Unawatuna has a modest range of diving, snorkelling, surfing and other watersports on offer, with two good diving schools: Submarine Diving School, at the western end of the beach, and Unawatuna Diving Centre, around the bay to the east. Both offer the usual range of PADI courses, plus single and introductory dives and wreck and deep dives (there are no fewer than eight wrecks in the vicinity, including an old wooden English ship, the Rangoon, lying at a depth of 30m), though they’re rather more expensive than in nearby Hikkaduwa. Diving is best between October and April.
You can snorkel off the beach at Unawatuna, although it’s not wildly exciting; you might see a few colourful tropical fish, and there’s a little patch of live coral where the waves break in front of the Submarine Diving School. The best two snorkelling spots are Rock Island, about 1km offshore, and around the headland facing Galle at Jungle Beach, where you’ll find live coral and fish. For the former you’ll need to hire the Submarine Dive School’s glass-bottomed boat, which can also be used to reach Jungle Beach. Alternatively, Jungle Beach is reachable by tuktuk, or by foot (though it’s a convoluted 45-min walk, and very easy to get lost; ask for directions locally). Submarine rent out expensive snorkelling equipment, as do a couple of cheaper shacks on the beach nearby. Check all equipment carefully, as there are plenty of dud masks and snorkels in circulation.
A lot of locals surf at Unawatuna, though the waves aren’t nearly as good as at nearby Hikkaduwa or Midigama. Boards can be rented at the Submarine Diving School.