May 15 2011

Seminyak and Legian beach bars

Published by at 10:29 pm under Bars & nightlife

Open any inflight mag and the Bali beach bars that get name-dropped are inevitably the glossies like KuDeTa, Cocoon, Rock Bar, Potato Head, Tao Rooftop Bar and so on, but there’s one problem, none of these are actually on the beach.

Tao: No sand = no beach bar

Tao: No sand = no beach bar

Sure you can see the beach from any of these joints, but you’re certainly not going to be wiggling your toes in the sand while you chug down those $15 martinis.

So, at a loose end after a few days checking out fancy hotels in Legian, I decided to go check out a few beach bars along the Legian/Seminyak strip of sand. There was one requirement and one alone: my feet had to be in the sand when I had a drink in hand.

Ketut & Wayan’s esky
From Kuta right through to past Seminyak, much of the beach is dotted with deckchairs and umbrellas. In some cases the gear is managed by the fancier hotels specifically for their guests, but more often than not it’s ma and pa businesses with perhaps a dozen deckchairs and a half-dozen umbrellas that they rent out by the hour or day. As the sun slowly drops, the trade shifts from deckchairs to drinks, and so I found myself kicking back with Ketut and Wayan, who’ve been working the same stretch of sand since 1997.

Ketut and Wayan don't have an infinity pool - they don't need one

Ketut and Wayan don't have an infinity pool -- they don't need one.

In all those year’s Ketut never found the time to give surfing a go, but he rattled off the names of Australian surfers (and their hometowns) that he’s met over the past decade or so. Chat ranged from the tight times after the Bali bombings through to kids and family photos. It felt a world away from the faceless hassle on Jalan Padma Utara.

Where Ketut and Wayan’s was somewhat adrift in a less busy stretch of beach, Raymond’s, not far from where busy Jalan Double Six empties out onto the beach, is wedged in among a mass of deckchair-cum-dives. With at least a dozen bars (I’m being generous here when using that term) in rapid succession, some little more than a couple of locals, a handful of tourists and a guitar, the vibe is much more a case of lets chug the beers down and have a good time. Hand-painted signs like “Iced piss here” are aplenty and I skipped the first few bars because the punters were already hammered.

Nutty people watch nut seller. View from Raymond's

Nutty people watch nut seller. View from Raymond's.

I swerved around a dodgy drug deal (really guys, you were totally obvious) and plonked down at Raymond’s, a deckchair across from a British teenager almost as drunk as she was sunburnt. Her boyfriend eventually staggered out of the ocean, even drunker than she, and knocked back a few more cold ones. They’ve been hitting Raymond’s hard each night because it’s cheap (small Bintang 12,000 rupiah) and he’s a great guy. It’s their first time in Bali, they’ve been here a week and haven’t left Legian/Seminyak. They’re absolutely loving it.

Raymond is indeed a nice guy and was near mortally offended when I got up to leave after one drink. He wanted me to come back in a couple of hours when it would really start getting kickin’. Maybe next time.

Crystal Palace
After Raymond’s I wandered the maze of deckchairs and drunks, surfers and sunbathers. There were any one of a dozen Raymondesque “bars” I could have sat down at, each with its own distinct crowd and vibe. Some people were obviously having a temptingly great time, others were already in such a bad state they were better just avoided.

A magic mushroom infused Tsunami at Crystal Palace for just 100,000Rp. I went with a Coke.

A magic mushroom infused Tsunami at Crystal Palace for just 100,000 rupiah. I went with a Coke.

Immediately in front of Double Six there’s nothing, but not much further on I reached the very aptly named Crystal Palace. With a live band, which was actually pretty damn good, and a really, really good vibe, this was a place that I immediately felt at home. Excellent staff, and just to repeat, a great band, made this somewhere I’d certainly return to. It passes the “on-the-beach” test by way of lazy seating right on the beach, but there’s also some above-the-sand seating, including a second floor.

Great drinks range, good prices, fine staff and an ideal people-watching position make this a super spot as the sun really starts to sink.

Big, brightly-coloured beach bean bags are all the rage along here, but Champlung adds to them with these cool little decorative umbrellas adorned with dingle dangles that serve no useful purpose other than to make for nice sunset photos.

