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13 Best Things To Do In Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
June 10, 2020
Unawatuna is a fantastic place to visit. There is lots to see from beaches, surfing, snorkelling and more. Find out the top things to do in Unawatuna now.
Things to do in unawatuna
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Unawatuna is located in the South of Sri Lanka and it’s a FANTASTIC place to visit.

It’s probably one of my favourite places to visit in Sri Lanka, so sit back whilst I take you through 13 amazing things to do in Unawatuna in this full-throttle Unawatuna travel guide.

I've also included some extra information on great beaches to visit and awesome day trips from Unawatuna.

How to get to Unawatuna

Unawatuna can be accessed via bus, train tuk-tuk or taxi. 

Getting a Taxi to Unawatuna 

If you are heading straight from Colombo, then you can order an Uber. 

This will cost LKR 5,000-7,000 based on Uber's fare estimate tool (always handy!) and this is basically $30-40, with luggage and split between 4 people isn’t a bad price for aircon and convenience.

I would recommend using Uber over a “normal” taxi because you are going to get ripped off. Whereas with Uber, the price is always what it should be and you can’t get haggled into paying more as you can pay via your card online.

Oh, and you can use the airport WiFi to order an Uber (that’s what we did).

Once you get sorted, pop into a shop and buy a sim card. It’s stupidly cheap for data so it’s worth having.

Getting a bus to Unawatuna 

You can get a mini-bus/van to Galle from Colombo for around 350 LKR and from Galle catch a local bus to Unawatuna (around 20 LKR, or tuk-tuk there)

Getting a train to Unawatuna 

You can also get the train to Matara-train (with ocean-view) and stop at Galle (takes almost three hours, 220LKR) and take either a tuk-tuk at approx 400 LKR or local bus from Galle to Unawatuna.

Remember that for all your train travel needs in Sri Lanka you can use 12Go Asia to book trains instantly and at the best prices. 

This means you will be guaranteed a seat on the train during busy periods.

Your final option is to rent a tuk-tuk in Colombo for the duration that you are in Sri Lanka and drive yourself around to Unawatuna. 

We rented a tuk-tuk for 3 weeks and it made the trip so much better. We could go where we wanted when we wanted! It cost us $18 a day, and you can find out more here. 

It’s a unique experience becoming your own tuk-tuk driver and a great make to make sure you complete all the top Unawatuna attractions we list in this guide. 

Getting around Unawatuna

You've got a few options when it comes to getting around Unawatuna.

  • Tuk-Tuk: Tuk-Tuks are all over the place in Unawatuna, so you can negotiate wiht a driver a price and be on your way. This is a cheap and cheerful method!
  • Rent a moped: Unawatuna is one of the popular places to rent a moped in Sri Lanka and there are a variety of rental companies offering great deals. Fuel is cheap, so this is a flexible option too. Just remember to wear a helmet.
  • Drive your own tuk-tuk: If you've rented your own tuk-tuk like we did, then you can use that to get to all the best places to visit in Unawatuna.

Where to stay in Unawatuna

Now you’ve got your list of amazing things to do in Unawatuna sorted, you’ll need somewhere to stay.

Thankfully you’ve got lots of choices when it comes to accommodation in Unawatuna. Whether you’re looking for budget, mid-range or luxurious, there will be something to suit you.

I recommend using Booking.com to get the best prices.

Read More: The Best Villas In Unawatuna

13 Best Things To Do In Unawatuna

1. Relax at Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna beach is the main strip of beach in Unawatuna and it's filled with wonderful places to eat, relax and swim. 

It’s a fairly touristy beach, but I think it’s a great place to relax during the day, go for a swim, or simply dine in the evening.

Bradley and I dined on the beachfront every evening we were there. 

It’s a lovely atmosphere and you are right on the beach so you can hear the sound of the waves. 

There are a LOT of choices when it comes to places to eat, and there is something to suit every budget and taste. 

One of the best things to do at Unawatuna beach is to take a walk up and down the whole beach just before sunset when the weather is perfect, then decide on a great place to dine for sunset. 

The walk will take you around 15-20 minutes.

unawatuna beach

2. Swing at the Dalawella beach Swing

We’ve all seen it: the iconic picture of Unawatuna. The “coconut swing” at Dalawella beach.

 I don’t know if there was just one originally, but there is two now.

Either way, you can’t visit this beach and not get your picture taken. 

