Unawatuna is a pretty polarising destination in Sri Lanka. The Lonely Planet hate it, calling it ‘one of Sri Lanka’s less appealing beach towns’. However, I didn’t mind it at all. Once you accept that it is pretty touristy and get out of town. It’s quite lovely and relaxing. Sure there are better beach destinations in Sri Lanka. But if you want a nice balance of beach, shopping and activities, Unawatuna isn’t a bad spot to set up camp for a few days. So if you’ve tempted fate, ignored the almighty lonely planet and landed in this little beach town, then here are the 7 best things to do in Unawatuna.
1. Find An Insta-Worthy Palm Tree Swing
Anyone who’s done a quick Instagram search of what to do in Unawatuna will have seen the totally insta-worthy swing, luxuriously hanging from a palm tree on a pristine white sand beach. And I’m here to tell you guys. Yes, these swings actually exist. They are just a little hard to find. In fact, it took me two hot and sweaty, beach walks to find one. But if you are on the hunt for that perfect holiday photo, count yourself lucky you stumbled across this blog. Because I know where two of them are!
The first and maybe easiest to find is located at Mihiripena Beach. A 30-minute walk from Main Beach in Unawatuna. Mihiripena Beach is on google maps, so just chuck it in your phone and follow the directions. Once you’re there you’ll pay $200 rupee to use the swing. A local guy will help you on to the swing and even give you a push to earn his keep. At this location, you’ll also find some of the fishermen on stilts (even though they aren’t actually that cool as they are all actors, but more on that later).
The other swing I know of is on Wijawa beach just outside of Coco’s Guest House. I think this one might cost about $500 rupee for a swing. But I’m not too sure as I didn’t actually use it. Swinging around on a palm tree swing is definitely one of the fun things to do in Unawatuna beach. And you’ll end up with some pretty awesome pics (if you remember to include the palm tree, unlike me.)
2. Day Trip To Galle Fort
You can’t visit the Galle area and not check out the Galle Fort. Built in 1588 by the Portuguese and then properly fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century. This heritage listed fort and town has changed hands many times and has a violent and interesting history. Galle Sri Lanka is a 15 minute ($400 rupee tuk-tuk ride) from Unawatuna beach. And definitely one of the top day trips from Unawatuna. We set off quite early in the morning (around 8:30) to avoid the crowds and the heat, a good call on our behalf as even at that time it was stinking hot. As you enter the main gate you’ll be harassed by a few of the local tuk-tuk drivers offering tours. We avoided them but later regretted it as there is absolutely no information about the Galle Fort anywhere. The fort is actually best explored on foot so I wouldn’t recommend a tour with a tuk-tuk driver. However, I’ve done a bit of research and the 90-minute walking tour with Sanjei has some really good reviews.
3. Take A Hike To Jungle Beach
One of my favourite things to do in Unawatuna was chilling out at Jungle Beach. Main Beach can definitely get a little hectic and is lined with expensive resorts. But Jungle Beach Unawatuna is an absolute paradise! Jungle Beach is a 45 minute (sometimes steep) walk from Main Beach. Chuck it in Google or Maps.me and follow the instructions. You basically follow the road past the Japanese Peace Pavillion until you see the signs to Jungle Beach. There will be a few tuk-tuks hanging around and some fruit stalls. From there it’s a 10 minute downhill walk to the beach. You’ll see monkeys hanging about in the trees above and be able to reward yourself with a swim in the pool-like blue waters of the beach.
4. Find The Fishermen On Stilts
Finding the fishermen on stilts was another mission I was determined to complete while in Unawatuna. They are said to be on many of the beaches at dawn, noon and dusk. However, after a little research I discovered that the locals don’t actually really fish this way anymore. And any fishermen you’ll find in this area are actors. You’ll also be charged a fee just to take a photo. Pretty disappointing. However, if you do want to go and get the iconic shot. You can find the fishermen on stilts at Mihiripena Beach just next to the palm-tree swing.
5. Nab Yourself A Bali-Style Bargain
As this is a pretty touristy place one of the Unawatuna activities is shopping. The main strip which runs from the highway all the way down to the beach is packed with little Balinese style vendors touting things like bags, sarongs, t-shirts and dresses for uber-cheap prices. The quality of the cotton here is really good. So, don’t feel guilty splurging here. There were also ladies selling some lovely Turkish Towels on the beach for around $500 rupee (That’s less than $4 USD) And ya’ll know I love a Turkish Towel!
6. Try The Roti At The Hut Roti Shop
To be honest, most of the places to eat in Unawatuna we tried were a little disappointing. However, there was one teeny underrated spot that quickly became a fave. And that was The Hut Roti Shop. Unassuming with terrible fluoro lighting and music blasting out the doors, when we sat down to eat here I wasn’t expecting much. But the roti was absolutely delicious and the Kothu (Sri Lanka’s version of fried rice, with sliced up roti instead of rice) was the best we tried anywhere in the country. And cheap too! Dinner for four set us back about $500 rupee per person (That’s less than $5USD). So if you’re wondering where to eat in Unawatuna, I definitely recommend giving The Hut Roti Shop a try.
7. Treat Yo’self To A Massage
One of my favourite Unawatuna activities was my daily massage. Eat, beach, massage, sleep, repeat was basically my life in this beach town, and I don’t regret it one bit! There are tonnes of little massage places all around town. The cheapest we saw was $2,500 LKR. You just need to venture a little further than the main beach road.
Where To Stay In Unawatuna
There are a number of stunning Unawatuna hotels and Unawatuna hostels. Check them out below!
La Boheme Hostel
Apa Villa Thalpe
Pedlar’s Manor Hotel Unawatuna
Daily Budget: We spent about $40 USD per day. Staying in a nice homestay style hotel which included breakfast. We ate fruit for lunch and at a restaurant each night.
how to get to Unawatuna: the easiest way to get to Unawatuna is by private van. Which is a great option if there are a few of you. The ride takes about 3 hours from Negombo and will cost about $8,000 rupee. Alternatively, you can take the Matara bound train from downtown Colombo to Galle fort and then take a tuk-tuk to Unawatuna.
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