Bali surf is legendary all around the globe. The fabled Isle of the Gods has breaks to match every level, from beginner-friendly Kuta to the rippable walls of Ulu’s.
Bali surf at a glance
- The variety is unbelievable – A-frames, barrels, beach breaks.
- Awesome surf scene with cool bars and good vibes.
- Cheap board rentals and lessons
- Really consistent waves that work on both coasts in different seasons.
- Some pollution in the water.
- Bali can be busy.
What will I find in this guide to surfing in Bali
An introduction to Bali surf
Ah, Bali. The Shangri-La of surfing; Asia’s answer to Hawaii. Washed by the powerful swells of the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean, this one’s got it all. Zippy reef that barrel? You bet. Mellow longboard waves? Yep. Beach breaks for that post-sunbathe kooky fun? No doubt.
Put simply, Bali surf is some of the very best in the world. Uber reliable and incredibly varied, it brings in wave riders from all around the globe. It’s a place where you can find your water feet on the plump.
This guide is a part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in Asia.
The top surf spots in Bali
You won’t have to look very far to find some seriously amazing Bali surf. In fact, there’s a little reef break right in front of the airport itself, so you can even spot people ripping the water before you even touch down. The most famous locations with extra ultimate guides include:
Kuta is a warm memory for many a surfer. Thousands – literally, thousands – of people came here to try their first-ever wave. The practice continues to this day, with countless rental shops and surf schools dotting the whole shoreline. As far as the wave goes, it’s generally an easy-going beach break that’s mellowed out by the sandbanks. Usually holds up well to around 6ft and often forms nice left and right-handers across a long bay. When the swell gets a hit of adrenaline, there can be high walls, even A-frames with plenty of punch, and some barrels, so always check the Bali surf forecast before you paddle out for your learner sesh.
For all intents and purposes, Seminyak can be considered an extension of Kuta. After all, the sands are only a few miles along the same stretch of coast. The quality and shape of the wave here is essentially the same as Bali’s main beginner spot, only there’s a little more height in things. The crowds do thin out a little as you move farther from Kuta itself. That’s also where the swell tends to come in unhindered, so expect a few closeouts on big days. Hazards include water pollution from the big resorts (keep your lips sealed!) and rips.
It’s not taken Canggu long to go from rustic rice paddy to digital nomad mecca. These days, there’s hardly a field in sight. Everything is flat whites and organic poke bowls. One thing that keeps the town drawing the cool crowd is the waves. They are known for being mellow peaks and reefs that have nowhere near the crowds of Kuta. Early mornings are always best.
Balian is one of the more upcoming Bali surf spots. It’s located way out west along the shores from Kuta, which means the crowds of young’uns are nowhere to be seen. A small surf town has set up shop behind the black sand, offering rentals and lessons. The wave itself is a high, peaky run that is great for 9″ folk on smaller days, and decent for upper intermediates when there’s extra power. It’s great if you’re after somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta.
Even further along the coast is the largely undiscovered Bali surf spot at Medewi. The pebbly beach is pure black sand and look darn wonderful before its own row of lanky palm trees. The swells that roll in here are tempered by a river mouth and sandbanks, which help shape them into clean, glassy shoulders that roll beautifully left. Not many crowds. Not much infrastructure. Kuta 20 years ago, perhaps?
Don’t be fooled by the name – Dreamland is hardly the paradise you might expect. It’s almost always busy and is hemmed in by more hotels than you can shake your Gado Gado at. Still, the wave is well-known for its versatility, offering both left and rights over a sand-coral bottom. It’s nowhere near as challenging as the places further down the Bukit Peninsula, which means there’s often plenty of intermediate improvers to be found paddling out.
Beautiful Bingin Beach is dashes under the cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula on the southern extremity of Bali – the area with the best surf throughout the June-August surf season. It’s a mecca for waves, with two breaks up its sleeve. The first is a primary-swell reefy that rolls perfectly right-left over the rocks. It’s a tricky, nifty takeoff into a quick ride that’s never more than 60m. There’s often a second-swell wave for those who want to practice pop-ups over the reef.
