Jul 08 2014

Bali is not an over-touristed hellhole.

Published by at 4:54 am under Bali

It annoys me when I read a diatribe writing off Bali as an over-touristed hellhole when it transpires that the author was too lazy to go exploring the greater island. So before you let your rant-stained fingers anywhere near a keyboard and whinge about the island, try some of the following.

Beautiful Balangan.

Beautiful Balangan.

Balangan Beach
This is one of our favourite beaches in Bali and makes for a smashing alternative to Kuta. Beautiful bright yellow spherical grains of sand face onto an excellent surf break. Cliff-backed, you can only reach the beach by long sets of stairs, but once at the base a bunch of cheap warungs offer ice cold beers and simple fare at very budget-friendly prices. Accommodation is mostly up on the cliff, ranging from the fancy La Joya through to the budget-ish and amiable Flower Bud. The cheapest beds though are uber-basic surfer lodgings inside the warungs on the beach. Watch the sun set with volcanos in the distance at the low-key beach bars.

Dawn from just outside Sidemen.

Dawn from just outside Sidemen.

Lift Ubud up, turn it upside down, shake all the bad stuff out and put it back on earth, and you’ll have Sidemen. Set in a glorious rice field valley, Sidemen boasts tremendous rice field views and walks and has an excellent range of accommodation, from simple budget rooms to quite upmarket lodgings with horizon pools. The food scene lacks the diverse upmarket eateries of Ubud, but if you’re hankering for gorgeous rice field wanderings with none of the traffic, this spot is indeed difficult to beat. It also makes for a comfortable leaping off point to hike to the summit of Gunung Agung, Bali’s highest and most revered peak.

Fish for dinner.

Fish for dinner.

You won’t catch a wave in the series of bays along the coast of east Bali, but there’s something magical about watching the fleet of sometimes hundreds of jukungs running up onto the black sand beaches every morning, crab claw rigs fluttering, as locals unload their catch to deliver to market. While it’s slowly getting more developed, the area retains a strong local tilt; you’ll still be walking between family houses rather than condotels to make your way to the beach and you’ll be sharing the sands with fishermen and cheeky kids rather than sunburnt tourists. Enjoy sunset at a bar clinging to a rocky headland, or early risers can organise to head out on a fishing boat at 04:00 to watch the sun rise over Gunung Rinjani on Lombok — an unforgettable experience. Still not sold? Snorkel the coral garden or Japanese Wreck, or just put your feet up and enjoy babi guling.

Cool off in Munduk.

Cool off in Munduk.

The majority of the lodgings in Munduk cling to either side of the ridge road than leads up to Danau Tamblingan, meaning that it doesn’t matter where you stay, you’re going to have a spectacular view. Heavily forested in both directions, on a good day you can see all the way to the ocean, but Munduk’s real charm is far closer — a series of tremendous waterfalls that are easily reached on foot. Best visited in the height of wet season, the most powerful of the falls fills the valley with spray making it almost impossible to take a photo unless you’ve got an underwater camera. Wander fruit orchards, explore the market or do a village walk — don’t be surprised when you realise you’re the only foreigner in town.

Rather nice.

Rather nice.

Nusa Ceningan
If you’ve ventured as far as Sanur, you’ll have seen the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan offshore. The latter is quite well known and developed, the former less so, but wedged between them is a sliver of an island, Nusa Ceningan. Despite its size, it’s home to a clutch of great places to stay, an excellent surf break and photogenic seaweed farms. The early morning views from here across Lembongan to Bali, with Gunung Agung towering over, will just take your breath away. While it’s easy to hop on a boat to go snorkelling off the mangroves on Lembongan, you could just as easily get a boat to Penida and hire a motorbike to explore weaving villages and magnificent cliff views … or you could just swing in your hammock for a day or two.

Why were you going to Kuta and Ubud again?

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Bali is not an over-touristed hellhole.”

  1. Donnaon 08 Jul 2014 at 9:24 am

    Very well said.

  2. Stefan Russelon 09 Jul 2014 at 8:52 am

    That is an excellent point Stuart. There is definitely so much more to Bali than the tourist hubs.

    And thanks for reminding me about Nusa Ceningan as an alternative to Lembongan. Next time I fell like some slow-paced exploring I’ll hop across to Ceningan.


  3. Shaunon 14 Jul 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Nice list,

    It has always bothered me when people write off Bali as a tourist trap, merely because most can’t be bothered exploring any further than the swim up bar. As you say, there are plenty of places to visit in Bali that are a far cry from the wreck that is Kuta. Amed is a favourite of mine as is tulamben for the beaches/water, but there is plenty more if you are willing to brave the roads :)

  4. Krison 23 Jul 2014 at 9:55 am

    I must say that my first encounter with Bali was like that too, when arriving in Kuta it felt like I arrived at the spanish costa’s.

    After only 1 hour there they already tried to sell us timesharing flats!

    Some beaches are really horrible at the south, the beach itself looked nice but walking there you need to pass a river full of plastic… so far for the dream.

    The watersport place we visited did try to rip us off, and after some research done, I found out we payed the double on what they advertise on their website.

    Once going north you see the real Bali, The Bali you see in the movies. I would advise to go out of Kuta as fast as possible and stay more north of it. Go visit

    I prefer Lombok and Gili over Bali though. Gili offers much cheaper snorkelling tours then Bali and it has a more relaxed atmosphere.

  5. Daniel Don 09 Aug 2014 at 10:43 pm

    I’ve cycled around Bali and didn’t have any problems but once you leave the main tourist area’s then you’re on your own. I’ve got friends who have been to Bali heaps of times but spend most of there time in the resorts and don’t venture past the main gate too often. I’ve showed them pictures of where I’ve been on the one visit as opposed to there many and they think it’s a different country.

  6. Elishaon 12 Nov 2014 at 5:15 am


    I’m an Aussie living in Bali and I see what happens everyday with silly tourist going wild. People just need common sense! People judge Bali off of one experience or one area like Kuta then decide to post terrible things about it everywhere. Its a great place, people just need to use common sense and not be crazy animals.