The Road to Okanda: A legendary surf day in Arugam Bay

Finding the perfect surf day in Sri Lanka…

When I take a surf trip I want to surf uncrowded waves in beautiful tropical locales but I also want the trip to have a sense of soul, history and culture. Lately with the rapidly increasing popularity of surfing and surf travel, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find places that haven’t been overrun by hoards of wave hungry tourists.

Arugam Bay is a lively,  surf town on the east coast of Sri Lanka that is quickly gaining a reputation as a surf destination. The town and the main break itself are crowded, don’t surf the main break if you’re a novice, fearful of reef breaks, or looking for surfing serenity. Instead hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you to one of the many less crowded breaks outside of town. The further from town you go, the fewer people you will have to share your warm Indian Ocean waves with. On our search to find the perfect Sri Lankan wave we discovered that it is still possible to have a true surf safari style adventure in the age of “Surfline”, cell phones, and surf camps.IMG_6568_2

Arugam Bay Surf Safari Itinierary

  1. Wake up early and eat a quick breakfast.
  2. Hire a tuk-tuk to take you to Okanda. This is a point break that is best for intermediate or advanced surfers depending on conditions.  Explain that you’d also like to stop at the monastery and hopefully see some wildlife along the way.
  3. Drive along dirt roads through Kumana National Park. Keep your eyes open for crocodiles, elephants, deer, and if you’re lucky, a leopard.

    IMG_6504
    Take in the beautiful scenery in Kumana National Park on your journey to Okanda.
  4. Stop at the Kudumbigala Monastery. Even if you’re in a hurry to surf it’s worth it to stop in the early morning when it’s cooler and less crowded.  Make sure to be respectful, cover your legs and arms before exploring the trails. It’s a steep but short climb up the rocks to the top where you will be amazed by the breath taking views.

    IMG_6544
    Incredible views await at the Kudumbigala Monastery
  5. Continue on to Okanda. You’ll walk through a hindu village to the beach. When you get to the beach turn right and it’s a short walk to the surf break. When we went it was just us and a few surfers from Dubai. We shared surf stories and coconuts on the beach between surf sessions. It doesn’t get any better than that!
  6. Surf until your arms are noodles

    IMG_6566
    Endless empty waves at Okanda
  7. Head back to Arugam Bay. If you’re feeling adventurous try some of the fruit and various snacks from the different roadside stands.
  8. Although Okanda is only approximately 25km south of Arugam Bay be prepared for a long, bumpy, dusty tuk-tuk ride. If you’re stopping to view wildlife and wander around the monastery plan to spend at least half a day.
  9. Return to A-bay. Eat dinner at Mr.Fisherman. This little seafood spot is owned by a local, “Mr. Fisherman”, who takes pride in catching the seafood for his restaurant. Expect big plates of food, reasonable prices, and a lot of character.

Tips/Hints

  • Bring a set of conservative clothing for the monestary
  • Have change/smaller bills for purchasing any snacks/drinks in the village
  • Bring food/water. There aren’t many options along the way..
  • If you’re a woman consider wearing a tank-top with a built in bra or a supportive bra for the bumpy tuk-tuk journey.
  • It’s easy to get sunburned while riding in a tuk-tuk. Make sure to wear sunscreen.
  • May-Oct is the best time to surf the east coast of Sri Lanka
  • If you’re renting a surfboard in A-bay thoroughly examine it for dings/loose fins/leash flaws. While board rentals are cheap many of the boards have some battle wounds and you will have to pay for the damage unless you note it when you’re renting!IMG_6580_2

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