It’s names like these that help to keep the crowds away. Only here, between Bingin and the famous reefs of Padang Padang, it’s probably best everyone steers clear. That said, there are occasions when this trio of sections gets fatter than usual and slows a little. Otherwise, it’s super zippy and can be hard to control, which is less than ideal when the landing zone is a shallow volcanic reef without a grain of sand in sight! TLDR: Experts only.
Padang Padang is the epitome of a hardcore left-hand reef that’s among the most photographed and filmed waves on the island. Works best in the strong dry season S-SW swells, when you’ll find people daring the line up from sunrise to sunset. Expect high-speed drop-ins in a shallow take-off zone, followed by a zippy run that’s almost always barrelling. PP’s ends over a low shelf of crushed coral, so there’s not really a moment when you can sit back and relax. Definitely not for beginners.
Off-the-beaten-path at the very end of the Bukit head is hidden Nyang Nyang. Feeling the full brunt of the Southern Ocean swell that powers the awesome waves in the region, it’s virtually always on. Thing is, there’s an easy max out and lack of shelter, so any winds can chop up the waves and there’s often unbearable closeouts. When it’s good, you can run nice cutbacks into the occasional barrel. Beware of rips and be ready to hike down jungle-fringed paths before you hit the shore.
Uluwatu is just the sort of wave that puts Bali on the map. It’s not actually one wave, but rather a set of five that can be ridden at different points in the bay. It all starts with Temples, one of the biggest of the bunch that needs a hefty paddle. Then there’s the gnarly Bombie, a huge slab of water that’s among the tallest breaks on the island. The Peak comes next, a popular ripping spot for fast drop-ins. And then there’s the awesome Outside Corner, which goes beautifully when there’s a strong swell to offer some workable walls for the very best surfers out there. Not a pro? Just come to watch some of the maestros surf Bali in this legendary spot!
Pulls in some pretty hefty power from the Southern Ocean when the S-W swells start kicking, which is why most of the locals will hold out for the offshores that come between November and March to ride this one. It’s a reef-sand mashup underfoot, with a nice lip of a wave that forms pretty steady verticals on its good days. Try to get there early but be ready to make a trek from the nearest carpark – it’s nowhere near anything, really.
The main season for surfing in Bali
When school’s out for summer in the Northern Hemisphere, Bali is getting ready to feel the brunt of its very best swells. Yep, from May to September, the west coast mainstays are all pumping. Plan your surf trip to Bali then if you’re keen on conquering the pipes and reefs of the west-facing Bukit Peninsula. That said, there’s always a wave on offer in these parts, with wet-season favourites stringing right up the east coast, from Green Balls to Serangan.
Surf hire and surf lessons in Bali
Where to begin? One reason surfing in Bali is so darn popular these days is because the rental and tuition scene is out of this world. No matter if you’re staying in a remote jungle town on the Bukit headland or in the fizzing heart of Kuta, you can rest assured that there will be a school or board shop right on the doorstep.
The official outpost of the Quiksilver Surf Academy is definitely one worth noting. Based in the chic resort area of Legian, it’s eminently accessible from loads of the highest-rated hotels. Tutors are local Indonesian pros and lessons take place twice a day (8 am-noon, and noon-5pm).
An alternative to rocking up and renting is to go for a full-on surf camp. Up in Canggu is the all-round In Da Surf, which has packages that include airport pick-ups, accommodation, breakfast, and the whole equipment shebang for around $60/night. Then there’s the likes of Pelan Pelan Bali, which have week-long packages that combine sessions on the waves with yoga, clean eating, meditation, and temple visits – you know, to infuse your surfing in Bali with a little culture and wellness.
Where to eat in Bali
Bali is chock full of taste-bud-tingling eateries. Right from the simplest street-side stall to the most refined bistro, you can look forward to a truly tantalising array of Indonesian staples and creative international fusion food. Some intriguing spots to stop for chow are listed below…
Beach Bowl Bali
Start that Bali surf session all healthy, with the poke bowls, organic fruit, cold coconuts and fresh-pressed juices here. Or, get hungry on the waves of nearby Kuta and then hit the veggie brunches of avocado, fake bacon (fakon?) and sourdough.
