8 Best Restaurants in Arugam Bay + 1 Hidden Gem

Wondering if Arugam Bay’s food scene is as epic as its surf? Want to know where to grab the best post-session burger, which local curry to try, or where to have a nice evening out? Well, we’ve got the answers. Welcome to our guide to all the best restaurants and must-eats in Arugam Bay.

We never expected to find somewhere like this – on the beach, under the stars, and in the middle of seemingly nowhere, 10 people sharing a community meal like we’d never tried before.

Thomas, the owner, described his cooking as a European and Sri Lankan fusion with a blend of Indonesian vibes. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know what that is now, but I do remember how perfect the food was.

Eggplant arancini, pumpkin-infused paneer wrapped in banana leaves, a Greek salad dahl mashup, satay sauce made from local peanuts, and a creamy deep red beetroot soup. Dang that beetroot soup. This was a Tapas like we’d never had before, a real hidden gem amongst many restaurant jewels we found in Arugam Bay.

We sat there for hours sharing plates and stories with new friends we’d shared the waves with earlier that day. It was one of the highlights of our trip and a must-try if you head to Arugam Bay – and one you’ll only find at the end of this article ;). But before then, here’s what food options to expect and our favourite must-try restaurants in Arugam Bay.

A girl eating avocado on toast at Hilltop Cabanas restaurant on Lighthouse Beach

Arugam Bay food at a glance

30 years ago Arugam Bay was just a small fishing town with a few shacks on the beach. These days it’s a surf town through and through. Don’t expect much fine dining, this is a town built on bohemian hipster cafes, amazing local curries, and beach BBQs.

The good

  • Hipster Surf Cafes – the staple of the town. Smoothie bowls, tacos, burgers, avo on toast. There are too many options!
  • Local Curries – there are some unbelieve family-run all-you-can-eat curries for $1 per person.
  • Fresh fish – even though we don’t eat it, Arugam Bay has some of the freshest fish straight from the boat and on the beach BBQ.
A man prepares a falafel pita at East Falafel, one of the best restaurants in Arugam Bay

The bad

  • Pizzas – even though there are quite a few options, we suggest avoiding all the pizzerias, you’ll only be disappointed.
  • Fine dining – there are almost no options for fine dining, if that’s your vibe, you’ll need to head to a bigger city.

8 Best Restaurants in Arugam Bay

When we booked our trip, we knew there would be good surf and good vibes. But we didn’t realise how much we’d love the food. Here are our favourite restaurants, when to visit, and what dishes made these places so great.


Emily’s is a hip little restaurant just off the beach in one of the backstreets. Expect some upbeat tunes and some chilled vibes as you sit on some chic-style concrete benches surrounded by rows of hand-potted cactus’ and jungle shrubs.

A lovely British couple runs Emily’s and they offer a great range of poke bowls, burgers, toasts, and special tacos on a Sunday. Everything is made with great local produce and great care and attention. If you visit, make sure to get their fried baby potatoes, they’re to die for. 

  • Cuisine type: Western surf cafe fusion
  • Great for: Late Lunch / Dinner
  • Must try: Tacos and potato tots
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan
The sunday only tacos served at Emily's at Arguam Bay

Emily’s opens at 4pm so it’s perfect to come for a quiet late lunch and then head to the beach for sunset. Or, turn up after for an evening meal and stay for a few cocktails, they have some great drinks. Sometimes they put on a live band and throw a small chilled party, it’s a nice vibe and worth spending the evening.

Location: Surf Point Road Sinnapurna

Squeeze Me

If you’re looking for a great breakfast spot, Squeeze Me is a must-try. This small locally run surf cafe has an amazing brunch menu. Expect big colours, small details, and unbelievable flavours.

The go-to for sure is the smoothie bowls. The chefs used carved out pineapples, mangos, or coconuts as the bowl and fill it with the freshest fruits, it’s such a unique dish and a must try. If you’re looking for something more savory, their avocado on toast is also very good.

