A popular escape from the hectic west coast beaches, Sanur provides a far more relaxed beach atmosphere, with an offshore reef providing calm waters that are ideal for children. Accompanying the pleasant seaside atmosphere are a wide range of good quality, well shaded restaurants and cafes and only a fraction of the hassles that one encounters from the pushier business owners in Kuta.
The beach in Sanur stretches some 5km from the Nusa Lembongan departure point in the north to the beach to Mertasari in the south. Along this entire stretch is a paved walkway that is sandwiched between the sand and an endless string of hotels, restaurants and massage ladies. It's a pleasant place to wander along to take in the sights, sun and sea breeze — it's even possible with a pram or bicycle.
As with many of Bali's beaches, Sanur has lost a significant amount of its sand and groins have been built to try to retain what remains. Comfortable salas sit on many of these making for a comfortable spot to while away a hot afternoon. Midway along the beach there is even one that can only be swum to (or waded to at low ride). We've been told on numerous occasions (admitedly only by beach masseuses) that Sanur lost almost all of its sand and what is there today was shipped in from West Timor — do let us know if you find a concrete answer to this!
Sunday is a day off for most of Bali, and some Sundays it seems most of the resident population of Bali head to the northern stretch of the beach. It makes for a festive atmosphere with roving food vendors, drink stalls, lots of BBQ corn and about six gazillion motorbikes parked on the roads leading to the beach. It's a world away from the south coast beaches.
While the beach is protected by an offshore reef, when the tide is high, the reef works to form a bit of a lagoon and you can hire jukungs to sail the length of the beach for an hour or two. You'll comfortably fit two passengers in (three is a crowd) and it makes for a relaxing time. Even if this isn't your thing, the multicoloured sails make for a very scenic backdrop on a sunny afternoon.
Even though Sanur is not as hectic as trendy Seminyak, it is still heavily touristed and those seeking an untouristed Bali beach experience won't find it here. This is one of the island's original "tourist areas" and today is especially popular with families with kids. Occasionally referred to as "Snore" the pace here is far slower and sedentary than Kuta/Seminyak and by midnight just about everywhere is shutting up shop.