If you live on the West Coast, it will take you quite a long time to get to Arugam Bay since you will have to cut across the breadth of Sri Lanka and end up on the East Coast. Irrespective of which mode of transport you take, it’ll take you somewhere around 8-12 hours or more to get to Arugam Bay from Colombo. If you’re travelling specifically to Arugam Bay, I suggest you leave out 2 days for travel (one day to get there, and another day to get back). From the perspective of travel time Arugam Bay may not be the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
There are a few route options available when travelling to Arugam Bay. If you’re up for a long drive, and starting the journey from Colombo, you can take the rout through Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, UdaWalawa, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya to ArugamBay. From Kandy you can drive to Mahiyangana via the 18 hair-pin bends on to Bibile, Monaragala, Siyambalanduwa, Pottuvil Town and reach Arugam Bay. From the south, you can take the highway to Matara, and drive through Tissamaharama and Buttala via the Kataramaga road to Monaragala and continue to Arugam Bay. Of course you don’t HAVE to drive, when travelling in a group the best option is to hire a van or small bus based on the number of travellers in the group.
For a traveller on a budget, I would suggest taking the bus or train. There are luxury bus services that operate between Colombo and Pottuvil as well as Colombo and Akkaraipattu. Once you arrive at Akkaraipattu you can take a local bus to Pottuvil and yet another local bus from Pottuvil to Arugam Bay. When it comes to taking the train you have the option of taking the slow scenic route or the faster non scenic route. Unfortunatly there aren’t any direct trains to Arugam Bay; this means that you will have to take 2 or 3 busses to get to your final destination once you disembark from the train. If you decide on taking the scenic route, catch a train from Fort Railway Station to Ella or Badulla, and soak in the magnificence views of the hill country. From Ella or Baddulla, take a bus to Monaragala. Here you have two options, either a bus to Pottuvil from where you can take a third bus to Arugam Bay; or you can take a bus to Panama that goes passing Arugam Bay. The faster train route will take you from Colombo Fort to Batticaloa, where, again you will have to take a bus to Pottuvil and continue from there.Unless you’re taking the scenic route, the best travel time is during the night, where you can sleep during the journey.
Like Hikkaduwa, Arugam Bay is a renowned surfing hot spot! During surf season, from May to October, the beaches are packed with surfers of varying skill levels. And yes, there are quite a number of surf schools and board rental shops to accommodate the needs of surfers. If you happen to be a beginner and plan on taking surf lessons, make sure to find a reputed surf school or independent instructor. I read online that there once was a tuk-tuk driver who gave surf lesson. And it just so happens that this guy didn’t even know how to swim!! As always, take the necessary safety precautions when in the water.
Ever thought of watching a sunset on the east coast?? As farfetched as it may sound, you’d be surprised at the exquisite sunsets that you can view from Arugam Bay. As the evening approaches make your way to Elephant Rock, a natural sea-facing rock which happens to be an ideal location to view the sunset. This is also a good vantage point to watch the surfers in action. If you’re lucky you may even spot a few Elephants roaming around. The Pottuvil Bridge, also within walking distance from Arugam Bay, is yet another lovely location to watch the sunset combined with a panoramic view of the Pottuvil lagoon.
During our stay at Arugam Bay, after spending one evening relaxing on the beach; we returned to the bungalow, freshened up and gathered on the rooftop to kill some time until dinner time. We were enjoying a chat accompanied with hot coffee, when suddenly the lights went out due to a power cut. This is the only time I have been glad about a power cut. Someone looked up and said, “Wow! Look at the stars!!”, and as we all looked up and our eyes adjusted to the darkness we bore witness to an astonishing night sky that left us all awestruck! Within a few minutes, the bed sheets where laid on the rooftop and we were laying on the floor star gazing. This night definitely was one heck of a lucky night, one could say that “all the stars were aligned” for a truly once in a lifetime experience, that started with us arguing about correctly identifying the constellation above us. First we spotted an airplane with its distinctive blinking lights. Then, when we realized that we were looking at the Milky Way, a satellite floated across the sky. Little did we know that the show was just getting started; suddenly a short bright light cut through the darkness. “Did you see that!!? Was that a meteor??”, but before anyone could answer there was another one! And then another! Excited and amazed we spent nearly one and a half hours star gazing, and if I remember correctly, we counted 24 meteors.
When you’re on the east coast, you MUST catch the sunrise. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing multiple sun rises from atop Adam’s peak, but, sitting on the sand and watching the sunrise from Arugam Bay is a completely different experience. You would think that watching the sunrise from the beach on the east coast is similar to watching a sunset from Galle Face Green or Mount Lavinia beach on the west coast, but trust me; it’s an ineffable feeling that you simply have to experience in real life.
“If you are in a beautiful place where you can enjoy sunrise and sunset, then you are living like a lord.”
– Nathan Phillips