Sri Lanka – Tangalle to Arugam Bay

We finished our safari in Udawalawe at the ripe hour of 9am. We ate our hotel breakfast and headed out to the one and only highway in that small town. Most all the buses passing through this town head to the bus station in Embilpitiya. That was exactly where we needed to go in order to catch our next bus to Tangalle. We flagged down the first bus we saw and thanked the stars it had seats available. It took around 45 minutes to reach Embilpitiya. From there, we hopped on the Matara bus which took another hour to reach Tangalle.

Missed our previous Ella & Udawalawe post? Read it here

We arrived in our first Sri Lankan beach town! The next step was to haggle with the tuk-tuk driver for the correct rate, 40 rupees / km, to drive us to our hotel. 15 minutes later, we arrived at the Cinnabar Resort. It was cute, vibey, well manicured and run by a few guys who looked like they absolutely hated their jobs. We had booked a standard bungalow but somehow got upgraded to a tree house bungalow. We weren’t going to complain. Not yet, anyways. We went up to our tree house and it was adorable! Nice light fixtures, mosquito net and a sweet little patio. We were happy.

Cinnabar Resort grounds and our room

We then decided to take a nice long walk on the beach and ended our day with some arrack cocktails at sunset.
That night we discovered our cute little tree house had a serious flying termite problem. They swarmed our lights, so we turned off the lights, got into bed, shut our mosquito nets and put a movie on our cell phone. All of a sudden they started climbing over the phone. What is happening?! We turned on the light, only to find they had snuck in the many small holes in our mosquito net and were now climbing around us and on our sheets. We turned the cell phone off and turned the outdoor light on to lure them out and we tried to go to sleep. Our cute little treetop cabin was, all of a sudden, slightly less appealing.

The view of the sunset from our accommodation in Tangalle

The next day we rented a motorbike and cruised down to Hiriketiya Beach. It was beautiful, small and not crowded. The waves were massive! The surfers were out in full force. We are not surfers… but we did enjoy lounging around, taking in the sights and jumping the giant waves.

Hiriketiya Beach

Later that evening we decided to turn on only the outdoor light of our tree house. We kept it on all night to make sure the termites weren’t lured into our bed. The next day we found our outdoor walls and door completely covered in thousands of termites.

We informed our guest house, but they did not care. So Pete took it upon himself and asked for bug spray. He then fumigated our bungalow leaving a termite graveyard on the floors. We asked the staff to sweep up and change our sheets since everything was covered, which they did.

After battling the termites we headed over to Goyambokka Beach which was nice, but not as great as Hiriketiya. We also haggled a deal for a shared taxi to Arugam Bay the following day. Which, to be honest, took an entire day of texting and negotiating. You can do this trip by bus but from what we had heard and read, the bus trip is grueling and you will probably have to stand most of the trip.

Goyambokka Beach

We also looked into renting a tuk-tuk in Tangalle and returning it in either Trincomalee or Colombo. But that option would have cost us about 20USD per day, with an additional charge to pick up and return in different cities. For a 7-9 day period we would be looking at 500USD. Which is way out of our budget.

The shared taxi ended up costing around 70USD which we split 4 ways for a 5 hour trip. About 17USD per person.

🚕Tip: Find ride shares and taxis on the Backpacker Taxi Share Sri Lanka Facebook group. The taxi trip from Tangalle to Arugam Bay cost 11,000rs. Try to split that cost with other travelers. Taxi companies and drivers will make ridiculous offers of up to 16,000rs but stick to your price. If they refuse, thank them and ask them to contact you if they change their mind. We had a few drivers messaging us back hours after our conversations with much better offers.

The trip to Arugam Bay was fantastic! The scenery is great and there were many elephants hanging out in the road waiting to collect food tolls. We paid our toll in bananas. Honestly, who needs safari when you can see these beautiful creatures in the wild!?

Paying the banana toll

Now, let’s talk about Arugam Bay. Everyone loves it! You will hear person after person exclaiming their love for this small surfer town. We get it! Its cute, it’s vibey, there are western restaurants and the waves are large.

Did we love it?

Honestly, no.

With young surfer types, you are also prone to get a bit of pretentiousness. It felt a bit like high school. Cool, surfer kids vs. The rest. If you are like this or enjoy these type of individuals, you’ll love it.

Unfortunately, we are a bit different. Maybe we were ruined by the gorgeous beaches of Thailand and Indonesia?
Anyways, we spent a day at the main beach in Arugam, we spent a day at Peanut Farm Beach, a day at Whiskey Point and we explored Panama Beach.
I wish I could tell you one of these beaches was stunning and we fell in love.

Views from our scooter
Sunbeds on Whiskey Point beach
Storm clouds rolling in over Arugam Bay beach
Panama Beach

They were hot. There was a lack of shade to chill under and the waves were great for surfing, which we don’t do.

So, if any of the above sounds like a place you would fit in, then go! This is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.
To be honest, the best part of Arugam Bay was the happy hour at Hideaway Villas. Super cute, cheap, and delicious cocktails.

Hideaway Outdoor Bar

We stayed at the Beach Cab Resort. The rooms are spacious with good A/C, patios and a hammock. It is about a 1 minute walk to the beach from the resort. All in all, the price is right. The only downside is the nearby Mosque which will give you a 5am wake up call without fail. But, Arugam Bay is small and I am sure most hotels also suffer the same fate.

By the end of our 4 days we were stoked to continue on up the coast. Whatever we were looking for, we didn’t find it in Arugam Bay.

Continue with us to Uppuveli and Sigiriya

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4 thoughts on “Sri Lanka – Tangalle to Arugam Bay

  1. I had to read this post because we has such a great time at Tangalla. We stayed near the Cinnabar at Serein Beach. I had contemplated going to Arugam Bay but based on your description I think we made the right decision (we are about as far from being cool surfer kids as it gets). Great that you saw elephants on the ride there!

    Liked by 1 person

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