Locals in Sri Lanka are usually curious about what I believe. Uber drivers generally take me to and from the airport, which I’ve done a lot of this June between flying to the Maldives, coming back, travelling via Indonesia, and then returning. (As an aside, an Uber ride from downtown to the airport in Sri Lanka costs only $5. Win!)
I’ve grown to like taxi discussions when traveling, so allow me to transport you to the east coast of Sri Lanka via my most recent cab confession:
He asks whether I want to go to Sri Lanka. I tell him he checks all of the boxes:
- The cuisine is delicious.
- Folks are quite nice and friendly.
- The scenery is really breathtaking! Sri Lanka has beaches, waterfalls, mountains to climb, and distinct cultural artifacts and temples (it is a Buddhist nation).
- Most significantly, I feel comfortable as a female who travels largely alone. I opted to depart during a layover in the Maldives. That wasn’t really planned; it was more about seizing the opportunity to see a location that hadn’t previously been on my radar.
I had no notion what to expect from Sri Lanka. It was only lately that the 26-year-long civil war ended, and the country began to emerge as a tourism hotspot, particularly in the hardest-hit east and north. As a result, there was little information available.
The driver and I both agree that more and more people are travelling from overseas to visit this wonderful region these days.
I’ve definitely witnessed progress since my departure. Construction projects abound in Colombo’s capital. The East Coast waves are getting popular enough to draw surfers from all over the world, and I was the only foreigner on the train the last time I was here. This time, I noticed a few travelers here and there. Sri Lanka is not yet a “touristy” destination, but it is on its way. If well managed, as it looks to be thus far, it might be a major boon to the local economy, which is now sustained by tea and textile exports.
There were a few things that surprised me on my first visit here. I had no idea Sri Lanka was a safari destination. When I went on safari in Yala National Park, I couldn’t believe I saw elephants, leopards, a variety of gorgeous birds, monitor lizards, and wild pigs all on the same day. I always imagined it to be in Africa. That’s what travel does, I suppose. It makes you understand that there is so much more to life than these commonly held ideas.
But that was my final visit here. This time it was a little different: after months in the highlands of Argentina, I needed to exercise some ocean appreciation. So I went to the less developed East Coast to see what the sea was like, and I discovered some incredible discoveries!
The Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay, on Sri Lanka’s east coast, is the ideal tiny hippy village, teeming with surfers, travellers, and locals.
The sandy beach is littered with little fishing boats, but the attraction for surfers is their duel with the boards. My friend Adam told me it reminded him of Tofo in Mozambique, and I completely got where he was coming from. It had the same qualities in that it made you wonder how people came together there, as if it were some kind of special secret, and it was definitely not their first time overseas. They were definitely engaging individuals, and if you spent any amount of time with them, you’d probably find it difficult to leave.
It’s the type of spot where beach bars border the sand. This is where the hammocks sway in the breeze and the air is so hot and humid that you can’t help but feel tempted to dive into the water for some vitamin sea.
My stay there was too brief, but I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of places I’d want to visit again.
Here’s the hotel I suggest. It was relaxed, with friendly people and delicious food.
I also discovered another hidden beauty, however unlike Arugam Bay, it’s a resort-filled beach. It’s peaceful and there aren’t many travelers about, but if I ever find myself on my honeymoon, this is a must-see.
Locals informed me it was the nicest beach in Sri Lanka, but first check out this incredible pool:
The name of this resort is Amaya Beach Resort (which you can book here). I just stayed at this hotel for a few hours and had lunch there, but I’m dying to go back and spend a week, a month, or maybe forever there. That was just breathtaking.
I’ll always enjoy my bamboo bungalows with nothing but a fan, but I’m also growing to appreciate a beautiful hotel. I assume it’s because of my senior age! I stayed at Trinco Blu by Cinnamon in Trincomalee and thought the rooms with their own small balconies were fantastic, and I adore a partially outdoor shower, which my room featured.
I’d heard of Trincomalee the last time I was in Sri Lanka, but I didn’t have time to visit.
Yet, I had heard that it is fantastic for diving and that Pigeon Island, in particular, is the greatest site on Sri Lanka’s East Coast for such activities.
I got there early in the morning to see what all the fuss was about. Because the reefs are shallow, I’ve just snorkeled, but being in the sea is my happy spot.
If you wish to accomplish it, you need arrive early. The island is said to be popular. I was able to lease a small fishing boat via Trinco Blu, although there are no doubt tour providers all throughout the region providing this excursion.
Although a portion of the reef was devastated in the 2005 tsunami, you can still see some intriguing things, and Trincomalee is the ideal combination of resort town and laid-back beach. Whatever your background is, there is an option for you here. It appeared to me to be somewhere between Arugam Bay and Passikudah.
As I got at the airport for the final time, the driver inquired if I planned on returning. He claims to be from Ella, one of my favorite regions of Sri Lanka, and that he enjoys house music. He’s probably in his twenties. I pull out all of my local money and give it to him since I know I’ll be back, but I’m not sure when. It’s not much, but I advise him to put it to good use at a party. His eyes enlarge, and a smile spreads across his face. He’s like practically everyone else I’ve met here: incredibly kind, warm, and kind.
Sure, I will return because, as I previously stated, Sri Lanka checks all the criteria.
Do it yourself
- Colombo is the most convenient airport for visiting Sri Lanka.
- Traveling to Arugam Bay: If you have time, take the train in the middle and stop at Ella and Kandy along the route. It’s a fantastic experience. Alternately, bus No. 98 travels immediately from Colombo’s Pettah bus station at 4:45 a.m. to Pottuvil for 400 Rupiah per person.
- Many vacationers also hire private drivers, which range in price from $60 to $80 per day. These may be leased at airport counters or, in my case, through my AirBnB host (when I visited 2 years ago)
- Getting to Trincomalee: Buses run many times a day from Colombo and other important cities in Sri Lanka. The train is another alternative, although it takes significantly longer (however, it is more scenic and can be much less crowded). It is also feasible to fly via Ratmalana Airport in Colombo with Sri Lankan Air Force charter flights or Cinnamon Air.
*This content was created in collaboration with Cinnamon Hotels. All of my thoughts about Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches and pleasant people are totally my own.