Arugam Bay is a small, laid-back surf and beach town, situated on the south east coast of Sri Lanka. ‘A-Bay’, as it’s affectionately referred to, has long been a mecca for surfers and is ranked as one of the world’s top ten surfing destinations. The surfing season here runs roughly from mid-May to August. There are a number of surfing beaches, offering conditions suitable for all levels, including beginner. Surfing lessons and equipment hire are both available locally.
The resort consists of a picturesque curve of sandy beach, backed by a main strip dotted with guesthouses, internet cafés, shops, and restaurants with ocean views. There is a limited range of accommodation available, with most at the lower mid range, but there are a couple of gems, the best of which is The Hideaway. Arugam Bay is a great choice if you love surfing or want to give it a go, but if the surf doesn't appeal, then it holds less appeal. The region typically enjoys excellent sunny weather from April to September, with its monsoon season settling in from October to January, and tailing off during February and March.
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Thank you, Lisa! Our trip was wonderful even with the weather disruption. We loved seeing so many different parts of the country, meeting people and experiencing the culture. The desert was surely a highlight for our boys and the creativity and artisanship of everything from food to crafts were a highlight for me. A special shout out to our guide and driver, they became a special part of our trip and we will forever be grateful for meeting them and learning from them. I cannot believe we had to wait three years for this adventure but it was certainly worth the wait! Thanks for all your help building the itinerary, modifying it and troubleshooting during our stay. Leslie B
Leslie B reviewing Luxury Desert Holiday on 01 March 2023
Hi Lisa and everyone at Tourdust,
We've had a wonderful time on our holiday and wanted to pass our appreciation to you. Everything has been expertly planned and executed, allowing us to enjoy the holiday to its fullest. Special appreciation to Muhammed, Ibrahim, and Omar, our Atlas guide, cook, and muleteer, who couldn't have done more for us and were just generally wonderful and hardworking. Riad Hanane is a perfect base in Marrakech to complement the trekking as it's ina less touristy area of the medina, which we appreciated. The staff and accomodation was superb.Thank you again for a trip to remember!
Bob, May, Grace, and Lucas
Robert B reviewing Marrakech & Mountains Family Trek on 20 February 2023
Hello Lisa. We came back from our trip two weeks ago now so I am sending this email much later than I wanted to. Nevertheless, what I wanted to say was thank you very much for helping us organise an amazing trip. Our days in Mafia Island to celebrate my 50th birthday were exactly what I wanted them to be: a fantastic time with the family doing activities that we all love and enjoy in a relaxing, unusual, beautiful place full of sun, surrounded by water, wildlife and friendly people. We swam with whale sharks, did a lot of snorkeling, had two picnics on a beautiful sand bank, watched the sunset over the sea, did a bird watching excursion and tried scuba diving.
All merit to you because Pole Pole in Mafia Island was your recommendation. I never heard of Mafia Island before and didn't consider Tanzania to start with. It was an amazing place to stay: friendly, relaxed, beautiful, comfortable, with great food and fantastic service. Thanks not only for finding the place but also for your patience as we prepared the trip and I explored options and decided what I wanted. All went incredibly well (places, transfers, flights) and we had a very memorable time together that we will all remember forever - as we still do the safari trip to South Africa you organised for us 5 years ago.
I cannot wait to plan another trip! I am already thinking about where and when. Hopefully no pandemic will get in the way this time. And I will come to you as my favourite travel agent.
I copy in this message the Tourdust office because I want them to know how good you are and how much I appreciated the different trips you organised for us (including the trip to India for my parents that was cancelled due to Covid). I cannot thank you enough :o)
Kind regards, Carol
Carolina O reviewing Relaxed Bush & Beach Family Holiday in Tanzania on 25 November 2022
It was a fantastic experience, thanks very much. All the arrangements were seamless and our guiding/support team were excellent, if there is a way for you to formally commend the team to your ground operators then I would be grateful if you could do that, they really were brilliant.
Many thanks for your help in arranging the trip, and for your patience during the multiple re-arrangements over the past couple of years.
Kind regards, John
John B reviewing Mount Kenya Sirimon Naro Moru Trek on 14 November 2022
Can't praise tour dust enough, they helped us to create a holiday of a lifetime that has given us family memories we will treasure forever. From start to finish the whole experience was exactly what we wanted and more. Due to covid we waited 2 and a half years for this trip but worth the wait.
