Surfing in Bali: Travel tips, surfing spots and some hidden treasures
Last Updated: 31 October 2018
Due to its quality spots and incredible swell during summer, people travel to Bali from all over the world. Many return over and over again.
With its lush jungles, iconic waves, and incomparable surf atmosphere, Bali beckons as one of the most desirable learning to surf destinations in the world. The fact that no matter what your skill level is when you arrive, you will undoubtedly leave a better surfer is also a massive drawcard. As are the sheer amount of beginner-friendly surf locations that it offers.
For many budding wave-riders, these factors make Bali the preferred port of call when they decide to learn to the ropes. Who wouldn’t want to surf on a dreamy Indonesian island for their first session, right?
Why is Bali such a popular surfing destination?
One of the best things about surfing in Bali is the variety of breaks, which range from beginner level to professional and “kamikaze”, meaning you’d have to be a bit suicidal to attempt them unless you’re a real expert. Most of these spots are within easy reach of one another, with a famous cluster on the west coast of the Bukit Peninsula.
What is the best time for surfing in Bali?
The Island gets the best swell during the dry season between May until September. This is considered the peak surfing season in Bali when the most popular surf breaks located on the west coast of the island hold ideal conditions for surfing. Unfortunately, this is also when the island is most crowded.
The “off-season” (also known as the “Wet season” or “Rainy season”) offers quality surf on the east coast and provides an alternative to the tourist crowds. If you want to avoid crowds and aren’t afraid of a little rain you might want to take advantage of Bali’s Rainy Season, which can still produce great waves. Nusa Dua is also a popular beginners wave during the rainy season. Don’t let frightening images of South and Southeast Asian monsoon rains scare you off. Bali’s wet season is considerably tamer, the worst conditions resulting only in minor floods and heavy winds, during which road travel should be avoided.
Where to surf in Bali
For expert surfers
The aforementioned Bukit cluster of hot surf spots includes Uluwatu (which is actually 5 breaks in one), Impossibles, Bingin, Balangan, Nyang-Nyang, and of course Padang Padang. These are mostly pro-level or for highly experienced surfers, but beginners need not fear if they are accompanied by certified instructors.
For beginners surfers
Padang Padang Right is probably the best spot for beginners because of its long unbroken wave. Balangan and Dreamland are also suitable for beginners during the right times. Ask one of our helpful surf guides, if you’re not sure where to go.
Some hidden gems
While spots like Padang Padang and Uluwatu are legendary, there are other, lesser-known gems dotting the coastline. So how to find these hidden surf Bali treasures? Start by doing a little research and when you get to Bali hook up with a surf camp or surf school. Make sure it’s staffed with qualified instructors who have experience and a deep local knowledge of surfing Bali. Both of Rapture Surfcamps in Bali offers all that.
What to know before planning your first Bali Surf Trip?
Before you book flights to Bali the team here at Rapture has got a few travel tips to make your first surf trip in Indonesia a cracker.
1. Get your passport and visa sorted
What goes for Balinese tourist visas one month might be completely different the next month. This can make working out whether you require a visa on your learn to surf trip to Bali a massive headache. As a safeguard, it’s best to check the rules with the Indonesian embassy in your country during the early stages of the planning process.
At the moment there over 160 nationalities that don’t need to pre-apply for a Balinese visa. This means that people from these countries are eligible for a free 30-day visa upon arrival which can then be extended another 30 days at an Indonesian immigration office or via a local travel agent. The penalty fee for overstaying your visa is IDR 1,000,000 per day, which works out to be about USD 70. When it comes to your passport, it must be valid at least 6 months from the day of arrival… no exceptions.
2. Arrange transport from the airport in advance
After the thick and humid air, the second thing you’ll notice when exiting the airport is an army of taxi drivers waiting to take your fare. They’ll promise cheap rides to just about anywhere on the island and even offer to help you with your gear. Without trying to sound too conspiratorial, most of these overzealous taxi drivers are probably just trying to take advantage of your jetlagged state and charge you almost double what you should be paying.
Our advice? If you’re arriving in Bali arrange transport from the airport to your accommodation in advance. This way you can avoid being fleeced at the airport.
3. Purchase travel insurance
If you still think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense, you’re kidding yourself. However, this goes double if you’re a surfer. With travel insurance, you can hit the waves with peace of mind and actually enjoy your surf trip without having to worry about what you would do if things go pearshaped.
Travel insurance protects you against minor slights such as lost or stolen baggage and flight cancellations. In addition to covering you for any unexpected medical costs you may encounter while abroad.
Consider the fact that while you may be insured against a small medical emergency in your own country, an issue of the same severity in Bali for someone without travel insurance could end up costing you your holiday budget, all your savings or even your parent’s savings in extreme cases.
When buying travel insurance, aim for a plan that’s surfer-friendly. This means it should cover medical expenses, evacuations and also your surfboards.
