Surfing / Diving the East Coast of Sri Lanka
Hi Beautiful Mermaids
Last year I ventured on a spare of the moment 2 week trip to Sri Lanka with a fellow ocean girl, Alanah. We truly had the most incredible time, I could not speak more highly of this beautiful country and although this blog is a little late I thought I would share with you all my experiences and tips. If you are a surfer girl, avid diver or just travel enthusiast I hope this blog helps you jet set around Sri Lanka safe, enjoyable and on a bidget.
I am going to start by saying how much this entire trip cost me, as I know we can all relate to travelling on a budget. Including all flights, accommodation, transport and food I spent a rough total of $1600 AUD for two weeks in Sri Lanka. In my eyes that is pretty amazing, especially given a good bulk of that was flights, I think about $800. So if you can get a good flight deal you could certainly save a bit more.
Alanah and I flew into Colombo at around 1 am in the morning. My FIRST TIP upon arrival is, get a local sim card. This cost me around $10 AUD, and it was incredibly helpful for contacting friends, looking up locations, surf reports etc.
Next, we found a tuk-tuk which took us about 30 minutes through the bustling city of Colombo to what was the most expensive and dingy looking hotel of the entire trip. This was a very quick stop over for us, as my incoming flight was delayed and our departing bus that morning was leaving extremely early. We mostly used this opportunity to have a shower and a little shut eye for about an hour or two. If you are a city person or don’t mind crowds then i am sure venturing around Colombo would be very enriching, though this just wasn’t focus.
That morning we woke up around 4 am to catch another tuk-tuk a few minutes down the road to the public bus station in Colombo. Unfortunately, I cannot remember exactly what bus number we were, but our destination was to Arugam Bay, so if you ask the locals which bus will take you to Arugum they will certainly direct you. We found them very helpful, a little intimidating at first but happy to chat. We took the public bus, costing us around $3.50AUD though remember it is very slow and has no air conditioning or toilets, with one or two food/toilet stops along the 8-hour journey. There are luxury busses available overnight. Though I do suggest the public option as it was certainly one of the most culturally rich experience, helarious and memorable transits of my travel life.
Few Bus Tips:
- Make it obvious when you want to get off, especially if you have large baggage or surfboard, as they don’t really stop, just slow down and expect you to jump on and off.
- Wear a long skirt, this will help prevent both locals staring and the bus seats are leather so small dresses will not be comfortable!
- Surfboard will fit, but they a little rough on them and its a bit of a hassle.
Is beautiful little surf town, with one main street of delicious food, local and western restaurants, authentic beachfront hotels and 1 main surf break, Main Point. Like any destination, the main surf break can be very busy, though it is a long line up so this helps spread everyone out and allows you to stick to your skill level. Should you still be learning I suggest staying down the end of the line-up and picking off the slightly fatter sections as people drop off up the line. The main break is a great wave though, perfect for manoeuvres and on its day a little barrel section. Though if you are a complete beginner and not comfortable paddling, taking off and going across the wave, I don’t suggest this break.
I couldn’t recommend this place enough. We stayed here for 90% of our trip in Sri Lanka. The rooms are simple but very affordable and a great location. Only paying $5AUD the first few nights, then reduced to only a few AUD dollars a night, I believe our total payment for 2 weeks came to around $60 AUD. Crazy I know, and our room was right on the beach.
They were also very accommodating when we wanted to leave our surfboards at the hotel office and go north while the swell went flat.
Shared outdoors bathrooms and no air conditioner or windows, just mosquito nets.
Main Point Break Notes:
Bring as little to the beach as you can, nothing too valuable and leave you bag / towel on a chair or the fence inside the surf front resort, they don’t mind).
Try eating at the surrounding local restaurants. You can get all you can eat vegetarian curry’s for only a few dollars and it is absolutely delicious. One of my favourite meals was Kottu Roti with avocado!!! I am not vegetarian, though I did eat 100% vegon this trip and it was great. The meat is of low quality and more exceptive, so I suggest keeping it to veggies in Sri Lanka. A few close by restaurants I suggest include Mamas restaurant and there is also an all you can eat curry place opposite Mamas on the street. I think it may be called loving place restaurant.
- If you are on a real budget I suggest for breakfast heading to the local supermarket and buying some muesli and powdered milk / canned coconut milk, then some fruit from the local street man. Very cheap and filling.
