Known for being a budget-friendly travel destination with much to offer all kinds of travellers, Sri Lanka has much to offer. However, despite its appeal, the country has often been kept off itineraries due to periods of political instability and a series of natural disasters.
In recent years, more travelers have been lured to the small tropical island in search of tranquility, surf and adventure. You’ll find good all-year-round surfing in Sri Lanka, but the best surf is on the west coast between November to March, and on the east coast from May to September. For a cheap holiday with sun, surf, and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle, check out Sri Lanka’s 3 best surfing destinations:
Undoubtedly one of the best surf spots in the country, Arugam is often referred to as the “surf Mecca” of Sri Lanka. Boasting a number of excellent surf breaks, the bay has attracted tourists seeking a mellow and relaxed vibe away from the busy West Coast resorts. Here you’ll find a small population of locals, as well as a few Europeans and perhaps some Australians. There are a number of quality surf shops happy to rent you a board at a good price, as well as restaurants serving fresh seafood and local beers.
Within 30 minutes of the town you’ll find the most popular spots: The Point, Pottuvil Point and Crocodile Rock. Travel a little further in and you’ll find yourself the only surfer in consistently good spots such as Baby Point, Madam’s Slap, Lighthouse, Komari, Whisky Point, Elephant Rock and Peanut Farm.
Stay Golden (from US$29 a night) – Rooms with ensuite bathrooms, lovely sea and gardens views and close proximity to the beach. Located at 59 Panama Road.
Arne’s Place (from US$23 a night) – One of the most popular options with tidy rooms, beachside barbecues, super friendly staff and reliable WiFi. Located at 53 Panama Road.
Coco Bay Hotel (from US$27 a night) – A charming new addition to Arugam with clean air conditioned rooms with hardwood floors and easy beach access. Located at Sinhapura Road.
320 kilometres from Colombo on the Southeast Coast, you can reach Arugam by taxi, car, or bus. The local bus 98 leaves the Pettah Bus Stand in Colombo at 4.45am, and arrives in Pottuvil at 2.30pm. From Pottuvil you can take a taxi to the nearby Arugam.
This lively town is 100 km south of Colombo in Sri Lanka’s southwest, and has undergone significant transformation in the last 40 years. Known as a “hippy hangout” during the 1970s, Hikkaduwa was unfortunately overdeveloped as concrete hotels were built to line the once quiet beach. Following the 2004 tsunami, you’ll find the town to be considerably different, reclaiming some of its original charm.
Many families who lost their livelihoods in the tsunami were given sewing machines as part of relief efforts, which means you’ll see tailors willing to deck you out in a custom pair of shirts or pants for low cost. Here, you’ll also find restaurants, bars, and plenty of shops. The Hikkaduwa Beach Fest, a three-day beach party in July or August, draws international DJs and crowds from over the world.
The surfing in Hikkaduwa is second only to Arugam Bay, with breaks for all skill levels close to town. In the North you’ll find fewer crowds and smaller waves, a main reef break in the middle which draws plenty of surfers, and a break in the south perfect for beginner surfers. Surfboards can be rented from $8 a day or $50 a week with rentasurfboard or at one of the shops or guesthouses in town.
Seafront Hikkaduwa (from US$23 a night) – For true peace and quiet, tidy rooms with a fan, ensuite bathrooms, and peace garden views. Located at 795B Galle road, Thiranagama.
Hikkaduwa Blue Ocean (US$20 a night) – Air conditioned rooms, ensuite bathroom, WiFi, and less than a 130-metre walk to the beach. Located at 787 Galle Rd, Thirangama.
Hola Villa (from US$16 a night) – Tidy guesthouse accommodation with terrace or balcony options and a 24-hour front desk. Located at 63 Mile Post, Thirangama.
Hikkaduwa is 140 kilometres from Colombo, and can be reached by taxi for around US$90 – this is a popular option as trains can be infrequent and slow. Otherwise, budget travelers can take bus 187 outside Colombo airport, and then a bus from Colombo Fort past Galle, Matara, Thangalle, and Katharagama before stopping at Hikkaduwa.
For those with a keen interest in surfing and learning about the local everyday life, Matara is definitely worth a visit. This busy commercial town is 160km south of Colombo on the West Coast, and offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective for travelers wishing to learn of Sri Lanka’s rich history.
You’ll find European-influenced architecture throughout the town which is a reminder of the town’s past ruling by the Portuguese, Dutch and English. St Mary’s Church, the Dutch Rampart, Matara and Star forts, and the Old Nupe Market are worth a visit.
Secret Point is most popular for surfers and is within walking distance of the town. You’ll find a left to right beach break, and conditions which are good for intermediate surfers. For those willing to explore, the eastern bays toward Meddawatta also offer good conditions.
Beach Inns Holiday Resort (from US$23 a night) – Ensuite bathroom, a beachside restaurant with decent food, and a garden to elax in. Located at Beach Road, Maidha.
Kaminrich Cottage (from US$26 a night) – Clean rooms with charming sea or garden views, ensuite bathroom and television. Located at 12C Polhena Road, Polhena.
Paama Guest House and Restaurant (from US$23 a night) – Air conditioned rooms with ensuite bathrooms, sea views, and a balcony. Located at 38 School Lane, Polhena.
Matara is 160 kilometres from Colombo, and can be reached by bus from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal in four hours. Alternatively, take the train from Colombo Fort, which takes five hours.
Top Image: Sylvester S.