The Ultimate Guide to Unawatuna Surf

by Asia Kaczmarczyk

Unawatuna surf takes you to a chilled and well-developed tourist town just south of Galle. A mellow beach for beginners combines with a few faster reefs for improvers in the surrounding area.

Unawatuna surfing at a glance

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

The good

  • Easy to reach from Galle
  • Loads of great hotels and restaurants
  • Surf for both beginners and intermediates

The bad

  • Blown out in the rainy season
  • Can be pricy in the middle of high season
  • No surf spots that are mega awesome

What’s in this guide to Unawatuna surf?

An introduction to Unawatuna surf

Unawatuna is the first of the many beach towns that you’ll come to as you head south from Galle. Its accessibility, combined with its lovely little coves and sand stretches, have helped it become one of the most popular getaway options on the south-west shores of Sri Lanka. It’s a place of crooked little beach shacks and curry houses, lovely B&Bs with infinity pools and sun-kissed shoreline backed by low coconut palms. You can’t really go wrong if you’re after a little rest and relaxation with some surfing on the side.

Talking of the surfing…there is actually plenty to go around. Beginner-friendly spots are tucked into the inside of Unawatuna Bay nearer to Galle. Beyond those are a few reefs (some artificial others natural) and some more exposed stretches of shore leading down to Weligama. As they unfold they offer nice rippable point breaks and some decent lefts.

All in all, we’d say there’s better surf territory in Sri Lanka than Unawatuna. In fact, there’s better surf territory only a short tuk-tuk ride away in Midigama, not to mention beyond. However, there’s no reason this one can’t be a first pitstop after leaving Galle. You’ll have nice, easy waves to find your feet, some great surf schools for beginners, oodles of fantastic hotels right by the shore, and top-notch eateries to boot.

Where is Unawatuna?

Unawatuna beach

Look for Unawatuna on the south-west edge of Sri Lanka. It’s the first in a string of famous beach resorts that dot this gorgeous run of coastline south of Galle. The resort itself is neatly strung out along the main Matara Road, which links up all said resorts. The capital of Colombo (also home to the island’s main airport is just shy of two hours’ drive to the north if you take a direct transfer.

A guide to the Unawatuna surf spots

There’s no question that the Unawatuna surf isn’t up there with, say Arugam Bay surf. To put it another way: This isn’t Sri Lanka’s finest showing. That said, it’s a cracking place for beginners on a trip that centres on the historic town of Galle, or for more intermediate surfers aiming for the string of surf camps that run down the Matara Road on the way to Midigama and Weligama. Let’s take a look at what’s on the menu…

Dewata Beach/Clossenburg Beach

This spot is the beginner mecca of the Unawatuna surf. It’s tucked deep into Unawatuna Bay and is often called just that. The waves need enough force to come through the jutting headlands with the temples tot he south-east and the reefs of Bonavista. That really cuts down the power and tempers the swell, so you’re generally looking at uber-mellow rides with lots of whitewash. And if that reads like a learner’s mecca, that’s because it is. Most local Unawatuna surf schools will head here for their first sessions. The north-western end of Dewata is usually called Clossenburg Point or Beach, so don’t be surprised if that’s what you hear.

Bonavista

Wedgedat teh southern end of Dewata Beach and norht along the temple headland is the reef break of Bonavista. It’s actually more of a beach break than a reef, ebcause the corals and rocks are all far out int he bay. You’ll only be surfing on top of sand, and the quality of the wave is beginner through and through. Usually working at 3-4 feet and rarely anything too punchy. It’s basically an extension spot for the Galle surf schools when Dewata is a little too busy. Nice enough though, and great veiws of the whiteashed pagoda in the distance.

Dalawella Reef 

The Dalawella Reef isn’t often surfed but still offers some decent rides off the rocky seabed a couple of clicks along from the temple headland in Unawatuna. It’s a left by nature and works on chest to head height. Not an easy paddle because the wave push straight up and into the bay. Also, it’s an urchin party!

