Surfing Uluwatu / 6 Helpful Tips to Surfing Ulu’s Legendary Peaks

    surfing uluwatu
    Main Peak

    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, great places to stay, and so much more.

    Uluwatu has been a world-famous surf break since the 1970s film, Morning of the Earth. Ever since the film started making the rounds, surfers from around the globe have flocked to this magnificent stretch of coast hoping to get a taste of its extremely consistent perfection.

    After spending a couple months exploring and surfing Bali and Uluwatu, I’ve learned a bit about how to make the most of a surf trip to this magical land of waves and Bintangs. So without further ado, here’s the lowdown on surfing the many peaks of Uluwatu, and a few tips to make your visit a whole lot smoother.

    Check out the Lush Palm Guides to Surfing Bali and Surfing Indonesia >>

    surfing uluwatu view from warungs
    The famous cliffs of Uluwatu

     

    1 • THE 6 PEAKS OF ULUWATU

    Uluwatu is actually a cluster of 6 different reef breaks on the southwest tip of the Bukit Peninsula. From the left point to the right you’ll find Secrets, Temples, Bombie, Peak, Outside Corner, and The Racetrack.

    There are roughly about 100 meters between each of the 6 peaks. On a good day if it’s double overhead you could potentially connect a ride from Bombie clear through The Racetrack.

    surfing uluwatu temples
    Temples area

    The farthest waves around the bluff are Secrets and Temples and are somewhat similar. The waves can often look like they’re going to close out only to hold up and peel off along the shallow reef. There are plenty of barrels on offer if you’re good enough to slow down and pull in. Respect the lineup and wait your turn and you’ll be sure to score some fun ones.

    Bombie is the deepest wave and in a league of its own. There are often only a handful of surfers interested in the peak. The large peak grows and jacks up as the deeper water turns into shallow and it would be wise to take a few extra inches of length and liters of volume on your surfboard if you’re keen on snagging a Bombie’s bomb.

    surfing uluwatu bombie
    A Bombie bomb

    Peak and Outside Corner are two of the main waves and where you’ll often find the masses. And for good reason. Perfect peaks line up nicely and produce clean barrels over shallow reef. If you’re set on getting a good wave there you’ll need to be comfortable with navigating the crowds as everyone wants a piece of the action and the locals have it wired.

    On a good day, The Racetrack can produce barrels like clockwork. You’ll have a rippable open face followed by a draining barrel almost in the exact same spot every time. It’s a beautiful thing.

    surfing uluwatu the racetrack
    The Racetrack

     

    2 • GETTING IN AND SURFING ULUWATU

    As far as getting in is concerned, on larger swells, a mid to low tide is the best time to go because of where you access the breaks from. You get in the water through a rocky cave entrance. Once you walk down the famous steps to the main cave entrance of Uluwatu you can either paddle straight out from there if you’re looking to surf The Racetrack, Outside Corner, or Peak.

    surfing uluwatu stairs
    surfing uluwatu entrance
    surfing uluwatu paddle out main entrance
    Main entrance paddle out at mid tide

    Or when you walk down the staircase go left and you’ll see another cave entrance that takes you to a hidden beach and a better point of access if you want to paddle out to Secrets and Temples. It’s a beautiful sandy beach for lounging and swimming at mid tides if you have a non-surfing partner too!

    surfing uluwatu temples and secrets entrance
    Walk along the bluff to paddle out at Temples and Secrets

    But when the tide is high and the swell is big, serious surges can come crashing into this cave wreaking all kinds of havoc on the inexperienced surfer or ill-informed tourist. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

    If it’s 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. I’d recommend to any friend to bootie. But it totally depends on your comfort and tolerance for hoofing it across the sharp reef. It’s probably about 50/50 in the lineup. A lot of locals don’t wear booties. I’d bet most of them have cuts and open sores on their feet because many of the surf breaks on the Bukit come along with 50 – 100 meter walks across a jagged reef.

    surfing uluwatu reef walk
    The always humbling reef walk

    I prefer to preserve my precious tender feet. I know for a fact that I have softer soles than most people and I’m more susceptible to getting cuts. So I always wear booties if I know I’ll be walking across the reef. I’ve had sharp pieces of reef go through my bootie and puncture my foot to give you an idea of what you’re working with.

    You can pick up booties all over the cliffside shops of Uluwatu. You just might pay a little extra if you buy them in Bali instead of bringing a pair from home.

