By: Mikael Uusitalo and Thrillism
10 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
As one of the surfing meccas of Southeast Asia, the waves of Bali attract surfers from all over the world. Certain parts of the Island of the Gods are well-known for their intense breaks and barrels, and Uluwatu is the best of them.
To get an idea of all that Ulu has to offer, check out the 1972 film Morning of the Earth. After watching for a few minutes, you might just be convinced to book a flight to Bali to start shredding ASAP. There are 5 main breaks here, so read all about them and everything else there is to know about surfing Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is located on the southwestern tip of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula. The easiest way to get to the laidback beaches and cascading clifftops is to fly into the island’s international airport – Ngurah Rai International Airport – and make the short drive from there.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to Uluwatu from the airport, so you can either organize a shuttle ahead of time or grab a taxi on arrival. Just watch out for taxi scams – the drivers do whatever they can to get as much money as possible from unknowing tourists.
Uluwatu surfing isn’t the only thing that attracts tourists to this part of Bali. A lot of travelers prefer the more laid-back vibes here, especially compared to island hotspots like Kuta and Canggu. There’s still plenty to keep you busy, but it’s not as in-your-face as other Bali surf spots.
Aside from white-sand beaches, friendly barbecues, and near-constant sunshine, the main reason that Uluwatu gets so many visitors is the surf. It’s often called the epicenter of the Indonesian surf scene, and it’s nothing short of legendary.
The nightlife scene of Ulu doesn’t compare to Kuta or Canggu, but thirsty travelers still have options if they’re looking for them. But for the most part, people come here to surf, and not do much else.
There is one thing to keep in mind, which is that Canggu is by no means an under-the-radar destination. It’s filled with restaurants, bars, hotels, and the wave lineups can be unbearable for surfers who prefer peace and quiet. We’re not saying that Canggu can’t be scenic and peaceful, just that it’s one of the major tourist hotspots of Bali.
Just like the rest of Bali, it’s possible to get by in Uluwatu and a fairly strict budget, but where’s the fun in that? Your daily budget depends entirely on your personal spending habits, so it can range anywhere from about 40USD per day to hundreds of dollars.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll want to stay in an Uluwatu surf hostel, but if you’re not strapped for cash, you’ve got plenty of choices for a luxury villa or 5-star resort. The other thing to consider when it comes to the cost of traveling in Ulu is high vs low season. Prices are considerably lower during the off-tourism season.
There’s really no bad time to visit Ulu, and the best time depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip. For sightseeing, the ultimate time is during the dry season between March and May. Prices are a bit steep since this is when tourism is highest, but the weather couldn’t be better for seeing the sights.
For surfing, the waves are most consistent and performing at their best from May to September, but if we had to choose one month of the year, it would be July. This is the prime time for more advanced surfers, but just keep in mind this is also when Ulu’s breaks are most crowded.
Looking at the Uluwatu surf map, it’s obvious that the Cave is the prime surfing spot that can be broken down into 5 main peaks: Temples, The Bombie (also called Bommie), The Peak, Outside Corner, and Racetracks.
Temples (and also Secrets) is the least crowded, mainly because it requires surfers to paddle out pretty far from the cave exit, which a lot of people (mainly those who want to get right in on the action) aren’t willing to do.
The Bombie is a favorite of expert surfers since it’s the most exposed to big ocean swells. When the swell maxes out, this is one of the biggest waves in all of Indo. Next comes The Peak, a wave that is located just outside of Uluwatu’s cave, offering shifty peaks and short, hollow pits.
Outside Corner is quite possibly the most popular of Ulu’s waves, especially for more advanced surfers who just want to shred at high speeds. The last section of the Ulu reef is Racetracks, which starts to the right at the cave exit and creates fast and long rips.
There are even more famous waves nearby, but these are the 5 peaks of the main Uluwatu wave. In the area, you’ve also got iconic surf spots like Impossibles, Padang Padang, and Bingin Beach.
Although this first Uluwatu surf camp doesn’t have its own website, it has still managed to become one of the best surfing providers for travellers to Ulu. Tregge Surf Camp is located less than a mile from the Temple, but more importantly, Dreamland Beach and Padang Padang are within easy reach.
In terms of location, it’s difficult to beat Tregge, but some guests aren’t thrilled with the “rustic” accommodations. But if you want an authentic experience (and an affordable one), this is a solid choice – especially if you’re all about the surf and don’t care so much about luxury.
The Padang Padang Surf Camp is one of the best in Bali. In addition to being a surf camp, it’s also a yoga school, so you can get your vinyasa on after a day of intense wave-shredding. The camp is perfectly located amid Bukit Peninsula’s best waves, including Padang Left and Right, Impossibles, Bingin, Dreamland, and of course, the Ulu Cave.