Kabalana

20 minutes in a tuk-tuk can whisk you down the Matara Road (with the board strapped to the roof – don’t worry, it’s easy) to Kabalana. It’s one of Sri Lanka’s more upcoming spots, but remains less busy because it’s not right by any major town or resort. There are actually two breaks here. One’s a nice beginner wave on the beach, but still a little heavier than the main beachie Unawatuna surf. The other is a really hectic A-frame that gets fantastic at around 10 foot. Wedgy and fast it’s a steep take off and a long ride of nearly half a kilometer if the peaks match up. Try to get in there early to dodge the crowds and the wind.

Where to stay when surfing in Unawatuna

Unawatuna has a great range of hotels for surfers. We’ve picked out just a few that will get you right down to the breaks or offer simply stunning service…

Cocobay Unawatuna ($$)

Surf-hotel-top-pick

Rising right in front of the golden sands and azure seas by the Bonavista Reef and Dewata Beach (both top beginner surf spots), the Cocobay Unawatuna boasts fantastic ratings. It’s easy to see why! There’s a deluxe outdoor pool in a lovely garden topped with palms. You also get a gym for post-surf workouts. Meanwhile, the rooms are modern and sleek, and there are even some with sea views!

The Waves – Unawatuna ($-$$)

Best for: Being close to the lovely Unawatuna Beach (no surf but really chilled vibes)

Right on Unawatuna Beach itself, The Waves offers good proximity to the more challenging reefs to the east and the beginner beaches to the north of town. It’s a great option if you’re just adding surfing into your holiday, because you get the fantastic fish restaurants and temple-topped headland next door to boot.

Unawatuna Beach Villa ($$$)

Best for: Surf trips with your whole crew

Live in total luxury right by the sparkling waves of Unawatuna Beach. That’s what’s on offer at this chic villa. It’s got space for eight in total, so it’s tailor-made for traveling groups and families who want a little bit of Sri Lanka surf during their holiday. Features include a private pool and a large L-shaped lounge area.

Villa SPACE ($$$)

Best for: Romantic surf trips with your other half

Simply stunning, Villa SPACE is a richly decorated and luxurious pad. Close to both the reefs and the beach breaks, it’s a cracking spot for a Sri Lankan escape with some surfing on the side. We particularly love the timber balcony overlooking the bird-filled forests and the sumptuous outdoor pool (a little bit of paradise).

When to surf in Unawatuna

Unawatuna has two very different seasons. They come across this side of Sri Lanka like clockwork and have a serious effect on the quality of the surf…

Wet season (April-November)

Yea, it’s wet in the wet season. Sadly the Sri Lankan monsoon really shifts the good waves over to the Arugam Bay surf, which gets best from about June onwards. We’d actually recommend going across to that side of the island if you’re serious about a surf trip. Around Unawatuna, the seas are rough, blown out, and pretty unpredictably until at least late October.

  • Wear: Rash vest and shorties, if you must surf!

Dry season (December-March)

The heavens stop pouring (at least mostly) when the dry season months hit Unawatuna. That means stiller days with plenty of sun. Also, it means calmer seas. S-SW swells come into the bays along this side of Sri Lanka to fire up the reefs around Midigama. They’ll feed through past the temple headland and into Unawatuna Bay to give those easy going beach breaks for beginners, too. Generally speaking early December is a little bigger and has smaller crowds. Jan and Feb tend to have swollen line ups but also good vibes in the local surf camps.

  • Wear: It’s always rash vest and shorties time on the Sri Lanka surf!

Surf shops in Unawatuna

Unawatuna has just a speckling of surf shops. There aren’t as many in Sri Lanka’s more famous surf destinations, but the one’s that are around should have all the things you need for a beginner trip – leashes, wax, rash vest etc.