     

    4 • RENT A BOARD OR BRING YOUR OWN?

    It’s always nice to have your own equipment, but board bag fees can be ridiculous ($150 – $200+ each way) and sometimes it’s nice to travel without surfboard bags. I rented a board the first time and brought my own boards on our second trip.

    >> Check out our guide on the BEST AIRLINES FOR SURFBOARD BAG FEES >>

    There are several places to rent boards in town, some with better selections than others. Just about any of the breaks you check out will have shops or restaurants (warungs) that have boards for rent. Uluwatu is a cool little community perched up on a cliff. There are dozens of vendors, plenty of which are board rental shops.

    surfing uluwatu
    Main Peak

    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. Negotiating is very common, almost expected in the Indonesian culture. On the cliffs, you should be able to rent a board for a few hours for about $10 USD total (150,000 rupiah). About 50,000 rupiah an hour was what I found to be a fair rate when renting there.

    It’s a bit cheaper to hire a surfboard in town, you can find a decent board for about 80 – 100,000 rupiah a day and you get to keep it overnight 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 plenty of absolutely amazing and very affordable places to stay in Uluwatu. Surf resorts, surf camps, villas, hostels, you name it. You can find decent accommodations from $15 – $30 USD a night on up.

    Check out our Guide to Surfing Bali for a detailed breakdown on surf trip costs and accommodations in Uluwatu and beyond.

    And here’s a whole list of 10 rad Bali Hotels for Surfing based on ease of access to surf breaks and the ability to scout the surf from your hotel:

    >> BALI HOTELS / 10 BEST HOTELS IN BALI FOR SURFING>>

    surfing uluwatu single fin
    Single Fin Bar

     

    6 • HOW TO GET AROUND IN ULUWATU

    Rent a scooter! Renting a scooter is a great idea in the Uluwatu area. You can expect to pay $4-6 a day for a scooter with a surfboard rack. Most likely where ever you’re staying will be happy to help you get one. The quality of the scooters can vary greatly from beatdown to brand new. Make sure you know how everything works before taking off.

    surfing uluwatu scooter rental

    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 more touristy areas in Bali.

    However, you should be cautious if cruising around with a backpack, 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 (this happens often), so be careful if you’re using your phone for navigation.

     

    Besides Uluwatu, we’ve surfed Padang Padang, Impossibles, Balagan, Bingin, Keramas and Canggu. And Playgrounds, Shipwrecks, 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.

    Cheers, Eric

     

    BONUS TIP • GETTING THERE FROM CALIFORNIA

    On our first trip to Bali 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 really nice places in Ubud and the Bukit Peninsula for reasonable rates of anywhere between $100-200 a night. Of all places, Bali is a great place to splurge since your money goes a long way.

    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 Californians, but it’s worth every second it takes to get there!

    Before we first went to Bali I was introduced to a local driver through a mutual friend 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 from the airport 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.

     

    surf resorts

     

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    This Post Has 18 Comments

    1. Hello, thanks for the great blog and info. I am an intermediate surfer and am comfortable with head high waves but probably not much more than that. Will be visiting in mid-November. Can you recommend any breaks for that time period? Will most likely be staying in Nusa Dua. Also, my fiance has never surfed and may want to take lessons, so if you can recommend any that’d be great!

      1. Hey TK, thanks! You’ll be there after the peak season so generally speaking the surf should be much smaller and more manageable. Also, the winds are typically better for the east side so Nusa Dua area could be a good option. For surf lessons and accommodations (if you’re still looking) you might want to check out Rapture Surfcamps https://www.rapturecamps.com/bali-surfcamp/surf-lessons/
        They’ll take great care of you and point you in the right direction for the best waves when you’re there.

    2. Hi Eric. Thanks for the post, it is really helpful.
      Quick question: which spots in Bali would you recommend for an intermediate surfer like me? I’m ok with head-size waves but not much more than that. Also if you can point out any rights in your recommendations, that would be great (I’m a regular and enjoy riding front-side).
      Just in case it matters, I plan to be there by the end of September

      1. Hey Alo, thanks for the comment, glad you found it helpful.
        Well, the size of the waves will depend on the swell you get when you’re there.
        September is a good time to surf both sides of the island and the swells aren’t typically as big they are in the peak season, so your timing is good.
        As for rights, you might want to check out the Rivermouth in Canggu. There are some fun friendly waves (rights and lefts) to be had there.
        Depending on your comfort with punchy sometimes hollow and shallower reefs, Keramas is a classic right that is more user-friendly and fun if it’s in the head high range.
        Balian and Dreamland could be good options for you as well with some rights on offer.
        You might want to check out and stay near Green Bowls as well. There’s a great surf camp right near the break. https://www.rapturecamps.com/surfcamp-bali/
        Hope you score some fun waves and have an awesome trip!
        Cheers

    3. If you are true surf lover and never visited Bali, then you should visit if your budget allowed to you as Bali has so much good things and surfing points that you can enjoy it here one well known place is uluwatu in Bali the world famous surfing point.

