Ditch the wetsuit, grab a coconut and tropical wax, Sri Lanka surf is warm-water heaven. Reef breaks, beach breaks, point breaks – there’s all sorts on this stunning island.
Sri Lanka surf at a glance
- Warm water.
- Chilled surf towns with coconut palms and gorgeous beaches.
- Approachable reef breaks for intermediates looking to move up.
- Some crowded breaks.
- Some busy lineups.
- Not many surf shops to buy your gear.
What will I find in this guide to surfing in Sri Lanka
An introduction to Sri Lanka surf
When most people think of Sri Lanka, they think of mystical Buddhist temples and coconut-infused curries. Only recently has surfing come into the frame on this tropical island. But boy has it gained popularity fast.
These days, the whole south and west coasts, from Colombo to Tangalle, and the surf mecca of Arugam Bay, are on the map of wave hunters. They’re not quite as built up as Bali (yet!). But thousands come in search of their promised breaks.
And what breaks they are! Variety is the keyword. Most are reefs of some shape or form, starting with zippy shallow reefs with high walls and barrels near Ram’s and Mirissa going all the way to mellow A-frame reefs like the ones in Midigama. You’ll also get some beach breaks, like the up-coming peaks of SK Town, or the fun beginner-intermediate wave of Hiriketiya (a personal fav).
On top of all that, you can look forward to a Sri Lankan surf culture that uber-chilled. There’s hardly a trace of localism to be found on the main breaks. Most people are forever smiling, happy to help you get to grips with the reefs, and have a little chat in the lineup.
This guide is a part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in Asia.
Sri Lanka surf spots map
There are more Sri Lanka surf spots than you can shake a bowl of dal at – but don’t do that, it’s too good to waste! From the popular bays of the south-west to the legend that is Arugam Bay, this guide has info on the lot, along with in-depth guides to each destination in their own right.
Think Sri Lanka surf, think Arugam Bay. This surfing mecca is the jewel of the east coast. It’s known for having brilliant conditions during the summer months June-October, when the rest of the island is in monsoon.
A great mix of waves are on the menu. There’s fast Elephant Rock with its barrels. There’s Baby Point with is sand-bottomed breaks for novices. Oh, and the town is a blast after dark!
Shh – please don’t tell too many people about Hiri! We’ve just dusted off a week surfing in this hidden horseshoe bay in the south and we fell in love. Muddy roads and friendly Sri Lankan homestays are the name of the game.
The break itself has the best of both worlds – a beginner beach wave that rolls into golden sands; a steep reef that rockets over shallow stone.
Read our full ultimate guide to Hiriketya Bay surf
We’ve also got a soft spot for this hidden beach break midway between Dickwella and Mirissa.
The name SK Town actually refers to the cluster of Sri Lankan surf camps and hostels that sit on the eastern end of the bay, but there are great peaks to be had right up and down the length. On heavy days, this one shapes up into neat wedges that can go both left and right. When it’s really powerful, closeouts are the game.
If you can pull yourself away from your pina colada and coconut juice, Mirissa has a few waves that might be worth a look in.
It’s not your out and out Sri Lanka surf mecca like some of the other places on this list, but it’s got a popular reef on its western side and a really easy-going beach break with a few foam board rentals.
Surfing in Sri Lanka for beginners at its very best. Weligama hugs a huge bay on the southern end of the island. It’s protected from the heaviest swells by two elongated headlands.
So, even when there are high walls bashing through the reefs of nearby Midigama, you can catch slow, soft beach breaks here. And it is all a beach break, with some of the highest-rated Sri Lanka surf camps going on the road just behind.
When the December offshores cut through the Midigama coast, the waves here can offer some seriously fun rides. There are a few worth marking on your Sri Lanka surf spots map.
Start with Coconuts, a neat left-hander that goes right-left fast and hollow. Then graduate to Ram’s where high barrels crash right in front of a few uber-cool surf houses.
Hikkaduwa might just be the most popular Sri Lanka surf spot on the south-west coast. That’s why you’ll almost always find a lineup out in the water. There’s lots to get stuck into.
The main beach is the place where the surf schools operate. It’s a sand-bottom break with some fun peaks if the swell’s up. More expert surfers can head to Benny’s, a high-speed and steep reef left hander that’s adrenaline through and through.
