Bali might have established a global reputation for exquisite luxury resorts in the unique island style, but surfers were the first to make the annual summer pilgrimage — and it’s easy to see why. This Indonesian island is blessed with Instagram-ready beaches and steady surf where the swell meets the reef. Beginners can learn the ropes around the sandbanks at Seminyak, while experts can take on the offshore breaks accessible only by boat at Nusa Dua. Balangan Beach, however, is the one surfing destination that no surfer will want to miss.
For experienced surfers, all roads from the airport lead to the Bukit Peninsula, where the Indian Ocean rolls into the shallows in a succession of glassy barrels. The crowds may head to Dreamland Beach up the coast, but those in search of some space come to Balangan Beach, where a kilometer strip of fine sand runs the length of limestone cliffs. Surfers will find consistent surf with steep, peaky left-handers that sometimes stay open for 300 meters, although 50 meters is the usual. Conditions are best from April to October.
Take a walk up to the clifftop headland at the northern tip of the beach near the Pura Dalem Balangan temple and the reward is a picture-perfect view down the length of the beach along a stretch of thatch huts, palm trees and rolling surf. Incredibly, if it hadn’t been for surf icon Kim Bradley, this whole location might have become a luxury marina. The Australian surfing legend, who later lived in Bali, championed Balangan Beach as a prime surfing spot. Apart from this world-famous surfing destination, Bradley’s legacy is the reason why there’s always a steady influx of Australian surfers who descend on the area during the winter break in August.
While most visitors to Balangan Beach typically slip on a pair of reef shoes and head straight into the breakers, there’s plenty to enjoy on rest days. Local thatch-roof warungs and cafes on the beach offer shade, local cuisine and the promise of an ice-cold Bintang beer. With so many natural gourmet ingredients available locally, it’s no surprise that fine dining is also a serious pastime in Bali. Head down the coast to Ulu Cliffhouse for a stunning clifftop restaurant experience overseen by award-winning Peruvian chef Diego Munoz. The peninsula’s five-star resorts also lend their particular flourish to regional dishes. Don’t miss the famous floating brunch at The Villas at Ayana or the rooftop dining and teppanyaki service at Anantara Uluwatu. Golfers can base themselves at the New Kuta resort, which has an 18-hole course and is only a short drive or scooter ride from the main parking lot above Balangan Beach.
Bali might have its own fair share of wave-riding legends, but there are plenty of spots along the coast for taking the first steps toward learning the sport. On Balangan Beach itself, beginners can discover the basics at the Balangan Wave Surf School, which runs surf camps for surfers of all levels, with accommodation, board hire and meals included. The season begins around May and gathers pace over summer, so expect occupancy to peak during this period (which corresponds to the dry season).
If you’re just coming for the swimming, the beach is protected by reef but the footing can be rough or slippery. Bear in mind, too, that there are no lifeguards on duty. When the sun is at its most fierce, there’s no shame in retreating under the parasols and thatch roofs of the warungs lining the shore for a plate of local nasi goreng. As the sun sets, don’t miss the opportunity to hike up the steps onto the clifftop to capture the colors in all their glory.
Balangan Beach has managed to retain the atmosphere of a hidden gem, but its worldwide reputation as a surfing destination is second to none. Add it to the bucket list as a luxury vacation option that offers a charming mix of local Balinese hospitality, year-round tropical weather and some unforgettable surfing.
Nick Marshall for Perfect Moment