Bali conjures up images of perfect beaches, tropical weather and palm trees swaying in the background. There are parts of the island where you’ll find that although Bali is more developed in places than many people think.
The most famous beach is Kuta where most travelers end up on their first day. There can be fairly strong wave and rip tides in the main beach area in front of Jalan Pantai and Jalan Melasti. For casual swimmers you might want to check out the conditions and stay within sight of other people in case you get into difficulty.
The first thing I noticed when I went to Kuta beach was the line of expensive hotels along the beach. They are all out of my league but at least they are built ‘lowrise’ in a Balinese style and not like Honolulu.
Along Kuta beach you’ll see an assortment of nationalities ranging from Europeans, Australians and Asians on vacation, shopping for Balinese carvings and other artwork. The beach scene is busy with the foreigners doing their best to get as much sun as they can and the locals doing their best to keep out of the sun under trees (think they know something we don’t?).
Local vendors will stroll up to you, sit down and start unpacking sacks full of cheap batik shirts and pants. They’ll even ask you to swap some of your clothes for them. Don’t buy any of this stuff, the material is wafer thin, the stitching isn’t even complete in many cases with the arms ready to come off with one good tug and the dyes aren’t permanent. I bought half a dozen of these shirts for $1 each and a month later had one left. As soon as you wash your new patchwork pants all the colors run into one. I’m not saying all the batik is like this but you have to check the material and the stitching.
Kids will walk around the beach with a bucket of cold Cokes balanced on their head and will entertain to make a sale. As Kuta draws the newcomers who don’t know the scene it also attracts those people who might take advantage, so never leave valuables unattended on the beach or wander off to buy a drink.
The great thing about Kuta is that on your first day in Bali, without leaving town or having to travel you can swim, stroll and relax�.it’s a handy place to recover from jet lag.
A short ways westward up the coast from Kuta beach is Legian beach. This is another place where you find a multinational assortment of people. There are some trendy bars in the neighborhood to that get quite busy in the evenings.
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This beach also has a high density of hotels, though not as busy as Kuta. Tuban beach is a good place to swim if you aren’t looking for huge waves.
Jimbaran Bay lies just south of the airport in Tuban and the Four Seasons hotel. Jimbaran beach has grey sand and the waves are not too big for swimmers. Although this beach still has a sleepy fishing village feel there are great food places and more springing up. A friend of mine was there recently and recommended the excellent food that is available on the beach.
Lovina is located on the north shore of the island and has a volcanic grey sand beach. It’s definitely a different scene from the spendy hotels down on the south side of the island and is a good place to chill out for a while. You will probably be offered an early morning dolphin watching boat ride. Take my advice and decline. Twenty boats powering after four dolphins isn’t my idea of fun.
Some of the best diving can be found off the coast at Pulau Menjangan.
Ulu Watu & Padang Padang
Hang around surfers and these two places will come up often. Ulu Watu was Bali’s first famous break and although isn’t developed for luxury tourists is getting more crowded. Located at the very south of the island on western edge of Bukit Badung (that bit that sticks out) Ulu Watu is a chill place to relax, visit the temple and watch the surfers.
Padang Padang is the next beach north of Ulu Watu.
Located 2 miles SE of Denpasar, Sanur Beach has a lagoon that makes it ideal for swimming and snorkeling. There’s a mixture of traditional village life and tourist accommodation which varies between traditional style and luxury. This place is way more relaxed than Kuta.
Padang Bai is a fishing village located on the SE coast approximately 40 miles from Kuta. When I went there I stayed at the large, 3 storey A-frame at the eastern end of the beach. The snorkeling is quite good and there are locals offering jet skis and other water sport activities. I remember seeing a woman walking up the beach with a small shark balanced on her head.
The ferry to Lombok leaves from here 12 times daily and takes four hours. You can ride your scooters onto the ferry which is really handy.
Great lagoon and white sandy beaches. There is a heavy build up of luxury hotels and resorts but there are also local warungs offering cheap food.
Across the bay from Padangbai, Candi Dasa is a quiet village. A lot of the beach has been washed away but there is some good snorkeling.