After Hikkaduwa and Galle we went over to Unawatuna, still famed as being one of the more alluring beaches in the Southern Province although it suffered extensive damage in the tsunami of 2004. The town itself is a long stretch of dusty road that follows the shoreline. Dotted with roti stands, restaurants, and clothing shops, it’s touristy but mellow.
We found a gem of a guesthouse there with a great proprietor who served us breakfast on the balcony facing his garden. Our next-door neighbors (aside from the European couple) were giant water monitors and toque macaque monkeys that are endemic to the island.
On the western edge of town there’s a small dagoba and Buddha statue, although they were both under construction at the time of writing. The walk up the hill was worth it, though, for the views of the surf crashing against the shoreline. It’s a nice place to wind down the day.
Habaraduwa Sea Turtles
Our next stop was Mirissa. Along the way we visited the Habaraduwa Sea Turtle Farm, whose mission is to ensure future generations of the endangered sea turtles who call the island home.
Of the seven species of sea turtles on earth, five nest on the beaches of Sri Lanka. We paid Rs.400 each to meet the turtles there and learn about how they’ve released more than 500,000 sea turtles into the ocean since they opened in the 1980’s.
More low-key than the other places we saw, Mirissa has great seafood options and wild waves. It was our favorite beach town, and we stayed there for the better part of a week watching whales and enjoying the beach. When you visit, make sure to look out for red flags that warn you if there’s a strong undertow. The currents there can be pretty intense and have been known to sweep less cautious swimmers out to sea.
There’s another turtle farm right off Mirissa Beach that doesn’t charge a fee for visitors. We still left a small donation there because it’s such a great cause.
Each evening, the fishermen bring in their catch and put it on display in front of the restaurants so you can choose what you’d like for dinner.
We went with a butterfish one night, which they spiced up and grilled to perfection.