If you surf and haven’t been to Bali yet, go! Like, tomorrow. Okay, maybe not tomorrow. But seriously, make some plans to get over there as soon as your time and budget permits. Bali has a lot on offer; warm water, epic surf, delicious food, friendly people, whichever accommodations you prefer (cheap or luxurious) and so much more.
We first visited Bali for our honeymoon in May 2015 and have since come back for two months on our yearlong round-the-world surf trip because we absolutely love it. Here are a few tips for surfing Uluwatu.
Without further adieu, here are a few tips for surfing Uluwatu.
1 • GETTING THERE FROM CALIFORNIA
Since we live in San Diego, we flew out of LAX and got an awesome deal on our flights – we paid about $900 each and booked through Expedia. One of the benefits of booking flights through Expedia is they offer some killer deals (40-60% off in many cases) on booking hotels through them afterward.
That allowed for us to stay at some of the nicest places in Ubud and the Bukit Peninsula for reasonable rates of anywhere between $100-200 a night. Normally, even $100-200 a night would be out of our budget range, but we splurged since it was our honeymoon. And of all places, Bali is a great place to splurge since your money goes a long way. We were treated like royalty. More on where we stayed later.
Our flight was about 15 hours to Melbourne, a short layover, and then about another 5 hours from Melbourne to Denpasar. It’s a long flight for us Californian’s, but it’s worth every second it takes to get there!
Prior to heading to Bali, I was introduced to a local driver who picked us up from the airport. His name is Wayan Suta, and I have his contact info if you’re interested in being picked up at by a friendly honest driver you can count on. Wayan is so nice, speaks perfect English, and it was an absolute pleasure to be greeted by him in an airport full of hustling taxi drivers. Drop me an email if you would like his contact info.
2 • GETTING IN THE WATER AND SURFING ULUWATU
Uluwatu has been a world famous surf break since the 1970s film, Morning of the Earth. Ever since surfers from all over the globe have flocked to this magnificent break hoping to get a taste of its extremely consistent perfection.
Uluwatu is actually a cluster of breaks on the southwest tip of the Bukit Peninsula. From the left point to the right you’ll find Temples, Bombie, Peak, Outside Corner, and The Racetrack.
As far as getting in is concerned, on larger swells, a lower tide is the best time to go because of where you access the break from. You get in the water through a rocky cave entrance. Pictured below is what a mid to low dropping tide might look like. But when the tide is high and the swell is big, serious surges can come crashing into this cave reeking all kinds of havoc on the inexperienced surfer or ill-informed tourist. Don’t be that guy (or girl).
If it is head high or under, just about any tide should be fine for getting in and there will most likely be something glorious waiting for you out at the breakers. The water is super clean and clear, mid-80s, and the surf comes in all shapes and sizes from fun open shoulders to hollow draining barrels across the shallow and sharp reef.
3 • TO BOOTIE OR NOT TO BOOTIE?
That is the question. And it totally depends on your comfort and tolerance with tramping across the sharp reef. It’s probably about 50/50 in the lineup. A lot of locals don’t wear booties. And I’d bet most of them have cuts and open sores on their feet as well.
I, on the other hand, prefer to preserve my precious tender feet. I know for a fact that I have softer soles than lots of people and I’m more susceptible to getting cuts so I wear booties when I’m certain I’ll be walking across on the reef in Bali. I’ve had sharp pieces of reef go through my booty and still manage puncture my foot to give you an idea of how sharp it is.
You can pick up booties all over the cliffside shops of Uluwatu.
4 • RENT A BOARD OR BRING YOUR OWN?
It’s always nice to have your own equipment, but board bag fees can be ridiculous ($100-200+ each way) and sometimes it’s nice to travel light. I rented a board the first time and brought my own boards on our second trip.
There are several places to rent boards in town, some with better selections than others, and just about any of the breaks you go to will have shops or restaurants (warungs) that have boards for rent, you just might have to ask around. Uluwatu is an interesting little community perched up on a cliff. There are dozens and dozens of vendors, plenty of which are board rental shops.
Here’s the deal. Like any good businessperson, these guys obviously want to make as much money as they can, so be prepared to negotiate. It’s quite common in the Indonesian culture. On the cliffs, you should be able to rent a board for a few hours for about $10/bucks total (150,000 rupiah). About 50,000 rupiah an hour was what I found to be a fair rate when renting there.
It’s cheaper to rent in town, you can find a decent board for about 80-100,000 rupiah a day and you get to keep it over night for 24 hours. In my experience, the vendors at Uluwatu break on the cliffs weren’t too keen on renting out their boards overnight so your only option is by the hour. But in some cases, like if it’s pumping and you’re simply under-gunned, it’s definitely worth it and very convenient.
5 • WHERE TO STAY IN ULUWATU?
There are many absolutely amazing and very affordable places to stay in Uluwatu; you have surf bungalows, villas, hostels, hotels, resorts, you name it. You can find decent accommodations from $15-30 a night on up to several hundred (for those living the lifestyle of the rich and famous).
6 • HOW TO GET AROUND IN ULUWATU
Rent a scooter! Renting a scooter is a great idea in the Uluwatu area. We rented ours from Anantara whom I believe just outsources from local vendors. You can expect to pay $4-6 a day for a scooter with a surfboard rack.
Renting a scooter is the best way to explore your surroundings in a scenic place like the Bukit Peninsula. Uluwatu is somewhat remote so it isn’t crazy busy like some of the touristy areas in Bali.
However, you should be cautious if cruising around with a shoulder bag or purse hanging off your side. It’s an easy target for thieves and there are stories of tourists being pulled off their scooters by bag snatchers. We met a tourist moments after her iPhone had been snatched right out of her hand, so be careful if you’re using your phone for navigation.
Besides Uluwatu, we’ve surfed Padang Padang, Impossibles, Balagan, Bingin, Keramas, Canggu, and Razors in Nusa Lembongan (a small nearby island). If you have any questions, let us know and we’re happy to share additional insights. We also wrote a comprehensive guide to surfing Bali where you can learn all about costs, places to stay, an overview of other breaks, and more.
>> Check out our complete GUIDE TO SURFING BALI >>
You can find the surf forecast for Bali at Surfline.
And don’t forget, as when surfing anywhere around the world, be respectful in the lineup, smile and don’t take yourself so seriously.