Uluwatu – Discover the Rugged Side of Bali

This post was last updated on July 10th, 2020 at 09:17 am

Uluwatu is an absolute must-visit if you are looking for beautiful (surf) beaches, limestone cliffs, and mouth-watering views. In our opinion, this region is the most rugged you will find in Bali.


And the great thing is that you can drive there from the airport in about 45 minutes. This is exactly what we did, and we visited all kinds of beautiful places. In this mini-guide, we tell you more about it so that you too can get the most out of your trip to Uluwatu.


Uluwatu: Good to know

For starters, it’s good to know that Uluwatu is not a place but a region. To be precise, it is located in the southwest of the Bukit Peninsula. Via the town of Jimbaran, you enter the long Jalan Raya Uluwatu street, from where you can easily visit all of the highlights.


However, you will need a motorbike for this, because the region is quite extensive. You have plenty of options to rent one in Uluwatu. Another option is to arrange a motorbike in Kuta and drive to Uluwatu yourself. We did the latter and it is easy to do. The region is easy to explore in about three days.


By the way, do you have any questions about renting and driving a scooter in Bali? You can read all about it here.


Coming back to Jalan Raya Uluwatu, this is a terribly chaotic street as you’ll often see in Bali. In terms of crowds, it can be compared to the main street in Ubud. However, if you drive into a side road, it is immediately a lot quieter. Thankfully!


Scenic view of Balangan Beach

Cliffs and rolling waves at Balangan Beach in Uluwatu


The first thing we did that afternoon was to visit Balangan Beach, also known locally as Pantai Balangan. There’s a cliff there, from which you have a magnificent view of the beach. And at the end of the afternoon, when the sun goes down, the setting is absolutely beautiful.


We arrived at the viewpoint via a long winding road. To our surprise, it turned out to be incredibly busy, especially with Chinese couples who had their wedding photos taken there. And not just a few, but seriously dozens! With, as you can expect in Asia, all kinds of bells and whistles.


We thought this was only the case on this day, only it turns out to be the case every afternoon.


However, what does it matter if the view is so beautiful? It reminded us a bit of Nusa Penida.


A steep hike to Nyang Nyang Beach

Cliffs around Nyang Nyang beach in Uluwatu on Bali


The next day we started with a trip to Nyang Nyang Beach, a deserted beach about 1.5 kilometers long. First, we ended up on a dead-end with a cliff, from where you can already see the vast stretch of sand. We then drove back towards the main road and turned left as there was a small sign with Nyang Nyang Beach along the street.


Once arrived, it turned out that we still had to take a rather steep walk down to reach the beach. But in the end, you end up in a beautiful place with yellow-white sand, azure blue water, and towering rock walls that are covered with tropical rainforest. What’s great is that you won’t see many other people there, probably because of the fairly strenuous hike required to get there.


If you want to take a special photo, walk towards the artistic Nunggalan shipwreck that you see lying in the sand on the east side of the beach. Why do we say artistic? Well, simple. The wreck is completely covered with (beautiful) graffiti. Previously there were two wrecks and now there’s one left, the other was probably taken by the wild sea.


By the way, if you didn’t bring any water, you can go to various shops during the hike where locals sell drinks and snacks.


Thomas Beach & Padang Padang Beach

Padang Padang Beach in Uluwatu on Bali


Thomas Beach is another beautiful beach where you can surf (beginners) and swim. And the latter is quite exceptional in Uluwatu given the wild water. Do you want to surf? There are some surf shops that rent out boards. There are also enough sunbeds and umbrellas to relax for a day.


At the far end, the bay is bordered by cliffs and you can see some boulders in the water. When the sun goes down this makes for beautiful pictures.


Compared to Nyang Nyang, we think Thomas Beach is less interesting. We are not big fans of beaches with many beds and umbrellas, although that is of course personal. Furthermore, the (sweaty) adventure to get to Nyang Nyang is extra cool.


Padang Padang Beach is also nearby. This is the only beach in the region for which you have to pay an entrance fee. Padang Padang is also an ideal place to learn to surf as a beginner. We recommend the Padang Padang Surf Camp.


Are you looking for a relatively quiet beach? Then Thomas Beach is the best choice.


Enjoy the view from the Karang Boma Cliff

Couple standing at the top of Karang Boma cliff in Uluwatu


Are you looking for a downright great spot to watch the sunset? Then go to the Karang Boma Cliff. This is such a place that you want to have seen, you’ll hardly believe you’re still in Bali. The view from the cliff to the wild sea and Uluwatu Temple is unprecedented. And when the sun goes down and the sky turns orange or even pink, it all becomes even more special.


Karang Boma is no longer completely unknown, so it may just be that you have to stand in a short line to get that wanted photo of yourself on the cliff. Although we must say that the crowds were not too bad in our case.


You have to pay 10,000 IDR (~ US$0.70) to enter, part of which is private property.


Tegal Wangi Beach: the most beautiful beach in Bali?

