Island of Gods: A Guide to Surfing in Bali

19 September 2019

Image: Rapture Camps

There’s no doubt about the fact that Bali is Indonesia’s most popular destination for tourists. More specifically, it is the country’s most loved island for surfing tourists. The island is home to one Bali surf camp after another. 

This is because Bali is home to some of the best breaks in the country, and the continuous 29-degree weather and constant sunshine are added perks. The island is fairly small, but there is no shortage of things to do. You can choose to spend all of your time surfing Bali’s best waves or explore everything that the island has to offer. 

As one of the most popular surfing destinations in the world, expect the famous breaks of Bali to be crowded. This is the only downside of surfing here, but the social scene, tropical vibes, and stunning scenery make up for the crowds. 

A trip to the “Island of the Gods” is something that every avid surfer should add to the bucket list. If you’re convinced that surfing on Bali’s stellar waves is for you, here’s everything you need to know about travelling to the Island of the Gods. 

Getting There

Flying In

For all travellers coming to Bali, you'll likely be flying into the island’s only international airport. The Ngurah Rai International Airport is located near Bali’s capital city of Denpasar in the southern part of the island. The good news is that the airport is within a short drive of some of the best Bali surf spots, like Kuta and Canggu.

If you’re travelling to Bali from another Indonesian island, such as nearby Lombok or Java, you might opt to arrive by boat. Since this is such a touristic destination, boat travel is extremely easy in Bali. There are tons of ferry tour operators to choose from, and the perk of water travel is that it is significantly cheaper. 

Quick Facts

Time to Visit Bali

There are two distinctive seasons in Bali: wet-season and dry season. Wet-season generally takes place between November and March. During dry season, you can expect near-constant sunshine and hot weather. This happens from May to September each year. 

Try not to let the wet weather keep you from travelling to Bali. Surfing is a year-round sport, and traveling to the island during the wet season means less crowded waves. The best time to go to Bali depends on the specific area of the island you’ll be travelling to. West Coast surfing is best from May to September, whereas the eaves of Eastern Bali are best from November to March. 

Most surfers gravitate to the West Coast during the high-dry season (May to September). These travel plans offer the best combo of weather and waves. The only downside is that this is the most crowded time and area to visit, but there’s a reason for this.

 Island of Gods: A Guide to Surfing in Bali

Water

Just like many island destinations, travellers should not drink tap water in Indonesia. Even though Bali is fairly developed, it is only recommended that you drink bottled water. Many hotels, villas, and hostels will offer large jugs of filtered water, which is completely safe to drink. So go ahead, refill your reusable bottles using the filtered water offered by your accommodations. 

Most traveller sickness on the island is brought on by something called “Bali belly”. Tap water is the main cause of Bali-belly, so be very careful about the water you consume. This means brushing your teeth with bottled water and drinking beverages without ice. 

Many local restaurants use tap water to wash their produce, so just be extremely wary of what you’re eating. This won’t be a problem at more touristy establishments. 

Language

There are three main languages spoken in Bali: Indonesian, Balinese, and English. Bahasa is another local language, and learning a few words and phrases can help you with bargaining. As long as you speak English, travelling through Bali is easy. 

Internet

Thanks to the influx of digital nomads moving to Bali, the internet on the island has dramatically improved within the past few years. Villas, hotels, hostels, and even beach bungalows are switching to reliable fibre-optic internet, so you should have no problem connecting to WiFi. 

If you’re experiencing internet issues in your accommodations, you have other options. Either head to a nearby cafe or coworking space, or invest in a local SIM card. Telkomsel is the most widely used cellular provider on the island, offering 3G, 4G, and LTE connections. You can purchase a SIM at any Circle K shop - they’re all over the place - for less than $1 USD. 

Plugs

Type C and F plugs are used all throughout Indonesia, including Bali. The standard voltage is 230V with a frequency of 50Hz. If you have a universal adaptor, you’re in the clear. If you still need to purchase an adaptor, be sure that it features surge protection. For hot tools like hairdryers and irons, it is recommended that you use a power converter. 

Visa/Immigration

Nearly every nationality is eligible for the visa on arrival, which is a 30-day tourist visa. If you know that you will be staying in Bali for less than 30 days, this visa can be obtained for free. The process of getting the 30-day visa is easy, just follow the signs to Immigration/Customs in the international airport. 

If you would like to extend your stay for longer than 30 days, the cost is just $35 USD. A visa extension lasts up to 60 days, then you MUST leave the country. Even though you will purchase the additional 30 days on arrival, you must renew the visa while in-country. 

