Latest update: 21 January 2023
Uluwatu is the southernmost part of Bali. It’s more of a region than a specific place. Renting a scooter is an absolute must if you want to immerse yourself in Uluwatu’s beauty and fun: beaches, Single Fin, a beautiful temple, and many coffee spots.
A central stay in Uluwatu
Because the Uluwatu region is somewhat spread out, I find it challenging to choose a good base. I travel alone and initially look for a hostel, but I can’t quite find it. However, other travelers say that Single Fin is the place to be for the sunset and a drink later in the evening. That’s why I choose Tregge Surf Camp. That is less than a ten-minute walk from Single Fin or two minutes by scooter. A lovely local family runs the place and offers private rooms. The family takes terrific care of the place. Always working in the garden, cleaning, cooking, and answering questions from guests.
Sunset at Single Fin
From Tregge, I walk to the cliffs of the famous surf break Uluwatu. The entrance to the surf break is hidden between cliffs where you end up via many stairs. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Even if you don’t surf.
At the top of the cliff are dozens of warungs (small restaurants) and bars. The most famous is Single Fin. Here, holidaying Bali gathers for the sunset. The sun sets as surfers catch the last waves of the day. Single Fin is no less than three stories high and turns into an open-air bar with DJs on some evenings.
Rent a scooter on Uluwatu
I rent a scooter for one day to discover the region. At Tregge Surf Camp, it costs 50,000 IDR per day (2017). In April, the streets are quiet and easily manageable for a beginning scooter driver too. Just a little warning for the police: they try to earn money from tourists. They might urge you to stop because you are supposedly not following the rules. They come up with an excuse (from a loose helmet strap to driving in flip flops) and tell you that you must go to the police station – or you can pay immediately. In cash, please. Actually, the best advice is not to stop. When the police wave at me, even local people beckon me to drive on. If you stop, you can’t get out of it. If that happens, make sure you have some money set aside for these bribes. If they see that you have a lot of money in your wallet, the fine will suddenly be much higher.
The distances are short in Uluwatu. The furthest beach (Balangan Beach) is about 20 kilometers past Single Fin. That is easily doable with the scooter. Driving around feels like the ultimate freedom to me. Nature is beautiful everywhere, and trendy coffee shops are everywhere along the road. I can never handle that much caffeine in one day! I make a first stop at Suka Espresso for coffee and breakfast. That is a good choice, I can tell you.
Google Maps location Suka Espresso Uluwatu
Confusion! Where is Padang Padang Beach?
On the street opposite Suka Espresso, a small sign reads ‘Padang Padang Beach’. I fall for it, follow the road, and arrive at a nice beach. But it doesn’t quite match the description of Padang Padang Beach. It is a different beach: the less popular Thomas Beach. Probably the beach bar owners hope to attract more people by pretending to be Padang Padang Beach? That’s smart because once you’re down, you don’t feel like walking up the stairs again. I don’t really care; I think it’s a lovely beach. Not too busy, and the water is not too rough.
The real Padang Padang Beach of Uluwatu
A bit further on is the real Padang Padang Beach. Sure enough, tourists have gathered in droves. It’s a lot more commercial here. Across the road, I can park my scooter for 2,000 IDR, AND I have to pay an entrance fee to go to the beach. I walk down the narrow staircase through a temple. A traffic jam will form on the stairs if people are coming up at the same time. Many people are sunbathing and drinking beers on a small bay. There are some beach bars and enough vendors on the beach to provide you with a drink at all times. When I walk a little further to the left, there are hardly any tourists. The bay is all mine.
Padang Padang Beach is where a part of Eat, Pray, Love was filmed.
Bingin Beach on Uluwatu
Follow the coastline further up for the next beach: Impossibles Beach. I skip this one because I want to see Bingin Beach and Balangan Beach today. The fact that it is a terrible road to the Impossibles beach (read: a lot of scrambling and probably a lot of sweat) enforces my decision. Bingin Beach it is!
It is always a search for the beaches in Uluwatu. The signage is terrible, so I’m driving on the gamble. I end up at Kelly’s Warung on the beach. A hostel and café in one. It has a wonderfully relaxed vibe. Because the beach is not that wide here, most people at Kelly’s sit with a smoothie or a beer, looking out at the surfers in the water. This is where you lose track of time (so I’m eating a second breakfast in the middle of the day).
Balangan Beach on Uluwatu
Even further north, I end up in a relatively new area called New Kuta Beach. The roads are wide and well-maintained. The investors hope to make some money here with new resorts. I drive all the way to Balangan Beach. This beach is also surrounded by cliffs. The beach is almost white and dotted with (run down) beach bars. At high tide, you walk underneath the beach bars. Many surfers also come to conquer the waves. Mainly advanced surfers, but a little further on also beginners.
Temple Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Want to include a culturally responsible visit? All the way in the south is the Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple. This is one of the most important temples on the coastline. Hindus come to worship the spirits of the sea. The temple complex is quite large. Luckily it is because buses full of Asian tourists keep arriving.
At sunset, a Kecak dance is performed that attracts a lot of attention (see below). You can expect traffic jams at the temple to see the show in the summer months.
At the entrance, I get a sarong to cover my legs and a warning for the monkeys that steal sunglasses and caps. I am in the temple complex for more than 1.5 hours and only see one monkey. So don’t worry too much about them. It is busy in the center of the temple, but the walking paths along the cliff are wonderfully quiet. I am impressed by the beautiful cliffs and the clear blue water of the Indian Ocean. If you are not interested in the temple at all, I still recommend visiting the temple because of the views.
Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple
If you have the chance, buy a ticket for the Kecak dance. It is a traditional Balinese dance performed at the temple. On top of the cliff, at sunset. Of course, it is quite a touristy event, but the setting more than makes up for that.
More Bali inspiration
Useful links for your Bali trip
- Travel guides. Are you getting all excited about your Bali trip? I understand! To add to your anticipation, you can order a travel guide, for example at Bol.com, Amazon, or Book Depository.
- Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Train, bus, and boat. Reserve busses, trains, and boats in Bali at Busbud, 12Go, or Omio.
- Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com and Airbnb. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. For tours with locals you go to WithLocals. And Baja Bikes offers excellent bicycle tours.
- Attractions and museums. Check out Tiqets for museum and attraction tickets (and get a 5% discount with discount code KIMOPREIS22)
- Car rental. I often rent at EasyTerra because of their all-inclusive / worry-free offer.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? For the Dutch readers, please check out these organizations: ANWB vakanties, Sawadee, Tui, Corendon, Shoestring, and Vakantie Discounter.
Or treat yourself to a yoga retreat in Bali.
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First published: April 2017. The article has been updated since.