Mostly known for its vibrant culture, tropical getaway and a honeymoon hotspot; many beaches and tropical weather all year round, Bali is also home to some of the world’s best surf spots. Perfectly positioned geographically, this magical island has swell hitting it all year – so it’s always possible to find a decent size wave. Bali and the surrounding islands have some great surfing beaches, with beach breaks for beginners and huge barrels for the pro’s. Although 40 years of booming tourism has dramatically transformed Bali’s many line-ups, Bali still remains one of the best places to surf in the world.
Season-wise, Bali has two seasons. When the season changes, it also switches where it’s best to surf. During the dry season, April to October, it’s generally best to surf on the west coast of Bali. During the wet season, November to March, the east coast is generally better.
The best surf spots in Bali are mostly on the southern coasts and around the Bukit peninsula. These fun playgrounds are strictly for advanced surfers as they mostly comprise serious reef breaks and greater curls compared to the more popular and leisurely sandy breaks of Kuta and Legian. Hazardous for beginners, some of these reefs provide consistent waves that pros love, and some such as Padang Padang regularly host major surfing championships due to their long and consistent barrels, while the legendary breaks of Uluwatu provide an exotic towering temple backdrop with a steady supply of large swells. Here’s our compilation of the best surf spots in Bali where you can line up and ride world-class waves together with skilled dudes from around the world.
Uluwatu is a classic, famous not only for its top waves but also for its location and the overall experience of surfing with beautiful scenery and Bali’s unique temple landmark. Where else in the world can you sit in the line up after catching a big one and look up on the hill to see an ancient Hindu shrine and magnificent cliff face? Crowds become a factor when the waves are under four feet, but it really shines as it begins to produce epic barrels of over four. It’s good to refer to tide charts or local knowledge on tide directions. Remember to bring your favourite board, reef booties, and some cash for a great after-surf massage at one of the warungs on the cliff. Beware of the current as the tide changes, or you may be swept all the way down to Padang-Padang before you know it. That’s one of our next spots. But our next closest is Suluban.
Not far north from Uluwatu is the secluded surfers’ paradise of Suluban. Suluban, which has acquired the nickname, ‘Blue Point’, is unique and has its own appeal, including a beautiful narrow beach where many sunbathers crowd. Getting to the beach is an adventure down steep staircases and rocky openings that require you to bend down a bit in order to get through. You must first make your way down the narrow path down the somewhat treacherous steps into a cave, then out onto the sand. Suluban in Balinese means to ‘crouch under’, which is easily understandable. The main appeal for surfers is its long and powerful swells and consistent barrels. The cliff top is lined with shacks overlooking the thrills and horizon.
Padang Padang is a favourite spot due to its consistent barrels, and most of all, its accessibility and unique hollow rock entrance that opens out onto an exotic, long white sandy beach. It is located between Bingin and Uluwatu, and the beach is a regular host for international surfing events, such as the regular Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang. The powerful and consistent waves are an average four feet and above. Definitely for the pros, sharp reef dwell underneath the beautiful barrels, which occasionally break onto the rocks. With its beautiful sandy beach, Padang Padang is also a popular place for many tourists travelling on day trips from Kuta.
This famous spot is located between Bingin and Padang Padang, and features a long reef. Its nickname implies that it was once an intimidating break, urging experienced surfers to conquer its waves. Impossibles comprises three takeoff zones (or ‘peaks’), the first of which is accessible via Padang Padang (our next spot to the north). The two others are accessible from the spot’s midsection. Here you’ll get long and powerful swells with consistent barrels to enjoy. The waves average two to five feet. Your search for the spot and the challenging surf are all paid off well by the wonderful panorama of its beautiful beach and irregular rock formations.
Bingin is an hour’s drive down from Kuta, and only several minutes north from Uluwatu. The waves here aren’t as big as Uluwatu’s, but being on the same south-western side of the Bukit peninsula, it shares the same hazardous reef. Bingin’s barrels are consistent, much like its sister spot of Uluwatu but a little shorter. This makes it a bit of a challenge in catching a good wave in time. Tides similarly play a factor here, so it’s good to keep your tide charts handy or ask around some local surfers who know the playgrounds well. Expect more crowds here than Uluwatu, as the waves are less intimidating.
Just north from the now crowded and overdeveloped Dreamland Beach, Balangan is a surfing paradise with a kilometre long stretch of white sand and green seaweed covered rocks. The reef is right in front of the beach, and it has southern swells with one of the longest left-hander breaks on the island that range from four to six feet. The beach is slowly sharing the similar fate of Dreamland, as once secluded beaches that now have improved access. Expect some crowds.
Reaching to this spot is an adventure, located on the southernmost tip of the island beside the closed Bali Cliff Resort. The beach appeals to lovers of quiet and exotic shores, who don’t mind going hundreds of concrete steps down a cliff face to its secluded beach. At the base are several bat caves that add to its list of unique features. Green Bowl has consistent swells, as well as the strongest southern ocean currents that move out to sea in unpredictable directions, so it is strictly only for experienced surfers. Crowds are a hit and miss, but most of the time it isn’t much packed, owing to its far flung location and tough access.
Out from the Bukit, we head off to the more familiar destinations north of Kuta and Seminyak. Canggu has many different surf spots. One of the most famous is Pantai Batu Mejan, nicknamed by surfers as ‘Echo Beach’. The waves are usually larger than Kuta’s, especially in the mornings. The black sand beach and reef breaks have something for everyone, from intermediate to advance. Sets tend to shift during the day, and you might find yourself sitting in the line-up waiting for as long as half an hour before scoring the right wave. The waves are usually fast, and most prefer the lefts than the rights. You can find more peaks down the coast towards Pererenan Beach on its northwest. Canggu will be a place to have relaxing surf with waves that aren’t that extreme (but can get rather fast!). But, when the tide is up, it can be a real challenge even for the professionals. For beginners, Canggu is also a friendly beach. The soft waves and medium tide makes learning how to surf more fun.
On the island’s eastern coast in Gianyar, this black sand beach is a long-time favourite. With a wide-open ocean view facing Nusa Lembongan. Eastern swells pick up and break over an uneven lava reef. The waves are mostly fast right-handers and average up to five feet. It is one of Bali’s world-class waves, and the new beach resort and club has upped the hype. Keramas is also a regular host to major sponsor title pro and grommet events such as Billabong and Oakley.
Keramas beach promises constant waves and a big swell, as long as you get up early, after 07.00 a.m the onshore wind might affect the barrel. The end section gets really shallow and you should be careful with the sharp reef and annoying sea urchins.
The sleepy little island of Nusa Lembongan is home to some world-class waves, though it’s a bit harder to get to and is more fickle than most Bali waves. This small island southeast of the Bali mainland has several favourite breaks; one of them is nicknamed and marked by a ship that ran aground on its northwestern reefs. ‘Shipwrecks’ as it is named, gets packed with surfers of all standards, but only the daring, skilled and strong-willed will be able to secure a good barrel. Even so, it is not for beginners as the waves break onto the reef that is practically a ship burial ground. Other spots to the south include Lacerations and Playgrounds that all break across a shallow reef. Getting to these playing fields is a boat ride out, setting off from Nusa Lembongan’s Mushroom Bay, and only enjoyable if you’re spending more than a day on this quaint resort island.
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