If you overstay your 30 or 60-day visa, you’ll be charged per day that you overstay. The cost of overstaying recently increased from IDR 300,000 (about 21 USD) to IDR 1 million (about 70 USD) per day. The best way to avoid these fees is to depart the country on time. 

Cash/Payment

Bali - and all other Indonesian islands - use the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) as currency. The rate fluctuates constantly, but 1 USD is equivalent to about 14,050 IDR. You can visit a currency exchange at the airport, but try to avoid this if you can. There are plenty of ATMs throughout the island, and most touristic establishments accept credit cards. 

Health and Emergencies

Everyone travelling to Bali should invest in medical travel insurance. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a trip for two days or two months, travel insurance is a must. This is especially true if you plan to take advantage of surfing in Bali. For surfers, look for a plan that provides coverage for adventure activities. 

The best hospital in Bali is called BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, which is located just south of Denpasar. The Balimed Hospital in Denpasar is another top choice for travellers. There are small medical clinics all over the island, but for serious medical issues, use your travel insurance to pay for the private medical care at BIMC or Balimed. 

Crime

Other than the fact that Bali surfing spots are the best in the world, travellers love that the island is extremely safe. The island is incredibly safe for backpackers, families, couples, and even solo female travellers. Of course, petty theft happens, but it is often theft between travellers. Locals are very rarely involved in criminal activity.

Just like any destination in the world, crime does happen in Bali, but violence is very rare. Just be sure to stay alert and remain aware of your surroundings. Never leave your beach bag unattended while you go for a swim in the ocean, and don’t leave your belongings out in the open in your hostel. 

One thing that is important to note is that credit card fraud is common in Indonesia. This generally happens at ATMs - skimmers are placed on the machine and card information is stolen. To avoid this, try to withdraw your cash only from reputable banks and ATM machines. It’s also a good idea to thoroughly inspect the ATM before withdrawing cash. 

Getting Around

Even though Bali is considered to be the most expensive island in Indonesia, transportation is still extremely cheap. A private minivan across the entire island shouldn’t cost more than IDR 200,000. The same ride in a taxi will cost around IDR 65,000. 

That being said, it is extremely common for local drivers to do whatever they can to get more money out of tourists. If you want to avoid being scammed by taxi drivers, consider renting a scooter instead. Motorized scooters cost anywhere between IDR 60,000 and 135,000 per day depending on the scooter company you rent from. 

Gojek, getting around Bali style

There is no Uber in Bali, but an app called Grab offers the same service. Download the app and you can get a ride within minutes. Go-Jek offers a similar transportation service (this is also an amazing food-ordering tool). Go-Jek motorbike sharing is a great choice if you’re looking for cheap and quick transportation. Don’t worry, your Go-Jek driver will be an extra helmet!

Typical Cost and Suggested Budget

The cheapest time to travel to Bali is during the wet season. But even during the dry season when tourism is at its peak, staying in Bali on a budget is more than possible. Cheap guesthouses and dorm hostels cost anywhere between IDR 75,000 and 200,000 per night. You might be able to find a private room in a hostel, but this isn’t common. 

If you’ve got luxury on the mind, Bali is filled to the brim with luxury villas. Renting massive villas is common among group travellers. The cost of a private villa depends on the location, as well as its level of luxury. Luxury hotels and resorts can be found all throughout the island. In fact, some of the most expensive hotels in the world are located in Bali. 

As far as food goes, it’s possible to eat three meals per day for less than IDR 50,000 (less than $4). Local food is extremely cheap - you’ll find the cheapest meals at the local warungs. Western food and internationally-owned restaurants are more expensive, but still very affordable. Most touristy restaurants offer amazing meals for less than $8 USD. 

Image: Rapute Camps

The amount of money you spend in Bali depends entirely on your specific budget. As long as you eat local food and stay in a dorm, you can easily get by on $30 USD per day. But, if you have the money, spend it! Bali is the land of luxury, and you can live like a king for $250 per day. 

So if this is a vacation and you’re hoping to treat yourself in between surfing sessions, stay in a 5-star resort, eat fancy food, and get tons of massage. This is your chance to live in luxury!

Where to Stay and Areas

Avid surfers have plenty of options for exploring in Bali. If you’ve never surfed before, head to the original surfer’s beach on the island, Kuta. Kuta is a quick drive from the international airport, so tons of newbie surfers head to this area as soon as they arrive on the island.

