Best Bali Beaches
Legian beach, Bali, Indonesia.
Photo © D. Kushch
Legian's massive stretch of firm, brown sand is backed by shady trees and a wide range of hotels, bars and restaurants, big and small. It's superb for walking, watching, relaxing, paddling and (usually) surfing but not ideal for swimming due to rough waters and strong currents.
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Generally south Bali is where the best beaches are, including the huge stretches of Kuta and Legian and the newer, classy resorts on the Bukit Peninsula, though note that beach condition and quality depends on the season. During the dry season from April October beaches are at their best, clean and comfortable, but during the wet season west facing beaches become carpeted with debris and seaweed. First class hotels and even some villages groom their beaches regularly.
For guaranteed quieter waters
Mengiat/Geger beach in Nusa Dua and Sanur Beach both have offshore reefs that break up waves.
North Bali's beaches are mostly black volcanic sand, cool and very quiet.
East Bali's beaches are small, calm and lack sunset excitement but tend to have fine sand and sometimes great snorkeling or diving.
West Bali is little developed and offers few beach destinations so this is the place for adventurers to find their own little paradise, time willing.
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And Bali's best beaches are
- for low-cost convenience, sun, sand and wild nightlife, Kuta.
- for low-cost convenience, sun, sand and quiet nights, Legian (photo above).
- for upmarket family/romantic beach holidays with easy trips into/around Bali proper, Jimbaran.
- for upmarket romantic beach holidays on pristine, manicured sand try Mengiat and Geger beaches (topless sunbathing permitted) in Nusa Dua. These are accessible to the public via Segara Village or Geger Village and have parking, lifeguards, loungers, parasols and beach cafés.
- for get-away-from-it-all serious surfers, Uluwatu on the Bukit Peninsula.
- for scuba divers and quiet, low-cost snorkeling vacations, Padang Bai.
- for get-away-from-all Bali hype and development, head for the more relaxed beaches, surf and nature of neighbouring Lembongan (fast boat takes 30 minutes from Sanur), Lombok or the Gili Islands by boat from Sanur!
Kuta Beach shopping.
Kuta the legend lives on, albeit with more traffic, crowds and concrete, less traditional style and tranquility, but still Kuta retains a certain charm, value and convenience - certainly for hard-core party people on a budget who like to slump in the sun during the day on Kuta's 5 km stretch of sand, struggle into the surf for a cooling splash and buy bracelets from endless vendors. BTW, if you don't wish to buy anything don't say a word to them except "no thank you!" as they are very hard to lose once engaged in conversation. If you have bought something you can expect every vendor on the beach to appear imminently.
Spectacular sunsets are a feature of Kuta and local bars and cafés offer plenty of comfortable hanging out space for the purpose.
Kuta is a famous surfing destination though waves are rarely huge, but if surf's up boards can be rented nearby and surfing courses are also available. When swimming stay between the red and yellow flags and beware strong rip currents.
Kuta is home to a great range of excellent, good-value restaurants offering all sorts of cuisine but for really cheap good food don't hesitate to patronise beach-front stalls.
Kuta is 15 minutes from the airport and the best way to get around the town/beach is walking, biking or the cheapish taxis as the streets can get very congested and parking may be a problem.
For a more luxurious beach life head for Jimbaran or Nusa Dua, for best surf trek to Uluwatu or for real Balinese culture head for the hills to Ubud, you won't find it in Kuta.
Sanur beach dining.
Photo by Tsu
Sanur, on Bali's east coast and only 15 minutes from Denpasar airport, Sanur is coated with lovely soft golden sand and washed by calm, reef-protected waters. The beach is of modest size - a few hundred metres long, facilities are limited (mostly provided by adjacent hotels) and sadly the reef and underwater life that should be thriving there have all but disappeared, due to lack of care and pesticide run-off from nearby agriculture. However, the atmosphere is friendly and local, there is a 7 km long walking route beside the beaches, shade is natural and most watersports equipment is available.
Blue Lagoon beach, Padang Bai, for down-market life and down-under diving.
Padang Bai is a pleasant fishing village with basic accommodation on Bali's east coast, 1.5 hours from the airport and just south of Candidasa, with a couple of beaches nearby including the gorgeous, small, white sand Blue Lagoon with some facilities and larger Bias Tugel with few facilities. Padang Bai has a big reputation as a good diving and snorkeling base. The town houses half a dozen dive shops and snorkel rental gear.
