11th century temples, towering cliffs and Bali's best beaches. This is Bukit.
Moving from the eastern and western coastal areas of Bali to the southern peninsular of the island, a number of things change. Firstly, the crowds disappear. The peninsular, or Bukit (meaning ‘hill’ in Bahasa Indonesian), is much quieter that the hustle and bustle of the tourist centres of Kuta and Seminyak. No streets full of motor scooters and footpaths crowded with shoppers. Scooters carrying surfboards winding their way to a secluded beach are more the norm. Yes, there are people here, lots of them, but the pace is markedly slower as the locals and visitors go about their business.
Secondly, the geography changes. We leave the relatively flat beach coastlines behind as we discover the towering cliffs, the monkeys and temples of Pura Luhur Ulawata and the surf breaks of Ulawatu and Suluban Beach and of course, the legendary Single Fin, Bali’s hippest cliff-top bar with the best views of the Bali coastline. Bar none.
Leaving Seminyak, Dinah and I taxied south about 40 minutes to Jimbaran and Jimbaran Bay on the west coast of Bukit. The bay is a crescent of white sand and blue sea fronted by a string of seafood warangs (food stalls), beach clubs and 5-star resorts such as the Four Seasons and the Intercontinental. These are some of the best seafood restaurants anywhere in Bali and offer views from your table out over the bay and, in the evening, of the amazing Bali sunsets. Fresh seafood, a chilled glass of white wine or an ice-cold Bintang enjoying the spectacular end of the day…it doesn’t get any better! Jimbaran is basically a fishing village and coastal resort. At the northern end you’ll find the lively, open-air Kedonganan Fish Market. Southwest of the bay are Dreamland Beach and Balangan Beach, both known for their surf breaks. The Jimbaran Fish Markets are a great place to visit early in the morning. Brightly painted traditional fishing boats line the shore while cases of everything from sardines to deep sea fish are sold. If your accommodation allows you to prepare your own meals, then fresh seafood from here is a must.
We really like this area of Bali. Firstly, it is quite close to the main international airport at Denpasar so an easy transit when arriving or departing Bali. But most importantly, it is a beautiful and relatively quiet and is very good value for money in terms of the cost of accommodation. It is also a great base for exploring Bali, particularly Kuta and Seminyak and south Bali and the islands.
The infamous ‘S’s’ of Southern Bali
Sightseeing. Shopping. Swimming. Sunbathing. Surfing. Oh, and eating. This pretty-much sums the area up.
The sightseeing here is spectacular. Jimbaran Bay is a great place to start. This is a beautiful bay and a great spot for a swim and a sunbake. The combination of white sands and blue water is hard to beat on a hot and steamy Bali day. Breakfast on the beach and lunch at the Jimbaran Beach Club then dinner at any one of the numerous seafood warangs that line the beach. Or perhaps something a little fancier at one of the many resort restaurants.
Moving further afield and heading south from Jimbaran, Ulawatu is the place to go. And one of the most spectacular destinations in Ulawatu has to be Daya Tarik Wisata Kawasan Luar Pura Uluwatu– the Ulawatu Temple. The temple was established by Mpu Kutran in 1032AD. He was one of the spiritual teachers of the kingdom. This temple was built as glorification of his predecessor king and is a place of worship. An annual ceremony is held here and has been since the reign of the kings of ancient Bali. This temple has been managed by reigning monarchs of the time and in 1900AD it was managed by His Majesty King and his family taking turns.
The temple is located on the very edge of the cliffs at Ulawatu. It will cost you IDR 30,000 (AUD$3.00) to enter and for a ‘donation’ of another IDR 100,000 (AUD$10.00) a local guide will take you on a personal tour of the impressive temple site, through thick rain forest and majestic cliff-top paths. Absolutely worth it, as he will explain the history and cultural and religious significance of everything you are seeing. He will also protect you from the hundreds of monkeys who inhabit the area that are hell-bent on claiming your Ray Bans for themselves! The views from the cliff tops are spectacular. Looking south, as our guide Rama points out, we are looking at a sheer cliff face that was the location for the final scene in the Steve McQueen and Dustan Hofmann classic movie Papillon. This is where Henri “Papillon” Charrier launches himself off the cliffs into the surf far below in one final (successful) escape attempt. The temple itself sits majestically on the farther-most easterly point of the headland.
Leaving Ulawata temple, we head further south down narrow roads to Single Fin and Suluban Beach. Single Fin is regarded as one of Bali’s hippest cliff-top bars. Evolving from a surfers’ hangout where one could observe the rolling surf before descending the formidable cliffs to the beach is was named in honour of the single fin surfboards that originally challenged the waves here. Today it is a fully-fledged ‘chill-out’ spot for amazing sunsets, great food and live entertainment. On weekends it is packed with surfers and tourists alike who are energetic enough to venture down the long and winding pathway to the bar below. At the top of the cliffs and bearing the same name is the Single Fin surf shop. Pick up a Single Fin cap or a t-shirt to impress your friends back home.
