Unawatuna

Unawatuna Beach is small and intimate; a graceful semicircular curve of sand not much more than a kilometer from start to finish, enclosed by headlands at either end. Despite the increasing development, the beachside establishments retain and improvised slightly ramshackle quality which is the essence of Unawatuna’s charm for many visitors. It’s easy to spend days here idling purposely between the beach cafes and the ocean, playing endless games of cards or carom – many of the cafes have boards, and the locals are only too pleased to initiate visitors into the game’s mysteries – enjoying the easy pace of life which seems to strike just the right balance between the liveliness and the solemnness.

Five kilometers southeast of Galle, the ever-expanding village of Unawatuna is firmly established as Sri Lanka’s most popular resort for independent travellers – and with good reasons. Set snuggly in a pretty semi-circular bay picturesquely terminated by a dagoba on a rocky headland to the northwest, the beach remains idyllic, while sheltered bay gives year-round swimming and a group of rocks 150m offshore further breaks the waves (though it can still get a bit rough during the monsoon).

It’s far from unspoilt of course. Virtually every home in the village offers rooms for rent, new guest houses continue to spring up and much of the beach now lies disappeared under a string of informal waterfront restaurants. Unlike Hikkaduwa or Negombo, it manages to be lively without being trashy and although it is exactly not a party village, you can at least stay up eating and drinking on the beach until fairly late at night – a rare pleasure in early-to-bed Sri Lanka. It also remains lively all year round, making it a good place to visit if you are on the west coast during the monsoon.

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