“Visit us in Bali. Beautiful culture, excellent waves. If you want to surf in a warm, lush tropical environment, be our guests. Enjoy the beauty that is Bali.”
Since there’s a variety of breaks in the area, PPSC can cater to all levels. If you’re a beginner, spend the day taking lessons, or head out with a local guide to ride the most challenging waves in Bali if you’re at a more advanced level. The chilled out vibes, delicious freshly made meals, and consistent conditions make this the perfect setting for any Bali surfing adventure.
Rapture is a globally recognized name among the travelling surf community with camps all over the world. One of them is on the Bukit Peninsula just north of Uluwatu (in Padang Padang). Not only will you get to surf the legendary Padang Padang Left and Right breaks, but you’ll also get to make the quick trip to Ulu Cave.
“Our beautiful Balinese gardens, the lounge areas around our swimming pool, the incredible surroundings of the camp and the amazing waves we surf every day are just a few of the reasons you might love Padang!”
Booking a camp with Rapture always includes surf guiding, surf theory, video analysis, beach transfers, airport transfers, daily yoga class, and 2 meals per day. It’s one of the most well-organized surf camps in Uluwatu, plus it opens the door to all the other Rapture camps around the world.
Similar to Rapture, Kima is another well-respected surf provider, but Kima specializes in camps throughout Bali, not the world. One of their most popular camps is in Padang and offers easy access to all the best surf spots of Ulu and the rest of the peninsula.
“Relax by the sun lounge at the pool, order some treats at our snack bar and enjoy the peaceful environment of Bukit from the comfort of your rooms on Bali and the beautiful facilities of the resort.”
Kima Surf Camp, Padang Padang
The Kima surf camp price includes essentials like surf lessons and guiding as well as extras like yoga and healthy meals. To save a buck or two, you can choose the basic room, but Kima also offers more luxurious accommodations, like the stylish villa with its own veranda.
There’s a huge variety of accommodations to choose from here, ranging from budget surf hostels to midrange Uluwatu hotels to full-on luxury Uluwatu villas. You’ll be able to take your pick from beach bungalows, homestays, hostels, resorts, and more.
One of the best-rated, affordable places to stay in the area is Uluwatu Beach House, which is less than a kilometre away from the famous temple. This bungalow-style hotel is set in a tropical garden and is within walking distance of world-famous waves.
Here are a few more highly-rated places to stay if you’re not interested in booking into an Ulu surf camp:
If you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll probably be more interested in the restaurant scene in Canggu. But this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to satisfy your hunger pangs in Ulu. Most of the top-rated Uluwatu restaurants serve a menu that is based around seafood, but you can find just about anything here.
Single Fin Bali is a legendary Ulu hangout spot, no matter if that means a late-morning coffee or a late-night Bintang. The food here is pretty good, too, but the best part of all is the sunset view. It’s the perfect Sunday Funday spot, but you can have a good time here any day of the week.
For a nutritious and delicious smoothie bowl, you’ll want to check out Nalu Bowls. All of the stunning creations here are made with local ingredients – and they’re almost too pretty to eat. For more hints on where to eat and drink, check out these Ulu establishments:
Aside from surfing, one of the most popular things to do in Uluwatu is to check out the Temple. This ancient Hindu Temple overlooks ocean vistas, and it’s the heart and soul of all things Bali. This iconic landmark is set on the edge of Ulu’s cliffs, so it’s the perfect place for a photo op.
Another great way to spend the day is to head to Sundays Beach Club, which is a restaurant, bar, and club that’s part of the Ungasan Clifftop Resort. There’s a small entrance fee, but if you eat or drink at the restaurant it can be used as a credit to your bill.
Hanging out on the beach is yet another fun way to spend the day, and even though this area is known mainly for surfing, a lot of people choose to get comfy in the sand instead. For sunset, the best spot is definitely Single Fin, where you can get a cold beer or cocktail as the sun goes down.
Where is the best beginner-friendly surf spot in Uluwatu?
While Padang Padang Left is known for its heavy barrels, Padang Padang Right is actually suitable for beginners. It’s a sandy beach break that’s gentle enough for newbies, yet fun enough for intermediate level surfers.
Dreamland, which is just north of Uluwatu, is another solid choice for beginners. As long as the well isn’t too big, this spot offers soft waves. Even though the general consensus is that Ulu is not for beginners (which is true for the Uluwatu Cave peaks), there are a few surf spots in the area that aren’t too menacing.
When are the waves most powerful in Ulu?
Take a look at any Uluwatu surf report and you’ll see that the biggest swells happen from July to August. The surf season technically runs from May to September, but prime time is in mid-July.