Almost a world away from the same-named beach locale in South Bali, Kuta Lombok is the southern hub for exploring some of the best beaches and surf breaks southern Lombok has to offer. Set upon a broad open bay, the town is decidedly motley in places, especially along the beachfront -- uncertain title and the economic downturn following the Bali bombings has done the area no favours -- but a boardwalk is slowly taking shape and may make for a more pleasant scene once it is completed.
Back off the beach, you'll find a better collection of accommodation, cafes and restaurants along with a multitude of travel agents, clothes shops, surf board rental and other tourist services. This is a tourist town slowly making a transition from backpacker hideaway to a more mainstream destination.
Kuta Lombok: There will always be a dog in your photo.
For years Kuta ticked over at a fairly sedate pace, but with the shift of Lombok's airport from Mataram to Praya (just 20 minutes away by taxi), development -- not all good -- is coming fast. The influx of tourists and their cash has seen a corresponding influx of less desirable elements, and theft remains a problem in Kuta
-- especially from the room. If you have a room with an “open to the sky” bathroom, make sure that you keep the door between your room and the bathroom locked -- this is a common means of access for thieves. Travellers should also exercise care late at night on the beach, and about town for that matter as visitors have been assaulted
in and around Kuta. These risks can be mitigated by staying in control and hanging out with people you know.
Don't get hammered.
If you're exploring the more isolated beaches, be careful about leaving your valuables on the beach unattended. As well, note that the greater Kuta area offers bike and motorbike parking at each beach. For almost all of these there will be a fee levied -- 5,000 to 10,000 rupiah for motorbikes and 10,000 to 20,000 rupiah for cars -- and while in some cases you can park outside the car park, the suggestion seems to be that your vehicle may not be safe if you choose to do this. Note also that some beaches have multiple car parks and if you move from one to another, you'll have to pay again. Don't expect free parking if you buy a drink. While it isn't clear what happens with this money -- good luck asking for a receipt at some places -- it certainly doesn't appear to go towards cleaning the beaches
Mawi Beach: Some scope for a beach cleanup.
While Kuta beach itself is a pleasant enough strip of sand (when the tide is in) the real attraction is the collection of surrounding beaches, with spectacular expanses of sand and surf both to the east and west, many of which are easily visited by motorbike or car. Aside from the beaches there is a rotating market
worth a look if you're in town on the day it comes through (get up early though).
Get up early.
Most travellers will find that they spend the bulk of their time outside Kuta town proper exploring the surrounding beaches. The area is vast, and, as roads improve, it is becoming easier to explore further afield while using Kuta as a base. On a recent trip we met two German travellers at Pink Beach at the far eastern extreme of Ekas
who were visiting on a day trip from Kuta on scooters. Even just a few years ago a trip like this would have been a sizeable excursion -- today you could ride it in two to three hours each way.
Mawan Beach: Just lovely.
Don't make the mistake of writing Kuta off as a primarily surfer hangout -- it's not. Yes, there is some excellent surfing to be had, but for dedicated beachbums, the greater area is beachbum heaven. Some beaches are great for swimming, others for surfing, others for just laying around. Some are totally undeveloped, others have beach bars and restaurants. All will have roving merchants of some description, so expect to be offered goods such as sarongs while you're laying around on the beach. Vendors can be extremely persistent.
Kuta town is basically two roads by the ocean. Jalan Raya Kuta comes down from the enormous roundabout, hits the ocean and turns left (east) running along the beach and eventually over to the Novotel Lombok
(on a separate beach) and the other eastern beaches. Between the roundabout and the beach Jalan Raya Kuta is bisected by the east-running Jalan Pariwisata Pantai Kuta (which hits another roundabout and becomes Jalan Sengkol before heading out towards Ekas) and the west-running Jl Mayun (which runs west, over the hill and eventually to Mawun beach, among others). Most of the accommodation is between the beach the Jalan Mayun/Jalan Pariwisata. Pantai Kuta and is within walking distance of the beach and the hubub of town. Exceptions include Mimpi Manis
and Kuta Cabana
, both of which are well beyond walking distance of town.
Kuta is prettiest from a distance (in this case from Ashtari).
Kuta town has international access ATMs but the other beaches have none. Free WiFi is available at many hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. There is a semi-decent 3G signal in the outlying areas, but the more remote you go, the less likely it will work.