Love or loathe the decadence and the frenetic malls, clubs, and bars, Kuta Beach is renowned across the world for a reason, it is wide and sandy, and offers glorious sunsets, as well as surfboard rental, lounge chairs and drink stalls. Of course, the choice of places to spend money within a few minutes’ walk is legendary, but only a few hotels face the sea, and these also overlook a busy esplanade. The waves are popular among surfers, so Kuta is not always ideal for swimming, especially by children and novices.
Sanur has a quiet and rustic fishing village charm and is often considered the total opposite of busier Kuta (aptly on the opposite side of the island). The coastline features a mix of grainy to coarse coral sand, and much of it is protected by the Sanur Reef. The resulting calm waves allow you to swim and enjoy great snorkelling right off the beach. It is great for witnessing magical sunrises, with outlines of Mount Agung and Nusa Penida island on the far horizon.
This sheltered cove is almost perfect, with blue-green waters, sloping palm trees, rocky islets just offshore and a hilly backdrop, it is also astoundingly undeveloped. With more cattle grazing than tourists lazing, it is so idyllic because it’s so isolated: on Nusa Penida island, an hour by speedboat from Bali, and only accessible by chartered vehicle or rented motorbike. With only a few laidback bungalows nearby and a handful of thatched-roof cafés on the sand, the reefs are popular among scuba-divers and snorkelers who mostly arrive by boat from more developed regions.
Padang Padang Beach
This beach found fame in a Julia Roberts film and it certainly deserves the recognition, as do many of the idyllic beaches of Bali. It sits in a lovely bay that attracts sunbathers and surfers.
The waves make it ideal for surfers, who can enjoy the dramatic setting created by the rock formations. The beach itself is fairly small but it is worth rising early in the morning to see the sun rise above the horizon. The crowds will start to appear and then it is up to you whether you want to enjoy those crowds or find somewhere quieter to relax.
A favourite surf spot, Balangan is on the northern side of the cliff that forms the signature hole 15 of the New Kuta Golf course. The name ‘Balangan’ itself was thought to apply to the whole coastline including Dreamland, before surfers nicknamed the specific shore area south of the cliff. Several beach shacks serve simple local ‘surfer meals’, cold refreshments and beer. Accessing Balangan is easy, compared to other beaches along the Bukit peninsula’s shoreline, with only a dozen steps down from the limestone hill.
Balian Beach exerts a catnip call on surfers, who flock here for the rugged waves. The waters of this black-sand beach are a little too rambunctious for swimming, but Balian is quiet and fringed with greenery, making for peaceful nature walks.
This is a sociable, busy beach. Restaurants, cafés and watersports shacks line the waterfront; hire a surfboard and sign up to a surf camp to perfect your skills and meet fellow wave-addicts.