Last weekend found myself headed down to the tropical beaches of Unawatuna; one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Many tourists on vacation like to spend their time in Una, mainly to enjoy the most beautiful beaches, the South has to offer, accessible within an hours drive from the capital city of Colombo.
Mode of Transport
There are various modes of transport to choose for your journey. By car, it’s about one hour, and booking a taxi with the highway charges will cost you around Rs 11, 000 for a return journey. (Charges can vary, according to cab service)
Sri Lankan Railways operates a train from Colombo to Unawatuna every four hours. The ticket ranges from Rs. 110 – Rs. 430 and the journey takes 1h 44m. The bus service would cost you between Rs 400 – 700, according to the bus service. It takes three hours to get Una.
Our stay was hosted by Hoppa. This budget hotel was absolute bliss to explore with its fantastic location and stunning views of the beach with easy access to Unawatuna bay for a quick dip. Skip lounging in your room in favour for a wooden beach beds- the best way to relax in the South.
Hoppa is a kilometer from Unawatuna town, and the cocktails were one of a kind. Every aspect of the place tells a story, from its clean, spacious and comfortable rooms to its warm and friendly staff. The ease and familiarity of the place, makes you feel right at home.
Hoppa is for the mid-range traveller, even though it is located on prime Unawatuna beach space, yet offers the best accommodation at a reasonable price. Non-sea facing rooms start at approximately Rs 7000 per night, while Sea view rooms start at Rs. 10,000 with Suites starting from Rs 12,000.
The prices vary according to the season and meal basis.
The Hoppa found its beginnings at the Galle Fort, aptly named after a popular Sri Lankan dish, the property caters to a setting of contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine. Owned by partners Tharaka Dissanayake, Naradha Dissanayake, Sabrina Herft and Shehan Suwandaratne, the Hoppa initially opened as a restaurant serving authentic Sri Lankan food which was hard to come by. Later after finding its new location in Unawatuna Bay, its partners decided to convert the concept into a hotel.
Speaking to its partners who commented, “We wanted to cater for the middle-income travel segment, to give them a great experience on a budget. You get the high-end properties and low end, but no mid-range, the idea is to give a good service and great food for our target segment”.
Other popular accommodation options and at reasonable price include Calamander Unawatuna Beach which costs $49 per day, Sun Villa Unawatuna $18 and Hibiscus Villa $ 23.
The Curated Menu
The curated menu offers a fusion of authentic and contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine with a fine focus on seafood; after all, a stay in the South Coast is sorely lacking without indulging in a fresh catch.
We recommend the fried fish with zingy chutney sauce or the fried calamari, both which were exquisite.
Something Every Night and The Wednesday Special
Every night Toddy has a BBQ night by the beach and on Wednesday there is a live music session featuring popular bands and soloists in the local music scene. With so many properties in Una Bay each property has a day allocated for some entertainment for its guests. What’s special at Toddy is the BBQ, by the beach.
Unawatuna is a water sports destination, and if you don’t surf or miss out on a surf lesson then you have missed the best of Una. From the many surfing points at Dewata and café, Mahatun Surf Point is one of the most popular and has around 10 professional surf coaches; Lahiru is one of them. He has been surfing since he was little, and he is pro at conquering those killer waves.
Sharing some useful tips, Lahiru was determined to see at least the students catch a wave, and bring out their potential surfer skills. Being a certified surfer, he also runs his surf point called Blueline surf point.
After a two hour lesson on the waves under the Sri Lankan sun, treat yourself to some refreshing Thambli(King Coconut water) or a hot ginger tea.
You can hire a surfboard for Rs 300, and a lesson for locals starts from 1500 per hour with the tourist rate starting from Rs 2500 an hour. If you do plan on hitting the waves for a surf, look out for Lahiru; everyone knows him.
Surfing is the most popular among water sports, but do try some Jet Skiing and boating, there are many spots offering the service. Prices vary from place to place, but Rs 2000 is the running price these days.
While exploring Una bay and other eating spots in the area, the “Social” restaurant which is about 10 minutes from Toddy, is an ideal spot to hangout with friends or catch up on a good book. Social has been in operation for around two years, and its owners are from Colombo who decided to make Una their home since setting up the business. The place was packed with people for the weekend and is very popular among the tourists. Most of their clientele is European, and on weekends it is packed with locals and the Australian tourist market is also getting very popular.
Like “Social” there are many such hangout spots which you may discover.
Una offers diverse entertainment and food in keeping with the local atmosphere.
Street Vendors and Wellbeing Centres
Unawatuna is easily explored by foot especially the Dewala Road stretch. Tourists can check out street vendors for local crafts and eat in cafés without inhaling fumes. There are yoga centres and meditation retreats in the form of quiet guesthouses built in the woods amidst an idyllic setting of swaying palm trees and sandy shores.
As expected, post COVID-19 things are slow. A lot of hotels and budget hotels are taking several precautionary measures to ensure the safety of guests. Basic sanitation, wearing a masks and disinfection of rooms, public areas and hotel essentials is now a standard. Even though you are more likely to see locals, hopefully, the buzz of international tourists will return Una to its former glory soon.
By Mena Kumar