The one thing that I don't love about Sri Lanka's beaches is the fact that they are so close to the Highway. the main highway from Colombo to the south runs right along the coast and hotels, restaurants and shops are located right on the busy lanes. Buses, transports, minivans and tuk tuks race by and road noise can be a problem.
Sometimes we just want to go out and browse the stores at a leisurely pace, but when you have to be on high alert while walking along the street and choking in exhaust fumes at the same time, it can really take away from the experience.
That was something that we found to be refreshing change in Unawatuna.
Unawatuna is a beach located right on the southern tip of Sri Lanka and it used to be the place to go. The highway bypasses this area and travelers can walk on quiet streets checking out shops and vendors and eating in cafés without inhaling fumes.
It is so quiet here.
It actually feels like you are away from it all.
There are yoga centres and meditation retreats, quiet guesthouses built in the woods and palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Dave put it perfectly however. If Unawatuna had Hikkaduwas beaches it would be perfect. If Hikkaduwa had Unawatuna's roads, it would be perfect. Unfortunately, neither is perfect. But that is life in general isn't it?
It is almost paradise.
Unawatuna was hit hard during the Tsunami, but it was rebuilt quickly. The problem with this beach is that many of the hotels and guest houses ignored code and regulations and built on the sand. It is impossible to walk on some sections of the beach as the surf comes right up to the foundation of the buildings.
I am not sure what the beach was like before the Tsunami, from what I understand, it was already starting to erode away. There isn't much of one left here I am afraid and the parts of the beach that are left are very narrow and on a steep slant making it uncomfortable to walk on.
We looked closely at some of the buildings and saw that they had built far out onto the beach and couldn't understand why they chose to do this. An entire building takes up an enormous patch of sand that could be used for beach fun and sun.
It seems that people came along and built in front of older establishments vying for prime land. Unfortunately it has backfired and has caused Unawatuna to be a place that most travelers leave quickly. We met many people that had moved from Unawatuna to Hikkaduwa simply because they were unimpressed with the beach.
We visited it only for a day and while we loved walking along the quiet road and stopping in the shops to buy some jewellery and a carving of a stilt fisherman, we were happy that we decided to stay farther north up the coast.
The greed of people building on the beach, may just come back to bite them. Even if you are the closest to the water, that doesn't mean that people will come.
I hope that they figure out the problem soon, because the people of Unawatuna have suffered greatly and they deserve to prosper and have the tourists return again.