Geger beach, on the Bukit Peninsula in far south Bali.
Generally south Bali is where the best beaches are
This area includes the famous, popular and huge stretches of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Sanur as well as the less known but better beaches on the Bukit Peninsula in the far south. There may be a magical secret beach or two in the northern regions but we don’t know of them and are more than happy to leave them to the locals. Overdevelopment is a rampant cancer eating into traditional Balinese life and we fear for the future of this beautiful, peaceful culture.
A Bingin beach family, on the Bukit Peninsula in far south Bali.
Traffic in Bali is cartostrophic so pick a region and stay there most of the time!
Jl Pantai Kuta with Kuta beach on the left and the busy street on the right. No lights at night! Almost no pedestrian crossings! Jeez mate!
Kuta is cheap and beaches are easy to reach if you take PJ O’Rourke’s (paraphrased) advice: “traffic is like a bad dog. It isn’t important looking both ways when you cross the street. It’s important not to show fear.” Next beaches north are Legian and Seminyak, practically identical in terms of sand/water but you can get to the sand without being creamed by a bus, the hotels are much more sophisticated and at Seminyak there’s a pretty hip bean-bag chair and live music scene rocking the boat in the evenings.
Constant and appalling traffic conditions (CAT) have become the daily norm throughout the main tourist region from Ubud far south to Uluwatu. This means that getting around Bali is time-consuming and unpleasant, with long taxi or motorbike rides in fuming traffic, as well as toxic city centre walking. The cure… stay in one place. Do not plan to travel around or you’re doomed, doomed I say! And if it’s beaches then the one place to stay would be either on the Bukit peninsula (small beaches, lots of character, lots of surf but swimming also OK) or Sanur (5kms of soft sand beach/beachwalk/decent beachside hotels without the suicidal road crossings. Excellent spot for toddler families.
Where is best to stay for Bali beaches?
A quiet, beach-side resort in Sanur, east Bali. Photo shot from the enjoyable 5km Sanur beachwalk path, next to the substantial beach with protective reef and many facilities. In other words, no CAT!
Pick a location where you really want to spend most of your time as getting around will inevitably involve CAT:
• Surfers? Head for Bukit west coast, especially Bingin beach for great atmosphere and all-age surfing. Budget accommodation and terrific beach dining but lots of steps! Regular sandy section too for non-surfers, BTW.
• Party people on a budget who can tolerate CAT? Head for Kuta beach.
• Party people with a generous budget? Head for Seminyak or Legian beaches.
• Family beach people on a budget? Head for Sanur beach resorts or possibly Bukit’s Geger beach.
• Family beach people on a generous budget? Head for Bukit’s manicured Nusa Dua (probably the smartest, cleanest, least CAT region of Bali!) and get 5* Bali culture built-in.
• Bali culture seekers? Head for Ubud, in spite of CAT!
• Adventurers? Head way north, west or to another island. Sorry we can’t help you more, our team had quite enough work checking Bali south of Ubud region in 2016.
See below for specific beach recommendations and photos.
General Bali beach advice
Note that beach condition 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 but many don’t.
For quieter waters Mengiat/Geger beach in Nusa Dua and Sanur Beach both have offshore reefs that break up waves to a small degree.
North Bali’s beaches are mostly black volcanic sand, cool and very quiet.
East Bali’s beaches – such as Sanur – are calmer, with clearish blue waters (with luck), fine sand and sometimes great snorkeling or diving but lack sunset excitement.
Northwest Bali is little developed and offers few beach destinations so this is the place for adventurers to find their own little paradise, time willing.
Our choice of Top Bali Beaches
A lonely shore-bound surfer at Bingin Beach, Bali, Indonesia.
For safe swimming, sand quality, beach character, basic facilities and nice atmosphere our choice would be:
- Bingin beach, Bukit west. Main downside is the steep and erratic steps down to it, but that’s what keeps the wallies and developers away! There are loads of little places to stay around and on the path down and good parking for bikes/cars at the top, as you will need personal transport. The ambience is surfer-chic with plenty of kids around but no activities aimed specifically at children. Swimming is also fine.
- Balangan, Bukit west, more or less next to Jimbaran. A charming bay with short, easy-ish beach access from the parking area, tho’ getting there is a long and winding road. There are little places to stay, drink and dine right on the beach. Terrific surf is found here tho’ the rocky bed is reputed to host sea urchins and you wouldn’t want to wipe out onto them! Surfers in the know stay further out where it’s deep and there’s less chance of hitting rocks or getting whacked by your board.
