Bali is one of the most popular surf destinations in the world. Millions of years of volcanic activity have created intricate reef formations and perfectly shaped waves, making this island a true natural wonder.
Located between the Bali Sea and the Indian Ocean, the “Island of the Gods” has warm water, warm climate, white sand beaches in the south, black sand beaches in the west and north, and boundless scenic beauty. As a surfer, Bali should be at the top of your list of travel destinations.
The climate in Bali remains pretty much the same throughout the year. Being close to the equator, Bali experiences warm, humid and tropical weather. Temperatures range around the 22- 35 degrees Celsius while humidity rates are about 85%. The dry season starts from May through September while monsoon sets in around October and lasts till April.
The the main surf season in Bali is from April to September, corresponding with the dry/border months. Here the climate is ideal, skies clear blue, and wind direction and swell are beneficial for surf in the west and south. During the rainy season, surf is much better in the east.
General Helpful Surf Information
If you are traveling to Bali without a surfboard, there are dozens of locations to rent one. You’ll find many surfboard rental shops lining the beaches in Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, and Uluwatu. If you are traveling to a more remote break, it’s a safe bet to rent at one of the main towns listed above before embarking on your road trip.
Where to Buy Surfboards
Bali is a revolving door of surfers from all over the world. This makes for a ripe environment for a thriving second-hand surfboard market. The most popular online trading space for second-hand surfboards in Bali is the facebook group Bali Surfboards Buy And Sell. If you want to up your negotiation leverage, wait till a prospective seller is about to leave Bali – chances are they will be very motivated to sell. I once purchased a week old shortboard including fins, leash, and board bag for $80 because the seller was literally minutes from leaving for the airport. I had also once purchased a longboard from a motivated seller, used it for a month and then sold it for more than I had bought it for.
There are also many stores for buying brand new surfboards. Local and Australian made surfboards can be purchased from many local shops in Kuta. Especially along the road Jl. Poppies II. One popular shop in Kuta for local and Australian surfboards is Naruki. Some brand new surfboards can be purchased for as little as 3.7 M IDR which is around $250. Keep in mind though that surfboards made with local materials can often be of lower quality than those made from Australian materials.
If you are looking for surfboards from major brands at discounted prices, try the Bali Surf Outlet. There are also large surf retail stores that sell a huge selection of popular surfboard lines, like the Rip Curl Store on Sunset Road. One of my favorites is the Onboard Store in Canggu which has a large selection of Christenson Surfboards.
Shaping Surfboards in Bali
Bali is an amazing place for getting a custom hand shaped surfboard made for a very inexpensive price, often around 3.5 M IDR, which is about $235. The quality is generally not as good as the major brands in terms of finish and durability when paying at the lower end of the price spectrum, but nonetheless you can get a exceptionally enjoyable board for a fraction of the cost that you would pay in the west. Some of the better-known shapers are Rockwell and Hauna. Rockwell is known for creating great Hypto Krypto copies, and Hauna is known for creating longboards, funboards, and foamies.
Suket Surfboards is a local shaper in Bali who does excellent work. He’s done a lot of glassing work for Deus Ex Machina, which demands top notch skill, and now has his own line of custom hand shaped boards. He mainly focuses on longboards and fish.
For convenient transportation from the airport, ask your hotel/guesthouse to connect you with a driver that will pick you up. Most of these drivers can also be hired at a reasonable daily rate to take you, your surf buddies, and all your surfboards to the different surf breaks. For drivers, I have worked with personally, see the bottom of this blog post.
If staying at a particular town for at least overnight, it’s convenient to rent a motorbike with surf racks to get you to and from the breaks. Your hotel/guesthouse can rent you one directly or connect you with someone who can. For motorbike rental companies I have worked with personally, see the bottom of this blog post.
