Apr 02 2011
The area commonly referred to as Amed is actually a series of villages and bays running along the northeast coast of Bali. Known for black sand beaches, calm waters, fine snorkelling and impressive scenery, Amed forms a low-key counterpoint to the bustling yellow sand surf beaches of southern Bali. With over a half dozen beaches to choose from and plenty of places to stay, first-time visitors can find the selection a little daunting, so here are some pointers and our pick of the bunch.
First, let’s get orientated. The name Amed is actually that of first village (when approaching from the west). It is followed by the villages of Jemeluk, Bunutan, Pupuan, Lipah, Lean, Selang, Banyuning and Aas. Some of these villages have multiple beaches, others share the same beach, but for the casual visitor little differentiates one village from another. Jemeluk, Bunutan and Lipah are the three most popular areas, Amed is the cheapest and Aas is the least developed (and, located to the far east, the most remote).
The best snorkelling is at Banyuning and Selang while Amed is the worst, closely followed by Bunutan. Banyuning is also home to the Japanese shipwreck, while on a recent visit we saw dolphins offshore from Selang.
All the bays are home to active fishing villages, so expect to share your strip of sand with a fair portion of the fishing fleet. There is ample opportunity to do a dawn boat trip on a fishing boat should you be so inclined. While some of the resorts clean the beach out front, some flotsam on the beach remains — especially in the off season.
Amed isn’t famed for its culinary scene and with good reason. You’ll find ample and very affordable seafood but actual seaside restaurants are inexplicably rare (there are a couple in Amed and Jemeluk but precious few after that), and, assuming you don’t have your own transport, you’ll end up doing a fair bit of eating in whichever bay you choose to lodge at. There are a few standouts: Sails, Shanti and Kemulan Warung spring to mind, but there are some truly awful places as well — we recently scored a ball of deep-fried human hair in a plate of calamari.
Cheap places to stay around Amed
If you’re on a budget and, especially if you do have your own wheels, the first village, Amed, is difficult to beat. Kadek Homestay offers tremendous value and some good value warungs are also clustered nearby. On the downside, the snorkelling here is mediocre at best. Your second option is to strike east to Good Karma (on Selang) or Eka Purnama (Banyuning). Both of these have rooms for under 150,000 rupiah per night. While the more central beaches have affordable offerings as well, they tend not to be as good value unless you’re after air-con.
Flashpacker bungalows around Amed
If you’re at the cheaper end of the flashpacker scale, Nana Homestay and Lily Amed (both in Amed village) are quite good value deals, but if you’re willing to spend a little more you’ll be able to get into the more central beach of Jemeluk. This beach has a broader choice of places to eat and better snorkelling. The picks of the bunch here are Geria Giri Shanti Bungalows, Villa Coral and Galang Kangin but there are quite a few other places to choose from. If you’re looking for something more rustic and remote, Meditasi, way east at Aas, is what you’re looking for.
Midrange family hotels at Amed
Amed has a good selection of family lodgings, much of it centred around Bunutan, and our pick would start with the Anda Amed. While it is off the beach, it’s got a small but lovely horizon pool and the family rooms are both spacious and very well designed. Extra points for especially obliging staff. If you’d like something in a more Indonesian flavour, then the Santai Hotel is right on the beach and has a larger pool than the Anda Amed. Staff here also very generously hosed the vomit out of a baby seat when we arrived! If your kids need a quarter acre to tire themselves out at, then Arya Amed has some great deals on family-style accommodation set within a spacious lawn garden. Lastly, Life in Amed has beautiful gardens and gets rave reviews as a family getaway.
High-end hotels in Amed
If you’d like to spend a bit more, the resort scene in Amed was kicked off with Jepun Villas. This is an allround very classy operation, but it would want to be at these prices, especially given the long and steep climb down to the beach. Brand spanking new at Selang, in the so-newly-opened-they-didn’t-have-uniforms-when-we-visited class, the Palm Garden Resort is beachside luxury in Amed. Their massive beachfront villas have very high rates, but we’d expect you to be able to get significant discounts with not too much effort.
Getting discounts in Amed
Amed has a very specific high season. In June, July and August approximately three quarters of the breathing population of Marseille, Nice and Bordeaux descend upon Amed and the rates jump accordingly. At any other time of the year, all rates should be considered highly negotiable. During a recent visit in April 2011, we had an outrageously priced US$130 room offered to us for 300,000 rupiah (just over $30), including breakfast and tax, without even pressing too hard for a discount. The best places won’t always budge on price, but if you’re heading here in shoulder or especially low season, check online for competitive rates for Amed and/or pick up the phone and make a few calls — you’ll be surprised just how much you’ll be able to slice off.
That said, in high season don’t expect any discounts at all and don’t be surprised if your first couple of choices are full.
How long to spend in Amed?
We’ve visited here a few times for a slow weekend — arrive Friday afternoon and leave Sunday evening — and we always leave thinking an extra day or two would have been good. If you’ve got the time, and especially if you enjoy snorkelling, allow at least four days as at least a few bays are worth trying out.
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