Surfing in Kuta

Although most surfers love Kuta for its reliable and easy-going waves, not every traveller loves the area. It is quite a party spot, so keep that in mind before booking a place to stay here. But if you’re looking for beginner-level waves and a fun social atmosphere, Kuta is the place to be. The other perk of Kuta is that it is home to some reputable Bali surf camps, particularly for beginners.

There are also some waves for advanced surfers in the Kuta area, especially on Kuta Reef. This offshore Bali surf spot can only be accessed by boat. Hitching a ride is quick and easy from Kuta Beach. The only downside of Kuta Reef is that it tends to get insanely crowded, during high season. A less crowded surfing spot for experienced wave riders is at Airport Lefts, which also needs to be accessed by boat.

Image: Canggu

Surfing in Seminyak

Surfers with a bit more experience under their belts tend to head just north of Kuta to Legian Beach. Even further north you’ll find an area called Seminyak, which is suitable for both inexperienced and intermediate surfers. Surfers love the right breaks that are common along the Seminyak beach.

Surfing in Canggu and Eco Beach

If you’re looking for the best Bali surf camp, focus your attention to Echo Beach. Echo Beach is located in the trendy Canggu neighbourhood, which is just south of Kuta. Many new surfers start in Kuta but then head south to Canggu once they’ve mastered the surfing basics. Canggu’s Echo Beach caters to all surfing levels, and there are tons of surf schools to choose from here. 

Surfing in the Bukit

Dreamland beach on the Bukit peninsula is another great spot for beginners - a fun, beautiful beach break with a few surf schools to choose from.

No Bali surfing spots compare to the ones found on Bukit Peninsula. This area in the South is where the hardcore surfers head. Bukit is home to a variety of waves, all located relatively close to one another. Try not to miss out on the peninsula’s surfing hotspots, like Bingin, Balangan, Uluwatu, and Padang-Padang. 

Top Bali Surf Camps

Wave House Bali

Credit: Wave House Bali

Wave House is perfectly located in Canggu’s quiet neighbourhood of Berawa. The surf camp itself is stunning; it features a tropical garden, outdoor pool, and chill hangout area. Guests have the option to stay within budget in a Wave House dorm or go all out in a deluxe private room. 

“We created the best conditions for your holidays to help you surf, relax, chill and see around!”

- The Team at Wave House

If you’re hoping for an intense surfing experience, sign up for the 15-day Wave House surf camp. The all-inclusive camp includes 15 days of accommodation, 3 meals per day, surf equipment rental, and 2 surf sessions per day. If you’re not keen on doing the intensive surf camp, you can always just stay at Wave House and sign up for individual surf lessons. 

  • Language: English, Russian
  • Location:  Canggu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Cost: From 600 USD

Pro Surf School

Another top Bali surf camp is the Pro Surf School in Kuta. Although the name includes the word pro, all are welcome at this surf camp, including beginners. Pro Surf School has been featured in Lonely Planet as a “Best of Bali” attraction. Part of the reason for this is the school's amazing location right on Kuta Beach. 

“We offer a safe, fun, structured surf program with an emphasis on personal focus, support, and attention.”

- The Team at Pro Surf School

Kuta Beach is the perfect spot for beginners, but there are plenty of challenging reef breaks in the area for more advanced surfers. The surf school even offers a full course on reef surfing, so this is the perfect opportunity to advance to the next level. Pro surf camps include accommodations, but you’re on your own for food. 

  • Language: German, English, Indonesian
  • Location:  Kuta
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 600 USD

Rapture Camps

Image: Raptur Camp

Rapture is a household name among avid surfers across the globe. The founders of this Bali surf camp have locations in every desirable surfing spot imaginable, including Nicaragua and Portugal. They even have 2 locations in Bali, one in Uluwatu’s Padang and one in a spot called Cliff. These are both amazing surf spots, catering more to intermediate and advanced surfers. 

“Our Bali Cliff location is just 150 meters behind the secluded Green Bowl surf spot!”

- The Team at Rapture Camps Bali

Both Rapture locations are amazing, but the one that gets the most attention is the camp located in Uluwatu. Ulu is home to some of the most challenging breaks on the island, plus it is one of the most stunning Bali destinations. Beginners are welcome here, but this camp is definitely more ideal for more advanced surfers. 

  • Language: English
  • Location:  Uluwatu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 600 USD

Surf WG

Surf WG

Surf WG is yet another Canggu surf camp that is perfect for all surfing levels. This Bali surf camp is very similar to Wave House - it’s even located in the same Berawa neighbourhood. The main difference between Surf WG and Wave House is that the popular camp is just 7 days instead of 15 days. This is a more realistic time frame for surfers hoping to see other parts of the island. 

“You will stay at our beautiful camp, amongst rice fields – that is Bali feeling at it’s finest.”

- The Team at Surf WG

During the weeklong camp, you’ll be offered 2 surf lessons per day and accommodations are included. You’ll have complete access to the stunning WG grounds, including the tropical garden, massive swimming pool, and laid-back common areas. Surf camp participants also get a free home-cooked breakfast each morning before heading out to the water. 

  • Language: English, German, Indonesian
  • Location:  Canggu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 600 USD

Padang Padang Surf Camp

Padang Padang Surf Camp is a stone’s throw away from some of the best Bali surf spots. You’ll get the chance to surf all the waves of Bukit Peninsula, including Uluwatu and of course, Padang Padang. This area is much quieter than Kuta and Canggu to the north. But the waves are certainly not quieter, that’s for sure. 

“We have everything you would want for a perfect surfing and yoga vacation.”

- The Team at Padang Padang Surf Camp

This surf camp offers 2 options for surf packages, including an 8-day camp and a 15-day camp. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have access to daily surf sessions, yoga classes, social events, comfy accommodations, and even complimentary massages. 

  • Language: English
  • Location:  Pecatu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
  • Cost: From 600 USD

Wavehouse Bali

“We truly enjoy what we do, sharing our love for the ocean, helping beginners to start and intermediate surfers improve their skills.”

- The Team at Wavehouse Bali

Wavehouse is a true resort style camp with pool, restaurant and garden and all the necessities included for a full fantastic surf vacation. Camp price start at $56 dollars per night. Lessons included. So are equipment, theory, insurance, yoga and a set of other awesome services and activities. 

  • Language: English
  • Location: Berawa, Canggu
  • Surf Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Cost: From %56 for a shared dorm

More Top-Rated Surf Camps in Bali

The Bali surf camps mentioned above are just five of the many options for an amazing surfing adventure. Here are a few more top-rated and well-respected surf camps that offer the best of the best when it comes to Balinese surfing: 

  • Mojosurf in Canggu
  • Lapoint Bali in Canggu
  • Endless Summer in Kuta/Canggu
  • Kamafari Surf Camp in Badung
  • Vertical House Bali Surf School in Ungasan

Gear and Packing

The main thing to remember when packing for a trip to Bali is to pack light. The weather is tropical all year-round, so you won’t need much more than your bikini and boardies. Don’t forget your sunglasses, and of course zinc-based sunscreen for long days out on the water. These things can be purchased on the island, but they are often pricey.

Bringing your own surfboard isn’t entirely necessary since daily rentals cost between $5 and $10 USD per day. But some surfers don’t feel right without their own personal board. If you do choose to bring your own, just be sure to check the airline fees for oversized bagged before heading to the airport. 

In addition to boardies and bikinis, don’t forget booties. Many popular Bali waves break over reef, so wearing booties for added protection is a good idea. You won’t need a wetsuit since the water is warm, but a rashguard will be very helpful for added sun and chafe protection. 

Food and Drinks

One of the most interesting aspects of Bali is the amazing variety of food that can be found throughout the island. This is especially true in trendy areas like Canggu and Kuta; you can chow down on anything from hamburgers to falafel to sushi. Anyone looking for authentic Bali cuisines should eat at local restaurants, called warungs. 

Similar to all Asian cultures, the main staple of the local Balinese people is rice. Over the centuries, Indonesia has been influenced by the indigenous cultures of China, India, and the Middle East. You might even call Indonesian food a “melting pot” of unique cultures. Whatever you choose to call it, you can’t deny that Indonesian cuisine is flavorful.

What to Eat

Sate: As long as you're not a vegetarian, you’ll love sate. This is thinly sliced and skewered bits of meat. The best part is the peanut dipping sauce that comes with it. 

Nasi Goreng: Indonesian Fried Rice at its finest. This dish is a bit spicier than traditional Asian fried rice. It is almost always served with a fried egg on top. Nasi Campur is a similar mix of rice, meat, and veggies - just no egg. 

Gado Gado: Vegetarian travellers can plan on eating a lot of Gado Gado while in Bali. This traditional dish is a mix of vegetables, tofu or tempeh, and peanut sauce. You can find Gado Gado at any local restaurant for cheap. 

Babi Guling: This is Indonesia’s take on the suckling pig. The best Balinese destination to try this dish is at Ibu Oka in Ubud.

