Regardless of what you are looking for when you decide to spend some days on the beach while in Sri Lanka, Unawatuna may be the perfect spot for you.
I admit, when I went there I was a little prejudiced against it. I ideally like endless empty beaches, me being alone with my thoughts and having the ocean all for me…or, well, mostly for me. I am ready to share it with the surrounding natureJ Yeah, I know, I am a bit possessive and selfish when it comes to my relationship with the sea. Of what I knew and read about this place, I was ready to encounter the opposite: a noisy place with sun lounges, restaurants, people trying to convince tourists to buy different stuff, beach parties, etc etc. I was not necessarily wrong in assuming this, there is this dimension of the place with the mention that the sun lounges are placed at reasonable distances one from the other, the vendors know when to stop and the music still allows you to hear the waves…this populated beach strap is basically behind a rock and if you are walking from the town area, you need to pay attention not to miss the narrow street full of shops and restaurants that leads eventually to the same place. But if you do, no problem, at some point you will reach the ocean and figure out where everything was hiding J during day time, it is a fairly animated, but still peaceful place, family oriented given the calm water child friendly atmosphere. Boats inviting you to go on board and try diving are scattered around the place, terraces where you can enjoy your morning coffee and sun lounges to relax all day.
At night however, the place transforms vibrant with beach parties, bonfires and people looking for a fun way to spend the evening. You can also find softer, more romantic places for a reasonably quiet dinner with your loved one.
If you are fond of all this animation, plenty of guesthouses and boutique hotels along the beach where you can stay and be at a walking distance from it all. You need to be aware though you will pay the price for it, as those places are double or triple as compared to the ones more secluded but offering the same facilities. I would also not recommend it for families with children as the party may continue until late at night. Instead, head to the charming guest houses in the jungle and you will discover a paradise of lush vegetation and be woken up by a soft concert given exclusively for you by all the birds residing in the trees.
Unwatuna also has beautiful secluded beaches like Jungle Beach where you can find peace and quiet and wild nature, and some alone time, so I declared myself happy. If you go during weekdays, chances are few people will be there with you. At weekend, it gets a little more animated with a mix of local and foreign residents looking for a splash. A few more other beaches that are if not lonely, at least less exploited are at an easy distance. They may not be so suitable for swimming due to the rocks, but they make wonderful sunrise and sunset walking spots.
I would encourage you to visit the two temples that are better known namely the Yatagala, a cave temple at a much smaller scale than Dambulla, but very much worth seeing not only for its wall paintings, but also for the great views and some peace of mind. It also has one of the oldest Bo Trees in the country. The other one is more at hand, you can just go from the beach and take a look at the Japanese Peace pagoda, preferably close to the sunset. The view is stunning and the colours will leave you breathless. Pay attention to the dress code though. Since you can go from the beach, remember to take some modest attire with you on the day you plan to visit the temple: long trousers, a long dress not see through would suffice.
But I mentioned the word hub, didn’t I? well, I had a good reason. Unawatuna is at approximately 6 km from Galle, namely in maximum 20 minutes you can be in the old fort and explore it at leisure. If you fancy whale watching, Mirissa is at less than 50 km from you, so be an early riser,and go for it. Some national parks like Yala, Bundalla, Kumana are also not very far, about 3 – 4 hours away. You may spend half a day or one day watching birds, observing the life of animals residing the parks disturbed only by us, the curious visitors. A good 2-3-hour drive will also take you to Udawalawa and discover the wonderful world of elephants. For all this, you will need to make an effort and start early…hmmm…very early…but it is all worth it. Lying on the beach has its charm, but it would be such a pity to leave the South without exploring other places too.
So, yes, Unawatuna is mostly a place with everything at hand without being over fancy or full of big hotels…just chilled…and unassuming…Give it a try.
Until we meet again, safe travels….