There’s also space for swimmers and the sand is soft. Balangan didn’t have the same family ambience as Bingin and we saw very few kids.
- Geger, Bukit southeast, for brilliant, spacious public sand, reef-calmed azure waters and nice little restaurants/bars. Accommodation is mainly two quite pricey resorts.
Padang Padang, a beautiful little beach with gorgeous sand embraced by tall rock formations. Surfing is excellent and swimming pretty good but steep steps to enter, no accommodation and limited facilities. It’s between Uluwatu and Bingin.
- Padang Padang, Bukit west, is tiny but full of character, enclosed/sheltered by rocks. Swimming is possible but it’s also a surf beach as we discovered when we arrived to find a surf competition in progress. Facilities are limited, steps are steep, there’s no accommodation and a small charge to enter the beach of about $1.
- Nusa Dua, Bukit east and south coasts is encrusted with masses of spectacular beach resorts. Totally lovely and very expensive! There’s little in the way of public beaches and we were not impressed by those we saw.
- Sanur beaches, mainland east coast. 5kms long, calm, reef protected, decent sand, lots of activities available, no CAT, several nice little beach-front beach resorts with pools beside the beachwalk, fair prices.
- For scuba divers and quiet, reasonably priced snorkeling vacations try 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!
Bingin beach dining tables at the ready, Bukit Peninsula, southwest Bali. A superb half-surf, half-swim and all chilled beach. Lots of budget accommodation but quite a lot of serious, wonky steps to get there. Fit folk only!
Surfing beaches in Bali
Pro surfers, or at least very experienced, at Uluwatu during a surf contest, (officially known as Suluban beach) The beach is actually tiny and carpeted with coral chips so this is definitely not a beach for swimming or sunbathing.
Surfing is the favoured activity on the west side of the Bukit Peninsula from Balangan up to Uluwatu. Some beaches are OK for all levels – such as Bingin (see family photo below), others are for experts only – such as these guys at Uluwatu (officially known as Suluban. Photo above). We met an experienced Australian surfer who broke ribs there and moved on!
Balangan, as surfers try to climb a green wall. Balangan beach has both rocks, sand and great character, with nice little wooden establishments along the sandy stretch.
Along Bukit’s west coast the surf is reputed to be the best in Bali, especially in the dry season from about April to September. Of course the waves are a mobile feast and are better on some days on some beaches, so hard core surfers move around by motorbike (or scooters as they are known in UK) with an attachment for holding a board or two at the side. These are easy to rent.
Finding your way to these beaches is not always easy as signposts are rare and road maps do not appear to exist, tho’ I haven’t been to a Denpasar bookstore. Fortunately locals are friendly so asking for directions constantly is the way to go. Locals are good at giving nearby directions but quite useless at clear, sequential, long-distance navigation, so it’s down to asking for directions every few kilometres or less.
Probably the most regular waves appear at Uluwatu/Suluban (experienced surfers only); Padang Padang; Bingin; Balagan.
Watch out for sea urchins on the reefs, as well as the rocks! Surfers tell me that it’s best to surf the big waves further out as the water depth is greater there so there’s less chance of either being smashed onto the rocky bottom or hit by your own board.
Good Bukit beaches for swimming, maybe sharing with surfing
Geger public beach, on Bukit’s east coast is book-ended by two small beach resorts, coated with brilliant soft white sand, embraced by turquoise waters and a protective reef and backed by a nice collection of low-rise wooden bars and restaurants next to a superb public beach.
Balangan public beach and ‘village’ with useful establishments at the far end. Bukit peninsula, Bali, Indonesia. The day I was there the surf was huge.
About half of Jimbaran beach, with the Intercontinental Hotel on the left and a fetching pink fishing boat just arrived. Jimbaran is a massive, quite featureless beach with very little surf and shallow muddy-coloured water so not brilliant for swimming or surfing, but it is home to a few good upscale hotels where the pool will do the job instead.
Jimbaran beach shares the Bukit Peninsula’s up-market tourists with Nusa Dua though offering easier access to Bali’s nightlife than Nusa Dua.
Jimbaran sand is similar to Kuta – soft and muddy colour, with muddy waters generally calm and protected by the bay. We were disappointed to find some uncomfortable coral stones underfoot in the shallow waters.
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.
We don’t do upmarket hotels but were envious of the Intercontinental Hotel’s shade trees on a very hot day.