By: Mikael and Thrillism
11 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
Unawatuna isn’t the only Southern Sri Lankan destination that attracts surfing travelers, but it’s THE place to kick back and relax while visiting this magical island. It’s got everything you could ever want from a surfing vacay – palm-lined beaches, coral reefs, and of course, waves upon waves upon waves.
Because of its almost-too-good-to-be-true beaches, Unawatuna is one of the most popular spots in Sri Lanka for a tropical getaway. But even those who originally intend on chilling out on the beach during their time here often find themselves on a board in the water within a day or two.
Part of the reason that Unawatuna is so popular is its easy access from Colombo’s international airport. You won’t have to hop on another flight or endure a long bus ride to get to your Unawatuna surf camp. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive, so the easiest option is to get a direct taxi if you’re coming from Colombo.
Because this is a touristy area (the town is right by the famous Galle Fort), don’t expect the taxi ride to be cheap. It’s usually between 60 and 70 USD, so if you’re traveling around Sri Lanka on a budget, you might want to take the $3-$5 train instead.
This small coastal town has a big reputation as one of the island’s must-visit spots for a beach holiday, and it’s one of the top picks for family travelers. Whether you plan on hanging out in the water or on the beach, it’s hard to beat the overall charm of Una, which is surprising for an area that’s relatively developed.
Unawatuna is a 10-minute drive from Galle Fort, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. It’s also one of the first surfing towns you come across when you drive south from Colombo, right after Hikkaduwa and before Ahangama and Weligama.
In terms of the atmosphere here, it’s pretty clear that Unawatuna is a surf-centric town. Most people that visit are laid-back and hang out in their boardies all day, and chances are you’ll see lots of people with zinc on their noses.
The good news is that a trip to Sri Lanka doesn’t have to cost much, but the not-so-good-news is that Unawatuna is one of the pricier destinations on the island. This makes sense considering its idyllic location right next to Galle Fort and the fact that it’s directly in the way of some of the most consistent surfing waves in Sri Lanka.
Accommodations here are all over the board for their nightly rates. You could pay $10 for a dorm bed in an Unawatuna surf hostel or $140 for a beachside resort and spa. The price you pay also depends a lot on high vs low season.
One of the easiest ways to save a buck on your Sri Lanka surf trip is to sign up for an all-inclusive Unawatuna surf camp. Most of these camps don’t offer all of your meals, but they include pretty much everything else.
The surf season of southern Sri Lanka is super reliable, so just about every Unawatuna surf report will show the same thing – that the best time to visit the area for waves is from November (sometimes late October) until the end of March.
The high tourism season is from December to April since the waves are consistent and the weather is dry, but this is also the most expensive time to visit. The rainiest months are in October in November, so prices are lower on average before the high season hits.
November is a great option if you’re just here for surfing, you don’t mind a bit of rain, and you’re looking for the best prices. March is also a good choice for lower prices, but the waves can be hit or miss.
The ultimate Unawatuna surf spot is the Main Beach Break. It’s got great beginner waves that are easy to paddle out to from the beach. The only downside is that the man-made reef that was built to protect the nearby temple tends to mess with the natural order of the waves, so it’s not the most consistent spot.
This reef break is about 100 meters from the main beach and it’s definitely not for beginners. The waves break left and crash over a rocky coral reef that is home to lots of sea urchins.
This beach break is about a 15-minute drive from Una, but it’s worth the drive for beginners who want to practice on small, frothy waves. Just be careful of the rip current at the main point.
It’s recommended that you branch out from Unawatuna while you’re in the area. The town is just a short drive from other popular surfing destinations like Ahangama, Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Midigama, and Mirissa Beach.
Unawatuna Surf Spirit specializes in surf and yoga retreats in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Spain. The Unawatuna Surf and Yoga retreat they offer takes place in a pimped-out jungle villa that can hold a max of 18 guests at a time. The package includes 7 nights accommodation, almost all meals, 5 surf sessions, 10 yoga classes, a massage, guided meditations, and more.