I sent Brad on the swing whilst I tried to catch the perfect shot. You can see how I did below!

P.S. This made it onto our list of the 50 best things to see and do in Sri Lanka, so don't pass it up!

It cost us 300 LKR for the swing and this allowed us to swing about 4 times so I could get the right picture. 

I believe it can rise to 500 in “peak” season, but it’s still very cheap for an iconic picture.

Oh, and it’s a coconut swing because you are swinging on a coconut tree. 

I don’t think it matters which one you go on either. They both offer a beautiful backdrop. Hell, go on both if you want when it's that cheap!

Definitely one of the more touristy things to do in Unawatuna- but so worth it!

Oh, and just so you know, this beach has the BEST sunset view. So I would sit at one of the beach bars, sip on a cocktail and be prepared to be amazed by the pinks and oranges that will greet you.

After a little bit of research, I also discovered there is a swing at Mihiripenna beach too. 

So now you’ve got lots of choice! 

Price: 300-500 LKR pp
Book: Buy with cash when you visit
Opening Times: All day
Dalawella beach Swing

3. Go surfing in Sahana Beach

There are a variety of surf spots in Unawatuna and its surrounding area, but this place represents the perfect surfing conditions, especially from October (When we were there).

The surf leaves the famous Arugam Bay in October and heads to the South Coast and this beach offers a variety of waves perfect for all levels.

You can get lessons for around 2000 LKR, which is about £10 which is brilliant value. 

They typically last 1.5 hours and you get the board included. 

So if you want to learn to surf in Sri Lanka, this is one of the best spots.

There are surf shops located on the beach and you just need to walk down and they’ll come running to you. 

There are also little beach bars and sunbeds to chill on for those who aren’t surfing (i.e me).

Brad got his surfboard for 250 LKR for the hour (you could prob get it for longer for the same price- just haggle)

Price: $12/Person
Book: Check Klook
Opening Times: Sunrise to Sunset
surfing in unawatuna

4. Visit the Dog care clinic in Unawatuna

This is one of the more unique things to do in Unawatuna. 

I say unique because I didn’t know about it until a couple of days before we got there. 

We saw it in the Sri Lankan backpacking group and I am SO glad we did.

It’s basically the ONLY self-funding rescue centre for dogs in all of Sri Lanka. 

And with 40 million strays, you can imagine the challenge they are facing. 

You can visit the clinic and meet some of the dogs and see how things work.

I highly recommend it because you get to meet some VERY unique doggies, and of course lots of puppies. 

I did a full post on the experience here.

dog clinic in unawatuna
dog clinic

5. Visit Galle Fort

Galle Fort is in “Galle” which is basically a 15-minute tuk-tuk drive from Unawatuna. 

If you don’t want to go by tuk-tuk, you can easily rent mopeds in Unawatuna for cheap.

Galle Fort is a fort complex that was built by the Dutch in 1588. 

It’s a large complex with a lot to see and it can easily take you two-three hours to walk around and see everything.

There are some beautiful view spots of the ocean, and the ocean looks crystal clear and blue that you will be dying to swim (people do swim- so go for it if you want!)

Don’t miss out on these awesome locations within Galle Fort

  • Old Dutch Hospital
  • Maritime Museum
  • Dutch Church
  • Clock Tower
  • All Saints

Also, there are lots of great souvenir shops to find gifts.

shops in galle

So if this is one of your last stops on your Sri Lanka itinerary (which it was for us) then buy your stuff here.

There is also an awesome gelato shop which does the yummiest gelato ever. I recommend eating it in the air-conditioned cafe as I stepped outside and mine melted in about 30 seconds (I am not exaggerating).

It became a race to eat it before it melted to the ground.

Things got a little messy.

Strawberry is AMAZING and peanut butter is delicious.

It's also recommended to catch the sunset here as it’s meant to be beautiful. 

We didn’t get the chance too, so do it and tell us what you thought!

icecream in galle

6. Visit Galle Lighthouse

Galle Lighthouse is within the Galle Fort complex and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. 

Basically, it’s beautiful because it looks out of place. 

That’s the thing with Galle Fort in general. It all feels very European, which is a nice contrast to the Sri Lankan qualities that surround it.

Galle lighthouse is a perfect spot for photos, chilling with an ice cream or simply admiring the view behind it. 

I imagine it looks amazing in the sunset too.

We also saw a few people having a swim in the water surrounding the lighthouse, but we didn’t swim ourselves. 

