13 Things You Must Experience in Unawatuna
1. Unwind at Unawatuna Beach
Unawatuna beach, the prime stretch of sand in Unawatuna, offers a plethora of delightful dining options, relaxation spots, and excellent swimming opportunities. Despite its popularity among tourists, it remains an ideal place to unwind during the day, take a refreshing swim, or enjoy an evening meal. During our stay, Bradley and I savored beachfront dining every night. The charming atmosphere, coupled with the soothing sound of waves, made for a truly memorable experience. With an extensive range of eateries catering to all budgets and tastes, Unawatuna beach promises a gastronomic adventure. Don’t miss the enchanting pre-sunset stroll along the entire beach before choosing the perfect spot to dine while the sun dips below the horizon. The leisurely walk takes about 15-20 minutes.
2. Indulge in the Dalawella Beach Swing
Surely you’ve seen the iconic image of Unawatuna—the famous “coconut swing” at Dalawella beach. Originally, there was only one, but now there are two swings. A visit to this beach is incomplete without capturing your own picture on the swing. While I attempted to take the perfect shot, I sent Brad soaring through the air. The swing costs 300 LKR and provides around four swings, ideal for getting that perfect Instagram-worthy shot. During peak season, the price might rise to 500 LKR, but it’s still an affordable experience. Swing on either of the swings; both offer stunning backdrops. Trust me, the swing is a touristy endeavor, but it is absolutely worth it.
Oh, and by the way, this beach boasts the most incredible sunset view. Grab a cocktail at one of the beach bars, sit back, and prepare to be mesmerized by the breathtaking hues of pink and orange.
3. Catch the Waves at Sahana Beach
With numerous surf spots in Unawatuna and the surrounding area, Sahana Beach stands out as the ultimate surfing destination. Offering ideal wave conditions, especially from October onwards (when we visited), this beach attracts surfers of all levels. As the surf season transitions from the renowned Arugam Bay to the South Coast, Sahana Beach provides a variety of waves suiting every skill level. For a mere 2000 LKR, equivalent to £10, you can take a 1.5-hour surf lesson, including board rental. Surf shops line the beach, and the friendly staff will eagerly assist you. If you don’t surf, fret not! You can still relax on sunbeds or enjoy the cozy beach bars.
4. Pay a Visit to the Unawatuna Dog Care Clinic
Prepare for a unique experience in Unawatuna—visit the Unawatuna Dog Care Clinic. I chanced upon this gem a few days before we arrived, thanks to a Sri Lankan backpacking group. As the only self-funded dog rescue center in all of Sri Lanka, it faces the daunting challenge of caring for the country’s staggering 40 million stray dogs. Step inside the clinic to meet the adorable and unique four-legged patients, including a wide array of puppies. I was so captivated by our visit that I penned an entire post about the experience. Don’t miss this opportunity to interact with these incredible canines.
5. Explore the Rich History of Galle Fort
A short 15-minute tuk-tuk ride from Unawatuna lies the captivating Galle Fort, an absolute must-see during your visit. Alternatively, you can rent mopeds in Unawatuna for a budget-friendly way to reach the fort. Built by the Dutch in 1588, this expansive fort complex offers hours of exploration. Marvel at the breathtaking ocean views and crystal-clear blue waters, tempting you to take a swim. Notable attractions within Galle Fort include the Old Dutch Hospital, Maritime Museum, Dutch Church, Clock Tower, and All Saints. Make sure to browse through the delightful souvenir shops for unique gifts. And don’t forget to treat yourself to the most delectable gelato you’ve ever tasted at the local gelato shop. Pro-tip: Enjoy it in the air-conditioned café to avoid the “melting race” we experienced outside.
6. Admire the Galle Lighthouse
Nestled within the Galle Fort complex, the Galle Lighthouse exudes a captivating charm. Its picturesque setting may strike you as peculiar given the fort’s European architectural influence, a stark contrast to the surrounding Sri Lankan ambiance. The lighthouse makes for the perfect photo backdrop, a tranquil spot to savor an ice cream, or a vantage point to admire the panoramic view. Catching the sunset here comes highly recommended; unfortunately, we missed this opportunity. If you manage to witness the sunset, share your experience with us!
