Unawatuna – 12 Things to Do, Attractions, & Travel Guide

Located in the Galle district of Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is the most popular beach town in the south of the country. The clean waters and white sands will wash your stress away. Because it’s located over a kilometer from the main coastal road it has a laid-back vibe that is ideal for  everyone, from families to the most adventurous backpackers.

A visit to Unawatuna as it is today has little signs of the utter  devastation that the region suffered more than a decade ago when the 2004 tsunami hit. Thanks to international aid efforts officials have been able to rebuild the area, and generous donations from loyal tourists has also helped to bring the region back to life.

Things to Do

1. Jungle Beach

If you’re looking for a location in Sri Lanka, where you can walk all alone and absorb natural vibes, visit Jungle Beach nearby Galle and Unawatuna Beach, which can be a perfect choice for spending a few hours, and being a deserted seashore, it lures those who seek serenity and peace in a public place. You can also reach the location via Rumassala hill, which is 2.5 km away from Unawatuna. Climb up the mountain, and then climb down to the Jungle Beach.

When you enter the bay, you will witness a bit crowded part of the beach, where a little café serves drinks and snacks along with some Sri Lankan food to the visitors, and you can relax on sunbeds, too. However, if you explore a little more by walking a bit further from the first bay, you will encounter a more secluded area of Jungle Beach with soft golden sand and there is also a monument of Peace Pagoda, which was a gift of a Japanese Buddhist Monk in 2005, in the middle of the jungle.

The deserted part of the Jungle Beach is quiet and peaceful, and it’s perfect for swimming because of no waves. You can also enjoy snorkeling there.

Rating: 4.1/5.0

Duration: 1-2 hours

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Address: Jungle Beach Unawatuna, Galle, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Hire a three-wheeler to reach your desired location.

2. Unawatuna Beach

Are you in Sri Lanka right now, but haven’t explored the best beach in the country yet? Oh, don’t you know which is the most-visited and the top-rated seashore in the region? Well, it’s Unawatuna Beach, a heartbeat of a small resort town, Unawatuna. Encompassing by lush palm trees, a banana-liked beach with clean turquoise water, the bay highlights enthralling adventures, and it allows visitors to forget their stress and tensions by breathing fresh air at the site.

It stretches about one kilometer, and to the northwest side of the beach, you will find a Japanese Peace Pagoda shrine with a statue, and it’s an attractive landmark to explore. Though it’s a beautiful site offering endless water sports, however, excess of tourists and venders make the place less serene and charming.

A double reef protects the bay, which creates a natural pool, and that’s why it’s favorable for swimmers. By experiencing water sports such as snorkeling, surfing and stand-up paddleboarding, and scuba diving, you will get to view gorgeous species of Wrasse, Golden Morey Eels, and Bat Fish. Furthermore, if you’re fortunate enough, you will also witness turtles laying eggs along the shoreline, so explore the waters of Unawatuna to discover different species of sea creatures.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Duration: 2-5 hours

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Address: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Any tuk-tuk driver will take you there within a few minutes.

3. Japanese Peace Pagoda

Adore the magnificent architecture of Japanese Peach Pagoda, the Buddhist temple of white décor, and it looks like a giant marshmallow rising out in the jungle. Being one of the three Buddhist stupas in the country; the building erected in 2005 with the help of Japanese monks, and stupas serve as beacons of peace for everyone, whether a person is a believer or not.

With a white bell-shaped building enclosed by golden statues and stairs leading to a walkway encompassing the temple, Japanese Peace Pagoda is a pre-eminent attraction in a little town of Unawatuna, and it offers a 360-degree picturesque view of the bay and jungle.

Make sure to cover your body, and especially, shoulders and legs while touring the shrine because the keepers don’t allow anyone to infringe any rules. Moreover, the keepers of the memorial do some drum ritual around 5 pm every day. The landmark is quite impressive, and the guide will happily tell you the history of the temple, so you can spend an hour learning the past events and intriguing facts about Pagoda.

Rating: 4.3/5.0

Duration: 1-2 hours

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: Dawn to Dusk

Address: Rumassala, near Jungle Beach, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Grasp a three-wheeler from your resort/hotel to reach your destination.

4. Blue Whales & Dolphins in Mirissa

Praise the incredible creation of this universe by visiting Mirissa beach, where you can watch the giant creature, Blue whale, but that’s not it. Other pleasant species such as Killer, Bryde’s, Sperm, and Fin whales are present there, too. Not only locals but sightseers from different parts of the world and different walks of life show eagerness to visit the location, where they can peacefully watch the heart-melting movements of the most loved sea mammals. In Sri Lanka, Mirissa Beach is probably one of the most desirable locations to view whales along with adorable dolphins of distinct groups.