Carly R reviewing Value KwaZulu-Natal Safari and Mauritius on 07 November 2022
Just to enlarge on my earlier, our M'goun trip couldn't have gone better. A great itinerary, altho perhaps an extra gentle day around the plateau before the summit might have eased things but that couldn't be helped given the road change. Our team were all fantastic, couldn't have been more solicitous for our comfort. Hakim our guide a real star. Food delicious. Kit was great - tents held up in a biblical storm, mattresses most comfortable ever (good thing as ground often v stony), loo worked well. You have a good local agent. Riads excellent, esp Adore. Great value.
Many thanks. William
William M reviewing Mgoun Summit Trek on 26 October 2022
Hi Lisa, Got in at 4.30 this morning. It was absolutely incredible! Dar Adrar is as wonderful as ever and Hamed is an incredible host there- it was lovely to see him again! He couldn't do enough for us. Mohammed Eight our guide up the mountain was also absolutely amazing- we all managed the ascent due to his expertise and care. A once in a lifetime experience- my calves have finally stopped hurting now :) Thanks again to you and Tourdust for organising an amazing trip. Jen
Jennifer J reviewing Climb Mount Toubkal on 18 October 2022
We have put together some feedback from our lovely holiday, and do let us know if there is anything particular you would like feedback on that we have missed. I hope that you will be able to feel what a great time we had from this. We have just worked through the holiday in chronological order as it is easiest to think what we did then!
Ouirgane Ecolodge - lovely place to stay, a real oasis. The food was good and enormous portions, we came nowhere close to finishing them. Mohammed also had found out what we would be eating at lunchtime with the Berber family and ensured that we had a different menu in the evening which was very thoughtful. Loved the pool, especially as it was so hot. Also appreciated having filtered water available so that we did not have to buy huge amounts of plastic water bottles.
Mohammed was very helpful and quickly was able to sort out a car to take Jessica and Alan to the lunch stop on the day one village trek which made a real difference as otherwise they would have had to miss out on the whole day.
Our guide for the trek, Hussein, was good company. He had good English and was able to chat about all sorts of subjects but was also knowledgeable about the local Berber communities and taught us a few words. Lunch with the Berber family was enjoyable.
Dar Adrar - loved the trip up with the mule! Great location. Quite simple but had everything we needed. Again we liked having filtered water available. Hamid was very helpful and always available to answer our questions, fill up water bottles, make a mint tea upon request. Food good and a vegetarian option was always provided for Emily, portion size more reasonable!
Day trek - with the same guide Hussein as for Ouirgane. Alan, Daniel and Emily went on this as Jessica was not up to a day walk. They had a good time but ideally would have preferred it to be a bit more challenging. However, this was part of the trip that had to be rearranged at the last minute and worked well as part of that. Also, the cook for lunch was deemed to have produced the best food of the trip so far - meatball tagine - and they enjoyed being able to watch him prepare the meal, which was the only time this was possible. It was amazing what he was able to produce with one burner and a tiny knife!
Mountain biking trip was fabulous. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Girls loved the e-bikes, both these and the mountain bikes were of very good quality which we were impressed by. It was very tough ascent for the three of us on mountain bikes but a great descent. I can’t decide if I would opt for an e-bike or not if we went back as I did have a great sense of achievement at the end of the day but I was exhausted! Our guide (Rashid?) needed to repair Daniels chain which broke and he was able to do this really quickly which was great. Jessica came off her bike and we had to patch her up with some plasters, it was not clear whether our guide carried a first aid kit. We had our own so it was fine but if they don’t carry one it could be worth suggesting that clients carry one themselves. The lunch stop was another good one with a great view over the valley and good food and plenty of water which was required after such a challenging morning!
Riad Sila, Rebali Riads - fabulous villa, fantastic pool. Fatima and Mohammed looked after us very well. The only thing I would suggest is having a filtered water tap available as we did have to buy a lot of water bottles. We ate 3 evenings at the villa and food was good, although sometimes not quite what we were expecting. The Moroccan salad we had as a starter was amazingly delicious. Breakfasts were lovely.
