Situated on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is a wide curving bay protected by reef, located 5kms from the city of Galle, a former Dutch fort. Popular with travelers from all over the world, it is calmer than the more bohemian resort of Hikkaduwa, and the picturesque sweep of beach is dotted with pretty cottages, restaurants and bars and other small places to stay. It can get quite busy during the ‘season’, which is from December to April. Snorkeling and diving is excellent, and the reef makes swimming here a very safe pleasure. Legend say that Unwatuna was created from a piece of earth from Himalaya, that had fallen from Hanuman in the Ramayanaya epic.
122kms from Colombo, this resort is accessed via a winding by-lane that leads off the main Galle-Matara Road, and which is barely wide enough for two lanes of traffic. Do not be afraid! Once you get to the beach, you will find a large variety of guesthouses to stay at, and a sea that looks calmer than your bathtub!
There’s lots of adventure in the water at Unawatuna. You can hire diving and snorkeling equipment from some of the beachfront places and explore the reef, and several interesting wrecks in the area. You can also take diving lessons with PADI qualified professionals. There is some surfing to be had here, but Arugam Bay further east, is generally held to be the best place.
The beach is wonderful to walk along, especially during dusk – it’s simply stunning. There are several walks you can take over the rocky outcrop called Rumassala (known for its medicinal herbs, which are protected) at the west end of the beach, or up the nearby hill. A small temple on the promontory is walking to, and you can catch a great view of the sunset from the rocky outcrop just there. Jungle beach is on the other side, and worth a visit.
Culture buffs will want to visit Galle. This whitewashed town has an extremely large fort, built by the Dutch over 400 years ago, as its oldest landmark. The Cultural Museum, Groote Kerk (Great Church), Flag rock, the modern Lighthouse, the Bell tower and the old Dutch Government House (reputedly haunted!) are also worth visiting. The Dutch Period Museum is beautifully restored and exhibits the clothes, furniture, jewellery and even the cooking utensils of the Dutch colonial era.
An intercity bus from Colombo to Matara passes frequently through Unawatuna, and will deposit you near Yaddehimulla road, and you could walk down to the beach or take a three-wheeler. The train to Matara stops at Galle, and from here you can take a three-wheeler to Unawatuna for a very reasonable price.
You can also get to Koggala, Weligama and Matara from here in no time at all. Koggala houses the Martin Wickremasinghe Folk Art Museum that has a lot of interesting exhibits. Wickremasinghe was the country’s foremost writer, and the little island of Madol Duwa (which you can visit) was immortalized in his writings. The Dondra Head lighthouse in Matara marks the island’s southernmost tip, and is an awesome old building. If you’ve never tried stilt fishing, a trip to Weligama could be an eye-opening experience