The Best View in Unawatuna
I don’t think anyone could sue me for that title, but strangely, the view from the Peacock’s second floor balcony isn’t the only reason to stay there. Having one of the best beaches in the world literally at your doorstep probably is. One of the first things that struck me when I visited the Peacock for lunch back in November was how much it reminded me of the International in Hikkaduwa, only better. International, before it became overpriced and the cook decided to have a joint before getting into the kitchen. One of the best features of the International was it’s great beach and the double-decker restaurant that overlooked it, but whereas in Hikka the arse-kicking waves are a fire-walking hundred-meter dash over blazing sand, in Unawatuna the water laps gently at your toes the moment you step off the Peacock’s raised restaurant terrace. In November, you could dangle your feet in the water if you sat on the edge of the terrace, but by December and January the sea had retreated a civilized ten to fifteen meters, which lets you have a table right on the beach if you prefer it.
If you’re gonna have a quick bite at the Peacock, have the seafood pizza — it’s probably one of the best in the country. If you’ve got more time, and are willing to get in upto your elbows, the grilled crab’s amazing. The hotel’s got just one shell cracker or nut cracker or whatever the hell you call it, so unless you’re willing to hang about, I suggest you crack the shell in the good old Sri Lankan way (no, don’t step on it, use your teeth) and tuck right in. The menu will probably last you a couple of days, but any longer and you’ll have to look elsewhere for some variety, and as anyone who’s been to Unawatuna will tell you, there’s plenty of variety. Just stay away from the infamous UBR (Unawatuna Beach Resort) a couple of hundred meters west of the Peacock.
Access to the first floor balcony’s up a precarious ladder-like stairs, and while the view from there’s pretty good, you need to keep going if you want the full monty. Walk the length of this common balcony, and you reach a regular cement staircase at the far end which takes you up to the second floor for a proper eyeful. The Peacock’s salmon-pink frontage (yeah, that’s right, it’s pink) curves gently to follow the sweep of the beach, giving you practically a hundred and eighty-degree view from east to west.
The rooms aren’t particularly interesting; the usual functional Down South style — tiled floor, double bed, ceiling fan, shower with hot water & toilet. The rooms on the first floor are cool but dark, and the ones on the second floor are bright and airy, but a bit warm. A couple of the latter come with air conditioning too. If you’re looking for cable TV and carpets, this ain’t the place. The rooms are just somewhere to recover from that view.
If you’re into snorkelling, you can just kick off from the beach, as there’s apparently (I’ve not tried it myself) plenty of sealife. I even spotted a couple of two-foot sharks in the shallows, one of which ended up in a plastic bag, though whether he was headed for an aquarium or the dinner table wasn’t too clear. If you prefer deeper water, dive boats head out regularly from just next door. Beyond that, if you want to just take in the secenery (Unawatuna or its visitors), a table at the Peacock’s perfect — the Lion’s cold and the chips are crisp.
Finding the Peacock’s pretty simple. Pass the UBR turnoff on the Matara Road, and as soon as the beach opens up on your right you should see it. As I said, before, it’s pink.