Being raised in Hawai’i gives one the disadvantage of being supremely spoiled when it comes to enjoying the beach, so I can at times be a harsh critic when it comes to places others deem as “paradise.” First off, I’m not a surfer so I can’t comment on Bali’s reputation as being one of the top surf destinations in the world. Generally we were a bit disappointed with the beaches as most had darker volcanic sand and far too much trash floating in the water. But we were diligent researchers and suffered through all the sun, sand, and snorkeling that the island had to offer. Here are my top 3 picks:
1. Nammos Beach Club (near Uluwatu) – This is by far the most beautiful beach we saw and we often took the hour-long moped trek just to enjoy the stunning view. While I don’t know the exact name of this beach, it can be accessed by a path next to the swanky Karma Kandara resort. Thousands of stairs lead down through the jungle and onto the white sand beach that stretches for miles in both directions. Too tired to walk back up? You can catch the (somewhat questionable) lift back up for a fee. Being next to the resort keeps away the pesky hagglers that roam the other beaches and you can also hit up the thatched-roof beach bar for cocktails and food – although expect to pay New York City prices. Being near a resort is not really our thing, and we spent hours beach combing the endless miles of sand and were often the only people to be seen. There is excellent snorkeling in front of the resort in the shallow waters protected by an outer reef, but beware of very strong currents. It is definitely not recommended for weak swimmers.
2. Echo Beach, Canggu – We lived a few blocks away from this beach and came here a few times a week for food and drinks at sunset. This beach is definitely not the most beautiful – its greenish volcanic sand makes it appear dirtier than it is, although it had much less trash than the popular beaches in Kuta and Seminyak – and its big waves are great for surfing but not for swimming. But we came for the atmosphere: young and sexy surfers from around the world catching a bite between sets. A small plaza area sits atop the rocky coastline and hosts a handful of cute little restaurants and a few boutiques – some even have an outdoor shower to rinse off your board. Sport your brightest colors and grab a mango lassi and some nasi goreng and enjoy watching the sun-kissed crowd.
3. The beaches near Amed – We absolutely loved this coastal area in eastern Bali and stayed here for a few days after a long moped roadtrip. The narrow road winds along the cliffs and opens up to rocky coves that are perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. In the off-season we had our pick of hotels, and ended up staying at the lovely Geria Giri Shanti hostel, where chic individual bungalows with canopied beds and open showers were only $20 a night! The black, rocky beach is not great for sunbathing, but we scored some major beach combing finds with shells the size of our fist. If you are staying in the area, check out the nearby mountain village of Seraya. The arid climate prevents the farming of rice paddies, so the locals weave instead with the help of the non-profit YPBB, which teaches sustainable dyeing practices and devolops a market for traditional textiles. You can see the process of dyeing the wool and weaving the traditional ikat prints into gorgeous throws and table runners, which can be purchased on-site.