We did a lot of the activities on offer:
Surfing - 2 hour lesson. Three people did this and had a great time. Thoroughly recommended
Cooking lesson with Hayadt and Attila in Essaouira - they didn’t speak much English but our French was sufficient and they were really friendly and chatty. We loved being taken around the souks and buying ingredients. They showed us how to make couscous as we expressed an interest and this was great. Alan was pleased to find someone who took the time to show him exactly how to prepare the mint tea we had been enjoying everywhere! Enjoyed making the tagine but actually it was the other bits that really made the trip.
Quad biking - 1 hour trip down the beach. Was fabulous! Great fun.
Sea had big waves and was great fun for swimming.
Sad to leave!
Riad Dar Hanane - lovely place to stay. Getting there behind the handcart was an experience in itself and we did indeed get lost the first time we went out! Mohammed gave us a little introductory talk over the obligatory mint tea when we arrived at the riad with a simple map and rough outline of where to go and how to find our way back which was very useful. The rooms were fabulous particularly the grand suite room with the mezzanine which the kids had and which was plenty big enough for the three of them to share and not be on top of each other. Breakfasts were delicious, we enjoyed using the pool to cool off in the afternoon and the roof terrace was a great place to relax at the end of the evening.
Half day tour - our guide Mohammed was very friendly with superb English. It was an interesting and enjoyable morning and a good introduction to Marrakech. We really enjoyed being able to see various artisans at work, as well as the guy stoking the hammam fires and being able go into the bakery to see the loaves cooking in the oven. These were things that we couldn’t have done on our own. The lunch at the King’s Tangia restaurant was brilliant, the meat was absolutely delicious and it was different to anything else we had had whilst in Morocco which was a welcome surprise. We had a great morning and are very pleased we did it, but whether it was value for money we can’t quite decide as it was a very expensive option, so any recommendation to friends would come with this caveat.
All transfers worked well with drivers where they were supposed to be at the right time and we were kept informed of timings etc by the relevant hotel person the night before leaving. Mohammed who met us at the airport on arrival and who did our transfer from Ouirgane to Imlil and then the coast to Marrakech was excellent. Mustafa, who was our driver from Imlil to the coast, was safe and courteous but he drove so slowly that the transfer took over an hour longer than it should have and it was starting to get a bit irritating by the end.
I seem to have written quite a bit. Not sure if this is the sort of feedback you are after! We had a fantastic holiday and have been, and will be, talking about it in glowing terms to friends. Morocco is a very interesting and friendly place to visit and has whetted the appetites of the kids to be a bit more adventurous with travel.
Thank you so much for all your help with the arrangements and rearrangements. Our holiday in Morocco was everything we hoped it would be! We have already recommended you to others and will continue to do so.
Jacky W reviewing Toubkal & Valleys Trek on 31 August 2022
We had an absolutely fantastic time, thank you! My comments here contain just very minor things which could have improved it - please don’t take it as any criticism of the holiday which we absolutely loved, but small tweaks which could have improved it even further!
Arrival and transfer were superb - lovely to be met straight off the plane and smoothly transferred straight to the waterfront.
You should note that Lawhill no longer has a dedicated reception - this caused a couple of issues getting into the accommodation and meeting our guide. Just worth letting people know as nothing which wasn’t overcome with a couple of calls to the complex reception.
The accommodation itself was ideal for us - spacious, clean and a great base to relax and go out to dinner.
Our guide from AWOL, Bevan, was first class - really friendly knowledgeable and great with the kids. 10/10!
The tours were a perfect balance for us of interesting stuff for adults and children
If I could change anything from our holiday, I’d have had an extra day at leisure in Cape Town, so much to do in the city itself.
Also worth noting the cable car to Table Mountain seems to be closed during August - just worth noting in advance as we had planned to do that. The aquarium was a good second best though which the kids probably enjoyed more!
Departure was a pain - our car didn’t turn up at 4.00 as per the schedule which was a pain, particularly that early in the morning. On contacting them, they said it has been booked at 4.45 - an extra 45 mins sleep would have been good - just worth double checking those in future.
Transfer to Madikwe was superb again and really easy
Accommodation was good - I guess this might be because we originally booked a couple of years ago, but the bed for the kids was a bit small for a 9 and 11 year old. Our bed was so big however that Chloe just bunked down with us so no problem at all. Food and service was first class.
Our safari guide, Pride, was amazing. I’d recommend a private safari to anyone - we were able to be flexible with times and destinations (for example on one day he picked us up a couple of hours early to we could drive much further into the reserve which was rewarded with some cheetahs, another day we went on an all-dayer rather than morning and evening) - mixing things up to see more made a great experience even better.
