For beautiful beaches, there's no better place than Bali. The beaches are striking: mostly white sand in the south and west, and black sand in the north and on the hotter, more exposed east coast. Lush vegetation, brightly-painted traditional fishing boats, scrumptious freshly-caught seafood and, of course, a mouth-watering choice of sundowners and cocktails complete the picture. If you’re looking for a surfing spot, the likes of Balangan Beach and Dreamland Beach are everything you'll be dreaming of and more. Bali also has superb snorkelling and diving beaches – Blue Lagoon Beach is amongst the best. Read on to find the perfect Balinese beach for you!
Close to the provincial capital, Denpasar, Sanur is easy to get to and its calm, shallow waters are ideal for families with young children. A boardwalk, running for more than three miles, follows the beach and is a great place for an early morning run, especially at sunrise. Later in the day, you'll discover that Sanur is also one of Bali's best locations for water sports. Whether it's jet skiing, windsurfing or stand up paddle-boarding, you'll find it here. It's also well-known for its authentic Balinese food. For freshly-cooked local delicacies such as nasi goreng (fried rice), and a great local atmosphere, make tracks for the popular Passer Sindhu night market.
Home to some of Bali's most glamorous resorts and nightlife, Seminyak is a place both to see and to be seen. However, as enticing as its hotels, spas, restaurants and nightclubs are, they do not outshine the dark-gold sands and the magnificent sunsets that play out over them. If you want to do more than sunbathe and swim, horse riding on the beach is very popular. There's also plenty to do close to the three beaches that make up Seminyak. Foodies will enjoy Jalan Laksmana, affectionately known as ‘eat street’. Meanwhile, Jalan Dhyana Pura has some of the resort's best bars, including several LGBT-friendly establishments.
One of Bali's top destinations, Kuta is a long sandy beach close to Ngurah Rai International Airport. Bordering Legian to the north and Tuban to the south, it's a lively place that's perfect for trying out a whole host of activities and following them up with a fun night out in the nearby bars and restaurants. Beach football and volleyball are just two of the activities on offer here but it's surfing that is particularly popular, especially during the dry season (April to August). And, if neither ball sports nor surfing are quite your thing, what about an impromptu spa session from one of the masseuses plying their trade on the beach!
This black volcanic sand beach on Bali's northern coast is a tranquil spot, stretching for around five miles and encompassing several fishing villages. The palm tree-shaded sand and the boats are very picturesque, but it's the bottlenose dolphins that are the main attraction. For the best chance of seeing them and their antics, it's best to head out to sea just before sunrise. The dolphins are such superstars here that you'll have no problem finding a business or tour guide willing to take you out in their boat but do book ahead to be sure of your spot.
In the north-west of the island, about 20 minutes drive from Lovina, you'll find Pemuteran. This black sand beach, backed by lush green hills, has a laid-back, chilled vibe and it's great for both swimming and snorkelling. Its shallow reefs hide all kinds of marine life, including seahorses and frogfishes (which, despite the name, are actually a type of angler fish). Although it's too deep for snorkellers, the Underwater Temple Garden is popular with divers. Centred around a Balinese Hindu temple, it's not an archaeological site but was actually constructed as part of a reef reconstruction project.
If you're looking for a relaxing, low-key beach that's perfect for couples, Blue Lagoon on the east coast could be just the place. Set in a small cove that's surrounded by jungle-green trees and vegetation, its tucked-away position ensures it doesn't get crowded. However, as pretty as the beach and its setting is, it's the sea – and specifically what lies beneath it – that's the star of this show. With a coral reef only a few metres from shore, Blue Lagoon is a magical spot for divers and snorkellers. Marine life highlights to look for include octopus and cuttlefish.
If you've watched the film Eat, Pray, Love, you'll already be familiar with Padang Padang. To enjoy it in person, head for the Bukit Peninsula in the south of Bali. The beach itself is every bit as beautiful as its movie depiction and, thanks to the limestone cliffs that surround it, even getting onto the sands is a bit of an adventure. A massive rock archway and a set of steps take you onto the beach and, if you're an experienced surfer, towards the big waves that form just beyond the reef. Non-surfers will enjoy relaxing on the sand, cooling off in the water or just taking in the view. When you're hungry, a number of beachside kiosks serve refreshments and light meals.
Between Balangan and Padang Padang, you'll find the evocatively-named Dreamland beach. Another of the stretches of white sand that characterise this part of Bali, Dreamland is a small beach, sheltered by white limestone cliffs. With idyllic Indian Ocean views that perhaps belie the size and power of the waves, Dreamland is a very popular hang-out for pro and experienced surfers. When the surf is lower, it's equally popular with novice and intermediate surfers. Equipment hire and surf guides are available on the beach. If you're sunbathing, you might also want to rent a beach umbrella, unless you retire to the beach restaurant when the midday sun is at its highest. The west-facing location means that this is yet another Balinese beach that promises jaw-dropping sunsets.
Jimbaran, on the west coast, is that magical combination of working fishing village and luxury resort. Dense tropical forest borders the long white sand beach, giving it a secluded air that makes it hard to believe that it's only around 20 minutes drive from the airport. Unlike the surfing hangouts further to the south, the sea here is calm and ideal for swimmers. It's great for fishermen too – and you'll see their colourful boats pulled up near the Kedonganan fish market, just north of the beach. The market is Bali's largest fresh seafood market, and a sunrise visit lets you watch the fishermen unload their catches. And don't miss sampling some of the fish at one of the many excellent seafood restaurants.
Taking in seven fishing villages on the east coast, the beaches and coves that make up Amed are quintessential Bali. Everything about the place from the glorious sunrises to the traditional boats bobbing on the water and the distant peak of Mount Agung will have you reaching for your camera again and again. The coral reefs mean you might also want an underwater camera as it's also a fantastic place for snorkelers and scuba divers. It's easy to rent gear if you don't have your own, and underwater highlights include a Japanese shipwreck and a submerged temple. As for marine life, expect territorial and very colourful triggerfish and some fantastically-shaped coral formations.
For world class luxury, you can't do better than Nusa Dua in the south. Translating to ‘two islands', Nusa Dua is actually a pair of headlands, each topped with a small temple. You'll find plenty of beaches, although access to some are restricted to guests staying at specific hotels or resorts. However, a number of public beaches mean that everyone can enjoy sunbathing on the sands and swimming in the warm sea. More unusual attractions in Nusa Dua include camel safaris and the ‘Water Blow’, an enormous blowhole on the beach, where you can watch seawater erupt into the sky. Finally, for some of the best views, take the path up to Pura Geger temple, which overlooks the sea below.
Another top surfing spot, the breaks off Balangan beach on the Uluwatu peninsula make it suitable for surfers of all levels. Experienced surfers head for the long break to the left of the viewpoint that draws Instagrammers and wedding party photo shoots to the beach. Onshore, 200 metres of white sand provide the perfect spot from which to relax in a hired deckchair. The reef can make swimming a little tricky: you'll definitely need surf shoes and to wait for high tide. Luckily, this is the perfect beach for lounging, and several beachside warungs offer food, drinks and surfboard hire. What's more, Balangan's location, a short way from the nearest main road, ensures it retains its chilled, low-key vibe.