The Ultimate Guide to Kuta Surf

by Rich Francis

Beginner paradise: Thousands of boarders have caught their first ever waves on the Kuta surf. But Bali’s best learner spot can also throw out some fun waves for intermediates. Check it out…

Kuta surf

Kuta surf at a glance

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The good

  • This is one of the best places to learn to surf in the whole wide world
  • Loads of surf schools and board rentals
  • Lively nightlife

The bad

  • Unsavoury crowd of holidaymakers these days
  • Not much for anyone over intermediate level
  • The Kuta sprawl is ugly

Check out our full guide to surfing in Bali

What’s in this guide to the surf in Kuta?

An introduction to the Kuta surf

We’re just going to go right ahead and say it: Kuta ain’t very nice. It ain’t very nice at all. Sorry. We tried. We failed. It’s just not our scene. If you like pumping sky bars, naff markets with knock-off tees, and Aussie rules until the cows come home, be our guest. The fact is that Kuta has developed beyond all recognition in the last 10 years or so. It’s become a kraken of boozy hostels, expat bars, and debauchery. There’s also no doubt that the Kuta surf is one of the main reasons for all that…

Yep, this one’s among the most famous spots on the Isle of the Gods. That’s not because it offers the gnarly tubes of Ulu’s. It’s not because it’s a glassy barrel like Bingin. In truth, those breaks – which are a mere bend in the Bukit Peninsula away – are a whole different beast. Kuta surf is learner territory, with just a little a punch on the side for intermediates who want a Bali ride without worrying about jagged volcanic reef and whatnot.

Despite the vibes we don’t like, there’s simply no denying that Kuta is a haven for first-time surfers. We’re always meeting people who hold the place in high nostalgia for giving them their first ever green wave. The water is prime for that, because the swells often come in on wide periods to head high on mushy walls that go both left and right. There’s also an overload of surf schools and board rentals, some even right on the sands of Kuta Beach itself.

Kuta backstreets

Where is Kuta?

Kuta is basically contiguous with Bali’s capital in Depasar. A short drive to the north of the airport but exactly south-west of the city itself, it’s an easy-to-access town that spreads along its very own beachfront for a couple of kilometres. Officially, Kuta ends where the lux hotels of Legian take over, but lots of people still refer to that part of the coastline as Kuta Beach.

A guide to the Kuta surf spots

Kuta is definitely the best place to start surfing in Bali. We’d actually go one step further and say it’s one of the best places to learn to surf on the whole planet – provided you’re okay with the annoying nightclubs and endless bachelor parties straight outta’ Oz, of course.

The spot guide below focuses in on the places you can head to try your hand at surfing. It’s also got info on the nearby breaks up and down the coast from Kuta. They’re important because you’ll soon be wanting to explore further afield as your surfing improves. Trust us, there’s too much good surf on Bali to miss it!

Kuta Beach

The main surf spot in Kuta and a beginner’s mecca. Come here if you’re looking to start your surf journey on mellow, easy-going waves. The whole thing comes onto sand bottomed shores, so you don’t have to worry about knocking any rocks. In fact, the main hazard is unquestionably going to be other surfers – the place is always packed.

Wave wise, you’re talking nice glassy peaks that go both left and right, along with a secondary swell that has neat whitewash for the complete novices. There’s some push to the swells, which is why it’s a fantastic spot for learning – you can often graduate from foam to green waves in a single sesh.

Padma

Stroll up the main beach in Kuta and you’ll soon find Padma. It’s discernible from the rest of the peaks thanks to its really consistent right breaks. They wall up nicely and even tube on heavy peak-season days (April-September). There are also a few lefts coming off the wedge, but they’re faster and less rippable. Padma is one of the rare intermediate-level breaks on this part of the Bali shoreline.

Legian Beach

Legian Beach is the next main beach break on offer out of Kuta. It’s tecnically not a differnet beach at all, but you will notice a difference in that there are way more five-star hotels and chic beach bars dotting the coast here. It’s walkable from Kuta, but we prefer a taxi. Plenty of rentals on the beach itself.

The character of the wave is very similar to Kuta proper. However, the general rule of thumb is that things get a bit bigger and more exposed as you head north-west. That means Legian often packs a punch, is great for taking a step to shifting green waves, and an all-round perfect spot for early intermediates on the charge to Bukit.

Airports

Named so because this clutch of peaks sits right in front of the runways of Denpasar Airport. That puts them to the south-east of Kuta Beach, on top of one of the first ocean reefs to cling to the side of the Bukit. It’s a boat taxi job to get there, but the reward are some fun and fast barrels. Both lefts and rights on offer. Intermediates and up only please.

The Bukit Peninsula

If you’re serious about experiencing some of the very best surfing in Bali then the Bukit is a must. It pokes out of the south side of the island and has some of the most famous breaks around – Ulus, Bingin Beach, Impossibles. It’s always got something but peak season is the dry months between May and September. Expect big barrels, amazing reefs, and some serious power coming off the Indian Ocean.

