Ah, Bali. Paradise, no? Jungles, waterfalls, monkeys… but where are all those turquoise waters? Besides a few beaches in Bali, most don’t boast the same turquoise waters that you’ll find on its neighboring island of Lombok. If you’re planning a trip to Bali, make sure you plan in some time to visit Lombok, if only to visit its gorgeous beaches. Whatever you do, just don’t mix up Kuta Lombok, with Kuta Bali. These two Kuta’s couldn’t be more different – and there is a clear winner.
Kuta Lombok : The crowds
After briefly visiting Kuta Bali, I couldn’t believe the amount of time some tourists spend there. If you’re just there to drink endlessly, ok sure, go for it. Kuta Bali is known for its party scene and for being well… a bit trashy perhaps… maybe run-down is a better word. If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back and with a bit more of a local vibe, head over to the neighboring Kuta.
Kuta Lombok hasn’t yet hit its tourist peak, and is still relatively small and less touristed compared to Kuta Bali. Sure there are still plenty of tourists there, but you won’t (yet) find huge hotels and mass tourism. The streets (I think I counted 2 main streets) of Kuta Lombok are still pretty calm as far as scooter traffic goes, and most of the traffic you’ll find is local. No major traffic jams like in Bali.
Finally, welcome to paradise! Lombok has the long white sandy beaches flanked by palm trees and looking out over aqua water that you’ve been dreaming of. Surrounding Kuta, just a short scooter ride away are gorgeous beaches waiting for you to visit. Best of all, they aren’t very crowded, and are not at the foot of hotels like the ones you’ll find in Bali – and they definitely don’t have the hoards of garbage on them that Seminyak and Kuta Bali have. That means more opportunity to just simply chill out and relax.
On your visit, don’t miss these beaches in the area of Kuta Lombok
Pantai Tanjung Aan
Head to Tanjung Aan for a lazy afternoon after surfing, stuff yourself with nasi goreng at Warung Turtle on the beach, and then nap in one of the small beach cabins.
Better known as Seger Beach, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset in Kuta Lombok. Located just a few minutes outside of the center of the city to the east, Seger Beach has to big hills overlooking the ocean where you can perch and catch the sun go down. Don’t forget to grab a Bintang at the cafe at the bottom of the hill – just be careful not to drink too much cause the hill can be a bit steep in some places 😉
Located to the west of Kuta Lombok, Pantai Mawun is a horseshoe-shaped white sand beach surrounded by lush green hills – not to be found anywhere in Bali! We found the locals here to be a bit more aggressive than normal about selling things, so unfortunately we didn’t stick around here too long.
Pantai Salong Belanak
This is definitely one of the most “western” beaches. Here you’ll find several restaurants lining the beach with lounges to relax on. You can also try surfing here, but let’s face it, it’s nowhere near as good as Gerupuk.
Unfortunately for us, it was pretty overcast when we visited and we didn’t see any of the famous ox crossings on the beach as pictured above – but you could!
Ok, so before any “real” surfers argue with me over where it is better to surf, let me say that as a beginner surfer, Kuta Lombok is way better than Kuta Bali… or Canggu… or Nusa Dua where we also attempted to surf in Bali. If you’re a beginner looking to actually enjoy surfing, Kuta Lombok is your place. Big (and sometimes intimidating), yet slow-breaking waves are your best friend there – not to mention the water is turquoise. If you’re in Kuta, head east 20 minutes to reach the small surf village of Gerupuk, hop aboard a fisherman’s boat, and ride out to the surf. Or, better yet, book a week away in a surf camp and learn it properly.
Although I’m sure for more experienced surfers Uluwatu or Canggu can be great, I found the speed of the breaking waves in Canggu too intimidating to go out in. But hey, that’s just me. I also had a bit of the feeling that everyone goes to Bali to surf… so you’re there with massive crowds who seem to be showing off.
Although the Kuta Lombok area is known for its surf, it’s not yet home to all the surf shops that populate the coastline of Bali running from Uluwatu to Canggu. That makes it both really pleasant – for once, no huge Quiksilver or O’Neill shops – but also a bit annoying if you actually need to buy something. So if you need some gear, make sure you bring it with you.
Getting to Kuta Lombok
The easiest, and I’d argue safest way, to reach Lombok is by flying in. It takes only 30 minutes to reach the Lombok airport from Denpasar, and won’t cost you much – I think it cost us €27 each. Don’t try to reach Lombok by boat unless you’re already in one of the Gili Islands – the islands looks close, but the waters can be deceivingly dangerous in the Lombok Strait.
What to know before you visit
- The best way to get around is on a scooter. Rent one and explore!
- As with Bali, there are tons of dogs here. But the dogs are typically not treated as pets – they are sometimes accepted by families to serve as guard dogs, but they are not treated nearly as well as in Bali. We saw many abused or starving dogs.
- Lombok is less safe than Bali. If you visit Kuta Lombok, don’t leave the city center after dark – definitely do not take your scooter west toward Pantai Mawun. In fact that was one of the clear instructions the owner of our surf camp gave us when we stayed. There are quite a few accounts of armed robbery in Lombok – so have fun, but be careful
- As with the rest of the area, don’t drink any locally brewed liquor. You’ll read that in any guidebook – you don’t want to risk your life over that. Drinks are cheap there anyway, so stick to Bintang to be safe.
What did you think of Kuta Lombok? Do you prefer Kuta Bali?