4. Familiarise yourself with the local currency
Knowing what the local currency is and the exchange rate relative to your own currency is essential when learning to surf in Bali. Called Rupiah but abbreviated to Rp., the Indonesian currency looks totally different to many other currencies and it can, therefore, be tricky to wrap your head around.
Your best bet is always to change a bit of cash before you jet off to avoid the inevitable ATM raid at the airport, which is just another thing to deal with when you’re jetlagged. Then when you’re finally at your accommodation, ask your fellow guests for a reliable money changer close by.
Of course, some people will tell you to change your money at the airport as soon as you arrive. This is a good option if you’re only exchanging a small amount, but you’ll find better rates in town. If in doubt, talk to one of the friendly staff members at our Rapture surf camps. They’ll sort you out with a trusted money changer in no time at all.
5. Don’t let the fear of “Bali belly” dampen your experience
Worried that you’ll spend most of your learn to surf trip to Bali on the toilet? There’s really no need to stress. The dreaded “Bali belly” isn’t as pervasive as it once was. In the past, ice cubes, salads, fruit and some meats were considered a no, no.
With the rapid rise in international tourists though, Balinese hygiene standards in the main areas have also improved. Now you can find great organic produce and quality meals in just about every café and restaurant. Of course, there’s always going to be one dodgy meal out of every 1,000 and the tap water in Bali is pretty questionable. So if you do start to feel crook, take some antibiotics and drink plenty of water. Chances are it’ll past within 24 hours at the most.
6. Book a surf camp before you arrive
Want to book a surf trip to Bali but don’t know where to stay, how to go about renting a surfboard or where the heck the best waves are? No worries. If you arrange a stay with Rapture surf camps in Bali we can look after all of your surfing needs. From shuttles to and from the airport to surf lessons and yoga sessions, we offer an authentic surfing experience for all skill levels.
Our camps are also open all year round and we can even organize local trips around Bali to places such as Ubud, Kintamani and Tanelot to name a few. In addition, our surf guides can show you the ropes when it comes to surf spots in Bali. Taking you to all the best breaks and getting you in the lineup before the crowds arrive.
By booking a surf camp before you arrive, you’ll take a lot of the pressure of sorting everything out upon landing. You can then simply roll up and kick back and let us do all the hard work. While you make the most of your learn to surf trip in Bali.
7. Research a few flat-day activities
We’re proud to say that Bali is one of the most consistent places for waves on earth. With a couple of different coastlines to choose from and numerous nearby islands to explore, finding waves here is much easier than putting on a legrope. That being said, there will be days when the wind is onshore, the swell is from the wrong direction or you’re just so surfed out that you couldn’t possibly paddle more than 10 meters without falling asleep.
When these days come along, a learn to surf trip to Bali can be the perfect opportunity to check out the rest of this beautiful island. A traditional Balinese massage for one is the perfect way to rejuvenate your body, or you could try something a little more extreme such as whitewater rafting the Ayung River.
If you want to stay in the water but aren’t too keen on surfing, there are also countless snorkeling and diving locations to check out. The remote island of Menjangan, in particular, has reefs that are totally untouched. While Nusa Lembongan is celebrated around the world for its thriving marine life.
Rides through the Jatiluwih rice fields, hikes up the volcanic Mount Batur and tours of the countryside are some other activities that might appeal to the curious traveler. So before you book that learn to surf trip to Bali, research a few flat-day activities that you’d like to try out.
8. Brush up on your Bahasa
You might not know this but the Balinese language has a few key things that make it somewhat distinctive from Indonesian. Called Bahasa, Balinese Indonesian dispenses with verb conjugations and tenses, which makes it easier to learn than most romance languages. It does, however, have a variety of social distinctions based on a form of the caste system that you need to know if you’re serious about learning Bahasa.
For those of you who only want to know the basics, well done. It’s always great when we have guests who try to communicate in the same language as the country they’re visiting, even if it’s just a few words. Check out this handy guide for an introduction to Balinese if this sounds like you. If you’d prefer to speak in English though that’s also not a problem. The vast majority of Balinese speak enough English to converse with you… and more importantly to barter with you.
Additional surf travel tips for Bali
- Smile and be friendly in the water… but don’t smile too much or people will think you’re up to something
- Take only your cash and maybe your phone when you go out partying at night. Bali has been known to bring even the best ravers undone
- Wear a helmet when riding your bike
- Drink plenty of Bintangs, but stay away from Arak
- Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people
- Take earplugs, cable ties and some Vaseline for rashes
- Don’t rely on the swell forecast to tell you what the waves are like… go check them yourself
- Pack for humid weather but bring some trainers for when you’re hiking or riding. If you’re female, bring a sarong too
- Make sure your taxi driver has turned the fare meter on
- Don’t be afraid to tuck into the local cuisine. If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times… homemade nasi goreng is life