Here is the Bali you’ve dreamed of – creamy sand, crystalline waters and colourful fish rather than chip packets swimming around your ankles. Jimbaran and the Bukit peninsula encompasses the southernmost part of the island, and is where the majority of its best beaches can be found. The catch is that the majority of them are at the foot of limestone cliffs, meaning to get there, you need to walk down thousands of stairs. It also means that unless you’re a surfer, they’re all best accessed at mid-to-low tide, else you may find yourself unable to secure a patch of sand. Keep in mind that because the peninsula is quite isolated, transport and other everyday costs can be a tad more expensive than they are elsewhere, but this arid paradise is worth every penny (and step).
Jalan Bukit Permai, Jimbaran
Jimbaran’s main bay is fringed by a gorgeous white sand beach with calm seas suitable for everyone to take a dip in. The southern end of the beach is the quietest. Come at 5pm for a lazy afternoon watching the sunset paint the sky fairy-floss pink and bathe the ocean in flames. Then, come night, it’s time to treat yourself to a seafood BBQ. About 50 grilled seafood restaurants are squished up next to each other in three sections of the bay – Muaya in the south, Kedonganan in the centre and Kelan in the north – all competing wildly against each other for customers. The fish is fresh, delicious and sold by the kilo for cheap, and you eat it at a table plonked in the sand. If you sit nearby the sea at high tide, you might even get your feet wet.
Jalan Pantai Bingin, Pecatu
Bingin is glorious. Once you wind your way down the labyrinth of stairs to its sandy reef base, you may well decide you never want to walk back up. Not to worry – there’s everything you need here, with tens of accommodation options hanging from the cliff, a tonne of cafés, warungs and seafood BBQs on the beach each night and a collection of places to rent surfboard, snorkels and stand-up paddle boards. If you don’t mind simplicity and being cooled by a fan, you can expect to pay as little as 200k a night for a double room overlooking the water, though there are plenty of posh places if you’ve got cash to splash.
Jalan Pantai Balangan, Kuta Selatan
This spot is without a doubt the most spectacular beach in Bali. Best of all, because it’s a mission to find and is set at the end of a potholey road, it’s usually not too busy. There are a handful of surfboard rental shops, creaky beach shacks to rest your head in and laid-back warungs offering basic Balinese fare (and surf snaps). Come for an afternoon of swimming, sunbaking on a lounge and having a paddle on the waves, but make sure you bring beach shoes, because the reef can be rough.
Green Bowl Beach
Jalan Pura Batu Pageh, Kuta Selatan
At the foot of a zillion (well, 323) stairs lies Green Bowl – an untouched, heavenly beach that is home to caves full of bats, a fairly strong current and world-class surf. There is basically no infrastructure at the top – just a tiny warung selling packet noodles and coconuts, so be sure to stock up on liquids for the trip and keep an eye out for any naughty monkeys who might be peeping at you from the trees.
Tegal Wangi Cliffs
Jalan Tega Wangi, Jimbaran
Near to the sandy end of Tegal Wangi, which is riddled with rockpools and cliffy nooks for lovers to hide out in, are six-metre cliffs perfect to take a leap of faith from. This well-hidden treasure just opposite the airport is a hotspot for picnics, as the views are next level and the stunning water can be accessed by the beach for those too nervous to jump. It can be difficult to find – head to Tegal Wangi beach, and a few hundred metres before the carpark, take the dirt road on your right littered with cows and potholes. Just remember to pack lashings of sunscreen, as there is no shade for miles. Also note that these cliffs are best visited at high tide, when the water is deepest, and on a still day when the ocean isn’t too choppy.
Jalan Mamo, Pecatu
At low tide, Uluwatu (also known as Suluban beach) is a treasure trove of rock pools and caves to poke around in and explore. At high tide, unless you’re an experienced surfer, it’s basically inaccessible, but you can always pass the time till it sucks out again by munching on a nasi goreng and sipping a watermelon juice as you overlook the sea and soak up its beauty. This is also the home of the world-famous cliff top bar Single Fin, one of the best places on the island to watch the sun set, and the equally-as-world famous Uluwatu Temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu), which hosts fire-laden kecak dances nightly.
Jalan Labuansait, Pecatut
Padang Padang is the stuff dreams are made of, with blinding sands, turquoise water washing out over a bleached reef and large hunks of rock that form tiny islands. On a gentle day at high tide, its soft waves are perfect for beginners; whereas when the surf is pumping, there is a decent break off shore. Its beauty and convenient location by the bridge mean Padang Padang tends to be quite crowded, which, when it’s a pumping Saturday-night beach party, is not necessarily a bad thing.
Jalan Batu Nunggalan, Pecatu
Because it’s on the other side of the peninsula to the more popular beaches and requires such a rough (and lengthy) descent, you are likely to find that you are the only visitors of Pantai Nyang Nyang. Always covered in shells—and often, unfortunately, an abundance of rubbish washed up at high tide—this beach is breathtaking, secluded and fascinating, and even has the remains of a ship wreck to poke around in and explore.