Photo: Beach reflection, Balian.

Things to do around Balian Beach

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Balian is a beautiful beach area roughly two hours west of Bali’s international airport (traffic permitting) and while it’s best known as a place to go for riding one of Bali’s famous surf breaks, it also makes for a fine diversion for the non-surfing inclined. For while Balian does see a steady stream of travellers year round, and does have plenty of accommodation, it retains a quaint village feel and a very friendly vibe, both on and off the beach.



The beach offers multiple surf breaks: a left and two main rights, one of which runs for a couple of hundred metres on a good day, and while the waves out the back are for more able surfers, in close plenty of broken waves tumble in for those learning.

A spot of afternoon fishing.

A spot of afternoon fishing.

The breaks sit at the mouth of the Balian River and a strong current runs out to the right — watch yourself. It’s also worth noting that with the murky water and river flow, people should be wary of sharks, with at least one (non-fatal) shark attack here reported in recent years. While most keen surfers will arrive with their own boards, plenty of boards are available for hire. If the surf isn’t performing, make the trip further west to Medewi, which has a great pebblestone break and is also home to one of our favourite homestays on Bali.

A small day on the main break.

A small day on the main break.

If you’re looking for something a little more soothing than surfing, Balian is quite popular with yoga and meditation retreats. Two places in particular stand out for recommendation. Shankari’s Bali Retreat runs courses and retreats throughout the year, and situated on the eastern side of the Balian River, you’re a world away (well, a river crossing away) from the gaggle of temptations in the beachside village, but quite close to the village proper. The other is the ageing Gajah Mina Resort, which hosts the occasional retreat. The latter, with its vast, quite isolated grounds, and meditative cliffside setting with open salas catching the sea breeze with the pounding surf below, is pretty special — even if your take on relaxing is lazing with a G&T.

Meditative setting at Gajah Mina.

Meditative setting at Gajah Mina.

Just behind (to the west) of Gajah Mina are two points of interest — a bat cave and a totally gorgeous black-sand beach. The easiest way there (assuming you’re not staying at the resort) is to follow a dirt track that runs along the outside (western) wall of the resort. Just keep going and eventually you’ll reach a point where you can enter the resort, then follow the footpath. It eventually breaks right, taking you back out of the resort into some scruffy overgrown land. Shortly afterwards, there is a very steep climb down to where a bat cave is. We didn’t check this out as our kids had sore feet, but it is apparently pretty good — though the one at Soka Beach (see below) is larger.

Sit and have a think.

Sit and have a think.

Keep following the trail, watch out for cows, and you’ll emerge onto a small sealed road. Turn left and follow it down past the small temple and you’ll reach the black-sand beach. While we only road tested the first 300 metres of this beach, it apparently runs for roughly 30 kilometres and is just about totally undeveloped. It’s wild and rugged, with a big and unpredictable surf, but what is really special here is the sand. It’s absolutely squid ink jet black — like Santorini black — and the blackest sand we’ve ever seen; it’s also incredibly fine and deep. Save a few fishermen’s jukungs pulled up above the high-tide mark there’s precious little along the coast here save scraggly pandan trees and the occasional palm, but stick your head further back and there are plains of rice swaying in the afternoon breeze.

30-odd km of wander-fodder.

30-odd km of wander-fodder.

The late afternoon light here is just stunning.

Back to bats: if you drive east for about 10 minutes from Balian on the main road you’ll reach Soka. Soka is known for cheap very local beach eats and pretty sunsets, but the real attraction is its bat temple. It’s to the west of Soka inlet — you’ll see it signposted on the main road and if you get to where you can see the islet from the main road, you’ve gone too far. Drive or ride up to the main temple entrance (there is no admission fee) and follow the footpath that winds around to the left side of the temple. Just keep going, and it wraps around to the right and empties out at the cave entrance.

We haz batz.

We haz batz.

The cave is a large open-mouthed affair and was home to an absolute tonne of bats when we visited. Just before sunset they all took flight to ravage the surrounding fruit trees. While we visited for sunset, apparently you can visit any time of the day and they’re all just hanging out — as bats tend to do. Do make the effort to clamber over the rocks at the western side of the cave for a spectacular sunset vista.

Explore Balian’s back blocks.

Explore Balian’s back blocks.

The last diversion is to just to go exploring. While the main Kuta to Gilimanuk Road is heavily trafficked and makes for quite unpleasant riding (or driving), the side streets, particularly anything heading inland, can deliver fabulous paddy and distant volcano views.

Peaks and rice.

Peaks and rice.

This area is a truly beautiful part of Bali and for those looking for a beachside retreat without the over-development, two or three days spent here will pass all too quickly.


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Location map for Things to do around Balian Beach


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Balian.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Balian.
 Read up on how to get to Balian.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Balian? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Indonesia with Tourradar.




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