But it gets crazy warm, so perhaps you’ll want to take a dip to cool off!

galle lighthouse
beaches in galle

7. Go Snorkelling at Jungle Beach

Snorkelling is possible in lots of areas in Sri Lanka, and in Unawatuna, the main snorkel spot is Jungle Beach.

Jungle Beach is a tiny, semi-hidden bay surrounded by jungle. A coral reef is located just a few meters out from the beach.

We didn’t snorkel here personally, but this guide will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know, from getting there (and not getting ripped off by locals), and where to get good value snorkel gear (you need it before you get to the beach, there won’t be any vendors to buy from there).

I was actually afraid of fish when I first visited Sri Lanka, but my trip to The Philippines soon changed that, so when I return to Sri Lanka one day, I’ll be snorkelling with the fish in Unawatuna! 

jungle beach unawatuna
Creator9434 / CC BY-SA

8. Visit the turtle rescue sanctuary

If you like turtles as much as I do, then you’ll want to see the turtle sanctuary in Unawatuna. This is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Unawatuna. 

It’s like a little hospital for turtles.

The turtles are usually saved from plastic and other human-based stuff that causes them to get stuck.

You can see turtles missing (legs?!?), or shells are broken etc, and you get to see and hold baby turtles. 

Baby turtles are like the cutest thing ever. When they swim, it’s just the most adorable thing-- seriously.

We went to the Sea Turtle Sanctuary and it was empty when we visited. 

I’ve seen a lot of stuff online about people being charged to release turtles, and how it’s a scam. I can only vouch for my experience, and that there were no extra costs, and there were no releasing turtles randomly in return for payment. 

There were only a few turtles and a lot of information about their rehabilitation, so it didn’t feel like a tourist attraction at all. 

Price: 500 LKR/Person
Opening Times: Check Official Website
turtle sanctury in unawatuna

9. Swim with the turtles

Feeling the turtle fever? Then why not SWIM with the turtles. 

Unawatuna is actually famous for its turtle population and there is the opportunity to swim with both baby and big turtles.

When we say big turtles, Bradley witnessed one that he says was the size of a medium sized dining table (that’s pretty damn big!). 

They don’t bite and actually are quite docile animals to swim alongside. 

You can find turtles to swim with at Dalawella beach just beside the swing.

There is a little-enclosed swimming pool type area (enclosed via the rocks) and there are turtles in there. 

Basically just ask the man at the swing and he will point you in the right direction.

10. Visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda

I will be honest and say we didn’t make it here, but according to reviews it’s very beautiful and the pictures look good, so it’s made it on my list of top things to do in Unawatuna.

It’s located on the hillside west of Unawatuna, and this impressive pagoda was built by Japanese Buddhist monks of the Mahayana sect in 2005, as part of their scheme to build peace temples in conflict zones (back in the Sri Lankan wartime).

It requires a steep 20-minute hike from the west area of Unawatuna beach.  

Remember to dress moderately, or at least bring a sarong with you to cover up.

There is no entrance fee to visit here. 

japanese peace pagoda
Dilshaan_99 / CC BY-SA

11. Catch a tan at Mihiripenna Beach

This is the perfect spot for sunbathing and relaxing with a book. 

If you’re on the lookout for a picturesque beach with turquoise waters and white sand, then you’ve found it.

This beach isn’t over-touristy yet, so it’s a good place to escape the hustle and bustle of the other streets.

A great place to relax and detach. 

places to visit in unawatuna

12. Go shopping for gifts & treats 

Unawatuna itself has lots of great places to shop.

It’s one of the more backpacker style destinations in Sri Lanka, and I can imagine that if I revisited now, it would be even more so.

The road leading to the beach is a typical backpacker haven with lots of quirky cafes, shops and clothes stores. 

Go for a stroll and see what you find. You may even find yourself getting some henna or an actual tattoo :P

shops in unawatuna

13. Go Whale Watching at Unawatuna Beach

Sri Lanka is starting to gain a reputation for its great Whale watching opportunities and you can see them in two main areas: Trincomalee & Unawatuna. 

When the season for Whale Watching is gone from Trincomalee, you can head to Unawatuna and watch whales there. 

Of course you’ll need to take a tour to gain this experience, and I’ve found this great tour here, if you prefer to book ahead of time. 