What you need to do to fulfill your dream of watching such enormous creatures is to ask some reliable boating tour agency for taking you in the waters, or in easy words, rent a boat from the harbor of Mirissa. You will find plenty of them. You should ask from multiple boat owners before finalizing anyone because their rates vary a lot.

The activity of watching sea animals mostly depends on weather conditions, so the best time to visit the land of Mirissa is from November to April. When it comes to dolphins, numerous kinds, including Bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Spinner, Common dolphin, Striped, and some species of Bluefin Tuna and Flying Fish increasing the worth of whale watching. Hold on! There’s also a bonus for tourists. Yes, it’s about massive sea turtles that draw visitors, too.

Rating: 4.7/5.0

Duration: 3-5 hours

Cost: 5000-6000 LKR (it may differ)

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Address: Mirissa, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Call a private car to take you to Mirissa Beach.

5. Unforgettable Snorkeling

Explore the waters of Sri Lanka through snorkeling, which is one of the favorite beach activity in the country, and when it comes to some best places to snorkel, Unawatuna is without the shadow of a doubt, an excellent location with all the necessary ingredients.

Take out your underwater mask and a snorkel, and ready to discover and admire the beauty lies beneath the water. If you don’t have the equipment, you can buy from the beach, or you can hire a guide for a few thousand bucks to help you in watching sea creatures such as giant turtles and different species of adorable fishes.

The top two locations for snorkeling include Unawatuna Beach and Jungle Beach. For Unawatuna beach, you should take guidance from professionals if you are not that expert in this sport. You will get to view coral reef, turtles, and sea mammals, and guide will provide you information about them. The beautiful adventure of snorkeling in Unawatuna Beach will stay with you for the rest of your life.

When it comes to Jungle Beach, it’s quiet and smaller than the Unawatuna Beach. Protected by a coral reef, it’s highly safe even for children. Start only 9.1 meters away from the beach, you can snorkel around the rocks, and though the tides in Jungle Beach water are mild and not harmful at all, you should still be careful while doing any underwater activity. So, enjoy snorkeling there, and praise sea creatures, including Colorful Fish, Crabs, Trigger Fish, Turtles, Barracudas, and Moray Eels.

Rating: 4.7/5.0

Duration: 2-4 hours

Cost: 1500-2000 LKR

Opening Hours: 24 hours (preferably morning)

Address: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Visit the beaches on a three-wheeler at reasonable rates.

6. Scuba Diving

Uncover the hidden secrets from the bottom of the waters of Unawatuna through Scuba Diving. Even one of the primary reasons for tourists to visit Sri Lanka is to enjoy underwater activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, and deep fishing. It’s quite apparent you can’t dive in the ocean without the help of professionals, because it’s can be quite dangerous even though you have years of experience. Every place has its rules, and people must follow them. So, let us tell you about Unawatuna Diving Center that can be a perfect choice for you.

Unawatuna Diving Center offers Reef Dives, Wreck Dives, Rock, and Night Dives with a dive depth of up to 30 meters, and the central attractions for diving are wrecks because the country has many around the coastline. The favorite Wreck is Rangoon (30 m), and others include the Wreck SS Oreste (22 m) and the Galle Ship Wreck (18 m).

While diving, there is a high chance to view more than 1,000 species such as Dolphins, Manta Rays, Whales, Turtle, Barracuda, Moray Eels, Sea Stars, and a lot more. Moreover, different kinds of hard and soft corals are also present in the waters of Unawatuna Beaches. So, plan your tour and discover new mysteries about marine life.

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Duration: 3-5 hours

Cost: Starting from 15,000 LKR

Opening Hours: 8:00 am-7:00 pm

Address: 294 Matara Road, Unawatuna 80600, Sri Lanka

How to get there: grab an auto-rickshaw from your accommodation, and you’ll be there within no time.

7. Surfing and Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Are you ready for a power-pack surfing and standup paddleboarding adventure that too right in the pre-eminent location in Sri Lanka? Being a passion of the residents of Unawatuna, and in general, the entire country, surfing is something they can’t skip from their lives. Some surf points in Unawatuna are:

Unawatuna Beach Break

Unawatuna beach has a shallow sand break, and there is also a left-hand reef break for experienced surfers. It’s perfect for beginners. However, after introducing an artificial reef in 2013 to protect the temple disturbs the natural system of the tides to some extent.

Bonavista Bay

Located at the north side of the temple peninsula; there is a wave between 3 feet to five feet with the right swell that is perfect for learners.

