Bali Beaches, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur

Seminyak beach, bali, indonesia

Seminyak beach at sunset in July

The most lively beach in the Kuta area is Seminyak but see Bukit Peninsula for our favourite  Bali beaches

Seminyak beach and crowded La Plancha bar, Bali, Indonesia.

In 2016 Seminyak is clearly the place to be for lazy hipsters, with half a dozen beach bars competing to offer the best bean bag seating with funky Balinese parasols and music from top DJs during the afternoon morphing to live country music in the evening.

Basically Seminyak, Legian and Kuta beaches  in the south of Bali are identical – muddy brown water that is shallow for a long way out and  soft muddy brown sand. This long, wide (7kms) crescent lacks character except where beach bars have created their own, notably at the far west end of the beach in Seminyak.

We chose Seminyak as the best beach in this strip due to the colour and variety of beach bars/restaurants, as well as the lack of cars behind the beach, though there are plenty of motorbikes there.

Bali weather

Bali’s best beach season:  the dry months from April – October when humidity is relatively low and there is  little rain, tho’ clouds may still hang around. This is also the best time to trek or explore Bali island culture. Statistically the very least rain is August-September with about 40mm over 4 days.

Temperatures: Being very close to the Equator means that temperatures are quite stable throughout the year, ranging from low 20Cs to low 30Cs at beach level. But temperatures fall if you head north/uphill, so Ubud is a bit cooler and the mountainous/volcano regions much cooler.

The rainy season: the rains are mainly from December – March (but especially January-February). Though not as constant as some other Asian destinations (rain tends to be very heavy for a short time) the rainy season  involves high humidity as well as more mosquitoes. Also lower surf and more seaweed on beaches and in the water making swimming less pleasant.

Surfing: April – September is the best time for surfing, especially off the brilliant little Bukit peninsula beaches such as Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Bingin and Balangan, as well as the  Kuta-Seminyak stretch.

The wind changes direction during the wet season December – March so surf waves move over to Sanur, Nusa Dua, Green Balls and Keramas.

Legian beach

Kuta/Legian/Seminyak surf waves, Bali, Indonesia

Legian’s massive stretch of firm brown sand is – like Kuta –  backed by shady trees and a wide range of hawkers, hotels, bars and restaurants, big and small. It’s excellent for walking, watching, relaxing, shallow paddling and sometimes surfing but not ideal for swimming due to rough waters and strong currents.

In summertime the  surf is frequently quite big though rollers break too soon to give good rides. Swimmers are supposed to swim only between red/yellow flags but many – especially Australians who know surf swimming very well – swim when red flags are flying and attract endless and irritating whistles of discouragement from over-zealous life guards.

Bali beaches generally don’t have elevated, binocular-using lifeguards, just the guys with whistles who, to be frank, don’t inspire much confidence.

A calm, car-free street in Legian, Bali, Indonesia. Admittedly accommodation will be more expensive than that in shrieking, dodging, dilapidated Kuta.

When booking a hotel in this area we suggest googling Jl Pantai Kuta and  follow it beside the beach until it turns sharp right. You, however, continue straight ahead onto a no-name, car-free street lined with very nice beach resorts. Book one of those if you can afford it! No noise! No cars or bikes to avoid on the way to the beach!

Kuta beach

Kuta-Legian beach treeline, Bali, Indonesia

Kuta beach treeline.

At the back of the beach is a sturdy wall separating the beach from the rampant traffic on the other side. That’s the worst problem with Kuta, the  beach road Jl Pantai Kuta suffers a neverending flow of tooting taxis and humming, popping motorbikes/scooters. Anyone with low tolerance of road noise should not stay on that road or nearby, though the wall effectively cuts the road growl from disturbing the beach .

Pantai Kuta street at night, Bali, Indonesia

Kuta’s main beach street – Jl Pantai Kuta – with the beach wall on the left and hotels/restaurants/bars scattered on the right.