Chillax after a long day on the Bingin break at Kelly’s Warung. Fruit platters, smoothies and BBQ skewers are all part of the offing, while the view of the barrelling wave here is second to none.
Single Fin Bali
Single Fin has become nothing short of legendary. It’s perched on a rugged clifftop above the point breaks of Uluwatu. Open decks offer sweeping views across the ocean and the swells. There’s a menu of tasty pub grub and healthy breakfasts with roasted coffee. And you can stick around for some surf après on Wednesday and Saturday nights when things get pretty lit.
What to do when you aren’t surfing in Bali
Bali is a darn awesome place for hitting the ocean. But Bali surf spots are just the first chapter in the story. The Isle of the Gods has smoking volcanos, lush beaches, and loads more to boot…
A weekend on the Gili Islands
You can either fly or whiz across the Bali Sea to the Gili Islands. Either way, the result is the same: A Shangri-La of shimmering white beaches, resplendent coral reefs, bamboo beach bars, and azure waters. There are three islands in total. Choose Gili Trawangan to party until sunup. Choose Gili Meno or Air for R&R, freediving, and sunbathing.
Go to Ubud
Surfers in Bali might have to pull themselves away from the coastline, but Ubud is a worthy reason. Hemmed in by emerald-green rice paddies and jungles in the southern heart of the island, it’s a mystical town that’s topped by Hindu shrines and ancient palaces. The Monkey Forest is a must, to meet the resident macaques, but also be sure to head to Ubud Market to get your necklaces, saris, and traditional Balinese batiks.
An Instagrammer’s dream, Nusa Penida is a small isle on the south-eastern edge of Bali. You can get there on quick ferries that leave regularly throughout the morning. The reward? Well..how do glistening white-sand beaches backed by high jungle-clad cliffs sound? How about uber-romantic resorts with honeymoon suites? How about remote coconut groves and beautiful vistas back across the Indian Ocean?
A travel guide for people planning a surf trip to Bali
Where exactly is Bali?
Bali is tucked between the long island of Java and its nearby sister island of Lombok. Meanwhile, the glistening Bali Sea washed the north coast, hosting lovely islands like the Gilis, and the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean rolls to the south, which is the engine room of the powerful surf swells.
How to get to Bali?
Being an island, there are really only two ways to get to Bali: by plane or by boat. Most travellers will take the first option. Oodles of regional low-cost airlines (AirAsia being the largest) serve the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, and there are also plenty of long-haul connections arriving to boot. If you want to hop across the water, you can get high-speed ferries into Padangbai on the east coast or into Gilimanuk on the west coast.
What is the local currency in Bali?
You’ll need to fill your purse with Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) to score your surf lessons and board rentals in Bali. At the time of writing, 1 USD is equivalent to around 14,000 IDR, so it’s worth doing a bit of homework before touching down – if only to know what’s fair for a cold Bintang and what’s not.
What language do they speak in Bali?
Bali’s not really like the rest of Indo. Along with its unique form of mystical Hinduism, ancient aga (village) traditions, and tasty culinary nuances, the island also brings its own language. That’s the Balinese language, which is spoken by an estimated three million of the local. However, most of the people here will also speak Indonesian, while it’s common for people in Denpasar, Kuta, Ubud, and Seminyak to have great English, too.
How to get around when surfing in Bali?
Most people will opt for a scooter to get around Bali. Rentals with fixtures for boards are available but be warned that navigating the traffic-clogged streets is not for the faint-hearted. Alternatives include Uber and the GO-JEK on-demand apps, although there’s an ongoing conflict with local taxi drivers that’s been known to turn ugly.
If you’ve got anything to add to this ultimate guide to Bali surf, then we’d sure love to hear it in the comments below! We’re always looking to update and change the information here so it’s in line with what’s currently happening on the island – otherwise, it would hardly be the ultimate guide, eh!?