Beaches of Bali

1 August 2021

After a few days of peace and tranquillity we were ready to head back to Bali. We caught the ferry back to Benoa, in the South of the island. The boat swayed over the waves for two hours, passing Nusa Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan on the way, three rocky islands jutting out from the waves, which are quickly becoming the next hotspot for tourists to flock to. It was a relief to arrive back on stable ground, but my sea legs lasted several days from the trip!

A short taxi ride from the big harbour brought us into Sanur Bali. There are endless beaches and resorts to choose from on Bali, but I find that most people either choose to stay in Seminyak (more about that later), on the West coast, or Sanur, on the East.

There is a leafy stretch of road around three kilometres long running parallel with the beach, lined with shops, hotels, and plenty of restaurants including an infinite number of ‘warungs’, family-run cafes serving the ever-popular ‘sate’ dish, known by most westerners as satay! All the buildings are low-rise and traditional in style. Small streets turn off towards the beach every few hundred metres or so, which is sandy and boasts calm shallow waters perfect for snorkelling. A five-kilometre paved cycle path trails along opposite the shoreline, providing a great walk on an evening, with numerous hotel restaurants and bars spilling out on either side. As Bali’s ‘original’ tourist resort you would probably expect a few lively bars or nightclubs, but you won’t find them here; Sanur retains a relaxed atmosphere creating a well-balanced resort, suited to families and couples alike.

Rather than staying in one of the upscale hotels, we opted for a small complex of villas, where we had our own private pool and walled garden – a popular choice in Bali for many travellers. It meant that we had a huge amount of space to ourselves with our own outdoor kitchen and dining area so we could enjoy barbecued seafood without even leaving our villa on a few evenings! For families there are plenty of villas with two or even three bedrooms to accommodate all the adults and kids under one roof, and the prices are usually much more competitive than hotels.

If you are going to spend two weeks in one spot, then Sanur is a great base to explore the island. It is close to the main bypass that links the airport, harbour and south of the island with the mountainous north and Ubud. Most day trips and excursions offer pick-up from Sanur, including day trips out to Nusa Penida.

After an exhausting first week we chose not to venture too far, but we did catch a taxi over to Seminyak one afternoon. It dropped us at the end of a street next to Double-Six Beach, just at the southern end of Seminyak. If you head south along the wide sandy beach from here you will pass a few luxury hotels along Legian Beach, and endless beach bars, until you reach Kuta. This is where you’ll find the cheapest hotels, fast food restaurants and nightlife to rival European party destinations like Magalluf or Ayia Napa. We headed north…

The beach is enormous. The soft grey sand slopes down from the many beach clubs and hotels that line it, and huge waves crash onto the shore. The west coast is a great spot for surfing, but it’s far too powerful for most to swim confidently here, with strong riptides and undertows. Most of the beach bars and clubs have colourful bean bags and parasols on the sand where you can relax with a cocktail facing the sunset and listening to music. Continuing on brings you onto Seminyak beach, where numerous bars turn into larger five-star resort hotels like the Anantara and Oberoi before the beach begins to narrow and quieten a little as it melts into Petitenget. You’ll find more high-end beachfront resorts and a couple of big popular beach clubs, but most of the people up this way are just enjoying a long sunset stroll on the soft volcanic sand. We reached as far as Finns Beach Club, just short of Canggu, a very bohemian part of town with quirky and photographic hotels and restaurants - ‘influencer’ heaven.

We headed back south as it was getting dark before turning left off into the bustling town. There must be thousands of restaurants serving every type of cuisine, bars open until the early hours, and shopping centres with plenty of branded shops. There are endless accommodation options and it is much busier and built-up here than it is in Sanur. Overwhelmed with choice, we turned to TripAdvisor for a recommendation and ended up at a Balinese grill with the best skewers of tender and flavourful meat and vegetables.

After dinner we negotiated our way back south to catch a taxi back to our villa in Sanur. As it was getting later into the evening the nightlife began to spark up, and as we headed down in the direction of Kuta we were approached twice to purchase substances to ‘enhance our stay’! It came as a surprise to me, considering Indonesia’s notoriously strict drug laws. One day was enough for me in Seminyak, but it’s easy to see why it is one of the most popular tourist areas to stay.

If the buzzy west coast doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then there are still furthermore options in the east, namely Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa. Here you’ll find polished luxury resort hotels lining the white sand beach. There’s no ‘rough-around-the-edges’. If you have small children in tow, then this is probably going to tick a lot of your boxes. There is not much in the way of nightlife, but there’s enough to do on the beach during the day; count water sports, scuba diving and sunbathing among your options. If you like to relax by the pool, visit the spa, and enjoy a high standard of dining in your hotel, then you’ll enjoy a holiday in Nusa Dua.

But you could do this anywhere. Why travel twenty-plus hours to sit by a pool when you could do that much closer to home? If you are going to make the journey, then you must visit the real Bali; eat Sate with the locals, haggle for a bargain from a market stall, immerse yourself in the jungle, and watch the sunset from a cliff temple. You don’t get all this back home.

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