Unawatuna is a cautionary tale for the rest of Sri Lanka’s south coast. Where there was once a flawless crescent of golden sand that swept along a palm-lined shore with turquoise waters that had just enough surf to make for ideal swimming conditions, there is now one of Sri Lanka’s less appealing beach towns.
The beautiful water is still there and you can still find decent patches of sand, but in several places greed has replaced good taste and common sense. Bulldozers have pushed huge boulders right up to and beyond the high tide line, allowing for the construction of some especially ugly hotels and cafes. Ironically, authorities have actually enforced setbacks on the west half of Unawatuna’s beach and the result is much more salubrious.
Unawatuna makes for a good, quick beach escape from Galle’s Fort: it’s only 6km southeast. Otherwise it offers a cheap and cheerful sandy idyll, at least on the bulldozer- and boulder-free west end.