Price: $50/Person
Book: Check Klook
Times: Tours tend to leave in the morning
whale watching in unawatuna

Unawatuna Travel Tips

Best surf spots in Unawatuna Sri Lanka

Bradley has created a whole guide on the best surf spots in Sri Lanka which will provide you with all the in-depth knowledge you need to surf in Sri Lanka.

BUT, I thought I’d list the best surf spots in Unawatuna.

  • Dalawella Reef surf spot
  • Bonavista Bay Surf Point
  • Closenburg surf point
  • Sahana Beach

There is less opportunity for lessons in Unawatuna, but if you’re already a surfer, then you can easily rent a board and get your surf on solo!

How long should I stay in Unawatuna?

Forever? No really, you’ll fall in love with this place and you’ll want to stay longer than intended. Bradley and I were running out of time on our visa and could only stay in Unawatuna for two nights.

Biggest regret of Sri Lanka ever. I wish we skipped Mullaitivu in the north , and saved that time for Unawatuna.

So, I would recommend staying here for at LEAST four nights, but if you really want to surf, relax and chill, then a week is optimal.

attractions in unawatuna
Dreammmyyy....

Day trips from Unawatuna

If you do stay in Unawatuna for a week or longer then there are some day trips from Unawatuna you can take.

1. Visit Mirissa

Mirissa is another of my favourite places in Sri Lanka and if you’re on the lookout for different things to do in Unawatuna, then head up the coast and visit beautiful Mirissa.

There is lots to see here including beautiful beaches, secret beaches, coconut farms and great surf spots! 

Also, they have a strip of wonderful restaurants on the beach that serve delicious food and the cheapest cocktails in all of Sri Lanka: 300 from 3 pm until 10 pm. That’s like 1.30 for a cocktail!

Mirissa is also known for its partying. 

There are lots of little “clubs” on the beach that have parties every night, so if you’re looking to dance and drink and meet new people, then this is a great spot.

It’s also a great spot for bodyboarding, and it’s super cheap and lots of fun. 

Mirissa is only 40 minutes from Unawatuna, so it’s worth visiting, especially if you’re just in Unawatuna for a holiday and aren’t planning to explore the rest of Sri Lanka.

You can swim with turtles in Mirissa! Book it here.

Read more: 12 Awesome Things To Do In Mirissa
day trip to mirissa

2. Take a drive to Hikkaduwa

If you want to experience some of the most beautiful waters I have ever seen in the world, then go to Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. 

The drive itself is worth it, and I’d recommend packing a picnic and chilling at the beach. 

Don’t drive to a specific part, just drive until you see pure blue water and stop and admire. 

Don’t swim here because the waves are too strong and there is no one to help you.

Hikkaduwa itself is also known for its nightlife, so you can party here too! 

It’s a 40-minute journey from Unawatuna and a perfect day trip. 

 Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

3. Tangalle

This is another great place to visit in Sri Lanka, and Bradley and I drove through it via our Sri Lankan road trip. 

If you seek beautiful beaches with blue waters, and places to relax and enjoy lunch and a drink, then a trip to Tangalle is perfect. 

Tangalle beach is perfect and lined with restaurants and bars, and there is even the chance to learn how to surf! 

It will take around an hour to drive there and back. 

best beaches in unawatuna

Best beaches in Unawatuna

There are so many amazing beaches in Unawatuna and lots (if not most) of them I mentioned above, but let me round it up for you below:

  • Best beach in Unawatuna for couples: If you’re looking for a romantic sunset then I’d say Dalawella beach, or if you want a romantic dinner, then Unawatuna beach is a great choice. 
  • Best beach in Unawatuna for families: I think Unawatuna beach is a good choice or even  Mihiripenna Beach because it’s quiet.
  • Best beach in Unawatuna for dining: Unawatuna beach itself offers the best dining options on the beach. If you don’t find something you like here, then you’ve no chance.

List of beaches to explore in Unawatuna

  1. Dalawella beach
  2. Unawatuna beach
  3. Mihiripenna Beach
  4. Jungle Beach
unawatuna attractions

Where to after Unawatuna

If you are still in search for sunshine and beautiful beaches, then you can head along the coast to Mirissa, then make your way to Arugam Bay. This will give you the chance to visit one of the national parks in Sri Lanka and head on safari to see elephants, leopards & bears! 

Or if you seek a cooler climate, then head into the highlands of Sri Lanka and visit Ella & Nuwara Eliya, which is also known as Little England.

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