Sri Lanka is world-famous for surfing and has breaks suitable for all levels, so you’ll be in seventh heaven whether you’re a hardcore surfer or you’ve not yet mastered standing on a board.
The country is a year-round destination because of the seasonal patterns that mean when one coast is choppy, the other is calm. The rains take turns hitting from different directions, too. There will always be waves somewhere. In the south you’ll find perfection between November and May; on the east coast aim for April to October, when the waves are longer. The most famous areas are Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa in the southwest, Weligama in the south and Arugam Bay in the east. For the best day-to-day intel on where the good waves are, contact the team at Surf South Sri Lanka.
Dewata, south of Galle, has turned into a surfing hotspot over the past five or so years. While not the most scenic of local beaches, with small but reliable waves it attracts those looking to perfect their technique on year-round easy surf. Right on the beach, the Shack, with its oil-drum beach bar and rooms, is the hangout of choice, offering lessons and board rentals. The sand reef and regular (if small- to medium-size) waves make it one of the best spots to learn in Sri Lanka, while also providing plenty of fun for the adept.
On the southwest coast of the island, about 120km (75m) south of Colombo and just 20km (12mi) from Galle, is the famous party town of Hikkaduwa. Once just a surfing village, it’s now popular with surfers and partygoers alike – there is always something happening here. As for the best surf spots, try Bennys, a left-hander reef break preferred by experienced surfers. Or there’s Main Reef, with left- and right-handers over a deeper reef, which is good and relatively safe for all levels. We can also recommend North Jetty and, for beginners, Beach Break, with its safe shore and reef break.
This is another hit among wave riders and is in many ways the perfect family surfing destination. The nightlife is not hectic, like it is in Hikkaduwa, but the waves are great. The swell on the beach is not always perfect, but just ask the locals for alternatives. If you’re a beginner, try Unawatuna Beach Break. Bonavista Bay is also a good learner’s wave. There’s also Kabalana Beach Break, with frothy small waves, although the main point has a rip current and there are no lifeguards. If you’re more advanced, there’s Dalawella Reef, and South Beach, just north of Kabalana, with a good longboard wave.
Arugam Bay is on the east coast, and the best season to be here is when it’s too rainy in the south. The weather gods grace Arugam Bay with dry skies while the rest of the island is battered by monsoon rains. It’s best to visit between April and September. Here Baby Point is better for beginners, while Main Point is for more advanced riders. Elephant Rock, a tuk-tuk ride from Arugam Bay, is great for beginners, but don’t wear flip-flops, as you have to climb rocks to get to it. It’s worth it because the beach is so beautiful. If you’re an experienced surfer, make your way to Pottuvil and Whisky Point, north of Arugam Bay. Whisky Point tends to get crowded, so don’t rock up too late in the day.
Orana Velarde contributed additional reporting to this article.