Kuta sunset surfing

Where to stay when surfing in Kuta

Be ready if you’re planning on staying in Kuta! Loud, boisterous and brash, it’s very much a love it or hate it part of the Isle of the Gods. Parties go on all the time. There are markets and restaurants and bars galore. You certainly won’t get bored. Oh, and some of the hotels in the area are cracking. Surfers should check out:

Kuta hotels

Lokal Bali Hostel ($)

Lokal Bali Hostel is sandwiched between Kuta Beach (where you’ll surf everyday) and the airport of Denpasar. That means it’s accessible but also in an affordable part of town. Oh, and it’s pretty darn awesome. There’s a communal pool, traditional Balinese villa design, and air-conditioned dorms where you can hang out with loads of other surfers and travelers.

Adi Dharma Hotel ($$)

A fantastic midrange option is the Adi Dharma Hotel. A mere 500 metres from Kuta Beach, the bungalows here let you get out early and join the line up before the surf schools arrive. They also have access to lush tropical gardens and a private pool.

Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort ($$$)

The Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort is a behemoth of a luxury resort. It occupies a prime position right on the seafront in Kuta. Literally one hop over the road and you’ll be with the waves. What’s more, it’s five-star, so you’ll have the height of service, stunning swimming pools, an on-site spa and more.

When to surf in Kuta, Bali

The seasons don’t actually have a huge impact on the quality of the Kuta surf. However, experts heading this way will want to time their visit for the dry season, when Bukit’s best reefs are firing at their best…

Kuta wave

Dry season (March-November)

Less rain and a dominant south-easterly trade wind means prime Kuta surf in the dry season between March and November. Those offshores actually create some irresistible conditions all down the Bukit headland. Pros and experts are drawn to the breaks there.

However, Kuta stays good for starters, with regular chest-high waves with nice kick to them. Watch out for things getting bigger up near Canggu if you do venture that direction.

  • Wear: Rash vest and boardshorts/surf swimwear

Wet season (December-April)

Don’t worry – Bali’s wet season isn’t actually that wet. Rains tend to spill out once a day if at all. When they do come, it’s typically in strong bursts and at night. The downside is that means run off that can bring some pollution to the waters, particularly on the Seminyak beaches to the north-west of Kuta.

Wave wise, there’s good consistency that keeps sets hitting Kuta throughout. They don’t have the same quality or power as the dry-season swells, but that’s actually better for total beginners. Line ups get big around the Christmas period, so watch out for flying boards then.

  • Wear: Rash vest and boardshorts/surf swimwear

Surf shops in Kuta

There are shed loads of surf shops in Kuta. A lot of them, frankly, are pretty shoddy. We’d usually make the trek to Canggu or down to Bingin and Ulus to get the better-quality stockists. Still, some with good reps include:

Naruki Surf Shop

It’s the sheer range of boards on offer at Naruki that keeps folk coming back. Fish tails, logs, shorties, minimals – there’s the whole shebang in stock. Yes, they are largely pop outs but they are affordable and perfect for bulking up the quiver before getting started on surfing in Bali.

The Pit Surf Shop

The Pit has been a staple on the lineup of surf stores in Kuta since the late 90s. Today, it’s a go-to option for sourcing custom shapes and branded boards. Fins and wax and all the rest of it also in stock. Nice bunch of guys, too!

Best places to eat in Kuta

Kuta has more places to eat than you can shake a gado gado salad at. We’ll be honest, there’s a serious lack of quality in the food in general. However, we did hit upon some fantastic options. Add em’ to your map before you arrive:

Eat in Kuta

Warung Shinta ($$)

South of the entrance to the main beach, Warung Shinta offers soy-doused and spicy Indonesian foods. It’s a family-run restaurant that won’t break the bank but will fill the belly. Great for a post-surf refuel.

Beach Bowl Bali ($$)

This ain’t the first time we’ve recommended Beach Bowl Bali and it won’t be the last. The folk here always have a smile, and the menus have some of the best veggie fry ups on the island. What’s more, the less-busy waves at the north-west end of Kuta Beach are right on the doorstep.

Gabah Indonesian Cuisine ($$$)

Gabah Indonesian Cuisine is real close to the Kuta surf and gives something of a more upscale twist on age-old Indo cooking. You still get the classic fried rice and nasi noodles but in a setting that’s refined and romantic.

Things to do when you’re not surfing in Kuta

Kuta is one of the most popular gateways to the Isle of the Gods. It’s a great point for exploring the rest of Bali, which has sleek hipster towns and arty jungle retreats alike…

A day in Canggu

Canggu is an upcoming hipster and digital nomad hub. It’s around 30-40 minutes in a taxi (depending on traffic) from Kuta. It’s worth checking out mainly for the abundance of awesome coffee shops, bars and eateries. Be sure to take the board if you do want to surf – there’s some great Canggu waves on offer for intermediates especailly!

Ubud

We love Ubud. When the surf’s battered your body and you just want to kick back and chillax, there’s honestly nowhere better on the island. It’s got fantastic spa hotels (we can’t recommend The Runik Ubud enough – thanks for some brill stays guys!). Days here can be about seeing lush rice paddies and meeting macaques in the jungle. Nights are about dining on eco foods and having Balinese massages.


We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is just one part of our ultimate guide to surfing in Bali

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