Just the name conjures up blissful days, beaches and boards; Bali may be a bucket list destination for most, but for surfers it is a treasure trove of world class surf spots!
No matter if you're on an old hand or a shaky legged learner; Bali is the ideal place to hunt down some dreamy barrels or simply get to grips with the sport. Either way- it’s an ideal spot no matter your surfing level.
Whether you like reef breaks, sandy peaks or just watching the pros in awe, Bali has got you covered with everything from heaving waves to friendly beach breaks.
In this guide we explain when to go, how to get there, where to get the best waves and a whole lot more! If it’s your first surf trip we’ve got some top packing tips and essential rules to travelling with boards so you don’t find yourself all at sea!
If that's not enough, we've also highlighted six of the most popular beaches in Bali so you know how to get the most out of them.
But hey, it's ok, maybe menacing sets just aren't your scene? If you're looking for a holiday to suit the best of both worlds - sand, surf, sun and fun, then Bali is just the ticket! So what are you waiting for....it's time to get on board!
Bali doesn't really have an off season. Sitting just south of the equator, visitors are drawn to beautiful Bali all-year-round due to its perfect waves, warm water, offshore winds, and tropical climate.
Daylight hours: 12 hours Sun set: Around 6:30 p.m daily Average temperature: 27ºC to 32ºC Humidity: 75%
Even though Bali is warm all year round, there are two very distinctive seasons; dry and wet. Whether you're a surf junkie or an excited explorer, these seasons may inform your travel dates.
May, June and July are generally considered to be the best time to travel to Bali in terms of the weather. However if surfing's on the agenda your preferred dates may differ.
When to surf?
Beat the crowds
Bali's popularity has made this little island very accessible from all round the globe. It means you're spoilt for choice when it comes to getting to the island by air or sea.
By plane: Jakarta, the national capital, is the main gateway airport into Indonesia, however there are many direct international flights to Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport, located just south of Kuta. Many airlines offer non-stop flights into Bali from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong kong, Bangkok, Brunei, and more. If you're travelling on a budget, or you're ready to splash some cash, there are a multitude of airlines with daily flight schedules to Denpasar.
By boat: If you're living it up in one of Bali's surrounding islands then it may be preferable to arrive in Bali by boat. There are a few ferry options to Bali depending on your departure point... but don't hold your hopes out for luxury travel, many services could do with a fresh lick of paint and a good scrub down. But if you're not too picky you can rely on ferries to get you from A to B "relatively" safely.
Ferries from Lombok run 24 hours a day and can take around 4 to 5 hours to arrive depending on tides and currents. Remember, you're on island time now! PELNI ferries from the Ketapang Port in Java also depart daily to Gilimanuk port in Bali. It's only a short 30-40 minute sail, but in peak season you may have to wait in a queue. If you are heading to Bali from Gill island a fast boat might be the best option. Although pricier than a regular ferry, you'll be rewarded with a luggage compartment, spacious seating and even a toilet (how's that for luxury!?) Pack your rain jacket as you may be in for a wet and wild ride!
Be prepared to take a chill-pill when getting around Bali, the traffic moves at snail pace. As a guide, it's likely to take one to two hours to drive the 14km between Nusa Dua and Kuta.
Ojek: The quickest way to get around towns is by motorcycle taxis- otherwise known as an 'ojek' (similar to tuk tuk transportation in Thailand). You can easily flag these down and haggle the price down. But getting on a motorbike without a helmet obviously comes with its fair share of thrills and spills.
Bemo: It's common practice to hire a vehicle with a driver for the entire day in Bali. Your Bemo will take you wherever you want to go and either wait for you or arrange a pickup time for later. Bemo's are a handy option for groups travelling from beach-to-beach with their boards.
Taxi: Metered taxis (as apposed to casual pickup services) are another good way to get around without having to haggle the price down. Make sure you go with a legitimate Blue Bird Taxi though (look out for signature blue cars with a bluebird on the side). Many drivers try to claim they are Blue Birds, but they are in fact not.
Bike: Thrill seekers can opt to get themselves around on hire motorbikes or mopeds...But this is not for the faint hearted. Riotous traffic and careless drivers are rife in Bali, and some consider riding on Balinese streets to be a suicide mission. A travel insurance policy is vital to cover your medical expenses when travelling in Bali; particularly if you're planning to hire a bike or moped. Just remember that to uphold your policy you'll need an international license (that is valid for the engine size of bike you are riding) and you must be wearing a helmet when riding (or when on the back of a bike or moped).
Type: Reef break | Tide: All tides | Swell: South-West | Wind: North-East | Best for: All skill sets
Balian (“sacred” in the local lingo) is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the waves for a few days. Just an hour's drive from Kuta on the South West coast, Balian's unspoilt coastlines makes for a calming retreat from chaotic Kuta and crowded Seminyak. Perfect for those looking to get off the grid (even on a tranquil paradise like Bali) Balian's surf will suit all skill levels. Just be sure to time your trip well as conditions will differ depending on the time of year.