Black Rice Pudding: For satisfying your sweet tooth, give black rice pudding a try. This dessert is a sweet and savoury combination of black rice, coconut milk. and palm sugar.

Where to Eat

If you’re looking for trendy restaurants and cosy cafes, there’s nowhere in Bali that compares to Canggu. This neighbourhood is loved not only for its amazing surfing opportunities at Echo Beach but also for its health-oriented foodie vibes. While in Canggu, be sure to try out these trendy eateries. 

La Baracca

The traditional Italian food offered at La Baracca is loved by the expat community of Bali. The restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic meal or a fun group dinner, of course with a few bottles of wine. There are several La Baracca locations on the island - one in Canggu, one in Uluwatu, and one in Ubud. If Italian food is on your mind, this is the place to satisfy your cravings.

 Jalan Tanah Barak No.51, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Crate Cafe

A few years back, Crate Cafe was housed in a small building in the heart of Canggu. But thanks to its growing popularity, the cafe has expanded to a massive, wide-open space down the road from its original location. The cafe is always busy, mainly because of its colourful smoothie bowl menu. Smoothie bowls are not lacking in Canggu, but people say that Crate offers the best. 

 Jalan Canggu Padang Linjong, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Shady Shack

There’s a good chance you’ll love the vibe at Shady Shack just as much as you enjoy the food. This cafe-style eatery is known for its collection of fresh juices and vegan menu items. They even offer a vegan lasagna that is to die for. Be sure to save room for dessert when dining at Shady Shack; the restaurant’s collection of sweets and treats its impressive. 

 Jalan Tanah Barak No.57, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Betelnut Cafe

For a fresh yet filling meal, there is no place like Betelnut. This restaurant/cafe is in the heart of all the Canggu action, so it tends to be busy all throughout the day. But this shouldn’t stop you from eating here. The upper seating deck feels as if you’re dining in an open-air treehouse. But the best part of all is the menu. Try the falafel bowl if you’re looking for a filling veg meal. 

 80351, Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong No.60, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

What to See and Do

Take in Ubud’s Yoga Vibes - Although Ubud is not a surfing spot, it is still a must-visit Bali destination. There is no coastline here, but there is a lot to see and do. Visit the famous rice terraces of Ubud, the Monkey Forest, or take a yoga class.

Ubud

Ubud

Visit Tanah Lot - Tanah Lot is located just 20 kilometres from Kuta, close to tons of Bali surf resorts and camps. The literal translation of Tanah Lot is Land in the Sea, which you’ll understand as soon as you arrive. This is the perfect sunset spot if you are surfing near Kuta, Canggu, or Seminyak.

Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot

Go for a Rafting Tour of Ayung River - If you’re up for taking a break from the saltwater in exchange for freshwater, head to the Ayung River. This is the perfect setting for white water rafting or adventure kayaking. As you raft through the rapids, you’ll be able to take in the sights and sounds of the local Balinese villages and rice terraces. 

Dive a Shipwreck in Tulamben - Bali isn’t the most well-known SCUBA diving destination in Indonesia, but there are still some pretty cool dive sites here. One of the most popular among divers is the USS Liberty shipwreck in the northern Balinese village of Tulamben. This wreck is so massive that it requires two dives instead of one. 

Climb Mount Batur at Kintamani - Trekking volcanoes is a popular activity in Indonesia. The magnificent Balinese volcano known as Mount Batur offers amazing views of the island. If you have the motivation to wake up long before sunrise, do it. No sight compares to watching the first rays of sunshine make their way across the horizon.

Mnt Batur

FAQs on Bali Surf 

What is the best place to learn to surf in Bali?

Beginner surfers tend to gravitate to the southern beaches of Bali. This would include areas like Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu. There are plenty of beaches in this area that have calm waters and sand bottoms (rather than more dangerous reef breaks). 

Image: Rapture Camps

Keep in mind that there are also plenty of surf spots in this area that are not suitable for beginners. Southern Bali is filled with “pros only” breaks. You’ll just have to ask around if you’re looking for the best beginner waves. Better yet, sign up for Bali surf camp that will give you all the insight you need on the best surfing in Bali for beginners. 

What are the best surf beaches in Bali?

The answer to this question depends on what you’re looking for. Like whether you’re in search of mellow waves or you’re more in the mood for challenging reef breaks. The most popular beaches to surf in Bali are Canggu, Kuta, Uluwatu, Padang Padang, and Seminyak. The one you choose depends on your level of experience and overall surfing needs.