Sunset at Tegal Wangi Beach from a cliff in Uluwatu


“You don’t have to be in Bali for beautiful beaches,” we can still hear ourselves say it. And yes, when you have visited places like Bira, Karimunjawa, Kei Kecil, Pulau Hatta, Kuta (Lombok), and Nusa Penida, that is not a very strange remark. However, our visit to Uluwatu has made us swallow these words.


We already told you about Nyang Nyang Beach before, but the most impressive beach we’ve been to is 100% Tegal Wangi Beach. What an idyllic place this is! Huge chunks of limestone give the beach an unspoiled character, the waves are immense and surprisingly we had this golden bay almost to ourselves. Swimming and surfing are unfortunately not possible, but simply relaxing in the shade or enjoying the views are also extremely good reasons to go there.


At low tide, you can also walk to the end of the beach to take great photos of the sunset from a rock opening. Around this time it seems to get quite busy, it’s a typical Instagram spot.


All in all, we can say that for us this is the most beautiful beach we have visited in Bali. If you have discovered a better one, we would, of course, like to hear about it 😉.


Dreamland Beach: the most famous beach in Uluwatu

Rocks with algae at Dreamland Beach in Uluwatu, Bali


After visiting the amazing Pantai Tegal Wangi, we were aware that it probably wouldn’t get any better in terms of beaches. Because you don’t see such beauty that often.


A little later we ended up at Dreamland Beach, perhaps the most visited beach in Uluwatu where you see all kinds of surfers and day-trippers. You have a spectacular view from the cliff where you can park your scooter.


If you are a surfer with little (but still some) experience, Dreamland Beach is a good place to visit. We think it is better to visit the aforementioned Padang Padang Beach for beginner lessons.


The cozy Bingin Beach

Cozy beach huts at Bingin Beach in Uluwatu, Bali


Bingin Beach may not be an eye-catching beach, but it is the ultimate spot if you like relaxing, good food, and beach bars. Via a long staircase, you reach the sand, and just before that you can sit on a bean bag on the white beach of The Sun & Surf Stay to drink a fresh cocktail or fruit juice, for example.


At the end of the afternoon, there is always a terrace on the beach where you can eat fresh seafood. In the morning you can also enjoy the many surfers to be seen. When the day passes, the water becomes calmer and more pleasant for swimming.


At the top, before you take the stairs down, you can find over a dozen guesthouses and homestays. Ideal if you are looking for a relaxing holiday and need little else. Of course, you can also stay on the beach, although the prices are of course a bit higher.


Advanced surfing at Impossible Beach

View from the cliff at Impossible Beach during the evening


If you are on Bingin Beach, it is worth walking towards Impossible Beach. You pass all kinds of bizarre rock formations and we also met some curious monkeys. One of them sat down on a stone in front of us to eat a snack, in an extremely relaxed pose.


When we arrived at Impossible Beach, we watched surfers show their skills on giant waves. Super cool to see.


Uluwatu Kecak & Fire Dance at the Uluwatu Temple

At the aforementioned Uluwatu Temple, you can attend the traditional Balinese Kecak dance. This dance is the highlight of the temple, and not so much the structure itself. It is a very touristy affair, which will partly take away the authentic feeling. What we have heard from others is that it seems rather commercial and the dance is not very special. That is why we skipped it.


Uluwatu Temple perched on top of a cliff near the sea


Stock up on local fruit

If you are looking for a nice place to get cheap fresh fruit, then we recommend you visit the traditional market at Jalan Raya Uluwatu. They have everything for reasonable prices. If you drive from the south to the Pepito Express supermarket, you will find this (small) market two blocks further on your left. You can also go to the Pepito Express, however, it is quite expensive there.


If you can’t find it, ask for the “pasar tradisional”.


Drink tasty iced coffee

In Uluwatu, you will find numerous cozy places to eat and drink, including a number of cool coffee shops. Perhaps the most famous is Suka Espresso. We regularly visited Bread Basket, also because it was simply close to our guesthouse.


We can tell you that the coffee is very good and you can get all kinds of tasty sandwiches. Our recommendation is ordering a double iced-espresso, without water. Ideal if you like strong coffee.


Try the local eateries

Uluwatu is bursting with hip eateries that are almost entirely aimed at Westerners. Nice, but we also recommend you to walk into the local warungs (eateries). Besides the fact that it is a lot cheaper, the food is often delicious. That’s how we ate this delicious Gado-Gado at Warung Auntie:


Gado-Gado, Indonesian Vegetable Salad with Peanut Sauce at Warung Auntie


Places to stay in Uluwatu

You can stay in the busy Jalan Raya Uluwatu, but we think it would be better to book your accommodation around one of the beaches, as it will be quieter there. We did spend the night in the busy street, at Uluwatu Suites, and luckily there was little noise pollution. The room is very large and the bed lovely. For peace of mind, ask if they can give you a room as far away from the road as possible.


After our first night, we drove around looking for other accommodations around Balangan Beach, usually located on Jalan Pantai Balangan. You have everything there, usually converted to around US$10 per night.


In any case, check Booking.com or Agoda for the reviews and the location.


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