I found myself traveling to Bali in early June by mistake. A friend had booked me tickets but couldn’t go last minute due to a personal emergency. So there I was, nearly broke from my trip to Peru, wondering what the hell I should do by myself in the ‘Island of the Gods’. Thankfully, my sister once again saved the day by flying in for a week to accompany me. And what did we do? Explore the island’s many beaches, of course!
There are so many to choose from that we couldn’t pick just one. So we ended up joining a tour of Bali’s best beaches with Hong Kong-based travel tech startup TripGuru to get an overview of our options. It was an incredibly packed and exhausting day, but we were happy to have been able to see and do so much in the span of 10-12 hours.
We were picked up by an air-conditioned van from our villa, along with two other ‘millennial’ travelers from Chile and British Virgin Islands (wow, how often do you get to meet people from these places?! Especially the latter!).
After beach hopping non-stop from sunrise to sunset, I bring you the best beaches southern Bali has to offer, each with its own compelling reason to visit:
Best for watersports: Tanjung Benoa Beach
If R&R is what you’re looking for, don’t come here. Tanjung Benoa is all about water sports, from parasailing and water jet packing to fly fishing and jet skiing. My sister, Joyce, had never tried wakeboarding before, so we went for that. Apparently, we were the first of the day to sign up for that activity.
There were two locals who came with us–one driving the jetski, and another setting up the equipment. Their instruction wasn’t that great, but since I had already tried wakeboarding before, I was able to stand. Joyce was able to get it on her fourth or fifth try, to our delight. If I wanted to improve, though, I wouldn’t have chosen those people to instruct me.
Honestly speaking, the water wasn’t that great, and it was a little bit expensive for around 30 minutes in the water. We paid around IDR300,000 (Php1,138) per person. They gave us six tries each (you can bargain for more), regardless if you’re able to stand or not. If yes, then you can stretch it out as long as you want!
Best for photo ops: Water Blow at Nusa Dua
Nusa Dua is an area on the eastern side of the Bukit Peninsula. It’s home to a luxury hotel complex and several beaches, islands, spas, and a golf club. We came just for the Water Blow–a famous rock formation where waves collide dramatically against the cliff walls. The impacts form spectacular, meters-high splashes worthy of many a wedding photo shoot.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get that perfectly-timed shot with a spray soaring several feet over your head. I found it fascinating to walk along the edge of the path, just staring at the waves coming in and bursting out of the dark rock.
Best for surfing: Padang Padang
In between Bingin and Uluwatu, Padang Padang is one of Bali’s world-class surf spots with an area for beginners and a main one further out for short boarders. Rip Curl holds its regular surfing cup at this beach, among other international events.
I will always remember Padang Padang for the narrow and steep flight of stairs cut through a hollow rock that we had to take to get in. I was amazed at how surfers would take their boards through that cave-like passageway, tight enough to make anyone feel a tinge of claustrophobia.
Tip: For some serious people watching, make a beeline for Padang Padang. We didn’t get the memo, but now we know: the place is a hotspot for sexy sunbathers in bikinis and ripped surfer dudes.
Best for families: Pandawa Beach
We had lunch at Pandawa Beach, whose long strip of white sand was lined with local eateries. (Tip: Have white almond Magnum for dessert! I was obsessed….). The beach used to be a ‘secret’ beach inaccessible for the high white stone cliffs dropping into the pristine sand. However, the local government decided to cut a coastal road into that cliff creating a way into the sea. Whether or not that was a good decision depends on whose point of view you’re taking…
I thought Pandawa Beach was best for families because of its chilled out atmosphere, abundance of amenities, long strip of sand, clean-looking water (I didn’t swim, so I couldn’t tell you firsthand), and range of kid-friendly activities around. I’m not in that category (yet), so this wouldn’t be my top beach of choice…!
Best for culture: Uluwatu
Uluwatu is a Bali must, so chances are if you’ve been to Bali you’ve been to this cliffhanger of a temple. We watched the sunset here, where they staged a traditional Tari Kecak fire dance and vocal orchestra performance. A little touristy, but the ambiance is just breathtaking, especially as the sun goes down. Expert surfers are the only ones brave enough for the giant waves over here, though, so unless you’re a tireless swimmer or fearless surfer, then maybe you should stick to admiring the view, walking around the shrine, and maybe attending the cultural show.
Best for beachfront seafood: Jimbaran Bay
Our last stop was Jimbaran Bay, famous for its fresh seafood beachfront restaurants. There were so many lining the beach, all featuring sea-to-table dining. I will never forget that red snapper we had, which I inhaled in a matter of minutes. It was freshly grilled, melt-in-your mouth, with the most delicious Indonesian sauces (not too spicy!) that enhanced rather than overpowered the fish’s flavor. I wish we, in the Philippines, could cook fish like this, with the expert condiments of the Indonesian kitchen.
You can also watch my vlog on Bali’s Southern Beaches here:
Being on the southern hemisphere, Bali’s seasons differ from that of the rest of Southeast Asia. The rains arrive in the Philippines from May to October; meanwhile, Bali’s dry season is exactly from May to October! I didn’t know this until the first time I went in 2013 between July and August. We were treated with some of the world’s best waves and comfortable climates. So if you were looking for an opportune moment to go, now you know. Enjoy!
About the author: Julienne C. Raboca
Julienne is a travel blogger and writer known for her fearless prose, lighthearted sarcasm, and pervasive wit. She has been based in Hong Kong (and every now and then, Madrid) for the last six years. She currently works as Features Editor at Gafencu Magazine, a luxury lifestyle print publication distributed in Greater China. Her favorite memories of 2017 so far have been floating in the Dead Sea, trekking for four days to Machu Picchu, and road tripping through Croatia from Zagreb to Zadar. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @morenatravels and www.morenatravels.com