The south of Sri Lanka is a perfect tourism destination, especially if you like surfing and yoga. Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats are a great option, especially if you enjoy all-inclusive, no-worries travel. With many different surf and yoga retreat options, it can be hard to decide which retreat to book. Here is our guide comparing the 5 best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats!
Offering all-inclusive week-long surf and yoga retreats based in Weligama, these retreats are held at an amazing colonial villa in the jungle near the town. Included are four surf lessons, eight yoga practices, breathwork meditation sessions, two daily meals with private chefs, a cooking class, and charity give-back days. They also take you on a safari through Udawalawe National Park which is packed full of wild elephants and other beautiful creatures. A great value for seeing a lot without needing to plan anything. We also like how everyone starts and finishes the experience together, allowing you to make deep, lasting friendships.
Weeklong packages include six surf sessions, six yoga classes, one massage, and daily breakfast. A bonus is the friendly local owners and delicious Ahimsa Vegan Cafe (extra cost but worth it) located on the property. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, quietly nestled away from the main road. Other packages and longer stays are available on their website. Less all-inclusive but better for more independent travelers.
For a more luxury option, enjoy Soul & Surf’s new and modern rooms and beautiful swimming pool. Included in a one-week stay are three meals per day, seven yoga sessions, ten surf outings, two meditation sessions, a guided SUP adventure and more. Great if you want to spend your time relaxing in one place; the downside is that it’s a little off the main drag. Oh, and the swimming pool is a nice bonus.
Weeklong price: ~ $1,500 USD for a shared room – $2,500 for a luxury private room. Check their website for options and availability. Prices lower in off season (May-November).
Made for the more serious surfer crowd, Sunshine Stories retreats include many different types of training to take your surf to another level. Included in their packages are seven breakfasts, five lunches and dinners, ten yoga sessions, five surf lessons, a variety of surf classes and video feedback, a temple visit, and your own surf video.
Weeklong package price: $899 USD for a shared room in their villa.
Located in Ahangama, Camp Poe is a boutique oasis which offers luxury safari tents or bungalows for accommodation. They also have a swimming pool and honestly some of the best yoga teachers on the island. Their packages include seven breakfasts, five dinners, five surf lessons, surf theory, five yoga classes, and included tea and unlimited water.
Weeklong package price: from $699 USD for private tent. Cheaper shared tents also available. More action-packed deals are also available with twice the surfing, more yoga, and included photo & videos. Check their website for other price options.
All of the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats include transport to the surf spots and surfboard rentals. Check their website for more exact itineraries and lists of optional add-ons. Keep in mind that the weather is best in the south of Sri Lanka between November and April, and prices are higher during this season. If you are looking for the best budget Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats, consider coming in the off season to save and enjoy less crowds.
Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around. Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.
Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island
The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours. The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park. It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world. You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture. Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes. First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat. Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives. You might get a seat, you might not. Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey. Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!
Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka. If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet. Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters. Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving! The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you. Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour. Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs). For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page. Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment. Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.
These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island. They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like. A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night. They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage. Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen! In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.
Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream). Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day. In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation. Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo. Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police. Watch out for police roadblocks in every town. We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us. The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.
Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget. A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating. If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival. If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals. Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo. Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.
Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo. Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country. Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka. There are several options to get you where you need to be:
Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit. This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station. This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price. However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo. They depart every 15 min or so when full. There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).
Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination. Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you. Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.
Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination. The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.
Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot. We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say. Just keep your cool and everything will be fine! What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!
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Bigger Life Adventures is our new yoga and adventure retreat company featuring us, Zach and Carrie, leading you on adventures in incredible countries around the world! This is our newest video, showing you a little more about what a trip with Bigger Life Adventures looks like!
A few of the things we want to share with Bigger Life Adventures are yoga, meditation, clean living, amazing destinations, vegan food, and giving back to the local communities. 10% of all participation fees are donated directly to charities working in countries where our retreats are located. This year we will be hosting retreats in Southern California, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Check out the dates and maybe we’ll see you there?
While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour. This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history. Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly. Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!
After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city. Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!
Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate. It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river. We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically. One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.
Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy. We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple. Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life. “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious. I am a piece of work sometimes.
Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City. The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.
Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies. Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.
Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city. We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.