The early bird surf is best in Balian as it tends to get pretty blustery later in the day. Perfect for long boards, Balian's left-handers (waves breaking from left to right) are longer and better shaped than its rights, but you should beware of currents when you first enter the water. Once you're in, paddle out about 50 meters to the left for long gnarly rides back to shore.
As with many of the beaches along this side of the Balinese coast, Balian is a black sand beach and not necessarily the nicest spot for a swim. However there are plenty of great vantage points perfect for spending a lazy afternoon.
Not too far away is Kutuh Beach, a tricky spot to get to but well worth a visit too. Accessible only through an enormous quarry-like ravine; the payoff is that you'll most likely have the place to yourself. And be sure to check out the nearby Soka beach too. Be sure to stick around till dusk where thousands of bats emerge from a hidden cave situated above a Balinese temple. It's a rare attractions you won't want to miss!
Type: Reef break | Tide: All tides | Swell: South West, West 2-12ft | Wind: South, South East, East | Best for: Intermediates & advanced
Safety Tip: At mid and low tide, you’ll have to walk a decent distance across coral reefs to get into the surf. Wear booties to avoid reef cuts and if you do get injured, make sure to come straight in and scrub the coral out with some lime or disinfectant. The warm water speeds up bacteria growth, meaning nasty infections are easy to come by.
Type: Beach break | Tide: All tides | Swell: South, South West 1-6ft | Wind: North East | Best for: Beginners
Legian (also known as Double Six) makes up part of the long stretch of Seminyak Beach. It's a learner’s dream, with a variety of surf schools to choose from and endless deck chairs and umbrellas to curl up under and enjoy the view. You can even partake in a spot of fishing if you so fancy!
Double Six is a fairly mushy beach break, great for longboards, fish riders or if you’re just starting out. The shifting sand banks offer both lefts and rights, and there is always plenty of room to test out your skills (although the best banks will always have a few locals sitting on them). You’ll be lucky to find any barrels here, although Legian does offer longer rides than your typical beach break.
Safety Tip: The sun is the biggest danger here so be sure to get under some shade particularly during the hottest parts of the day. Remember to zinc up, bring plenty of water with you and wear a long sleeve rashie if you have one. They’re not the most fashionable thing in the world, but neither is heat stroke!
Type: Reef break | Tide: All tides | Swell: South-West | Wind: South-East | Best for: Advanced
Padang Padang, so good they named it twice. Also known as the Balinese pipeline, it's a wave only for the best of the best!
The fast long barrelling wave certainly lives up to it's reputation. Breaking over a shallow coral reef. Padang barrels right from the take-off, so you can expect a racetrack all the way to the inside section, which can get extremely hollow on a low tide.
Padang can be ridden in conditions up to 10ft, but anywhere near this you'll need nerves of steel to even consider paddling out. This spot is certainly not one for the faint hearted...you have been warned! Perhaps you prefer to just watch the pros? The Rip Curl Cup takes place annually in Padang Padang and is not an event to be missed.
Safety tip: Be careful when duck-diving, especially on low tide, as it is very easy to ding your board on the reef.
The drawback with Kuta is that due to it's popularity it can get very busy in the water - sometimes up to 60 surfers at a time can be found competing for waves. However, due to the varying skill levels of surfer in Kuta you can be sure to sneak a few every so often.
Type: Reef break | Tide: Mid tide | Swell: South 3-8 ft | Wind: West, South West | Best for: Intermediate to advanced
Previously a secret spot, Serangan is quickly becoming one of Bali’s most popular waves. You’ll have to drive down about 15 minutes’ worth of unsealed road, hold your nose passed a rubbish tip and pay a toll just to get to the place, but don’t worry...the waves make up for it!
The paddle out can look daunting, however near the break wall, and towards the south end there are gaps in the reef you can scarper through.
The wave itself is beyond fun, and can offer rip-able walls, ramp sections and the occasional barrel, sometimes all on the one ride. In front of the break wall you’ll be able to scratch into both lefts and rights, and further north there is a consistent left, however be prepared to battle a strong sweep outside the shelter of the wall.
Safety tip: If you’re newer to the sport, sign up for a lesson or rent a long board and sit on the south end (to your right as you face the beach). It’s much mellower than the main break.
It's not as easy to pick up spare surf equipment in Bali as it is at home. So make sure you pack the following items for your trip ...
This is all about preparation and a little know-how. Picking your board up at baggage collection to find a big crease in your favourite thruster can certainly ruin a trip. Especially seeing as your shaper will be miles away!
A little preparation and TLC for your board can go a loooong way: