If you are looking for a family friendly beach town or one that has lots of facilities, Unawatuna may be the right choice for you. This Unawatuna travel guide will cover all the best places to visit in Unawatuna along with practical information like where to stay, where to eat and how much to budget. Keep reading to find out and plan your own trip!
Unawatuna is one of the most popular beach towns of Sri Lanka among tourists thanks to it’s beautiful beaches and abundance of shops, restaurants and hotels. Even though Sri Lanka is not exactly a party destination like Thailand or Bali, Unawatuna is one of the more ‘happening’ places on the Sri Lankan coast with something of a nightlife. This made it very popular among families looking for a beach with all the facilities and backpackers who wanted to party. The main strip is filled with plenty of small pubs, shacks and restaurants offering happy hours. Because of it’s popularity and unregulated post tsunami development on the coast, it has become more touristy and commercial over the years. However, the beautiful beaches of Unawatuna definitely deserve a spot on your Sri Lankan trip itinerary.
WHEN TO VISIT
Sri Lanka has 2 distinct monsoon seasons striking the north east and south west coasts at different times of the year. The best time to visit Unawatuna is during the warm and dry months from December to March. The weather is perfect for the beach (though we still got some intermittent afternoon showers when we visited during mid-December). The days are sunny and great for beach hopping! However, this is peak season with huge numbers of tourists and high prices that can drive up your budget. November and April are shoulder season months. If you don’t mind some showers and want to cut costs you can travel during this time.
HOW MANY DAYS IN UNAWATUNA?
I feel 2-3 days is sufficient time to stay in Unawatuna and explore the beaches and the other places listed here.
HOW TO REACH
BY TAXI: Unawatuna is located 150 kms from Colombo and it takes around 1.5-2 hours by taxi which costs 8-10K LKR.
BY BUS: There is no direct bus to Unawatuna. Catch one to Galle which should cost 400 LKR. From Galle, take a local bus (30LKR) or a tuk tuk (200-300 LKR).
BY TRAIN: Again, there is no direct train. Catch the train to Matara and get off at Galle. The train costs 400 LKR for the 3 hours journey. From there, catch a local bus or a tuk tuk to reach Unawatuna.
WHERE TO STAY IN UNAWATUNA
Unawatuna has lots of hotels catering to different categories of travelers. In fact, it is probably the only place on the Southern coast with such a wide variety of accommodation options making it popular among tourists. Some of the well-reviewed ones include:
- Green Gecko hostel
- Villa Unawatuna
- Thaproban Beach House
- La Villa
- Beach Grove Villas
- Thaproban Pavilion resort
- Land’s End Villa
OUR STAY IN UNAWATUNA
Thaproban Beach House is the perfect mid range choice for those looking for comfort without spending a bomb. The rooms are clean and comfortable and its located right on the main beach. We stayed here and loved the service. Their in house restaurant is also a good place for dinner on the beach.
For a more luxurious choice, check out the sister hotel: Thaproban pavilion Resort. It is located only a few mins away from the beach house and a free shuttle service runs between the two. This one is 5* and one of the best resorts in the area. The setting is gorgeous with beachfront rooms, swimming pools and a sundeck. We came here for a spa session and were highly pleased with the service.
The best way to visit all the places listed here is by tuk tuk. Remember to always negotiate fares before jumping in. For longer day trips, buses are the cheaper option. Alternatively, rent a moped/ two-wheeler to go around on your own. Most hotels/hostels offer moped rental options and wear a helmet always while riding the bike.
WHERE TO EAT
- Skinny Tom’s Deli: Undoubtedly, the best breakfast in Unawatuna with something of a cult following.
- Wijaya beach restaurant: Right on Dalawella beach with a great afternoon vibe.
- Happy Banana: Party place
- Lemongrass Café
- Happy Spice: cheap and local
10 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN UNAWATUNA
- SWIM AND RELAX ON UNAWATUNA BEACH
This is probably one of the most popular and touristy beaches in the South coast but for good reason. The beach is a long sandy stretch of golden sand and blue waters and is perfect for swimming or relaxing. As it has plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops, it’s a good option for families who want all the facilities present in one beach. The beach can get a bit crowded with tourists, locals and hawkers, but it’s a good for a morning swim and then sitting on a sunbed to relax with a cocktail. It is also a good dinner spot as there are many eating shacks on the beach post sunset.
TIP: Take an early morning or late afternoon walk along the beach to visit the little pagoda that lies on the northern end of the beach.
2.VISIT THE JAPANESE PEACH PAGODA
This impressive pagoda is located 2.5 kms from the main beach on its northern end, amidst the Russmala hills. Built in 2005 by Japanese monks as part of a project building peace monuments in conflict zones, the white pagoda has beautiful aerial views of the jungle and the ocean below. Combine your visit to the pagoda with the jungle beach which is a 10-15 mins hike from there.
