From dramatically rugged coastline scenery, to great sweeps of golden sand and lovely white coves, Bali’s beaches have long drawn visitors to its shores. The beaches here tick all boxes, whether you’re after world-class waves to surf, crystal clear waters for diving, or simply days digging your toes into fine sand and lazy evenings watching the sun set over the ocean.
Bali’s most carefully designed high-end beach resort luxuriates along a coastal stretch of reclaimed mangrove swamp some 14km southeast of Kuta. What draws most visitors to Nusa Dua is the beach: a long ribbon of mostly pale gold sand, though a reef is exposed at low tide if you’re swimming. Halfway down the shoreline, the land blossoms out into two little clumps, or “islands” (Nusa Dua means “Two Islands”), with a temple standing on each one.
A postcard-perfect nook of white-sand beach and outstandingly clear water, Crystal Bay is a popular dive site with operators from Nusa Lembongan. Most come in the morning, so if you are here in the afternoon, you’re likely to have the water to yourself – there’s good snorkelling here, too, and a shrine on an offshore islet. That said, currents in the bay can be fierce in certain tide states.
The reason everyone comes to Kuta is the beach. Vast and if not quite so glorious as it once was, it’s still a gentle curve of pale sand that stretches for 8km from Tuban to Canggu, its breakers luring amateur and experienced surfers alike. It’s also the venue for the much-lauded Kuta sunsets; at their blood-red best in April, but streaky-pink at any time of year and the stuff sundowners are made of – whether you choose cocktails in a hip bar or just a cold Bintang on plastic seats.
Yeh Gangga Beach
The coast west of Tabanan is a barely-touched stretch of black sand notable for weird rock formations offshore. The most appealing (and developed) section is at Yeh Gangga, which has emerged into something of a luxury hideaway in recent years. The currents make the sea too dangerous for swimming, but it’s a dramatic scene, punctuated by huge rocks, and the beach stretches for miles in both directions.
Padang Padang is a gorgeous beach notched in the Bukit’s high cliffs that’s safe for swimming. Nothwithstanding its use as a location in the film Eat, Pray, Love (Julia Roberts meets her beau here), its fame – and the reason for all the restaurants and guesthouses – is the eponymous surf break, one of the most exciting waves in Indonesia, not least because of a kink in the final section. And not far off, at Pantai Suluban, lie the legendary Uluwatu waves.
Nine kilometers northeast from Candi Dasa lies the famously beautiful Pasir Putih (White Sand Bay). The less than straightforward access, via a steep and rutted track, is part of the appeal: the black-and-whitish-sand bay feels wild and remote, backed by palms and forest remnants, and sheltered by rocky headlands. The aquamarine water is perfect for swimming and the reef just offshore offers decent snorkelling.
As ever in Bali, surfers got here first – Balian Beach has the most consistent left-hand breaks in West Bali, with larger waves breaking behind off a shelf and gentler peaks inshore. But whether surfer or not this mellow village may well be the most relaxed escape on the west coast; there’s no hustle, no tourist shops, just low-key accommodation, a few warung and a beach bar, and the sense of a shared secret. Get here soon – building is on the up. The caveat to all this is that a vicious rip inshore makes; heed local advice or be content to paddle at low tide.
Strung out along the northwest coast, the village of Jungutbatu spreads out along the beachfront from its core of accommodation and restaurants. The beach may be no great shakes for swimming but it looks gorgeous: a strip of white sand that arcs before an aqua sea filled with wooden boats and rectangular seaweed plots. It’s an ideal place for sunset drinks or just for losing days gazing out to Bali’s Gunung Agung on the northwestern horizon.
A Lovina before tourism took hold, Pemuteran lives a double life as a fishing village and a low-key holiday getaway. Alongside idling on the beach – a ribbon of black and biscuit-colour sand which arcs for a kilometre or so – Pemuteran is known for its snorkelling and diving. More than a dozen reefs are within easy reach of the shore – Pemuteran has the largest shallow-reef area in Bali – and seas are calm so there’s a site to suit all abilities. The marine life is varied, too; from turtles, giant clams and manta rays, to the very occasional whale shark.