The most popular and economical way to get around Bali is by scooter. You can hire a scooter for a day, a week or a month and some even come with a surfboard carrier. If this is the plan, make sure that your travel insurance covers you for riding a scooter. Bali roads are narrow and congested and are tricky to navigate. If you do have an accident, you will want to make sure that you are fully covered. Alternatively, you can hire a car and driver for the day. Safer, cooler and more comfortable with air conditioning, and your driver will have local knowledge and can take you to the best places and wait for you while you go off to explore. The usual cost for a full day, 9.00am to 5.00pm is around IDR 600,000 (AUD$60.00). Negotiate and agree a price before you begin your journey and pay at the conclusion of the day.
Where to stay? Where to eat?
As with most areas of Bali, accommodation costs in Bukit vary significantly based on location, proximity to the beach, quality and ‘star’ ratings. At the top end of the scale, 5-star resorts such as the Four Seasons offering a beachfront location, day spas, restaurants and even your own private surf school and lessons can charge around IDR 10,500,000 (AUD$1050.00) a night. A little out of our league! At the other end of the scale, cheap rooms can cost as little as IDR 250,000 (AUD$25.00) a night. We usually opt for somewhere in between. On our recent trip, we stayed at the Astari Villas and Residences at Jimbaran. This is a fantastic place and makes an ideal base for exploring Bukit. A beautiful garden resort setting with a magnificent central pool and its own restaurant, the Astari offers modern villa-style rooms in the Balinese style, as well as suites with their own mini-kitchens, fantastic service from great staff, excellent food and the convenience of a relatively short walk to Jimbaran Beach. At around IDR 770,000 (AUD$77.00) a night for a suite, this is really great value accommodation on the hill in Jimbaran. And an excellent breakfast is included. Fantastic! Love it! We recommend that you check the Astari Villas and Residences at: www.theastari.com
If you want to venture further a-field for food, there are numerous restaurants in the area. In central Jimbaran you’ll find Samasta Lifestyle Village. A part of the 5-star Movenpick Resort and Spa complex, and considered the hub of Jimbaran, this lifestyle village is home to numerous cafes, restaurants, bars, boutiques, craft shops and entertainment venues as well as Sereh, an excellent supermarket/deli. The Base-Base restaurant in the village is great for a relaxed meal. We enjoyed an excellent lunch here, a unique soup dish called Chicken Complit.
Just 100 metres from the Astari Villas and down a short gang (laneway) off the main road, Jl Ulu Watu, we discovered Gending Kedis Luxury Villa & Spa Estate. Surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, this is a beautiful resort complex of villas with forest views, private pools, terraces and gardens as well as a lagoon-style resort pool, spa and fitness centre. Up a sweeping staircase from the imposing resort entrance is the Alcedo Restaurant. This is a first-class restaurant and is a great place for lunch and dinner, offering an extensive European and Indonesian menu. They even have a pizza oven creating amazing light base pizzas. We would definitely recommend dining at the Alcedo Restaurant. Check out also Gending Kedis resort villas at: www.gendingkedis.com
In all, Jimbaran is a beautiful place to base yourself during your visit to Bali. We will definitely be back.
The final destination on our 4-week Bali odyssey is Sanur. We holidayed in Sanur in 2018 and loved it. Dinah and I are really looking forward to returning to this pristine beachside location.
Tips for the Trip
There is so much to see and do in and around Jimbaran, including idyllic hidden beaches and trendy craft villages. Do your homework before you arrive? That way you can organise your day trips, car and driver more efficiently and ensure that you don’t miss a thing.
Getting your timing right for visiting Bali is important. The island has two main seasons – the dry (through April to September) and the wet (From October to March). But it also boasts a bewildering range of microclimates in the highlands and central Bali. Dinah and I got caught in an absolutely torrential downpour on the Monkey Forrest near Ubud, yet it was a perfect day by the time we reached Sanur. So, a lightweight rain jacketnever goes astray when exploring the island.
Main picture: Ulowatu Temple, established by Mpu Kutran in 1032AD as a place of worship
- The beautiful Astari Villas and Residence, our home in Jimbaran
- Jimbaran Beach, one of Bali’s best beaches and the place for seafood
- Husking coconuts at the beach-front seafood restaurants
- The Alcedo Restaurant at the Gending Kedis Luxury Villa & Spa Estate. Excellent
- Dinner at the Alcedo with friends from Perth, Steve and Anne
- Street food in Jimbaran
- Dinah and I at the 11th Century Daya Tarik Wisata Kawasan Luar Pura Uluwatu – the Ulawatu Temple
- Monument to the founder of the temple, Mpu Kutran
- The temple site is alive with monkeys. Beware of your belongings
- Yes, you can feed them – with care
- Bali’s best views, bar none
- Legendary Single Fin, one of the world’s top surf breaks
- Single Fin cliff-top surf shop.