“The tropical villa is only 7 minutes from our surf spot, cafes, and shops and still offers an exotic and, above all, completely private oasis that is reserved exclusively for surf spirit guests.”
– Surf Spirit
The Aloha Surf School is based out of the Surfcity Hotel and they specialize in surf lessons for both kids and adults. You can sign up for lessons only, but they also offer surf accommodation that’s close to the main break. If you just need an Unawatuna surf rental for a board while you’re visiting, they offer that, too.
“Our team of certified instructors will teach you essential fundamentals and will work with you individually on your surfing technique to ensure that you learn to surf the correct way, without creating ‘bad habits’.”
– Aloha Sun Surf School
This Unawatuna surf shop and school is strictly about the surf. This no-muss, no-fuss provider hits the waves twice a day, 7 days a week and teaches all skill levels, even if you’re looking for more advanced techniques. They don’t offer accommodation or any all-inclusive packages, but they will take care of all your surf-related needs.
“Our friendly surf instructors teach people of all ages and skill levels how to surf in a fun and safe environment. We also have one of the largest selections of quality Surfboards, Stand Up Paddle Boards, and Snorkel gear for rent.”
– Dewata Surf School
While most Unawatuna surf providers are located at the eastern end of the bay closer to Ahangama, Ahikava is centered in the heart of Unawatuna Bay. The school is surrounded by a sandy beach and perfect waves and they offer lessons and training for everyone, from singles and groups to young kids and more advanced surfers.
“We have a perfect beach, fantastic restaurant and beach bar with amazing ocean views and sun loungers just to make sure you are happy on the beach and in the water!”
– Ahikava Surf School
Staying at Unawatuna Beach can cost anywhere from $15 to $150 per night. Even if you decide to stay in a more rustic setting without AC and with basic amenities, chances are you’ll enjoy the ocean views. To give you some pointers on other stays in the area, here are a few of the top-rated options:
With a wide range of local and international restaurants, you definitely won’t go hungry in Unawatuna. There are some great eateries right on the beach as well as some nestled inland, like Mati Gedara. Mati is a great option for a heaping amount of inexpensive delicious local food that is served in large handmade pots.
Another popular choice for local food is the Roti Shop. This restaurant isn’t much more than a few streetside tables, but they serve everything from savory rotis to sweet cheese-filled pastries. It’s the perfect spot for a quick snack before you get back to the water.
For a meal right on the beach, check out Sunrise Seafood Restaurant. As you can probably guess from the name, the menu is filled with seafood options, and it changes every day based on what’s fresh from the fishing boats.
Aside from hitting up Unawatuna Beach for sun, sand, and surf, the main thing to do in the area is visit Galle Forte. This massive fort complex is just a quick tuk-tuk ride away from town, but plan on spending a few hours wandering around (there are some great viewpoints, so bring a camera).
A lot of visitors who want to do something good for the area volunteer at the Unawatuna dog care clinic. The island is home to tons of stray dogs (actually, millions of them), so go spend a day petting puppies and taking doggies for walks on the beach.
Here are a few more ways to fill your Unawatuna itinerary:
Where’s the best Unawatuna surf beginner spot?
The Main Beach Break of Unawatuna Bay surf is a great beginner-friendly choice, but you’ve also got Bonavista Bay and the Kabalana Beach Break.
What should I be paying for my Unawatuna surf lessons?
It depends, but plan on spending between $25 and $50 per lesson. Some surf schools charge by the day, like Aloha Unawatuna, which charges $40 per day for adult surfing and $25 per day for kids.
Which is better, signing up for an all-inclusive surf camp or opting for lessons with an Unawatuna surf guide?
Honestly, it depends entirely on your individual preferences. If you prefer to organize your own accommodation, transportation, and figure out your meals on your own, then just sign up for lessons at an Unawatuna surf school. If you’re liking the idea of having everything taken care of for you, a surf camp is the better choice.
By now you’re probably ready to board a flight and surf in Unawatuna, and we don’t blame you. Keep checking in for more info on the best surf camps and providers in this area and other parts of Sri Lanka.