A pineapple smoothie bowl from Squeeze Me in Arugam Bay
  • Cuisine type: Western surf cafe fusion
  • Great for: Breakfast / Brunch / Lunch
  • Must try: Smoothie bowls
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

Squeeze Me stays open all day but we suggest turning up for a late breakfast or early lunch. The cafe will be quiet at 11am so you can have your choice of seat and grab an iced coffee in their quirky mismatched tile terrace. It’s a cool vibe!

Location: Sinna Ulla, Panama Rd

The mismatched tiles of Squeeze Me's seating terrace, one of the best restaurants in Arugam Bay

East Falafel

Oh, East Falafel. What can I say, this is our go-to after almost every surf. We first found these guys on the South Coast in Ahangama and we were so happy to find out they are also in Arugam Bay.

These guys make the best Israeli-inspired street food in the whole of Sri Lanka. Expect deep-flavoured Shasukas, aromatic Shawarma plates, smooth and creamy humous, and better falafels than a Tel Aviv street stall – controversial I know, but we’ll let you decide. Make sure to ask for their homemade chili sauce, it’s Chef Dilshad’s special blend inspired by his time in Mumbai.

A girl looking happy as she eats a pita wrap at East Falafel in Arugam Bay
  • Cuisine type: Middle Eastern Israeli 
  • Great for: Lunch
  • Must try: Falafel Pitta
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

East Falafel opens at lunchtime and stays open until late evening. We prefer it as a lunchtime option, but it’s also good for a quick dinner.

Location: Main street, Arugam Bay

Two falafel pitas from Arugam Bay with extra pickles

Salty Swamis

If you’re looking for the best quality food, in the most chilled spot, on the beach, then Salty Swamis is the place. These guys have the best garden looking out onto the Indian Ocean where you can lie on their canopy beds, relax, and eat the best food in Arugam Bay.

Bread is their specialty. I know what you’re thinking, bread isn’t really that special, but if you spend some time in Sri Lanka you start to realise how much of a rarity a good loaf is. These chefs handmake and bake their own sourdough and it rivals many of the London bakeries we’ve explored over the years. If there’s one meal you have to try, it’s their French toast – caramelised banana, cinnamon sugar, and some fresh ice cream, it’s another level.

French toast served in Salty Swamis, one of the best restaurants in Arugam Bay
  • Cuisine type: Western surf cafe fusion + Tapas
  • Great for: Lunch / Dinner
  • Must try: French toast
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

Salty Swaims opens early morning for breakfast and lunch, closing mid-afternoon for a few hours, and then puts on an amazing dinner service with small plates and a Tapas menu. If you come for dinner, expect morish food, complex flavours, and subtle textures across all of their options. It’s an awesome restaurant and we recommend trying both their lunch and dinner options.

Location: Main Street, Sinna Ulle

Two espresso martinis from Salty Swamis


If you fancy an all-you-can-eat local curry buffet you have to head to Mama’s, it’s potentially the best rice and curry buffet in all of Sri Lanka. These guys put on 8+ different curries that change daily. Dahl, jackfruit, soy, chickpeas, pumpkin, and unlimited popadoms for under $2, does it get any better. 

A man at Mama's rice and curry buffet filling his plate
  • Cuisine type: Local Sri Lankan
  • Great for: Lunch / Dinner
  • Must try: Curry buffet
  • Price: $ (Cheap)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

These guys have almost been around before the surfers first arrived, so if you’re in Arugam Bay you have to try it out, it’s a staple. The restaurant is open from lunch until late so turn up whenever you fancy a really big feed. Make sure to avoid their western options, the local curries are the only thing worth getting here.

Location: Main Street, Arugam Bay

A man looks at his giant rice and curry plate at Mama's Arugam Bay, enough food to feed one of the local Elephants. Mmmmmm.

Little Bang Kitchen

There are so many hipster surf cafes, local curries, and brunch bars to choose from in Arugam Bay. But, if you’re looking for something completely different Little Bang Kitchen (LBK) is a great place to try. Their menu is a Japenese and Asian fusion offering ramen, dumplings, katsu curries, and rice bowls. Don’t expect New York or London quality, but if you’ve been on the road a while it’s definitely a nice change.

