Sri Lanka is the destination on everyone's radar, with its jaw-dropping landscapes, stunning architecture and exotic wildlife – everything from jaguars to elephants. But there's another reason to visit this unassuming island off the south coast of India, when the expansive beaches and blue waves can be appreciated at their fullest: surfing. Whether you're trying the sport for the first time, eager to brush up your skills or you're a dedicated surfer constantly searching for the best waves around the world, Sri Lanka has the beach for you (and a beautiful ones at that) all throughout the year. So, get that surfboard waxed as we show you where to surf in Sri Lanka.
When asking where to surf in Sri Lanka, Hikkaduwa may well be the answer on your fellow traveller's lips. Located in the southwest of the island it's one of the best known surf spots in the country, but still keeps its charm. With a palm-fringed shore lined with drink shacks and restaurants, you'll find little reason to tear yourself away from the sand. As for the waves themselves, they're consistent, peeling slowly towards the shore, and particularly ideal for beginners. The best time to surf here is October to April, when the weather is a cosy 30ºC.
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If you want a break from the waves to rest those paddling arms of fury or if the weather has taken a turn, head for some snorkelling in Hikkaduwa National Park. This coral sanctuary is home to plenty of marine life, from turtles to tropical fish. Inland, there are Buddhist temples such as Gangarama Maha Vihara, decorated with hand-painted murals, and Thotagamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya, 2km north of the town.
Often regarded as one of the best kept surf secrets in Sri Lanka (sorry for blowing your cover, Mirissa!), this town has great waves and a low-key vibe. A mixture of locals, committed surfers and some travellers, Mirissa Beach is where you can forget about the busy world around you and simply swing in a hammock. And, of course, hit the surf. Like Hikkaduwa, the best time to catch a wave here is October to April, and its mellow reef breaks over deep water provide a perfect introduction to beginner surfers who want to up their game after mastering the basics. The beach is also a delight to be on if you're looking for a bit more quiet, and the water is some of the clearest you'll find in the country.
Mirissa is a great location for whale watching – you can spot migrating blue, sperm, fin and bryde whales as well as dolphins. They are most visible from November to April, coinciding perfectly with the best waves.
The main beach at Arugam Bay is very pleasant, but the highlight here is Elephant Rock, an immensely beautiful beach that's perfect for novice surfers. It's harder to get to than the main beach – you'll need to get a tuk tuk (about a 15 minute ride) and clamber over some rocks (wear appropriate shoes!), but it's well worth it for the solitude and amazing surf break there. Its namesake is no lie either – you may well see wild elephants roaming around here.
If you can't make the trek to Elephant Rock, the beach in Arugam Bay itself isn't to be looked down on. People often describe this area as what Bali's Kuta was 30 years ago, and this moon-shaped bay is a surfer- and traveller-friendly destination with all the amenities you would need for a day at the beach. That means beachside cafes and food stalls aplenty. For surfing, beginners should point their boards towards Baby Point while more advanced surfers should head for Main Point and Whisky Point. Once again, the best time to go is April to October.
The area is on the edge of Yala National Park, so a trip here would be perfectly paired with a safari trek where you could spot elephants, buffalo and more.
Literally translating to 'Sandy Village', Weligama was destined to be on our list of where to surf in Sri Lanka. It's arguably the best place for beginner surfers in the country. This energetic town is a lot of fun to spend some time in while you surf to your heart's content. The main beach has its own surf break, while other little beaches along the bay provide their own waves, which you can pick according to your skill level. Conditions are best here between October and April (spotting a theme?) and this part of Sri Lanka gets some 330 days of sunshine a year. All you'll need is board shorts, a rash guard and lots of sun screen.
Watch the stilt fisherman at work here while you taste the culinary delights Sri Lanka has to offer at the beachside shacks that abound here.
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