Aside from Ubud, our time in Bali was primarily based at the beach. We stayed in Jimbaran Bay, Seminyak, Sanur and finally Kuta. All 4 are very different and have different target markets.
We only stopped at Jimbaran Bay for one night, so it’s hard to get an accurate impression, but from what we saw we liked it. Far more of a family place than any of the others, there isn’t masses to do here apart from enjoy the beach, which is lucky because the beach is great.
The main draw though is the seafood. Around 8 or so warungs are situated on the beach and set up tables on the sand every night. You pick your live fish from the tanks inside, they grill it to perfection and it arrives with salad, rice and plenty of other sides. Just be careful as some fish are very expensive!
I’m not sure we would have been able to spend more than a couple of days here but Jimbaran was pretty nice.
I really don’t have a lot of good to say about Seminyak. Essentially it’s a great place to go if you want high end Bali, but it’s not suited to budget travellers in the slightest. It just depressed us a bit as we couldn’t afford anything. There are some cheap eats if you look hard enough but it is difficult.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our time in Seminyak – we were there with our friends and enjoyed some great times and great meals, but as a destination for us it was seriously lacking.
Part of the problem is that you’d be hard pressed to know you were near the beach, as the whole area is so spread out, and so far from it. And as for the beach, for one it is very difficult to actually get on due to the huge posh hotels lining most of it, and then once you’re there it’s one of the most underwhelming beaches I’ve ever seen. Dull dark sand, murky water, no shade and no atmosphere thanks to the hotels.
Getting around the area is frustrating to say the least. When we visited most of the pavements had been dug up, so you were forced to either walk through building materials and huge holes, or share the road with the gridlocked traffic. Yes taxis are abundant and cheap but who wants to take one just to get down the road?
Located on the other side of southern Bali to the rest, we didn’t know what to expect with Sanur but we were pleasantly surprised. It’s very much an older persons beach resort, with lots of western expats living there. However there were some young couples too. It’s not a party place at all though, which suited us fine.
There are plenty of cheap warungs to eat at, and the beach is really quite pleasant – there are no waves since there is an artificial reef, making the sea shallow, calm and clear – perfect for basking in. The only issue with the beach is the ridiculous cost of sun beds – for a few days we got 2 for 50,000IDR but on our last day vendors were asking 150,000IDR – around £7.50! You would pay less than that in England!
Thankfully we went for a walk and discovered that in the north of the beach, after the reef finishes, the beach is utterly deserted so we could lie on the sand for free under a tree. Perfect.
The other main issue with Sanur is that it is very spread out – the main road along the beach runs for 6km, so walking it is a mission. We only covered half of it, mainly because a lot of the restaurants were expensive and unexciting. One of the few exciting options on the main strip is Warung Little Bird. The food won’t win any awards but it is very cheap, tasty, and more exciting than the bland Indonesian offerings in most of the restaurants.
I was all ready to hate Kuta. So many travel blogs deride it as being tacky, touristy and unauthentic. And they are totally right. But at the same time, it isn’t trying to be authentic Indonesia.
Don’t get me wrong, it probably isn’t somewhere we’re likely to go back to. However it isn’t as bad as a lot of people make out. Yes there are large numbers of Australians on holiday, but we didn’t find them to be the obnoxious louts that they are claimed to be. We did go in a fairly quiet season, but I didn’t see anyone (Aussie or otherwise) vomiting or shouting at locals, both of which have been claimed on other blogs. Then again we didn’t stay out until 3am drinking, since we are getting old now!
The main reason I couldn’t hate Kuta is that it is a holiday resort. It serves it’s purpose. Brits have the same in Majorca or Zante, but you don’t see travel blogs deriding the tourist heavy areas there because they just don’t tend to visit them. Kuta just happens to be in backpacker friendly Bali whereas the others aren’t. Most of the holidaymakers in Kuta are friends or families having their annual holiday. Due to how busy it is, it’s not our idea of a relaxing holiday but it is for others.
So what is good about Kuta? Well the nightlife of course, if thats your thing. The beach is also one of the better in Bali, far better than Seminyak and at least its not covered with snooty high end resorts. Instead everyone sits with a beer to watch the sunsets.
It’s also good for international food, though not so good for Indonesian unless you go to local warungs, of which there are plenty – it’s relatively easy to escape touristy Kuta and go where the locals go. And though you’d expect the locals to be tourist weary and cold, they were on the whole incredibly friendly.
Where We Stayed
Jimabaran – We stayed at Villa Puri Royan, which had a nice pool but was very dated in places. I’m glad it was only 1 night. We paid 325,000 IDR. 6/10
Seminyak – We stayed at Taman Ayu Cottage which we loved – it was well priced, had a great pool, good breakfasts and the staff were very friendly. Paid 460,000IDR per night. 8/10
Sanur – We stayed at Dewi Dewi Villas, located down a small alley 10 minutes walk from the beach. The rooms were pretty awesome for the price (217,000IDR) with huge TV, kitchen area, massive bed and a pool right outside the door. 8/10
Kuta – We stayed at Suris Boutique Hotel, around 10 minutes from Kuta beach. It was very new and really, really good value for the price. The pool was amazing and it was far enough away from the busy areas of Kuta. 311,000IDR per night. 9/10