Tucked away in the southern coastal region is Sri Lanka’s most popular beach town, Unawatuna. This place is known for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs. The beaches in Unawatuna may have easily accessible shores but its history is deep within books written ages ago. Unawatuna or “Una-watuna” literally means “fell down”. According to the tales, when bringing the famous Sanjeevani Mountain to the battlefield, Hanuman dropped some of the mountains here and thus gave it the name. 

Once a part of the “Top 10 beaches in the world” list, Unawatuna, fortunately, hasn’t lost its serene calmness after the 2004 tsunami. Clean sand and clearer water without the crowds to drown out the peaceful breeze hitting your face is what you’ll love while here. Sit back and relax at one of the beach beds or restaurants and watch the waves try to beat each other to the shore. There’s nothing more relaxing than this. Unawatuna is probably a one or two-day stopover location while exploring Sri Lanka, but if you want to experience the many activities this place has to offer, two days is just not enough. Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do and places to visit in Unawatuna.

Exciting Things To Do And See In Unawatuna

Roughly an hour’s ride from the capital city Colombo, brings you to Unawatuna, one of the most popular touristy places in Sri Lanka. Though Unawatuna is a small place, it is a perfect area to stay for a few days to enjoy various water activities and experience the nightlife. This place has more life than other Sri Lankan beach towns.

Relax And Unwind At Unawatuna Beach

Still life shot of two deck chairs under an umbrella on the beach

The beaches at Unawatuna are a lot quieter and good for relaxing and unwinding. Beaches here are filled with wonderful places to relax, swim and dine. Due to the many restaurants and beach bars lined up, there is a great beach vibe here even after sunset. There are a lot of choices when it comes to dining at beaches as there is something to suit everyone’s budget and taste. Long walks around the wide stretches of beaches offer perfect views of the sunset. It’s no surprise that it is popular with both tourists and locals.

Experience Birdwatching And Turtle-watching

places to visit in unawatuna
“Eastern Bluebirds, male and female, perched on a flowering branch in spring”

For starters, Unawatuna Sri Lanka is very well endowed in the nature department. Bird watch enthusiasts will be in for a treat because the area has over 60 species of endemic birds! While you would have to go into the marshy areas and over the hills to find the birds in close proximity to flex your DSLR skills the turtles come over to you. Turtles have been known to come right up to the beach-side restaurants to lay their eggs. This is one of the best activities for those who love bird watching.

Swing At The Dalawella And Wijaya Beach Swing

places in unawatuna
Young happy woman relaxing on a swing attached to a palm tree on a paradise beach at sunset while on vacation.

Watching a sunrise or sunset is always very pleasing to the eyes but experiencing this while on a swing makes it even more special. The most Instagrammed place in Sri Lanka is without a doubt the beach swing at Dalawella and Wijaya Beach. This simple rope swing has single-handedly turned a country into a travel ‘hot spot’ as every single visitor to the country wants ‘that perfect shot’ from here. Clicking a picture with the sun going down the vast ocean and spreading the orange and red hues around is worth all the effort. 

Suggested Reads: 10 Reasons Why Travel To Sri Lanka Should Be On Your Bucket List

Snorkeling Experience At Jungle Beach

jungle beach unawatuna
Happy family – mother, kid in snorkeling mask dive underwater with tropical fishes in coral reef sea pool.

Jungle beach Unawatuna is a small hidden beach close to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. The best way to explore underwater life is through snorkeling. There are many places for Snorkeling in Sri Lanka but the best opportunities for this activity is found in the Jungle Beach Bay. This beach is easily accessible by walk (45 minutes’ walk) or a tuk-tuk ride. Once you are here, you will be happy to see that this beach is not as crowded as the main beach. So go purchase the gear from the nearby shops or you can even rent them out to explore marine life.

Party Hard And Enjoy The Nightlife

unawatuna sri lanka
Group of teenagers having fun at nightclub

Sri Lanka is not a party destination but Unawatuna is definitely the place to get the party started. The nightlife here is vibrant with nightclubs, bars, music and euphoric aura. The main street is filled with many bars and restaurants which offer ‘happy hour’ specials. Kingfisher Beach Bar and Koha Surf Lounge are your best bet to enjoy a quiet night. If you are looking for a much livelier place, Lucky Tuna and Pink Elephant are the places to enjoy a notorious Saturday night. There are other places offering parties during the week, so it’s best to check with locals or beach boys for more information.

