by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 26, 2018
The 12 Best Bali Beaches
1. Crystal Bay
This sheltered cove is almost perfect: with blue-green waters, sloping palm trees, rocky islets just offshore and a hilly backdrop, it is also astoundingly undeveloped. With more cattle grazing than tourists lazing, it is so idyllic because it’s so isolated: on Nusa Penida island, an hour by speedboat from Bali, and only accessible by chartered vehicle or rented motorbike. With only a few laidback bungalows nearby and a handful of thatched-roof cafés on the sand, the reefs are popular among scuba-divers and snorkelers who mostly arrive by boat from more developed regions.
Despite its proximity to the airport and all the hedonism on offer at Kuta, Jimbaran remains comparatively undeveloped. With stretches of the extended curved bay sometimes empty, it’s perfect for walking, and some modest surf can be found at the southern end. With a moderate range of places to stay, eat, drink and shop, Jimbaran is also a genuine village, home to an ancient temple and sprawling produce and fish markets. As well as an ideal base to explore southern Bali, a highlight of any trip to the island is a sunset dinner at a café along Jimbaran Bay, with fresh seafood a specialty.
Love or loathe the decadence and the frenetic malls, clubs, and bars, Kuta Beach is renowned across the world for a reason: it’s wide and sandy, and offers glorious sunsets, as well as surfboard rental, lounge chairs and drink stalls. Of course, the choice of places to spend money within a few minutes’ walk is legendary, but only a few hotels face the sea – and these also overlook a busy esplanade. The waves are popular among surfers, so Kuta is not always ideal for swimming, especially by children and novices.
Squeezed between the malls and clubs of brassy Kuta, and the bistros and boutiques of classy Seminyak, the lanes of Legian are still crammed with shops, cafés, and bars, but the pace is undeniably less hectic. As an extension of Kuta, Legian Beach is wide and white, but also wavy – more suitable for surfers than swimmers. With beachside hotels facing a vehicle-free path (rather than a noisy road), Legian is justifiably popular with families.
5. Mushroom Bay
Most beaches on the idyllic and (almost) vehicle-free Nusa Lembongan island, just 30 minutes by boat from Sanur, are unsafe, dirty or inaccessible. Not so, Mushroom Bay, a lovely, sheltered and curved bay of white sands and calm waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling (but not surfing). The narrow single access road and hilly landscape ensure that it remains relatively undeveloped and gloriously laidback, although most of the low-star hotels and modest cafés don’t face the sea.
6. Nusa Dua
One of the best beaches for a honeymoon or family holiday, Nusa Dua is a unique gated complex of 4 and 5-star resorts. The region offers a serenity and tranquility unfound elsewhere on Bali, although some may regard the setting as a little sterile. With most resorts featuring extensive tropical gardens and facing glorious stretches of bleached-white sands and still waters, Nusa Dua is also convenient for the water-sports along neighboring Tanjung Benoa, the cultural attractions of the southern peninsula, and the malls and clubs of Kuta (via a new tollway).
With potential overdevelopment thwarted by a mountainous backdrop, Padangbai still retains an adorable village vibe, despite the minibuses offloading island-hoppers for speedboats to the Gilis, and the non-stop ferries to neighboring Lombok island. Lined with fishing boats, the scenic bay alongside the vehicle-free main street is more suited for strolling and sitting, but only 10 minutes away on foot are the lovable Blue Lagoon beach and Crusoe-esque Bias Tugel cove. And Padangbai is perfect for exploring the rugged east coast, dominated by the omnipotent Agung volcano.
8. Padang Padang
Known mostly to hardy surfers, Padang Padang is one of a few undersized beaches along the craggy southern peninsula. While others are remote and often only accessible via rickety steps, Padang Padang is an easy daytrip from the southern resort regions, and a handful of hotels and a couple of cafés are perched among the cliffs nearby. The daunting waves are distant, so swimming is safe, and the younger ones can happily splash about the saltwater pools left in the sand by the outgoing tides.
9. Pasir Putih
Still remarkably undeveloped, ͞White Sands͟ beach is a fishing village backed by coconut groves, with a few chilled-out cafés offering massages, juices and lounges. (The nearest hotels are in Candidasa, a beach resort 7km away without a beach.) Pasir Putih offers soft sands for sunbathing, tranquil waters flanked by rocky outcrops for shady swimming, and superb snorkeling, with equipment available for rent at the beachside stalls.
With negligible nightlife and zero surf, Sanur is a far quieter alternative to Kuta. With more serenity and fewer tangled laneways, many hotels and cafés face the sea, alongside which is a delightful 7km walking and cycling path. The beaches are protected by breakwaters, but swimming is unappealing and virtually impossible during low tide. Still retaining a village feel, with beachfront temples and a market among the backstreets, Sanur is an ideal base for exploring the southern peninsula (via the new tollway) and the cultural beauty of central Bali.
An extension to the north of the surf, sand and sunsets of Kuta and Legian, Seminyak is unquestionably more sophisticated, with a classier array of shops, cafés and hotels. With streets far less choked bytraffic and hawkers, Seminyak is popular among families, and rice-fields are still visible among the rampant villa construction. The waves are perennially popular among surfers but potentially dangerous for swimmers, and further north the sand becomes increasingly grey and uninviting. Unlike its southern rivals, cafés spread beanbags across the sand late every afternoon for the magical combination of sunsets and cocktails.
12. Tanjung Benoa
A more affordable option to neighboring Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa occupies the peninsular thumb of southern Bali, with a fascinating village at the thumbnail tip. The white-sand beach is extensive, and the water relatively calm, but swimming and sunbathing can be less enjoyable because of the plethora of watersport kiosks offering unruly parasailing and thunderous jet-skiing. A broad range of hotels are available, while the single main road is lined with seemingly endless places to shop, stay, eat and drink.
The Best Beach Hotels in Bali
Most of the best beaches in Bali are found in the south: around Kuta, Jimbaran, and the Bukit Peninsula. Some of these are also very busy (particularly the coast from Kuta to Seminyak). If you get a taxi it’s easy to find some great stretches of sand with few other tourists. The best beach weather in Bali is usually found between April and early November but since Bali is a year round destination concern about weather and seasons should not be a major concern when planning a trip.
Kuta – 10 minutes north of the airport
Legian – 5 minutes north of Kuta
Seminyak – 10 minutes north of Kuta
Canggu – 30 minutes north of Kuta
Tuban – 5 minutes south of Kuta
Jimbaran – 15 minutes south of Kuta
Nusa Dua – 30 minutes southeast of Kuta
Balangan – 30 minutes south of Kuta
Bingin – 30 minutes south of Kuta
Dreamland Beach – 30 minutes south of Kuta
Sanur – 30 minutes east of Kuta
Recommended Hotels: Tandjung Sari Hotel (charming Balinese style hotel, boutique luxury at very reasonable rates)
Dream Beach, Nusa Lembongan – 30 minute boat ride from Sanur
Padangbai – 1 hour east of Kuta
Recommended Hotels: Padang Bai Beach Resort (great place, super friendly)