Transfer back to Johannesburg was just as easy
Johannesburg hotel was ok - nothing special but for a transfer hotel it did what we needed!
Transfer to and from the resort was seamless
The resort is lovely - food, accommodation and facilities all great. After such a busy start to the holiday we didn’t really take full advantage of all the water sports but anything we did do was really easy and great fun. Would definitely recommend it to others!
For a family like ours the drinks package wouldn’t have been good value so pleased we just went full board (having a few drinks during the day and a bottle of wine with dinner our bill came to about £450)
Just to note a specific plus from the resort: I has some issues with my banking whilst away - the resort waived the fees on my phone call back to the UK to sort it out. Little things like that really make a great impression and reflect so well on the management.
Thank you again for all your work helping us get there in such difficult times. Great memories of a superb holiday for all the family!
Matt W reviewing South Africa Madikwe Safari and Mauritius on 31 August 2022
Well overall it was an amazing trip and we really appreciated the guidance on places to go. On the ground, Victor was very helpful and we liked the mix of places.
The two stand out places and accommodations were Arenal Observatory Lodge and El Remanso - the latter being perfect in so many ways. The day trip to Cocovardo National Park was outstanding.
We enjoyed Tortuguero too - basic accommodation but excellent location and the guide there was outstanding.
Monte Verde was ok - average food, average place to stay.
With hindsight we’d skip Uvita altogether and go to Drakes Bay where snorkelling seems more accessible.
Overall an excellent holiday, which went very smoothly and a good mix of things to do.
Francesca L reviewing Costa Rica Wildlife Holiday on 30 August 2022
Driver-guide: Very punctual, except for pick up for airport when he was delayed by >30 mins due to road closures. Vehicle very clean and well maintained- plenty of water and supplies of clothing for religious sites, tissues, postcards etc. Very good at understanding what level of conversation we wanted. Happy to stop for paracetamol, supermarket etc. Took us to signal box at railway since we were early (which was very interesting)
The Walawwa: Lovely place to arrive at and get a bit of rest. Great pool, lovely rooms and food etc. Peaceful oasis so close to town.
Wilpattu Camp: Wonderful food- really enjoyed trying lots of new things in excellent surroundings.Felt like the place had not been visited much recently (which I don’t think it had due to the terrorist attacks) so our safari guide had been brought up from another park and did not know the park too well- it worked out well though and we saw all the animals we hoped to see so no complaints on that front. We did feel that we should have been told about extra things we could have done- when we commented on the great food on final day we were told that they could have done a cookery demo for us, but it was too late at that point. It worked well for us but clients should probably know that they are likely to have multiple wildlife in their tents (eg frogs)- didn’t bother us at all, but others it might do. We were given a questionnaire to fill in at the end whilst all the staff were standing around, which wasn’t ideal as you felt a bit of pressure! Felt really well looked after here!
Water Gardens Sigiriya: Beautiful suites with plunge pools- quiet and peaceful with lovely big swimming pool. Food good
Jungle Beach: Beautiful location on beach. Rooms good. Food a bit limited I would have liked a bit more variety ideally.
Camellia House: Lovely location- beautiful views. Food OK but service below average- our food orders were wrong a couple of times and even pre-ordered food was delayed. Tea factory tour was only an hour and that was the main reason to be here. It was interesting but quite brief seeing it was the main attraction according to our itinerary. Also, we were taken there in a minibus which didn’t have seatbelts on all seats and was quite smelly- not up to the standard of the usual transportation. Rooms were described as having panoramic views- one did have amazing views but the other one definitely didn’t.
Galle Face: Lovely old hotel- but it did have some problems (leaking ceiling and ‘smuts’ coming out of air conditioning.) Weather very bad (spectacular storms). It was a shame the street food tour couldn’t take place but totally understandable given the weather, however we enjoyed our dinner here and free drinks/canopes!). Good choice at breakfast.
Pippa R reviewing Sri Lanka Highlights - Classic on 30 September 2019
Once again you organised a really good holiday for us.
If there was one criticism it was that there were too many flights. I don’t know whether you could do Bangkok first, Chiang Mai, then fly down South?
Your drivers and Guides - all really good. The variety of transport on the tours in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; we all loved.
Tamarind Village - Our room was a bit of a squeeze, with the 3 of us and 3 big suitcases.
