Why spend most of your time in the Kuta/Seminyak axis when you can head down to Uluwatu Bali? After falling in love with Ubud, we headed down to Uluwatu to stay for 3 days. We were in search of surf. Unfortunately we didn’t get much of it, but Uluwatu Bali did not disappoint.
Handy to know: although officially known as the Bukit Peninsula, most people call the southern area of Bali Uluwatu, after its famous temple with the same name
Thinking back on it, the Uluwatu area was one of my favorite parts of Bali. It didn’t have the trash and crowds of Seminyak and it wasn’t too hipster like Canggu. It was just right. It’s famous for beaches tucked into the cliffside, and is worth a multi-day stay instead of a day trip to the Uluwatu Temple.
My favorites in Uluwatu
This was the beach I envisioned when I imagined Bali. While the beaches in the north (Legian, Kuta, Seminyak, Echo) can be a bit dirty, or have black sand, Bingin Beach was just want I thought the beaches there would be like. I’m really glad we went there first before the northern beaches actually, because it showed me how great the beaches in Bali can be.
We visited Bingin on our first day in Uluwatu, courtesy of our Lonely Planet, of course. Having no idea what to expect, we followed the signs for Bingin Beach until we came across a quasi-parking lot filled with roosters where we could park our scooter. If you go, just follow the signs from the parking area, although it looks a bit shady. Once you walk for a little while following the signs, you’ll come to a (very) steep set of stairs to follow down the cliff. This brings you amongst the small hotels and restaurants perched along the cliff, and eventually to the beach. The way back up is much harder than the way down 🙂
Next time we are in Bali I would love to stay here for a couple days straight just to lay on the beach all day with a book and nothing else…
Bingin Beach was my favorite beach in Uluwatu for several reasons:
- It wasn’t crowded. I assume this is because it can really only be reached by scooter and is not especially family friendly. There are no resorts on the cliff, meaning the only hotels are quite small and humble.
- The view of the ocean is beautiful, but the view from the ocean looking back at the beach is almost better.
- THERE IS A DOG WHO PERMANENTLY LIVES THERE!! Bima the Beach Dog is a golden retriever who famously resides on Bingin Beach. Unfortunately I didn’t get a pic with this local celeb, but I did see him, which was pretty exciting for me. He’s a real sweetie who will cuddle up with just about anyone on the beach.
- I love that there are trees growing out of massive beach boulders there.
- You can surf here! Just be careful to avoid the reef below – surf only at high tide!
Single Fin is perched on the cliffside over looking Uluwatu Beach. It’s a hotel/bar/chill spot where you can eat, drink and watch the surfers take on the mighty Uluwatu Pipeline from above. Wander up to Single Fin from the Uluwatu entrance (there’s also a Single Fin scooter entrance) and you’ll be amazed at how all the ramshackle buildings miraculously don’t slip off the cliff down into the ocean.
Grab a spot on the porch over looking the ocean, with a bintang in your hand while a DJ spins in the background, and you’ll really feel like you’re on vacation.
Unfortunately when we visited the pipeline wasn’t pumping, but if you’re lucky if you get to see it. If you’re looking to surf, it’s better to leave this one to the pros.
An obvious must visit in Uluwatu is the temple with the same name. We visited on our first morning in Uluwatu, thinking it would be ideal to cross this one off the list. You are supposed to go at sunset to witness the kacak dance, but we didn’t. Instead we opted to go when we were sweating our asses off in the midday heat. Anyway, you should probably visit at sundown – but that’s also when all the tour buses arrive.
Unless you are wearing pants or a long skirt already, you’ll get one of these sarongs and look as fashionable as I did 😉
Visit Uluwatu – the temple itself is not as beautiful as some of the other temples in Bali, but the views from the cliff over the ocean are pretty spectacular.
Watch out for the monkeys who patrol the parking lot. Don’t leave any food near your scooter, or else it’ll be gone!
What to skip in Uluwatu
Dreamlands Beach. I think this should be renamed to nightmare beach. We headed here only because we heard it could be decent for beginner surfers. The beach is pretty depressing. It’s filled with garbage and located next to a deserted resort. It has a sad feeling that it was once developed for tourism, then left to rot. My advice is to avoid it at all costs.
Nusa Dua. Another one that I suggest you skip. Although we did rent surf boards for a day in Nusa Dua, I’d recommend you avoid it unless you are looking for a luxury resort stay in Bali. This is where you’ll find a lot of name brand hotels you are familiar with, to me it felt like I entered Hawaii. I was in Bali for something different, not to feel like I stepped into a Western luxury resort.
The entire area of Nusa Dua is really developed and is only accessible through gates. When you enter by scooter you have to tell the guards you are coming to surf (or whatever you are there for) and go through. It’s a bit of a maze and feels completely different than the west side of the peninsula where Uluwatu, Bingin and Padang Padang are.
Despite how developed it was, the area was so badly maintained. Part of a walkway along the beach had completely collapsed down into the sand and a light pole was laying on the beach. I wish I had taken a photo of it because I can’t find any online…To be honest, I think that a lot of hotels have come here and built up without much regard for the environment. I’m curious to see what happens to this area over the upcoming years.
Where to stay in Uluwatu
We stayed at S Resorts Hidden Valley during our 3 day stay in Uluwatu. For us it was an ideal place to stay for many reasons
- It’s affordable. We were traveling for 4 weeks through Indonesia and our threshold for hotels was around $45 per night – and this fit in our budget with no problems!
- It includes breakfast – duh, that is always a plus.
- Scooter rentals were $7 per day – trust me, rent from your hotel, NOT from some one on the street
- You can wake up with yoga. We loved waking up and doing yoga every morning during our stay. Ommm.
- We had the most relaxing massages there. I think we paid around $8 each for an hour of bliss. Do it.
- Location, location, location. S Resorts Hidden Valley is located off the main road, tucked into a quiet valley, but is still close to everything you want to reach in Uluwatu.
Where to eat
I might have a small confession to make… we ate at the same restaurant two nights in a row because we loved it so much – and because it was so close to where we stayed!
If you have a chance, and are looking for a break from nasi goreng, then you should definitely check out Bukit Cafe. The food there is delicious and will really help you get your western food fix – plus most items are still pretty healthy. The restaurant is located between Binging Beach and Padang Padang, so is pretty central in the Uluwatu area.
I myself indulged in this veggie burger below … twice
You can also spend time visiting infamous Padang Padang beach and the bluer than blue Pantai Pendawa, but for me, the places above took the cake!