Unawatuna beach is small and intimate: a graceful semicircular curve of sand, not much more than a kilometre from start to finish, set snugly in a pretty semicircular bay and picturesquely terminated by a dagoba on the rocky headland to the northwest, while the sheltered bay gives safe year-round swimming, and a group of rocks 150m offshore further breaks up waves (though it can still get a bit rough during the monsoon).
Unfortunately, the devastating effects of the tsunami allied to years of unchecked development before and after have now destroyed much of Unawatuna’s former appeal, while a massive government-sponsored clearance of illegal structures on the beach in late 2011 has left parts of the bay looking (for the time being at least) a complete mess. The western end of the beach, around the Hot Rock café, is now lined with the skeletons of half-demolished cafes and huge piles of debris, although hopefully by the time you read this the rubble will have been cleared away and the beach hereabouts restored. In the meantime, most of the action has shifted east, to the area around the Full Moon and Happy Banana, which remains lively and loud until late most nights.
At the northern end of the beach, a footpath leads up to a small dagoba perched on the rocks above the bay, offering fine views over Unawatuna and north to Galle.