I wanted a few days on the beach after a hard week of marathon training in Galle, so I caught a local bus for about 5 miles down the coast to the backpacker hangout of Unawatuna. It’s not too well signposted and the bus driver overshot the turning, so I had a bit of walk back down the main road before I could turn the palm gardens and the Unawatuna area. The guidebook map was very basic and I soon lost track of where I was so couldn’t find the hotel I wanted, and ended up being shown to Sandy Lane Hotel. The Rough Guide recommended this place as a good cheap option, so I took a room for about Â£3.50 a night. This is what it looked like.
It’s nothing to look at, as you can see. However, the sheets were clean and the fan worked and the location, on the beach, fantastic. The toilet was nasty though, and I was to discover later that the shower only worked now and again. A bonus was that I found two un-opened bottles of rum under the bed that the last occupant had forgotten.
Breakfast was included and served downstairs, on the beach.
The restaurant was ok and cheap, costing around Â£2 per evening meal. It was clean, good food, nothing spectacular though. At night they put candles out on the tables and since there’s very little lighting around in the village they look very effective.
The staff are ok, quite fun really, if a little intrusive. The sunbeds outside the restuarant were free for guests.
The main attraction of Unawatuna for me (apart from the backpacker atmosphere, which is kind of Goa in the 1980′s or Dahab in the 1990′s – not perfect but nice enough) was the beach. It’s a nice stretch of sand with excellent swimming. I saw turtles there close to shore every day, and it was calm enough and shallow enough to do some nice midnight swimming without fear of harsh currents.
There also a monastery at the end of the beach that you can visit. Behind the beach is forest and quite a few rural villages, I did training runs there every day for about 5kms, the scent of fruit in the forest as I ran was really overpowering and there were always lots of smiles and waves from the locals.
The bad point about Sandy Lane Hotel, and it’s a big bad point, is that either side of it are beach bars/nightclubs. They’re not huge places, but they have huge stereo systems, and even though I was there out of season, the music went on most nights until around 3am. Even when there were no customers, they still played the music. It’s crazy, it’s like they want to spoil the easy going vibe of the village totally.
So, if you want a good nights sleep, don’t stay at Sandy Lane Hotel. If you visit in season and stay here, you can forget about any sleep at all. The locals said the music doesn’t stop then until dawn.
Unawatuna is a nice village with a very decent beach and it’s worth visiting. And if you’re on a very tight budget and have good earplugs, then Sandy Lane isn’t such a bad place to end up. The staff are ok, the food is the same, it’s safe, reasonably clean and it’s cheap. But if you can afford it and want a peaceful night’s sleep, find somewhere else. There’s plenty of options up and down the beach. The places nearer the road looked a bit nicer and quieter actually.
Sandy Lane Hotel doesn’t have a website, but if you want to stay there then email or call
Tel: 077-755 3898