Last year, Bali made it yet again onto the Top 10 World’s Best Islands list – and there is a lot to like about it. I have been three times now to Bali and the more I see the more I appreciate all it has to offer, because it is more than just beaches…
Yes, most people come to Bali because of its beaches. What makes Bali so popular is the the endless choices it offers – from budget accommodation for backpackers and dance clubs for party seekers to family friendly hotels and beaches. There are top luxury hotels that regularly make the ‘World Best” lists, favorites for honeymooners from around the world. So, here is my overview of beaches on Bali to help you find the one that’s just for what you want from your dream vacation:
The most popular destination on Bali are the mile-long and broad beaches of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. It seems to flow endlessly along the West coast of Bali, with soft, white sand stretching as far as you can see. With the sun setting above it, it is no wonder that millions of tourists come here, often year after year. I love walking along beaches and spend 2 ½ hours on my last trip – without ever reaching either end of it! And it is surprisingly well maintained – there are even tractors grading and cleaning in the morning! Inland from that amazing beach are the towns, making this more a city beach like in Los Angeles, Sydney or Rio de Janeiro than a Robinson Crusoe island. That makes for a good mix of beach by day and shopping, dining and entertainment by night. At the Southern end is Kuta with lots of budget accommodation and a party reputation. You will find plenty of vendors trying to sell you food, massages and souvenirs in the narrow alleys behind the beach. It can get crowded and the traffic is crazy, but if you are looking for a party on a budget, you’ll be able to walk to all the things you need. A little to the North and with no visible border is Legian. It’s more alleys and streets, full of hotels, restaurants and stores . just a little more upscale with full-service and family friendly hotels and a few beautiful high-end resorts on the beach front. You won’t have a shortage of food and entertainment options here either and your vacation will still be much more reasonably priced than in Europe or Northern America. At the Northern end you will find Seminyak. While the streets and traffic are not much different, the hotels and resorts are. You will find a number of luxury resorts costing hundreds of dollars per night along the beach as well as high-end bars and restaurants. If you are looking to be pampered and still be able to have a little party at night, Seminyak is your best bet. While I think the differences between the three beaches are visible, it’s not black and white: If you want to be in Seminyak without paying a fortune, you can find a perfectly nice economy hotel for $30. You might have to walk 15min to the beautiful beach, but you’ll still have easy access to everything Seminyak has to offer.
If a party is the last thing on your mind during your beach getaway and you just want to be pampered in a beautiful resort, than Nusa Dua should be on your list. This is a resort development on the Southern side of Bali, with the Mulia as the No 1 hotel on Conde Nast’s Best Beach Resort list, the St. Regis, Gran Hyatt, Sofitel, Westin and the Laguna, the beautiful hotel I stayed at during my first visit to Bali. You will find all of the luxuries to make for a dream vacation without being completely isolated: a boardwalk connects the different resorts along the beach, allowing you to wander and have some variation for drinks, dinner or entertainment. This luxury comes at a pretty high price, but fortunately, some of those hotels are available on points, making them an option even if the cash prices are out of reach!
If you are looking for more isolation, there are a number of luxury properties on their own beach, away from the crowds, giving you the option to be cocooned in luxury as soon as you reach the grounds of your hotel. In a place with such an amazing culture and friendly people, I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but you can certainly find them on Tripadvisor without issues.
If you want to see the quieter side of Bali and enjoy a nice beach without the party at a reasonable price, you can check out Sanur. It’s to the South East of Denpasar and has a short stretch of nice beach with a number of mostly independent hotels, as well as stores and restaurants along the beach road. I stayed at the Hyatt Bali, currently under renovation, and it made for a relaxing stay without the craziness of Kuta or Legian – or the prices of Nusa Dua.
Another beach option more and more people are exploring are the nearby Gili Islands. You can read my review here. It’s a beautiful alternative you can reach by boat in 2 ½ hours and worthwhile exploring, especially if you are on a return trip to Bali.
Maybe somewhat surprising is that one of my favorite places on Bali is actually not a beach at all – it’s the town of Ubud in the mountains, surrounded by rainforest and rice fields. It is one of those places that has a wonderful atmosphere that is hard to describe in words, making it very easy to “get stuck in”. Many visitors appear to feel the same and have settled down in Ubud. With the beautiful surroundings, the plentiful accommodation and dining choices as well as galleries and artsy stores on every corner, it makes for a great place to relax and recover from a busy life at home and it has inspired plenty of books (not only Eat, Pray, Love) that do try to describe this special place. There are lots of day trippers these days, so make sure to stay over night to enjoy the more peaceful evenings. I am sure to return to Ubud and, maybe, get stuck there for at least a little bit…
Even though these places get most of the attention and visitors to Bali, that is not all it has to offer. In fact, even if you visit all of what I have listed, you’ll have only seen a small corner of Bali. There are countless other beaches to be explored around the island with fewer visitors, there are stunning mountains and rice terraces, hindu temples and cheeky monkeys to visit! You can hike through much less touched nature in the Northern parts of the island. If you want to get a taste to check it out, I recommend to hire a local driver for a day and go exploring. Seeing some of the sights with fewer people, tasting strange fruits along the road that you have never seen before or chatting with some of the locals will give you a whole other view of the island and lots of reasons to come back! If you are looking for a change from your favorite beach destination, Bali should be high on your list: So many options at much lower prices than other top beach destinations, I’m sure you can make it your dream destination!