If your primary interest in coming to Bali is to learn how to surf or improve your surfing, while at the same time meeting a bunch of cool people that share your love for the ocean, you may want to consider joining a surf camp. The ones recommended below are camps that my friends have personally stayed in:
A few of my friends have stayed here now and greatly enjoyed their time there. They are located in the Bukit peninsula, which is considered by most as the top surf destination in Bali. World class surf breaks such as Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Impossibles, Bingin, Balangan, and Dreamland are just minutes from the surf camp.
Lapoint is a famous worldwide chain of surf camps with a location in Canggu Bali. La Point generally caters to the Scandinavian market but has guests from all over the world.
SurfWG is located in the Berawa side of Canggu and focuses primarily on the German speaking market but has guests from all over the world.
There are also many private and semi private surf teachers / coaches in Bali. Teachers can be found by going to any of the surf rental shops. For personal recommendations of surf teachers myself or my friends have worked with, please see the bottom of this blog post.
Bali is a primarily Hindu country and radiates a sense of peace. This carries over into the line up as well. The locals are generally very friendly and welcoming of visitors to their homebreak no matter what level of kook-dom. That said, each town in Bali has its own distinct vibe. Uluwatu tends to be frequented by pro, advanced, or otherwise very serious surfers, and this vibe can be felt both in the line up and around town. Canggu has a lot of beginner surfers, so some of the breaks, particularly Batu Bolong can be extremely crowded and chaotic, especially in the mornings.
The primary surf locations in Bali are the coasts facing the Indian Ocean – West Bali, East Bali, the Bukit Peninsula, and Nusa Lembongan Island. Each place has its own distinct vibe, wave, and culture.
West Coast of Bali
The west coast of Bali offers numerous amazing surf spots with breaks for all different levels of surfer. It works best during the dry season when the weather, winds, and swell are ideal. From North to South the main surf areas are Medewi, Balian, Kedungu (and surrounding breaks), Canggu, Seminyak and Kuta.
Medewi is tiny beach village in the West coast of Bali. About 2.5 hour’s drive from Canggu and about three hours north of Kuta. It is comparatively less developed, and has a rural feel with vast rice fields. As opposed to most of Bali, Medewi is primarily Muslim, which can be apparent in the attire of the local people as well as the presence of a large mosque in the center of town. Like much of Bali though, Medewi relies much on tourism and is welcoming of visitors from around the world.
Upon getting to town, you will be offered a Medewi shirt for purchase to support the local community. They are nice looking shirts with well designed logos, and available at a reasonable price. It is advisable to purchase the shirt, and is considered by some as almost like an entrance fee to surf in Medewi. It gets you off on the right foot with the locals, and shows you care about the community. The shirt is well worth the purchase considering the uniqueness of the wave in Medewi, and the overall experience of the town.
Medewi is the longest left-hander in Bali. It has a rock/reef bottom which can be quite sharp in some places, requiring some caution especially at low tide. The current can be very strong particularly during a swell. That said, the wave is a slab on the slower, flatter side, making it suitable for beginners on small swells and high tide, assuming they are cautioned on the reefy areas. During a large swell however, the current can be exceptionally strong and not advisable for beginning surfers.
For the intermediate to advanced surfer, Medewi can be extremely fun during a larger swell because of the huge open faces, and the lenge of the ride. The wave gets steeper and faster on the inside and can sometimes offer a barrel.
Medewi can be very crowded at times, particularly on weekends, and/or if there is a surf school in session. Crowds are much less in late mornings, midday, and mid afternoons.
Balian is also a tiny beach village about 45 minutes south of Medewi. It is slow paced, uncrowded, and off the main Bali tourist circuit. Balian is typically known only among surfers.
Balian is a bit of swell magnet, often larger than other west coast breaks, and offers a mellow A frame wave popular among longboarders, although many shortboarders enjoy it as well. It is located close to a river mouth, and is notorious as the only place in Bali where shark attacks have happened. Shark attacks here are very rare however, and occur generally after heavy rain when bull sharks are attracted to the runoff from the river. Despite the shark issue, many consider Balian well worth the visit considering the smaller crowds and great waves.
