It’s a common complaint from first-time visitors to Bali (we were guilty of this ourselves) that Balinese beaches are just ordinary. I remember the first time I stepped onto a Balinese Beach — staying at Villa Kresna in Seminyak, I strolled down to check out the surf I’d heard so much about and found a dirty gun-metal grey beach, littered with rubbish and waste water — it was less than magnificent to say the least.
Thankfully Bali has far more to offer on the beach front than the sands of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak and as we’re in the final throes of preparing our Bali iPhone app, I’ve been lucky enough to have just spent the last fews days taking a good poke around some of the more glorious beaches of the Bukit peninsula.
Set at the base of a towering escarpment just to the east of Bali’s famous Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Nyang Nyang is simply tremendous.
To get there, follow a rough and rocky dirt trail from the main Uluwatu road (look out for the small blue sign reading “Nyang Nyang surfing beach”) to where it finishes at the cliff edge. You’ll see a small shack of a shop and a house and from there it’s a 15-minute walk down the 500+ steps that climb the Nyang Nyamg escarpment. Once at the base you’ll see more cows than people and you can set up camp wherever you want. Note you will need to bring your own food and water as there is nowhere to buy anything at beach level — a rarity in Bali, believe us.
It’s a coarse sand, and as the tide was well out when I visited, a swim would have involved being pummeled on the rocks, so I settled 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.
This is an ideal spot for a Robinson Crusoe day out, when you really just want to have a lot of time to yourself. Plenty of secluded spots are hidden amid the scrub and shade can be had up on the grassy plateau (which you’ll share with the cows). Bring lots of water and food, or be prepared to buy from the old crones at the top.
A word these vendors: if you say you’ll buy one of their crummy bracelets on the way back, they’ll remember you return — and you will honour your words.
This 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, but 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 an incredible and magically beautiful place.
Near the cliffs are a series of deep ponds where people swim or frolic, actually, and I found it peculiarly reminiscent of the pools at Pamukkale in Turkey. They’re incredibly photogenic.
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.
I don’t know what the real name of this beach is, but if you’re happy to rough it and don’t mind climbing up and down pole ladders to get to the base (I wasn’t to be honest!) it looks like a cracker. To get here, follow the signs from Jalan Pantai Suluban for Rocky Bungalows, but ride past and you’ll eventually reach the very soon-to-be-completed-as-at-June-2011 Surga Bali. Keep going to the very end of the road and you’ll reach a locked gate.
Beside the locked gate is a rock crevice you need to jump across and then you’ll see the single bamboo pole ladder that begins the downwards climb. Now to be clear, I didn’t climb down this, but a guy on the building site for Surga Bali insisted that if you take the ladder there is then a very steep path down to the beach.
Do report back on how you go!
Popular Padang Padang has two main stretches, one long, flat and little developed, the other compact, a bit rocky in parts, and a little developed. Oddly, most only go to the latter as that is the one that you can see from the bridge that passes it by. We’ve written previously about the latter but you want to go to the former.
To get there, if coming from Uluwatu, keep an eye out for the signs for the very long-running Thomas Homestay. A cheap guesthouse perched on the cliff, the main asset here (aside from the lovely views) are the stairs down to their beachside restaurant. From there the beach is long, the swimming good, there’s ample sand and, well, next to nobody.
Once you’re done here, by all means continue to the more popular stretch where there is both on-the-cliff budget shacks and more comfortable hotels up above. Padang Padang also has the best range of eateries in the area.
Once you’ve been up and down a few of the access points here, you’ll come to understand why it is called Impossibles. Situated midway between Padang Padang and Bingin, Impossibles is mostly cliff and boulders, broken up by the occasional slice of soft yellow sand. It’s a lovely area, but incredibly isolated and at night we’d warrant some of the staircases are seriously hazardous.
Wandering through here I stumbled upon a particularly attractive resort literally built onto the cliff face. Work was underway putting in a few extra lumbung villas but it appeared to be otherwise completely shut and I couldn’t find anyone to answer questions about it. Subsequently some web research brought me to RockNReef, which looks to be about the same joint.
The only other lodgings I could find were salubrious private residences that appear to have permitted beach access through gritted teeth around their corpulent land holdings — the least they could have done was provided footways that satisfied some base level of safety. Thanks, fat cats.
Bingin follows on immediately from Impossibles, but unlike Impossibles is absolutely awash in accommodation. It’s almost as if the cliff face is built out, with everything from $2 shanties to quite fancy looking air-con villas, and it’s all interconnected by a dog’s breakfast of trails and staircases, all very slippery when wet. There are bars, warungs and even an internet cafe, all overlooking the water enjoying simply fabulous views over Bingin’s terrific surf breaks.
Atop the cliff you’ve got a selection of salubrious spots to choose from, along with some downright great value family-run homestays. Bingin doesn’t have the good eating that say Padang Padang does, but a variety of cheap local eateries can be found.
When the tide is out the beach is a massive rock shelf covered with water pools. Let me 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. Sigh.
The last beach we’ll cover along this stretch is wonderful Balangan beach. Like Padang Padang, we’ve written about this one before. The grains of sand here are perfectly spherical and the waters deep and crystal clear.
Surfers congregate at the eastern end of the beach (where there are also some basic beachfront guesthouses) while swimmers often go for the western end where the water can be a bit calmer. Like Bingin, the beach gets a large rock shelf at low tide and isn’t so good for swimming, but as high tide, especially at the western end, the swimming is good — watch for the currents though!
While there are some cheap guesthouses right on the beach at its eastern end, the better options are above the cliff’s edge, where you’ll find both boutique resorts like La Joya and budget guesthouses as well. Eating here is restricted mainly to the beachside warungs and the homestay restaurants, and La Joya’s poolside restaurant is excellent.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 2nd March, 2015.