While spending time in south Sri Lanka, we were fortunate to come across Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat. They run monthly week-long getaways in the Bandara Watte Villa, a beautiful colonial escape surrounded by many local animals including wild peacocks. Located in the jungle nearby Weligama, Sri Lanka, their adventures are equally focused on surfing and yoga, using experienced local surf guides and certified yoga instructors. They also feature a “give back” volunteering day where participants visit a local school, teaching the children yoga and donating school supplies.
Unlike a lot of the yoga camps in the area, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat takes you surfing almost every day. Weligama Bay near the villa is the perfect spot for beginner surfers. For more experienced surfers there are many opportunities for close by beach and reef breaks in Unawatuna, Galle, Ahangama, Midigama, and Mirissa. We loved how they used only local surf instructors; the guys were super nice and helpful especially for the newbies.Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat also features a “give back” day when you get the opportunity to check out a local school and lead activities for some children. The kids really love it and it’s a great opportunity to see into the lives of little Sri Lankans. They have so much energy, and by the end of the hour all the adults are dripping sweat, the kids still running circles.
The morning and sunset yoga practice is at the Bandara Watte Villa. You listen to the sounds of the jungle while peacefully drifting into a meditative state. If you get lucky a peacock will show its feathers.
One of the highlights of the retreat was the food! The chef, Mahendra, creates local dishes with a twist of western fusion. The curries he makes are some of the best we’ve had, the spices deep and complex, but comforting and familiar at the same time.
Whether in Sri Lanka for a short time or a long trip, Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat is a great way to see and do a lot, without worrying about anything. The staff is top-notch and the venue is classic, you’ll quickly feel at home and not want to leave!
The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy. The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs! Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari! He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.
We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises. At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms. By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam. The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka. For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup). So yum!
Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama. The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish. They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time. The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals. I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!
Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland. Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”. They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake. We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices. We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products. We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.
The next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka. They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives. There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach. One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!! Cute little tiny things. We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.
Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna. Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay. The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical. When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean. With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.
Dark now, we headed home. Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye. Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks. Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide! We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point. Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!
As soon as we arrived in Thailand we started noticing people’s traditional tattoos. After a few internet searches, we learned more about the “Sak Yant” as they are called– magic bamboo tattoos. Sak Yant are beautifully designed and come with a blessing, their goal to grant protection and to give strength to the bearer of the tattoo. The sacred tattoos are given by Buddhist monks, or ex-Monk tattoo masters called Ajarns. The Ajarns dedicated their lives to learning the ancient art, passing the traditions down to their apprentices.
Our Sak Yant Experience in Ayutthaya
After the initial research we put in, we were turned off by the whole “free tattoo in the temple thing” as from the accounts we first read the process seemed crowded and rushed, with questionable sterilization practices. We searched for a more personable experience, and that is when we found Where Sidewalks End Travel. WSE’s owner Ian has spent years traveling all over Asia looking for the best Ajarns masters of the art of Sak Yant. He now offers the most authentic Sak Yant experiences for travelers by providing a translator/guide and making sure participants really understand the purpose of the tattoos they are getting.
On the morning of our appointment, our guide, Coco, picked us up at our hostel and we took a taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. From there we took a mini van for the 1.5 hour journey north to Ayutthaya. We chose to go to Ayutthaya because of the amazing things we had heard about Ajarn Wao, the sak yant master there, and his psychic abilities. He seemed like the best choice and we trusted him to use his mastery to help us decided on the right sak yant tattoos for us.
Once in the city, we stopped to buy marigold wreaths as an offering. After getting the flowers we jumped into a tuk tuk that would take us to the “samayant” the studio/temple where the ceremony would take place. After driving past the temples of the old Thai capital, we arrived and were welcomed upstairs into the sacred space.
The room was open with many windows. At the far end was a tiered altar containing many images of the Buddha, Ganesh (the elephant god and god of art), and other sacred figures. Incense burned in the corner and the master’s apprentices sat patiently at the side of the room. While we waited for Ajarn Wao, our guide Coco told us some guidelines to follow in order to be respectful. These included never pointing your feet towards the altar and walking with bent knees, aiming to never walk taller than the Ajarn.
When Ajarn Wao entered the room, we kneeled at the front and lit nine sticks of incense each, nine being the most lucky number in Thailand. We then presented our marigold wreaths which were hung on the altar. Carrie decided to go first, since she had more tattoo experience. Through our translator Coco, Carrie answered questions about her birth-date, along with a few details about some struggles she has had and her desire to be more mindful in her life. Ajurn Wao made a chart in his notebook, which he used to explain her future and recent past.
