Beachy Bali

It was time to claim a lounge chair on a perfect strip of sand

By: Arin Greenwood

BALI, Indonesia “Which way are we going?” I asked. My boyfriend, Brian, and I were in Bali, trying to drive northwest to a trekking spot near a gorgeous and rugged volcanic crater lake. But I had this feeling call it the just-awakened passenger’s intuition that we might be heading somewhere entirely different.

“I think we’re going south,” Brian said. Then he asked a little bit hopefully, “Should we just keep going?”

We’d been in Bali for nearly two weeks, being frighteningly active. It had been a magnificent, tiring trip, and in an instant we decided that perhaps it was time for a little rest. So we kept driving south, toward what we thought might be a last few days of doing nothing but napping on oceanside wooden chaise lounges, getting massages from itinerant masseurs and drinking umbrella drinks. And we would have, if there weren’t so much else to do.

Bali’s south is what most people think of when they think of Bali it’s where you’ll find those long, lovely beaches and their complementary luxurious resorts (many with gorgeous carved-wood bungalows). The south is well known for dense twisting streets of shopping stalls. It’s home to Australians with surfboards who somehow manage to turn life into an endless vacation. There’s been a long search for something called “The Real Bali,” and if that means beach, surf, shopping and sun, then the Real Bali is this beachy area south of Denpasar, Bali’s capital.

The trick, we thought, was to figure out where in the south to go. Kuta, with its ceaseless nightlife and shopping, was a little too busy for us. Nusa Dua, the most luxurious area in Bali’s south, was a bit too quiet. We settled on Sanur as a happy medium, and it was happy, indeed.

Sanur is a beach town with hotels and resorts all along its very beautiful beach and clear blue lagoon. On the non-beach side of the street, opposite the hotels, are shops and stalls selling every imaginable thing: furniture, clothes, carvings, jewelry, shoes, kites, ceramics, the ubiquitous sarongs more than you could ever need and for barely imaginable prices if you are a decent bargainer.

Sanur’s restaurants, as everywhere in Bali, are superb and encompass all types of cuisine, from the Balinese feast with roast suckling pig to a very good organic cafe with delicious homemade veggie burgers and this is just the tip of the eating iceberg, as Bali’s restaurants serve the widest array of foods, largely made with delicious locally produced ingredients, and served in wonderful open-air settings.

And because Bali is so manageable in terms of size 90 miles wide and 55 miles long it is also possible to take day trips to nearly all of Bali’s attractions, using Sanur as a base.

Just in our last few days, we took some great day trips. One day we went from Sanur to Uluwatu, the spectacular cliffside sacred temple that is above one of Bali’s best surfing beaches. We also went to Mandala Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, a popular Balinese family spot with interesting traditional dances that is also home to the world’s largest statue, a massive bust of Wisnu, the god of life (a golf course and resort are also being built here).

And, of course, we went into Kuta a 20-minute car ride from Sanur. This visit was partly for Kuta’s nightlife and consumer pleasures (not to mention the pleasure of watching good surfers ride the waves). Mainly, though, it was for the unmissable sunset fish dinner at Jimbaran Beach, an area right by Kuta with dozens of fresh fish restaurants right on the beach. At the restaurants, you pick your fish from an ice tray, and they’re thrown right on the grill. The fresh fish are eaten at tables on the beach that food and the pink sunsets over the ocean are a combination visitors won’t soon forget.

If we hadn’t already been good tourists (and if we had more time), we could also have taken day trips to the rest of Bali’s countless attractions its other sacred temples, volcanic crater lakes and towns, the mountains, islands, surfing and scuba and snorkeling sites. We could have taken classes in cooking, meditation, yoga, traditional music, dance, silversmithing, weaving, mask making and language.

We might have gone again to Ubud, Bali’s main cultural town, which has wonderful museums and galleries set among lovely rice-paddy-lined streets.

For more shopping, we’d have gone to the other interesting towns and crafts villages around the island. (Many Balinese villages specialize in one type of artwork; for example, the village of Sideman is where to find people who make cloth woven through with gold threads. And of course, we could have spent more time at the spas.

It doesn’t take a lot of work to enjoy Bali, especially from a lovely, interesting, fun and convenient location like Sanur. The only part of a trip to Bali that’s really hard work is figuring out how to stop doing things long enough to sit on that chaise lounge for awhile.

Sanur: the details

Sanur is likely to appeal to travelers who want beachy Bali, but who don’t want to be completely isolated (as on the islands or in Nusa Dua) or to be too active.

There are a lot of hotels and resorts in Sanur everything from the luxurious Sanur Hyatt Regency to small resorts based at temples and private villas. There is no one comprehensive listing of all Sanur’s accommodations, though Bali’s Tourism Authority can help you find a good range of accommodations for your clients.

Most hotels also offer their guests activities, including day trips to Bali’s famous sights. And hotels and tour providers will generally offer commissions to travel agents who book rooms, activities and tours for their clients. The commissions range from discounts (for example, ABL Tours and Travel, will offer good rates to travel agents though no commissions) to more than 20 percent (the rate offered by Oceanea Biru Bali Tour and Travel for their day trips and watersports).

Keep in mind that Bali is a land of haggling, and as your clients will themselves find once they’re in Bali, fees for rooms and activities and commissions will largely depend on your skills as a negotiator.


Bali Tourism Authority

Sanur Hyatt Regency

ABL Tours

Oceanea Biru Bali Tour and Travel

Travel Advisory
The U.S. Department of State currently has a travel warning for Indonesia, and recommends that U.S. citizens defer all non-essential travel to the country due to the “ongoing terrorist threat” there.