Unawatuna is one of the most popular beach towns on Sri Lanka’s south coast. This insider’s guide to Sri Lanka’s most popular beach town, Unawatuna, covers all the best things to do, including the famous Dalawella rope swing, a day trip to the UNESCO world heritage site Galle Fort and much more. Let’s dive into this ultimate travel guide to Unawatuna and Dalawella.
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Is Unawatuna worth visiting?
Unawatuna with its big beach is the most popular tourist area in Sri Lanka. The beach is wide and offers plenty of sunbeds to rent. However, if you want clear water and more privacy, there are other beaches nearby that will fill your needs. Unawatuna can be a bit too touristy, similar to more established backpacker destinations like Thailand or Cambodia.
If Unawatuna is worth visiting all depends on how many days you have on your Sri Lanka itinerary. If you only have a couple of days to spend on the south coast, I recommend you to go to Mirissa or Hiriketiya beach instead. They offer a more laidback, less touristy vibe.
If you have more time in Sri Lanka, Unawatuna can definitely be worth at least paying a visit on your Sri Lanka trip. Keep reading for my best tips on things to do in Unawatuna, where to eat, and much more.
Photos left to right: Unawatuna Beach & Dalawella Beach.
Things to do in Unawatuna
1. Visit Unawatuna Beach
The main beach in Unawatuna is popular among both tourists and locals. The wide beach offers good swimming and sunbeds to rent. Unawatuna Beach is directly connected to the city center with lots of restaurants and bars. Even though Unawatuna Beach isn’t the best place for a beach day (continue reading to know what is!) the beach is definitely a great place to go for a tasty dinner with lots of trendy cafés and restaurants nearby.
Jungle Beach, a small beach close to Unawatuna.
2. Chill at Jungle Beach Unawatuna
Jungle Beach is located on the opposite side of Unawatuna bay and is accessible either by a 20-minute walk or by tuk tuk. The beach is a bit hidden and much quieter than Unawatuna Beach – even though Jungle Beach is getting more and more popular. This is the perfect spot for a chill beach day, with white sand to lie on and clear water to swim in. Usually, there is a woman at the beach selling beer from a cooler, and a guy making fresh fruit juice with his blender. Don’t forget your snorkel equipment as the water is perfect for snorkeling.
Dalawella Beach is home to many characteristic palm trees – and the famous rope swing.
3. Take a swing at the famous rope swing at Dalawella Beach
One thing that has made Sri Lanka popular on Instagram is its beach swings. The most famous beach swing is probably the one at Dalawella Beach, 1 km east of Unawatuna. Search for Dream Cabana on Google maps and you will find it. They charge 500 LKR (around 3 dollars) for a swing.
The lagoon at Dalawella Beach is often visited by turtles.
4. Swim with turtles on Dalawella Beach
Besides its beach swing, Dalawella Beach is also famous for its spectacular lagoon, home to at least 3 giant turtles. I guess the number of turtles varies, but this lagoon is very popular among turtles. They usually swim into the lagoon to get a nice rest from the otherwise wild waters outside. Just bring your snorkel equipment and GoPro and see if you can find them! The lagoon is located just outside Wijaya Beach Restaurant.
Note! Never touch the turtles and swim with a safe distance. You shouldn’t disturb them. Remember that you’re visiting them in their home.
5. Swim in the infinity pool at the Closenberg Hotel
Want to take a relaxing swim in an infinity pool, while glancing at the surfers trying to catch the next big wave in the bay nearby? The Closenberg Hotel is a hidden gem located in eastern Galle, 3 km from Unawatuna. It is fairly unknown, meaning it has a relaxing and quiet atmosphere – in contrast to the otherwise busy city. If you buy something from their bar you can use their infinity pool for free. They charge a few hundred rupees for the towels. Float around for an hour or two and enjoy the spectacular view of the Dewata Beach bay and Jungle Beach.
Don’t miss Galle Fort, with its lighthouse and many cute shops, while in Galle.
6. Go on a day trip to Galle Fort
Galle, the administrative capital of Southern Province, is located only 20 minutes from Unawatuna and is well worth a visit while you’re in the area. Visiting Galle is almost like visiting three countries at once: A little bit of Holland, a little bit of England, and lots of Sri Lanka. Galle is mainly known for Galle Fort, the old colonial headquarters from the 17th century. Galle Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site that nowadays is filled with impressive colonial buildings, cute shops, and trendy cafés. Come here for an afternoon to experience the special scenery of European architecture, restaurants, and historical buildings.
7. Enjoy the views from the Japanese Peace Pagoda
Not far from Jungle Beach lies the impressive Japanese Peace Pagoda. The pagoda was built in 2005 by Japanese Buddhist monks to inflict hope and inspire peace. Today the pagoda is a popular tourist attraction in Unawatuna.
Watch out for: Turtle hatcheries
Visiting a turtle hatchery has become a popular thing to do in Unawatuna. The hatcheries work for a good cause as they save turtles from being stuck in fishing nets, but unfortunately, this industry also comes with a downside. It has become a market to collect and sell turtle eggs to the hatcheries. I suggest you skip this while you’re in Unawatuna.
Great restaurants in Unawatuna
The Hideout Taqueria
A trendy restaurant serving delicious tacos! Located at the street down to the beach.
Yummy points: 5/5
I recommend: Jackfruit tacos & passion-cinnamon-lime soda
Price: Tacos for 950 LKR, homemade soda for 350 LKR
Koha Surf Lounge
A cute café located at the street down to the beach. Serving lots of vegetarian options.
Yummy points: 4/5
I recommend: Veggie kebab and iced coffee
Price: Veggie kebab for 850 LKR, iced coffee for 400 LKR
Wi-Fi: Yes, okay
Wijaya Beach Restaurant (in Dalawella)
One of the better restaurants at Dalawella Beach. They serve great stone oven baked pizzas.
Yummy points: 4/5
Vegan-friendly: No, but vegetarian friendly
I recommend: Their stone oven baked pizzas. Decide your own topping for 1500 LKR
Price: Pizza for 1200–1500 LKR
How to get to Unawatuna
Getting from Colombo to Unawatuna and Dalawella Beach is easy. The most comfortable option would be by car. The new expressway E01 links Colombo to the popular coastal towns along the south/west coast. Either ask your hotel if they can arrange a car for you or use the app Pickme to book a car. We paid 6500 LKR to go from Unawatuna to Colombo airport.
The cheapest option would be by train from Colombo Fort Station to Galle Station. This train ride will take around 2 hours and won’t cost you more than 500 LKR.
➳ Read more: See the train time table here
Transportation in Unawatuna
It’s easy to get around Unawatuna. If you dare you can take the local bus, which will only cost you 20–50 LKR. For a safer ride I would recommend grabbing a tuk-tuk. Grab one on the street, or book one through the PickMe app. If you plan to explore a lot during a day you can rent a scooter for around 1200 LKR.
When to visit Unawatuna
A good time to visit the southwest of Sri Lanka is from October until April. Try to avoid visiting during early January, when Sri Lankan holidays occur.
Where to stay in Unawatuna (and Dalawella)
Accommodation is a bit more expensive in Unawatuna and Dalawella than the rest of the south coast. If you want a cheaper option, I can recommend staying at Dalawella Porch House. This accommodation is really close to Dalawella beach. The host family is very kind and helpful, and the rooms are clean and modern. The only downside is that it’s close to the railway. But you should never visit Sri Lanka without earplugs anyway, since both the traffic and the dogs can be very loud wherever you go.
More Sri Lanka travel tips
Sri Lanka’s south coast has so much to offer. These travel guides might come to use as you plan your Sri Lanka trip:
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