Unpretentious, and somewhat sedate, Lovina is Bali’s main northern beach resort. Far removed, both geographically and in essence from its southern counterparts, here the slow-moving days can merge into slower weeks. The laidback pace may be ideal for some, but there’s still plenty to explore around the region to keep more active souls occupied.
A sweep of narrow blacksand beaches stretch for about 10 kilometres hugging the north coast of Bali between the busy city of Singaraja and the smaller town of Seririt. The string of seaside villages along this strip are collectively known as Lovina, a name coined in the 1950s by the late Raja of Buleleng who actively promoted tourist development of the area. Lovina is said to be a contraction of “love Indonesia”. The village of Kalibukuk is the main hub and is the unofficial centre of Lovina.
Kalibukbuk is by far the most popular destination and enjoys a diverse range of eating options, shops and facilities. Outside of Kalibukbuk, things simplify considerably and you will more than likely need to commute into town to access ATMs and search for a bigger variety of restaurants. Kaliasam and Banyualit, to the immediate west and east of Kalibukbuk, are both easy walking distance, but further afield you may require transport.
The iconic landmark of Lovina is the rather kitsch smiling crowned dolphin statue in the heart of Kalibukbuk, a tribute to the most famous attraction here: the dolphins.
We do not advise heading out on a boat for dolphin watching though. Imagine a few dolphins swimming around with hundreds of boats chasing after them and you won’t be far off the mark. Over the years commercial competition has lead to a huge escalation in the number of boats getting closer and closer to the marine mammals. Don’t believe it when you are told the dolphins are not disturbed as they come back every day -- there are many reasons they return including it being a good feeding ground or a protected mating area. The trips do provide a good side income for many local fishermen and give them an incentive to preserve dolphins when they are caught in their nets. It could be a wonderful experience seeing dolphins in their wild habitat, but until it is more regulated here, sadly this is not the case. If you do decide to participate, ask your boatman to stop and not chase the dolphins — the more tourists who show respect for the sea life, the more the local boatmen may take this into consideration.
On the subject of dolphins, when choosing somewhere to stay in Lovina avoid Melka Excelsior Hotel, who have captive dolphins in their small swimming pools. Captivity in small pools is seriously detrimental to the health of dolphins. According to local animal welfare groups, a loophole in the law allows this under the guise that the dolphins have been rescued.
Dolphins aside, there’s plenty to keep you entertained if lazing about reading or sipping a quiet Bintang contemplating the stunning sunsets are not enough. Of course there are the beaches around Lovina, and though you should prepare to be underwhelmed, there are nevertheless some pretty spots. Lotus Sherab Yoga offers yoga classes at an open beachfront location; call first to confirm class times. There are spas aplenty and a few offer after-sun treatments if you’ve had too much beach time. Beach side of the main road, Lovina is flat and perfect for riding a bicycle to explore side streets and villages. Bikes are available to hire at a couple of spots along Jalan Mawar, Kalibukbuk for 30,000 rupiah per day. Snorkelling and diving trips to Menjangan Island, Tulamben and Amed can be arranged if you are not staying closer to these destinations. At the eastern end of Kalibukbuk, about a kilometre from the dolphin statue, North Bali Adventures Ocean Park is a giant inflatable fun park in the middle of the sea — think giant jumping castles moored above the reef. It looks like fun, but kind of dangerous (our friend’s kid dislocated their shoulder). It's open daily 08:00-16:00.
Away from the beach, the other attractions in the region are easily visited by public transport, chartered car or motorbike. Banjar hot springs, built in a temple-like environment, and peaceful Brahmavihara Arama Buddhist monastery are both only about a 20-minute drive from central Lovina; combine a visit with a dip in Sing Sing Waterfall for a pleasant half-day trip. Further afield, Sekumpul Waterfall is one of the most spectacular in Bali, but takes a bit of a climb to get there. Git Git Waterfall, though not as magnificent, is more popular and easier to access. Although closer to Tulamben, Les Waterfall is also within easy reach.
Add all or either waterfall to a day trip around Singaraja, approximately 10 kilometres east of Lovina. This is the second biggest town in Bali and the former capital of the island. Singaraja was the entry point for generations of foreign explorers visiting this alluring island and has some interesting colonial architecture and temples to see. Yeh Sanih, a cold-water natural spring-fed pool, is in the far northeast and is popular with locals.
Lovina offers a good range of hotels and guesthouses and prices tend to be a little cheaper than in the south. For a beachside location, very few hotels have beach frontage, however most are walking distance from the shore or if you head for the hills, viewing distance. Previously more of a backpacker destination, much of the accommodation was built in the booming 1970s and 1980s, and hasn’t aged well. However things are changing — renovations have smartened up a few places, and there are some new options too.
In the evenings, a group of popular food carts gather around the dolphin statue, and a string of beachfront warungs and restaurants offer food with the views. Often better fare can be had a bit back from the beach. Fresh seafood is the star, but a lot of what’s on offer in Lovina is of the pasta-pizza-noodle-rice variety -- as with much of the accommodation, it's stuck back in the '80s. But again, this is changing slowly and the variety of international restaurants is growing.
Most shopping in Lovina involves bargaining with beach hawkers — wooden dolphin anyone? A beachside art market sells tourist tat and a couple of boutique-style shops line Jalan Binaria. Several convenience stores are located along Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, some sell sunblock and several stock wine and spirits. A dedicated wine shop Alcovina is on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kaliasam near Spice Beach Club. Lovina local market has a good selection of fresh fruit. For a more extensive range of goods, Singaraja is the location of both Carrefour and Hardy’s supermarkets.
A cluster of ATMs can be found on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt in the main centre of Kalibukbuk. The chain minimarkets Indomaret and Alfamart have ATMs inside, and another group of ATMs is further west near Krisna Wisata Kuluner.
Free WiFi is available in hotels, guesthouses and most bars and restaurants.
The post office is on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt at Kaliasam, and police station on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt near Aneka Hotel.
A local English-speaking doctor with a pharmacy next door is on Jalan Singaraja-Seririt, Kalibukbuk near the corner of Jalan Mawar. The closest hospitals are in Singaraja:
RSUD Singaraja: 30 Jalan Ngurah Rai, Singaraja; T: (0362) 22046
RSU Kertha: Usada 5 Jalan Cendrawasih, Singaraja; T: (0362) 26277
Perama tourist shuttle services Lovina, and local bemos ply the main road between Singaraja and Seririt. Ojeks wait at the corner of Jalan Biaria to offer their services. Hotels can arrange cars and drivers. Singaraja serves as the transport hub of the north and has three bus terminals which cover different parts of the island. See our travel section for details.
By Sally Arnold. Last updated on 21st September, 2016.