Pantai Kuta (pantai means beach)  suffers from endless traffic, narrow sidewalks and no bloody street lights. It’s a very unpleasant experience walking home after a night out with the street lit only by passing cars or occasional establishments. And if a Kuta hotel claims to be on the beach they’re not, they’re on the wrong side of the road! Legian also has a road in between hotels/beach but it’s closed to vehicles so they are allowed to say ‘on the beach’!

Kuta-Legian beach treeline, Bali, Indonesia

For cheapish convenience, sun, sand and nightlife, Kuta is just about OK if you are noise tolerant and like to be at the hub of the action.

Sand is plentiful, expansive but quite featureless and also you get garbage at the back of the beach and around the streets, endless hawkers, moronic taxi drivers tooting for fares from unresponsive pedestrians (if I want a taxi I’ll just raise my arm, OK?).

Thousands of little shops across the road sell identical T-shirts (Bintang Bali for visitors with a style by-pass) and ball caps while whining hordes of scooters buzz by the  US and European chain stores. And main streets have narrow sidewalks unlit except by taxi/scooter headlights (yes, local government officials are fiddling while Bali burns and moving their families to Singapore).

So for low-cost convenience, sun, sand and quiet nights head west along the coast from Kuta to Legian for a quiet life or Seminyak for funky bean bag seating, beach DJs and country-western bands in the evenings.

Kuta beach corn seller. Bali, Indonesia.

At the back of all the beaches Kuta-Legian-Seminyak lurk dozens of hawkers brandishing cold beers, hot corn (yes, that’s my corn the kind lady is burning!) and other foodstuffs, board rentals, sun loungers, and so on, though very little ice cream.

Sanur beaches on Bali’s east coast.

Sanur beach trees and sleepers in Bali, Indonesia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia.

Sanur beach trees and sleepers in Bali, with Balinese fully clothed in the shade and a foreigner toasting in full sun, at midday. Note that topless (female) sunbathing is not permitted on almost all Bali beaches, in spite of their topless lifestyle in the quite distant past.

Kite surfing off one of Sanur

Sanur, on Bali’s east coast and about an hour from Denpasar airport  – traffic willing, Sanur is coated with soft, light brown sand and washed by mostly calm, reef-protected waters, with a bit of seaweed for local colour.

The beach is five kms long long and packed with facilities and activities. The stretch adjacent to the port is a bit shabby, as is the far end of the beach but the majority is manicured by hotels and government employees. Note that all the beach is public space.

There are many hotels with pleasant pools right beside the beach (across the beachwalk path), unlike in Kuta where tourists must cross a hectic road to reach the sand.

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, tree shade is natural and ubiquitous and most watersports equipment is available.

Sanur beachwalk, Bali

One of Sanur’s best features, a 5km beachwalk path between the beaches and facilities such as bears, restaurants and resort hotels.

Lembongan Island

Dream beach, nusa lembongan, bali, indonesia

Main Beach on Nusa Lembongan, half an hour from Sanur. Photo by Burmesedays

Tiny 8 sq km Lembongan Island is just half an hour by fast boat 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. Book a day ahead in the busy season.


Padangbai port beach Bali, Indonesia

Padangbai port beach Bali, gateway to down-market life and down-under diving.

Padangbai is a pleasant fishing/ferry port north of Sanur and south of Candidasa on Bali’s east coast, a couple of hours from the airport.

Padangbai has a good reputation as a decent diving and snorkeling base. The town houses half a dozen dive shops and snorkel rental gear.

Padangbai offers four beaches:

• Gorgeous, small, white sand Blue Lagoon beach with some facilities, clear waters and not too many visitors. 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.

Main beach is part outrigger parking and part fine white sand  beaches in secluded coves on each side.

•Large, little visited Bias Tugal beach with few facilities.

• Mimba Beach or Black Pearl Sand Beach

On the subject of Lombok, most tourists passing through Padangbai are en route for Lombok or the Gili Islands via the fast cat ferry or the slow public ferry.

See Bukit Peninsula for our #1 choice of  best beaches in Bali