Built on the side of tropical green hills, the seaside town of Unawatuna in southern Sri Lanka meets the sea with a white sandy beach shaded by coconut palms. To the west, the headland is dotted with little coves inviting travellers to swim in the warm waters, while just a short drive away you can take in the sights of the historic city of Galle. Sri Lanka's nightlife has a relaxed vibe, so if you're looking for sunset beers by the ocean and weekly DJ sessions on the sand, Unawatuna Beach is the place to go.
In Unawatuna hostels, you can spend the night in a traditional mud house or a treehouse and join in nightly parties and quizzes. Have drinks in the shade of an open-sided coconut hut, prep a shared dinner in communal kitchens and hire bikes to tour the local beaches. If you're looking for a little history, check out an Unawatuna hostel in a Dutch villa. All hostels have free Wi-Fi, some offer a free breakfast and others run daily yoga classes.
There are lots of restaurants and cafés on Yaddehimulla Road, the main street that leads to Unawatuna Beach. You'll find a variety of nightlife on the beach itself, whether you want a quiet drink or a night on the dance floor. Its southern end is a good place to chill out, while at the northern end you can make the 20-minute hike to the white dome of the Japanese Rumassala Peace Pagoda with its views across Galle Bay. Jungle Beach is a local favourite, just a 45-minute walk over the peninsula through lush forests.
Unawatuna is surrounded by coral reefs, so snorkelling is a popular activity, especially off the west end of Unawatuna Beach. You can also go diving among caves and shipwrecks, including a 100-year-old steamer, a 30-minute boat ride from town. Take a day trip to nearby Galle Fort to wander its narrow stone lanes filled with Sri Lanka's colonial architecture, shop for spices or just linger over coffee and soak up centuries of history.
To reach Unawatuna, fly to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo and either take a taxi all the way (2 hours) or transfer to Colombo Fort Railway Station and take a train to Galle (2.5-3.5 hours). The city of Galle is just 10 minutes away from Unawatuna by bus or tuk-tuk. The town itself is compact and easily walkable – footpaths lead to Jungle Beach and the coves on the headland.