The real live Unawatuna lies inside of Route A2 Galle - Matara main road. Unawatuna is 5 km south of Galle following the coastline. For the original village where it started, Yaddehimulla, you turn off the main road just before 123 km Post. The tarred road, a kilometre in length, brings you to the best area of Unawatuna with all the guest houses, homestays, restaurants, hotels, internet cafes, tuk-tuk stands, boutique hotels, etc.
Unawatuna is 150 km south of Colombo's Bandaranayaka International Airport in Katunayaka. Public transport from Bandaranayake International Airport to Colombo is available just outside the airport. The journey through busy Colombo roads take over 3 hours by private vehicles. Most hotels and guesthouses offer an airport pick-up service for a hassle-free quick get-away (Rs 8500).
From Colombo downtown, catch the Matara-train (with ocean-view) and jump off in Galle (takes almost three hours, Rp 180) and take either a tuk-tuk (Rs 300-400) or local bus (Rs 15) from Galle to Unawatuna. Recommended from Colombo downtown to Galle are aircon mini-buses that take 3 hours as well (Rs 230).
Alternatively take the route 138 bus to Maharagama (1-1½ hours) then hop on Sri Lanka's only highway bus (Rs 470) to ride the rest of the way to Galle in a modern air-conditioned coach in around an hour. The highway is being extended to the airport to the north and along to Hambantota on the South Coast.
There is also a direct bus service from the Hill Country which stops at various locations along the south coast including Mirissa and stops at Unawatuna before terminating in Galle.
The easiest way to get around is by tuk-tuk. Day trips to Dutch Fortress in Galle (Rs 200 one-way), Martin Wickremasinghe Museum in Koggala, Hikkaduwa (Rs 1,000 one-way), Mirissa (Rs 900 one-way), Ahangama can be fun on a tuk-tuk.
Deal with the driver, make sure there are no hangers on, or you will be taken for a ride.
They can be hired for the whole day, just the trip or to be dropped off some destination. Most of them can be contacted by mobile phone. Get an idea of their charges before hand.
By private transportation
Longer trips and round tours can be arranged with car or vans. Sunrise Tours near the Wella Devalaya got well maintained cars and vans.
Public transport trains and air-con buses are the cheapest mode of transport. There is a regular public bus service to and from Galle's main bus station. The 5-km journey takes 15 minutes for Rs 19. From here you can get buses onto Colombo (bus, luxury-AC minibus (approx. Rs 230) or using the express service (which uses the new express highway) (Rs 470) or any other destination north along the A2. Galle train station is next door to the bus station.
- 1 Japanese Peace Pagoda (2 km from Unawatuna). A gift from the Japanese, this amazing pagoda is well worth a visit. To get there you can take a 3-wheeler or to walk (20 minutes) follow the road through Unawatuna (away from the A2) until you reach the small t-junction. Turn left to return to the western tip of the beach and the temple, turn right for the pagoda. Continue up the hill, following the clear signs for Jungle Beach. The pagoda, and the rocks further along the track, offer amazing sunset and wildlife photograph opportunities.
- 2 Jungle Beach (3 km from Unawatuna). A small beach lost in the jungle. This is the best place in the area for snorkelling, with easy access to the water and a sheltered bay from the stronger waves and currents in Unawatuna. Access by boat, by tuk-tuk from Unawatuna, or follow the directions to the Japanese Peace Pagoda, continuing along the track towards the sea.
- 3 Turtle Hatchery, Matara Road, Habaraduwa (about 3 km south of Unawatuna). Day time. A hatchery run just off the beach to conserve turtle eggs laid on the wide long beach stretching all the way to the hotels in Koggala. Hawksbill, loggerhead and green turtles nestle here. Rs 300.
- 4 Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya, Yatagala Unawatuna (turn off at Eramudugaha junction), ☎ . 24 hr. Ancient Buddhist temple built by Sri Lankan royalty dating back to 2300 years when a sapling of the Sri Maha Bo Tree in Anuradapura was planted here during the reign of His Majesty Devanam Piyatissa. Donations accepted.
- 5 Handunugoda Tea Estate. The world's only producer of Virgin White Tea. Visitors will be treated to a free tour of the grounds with complimentary cake and tea at the owner's bungalow overlooking the picturesque jungle and paddy fields of Tittagala. Following that a tour and explanation of the tea processing plant is provided - the machinery may or may not be in operation at the time of visit. Finally guests are invited to sample dozens of teas and can purchase those that they wish. The plantation also produces rubber and grows a host of other fruit and spice producing plants. Although interesting, the tour guides seem to vastly over exaggerate the health benefits of their products.
1 Sea Horse Divers, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. One of the many diving centres on the Unawatuna beach, good instructors, possibility to dive for people without license with a discovery dive. €25 per dive.
The coral reef allows to discover beautiful fishes and seashells. Snorkels and masks can be borrowed in guesthouses or diving centres.
2 Unawatuna bay is safe for swimmers. From the middle of the beach (Unawatuna Beach Resort area) it is safe to swim to the rock island, however climbing the rock island might be dangerous and is not recommended. It will take you one hour or more to go and come back. Giant but friendly sea turtles might pop up close to you.
