The South Coast of Sri Lanka offers up beautiful beaches and an opportunity to slow the pace down and relax. Unawatuna is a popular place to base yourself for a few days, unless like us you visit during low season when most of the restaurants and bars are closed, and you're the only guest in the hotel!
There's a lot of hype about Unawatuna and at first we couldn't understand what the fuss was about. The beach is not that nice, and feels very overdeveloped compared to many of the beaches on the South Coast. But then we started exploring the surrounds and it all began to make sense.
There are several stunning beaches close to Unawatuna, and we can't forget that oh so famous palm tree rope swing. It's also really close to the gorgeous historic town of Galle.
We really enjoyed our time in Unawatuna, here are our top five things to do there.
Best things to do in Unawatuna
1. Go in search of the epic rope swing
The rope swing at Dallawella Beach has become a bit of an Instagram sensation in recent years. Having a go on the swing at sunset is not only beautiful, but pretty adventurous as the swing flies pretty far out into the Indian Ocean!
To get to the swing, head to Dream Cabanas. You'll have to pay the owner 500 rupees ($4 USD) but after that they'll let you swing for as long as you want.
Getting there - You can walk from Unawatuna, but it'd take a long time. We took a tuk-tuk which should cost about 100-200 rupees ($1 - 1.50 USD), the beach is roughly 10 minutes away from the centre of town.
2. Find the Fishermen (if they're still there...)
The stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka became famous for the unusual and somewhat precarious position they sit in. They would sit on the stilts to lessen the shadow over the water and therefore not deter the fish. However, in recent years the stilt fishermen are no longer doing this to catch fish, but for tourists wanting photos.
This was evident when we visited during low season as there were no fishermen there at all! As there were only a handful of tourists, they clearly weren't interested in balancing on a pole anymore! Despite the fact it is now only for show we would still have liked to have seen the fisherman, as did most other people we met. In high season you won't have a problem finding them.
Getting there - There's plenty of stilt fishermen along the south coast, but we went looking at the far end of Mihiripenna Beach. The beach is quite small and you couldn't miss them.
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3. Chill at Mihiripenna beach
If you're looking for a beach with fewer people or in low season no one on it, then Mihiripenna is your best bet. This narrow stretch of sand is paradise, fringed by palm trees and a vibrant blue sea. There's also a swing if you wanted a break from your relaxation!
Getting there - Mihiripenna beach is just a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride from Unawatuna (and very close to Dallawella Beach).
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4. Take a stroll around Galle Fort
We weren't expecting much from Galle, but were pleasantly surprised when we visited! The Fort area is a beautiful stretch of colonial buildings and narrow streets, offering a really different vibe to the rest of Sri Lanka.
The walls of the fort are a great place to watch the sunset and there's plenty of really good restaurants and cafes to choose from as well. It had such a good feel we actually think it would make a great alternate base to Unawatuna.
Getting there - Galle is a 15 minute tuk-tuk ride from Unawatuna.
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5. Check out the contrast of old & new, Galle
When we visited Galle we were told by a local that this was the lone surviving building on this part of the shore front during the 2004 Tsunami. It's completely surrounded by modern markets and really stands out. It's worth taking a look to see the contrast!
Getting there - This old shop is by the fruit and fish markets in Galle. It's only a 15 minute tuk-tuk ride from Unawatuna or a 5 minute ride from Galle Fort.
Where we stayed in Unawatuna
Heaven By O
By far the best mid range choice we found in town was Heaven By O. This hotel was tucked away from the main street, making it incredibly quiet at night. The rooms are stylish and comfortable, with a great shower (a rarity in Sri Lanka). It was the best place we stayed in the whole of Sri Lanka and we were sad to leave!
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