- Water! As usual, you cannot drink out of the tap. We found the most sustainable / plastic free option to be buying the large 10L tubs of water and just refilling our re-useable drinks bottles in the room.
While in Arugum bay we hired a tuk-tuk between 4 of us, one of those people had driven one allot, so If you are not confident driving a Tuk Tuk I suggest just hiring a driver. They are still very affordable, especially when shared between friends or fellow surfers.
Some of the breaks i surfed included,
Main Point: Busy, intermediate level, fun wave, picks up the most swell and the most consistent if other breaks aren’t working.
Peanut farm: Beautiful location and suitable for both intermediate/advanced and beginners. For beginners, you can sit on the inside with a foamy, while the more advanced surfers can enjoy out the back. Great barrel section on its day, close to the rocks on take-off. I wouldn’t personally suggest it as a great beginner spot but people do seem to go there. Varied crowds. Plenty of shade, food and drink available.
Whiskey point: Similar to Peanut Farm but easier to surf. It’s a bit fatter and very consistent. I found this place much more crowded then peanut, because of its consistency. There are a lot of beginners learning and receiving lessons on the inside, though they don’t get in the way. Plenty of shade, food and drink available.
OKANDA: This place was awesome! Probably one of my favourite locations and waves. Beautiful remote beach and a fun playful wave. I suggest bringing a few snacks and hanging around for the day if the waves are good. In regards to crowds it varied a lot, one day we got it to completely to ourselves, the next it was very busy!!! But you can still get a wave and is worth the try, as it could seriously pay off. Intermediate to advanced level. 45minute tuk-tuk through the scenic jungle. Remote location with no shade,minimal food and drink – come prepared.
Lighthouse beach: This was hands down my favourite break. It is a bit less consistent and I would suggest only surfers of intermediate to advanced level. Located 15km north of Arugum bay, its distance from the main town makes the crowds much smaller and friendly. There is a hotel located in the jungle where you can chill, have a meal, drink and then head out again.
When the waves went flat we found ourselves catching a public bus north to Trincomalee. We found the public bus to be the cheapest option here, only costing a few AUD dollars again, leaving from Pouttuvil, and taking around 5-6 hours. If you have a big group, it could be worthwhile hiring a driver to get there faster.
Diving in Trincomalee was truly beautiful and the beaches were very calm and relaxing. Though I did find some of the resteraunts a bit more westernized and expensive than Arugum bay.
While here we stayed at the lobster In, which is around 14 AUD a night. Very simple, with shared bathroom and no aircon. Just walking distance from a relaxing beach and restaurants.
In regards to scuba diving we dove with Epic Ocean Adventures. They were very welcoming, professional and invited us from afternoon drinks.
After a few good days of waves we also ventured on a local safari. This can be organised with on of the many companies on the main street of Arugum Bay. They usually like you to fill the bus with around 8 people, so grab some friends and go enjoy the truly stunning wildlife of Sri Lanka.
Nearing the end of our trip we decided to take a few days to get back to Colombo and hired a tuk tuk for around $50 AUD to drive us from Arugum bay inland to Ella.
Note: On the drive up, if your driver pulls over and asks if you want to look at the waterfall. Don’t. There is not much to see and the locals on the side of the street will automatically charge you.
Ella is a beautiful jungle town, known for its stunning hikes, views and boutique shops where you can get local tea and clothing. We only stayed one night, doing an incredible walk to little Adams peak. This took a few hours and we did it without a guide. It is not necessary to hire a guide, just follow the signs and ask locals if you get lost, don’t worry if you do, we certainly did and the locals are very helpful.
There is plenty of accommodation and food to choose from. Food is a little more expensive here then Arugum Bay but still very delicious.
To get back to Colombo we took the 8 hour train ride. I highly recommend this! It is incredibly scenic and very enjoyable. Taking you through lush rainforest and mountain views. It is affordable and safe. You can also buy food on the train, though we packed some snacks aswell!
Overall I highly suggest Sri Lanka for any surfer or diver. No, the surfing isn’tIndonesia quality but it’s still super fun and warm water, I mean, what else could you ask for. As a female, I would suggest having a friend with you if possible, but not 100% necessary if you’re a confident traveller, smart and careful. I felt a little unfordable at times, with some of the local men becoming aggressive or sexually inappropriate towards myself and my friends. So just avoid walking along at night and make some friends at your hotel. You will have an amazing time I know it.