Dalawella Reef

A left breaker over a reef with urchins, rocks, and corals; Dalawella Reef is about 120 meters away from the central beach.

Kabalana Beach Break

Right at the seashore, there is a perfect wave for beginners, and that is Kabalana Beach Break.

South Beach

When you go a bit north of Kabalana, you will see the South Beach with a big longboard wave.

When it comes to standup paddleboarding, you need to rent a SUP, but if you aren’t familiar much with the sport, hire Aloha Sun Surf School, which is one of the old schools in Unawatuna, and you will get a highly professional staff. The team will teach you about the right positions and techniques, and they will try every possible way to make your tour memorable. This institute offers every type of surfing and standup paddleboarding packages, so pick as per your choice.

Rating: 4.9/5.0

Duration: 3-5 hours

Cost: 2000-4000 (It depends on packages)

Opening Hours: 7:00 am-10:30 pm

Address: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Your guide will provide you a pick & drop service.

8. Mihiripenna Beach

There is one location in Unawatuna, which is a bit better than Unawatuna Beach. Hard to believe? Well, everybody knows the central seashore is the prominent one is not only the city but in Sri Lanka, too. However, Mihiripenna Beach located on the south of Unawatuna Beach is a paradise for those who love peaceful public locations.

Mihiripenna features coconut palm trees, crystal-clear water, soft and clean sand, and breathtaking scenery to view. It has a safe lagoon protected with a coral reef that makes it a perfect swimming and snorkeling place for adults and kids, but if you don’t want to do any water sport activity, you can still spend hours by observing the calm sea. It’s also a place where sailors catch sardine and other fishes, and you can view various species of Colorful Fish such as Discus, Mandarinfish, and others.

There is an adjacent beach with Mihiripenna, which is home to giant sea turtles. Animal lovers would love to explore that part of the site. You can rent sunbeds on the beach, and do try Wijaya Beach Resort for some delicious snacks and cold drinks.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Address: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: An auto will be a convenient option for visiting Mihiripenna Beach.

9. Ayurveda and Yoga – Calm your nerves

It’s a blessing to find some service in a foreign land which is as reliable as you can get in your homeland. Isn’t it? So, if you’re in Unawatuna or planning to go there, make sure to check Ayurveda Lanka Spa in the town, which is famous for reducing tiredness, stress, or tension with the help of Ayurvedic treatments and yoga techniques.

Ayurveda Lanka Spa is a small center in Unawatuna with a clean and fresh natural environment, and they use hygienic material. The services include body massages (full body, back & shoulder, and deep tissue) for 3,000 LKR, Ayurveda treatments (Shirodhara, Savangadara, and Pouch Massage) for 5000 LKR, and yoga class (Shivananda style) for only 1,400 LKR. Furthermore, if you want consultation regarding your health issues, you can consult them for 2,000 LKR.

With friendly staff, peaceful ambiance, and some best services to eliminate stress with ancient tried & tested natural techniques, Ayurveda Lanka Spa deserves recognition. And the last thing is its yoga class, where you can learn some methods to calm your nerves, and it’s too under complete guidance. Though this site is one of the most trustworthy spas in Unawatuna, however, no doubt many other centers are working well, and they are excellent in doing their job, too. You can also find info about them.

Rating: 4.6/5.0

Duration: 2.5-3 hours

Cost: 1,400-5000 LKR (depends on services)

Opening Hours: 9:00 am-6:00 pm

Address: Dewala Road, Unawatuna 80600, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Hire an auto-rickshaw for visiting the spa center.

10. Nightlife at Unawatuna

If you’re a night owl, as well as a party animal, you will have a superb nightlife in Unawatuna, because it features lively places, vibrant atmosphere, lovely music, and party culture is love in the city. There are plenty of bars and clubs in the town, and some of them are highly famous not only among locals but foreigners adore and appreciate their best services, too. Some of them are:

Happy Banana

A well-known name in the city, Happy Banana is a top-rated nightclub in Unawatuna, which is renowned for traditional local songs, and it also hosts a disco party every Friday.

Kingfisher Restaurant & Lounge

Located on Unawatuna Beach, Kingfisher Restaurant & Lounge doesn’t need any introduction, because it services speak for the hotel, and it serves mouth-watering food along with drinks. The meals include soups, pasta, and some local dishes, and it hosts massive beach parties quite often. You can get a room for a stay because tourists and sightseers visit the restaurant more.

Lucky Tuna

For German travelers, Lucky Tuna is the pre-eminent location, and the restaurant arranges parties and events such as a big screen for Cricket matches and night parties.