Spend An Awesome Day At Galle Fort

things to do in unawatun
Galle Fort Lighthouse, Sri Lanka. Blue sky with clouds on the background. Shot with Canon 5D mk III

Galle Fort, a city close to Unawatuna is a great one day getaway place. It offers great opportunities for travelers to explore. Galle Fort built by the Dutch in 1588 represents exquisite Sri Lankan architecture with a blend of Dutch, Portuguese and British styles. It’s a large complex where one can spend two to three hours walking around and see everything. There are a heap of must-sees within the fort like the Old Dutch Hospital, Maritime Museum, Dutch Church, Clock Tower and All Saints. Don’t forget to catch the amazing sunset from the top of the fort wall. At the end of the day, stop to buy souvenirs to take back home for your family and friends.

Take A Bicycle Tour Through Cinnamon Plantations

places to visit
Close up of a athlete who rides his bike up a steep hill. The sun shines as his feet hits the pedals and he drives the bicycle forward.

One should definitely try the bicycle guided tours. This is one of the best ways to experience the day to day life of the people of Unawatuna, their traditional and cultural aspects. Every tour will be accompanied by a guide who takes you through all aspects about the tour. Unawatuna being the best part of the island to grow cinnamon, there are many cycle trails that take you through the cinnamon plantations. The process of cinnamon plantations and peeling are explained while on this tour. The trail is quite easy with occasional angling and very small ups and downs. 

Savor The Lip-Smacking Cuisine

Lip-Smacking Cuisine
Delicious Sri Lankan food on Lotus leafe.

One of the best things to do in Unawatuna Beach is to try the amazing lip-smacking dishes. Sri Lankan cuisine shares some similarities with South Indian food which are full of rich and diverse flavors. Rice, fish and coconut are the main ingredients that are made into spiced curries which are served with flatbread. For authentic seafood, check out the Kingfisher Restaurant that cooks delicious food with fresh ingredients. If you look hard enough, you can find delicious authentic Sri Lankan eats in Unawatuna at relatively low prices.

Luxurious Stay At Hotel Tri

things to do in unawatuna
Luxurious rooms at Unawatuna

If you have the money and don’t know what to do in Unawatuna, head straight to Hotel Tri. Located along the Koggala Lake near Unawatuna, Hotel Tri is a luxury hotel with top class amenities. The breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunsets are one of a kind that cannot be missed. Overlooking the lake and cinnamon plantations, these breathtaking views can make your stay unforgettable. One can also take a boat trip to Cinnamon Island and visit the unique fort at Galle. Relax and unwind your mind and body in yoga, enjoy a sundowner and more at this heavenly place. It is a perfect location for any celebrations be it big or small.

Swim Beside Turtles On Dalawella Beach

beaches in unawatuna
Girl having fun swimming with turtle

Unawatuna is famous for its turtle population and a swim with them is one of the best things to do while here. There are both big and small turtles at Dalawella Beach which is right beside the beach swing. If lucky, you can spot the big turtles which are as big as the size of a medium sized dining table. Always remember to not disturb and keep a distance from the turtles while swimming beside them. You can visit the Turtle Rescue Sanctuary where you can see turtles with missing or broken legs and shells. You can also get to hold tiny baby turtles. 

Unawatuna, though being a small town, has many pretty beaches and loads of activities that makes it a perfect area to stay for a few days. So if Sri Lankan is on your bucket list, do pay a visit to Unawatuna to experience the many activities this place has to offer. Don’t forget to share your experience in the comment section below.

What is Unawatuna known for?

Unawatuna, a major tourist attraction in Sri Lanka is best known for its beaches and corals.

Can you swim at Unawatuna beach?

Unawatuna beach is a quiet tourist paradise which is perfect for swimming.

When can I go to Unawatuna?

The best time to visit Unawatuna is between October to April when the climate is very pleasant.

How long should you stay in Unawatuna?

Anywhere between 3-4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend here.


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