Take a boat ride to see the local reefs. In off-season, expect high-pressure sales and reneging of struck deals followed by demands for extra cash.
Walk to Mihirripenna
Total walking time to 3 Mihirripenna is about 1½ hour. Leaving the tourist area, walk along the main road towards Unawatuna town then take a right up the road next to the Unawatuna Tea Room. This takes you up past the town school and sports ground (locally known as the Olympic Ground) then winds through the jungle in a southernly direction. The picturesque and quite setting is a welcome break from the noise and bustle of the town and tourist strip. After crossing the railway line twice, which locals use as a footpath, the road joins back onto Matara Road (the main south coastal road). Turning left will lead you towards a group of cafes and hotels. The Wijaya Beach Cafe provides excellent sunset views over the sea and has a coral reef a short way offshore, taking the strength out of the waves.
The streets and beach of Unawatuna offer dozens of places to buy jewellery, clothing, art and other souvenirs. There are no ATMs or money changers, the closest ATM to Unawatuna is in HSBC bank located on Route A2 heading towards Galle.
In Unawatuna most guest houses have their own restaurant business. All over the beach and inside Unawatuna town you will find places to eat delicious seafood, rice and curry, vegetarian menus, roti, Italian food, etc.
- 1 South Ceylon Restaurant. Paradise for vegans and vegetarians. Wonderful service, reasonably priced organic food.
- 2 Peacock seafood restaurant. Comfortable place with affordable food and the best sea views.
- Unawatuna Beach Resort - for those who prefer extended buffets.
- 1 The Social (Riddim), Matara Road, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Restaurant and bar located at the east end of the beach. A bar for the fans of world and reggae music. Parties organized on Wednesday and Sundays.
- 2 Kingfisher. Beach party on Saturdays.
- 3 Happy Banana. Disco party on Fridays.
- 4 Lucky Tuna. Also on the beach.
You will find a huge amount of nice guesthouses in Unawatuna. Guesthouses on the beach are usually the most expensive and they become cheaper if you move away from the beach.
- 1 Marcus Rock House, Yaddihemulla, Unawatuna, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Very close to the beach, on the hill, facing to the beach, peaceful environment. Free wi-fi. Hot shower. 20 rooms. King-sized beds and private balconies. Small library. Friendly family run business. You will feel at home here. Rs 1500 - 2500.
- 2 Ocean Hill, K.A. Arjuna, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheap guest house 100 m from the beach. The rooms are clean and the breakfast is very good. There is no hot water. Rs 1500 (breakfast included).
- 3 Sadhana Birdhouse, 212/A, Yaddehimulla Road (5 minutes along Yaddehimulla Road.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 12:00. The Bird House is a beautiful guest house set back from the Unawatuna beach offering a warm welcome from a friendly Sri Lankan family. The rooms are spacious and clean with an attached bath room and balcony. US$10-25.
- 4 Surfcity Guesthouse, Unawatuna beach (close to Unawatuna beach resort), ☎ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. This hotel is not on the beach but has beach views. So if you want to relax on the beach better opt for other hotels. If you want cheaper accommodation then this hotel is a good option. Cheap rates, clean, friendly staff. Three types of spacious rooms with beach-sight verandas: 1. basic double rooms, 2. double rooms with a.c. and hot water, 3. luxury suites. Breakfast, lunch and dinner available at extra cost. Free internet and wi-fi service. from Rs 1500.
- 5 Manidi Villa, Unawatuna Beach Road, western part (close to Hot Rock Restaurant). The guesthouse is on a small rock, the restaurant facing the sea. Fan and a/c rooms of different quality, the cheap ones without a window smell like dog shit. The more expensive ones also smell of dog shit aroma but have great sea view and are good value. Friendly touchy-feeley owners, free Wi-Fi in restaurant and some of the rooms, good food for a reasonable price. from Rs 4400.
- 6 Sea Breeze Guest House, bogohawatta-unawatuna (one-minute walk from the beach), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 11:00. Nice clean private rooms with attached bathrooms in a garden setting. Backpacker budget friendly. Friendly and helpful owner. US$20-60.
- 7 Sea View, Devala Road, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Hot water, restaurant and internet. US$15-55.
- 8 Strand Homestay, 218, Yaddehimulla Road (800 m along Yaddehimulla Road), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 24 hr, check-out: 12:00. Home-stay Strand is not a traditional hotel or a guest house, but a home-stay in a traditional ancestral Sinhalese family home. US$15-50.
- 9 Sudu Surfing Cottage (opposite to the bus stop, nearby Dalawella Beach Resort), 36/2 Matara Road A2, Dalawella, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A wood cottage a few meters away from a nice beach. All facilities: hot water, internet access, food. Run by a local family. US$45-65, breakfast included.
- Mirissa 25 km to the east, on Route A2 close to the Southern tip of the island. More low-key and unspoilt beaches than in its bigger brother Unawatuna. It's also the base for whale watching.