Comaran Beach Club

Comaran Beach Club is another famous club among travelers because of its yum food, including Thai and Indian. It also arranges beach parties to entertain visitors.

The nightlife in Unawatuna is all about waterfront cafes, restaurants, beach parties, cocktails, and snacks. So, enjoy your stay to the fullest.

Rating: 4.4/5.0

Duration: 3-5 hours

Cost: Depends on where you are going

Opening Hours: Evening

Address: Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Walk on the streets of Unawatuna, but you can also hire a tuk-tuk.

11. Turtle Hatcheries in Koggala

Love wildlife? Do you want to watch cute little movements of a newly born turtle? If all of your answers are yes, Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery located on Matara Road, Habaraduwa is the right place for you, because it’s an organization that saves those sea creatures for the next generation, and they also create awareness among people, and especially, kids about the incredible species of the universe.

The building will immediately grab your attention with eye-catchy and cute murals on the front, and the paintings are all about turtles. There are tanks inside it, and you will view lovely sea creatures in them, and a little sanded hatchery section too attracts tourists towards it. Hire a guide who will give all the information regarding the animals, and somehow they allow you to touch turtles but make sure you gently hold them, and it’s better to wash your hands before taking them.

Species such as Hawksbill, Loggerhead, and Green turtles are already there in the place, and the last one lives up to 80 years. The staff of the organization keeps injured turtles for a month, and then they release them in the ocean. If you are willing to do the same, you will have to spend a bit more than the entrance fee. Moreover, if you are fond of sea animals, you will love to explore that place.

Rating: 3.8/5.0

Duration: 1 hour

Cost: 500-1000 LKR

Opening Hours: 7:30 am-6:00 pm

Address: Matara Road, Habaraduwa, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Of course, a tuk-tuk ride to the Sea Hatchery would be a convenient one.

12. Visit Galle Fort

Cancel all of your plans for a day, and schedule a trip to Galle Fort, which is a heartbeat of Galle District nestled on the southwestern line of Sri Lanka, and without any doubt, the masterpiece of Portuguese architecture. First constructed in 1588 by Portuguese rulers, but it had to face renovation when Dutch overpowered the territory. The redesigning process ended in 1663, and the present structure of the fort dates back to Dutch era.

If you are considering it any typical fort, please rethink again, because it may look like a citadel from outside with bricked walls, but the inner side will astonish you with all the mesmerizing and worth exploring attractions. Whether you are willing to view the National Maritime Museum or Dutch Church, eye-catchy Historic Mansion or All Saints Church, hypnotic Meera Mosque or Galle Lighthouse, this site full of iconic monuments will never fail to amaze you.

Furthermore, weirdly attractive stairs in Galle Fort will attract you towards it to explore, and how can someone ignore observation tower, which gives visitors panoramic views of the location. Whether you’re a believer or not, a plethora of sacred temples with charismatic architecture will add value to your trip. And yes, souvenir and gift shops with antique products nearby the fort should be your bucket list, too.

Rating: 4.7/5.0

Duration: 2.5-4 hours

Cost: Free

Opening Hours: 5:30 am-10:00 pm

Address: Church Street, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka

How to get there: A 15-minute ride will take you to Galle Fort from Unawatuna.

Where to Eat

Welcome to fresh seafood and lots of variety! The following are considered the best places to eat in Unawatuna:

1. Happy Spice

If the spouses or the kids are in the mood for delicious, authentic Sri Lankan food, take them to the Happy Spice restaurant! The place is good value for money and has a very pleasant ambiance.

2. Le Cafe Francais Bakery & Boutique

This boutique is famous for flaky croissants and delicious chicken sandwiches. Bring your kids for tasty delicacies and unforgettable pastries served in a warm, friendly environment.

3. Black & White Restaurant

This restaurant serves European, Asian, and Sri Lankan cuisine, and the beachside location provides a stunning backdrop for a beautiful evening with your partner.

4. Bedspace Kitchen

This sea-food based garden kitchen is pricey, but has excellent reviews from locals and tourists. Get ready to spend a little extra on an unforgettable experience!

Where to Sleep

A perfect vacation calls for a perfect abode, and a perfect abode calls for perfect service. Fortunately, Unawatuna has many excellent options available! Select from one of the following places:

1. Villa Thawthisa: The Boutique Hotel

The luxurious rooms of this hotel embrace a classy style, exclusive materials, home entertainment systems, and a spectacular view of the Bay of Unawatuna and Indian Ocean. They’re well known for immaculate service and boast the best seafood in the area.