Kedungu is a surf beach about 30 minutes north of Canggu and just a few minutes north of the famous Tanah Lot Temple in the Tabanan Regency. The area is much less developed compared to the busier Bali towns but has been increasing in popularity in recent years as more and more people are attracted to the beautiful waves in Kedungu and want to avoid the crowds in Canggu. A fairly recent development called Joshua District, a series of villas, boutiques, and a coffee shop/restaurant has added a huge dose of international coolness to Kedungu, in a similar vein to that of Canggu.
Kedungu is a fairly user friendly wave that can be great for beginners on a small to medium swell, and super fun for intermediates to advanced on a larger swell. There is an A frame in the middle, a long lefthander and some small inside sections towards the left (when facing the ocean), and some fast shorebreak. Even on a larger swell, beginners can often play on the smaller inside sections assuming they stay clear of the pounding shore break. As an experienced intermediate surfer, I enjoy going to Kedungu on a larger swell in the mornings when there is no wind, and riding the long left. Kedungu is a great respite from the dense Canggu crowds.
Pig Stone beach is located just a few minutes north of Kedung, near Joshua District Cafe. Pig Stone is a lesser known break that works at high tide. It picks up a bit more swell than Kedungu and breaks fairly close to shore. It’s a fast wave making it great for shortboarders. Although the bottom is mainly sand and small stones, the wave can break heavily over very shallow water. I often found myself having to assess the ocean depth by checking the color of the water just before take off on each wave to avoid getting smashed on the shoreline. Pig Stone is a great break if you’re an intermediate to advanced surfer looking for a fast, challenging wave, and want to avoid the crowds.
Yeh Gangga is a quiet surf beach just a few minutes north of Pig Stone in a small rural town in the Tabanan Regency. Yeh Gangga is a lesser known break that works best at high tide and becomes a hollow closeout at low tide. It’s a swell magnet that is great to surf when the waves are tiny in Canggu, but becomes too big if there is any hint of swell. Yeh Gangga is a fairly fast wave that works great for shortboarders. The surrounding beach is fairly empty, only attracting surfers who are in the know, when the swell is too small elsewhere.
Canggu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bali. Located on the southwest coast, north of Kuta, and about a 45-minutes drive from Bali’s international airport. Canggu is a digital nomad hub and has a large expat community who have created a style-conscious, design-conscious culture of their own. It’s a particularly popular destination and semi-home to many social media influencers who find Canggu’s mixture of international influence and traditional Balinese culture irresistibly appealing. Canggu is famous for its super trendy cafes with gorgeously instagram-ready food, loud custom motorbikes, beautiful modern villas, sexy bars and clubs, surf culture, yoga culture, hipster culture, and an unusual concentration of fit, attractive people. Deus Ex Machina, the popular custom motorcycle/surf shop, has a branch in the center of town and encapsulates Canggu’s style and aesthetic. What makes Canggu unique is its one of a kind mixture of elements from all different worlds rolled up into a small Balinese coastal town.
Canggu has a few main surf breaks: Berawa, Batu Bolong, Old Mans, Echo Beach, River Mouth, and Pererenan.
Batu Bolong is the easiest of the aforementioned waves and the most popular with beginners. Ironically though, the sheer concentration of people who have no idea what they are doing in the water creates a nightmarish display of flying longboards and collisions among would-be surfers. The bloodbath is the worst in the early mornings from about 7-10 AM when crowds are the thickest.
Old Mans is an intermediate break which is faster, steeper, and more powerful than Batu Bolong and has a very long left-hander. When the swell is right, a long, clean right hander opens up at Old Mans as well.
Berawa is intermediate to advanced, a bit faster than Old Mans, and has a long right and some left hand peaks.
Echo Beach is best suited for experienced intermediate to advanced surfers, and tends to pick up a bit more swell. The reef break left is quite hollow and fast, and the reef is shallow on the inside even at high tide, and dry/exposed at low tide, making for a hazardous fin and skin collection zone. In the mornings, when the wind is low, the left can peel perfectly, forming a picturesque wave that looks like it came straight out of a magazine photo or Instagram post. Echo also has a sandbar beach break just in front of the La Brisa beach bar. It is a fast and steep A frame wall but is much more forgiving than its neighboring reef break peak.
