Arugam Bay is on the East Coast of Sri Lanka which means there are a different kind of travellers that visit here, compared to the overdeveloped and manic West Coast. Here, those who are aching to surf come, as Arugam Bay offers a number of good breaks for novices and more experienced surfers, as well as beginners, its global reputation highlights a great surfing destination. If catching waves isn’t your thing, then swing in a hammock and relax your days away, or rid yourself of a pounding hangover. Aragum Bay is a chilled and mellow place where people catch up over a beer, or party til sunrise, with most visitors dragging themselves out of bed to ride a wave in the sunshine. The town and the local ‘beach boys’, although Muslim, fully inhibit the lifestyle and attitude of surfers, making this place to have a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere, especially when you show you like to get your hair wet.
Take a trip to nearby Pottuvil Lagoon– with enthusiastic fishermen rowing you through hanging mangrove trees and crocodile infested waters. Day trips to Whiskey Point, Crocodile Rock, Elephant Rock and Peanut Farm offer variation with surf and beach life, as you pass local Muslim communities sharing tea on the beach, children wanting to high five you as you rush past, and munch on deliciously fried savoury snacks in new places.
Visiting in low season, (April) meant Aragum Bay was a different experience. Not everywhere was open, restaurants were empty and we had the beach all to ourself, only sharing it with a few local grinning fisherman mending their white nets and their colourful traditional boats. Although the beach parties are not in full swing, and I hear in season Aragum Bay is absolute madness, this meant that accommodation is a fraction of the price. Seeing a friend from home in this area of Sri Lanka at the same time as me, meant I was able to share a room, splitting the cost, and I felt much more comfortable walking around (as a solo woman traveller you have to be much more on your guard). Whenever I would walk alone and without my friend I would constantly be pestered by men, as the locals are desperate for love or a fling and so are incredibly friendly. With this attention, always be straightforward with your intentions and try not to give the wrong impression. Also avoid the beach at night, when empty and walking alone, there are also bongo parties around a camp fire held by locals, which are used to entice western women for all the wrong reasons.
We shared a room at Rupas for a discounted 1,500 rupees. They offer a number of different options in lodging, with all clean and basic rooms at the end of the beach. Places I recommend are: Gecko for their adorable puppies and delicious pizzas, Beach Hut for their homely and backpacker feel accommodation, Tsunami Hotel for a perfect sunbathing spot and Mambos for their party atmosphere and perfect beach away from the main section of Aragum Bay.
Be careful of being scammed on the sun cream that is on sale here in many of the local shops- it is just pure milk and offers no protection. My friend and I got incredibly sun burnt and suffered a great deal of pain!