TIP: As the pagoda is an active religious site, make sure to wear modest clothes covering knees and shoulders and behave appropriately. Entry: Free
3. GO ON AN ADVENTURE AT JUNGLE BEACH
Visiting this beach truly feels like an adventure! Tucked inside a jungle on the foothills of the Russmala hills, lies the semi hidden bay called Jungle beach. It is less crowded than Unawatuna beach as it’s not the most convenient to reach, but is fairly popular among locals. Hop onto a tuk tuk which will drop you near the Japanese peace pagoda from where we had to hike 10-15 mins to reach the beach. The water is pretty and nice for swimming.
TIP: Do remember that the trail gets dark post sunset, so I would suggest visiting Jungle beach in the mornings or afternoon only.
4. GET THE FAMOUS PALM TREE SWING SHOT AT DALAWELLA BEACH
Next on the list is the instagram famous Dalawella rope swing shot! It’s unbelievable how much a single Instagram shot can change a country’s fortunes but that’s what the iconic shot did for Sri Lankan tourism. It is located only 1.5 kms from the main beach and is actually pretty, especially at sunset and more suited for couples. To add the famous shot to your Instagram grid, head to Dream cabanas and try your luck. They also serve some nice cocktails and the stunning sunset makes for an amazing view.
TIPS: Swing Cost: 500 LKR for 3 attempts. Best time: mid-morning or at sunset. Tuk tuk cost from the main beach: 300 LKR
5. RELAX AT MIHIRIPENNA BEACH
Another quieter beach only 10 mins from Unawatuna beach, Mihiripenna beach is perfect if you want to escape the tourist crowds and have some peace and quiet for yourself. The water is clean and good for swimming.
TIP: Mihiripenna beach also has a coconut tree climb and swing and the price is cheaper here (300 LKR).
6. GO ON A DAY TRIP TO GALLE FORT
Take a break from all the beaches and go off on a day trip to Galle. Galle fort is located only 6 kms from Unawatuna or 15 mins by tuk tuk. This UNESCO heritage site that was built over 400 years ago, is a must visit place to get a feel of all the various cultures that have influenced Sri Lanka over the years namely the Portugese, Dutch and British. Thanks to this cultural influx, Galle fort gives off some serious European vibes with charming alleys, beautiful churches, Western architecture and a varying array of trendy restaurants and shopping choices. And the iconic Galle lighthouse (the oldest one in the country) is another must visit place in Sri Lanka.
TIPS: As the Galle fort complex involves a lot of outdoor walking, it is best to go early in the morning or in the late afternoon to escape the harsh sun. Make sure to put on your sunscreen and good walking shoes and carry enough water. Galle fort is also one of the best souvenir shopping sites in the country, so take advantage of your day trip to bring back some gifts for home.
7. WATER ACTIVITIES AT HIKKADUWA
If you want to surf, snorkel or dive, plan a day trip to Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa is located further west, around 25 kms from Unawatuna and can be easily reached by tuk tuk or car. The drive itself is really beautiful showcasing the gorgeous coastline and the deep blue waters. The main beach here is the Narigama beach which is 4kms long and the beaches of Hikkaduwa are well known for having a high number of turtles. End the day by watching one of the stunning sunsets that Hikkaduwa is known for.
If you want a detailed Hikkaduwa guide, Check out this Blog Post that i found pretty informative.
8. VISIT THE YETAGALLA BIG BUDDHA TEMPLE
A rock temple with a 9m tall Buddha statue, Yetagalla is located 4 kms from Unawatuna and is a nice place to visit for history and culture buffs. Entry: free
9. SURFING AT SAHANA BEACH
While Unawatuna is no match for Weligama when it comes to surfing, Sahana beach that is located between Unawatuna and Galle provides some pretty good surf. Surfing lessons are available for 2000 LKR for a duration of 1.5 hours and surf board rentals range from 250-400 LKR per hour depending on your bargaining skills.
10. HAVE A LOVELY DINNER ON UNAWATUNA BEACH
Unawatuna’s main beach is the best place here to have dinner. There are plenty of shacks and restaurants located on the beach offering some delicious sea food.
WHERE TO GO NEXT AFTER UNAWATUNA?
MIRISSA: Head over to one of Sri Lanka’s prettiest coastal towns that has beautiful beaches, surfing, whale watching and plenty of stunning photo spots for the gram! READ MY COMPLETE MIRISSA TRAVEL GUIDE HERE.
HIRIKETIYA BAY: Dive deeper into the South coast beaches with this beautiful and lively beach that still retains that old bohemian charm and is a hot surfing destination!
ELLA: Take a break from beaches and explore Sri Lanka’s hill country that is filled with stunning mountain landscapes, tea plantations, cooler climes and hiking oppurtunities. Perfect for nature lovers!
MORE TROPICAL DESTINATIONS
KOH LANTA: A quiet Thai island filled with beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets and lots of old world charm. Perfect for couples looking for some romance and relaxation. READ MY COMPLETE KOH LANTA TRAVEL GUIDE HERE.
TRANG ISLANDS: Thailand’s secret paradise islands with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Perfect for escaping the world into your own tropical paradise! READ MY COMPLETE GUIDE HERE.