For recommendations on where to stay in Canggu, please see our blog posts Canggu Bali Hotels and Homestays – Top 6 Midrange 2018, and Canggu Hostels: Our Top 6 Choices 2018. For an idea of what it looks like to live in Canggu, please see our vlogs The Motorbike Broke! A Canggu Bali Surf Vlog, and A Canggu Bali Story.
Seminyak is an upscale town about 20 minutes south of Canggu, and home to many fancy restaurants, beach bars, clubs, villas, and retail stores.
Seminyak has a large stretch of beach break with shifting sand banks. It can be great for beginners on smaller swells because of the sand bottom, but can be quite challenging on large swells, especially when closing out. Some of the more popular peaks are in front of the Double Six Hotel, and the Ku De Ta restaurant/beach bar.
Legian is a beachfront area in between Seminyak and Kuta, and has many beach bars and restaurants.
A little further south of the Double Six is Padma Beach. Similar to Seminyak, Padma is a beach break with rights and lefts and can barrel on a better swell.
Kuta is infamous for being Bali’s hardest party zone. Home to a seemingly endless array of nightclubs and bars, and thousands of street vendors selling everything from fake Nikes to hard drugs, Kuta can be too much for some, and just right others depending on one’s personality or mood.
The most popular surf spots in Kuta are Kuta Beach and Airports. Kuta is a beach break with a sand bottom. It can be excellent for beginners on a smaller swell because they can stand a longways out from the beach and catch white water. Kuta Beach can be a closeout much of the time, and on larger swells can be quite powerful and hollow. One of the more popular peaks is called “Halfway” and is located across the street from from Pizza Hut.
Airports/Kuta Reef is an outer reef accessed via a boat ride from Kuta Beach. There are a few peaks, generally getting bigger and more challenging the further out you go. Airports can offer perfectly peeling waves which are suitable for less experienced surfers on a smaller swell, and a full on butt clencher for even advanced surfers on a larger swell.
For an idea of what it looks like to surf Kuta Reef, please see our vlog Surfing Kuta Reef in the Rain – A Bali Surf Vlog 2019
The Bukit Peninsula – Southern tip of Bali Islands
The Bukit Peninsula has some of the most amazing waves in Bali. Rich with white sand beaches, numerous surf breaks, and cliffside vistas, it also happens to be one of the most beautiful destinations on the island.
Jimbaran is a slower paced fishing town in the Bukit Peninsula which is known for its excellent seafood restaurants and 5 star beach hotels.
Jimbaran is not commonly known as a surf spot, but can be an excellent place to paddle out when the swell is too big elsewhere on the island. One of the more popular breaks in Jimbaran is called “Honeymoons” or “Jump-offs”, because it needs to be accessed by jumping off a rock.
Uluwatu / Pecatu
Uluwatu is one of Bali’s most popular surf destinations, especially with pro and advanced surfers. The water here is clear, there is ample coral reef and ocean life, including the funny looking sea cows, and the cliffside views that overlook perfectly breaking waves are like nowhere else in Bali. Uluwatu is less developed than Canggu, and less crowded, allowing you to appreciate the natural beauty a bit more. There are less expats living in Uluwatu when compared to Canggu, and most of the visitors tend to be surf tourists just in town for a week or two.
People often refer to the entire Pecatu area, located at the tip of the Bukit Peninsula, as Uluwatu, but it is also the name of a specific surf break there. The Uluwatu area’s main surf breaks are Uluwatu (“Ulus”), Padang Pandang, Impossibles, Bingin, Balangan, and Dreamland. Although the waves here are generally recommended for more experienced surfers, beginners can still have their fun on smaller days at Padang Rights, Balangan, and Dreamland. Uluwatu hosts many pro surf competitions including ones by the WSL, bringing some of the top pro surfers in the world. During larger swells, you may be lucky enough to witness people surfing waves over 10 meters high.