7. Dive into the Underwater World at Jungle Beach
Unawatuna offers several snorkeling spots, but none quite like Jungle Beach. This secluded bay, nestled amidst lush jungle foliage, boasts a coral reef a few meters away from the shoreline. While we didn’t personally snorkel here, a comprehensive guide can provide you with everything you need to know, from navigating the route (and avoiding being overcharged by locals) to purchasing snorkel gear in advance. Initially apprehensive about fish, my previous trip to The Philippines eradicated my fears. So, when I return to Sri Lanka, I’ll be snorkeling with the vibrant marine life in Unawatuna!
8. Delight in the Turtle Rescue Sanctuary
If you share my affection for turtles, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the turtle sanctuary in Unawatuna. This remarkable establishment functions as a miniature hospital for injured turtles. These magnificent creatures often fall victim to plastic pollution and other human-induced perils. Observe turtles with missing limbs or broken shells, and revel in the chance to see and hold the adorable baby turtles. Trust me, their swimming antics are irresistibly endearing. We visited the Sea Turtle Sanctuary, which happened to be empty during our visit. While there have been reports of tourists being charged for turtle releases, I can vouch for our experience—the sanctuary had no hidden costs or random requests for payment. It predominantly focuses on turtle rehabilitation and provides valuable insights. This sanctuary does not feel like a tourist attraction but rather a place of conservation.
9. Swim with Majestic Turtles
Are you still craving more turtle encounters? Fulfill your desire by swimming alongside these majestic creatures. Unawatuna is renowned for its turtle population, offering the unique opportunity to swim with both baby and adult turtles. According to Bradley, he once encountered a turtle the size of a medium-sized dining table—impressive, right? Fear not, as turtles are gentle and pose no threat. Dalawella beach, located near the swing, provides an enclosed swimming area defined by rocks, where turtles can be found. Just approach the friendly gentleman near the swing, and he will gladly guide you in the right direction.
10. Meditate at the Japanese Peace Pagoda
The Japanese Peace Pagoda, a breathtaking sight, is a must-visit in Unawatuna. Its serene beauty and stunning images have earned it a spot on my list of top attractions. Constructed by Japanese Buddhist monks in 2005 as part of their endeavor to promote peace in conflict zones, this pagoda offers a spiritually uplifting experience. A steep 20-minute hike from the western area of Unawatuna beach leads you to this remarkable structure. Remember to dress modestly or bring a sarong to ensure proper respect. Entrance to the pagoda is free.
11. Soak Up the Sun at Mihiripenna Beach
Seeking a picturesque beach with turquoise waters and powdery white sand? Look no further than Mihiripenna Beach. This idyllic spot is perfect for sunbathing and indulging in a good book. As it’s not overly crowded with tourists, it provides a tranquil escape from the bustling streets. Take advantage of this serene ambiance to relax and disconnect.
12. Unleash Your Inner Shopaholic
Unawatuna boasts a plethora of excellent shopping destinations. As one of Sri Lanka’s more popular backpacker destinations, it has likely become even more vibrant since my last visit. The road leading to the beach is a haven for backpackers, featuring quirky cafes, boutique stores, and trendy clothing shops. Take a leisurely stroll and see what treasures you discover. You might even end up with henna art or a new tattoo!
13. Embark on a Whale-Watching Adventure
Sri Lanka is increasingly renowned for its exceptional whale-watching opportunities. Two primary locations are Trincomalee and Unawatuna. When the whale-watching season concludes in Trincomalee, head to Unawatuna for an unforgettable experience. To ensure you don’t miss out, book your whale-watching tour in advance for the best prices and availability.
Now that you know the best things to do in Unawatuna, it’s time to start planning your trip to this enchanting destination. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, Unawatuna has something for everyone. Embrace the beauty, warmth, and joy this paradise offers.
To make your travel dreams a reality, check out DHPL Travels for the best deals and packages. Don’t miss this chance to embark on an unforgettable journey to Unawatuna.