Carrie’s Sak Yant Experience:
Carrie’s tattoo was decided; she would receive a tiger to protect her and give her strength. The tiger would be depicted looking over its shoulder at her past, which was difficult but would make her stronger. In the future her enemies will become jealous of her strength and success, and will try to take it from her, the Ajarn said. But in the end she will overcome, emerging stronger than ever. Thus that tattoo was also a reminder to stay in the moment, to not worry about the future.
Ajarn Wao worked fast, but Carrie’s tattoo was large and it took nearly an hour. It was amazing the precision of his needle strikes. After he wiped the ink away, intricate patterns were revealed. As he went he was constantly uttering blessings, his mantras calming. After a few more blessings were added, the tattoo was finished.
But Ajarn Wao wasn’t done. He wanted to give Carrie a special additional oil sak yant tattoo, invisible but still powerful. Our guide said that this was very rare. Carrie agreed and soon a design formed on her upper back out of small bits of blood. The oil yant would fade over the next few days, but it’s lucky magic would remain.
Zach’s Sak Yant Experience:
As it was my turn the calmness left me and my palms became sweaty. I sat in silence with plans to share about some of my struggles, my idea that I was my own worst enemy. I knelt before the Ajarn and before I could speak a word, he said to me (translated through Coco) “You need to decrease your ego. Try to think before speaking.” This was shocking because ego was what I already knew to be a problem and exactly what I had planned to bring up.
He then figured out the meaning of my birthday. In the Chinese calendar, I am born in the year of the rabbit. However, Ajarn Wao based his predictions on the Thai calendar. Under these dates, I was born in the year of the snake, and on Saturday, the day of the snake. This double snake made me very powerful, but my biggest enemy was my ego. The Ajarn then asked me about what I wanted to share, and I exclaimed that everything had already been said. I felt as if Ajarn Wao could see into my soul, which was scary but also calming in a way, as understanding your weaknesses is the only way to truly overcome them.
My tattoo was to be a blessing, with an emphasis on a chicken. The chicken would distract the snakes (my ego) and help bring my consciousness away from my ego’s control. It would help me to listen and think more before speaking, allowing me to choose the right words at the right time. After a blessing I bent forward, away from the master who began inserting the inked stick into my back.
Traditionally given with sharpened bamboo, present day Ajurns use sharpened steel poles called “khem sak”. At first it was just a few pricks, but soon I could feel the sharpness grind against my spine. My knuckles turned white and sweat poured down my face. I was warned that the placement would be difficult, and I was given a mantra to repeat when it got rough. I noticed that the others present felt my anguish and my reaction was laughter which engulfed the room. Soon I was able to relax myself and I became numb.
I noticed the apprentices, who where holding me still, stand and the sak yant sacred tattooing was finished. Ajurn Wao splashed me with cool water and a flood of energy flooded by body. I felt a great power come over me, as if I was new. A smile spread over my face as gold leaf was rubbed into the blessed tattoo.
After we were both finished we thanked Ajurn Wao and presented our donations to him for his services. He told us that in our relationship we needed to stop trying to one-up each other, to listen more and let things go. He was spot on again! This man has real wisdom.
We chose this experience because of the reputability of WSE Travel. Other options include going to a temple where the tattoos are given in exchange for an offering. In these places you will wait in line and receive a tattoo for very cheap, but it may be rushed and you will miss the personal experience. While the needles at the temple are sterilized, they are dipped into the same ink from person to person. Theoretically this could spread diseases and even though our research never found any confirmed cases, we decided that it wasn’t for us.
This was hands down one for the greatest, most spiritual experiences of our traveling lives, and the lessons we learned have immeasurable value. WSE’s Sak Yant tattoo experiences are definitely not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and this is a lifetime commitment. With their inside knowledge and their commitment to sustainability and making sure the sak yant tradition continues in Thailand, WSE was the obvious choice for us. They also offer experiences in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai along with ink-less blessings in Bangkok. We’ll write an update on our tattoos and how they are affecting our lives soon! Do you think Ajarn Wao’s predictions will come true?
Would you get a sacred tattoo to help you on your life journey?
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