Lisu Lodge- I enjoyed our time here. Going forward I would suggest only 1 night or they need to have some more activities. I liked how we ate on the floor, the food was really good. Staff very friendly. We liked the cycling, tea plantation, trekking and white water rafting.
Riva Surya- good location.
Elephant Hills- we loved looking after the elephants, the lake was also a really good experience. The guides were informative and looked after us well. The resort locations and tents were perfect.
Santiburi - amazing; we upgraded to a beach bungalow which was fantastic. The hotel is in a stunning location, the facilities and the service was impeccable. Sam has some private Thai boxing lessons, which he loved. We had cookery lessons and used the paddle boards. A perfect end to quite a busy holiday.
Natasha L reviewing Thailand Family Adventure on 24 September 2019
The speed of response, efficiency of the booking process, flexibility/concern and information provided were all excellent. The meet and assist at the airport, punctuality, safety, general knowledge, liaison with customer and the vehicle used was excellent and the knowledge of routes and property locations was very good. Our guide was excellent with interesting knowledge and very good English, we could not have expected any more.
Jetwing Beach - The room was poor and the food Satisfactory. In general the accommodation was good, the service and location were very good and accuracy of profile excellent.
We needed to change rooms due to cockroaches in the bathroom. The staff and management were very helpful but the second room offered also had cockroaches!
Kandy House - The room, food and location were good. In general the accommodation was very good, the service and accuracy of profile was excellent.
Camilla Hills - The room was poor, the food was good. In general the accommodation was excellent with excellent service, location and accuracy of profile.
We were allocated the worst room and had no view. It was very disappointing and ruined our stay. The management we excellent but could not move us to a room with a view.
Cinnamon Wild - The food and service was good. In general the accommodation was very good with very good room and excellent location and accuracy of profile.
The Safari Drives were excellent.
Fort Bazaar - In general the accommodation was very good with very good food and excellent room, service, location and accuracy of profile.
Due to the lack of alcohol served meant we needed to eat outside of the hotel. The lack of a pool needs addressing, otherwise a lovely atmosphere and service.
Interesting and informative visit to Milennium Elephant Foundation.
Visit to Royal Botanical Gardens was a highlight of the tour with an excellent guide.
We were lucky to watch the service at the Temple of the Tooth and advise others to make sure they can do the the same 09:15 or 17:15.
Train journey - we were on the wrong side of the train so the view was limited. Fun journey though. Best part of scenery is after Hatton Station.
Drives on safari were excellent and well organised.
We did not have the tour of the fort as the guide could not accommodate our required timing.
Visit to the Tea Plantations was fascinating but brief.
Samantha S reviewing Cultural Sri Lanka for Families on 25 April 2019
We just got back from our trip and it was wonderful...It's really hard
to adjust back to real life!
We had a great trip and the trek was wonderful. Jatoo, our guide, was an
extraordinary guy, his English was very good, he knew the area very
well, he told us a lot about Thailand and he was a riot over all! I
think he made a big difference to our experience.
I'd rate the overall experience at 4. I think it'd be helpful to be a
little more detailed in the requirement up front, as we thought the trek
was walking around the forest but it was a bit more than that. We
thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, so the last day, the bike ride fell a
little short of expectations, we woke up really early and wished that we
did a bit more at the end. I'd certainly recommend it to my friends and
we'll look at other tours that you arrange in the future.
Anon reviewing Hill Tribe Trekking in Thailand on 11 May 2011
.The trekking experience was great (i.e. day 1 and 2) would rate that a 5, Day 3 was a 4, Day 4 was a 3. Some elements of the trip such as the dancers at Lisu lodge was not really necessary as we prefer to see the Lisu tribe in their village rather than a forced dance in the lodge. Also, the bike trip on day 4 was too short. I think you should look at extending this trip and rearranging some of the other activities.
Having said these, I must point out that we had an excellent tour guide (Jatoo). I would recommend him to all my friends. He was very knowledgeable, and never got tired of our detailed questions.
Overall my main disappointment was that apart from the Lahu Outpost, the "rules" did not allow Jatoo to have dinner with us. I find this very strange at this day and age. This decision should be left to the guide and the visitors, not the owners of the lodges.
Hope these comments help. We had a wonderful time and saw the best part of Thailand.
Thanks for your help.
Anon reviewing Hill Tribe Trekking in Thailand on 11 May 2011