Unakuruwa, Sri Lanka
Where to Eat & Stay and What to do in Unakuruwa, Sri Lanka
I went on a family surf trip to South Sri Lanka, over December 2022 and January 2023. We spent the first ten days of our trip in Unakuruwa. We spent the next eighteen days on the Weligama/Midigama/Ahangama side and you can read about that here.
I have a separate post about the waves and longboarding in South Sri Lanka. This one is all about where to stay and eat in Unakuruwa.
If your primary reason for being in Sri Lanka is a surf holiday, then I wouldn’t stay in Unakuruwa. I would recommend staying in Hiriketiya and coming through to Unakuruwa for day visits. If you are wanting an authentic feel, quiet beautiful beaches, snorkelling and a fun wave to surf if/when you feel like a surf, then this is the place for you.
Unakuruwa is a tiny beach village, 5km from Tangalle and a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from Hiriketiya. We were recommended this town as a more authentic, less touristy option as opposed to staying on the Weligama/Ahangama side of life. We spent 10 days here. It’s really a magical little spot, super tranquil, bursting with wildlife and with a few different beaches to enjoy. The area has a real jungle feel to it, so by day, you’ll see indigenous giant squirrels, mini squirrels, an array of birds, Sri Lankan monitor lizards and all kinds of monkeys hopping about as you go about your daily business. As dusk comes, bats of all sizes fly overhead and by the time night falls, you’ll hear the howling dogs and without fail, see fireflies every night. You can walk everywhere in this area, to all the beaches and restaurants.
Where to Stay in Unakuruwa:
We stayed at Into the Blue in Unakuruwa. The place feels like your own private little jungle. I almost don’t want to write too much about it, for fear of allowing some of the magic to slip away. There are four cottages, each with a bedroom, en-suite bathroom and balcony. Each of them is set up to fit two people. There are two more spacious cabins and two smaller ones. The accommodation is very basic, but in a restorative, calm and elegant way. There are no air conditioners and there is no hot water, but this almost adds to the jungle feel. Breakfast is included here and it’s worth not missing it! Sanka, one of the owners, is always available to help you with any questions that you might have. He also readily gives insider recommendations and is happy to organise whatever needs organising.
Where to Eat in Unakuruwa:
Aga Surf View: This was possibly our favourite restaurant of all the restaurants that we ate at for the duration of our stay. We stayed for a month and ate out every day, so that is quite the compliment. There is something for everyone on the menu, from very basic to more exotic, but all the meals are gourmet. It has more of a Western menu in relation to the other restaurants in the area. The prices are really good for the quality of the food. We realised this in retrospect when we moved onto the Weligama side, where we didn’t come by any food that was as good as this at such an affordable price. We would alternate between here and the local restaurants. The location is pretty ideal too, because it’s right on the beach. They have excellent coffee here. They use their own local beans too, which is something worth giving a try! It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Slow Cafe: This cafe is set a bit back from the other restaurants, just off the main road. The climb up the hill is absolutely worth the treats that await you at the top. It is a relatively new ice-cream cafe, owned by a French family. The ice cream is delicious and they have plant-based ice-creams too. The ice-creams come with homemade wafers. They also experiment with making ice cream with local, indigenous fruit - the wood apple flavour is an interesting one to give a go. The cafe has a tasty selection of organic teas, drinks and a chai latte that you’ll have to try. Their coffees are also really good. They have an accommodation above the cafe. If they don't have guests staying, you should ask to go and see the view from up there.
Breakpoint Cafe and Restaurant: This is a lovely seafood restaurant. It is a family-run restaurant that has a sweet setting and a truly amazing view over the bay. It’s best to go here at sunset. The father catches the seafood, the mother cooks it and the son serves it to you. There is no set menu. You order depending on what’s been caught that day. The prices are really good for the portion sizes. It’s best to order a bunch of different dishes and share them here. Open for lunches and dinners.
Chillout Cafe: This is a wonderful restaurant, run by three brothers. They cook the food from scratch, as do most restaurants in the area, so you do have to wait sometimes up to an hour for your food. It’s well worth the wait. The brothers alternate cooking and depending on who cooks that evening, your curry will have a slightly different flavour each time. I recommend the chicken curry here.
Moonriver and the other restaurants along the beach: These restaurants all serve equally delicious vegetarian and seafood dishes. Well worth a visit!
Surfing in Unukuruwa:
This wave is a pretty inconsistent, fickle one. I wouldn’t say that it’s worth staying here primarily for the surf. It’s a short right-handed point break, with a fairly steep takeoff and then a pretty short ride that eventually fattens and flattens out. I would say that this wave is worth surfing, more for the island-feel, rather than the actual wave itself. Imagine an idyllic, little bay often with no one else, or perhaps a maximum of three other people out. You’ll see lots of turtles popping up during your surf and you’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation and palm trees. If you’re an inexperienced surfer, I would recommend wearing surf boots here. There is a reef beneath the surf spot, with some large sea urchins nestled down below. If you’re staying in Unakuruwa and wanting to surf a beautiful wave, then it’s best to get a tuk tuk to Hiriketiya.
Snorkeling at Unakuruwa:
I’d say that this spot is better for snorkelling, rather than surfing. It’s a sheltered bay that seems to not get too much swell. When you’re sitting on the beach, you can see the heads of turtles popping up in the shallows. So, as you can imagine, it’s a great place to snorkel with turtles. It isn’t a super tiny bay, so you do have the spend a bit of time, swimming around and looking for the turtles, but you have a good chance of seeing at least one. If you don’t spot any turtles, you’ll see a lot of tropical fish along your journey. It’s more of a rocky, mossy, sand-bottom kind of look, with the odd coral here and there, but it’s glowing with fish. Be aware of infrequent fishing boats coming in and out of the bay.
What to do in Unakuruwa:
Snorkel with turtles at Unakuruwa beach. I would recommend that you bring your own mask and goggles to Sri Lanka, so that you can just snorkel wherever you’d like. You can also hire from Aga Surf View.
Surf at Unakuruwa beach. You can book lessons with a surf instructor and/or hire boards at Aga Surf View.
Go to Silent Beach for a swim and walk along the idyllic coconut palm-lined beach.
Go to Jungle Beach. Apparently this a good beach for snorkelling too, I never made it there, because I loved Unakuruwa beach so much.
Go to Slow Cafe for ice cream.
Go to Hiriketiya and surf for the day.
Go to Yala National park for a day trip. All accommodations will have a Yala National Park package that they can organise for you. Leopards are the main attraction at the park and it is said to have the highest population density of leopards in the world. If you don’t spot a leopard, you’re likely to spot elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo, deer, birds of prey and if you’re super lucky, a sloth bear.
This is our own photo of a leopard that we saw at Yala National Park. How cool!?
The beaches are idyllic in a rugged way in Unakuruwa. The people are warm and welcoming. The food is unbelievably tasty and affordable. The residential areas, beachfronts and oceans are popping with wildlife. There is such a strong sense of community there and it seems that the residents are really living in harmony with nature. The more time you spend time there, the more connected you feel to the nature around you too. It's definitely got a more rural feel than the Weligama city feel. Would I spend ten days in Unakuruwa again? I think that if I needed time to relax and take it slow, I would definitely stay here again. If I was on a surf trip again, I would rather stay in Hiriketiya.
Written by Jessica de Smidt