Green Bowl is a secluded beach down a long flight of steps along a cliff in a village called Ungasan at the southern tip of the Bukit Peninsula. Green Bowl has a powerful right-hander over the reef and has extremely strong currents.
During the rainy season (October till April) when on shore winds can ruin the surf in the west, the east coast turns on.
Nusa Dua is Bali’s most developed resort area with some of the largest all-inclusive hotel chains on the island. It has an exceptional amount of tourist activities such as golfing, water skiing, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkeling.
There are three main breaks in Nusa Dua: Mushroom Rock, Black Rock, and Gerger Beach. Mushroom Rock is a fast, hollow right hander better suited for more experienced surfers, whereas Black Rock is a mellower, beginner-friendly left. Geger Beach is a swell magnet, offers a powerful wave more suited for experienced surfers, and is best accessed via boat.
Not far from Nusa Dua Beach is a break called Sri Lanka, in front of the Club Med Beach Hotel. Sri Lanka is a challenging hollow right hander that breaks over a shallow reef, and generally only works when the swell is too big in Nusa Dua.
Serangan Island is a tiny island off the coast of Bali that is connected to the mainland via a 110 m bridge. It is known as turtle island because of the many green sea turtles that nest there, and famous for the Turtle Conservation And Education Center, an organization dedicated to the protection of sea turtles.
The wave in Serangan used to be a go-to rainy season spot for many surfers in Bali. Serangan is surfable for beginners on a smaller swell, yet has peaks that are fun for advanced surfers as well. Sadly though, land access to the Serangan surf break was closed in 2018 due land development affecting the entire island. It is rumored that one can still access the surf break by boat, however, I have not yet had a chance to personally verify this.
Sanur is a slow-paced town on the east coast sometimes playfully referred to by frequent visitors of Bali as “snore”. There are many restaurants and bars, but the overall vibe is more mature. The beaches have clear water and shallow reef.
There are two main reefs in this area, Tanjung and Sanur, both need a huge swell for it to work. Tanjung offers a left and right both over shallow reef. Sanur offers a long right, also over shallow reef.
Keramas Beach has a couple of beachfront resorts, but is otherwise surrounded by a mellow little local village without much tourism. The beach has shiny black sand and view of Mount Agung in the distance.
Keramas is one of the most famous wet season waves in all of Bali and recently held a WSL competition for the first time bringing in some of the best pro surfers in the world including John John Florence and Jordy Smith. Keramas is an exceptionally fast and sometimes hollow right hander over reef. The take-off is steep and quick allowing for little margin of error. Currents are strong and the inside section is shallow and sharp, with the occasional sea urchin.
Nusa Lembongan is a beautiful tropical island about 30 minutes boat ride from Sanur. It has white sand beaches with clear water over coral reef and offers some of the best snorkeling in Bali and an opportunity to swim with giant manta rays that are about the size of small cars. Nusa Lembongan is a bit less crowded than mainland Bali and has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and vistas.
Nusa Lembongan has 4 main breaks. Playgrounds, Lacerations, Shipwrecks, and Ceningan Point (which is actually located on the neighboring island, Nusa Ceningan which is accessed via a bridge).
Playgrounds is the most forgiving of the waves, as the name suggests. It is a bit on the fatter side and offers both lefts and rights. Be aware though, that the waves breaks over the reef and can still be a force to be reckoned with on a bigger swell.
Lacerations, as the name suggests, is a bit less friendly. The reef is shallow and sharp, and the wave is hollow and fast especially on a larger swell.
Shipwrecks is also a right hander but a bit less steep and shallow than Lacerations. It can get hollow, and you can still find yourself on the reef if you mess up and get caught on the inside. It’s a very long paddle from shore, but you can take a boat to the line up.
Ceningan point is a left hander on neighboring island Nusa Ceningan. It’s a fat left hand reef break which seems to always look huge when looking at it from the outside, but offers a very easy take off even during large swells. The exit and entry into the break however is over sharp coral and breaking waves, which can make for an easy reef cut.