2. Cantaloupe Levels

Cantaloupe Levels Hotels redefine the world famous Sri Lankan hospitality and culture by offering consideration, authenticity, and warmth. This sound establishment continues to gain a reputation as one of the most exclusively located and stylish beach hotels.

3. Tartaruga Resort

Tartaruga Hotel is the perfect choice for a memorable beachside holiday. The beach starts from the door of your room! Simply walk out of your comfy bed and right into the soft sands.

4. Coco Bay

Rooms at Coco Bay have been crafted with comfort, moderation, and sophistication in mind. They blend the classic materials of nature with open-air living. Enjoy the Unawatuna sunlight and tranquil view from your private balcony, or soak in a Jacuzzi tub.

Shopping

There are plenty of interesting artisan handicraft and jewelry shops in the area. Bright traditional handloom textiles should be on your list for a lovely momento of your time in Sri Lanka. You can find gem shops selling intricate jewelry pieces (including items made from moonstone). There are several art galleries selling local art and other items that are suitable as souvenirs and for gifting to family and friends. Of course you will also find food items such as exotic spices (e.g. cinnamon) and teas. Do your research before buying as it is easy to get overcharged; consider bargaining the price down but use a calm demeanor.

When to Go

Best time: January to March is the best time of the year to visit Unawatuna as there is no monsoon weather to deal with then. Due to the horseshoe shape of the beach the waves are calm before they hit the shore. Many water sports operators and diving centers will be open from October until April.

Time to avoid: From May to July the South-West region is hit by the monsoon storms which bring high waves and rain with them.

Dress Code

Sri Lanka has a cultural dress code which is important to uphold at religious sites and places of worship. Knees and shoulders should be covered up (carry a shawl or a wrap with you) and you  must remove footwear before entering such locations. The tourist areas of the country are used to overseas visitors so feel free to wear your holiday outfits. Try to keep your beachwear limited to the beaches, or carry a wrap with you so that you can cover up at restaurants and bars.

Getting In and Around

Unawatuna is a Southern province in Sri Lanka that is popular with locals and oversea visitors. It’s beaches are known for their golden sand, lush palm trees, and blue oceans.

Colombo: The heart of Unawatuna lies on route A2 Galle-Matara main road. The international airport at Colombo is 105km away, a 2.5 hour journey by taxi, which costs high. Taking the bus or train will be around 5 hours but it will be considerably cheaper.

Negombo: Taxi to Unawatuna will take approximately 2 – 3 hours. The bus will take about 5 hours and will be significantly cheaper, while the train offers the best value for money.

Galle: Galle is so close to Unawatuna Beach that you could choose to walk (it would take over an hour) although we don’t advise it. A taxi would cost around 500 LKR and would only take 5 minutes, while the train would only take 10 minutes.

Kandy: Get ready for a difficult choice when traveling from Kandy to Unawatuna as you choose between speed and price. While a taxi would only take about 3 hours. A bus would take a long 10 hour journey. The train will take around 6 hours but will be cheap and comfortable if you travel second class.

Ella: The best options to get to Unawatuna from Ella would be the bus or a taxi. The bus takes over 5 hours while the taxi will take almost 4 hours.

Dambulla: It is over 250 km from Dambulla to Unawatuna, and the quickest travel option is by car. Buses will take around 8 hours and will cost lot less than car.

Budget

Accommodation prices vary depending on where you stay and the quality of the establishment. It is possible to find mid-price hotels with prices ranging from $70 to $100+. If you keep an open mind you can find local eateries selling great Sri Lankan food from as little as $5. Generally seafood restaurants and beach bars are quite expensive; make sure you check prices before ordering drinks and food at these type of venues.

Use cheap local tuk-tuks for traveling within Unawatuna and to its nearby attractions. Some tourist attractions charge a high entrance fee, and water sports such as diving can be quite expensive too. Shopping can be expensive if you buy from ‘touristy’ gift shops, but you can pick up some nice items if you do your research and bargain with respect.

What Travelers Say

“This is by far our favorite beach in Sri Lanka. Quiet, romantic and absolutely stunning, this beach stretches on for kilometers.”

Goats on the Road

“ … you can sit above the beach at the Buddhist temple and  watch the sun melt into the horizon and light the sky with amazing colors”

Mathew Court of go nomad

Despite a landscape once ravaged by a tsunami, the town of Unawatuna has been rebuilt and is a safe, mellow place to travel within. Families with young children—or adventurous backpackers—will enjoy the gentle beaches and soft sands.

Whether strolling through the Mangrove trees, touring the Japanese Pagoda, or relaxing with a yoga session, Unawatuna has something for everyone.

This laid-back beach town can wash all your cares away!!!

Updated by Teddy