So much sand, so little time.
Published/Last edited or updated: 22nd July, 2018
Looking for great beaches on Bali? Head south! The Bukit peninsula, the dangly bit at the southernmost tip of Bali is home to some of the most stunning postcard-perfect beaches on the entire island.
While the northeast corner of the Bukit is given over to Bali’s luxury hotel haven, Nusa Dusa, much of the east and southern coastline is blessed with some truly fabulous strips (or tiny pockets) of white and golden sands, lapped by long perfect rolling waves.
So pack your towel, water, sunscreen and camera and discover this jewelled necklace encircling the rocky limestone bluff. Starting at the necklaces’s clasp at Jimbaran, famous for its seafood barbecue and sunsets, venture anticlockwise (maybe stopping at the Rock Bar at Ayana Resort for a tipple), to Balangan.
Balangan is one of Bali’s lesser known beaches, but is all the better for it. Glorious surf, amazingly spherical grains of sand and smallish crowds. As with many of the beaches on this side of the Bukit, the beach backs onto an imposing limestone cliff, though this is the most easily accessed, and it’s just a short walk down a steep staircase to the sands lined with a hodgepodge of shacks housing warungs and cheap homestays along the southern end of the beach and a regiment of sun lounges for hire at the northern end.
At high tide some good swimming is to be had, though bear in mind, as a surf beach, the currents can be fast and strong. At low tide a rocky base breaks the surface, making much of it crummy for swimming but ideal for pond watching, shell collecting and of course, as the tide drops, dam-building. If you start building lots of dams or sand castles, you’ll note another of Balangan’s special features. The grains of sand are, by and large, perfectly spherical. They immediately bring couscous to mind, and are apparently due to them being rolled over the stone base by the waves.
Up on the bluff, more established hotels and guest houses can be found if you wish to hang around for more than a day, but do at least linger for sunset as the sun descends more or less directly offshore and the vista is spectacular.
Continuing around the Bukit, our advice is to pick up a little speed at this point and hightail it straight to Bingin, though you may be enticed by the dreamy-sounding Dreamland. It wasn’t all that many years ago that Dreamland was indeed the stuff that dreams are made of, heralded as the most beautiful beach on Bali. How things change.
Today above the beach stands a colossal monument to bad taste, an absolute eyesore and complete blight on the landscape, the sprawling Pecatu Indah Resort complex and the area has been renamed somewhat appropriately New Kuta, though Nightmareland may be as fitting. Yeah, we’re not fans. Nor are the families who ran warungs on the beach and got kicked off their land. Nor are many of the surfers, who left for other beaches. Nor are the regulars who had visited here year in year out to avail themselves to simple beach pleasures. Apparently the developers are though, so at least this gigantic aberration made someone happy.
Bingin is accessed by first navigating your way through an interconnected dog’s breakfast of trails and staircases, all very slippery when wet, absolutely awash in accommodation. When the tide is out, the beach is a massive rock shelf covered with water pools. Let us clarify, a massive tremendously slippery rock shelf, watch your step! When the tide is in, much of the beach vanishes and you’ll have to retreat to a warung or resort balcony of your choosing where you’re guaranteed a gobsmacking eyeful over the break.
If you think the staircases are steep at Bingin, continue southwards to Impossibles, and you’ll come to understand why it gained this moniker. Ok, it’s named for the surf break not the stairs (well that’s what they tell us). Impossibles is mostly cliff and boulders, broken up by the occasional slice of soft yellow sand, and of course the famous break. It’s a lovely area, but incredibly isolated and at night we’d warrant some of the staircases are seriously hazardous.
The Bukits’s next jewel, Padang Padang comes in two parts: a beautiful little beach that is a hit with families and a long less popular stretch that requires a climb (it is sometimes called Thomas Beach, after for a basic Homestay perched on the cliff). Padang Padang’s surf break is offshore, but the waters in close are calm and you don’t need to be a surfer to hang out here—the water is turquoise and the sand soft and yellow. It’s very pleasant and peaceful and really does feel like a perfect beach while lounging under the shade of a big umbrella and staring out at the gentle blue waves lapping at the shore.
The prime surfing at Padang Padang is not for beginners. It’s a fast long pipeline on a shallow reef and has a reputation for being one of Bali’s nastier waves. Better for beginners is the more forgiving gentle right hand wave. The little beach is reached by following the stairs near the bridge—you’ll see a large sign marked Padang Padang, and the other section by following the road marked with a small sign directing you to Thomas Homestay, then a climb down the stairs.
Uluwatu is, without doubt, one of Bali’s most spectacular beaches. Cliff backed, the multiple surf breaks make this one of the most famous of Bali’s waves. With a multitude of bars and warungs built into the cliff, this is also one of the best for just taking in the scene.
The beach can be reached by two separate spurs of Jalan Pantai Suluban, each of which terminates at one end or the other of the staircases that weave their way down, rabbit-warren like, eventually doubling back on themselves, threading under an enormous rock ledge and opening out into an amphitheatre of luminescent turquoise waters and gleaming white cliffs. This is a magically beautiful place.
Near the cliffs are a series of incredibly photogenic deep ponds where people swim or frolic. Depending on the tide and how wet you’re willing to get, you can rock hop in both directions from the main entry point to find other, more private slithers of sand to relax on.
Continuing around the coast, just to the east of Bali’s famous Pura Luhur, Nyang Nyang is set at the base of a towering escarpment. From the main Uluwatu road look out for the small blue sign reading “Nyang Nyang surfing beach”, and at the turnoff follow the road to where it finishes at the cliff edge, a popular spot for hang gliding. On our most recent research visit in June 2018, a newly graded road leads way way down to the beach, but it was closed off the wild and windy day we tried to venture down, but indicated that perhaps some development is in process at this untouched beach.
For now, if you scamper down the trail, this is an ideal spot for a Robinson Crusoe day out and you’ll see more cows than people. The sand is coarse, and there’s plenty of secluded spots hidden amid the scrub and shade can be had up on the grassy plateau (which you’ll share with the cows). Swimming at low tide sometimes involves being pummelled on the rocks, so you may just wish to settle for a paddle in the rock pools. As a surf beach, Nyang Nyang is popular, but this most certainly isn’t a novice wave. Uncrowded rides of up to 150m can be had when conditions are good. Bring lots of water and food as for now there is nowhere to buy anything at beach level.
The Bukit’s southern coast is peppered with surf breaks, and no doubt many of the small beaches will unfortunately undergo development, but one that has seen major changes in the last few years is Pandawa Beach, formerly Kutut Beach, reached by driving down through an enormous human-made quarry-like ravine that wouldn’t look out of place in an open-cut mine in Western Australia. As you get down near the beach, equally enormous niches excavated out of the cliff face hold massive statues of the Pandawa brothers, characters from the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Meanwhile down on the sands, the beach is lined as far as the eye can see with bus loads of tourists horizontal on shaded sun lounges, with the odd group frolicking in the waters.
A string of other beaches continue around to Nusa Dua to complete the sandy loop. All beaches charge entry and or parking fees ranging from 3,000 to 15,000.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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