Arugam Bay by Train
Arugam Bay doesn’t have its own railway station. The nearest train stations are in Batticaloa (115 km away) and Ella (130 km away).
This means you will have to take a bus, tuk-tuk or taxi for another 3-4 hours from the railway station.
From both Batticaloa and Ella railway stations, there are plenty of buses bound for Pottuvil. From here, Arugam Bay is only 10mins away by tuk-tuk (fares start at 200 Rs ($0.60).
First time in Sri Lanka? Buying train tickets can be complicated. Check out our guide on booking train tickets for more details.
Getting to Arugam Bay by Bus
If you really want to go directly to Arugam Bay from Colombo, there are a few direct buses available. Travel time is at least 7 hours, and almost all are overnight buses. Most of which are non-aircon buses with wooden seats.
If you want to get some sleep for this journey, book the only luxury bus which departs from Colombo at 22:00 daily. You can book a seat for 1,120 Rs ($3.40) at busseat.lk. These buses drop you off in Pottuvil, from where you can take a 10-min tuk-tuk ride to Arugam Bay.
We have read that Bismillah Lodge in Colombo also offers two luxury buses daily. But we are not confident in their service as they have received a few bad reviews.
If you’re coming from southern towns like Galle or Mirissa, the bus is the best option to reach Arugam Bay. Even here though, there are no direct buses and you will also have to make a transfer in Ella.
From Matara, bus #31-1 bound for Ella departs every 30mins. There are also departures from Galle, but much less frequent. From Ella, you can take a 3-hour bus ride to Pottuvil.
Getting to Arugam Bay by Taxi
The easiest way to reach Arugam Bay from anywhere in Sri Lanka is by taxi. Of course, it is also the most expensive. For example, if you’re coming from Kandy, fares start at 10,200 Rs ($31.50). If coming from Galle, that’s at least 13,700 Rs ($42.00).
If you prefer to spend your budget on other things, we really recommend that you visit Arugam Bay from Ella. With Ella as your stopover, you can first explore this charming town and you will have a much easier journey to Arugam Bay.
6 Awesome Things to Do in Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay is an of out of the way surfing hub on the Indian Ocean. Because transport options to this little town are limited, you can enjoy a more serene beach experience with less crowd.
The best time to go is between May to September when the waves are at their finest and the town is most alive.
The rest of the year is still okay if you’re not there to surf, but expect a more quiet atmosphere. Especially around December to February, Arugam Bay is as good as a ghost town with many of the restos and shops closed. However, if you want to have the nature sights all for yourself, you can book your accommodation here almost 5 times cheaper compared to the high season.
Although most famous for its waves, there are several other things you can do and see in Arugam Bay even if you are not a surfer. Here are our top 6 picks:
- Surf at Main Point, Peanut Farm or Elephant Rock
- Climb Elephant Rock
- Trek to Kudumbigala Monastery Viewpoint
- Spot wild elephants
- Party the night away
- Enjoy the beach
#1 Surf at Main Point, Peanut Farm or Elephant Rock
Arugam Bay has been rated one of the top surfing destinations in the world and often hosts international surfing competitions. You will find the best surf breaks at Main Point, which is popular for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Another famous spot is Peanut Farm with its two breaks, making it perfect for intermediates and beginners. For both Main Point and Peanut Farm, you can enjoy the vibrant beach vibes with varying restos and surf schools.
Elephant Rock, on the other hand, is the least crowded of the three. Here you’ll enjoy right-handed waves. Make sure to come with food and drinks as you might not be able to find any restaurant in this secluded spot.
#2 Enjoy the majestic view from Elephant Rock
After surfing, climb Elephant Rock and enjoy the majestic view. It’s an easy climb to the top and a beautiful spot to witness the sunset.
Don’t stay too long, though. Make sure you get down and leave the area before it gets fully dark. There are a lot of crocodiles here. It’s very rare that they attack humans, but there has been an incident back in 2017. Safety first especially when you are in unknown territory.
#3 Trek to Kudumbigala Monastery Viewpoint
Kudumbigala Monastery is located in a sacred complex within a jungle 45mins south of Arugam Bay. The monastery itself is on the peak of a gigantic rock and requires a bit of climbing to get there.
It is totally worth it, though. From the top, you will get a beautiful view of the entire region. The whole place also exudes a certain sense of peace. We think that it is worth a day trip from Arugam Bay.
#4 Spot wild elephants at the lagoons
Since you’re already in Arugam Bay, you might want to join a lagoon safari to visit wild elephants in their natural habitat. You will enjoy this too if you’re a birdwatcher, with sightings of herons, kingfisher, eagles, and a lot more.
You can choose from 3 nearby lagoons: Kottukal, Pottuvil (7 km north), Urani (11 km north) and Panama (14 km south). The best time to go is either at 06:00 or 16:00 when there is more shade. The animals move around more on these times and it will also be more comfortable for you as the boats have no roof.
Rates start at 2,000 Rs ($6.00) per person. Hotels sometimes offer lower rates compared to tour companies, so make sure to compare prices first before you book a tour. The tour lasts for about 2 hours.
#5 Party the night away
In the busy season, Arugam Bay is full of life, even at night. It hosts weekly parties on Thursday to Sunday nights. The venue differs every night so it might be best to ask your accommodation where the next party is going to happen. Most probably it’s somewhere by the main beach or the main street.
#6 Enjoy the beach
When you get tired of the water, lounging by the beach is always a good idea. You can rent a bed and watch the day pass by. There is also a volleyball court if you’re into the sport.
When you go hungry, you can take your pick from the great variety of restaurants by the beach. You can choose from traditional Sri Lankan dishes, international cuisine, and even vegan options!
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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.