A short history

The name ArugamBay probably originates from the time that King Kavanthissaruled the areaand who indicated that his queen was in the next village, ‘aragamay’. During the era of the Buddhist Kingdoms Okanda, about 12 km south of Arugam Bay was not only an important town in the Ruhuna Kingdom, but also long before that period, which is obvious from the pre historic cave drawings found in the Yala National Park.

Arugam Bay has been a calm, sleeping hamlet for ages until some Americans, who were working on the Gal Oya Project in the 1950s came to relax on the coast. They brought their own planks to surf, very basic, but it was successful. They were followed by other expats, working for INGO’s and other adventurous peoples who challenged the primitive accommodation. There were no hotels and there was no electricity. Moreover the place was very difficult to reach. The tourists had to endure difficult circumstances, sleeping in the open air or in huts made from coconut leaves, the local people providing meals to them. This low level tourism continued up to the 70s when the number of hippie surfers increased from Europe and Australia, discovering the excellent surfing conditions of Arugam Bay and the relaxed atmosphere.

Despite all the difficulties of the three decades’ during civil war in Sri Lanka, which lasted until 2009, several people, locals, foreigners and people employed at NGO’s took the risk to travel to this East coast resort, which had become more risky during the late nineties. Nevertheless the number of guesthouses started growing.


Remarkable is the relatively high number of Israeli tourists, who kept on coming in great flocks. Unfortunately the Boxing Day Tsunami brought a setback to this increasingly popular surfing resort. A great deal of all tourism facilities was completely destroyed. Nevertheless with international help Arugam Bay revived and especially since the end of the civil war the resort has seen a boom in tourism, mainly in the season, while the future looks very bright for this famous tourist resort.

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