Champlung: Beach hippy sort of.

Champlung: Beach hippy sort of.

The Russian couple on the bean bags beside me spent a full half-hour photographing first each other, then their neighbours, then anyone who’d stay still long enough, with an obviously brand new, really huge, digital camera. Now perhaps they’d either never seen a sunset before, but more likely they were just inconsiderate dicks. Please, always try to ask someone before taking their photo!

Assuming Champlung isn’t awash with camera-wielding idiots, you’ll want to be settling in here for an hour or so. As with its neighbours, drink prices are moderate and the staff here were friendly, but it lacked the personal touch I felt at Crystal Palace.

La Plancha
This is the beach-bar favourite of the foreign press and you’ve no doubt read about it elsewhere in listings of cool beach bars… It was completely packed, so I kept on walking.

Juice Park
This place only just scraped in to meet our criteria, as most of the seating is off the beach so you can’t have a drink with your feet in the sand — that is, unless you do what I did and grab one of the lazy pillows out front.

Juice Park: The wooden chairs are tenderer than the squid

Juice Park: The wooden chairs are tenderer than the squid.

Cold drinks and a less hectic feel than its more famous neighbour, Juice Park was a friendly enough joint and the drinks were cheap and cold, but the food, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend the calamari.

The sun slipped behind the clouds just as I forced down the last of the calamari and as I had a date at one of the aforementioned fancy places (Potato Head) I cut the beach drinking short.

Mandatory sunset beach photo

Mandatory sunset beach photo.

Had I had time on my hands I would have left Juice Park, wandered back to Champlung for a bite to eat and then beelined it for Crystal Palace, where I’d have really put my ban on boozing to the test. As for Ketut and Wayan, I’ll be hitting them up for some deckchairs next time I’m in this part of the island.

Across the board, beers were priced around 12,000-15,000 rupiah for a small Bintang. Cocktails are around the 50,000 mark.

Have fun!

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10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Seminyak and Legian beach bars”

  1. […] for kids to play on in Bali, but sometimes when you're sick of the sand or the sun, or you'd like some beach bar time away from the kids, you'd like them to play on their own for a bit. If you're not staying somewhere with a kids' club, […]

  2. franon 02 Jun 2011 at 1:18 am

    Hi Stuart
    Can you tell me where exactly Crystal Palace Beach bar is as I really want to go there but i cannot find any information about it?

  3. adminon 02 Jun 2011 at 5:27 am

    Hi Fran,
    To get to Crystal Palace get to the end of Jalan Double Six where it meets the beach and turn right. Walk along the beach for perhaps a couple of hundred metres and you’ll see Crystal Palace on your right. You can’t miss it.


  4. franon 03 Jun 2011 at 1:08 am

    thanks so much Stuart xxx

  5. […] the, ummm, nightlife is pretty limited. Don't expect Seminyak and Legian-style beach bars. At each beach head, there's generally a small warung (that is, a woman with an esky) who sells […]

  6. Belindaon 11 Jun 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I am arranging a hens party in Bali and wondered if this place would be appropriate for 15-20 silly ladies playing silly hens party games? Do you think we would need to book a section? I assume they dont have a website :-)
    Thanks a mil

  7. adminon 11 Jun 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Hey Belinda,

    All these places are right on the beach and pretty casual affairs. I’d suggest popping into La Plancha or Crystal Palace a day or so before and see what they could sort out. Crystal Palace has an upstairs section that you might be able to hire – I can’t remember if La Plancha has an upstairs or not.

  8. Louiseon 02 Nov 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m trying to arrange a casual wedding reception of sorts and would love to have it at the crystal palace. I don’t want to leave it till we get there to arrange (because I would stress out too much beforehand!!), so would anyone happen to have or have stumbled upon their phone number or an email address I could try??

    Thanks!!! :)

  9. coconewon 23 Jul 2012 at 2:14 am

    Hi there,
    I am just wondering where you began walking from? Is there a specific area that you began walking down from, in the sense did you leave potato head and just start wlaking left?

    Thank you!!

  10. adminon 27 Jul 2012 at 1:05 am

    I started in Legian, down around where Jl Padma empties out to the beach, then took a right and walked along the beach from there.

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