Offshore the Blue Lagoon has fine snorkeling if the sea is calm but forget it if waves are sizeable as you won't see anything and the current might just drag you across to Lombok.
And on the subject of Lombok, most tourists passing through Padang Bai are en route for Lombok or the Gili Islands via the fast cat ferry - which takes about 2 hours - or the slow public ferry which takes at least 4 hours++ but departs hourly.
Candidasa beach, a typically small, east coast beach north of Padang Bai.
Photo by TSU
The Bukit Peninsula, far south-west Bali embraces fine hotels and famous beaches such as...
...Jimbaran where the waves are low, hotels are fine and the sand is manicured...
Photo by Pedrizat
Jimbaran beach, just ten minutes from the airport, is home to several five star resort hotels (and virtually no budget options), sharing the Bukit Peninsula's up-market tourists with Nusa Dua though offering easier access to Bali's culture than Nusa Dua.
Jimbaran sand is soft and almost white, the waters generally calm and protected by the bay; in fact this beach is one of Bali's safest.
Jimbaran has developed into Bali's biggest beach-dining scene, with endless candle-lit tables carpeting the sand, seafood dishes galore and strolling musicians to serenade diners from sunset onwards. For further nightlife, however, a trip into Kuta will be required.
Watersports facilities are limited to what is provided by hotels, which also run excellent spas loaded with body-upgrade treatments.
...Nusa Dua for more of the same resort hi-life but at south and south-west of the peninsula...
Photo by SREyes
Nusa Dua refers to both the pristine, first-class hotel cluster on Bukit as well as the entire east side of the Bukit Peninsula.
Nusa Dua is just 30 minutes drive from Denpasar airport and sports some of Bali's best beach resort hotels, best beaches and a wide range of water sports facilities as well as spas for mums and golf for dads, though local culture is mostly missing. The superb white sand, public beach in Nusa Dua is Pantai Geger.
Uluwatu's temple and surf is just 20 minutes drive away, while Jimbaran's speciality - seafood dinner on the beach - is 15 minutes.
...is Uluwatu, with its cliffs, precipitous temple (Pura Luhur) in black coral rock hanging 75m above the pounding waves and terrific, remote surfing beaches.
Pura Luhur temple presents spectacular sunset views, a colony of greedy and grabbing macaque monkeys (especially fond of chewing on pricey sunglasses) and a daily Kecak dance routine.
Getting to quiet Uluwatu town from Kuta is about one hour drive or 30/40 minutes from Nusa Dua. There is a handful of terrific, white sand beaches on the west side of Bukit - some with simple accommodation available, though they are not easy to get to. They will, however, be uncrowded, beautiful and beaten by some of the best surf in Bali. More Uluwatu beaches.
Lembongan Island (Nusa Lembongan).
Photo by Burmesedays
Tiny 8 sq km Lembongan Island is just half an hour by fast boast from Sanur Beach. It's been a backpacker and surfer destination for some time but it's get-away-from-it-all feel, low cost, white beaches and tranquilty are attracting more regular visitors, some only day tripping but others staying over for days, weeks or months.
The two main caveats are that the selection of accommodation, eating, drinking and partying places is much, much less than Bali, and beaches, though beutiful, frequently harbor dangerous rips. More.
Lombok (aka Lembar) Island, 25 miles from Bali, is in many ways how tourists see modern Bali, an island with fine, uncrowded beaches, unspoilt culture, wilde tropical terrain and great coral diving or snorkeling, but beware strong currents and the fact that Lombok is not an unspoilt Bali - it's always been different and more natural than its big, aristocratic cousin with little of the grandeur, art or colourful culture
Lombok's main tourist beaches are located on a strip on the west coast, Mangit, Senggigi and Batu Layar, (see the Bali Map above) with plentiful supplies of holiday neccessities. Kute/Kuta in the south is the best surfing spot but has little tourist support action.
Lombok is drier than Bali and thus is a better option if you wish to head this way in the wet season October to April. It rarely rains for more than an hour or two at a time.
Get to Lombok by ferry or by plane from Bali or Jakarta fairly easily. International flights arrive only from Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
Indonesia is tropical so temperatures and humidity are generally high and vary little between seasons; and when it rains it pours! The mountainous central part of Bali e.g. Ubud, gets more rain and cloud than the coast and has lower temperatures.
Best beach months: April- October, the dry season when there is less rain and humidity. Temperatures between 23C (73F) - 33C (91F).
Worst months: December- February with lots of rain. Wet seasons on beaches.