The pink Little Bang Kitchen sign against the backdrop of the restaurants jungle trees
  • Cuisine type: Japanese fusion
  • Great for: Dinner
  • Must try: Mushroom dumplings
  • Price: $$$ (Expensive)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

Prices are a lot more expensive than most of the other restaurants in Arugam Bay. You do sit in a stunning garden terrace surrounded by vines and lanterns though so it’s a good place to get a few cocktails and have a nice dinner if you want something a little different. 

Location: Panama Rd, Arugam Bay

Two mushroom ramen bowls served at Little Bang Kitchen in Arugam Bay

Tandoori Hut

If you want a curry with a bit of a twist then Tandoori Hut is a great option. This restaurant offers authentic Indian curries like tikka masala, kormas, and butter paneer. Typically you pick one or two dishes each and they bring unlimited rice, dahl, okra, and garlic naans on the side. It’s a nice mixup of the traditional rice and curries you often find around Sri Lanka.

  • Cuisine type: Indian / Sri Lankan fusion
  • Great for: Dinner
  • Must try: Vindaloo
  • Price: $ (Cheap)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

If you can handle your spice, we suggest trying the vindaloo challenge. The chef claims it’s 3 times hotter than the curries you can find in London and they say it will put you in the hospital the day. We had one of the best surf of our trip the next day so we’re not too sure.

Location: Manal Rd, Arugam Bay

Shady Lane

A little off the main street and up a small hill is Shady Lane, a cool little brunch place that is perfect for spending a relaxing morning. You sit under the trees surrounded by jungle in a really well-put-together garden.

Shady Lane’s specialty is toasts. You can pick your bread and a range of toppings from avocado, local mushrooms, and pickled goodies. We suggest trying their homemade feta which has a unique flavour, who knows Sri Lanka’s exports might rival Greece in the near future.

A girl sprinkles pepper on a feta and mushroom avocado toast at Shady Lane in Arugam Bay
  • Cuisine type: Toasts and Buddha bowls
  • Great for: Breakfast / Brunch / Lunch
  • Must try: Avocado on toast
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

Although Shady Lane is open all day, we think it’s a morning vibe so it’s better to come for a late breakfast or early lunch. If you’re a remote worker this is a great place to bring a laptop and do a few hours of chilled work. 

Location: Sinhapura Rd, Arugam Bay

The garden tables at Shady Lane Arugam Bay

1 Hidden Gem

We hope you enjoy all of our suggestions and try a few out, we promise you won’t be disappointed. But if there’s one place we highly recommend if you visit Arugam Bay, you have to try Hilltop Cabanas restaurant.

Hilltop Cabanas

Thomas runs an unbelievable restaurant at Hilltop Cabanas. He describes his food as a blend of Sri Lankan and Indonesian vibes with a twist of European quality. It shows. You can get dahl curry and greek salad mashups, kimchi and eggplant arancini tapas, pumpkin paneer wrapped in curry leaves, and homemade tofu with satay sauce made with peanuts from the local farms down the road.

A greek salad and dahl meal with fries served at Hilltop Cabanas restaurant
  • Cuisine type: Western / Sri Lankan Fusion
  • Great for: Brunch / Lunch / Dinner
  • Must try: Community dinners
  • Price: $$ (Medium)
  • Suitable for: Normal, Vegetarian & Vegan

Hilltop Cabanas is both a hotel situated 45 minutes north of Arugam Bay at Lighthouse Surf Spot and a restaurant. So you can choose to stay a few nights, which is an unbelievable experience, or come for a surf and stay for the food.

Book: See most recent prices

A local Sri Lankan man serving two meals at Hilltop Cabanas restaurant

Hilltop has great options for any mealtime. But if you get the chance we highly suggest staying for one of their community meals in the evening. All you do is tell Thomas you want to join the dinner a few hours before, pay $6, and he’ll bring a whole sharing table of whatever he fancies cooking that night, it’s a great opportunity to eat something different and spend the evening sharing stories or reminiscing on who got the wave of the day. It’s a must-do if you visit Arugam Bay.

Location: Lighthouse beach, manal chenai, Komari

A group of travellers sit around a shared tapas dinner at Hilltop Cabanas restaurant

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