Ten kilometres southwest of Denpasar, the combined 8km beach resorts of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are the busiest and most developed on the island, easily the most prosperous location within the Balinese economy and the focus of much of its nightlife.

Once three entirely separate villages, with Kuta the first to develop during the Hippie era, these have now merged into a mega-resort. To the discerning eye, each still retains individual characteristics, with Kuta still the most popular for backpackers, Legian the choice of families, and Seminyak catering to wealthier travellers, and providing the most sophisticated nightlife.

The whole stretch of beach is backed by all the hotels, restaurants, bars, quality retail and surf shops the visitor could wish for, but the compromise is the virtual subsumption of local Balinese culture, with international brands such as McDonald's in obvious evidence. However, in spite of the crowds and very lively nightlife, the resort has managed to avoid the overt sleaziness evident in some of Thailand’s resorts, developed during the same era.

Kuta acquired its fame with surfing enthusiasts, and remains a surfing Mecca to this day, the peak season falling between October and April. Owing to the lack of rocks and coral at the beach fringe, it is highly suitable for beginners. However, although a beautiful, if busy, beach, the waves so cherished by surfers are less suitable for leisure swimmers, with strong undercurrents in presence.

To the east of Denpasar, the 5km beach at Sanur provides a quieter alternative to Kuta, and is better suited to families. Although serviced by plenty of fine restaurants, the lack of nightclubs has earned it the somewhat disparaging nickname of ‘snore’, but then, not everyone agrees that it’s cool to party all night.


South of Kuta lies the Bukit peninsula, visited not only for its splendid beaches, but also for the remarkable iconic temples and rituals of Balinese life.

Immediately south of the airport, Jimbaran beach is a pleasant and safe crescent of sand, serviced by upmarket hotels, and Kedonganan Fish Market at the north end of the beach is a must for seafood lovers, with stalls ready to prepare and cook your purchases. In the evening ambience, candlelit tables on the beach provide diners with freshly grilled to order fish dishes.

The rocky southwest of the peninsula is home to Bali’s premier surf beaches, Bangalan, Dreamland, Bingin, Padang Padang and Suluban, renowned not only for their prettiness and good surf, but the quietude of their rocky inlets, which mercifully for their preservation, limit the scope of commercial enterprise.


On the southern tip of the peninsula lies Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple, one of the most important in Balinese culture, sited on a rocky promontory, staring out toward the Indian Ocean. Visitors should be cautious of the macaques which live in and around the temple. Although utterly charming creatures, they are also adepts at procuring small items such as cameras and sunglasses from the unwary.

On the east peninsula coast are the beach resorts of Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, the former more upmarket and the latter Bali’s premier watersports centre, with parasailing, water skiing, and jet skiing on offer.