Visiting Unawatuna beach Sri Lanka: Our experience
Hello friends! Our full time travelling family travelled from Unawatuna beach to Mirissa beach Sri Lanka for the past couple of weeks, and we love it.
Our first beach stop in Sri Lanka was Unawatuna beach, where we stayed for just over two weeks. It was a convenient place to visit in Sri Lanka with kids, with a long stretch of sand and fairly calm waters. Unawatuna beach is ‘touristy’ and has the usual beach bars, shisha lounges and westernised restaurants that are typical of touristy places in Sri Lanka. The sun sets over the beach so it is a really lovely place to be in the evening.
There is a small walkable road parallel to the beach with clothes and swimwear shops, more cafes and some hotels. We stayed just behind the beach in a local apartment so it took less than 30 seconds from our door to the sand, which was pretty convenient. We also liked the fact that there are a couple of hotels with swimming pools within walking distance including the terracotta (!) pool at the Calamander on the beach, which made a nice change for the girls and was good for meeting other travelling kids and making friends.
At Unawatuna beach you can get jet skis, banana boats, boat trips or snorkelling tours straight from the shore. It’s very easy to visit with kids; everything is right there and there are plenty of places serving western food if your kids aren’t too adventurous in the gastronomy department.
Safety for kids
The waves at Unawatuna look strong if you are right in the shallows, but if you go out a few metres the water is calm. Our five and six year olds swam there no problem.
There are several stray-ish dogs on the beach; we didn’t see any be aggressive and if you are sensible (don’t let your kids go and pet them, rabies is found in Sri Lanka) you shouldn’t have a problem. A lot of the dogs are owned by beach cafe owners so if one if being annoying usually someone will come and get them.
There are some young local guys who run the jet-skis and some tourist boats. They are quite silly and overconfident and often drive too close to people, but they stay in one part of the beach so simply don’t go in the water where they are coming in/out and you should be fine.
Each evening a couple of guys come around with a monkey on a lead and a python. Don’t engage with them; it’s cruel to the animals and dangerous for you. Monkeys in Sri Lanka can have rabies and give nasty bites, and although it’s extremely unlikely you don’t want a cuddle with a python to go wrong.
Occasionally there can be glass or fish bones near the restaurants; on the main sand we were fine but I encouraged the kids to put their shoes on while around the beach-side eateries.
Nearby attractions in Unawatuna beach
Nearby attractions include the huge Japanese peace pagoda, Jungle beach and 6km away is Galle town and fort. You can book other day tours such as whale watching or safari or swimming with turtles from here too; you can’t miss the tour sellers, there are stalls everywhere and if you want to go somewhere simply ask a tuk-tuk driver and haggle. The cinema in Galle is also well with a visit, it cost us £10 for six people with drinks and snacks to see Jumanji in 3D! It is a worn cinema; we loved it as it was a proper ‘local’ experience and a nice change from the beach.
How to get to Unawatuna from Sri Lanka airport
It takes around 2 hours by car from Colombo to Unawatuna beach, so it’s a pretty good first stop when you arrive in Sri Lanka with kids (or without). It’s a good beach where you can just settle and relax. Taxi drivers are generally accommodating and will stop for food/drink/toilet breaks when you need them. (In case you were wondering: 2 hours is too long in a tuk-tuk, you need a car!) Uber operates around Colombo so try the app or pre book with Taxi Sri Lanka.
Food at Unawatuna beach
Our favourite places to eat and drink were South Ceylon cafe (it has the best Wifi in Unawatuna) and Jina’s vegetarian and vegan cafe (long wait for food but worth it!). Everything is within walking distance and all the beach bars do western food. We paid around £3 for vegetable curry and rice on the beach and around £5 for a pizza. If you go off the beach you’ll pay around £2 for veggie curry and £1 for a roti.
Where to stay in Unawatuna beach
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Unawatuna. You’ll find a mix of budget apartments owned by locals, mid-range hotels and luxury stays with a quick search on Hotels Combined.
We would recommend visiting Unawatuna as the first beach stop in Sri Lanka. There are more beautiful beaches (we love Jungle Beach and Mirissa) but it is so convenient and set up for visitors that it helps to acclimatise and relax before setting off for more adventure!
Got questions? Ask us in the comments!
Useful visitor information:
If you’re heading to Sri Lanka, you will want to book ahead to get the best deals; it’s a popular backpacking destination and decent places book up fast. We recommend using Hotels Combined as they take the hard work out of looking for hotel, using several search engines to pull their results. In Unawatuna we checked out several places during our three-week stay there and would recommend the Calamander for a good mid-range hotel (it has very reasonably priced breakfast and dinner buffets), South Ceylon for a clean budget stay in a great location, and Cantaloupe Levels for a luxury break (go on, treat yourself!)
Alternatively you could stay in beautiful Galle and visit Unawatuna beach. We loved Galle; it is very peaceful, clean and safe and has a gorgeous colonial vibe as well as a lovely beach. We loved the look of Galle Fort Hotel which is the epitome of colonial luxury and does an amazing afternoon tea. The Leijay resort and the Closenberg Hotel are also both popular options with swimming pools for families and are in great locations.
If want to crash in a nice location near the airport for the first night or two, we recommend the Galle Face Hotel (luxury), the Best Western Elyon (mid range) or Global Towers Hotel (budget) in Colombo for the first night, or Ocean Glory in nearby Negombo.
Before visiting Sri Lanka we also recommend purchasing the Lonely Planet guidebook to scope out the best places and routes for you:
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