    4. Yeah i was that guy and after a great surf
      At ulu on high tide (tripple over head) i attempted to reach the cave once and was sucked back out to sea.
      The second attempt i was smashed into the cliff face several times but made it in finially.
      Lesson learnt!

      1. Geez, that sounds like it was pretty rough. Good thing you didn’t get knocked out slamming into the cliff! Mother Ocean can be a harsh teacher.
        Good to hear you had a great surf though!

    5. Hey! Trying to head to Uluwatu tomorrow. Been surfing 3 years, I’m pretty good but Bali waves are the biggest I’ve surfed yet. Here in canggu. Are there certain spots in Uluwatu that are a bit more chilled?

      Ps amazing blog post

      1. Hi Shelly! Good stuff, hope you’re having an awesome trip! If Canggu was challenging at all, then Uluwatu proper, meaning the 5 or so main peaks at Uluwatu Beach are probably going to be even bigger and more challenging depending on the swell forecast. I know some folks refer to the whole stretch of coast from around Dreamland to the points at Uluwatu as the Uluwatu area. So that would include, Bingin, Impossibles, Padang Padang, Balangan, etc. Balangan is pretty chilled out and so is Impossibles on smaller days in my opinion. If it’s too small to be working at most breaks, then Uluwatu proper is the swell magnet and the place to check. As always, know your limits and if ever in doubt, please don’t paddle out. Be safe and have fun!

    6. Hi Eric! This guide is amazing thank you very much! We’ll be there in May! Can you give me the contact of the driver? 🙂

      1. Hi Elisa, glad you like it! Thanks for the kind feedback. Below is his contact info, he also has some nice villas that he rents out in Ubud now if you want to inquire about that. Hope you guys have a great trip! Cheers!

        Wayan Suta
        [email protected]
        WhatsApp +628123931450

    7. Hi Eric, I’m planning my international study abroad to include some beach time at uluwatu. Thanks for the informative article with helpful tips. I’m in San Diego as well. I was wondering: I’m a very experienced surfer and I don’t want to bring any boards because I will be spending a week in elementary schools doing my volunteer work for SDSU. My normal shortboard quiver ranges from 5’6″ to 6’6″. I’m 5’2″. Are there typically any smaller boards like this for rent around? My go-to is a 5’6″ quad, then a 5’8″ thruster.

      1. Hi Brandy, that sounds like an awesome study abroad experience! Good on you! I know you’ll be able to find plenty of options for boards in the 5’10” to 6’6″ range. And I even think you could find a number of 5’8″ thrusters on offer if you look around a little bit. So yeah, you should definitely be able to find boards in your preferred range without any issues. Wishing you loads of fun waves and stoke!

    8. I agree that it is not always ideal to bring your own surf board when you’re traveling. If you are visiting a surf resort there could be the potential to find a place that rents high quality surf boards that are equal to the one you own. It would be very frustrating to damage your surf board while traveling on your way to your surfing trip and then having to rent regardless.

      1. Using someone else’s surfboard is like wearing someone else’s underwear. Never ideal, but you could do it if you had to. I always travel with my own surfboard and underwear.

    9. Great article and pictures, Eric. Super helpful.

      Quick question: any tips on where to leave your stuff (i.e. passport, wallet) while surfing in Bali? Is it best to leave it with one of the warungs?

      1. Thanks, Mac. Glad you found it helpful! I left my passport back at the hotel where we stayed. As for money, sometimes I’d surf with it on me and then air dry it afterwards. Or I’d leave some locked up in a plastic bag with a copy of my passport in the under seat storage on the moped. I suppose you if you grabbed a bite or a beer at a local warung, they’d be happy to hold on to your stuff while you surf. Everyone was super friendly and helpful in our experience. Enjoy, good luck!

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