A guide to the Sri Lanka surfing season
You can break the Sri Lanka surf season into two easy portions. That’s because there are two separate wet seasons that dictate the weather (and swell/wind) patterns on the islands. Get a feel for these and it should be easy to decide where to go to get in the water:
South-western monsoon (May-September)
One word: Arugam Bay. There’s really no decision to be made. As the rains sweep across the south coast and the swells are all chopped up on the south-west by storm winds, you’ll want to make for the Sri Lankan surfing mecca of the east. The best months are around June and July, which is when even the sand-cushioned beginner wave of the main beach starts to get into full swing.
North-eastern monsoon (October-April)
Things dry out all around the stunning beaches of the south-west coast. Offshore winds are more common and the swell form up to tidy sets for the reefs. This is by far the season with the widest variety of working Sri Lanka surf destinations. That’s because everywhere from Hiriketiya to Galle is on the menu. As the season wears on, things tend to mellow even more, so January-March can be lighter than pre-Christmas.
Top things to do in Sri Lanka when you’re not surfing
Sri Lanka is a bucket-list-busting destination. Make no bones about it, this isle is about much more than just warm waves and reef breaks. It’s steeped in a fascinating Buddhist culture, has some of the tastiest food on the planet, and bursts with temples, shrines, and stunning lengths of sand…
The call it the Eighth Wonder of the World, this jaw-dropping palace on a bluff of stone. Thought to date way back to the 5th century, it’s a must for any history buffs and culture lovers. You’ll be able to scale the great rock palace and see ancient Buddhist shrines. There are also sweeping views across Sri Lanka’s central plains.
Go hiking in Ella
You can prime those hamstrings for your Sri Lanka surf adventure by making for the highland town of Ella. It sits up in the mist-haloed highlands. A land of tea fields and craggy peaks, it’s got some breathtaking views. Do the trek to Ella Rock. Conquer Little Adam’s Peak. And then visit a tea factory to relax a little.
Laze on a beach
The beaches of this gorgeous isle aren’t just for Sri Lankan surf trips, you know? Strewn with coconut husks and backed by sea pineapple trees, there are darn picturesque places to boot. Bring the sun cream. Pack your favourite bikini. There’s oodles of time for swimming and Kindle reading in the hammock. Some of the best are around Mirissa and Dickwella.
Travel essentials for anyone surfing in Sri Lanka
Where exactly is Sri Lanka?
- Currency: Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)
- Population: 10.5 million
- Capital: Lisbon
- Language: Sinhala & Tamil
They call Sri Lanka the Teardrop of India. Check the map – it’s easy to see why. The island is like a speck of H20 that’s just dribbled off the subcontinent.
At their smallest distance, Sri Lanka and India are just 883 miles apart. The resplendent atolls of the Maldives are also close, just in case you wanted to top off that Sri Lanka surf trip with a honeymoon or something romantic.
How to get to Sri Lanka
Colombo Airport is the main gateway to Sri Lanka by air. Long-haul links on major carriers arrive there from Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The best option for surfers is usually Qatar Airways. Their indirect connections link with airports in London, Manchester and Cardiff, and they allow surfboard carriage as part of your standard baggage allowance.
Short-haul connections join Sri Lanka to loads of places across South Asia and Southeast Asia. We caught a direct flight in from Bangkok and were on the ground in under four hours this year. You can find bargain deals in from KL, India, Indonesia – the list goes on.
How to travel around Sri Lanka
We found that the local bus was a really fun way to get around Sri Lanka. Uber-cheap and great for people watching, these multi-colored vehicle will rock and rumble their way between the major towns. Of course, this isn’t the best option if you’re carrying your own surfboard.
For those with their board in tow, we recommend private taxi transfers. You can use groups like Sri Lanka Taxi Share and Sri Lanka Car and Driver Hire to organise lift shares and check the ratings of various drivers. You can haggle vis Whatsapp before your departure date. This worked really well when we had longer distances to travel (say Weligama to Colombo, Colombo to Kandy).
Tuk tuks are probably the best, and the cheapest, choice if you’re moving between two Sri Lankan surf destinations on the south coast. They are ubiquitous and never cost us more than 1200 LKR for a single journey. You’ll need to get used to the driver lashing your board to the roof – they sometimes aren’t the most secure racks. But hey, that’s part of the fun.
If you’ve got anything to add to this ultimate guide to Sri Lanka surf, then we’d sure love to hear it in the comments below! We’re always looking to update and change the information here so it’s in line with what’s currently happening on the island – otherwise it would hardly be the ultimate guide, eh!?