My Aussie friends and I took a road trip to Arugam Bay and had such a great time that we didn't want to leave! Our seven hour drive north doubled as a mini safari as we passed elephants, buffalo, peacocks and trees full of bats in the national parks. After hours of spotting wild animals, napping, and eating coconut cookies we arrived at the beautiful blue bay.
Arugam Bay is quite different from the local village I live in on the southern coast of Sri Lanka — the the beach and the main street are lined with cute cabanas, guest houses and restaurants that cater to a touristy crowd, particularly surfers. Having only surfed two months, I decided I'd spend the week exploring while Kelly and Michael and all the good surfers surfed. I also spent some time photographing them catching waves, but unfortunately I left my bigger camera lenses in the south!
By the end of the week a friend convinced me to try the main point. And, although the waves were big and a little crowded, I had a blast! I find that once you catch one wave at a new break, you're hooked trying to catch another.
We woke every morning, surfed, napped, explored, made new friends and ate tons of Sri Lankan Street food — veggie kottus, veggie rotis and banana nutella rotis which are all a form of tortilla filed with veggie dahl or other delicious things.
Leaving Arugam Bay it hit me that two thirds of my time here has passed and this adventure will actually end at some point. :( Thankfully, I still have about a month left! Wohoo!
Arugam Bay Tips:
- Book accommodation at a place near the main break. The farther away you are, the farther you'll have to walk to get to the point which means you might want to spend some money on tuk tuks or renting bicycles. We stayed at Beach View which was a decent accommodation in a great location with a friendly staff.
- I spent the first half of the week watching good surfers from Upali restaurant wishing I was good enough to surf the main break. Even though I'm still learning, I finally tried and I loved it! If you're a new surfer but you know how to be safe out there and feel confident dodging big waves, try the main point! Trying is the only way to get better.
- As a female traveler expect people to stare at you. The Sri Lankan family who owned our accommodation told Kelly and I not to be very friendly to the local boys. Definitely try not to walk alone at night. While you'll see more people in beachwear in Arugam Bay than anywhere else I've been in Sri Lanka, people from surrounding towns are not as accustomed to seeing fair skinned women wear shorts and tank tops. We noticed this when Kelly and I took a little unplanned trip to the local hospital wearing only shorts and a singlet with nothing in our pockets but our phones and 10USD. We were surrounded by women in saris and burkas at the hospital all wearing headscarves and both males and females stared at us the entire time. We felt extremely out of place and unintentionally disrespectful for not having brought sarongs to cover up. We apologized to our translator and tuk tuk driver who had taken us an hour away to the hospital and he said "no problem. today you sick. is ok. these people not see tourist people much."
- Check out the night life — some nights nothing is really happening, but other nights some of the beach parties can be fun. The best party we went to that week was at Hipsters, but every week the best location is different.
- Chill on the bean bags overlooking the ocean at Zephyr in the evening! If you sit down there after a long day of surfing you wont ever want to leave those bean bags.
- Have drinks at the local pub called Meenas! My Aussie friends and I enjoyed this "seedy" bar. The beers are cheaper there than anywhere else and you'll probably be entertained by the local drama. Just don't go there alone as a female.
- Get a midnight "feed" at the local rotti shop that is open 24-7.
- Have veggie and cheese kottu at the little white restaurant next to the YMCA hostel. There is a black sign out front that says ROTTI on it. We tried so many kottus, and this was definitely the freshest and most delicious one we had, you just have to be patient as the old man makes everything from scratch. If you've never had Sri Lankan food, I'd say kottu is like fried rice made from a type of tortilla and sautéed veggies chopped into small pieces.
- Eat at Hideaway Blue Cafe & Juice Bar! We didn't go until our last day which was a big mistake. It's a great place to chill in hammocks. Their coffee is some of the best we've had in Sri Lanka, and their smoothies and juices are fantastic! Not to mention, they serve one of the best toasted muesli bowls I've ever had — that's saying a lot. Ask to have a banana, coconut and beetroot smoothie with your muesli instead of coconut milk, it's incredible and I have yet to successfully replicated it. They also have a water bottle refilling station (It was nice buying frozen water bottles at the local grocery store, but our room was unfortunately full of plastic bottles by the end of the week!). Oh, and don't miss out on Hideaway's happy hour cocktails in the evenings!