Ahikava Surf

A small and locally owned shop in the heart of Unawatuna, Ahikava Surf has ample stock of colourful tail pads, leashes, fins, and a few boards. They also organise surf lessons for surfers of all abilities.

Nalu Surf School & Shop

Mainly a school specialising in one-on-one surf tutorials on the beginner waves of Unawatuna, Nalu also has a small shop. It’s not great for hardware but does have some cool local surf fashion in the form of printed vests, tees, and board shorts. Worth a browse.

Best places to eat in Unawatuna

Ready for an overload of dal curries and string hoppers? Unawatuna is a fantastic place to dine before and after the waves. It’s actually one of the things that keeps us coming back to the Sri Lanka surf every year!

Where to eat in Unawatuna

Mahatun Surf Point & Cafe ($)

A casual cafe with a surf school attached – what more could you want? Look for it deep inside Dewata Beach, where the conditions are usually prime for beginners. Start with a cold coconut and some hoppers (a local breakie fav) before paddling out.

Blue Caffeine ($$)

A really cool little coffee stop off on the main road running through Unawatuna, Blue Caffeine has all the tropical breakfast treats you could hope for. Acai bowls mingle with French toast and healthy smoothies on the menu. Oh, and there’s some pretty cool surf-themed décor to whet your appetite for the waves too.

Kat’s Coffee ($)

We’ve included Kat’s Coffee here because it’s perfectly located on the road as you head eastwards towards Midigama and Kabalana. Why not make a pitstop for a fresh cup of coffee and a sweet slice of homemade cheesecake? Both are downright fantastico if you ask us!

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Unawatuna

We’ve said it before, so we’ll say it again: Unawatuna surf isn’t really good enough to fill your whole trip. Either make for some of Sri Lanka’s other (super close-by) surf spots. Or, try out…

Galle city

Galle

Galle is just a stone’s throw from the Unawatuna surf. A UNESCO World Heritage Site of a town, it centres on a centuries-old fort that’s built in colonial style. The historic heart of the place is now an atmospheric journey back into Sri Lanka’s past, with amazing churches and cosy cafes.

Japanese Peace Pagoda

The Japanese Peace Pagoda stands tall on the headland between the main surf beaches and the small harbour of Unawatuna resort. It’s a landmark you can hardly miss, but we’d still recommend heading up to get a closer look, if only for the awesome sunsets that come in the evening!

Jungle Beach

Discover this hidden little beach on the headland just outside of Unawatuna town. It’s great for chilling and swimming away from the bigger waves. Oh, and it’s a snorkelling hotspot. So, bring the goggles and get ready to see urchins, sponges and parrotfish, folks!

How to get to Unawatuna

  • Fly: The main entry point to Sri Lanka is Colombo International Airport (also known as Bandaranayaka International Airport). It’s around 2-3 hours by private transfer from Unawatuna. Expect to pay in the region of 10,000-11,000 Rs. for a taxi each way.
  • Bus: There are regular local buses from Galle, Colombo and Matara linking to Unawatuna. There’s also a relatively new service that comes all the way from Ella, although links are sporadic so check ahead before getting to the station.
  • Train: The fun way to travel in Sri Lanka! Take the Matara Train from Colombo and get off in Galle. You’ll want to see that awesome town anyhow! From there, it’s also only a short ride in a local tuk-tuk onwards to Unawatuna.

Travel insurance for surfers in Unawatuna

Whether you’re heading to Sri Lanka to explore the misty hills or the beautiful beaches, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance in case something goes wrong on your surf trip. We’ve often used World Nomads. Their policies cover a range of adventure sports and activities. You can read more about their cover for surf right here.

All of the information provided about travel insurance is a brief summary only. It does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions of the travel insurance plans described. Coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Please carefully read your policy wording for a full description of coverage.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

We’d love to hear any additions you might have to this ultimate guide to Unwatuna surf in the comments below. Alternatively, be sure to check out our guide to all the other amazing surf spots in Sri Lanka. They might be more the sort of thing you’re after!

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