Crammed with hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, tour agencies and shops, the Kuta–Legian–Seminyak conurbation, 10km southwest of Denpasar, is Bali’s biggest, brashest beach resort. The beach itself is one of the finest on the island, its gentle curve of golden sand stretching for 8km, and lashed by huge breakers that bring experienced and novice surfers flocking. Be wary, however, of the strong undertow and always swim between the red- and yellow-striped flags. Everyone else comes to shop and to party, fuelled by a pumping nightlife that ranges from the trashy in Kuta to the chic in Seminyak and Petitenget, though drugs, prostitution and gigolos (known locally as Kuta cowboys or mosquitoes because they jump from woman to woman) feature all over. Although the resort’s party atmosphere was shattered in 2002, when Islamic extremists from Java bombed Kuta’s two most popular clubs, and again when Kuta Square was attacked in 2005, the good-time vibe has resurfaced. A Monument of Human Tragedy now occupies the 2002 “Ground Zero” site.
Accommodation, shopping and restaurant options broadly fit the same geographical pattern, with Kuta the destination of party-going travellers, Legian the choice for families and couples, and Seminyak favoured by those with style and/or money. Kuta stretches north from the Matahari department store in Kuta Square to Jalan Melasti, while its southern fringes, extending south from Matahari to the airport, are defined as Tuban. Legian runs from Jalan Melasti as far as Jalan Double Six (Jalan Pantai Arjuna); Seminyak goes from Jalan Double Six up to the Oberoi Hotel, where Petitenget begins.