Unawatuna: 6 Things to Do in Sri Lanka’s Beach Paradise
March 21, 2020
After nearly a month of travelling around Sri Lanka, I was really looking forward to Unawatuna. After hearing about its beautiful beaches and no dearth of things to do, all I wanted was to stretch out under the sun on golden sands and relax.
Unawatuna delivers on that. It’s got some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country, is excellent for surfers, has plenty of incredible food options, and lots to do. I spent three days in the city and at the end of it, did not feel like leaving.
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Unawatuna is a couple of hours by road from Colombo. The easiest ways to get here are by bus, cab and tuk-tuk.
Local buses ply between Colombo and Unawatuna. I was coming here from Weligama, so would have had to take a bus from Mirissa instead.
Use PickMe. PickMe is the Sri Lanka equivalent of Uber and offers car rides at very reasonable rates. I used this throughout my time in south Sri Lanka and found it reliable and helpful.
If you’re not too far from Unawatuna, say Mirissa or Hikkaduwa, you could always hop into a Tuktuk! It remains a favourite way to travel around Sri Lanka. You can even consider hiring and driving around the country if you’re travelling for a while!
Best Time to Visit
Unawatuna lies on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. The best time to be here is from December to March, and maybe early April.
It starts getting rainy from late April onwards, and the beaches are not exactly ideal for surfing at the time. For someone who simply wants to unwind, April is a decent time as well, because even the rain isn’t incessant – just short bursts. If you’re specifically planning to surf though, stick to peak season.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Camp Kush, a campsite hostel located in the mangroves of Unawatuna. The owner had actually waived all charges for backpackers at the time, since Sri Lanka was still reeling from the Colombo blasts (April 2019) and it was an uncertain time for travellers. It’s a lovely place which offers yoga classes and also has some really friendly dogs!
This has to be the first on the list. It’s a very long beach and also rather broad. There are lots of restaurants, cafes and shacks that offer sunbeds along the stretch, which makes it a great place to spend as much time as you’d like. Unawatuna Beach offers some good spots for swimming as well as for surfing. The beach connects to the central part of the town and gives access to the local markets and some excellent restaurants as well. You can pretty much visit at any time of the day. The vibe at and after sunset is also quite incredible.
A lot of resources will tell you this famous Instagram swing is at Wijaya Beach. Wijaya Beach is actually the name of a restaurant a little further up, but do yourself a favour and do not eat there. The food isn’t all that great, and you’ll find a ton of other local joints serving much better nosh.
The exact location for the swing is Dream Cabana, a little shack that’s located exactly where the mighty coconut tree housing the beach swing is. I really wanted to hop on to the swing, but the high tide and choppy waters made me feel a little apprehensive. The guys at the shack are super sweet, though. I made one of them show me how to do it before I went on myself and he was happy to oblige. They warned me not to try and jump off, though, because those choppy waters hid sharp corals and you don’t want to hurt yourself.
It costs LKR 500 for three rounds on the swing.
It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun, and once I’d had the taste of it, I didn’t want to stop 😀
3. Jungle Beach
This one’s a local favourite and is still sort of a secret. We took a Tuktuk to Rumassala Hill and at one point, saw a sign that pointed us to Jungle Beach. From there, it was a bit of a hike downhill through some very leafy areas along the mountain. 15 minutes or so later, we were able to see the stretch of sand that makes this tiny beach. There was only one cafe with sunbeds there and very few people. Locals, mostly. One of the tinier hideouts which hasn’t been fully commercialised yet, so definitely one for the itinerary. That is if you’re up for a hike.
4. Take a day trip to Galle
This is where you want to go to experience a little bit of Sri Lanka’s history. Galle was built as a fortified city by the Portuguese and still retains the same charm within its walls today. The fort is a heritage site.
The streets are dotted with Dutch-colonial architecture, churches, mosques and museums. There are plenty of little shops that sell jewellery, trendy boutiques, stylish cafes and hotels that offer a contemporary experience in a town that still lives in a different era. Walk along the wall of the fort and take in endless views of the ocean.
You can’t miss the famous Galle lighthouse. It’s a defining piece of architecture in the area and also one of those very highly Instagrammable spots.
5. Swim in an Infinity Pool
Luna Terrace is located near Galle Fort and offers a rooftop infinity pool that can be used even if you’re not staying at the hotel. It offers incredible views of Unawatuna Beach. Great idea to head there for drinks and a sunset 🙂
It costs LKR 500 (INR 200 / $2.5) to use. That’s not a bad deal at all, I’d say!
6. Get breakfast at Skinny Tom’s Deli
I love eating local food at local places, and Skinny Tom’s caters more to tourists, but the hoppers here are so, so good that it’d be wrong not to give them a special mention. The deli offers a variety of options too. I went there for breakfast twice and ordered the regular hoppers one day, followed by shakshouka hoppers on the second. I’ll give them points for consistency because the hoppers, the curries they came with and the coconut sambol were excellent both times.
Unawatuna was my last stop in Sri Lanka, and I was headed back home from here. It’s why I wanted to relax a little bit after travelling through the island country for over nearly a month. What did I do during this month, you ask? It’s all here –