The Bukit. AKA “the hill”. AKA the gem of Bali.
This is the ultimate and only guide you’ll ever need for the Bukit Peninsula. We’re not talking Canggu, we aren’t talking Ubud, we’re strictly talking about the heaven on earth for surfers. That is, the Bukit.
The Bukit peninsula is mistaken by many, as simply “Uluwatu”. So, if you’re looking to learn int ins and outs of Uluwatu before your next Indonesian surf trip, stop what you are doing and read this. Now.
In this article we’re going to cover:
The History Of The Bukit Peninsula
The Best Time Of Year To Visit/Surf The Bukit
The Best Surf Spots On On The Bukit
What You Should Pack (More Importantly, What You Shouldn’t Pack)
What Neighborhood Is Best For Accommodation (They Aren’t All Equal)
The Ins and Outs Of Renting A Scooter
Places You Must Eat At On The Bukit
Daily Expenses On The Bukit Peninsula
The Negative Aspects Of The Bukit
Why You Should Stay On The Bukit Over Canggu and Ubud
The Future Of This Island Surf Mecca
All of this along with first-hand tips on renting vs buying a surfboard in Bali, handling the inevitable need for ding repairs, specific places you need to stay, yada yada.
Again, this is everything you need to know and nothing you don’t.
The History Of Of The Bukit Peninsula (Uluwatu)
At the beginning of time, aka the late 1960s, Bali’s Bukit peninsula was a god-forsaken land where water buffalo and wild banteng (not bintang) walked without concern. Just sixty years ago, before an invasive species of influencers took over, this 140-square-kilometer hill was used as hunting grounds for deer, pheasant, and wild boar.
Believe it or not, the Bukit Peninsula was so forbidden that allegedly, criminals were sent here to live apart from society.
The Balinese people showed little to no interest in the Bukit Peninsula but when there’s a will, there’s a way. This barren stretch of coast was discovered by surfers in the 70s and over time these surfers began to slowly inhabit the area. For a while, apart from transient surfers, the only other residents of the Bukit were farmers and fishermen.
The majority of beaches we’ll talk about in this article weren’t even accessible during this time. The world-famous Uluwatu break was only accessible by a sketchy set of bamboo ladders and steps. Or of course, a boat.
International investors saw an opportunity and large-scale developments began in the mid 70’s to fit their visions. After many setbacks and delays the doors for these developments opened in the mid 90’s. Since then, Bali has boomed into the trendy surf destination it’s known as today.
All thanks to the movie Eat, Pray, Love… Thanks a lot, Julia Roberts.
When Is The Best Time To Travel To The Bukit? (Bali)
The Bukit, and all of Southeast Asia for that matter, revolves around two seasons: the wet season and the dry season.
Surfing During The Wet Season On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
The wet season spans from November through March. The weather during these months is unpredictable at best with rain to be expected every other day. Some days it’s just light drizzle lasting 1-4 hours and other times it will be a straight downpour for days on end.
The surfing conditions around these months are less than ideal on an Indonesian scale. The winds shift to the west dampening the conditions on the west coast of Bali causing that onshore chop we surfers try to avoid.
Early birds and dawn patrollers will scoop up the prime sets during this time of year.
And despite its challenges, the wet season offers some upsides as well. Less traffic, fewer crowds, cheaper accommodation, and affordable flights give you a carrot to look forward to. Sprinkle in the odd sunny day here and there and the wet season may be a feasible option for your next trip.
For what it’s worth, I grew up surfing in Oregon. Surfing in the rain is underrated. The novelty of scoring some fun waves in the rain makes for an eery experience. That is if the water cleanliness is manageable.
Surfing The Dry Season On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
Considered by many as the preferred time to visit/surf the Bukit in Bali, the dry season spans from April through October. During my two-month trip to the island in May and June of 2023 I experienced a total of 15 minutes of rain. Apart from that it was sunny skies and offshore winds every day.
The swells come together this time of year bringing forth the world-class waves the Bukit is known for. If you’re using the Bukit Peninsula of Bali as a home base to explore other areas of Indonesia, the Mentawais and neighboring islands of Lombok and Sumbawa turn on during June and July.
But with these favorable conditions, higher prices and larger crowds are to be expected.
What Is The Required Skill Level To Surf The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali?
The Bukit Peninsula’s fast barrels and shallow reefs make dreams come true for intermediate to advanced surfers… Many of the spots we’ll talk about are off-limits for beginners.
But if you’re getting the swing of things that doesn’t mean you still can’t have yourself a good time on most days. You just have to know where to go. And when.
That’s why I’m here.
Some spots that offer world-class barrels on low tide tend to wash out on the high tide swing making it perfect for beginners on longboards. There’s even a few options that are very beginner-friendly practically year-round.
Where to Surf On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
One of the things I liked about the Bukit Peninsula, and all of Bali for that matter, is the fact that there are almost always photographers on the beach filming your waves.
This can make for a super fun, learning experience or quite the humiliating one depending on your session. Photos can be bought for about $5 a piece, or cheaper if you buy multiple.
People often negotiate these prices but $5 is a small expense compared to a $100 private session back in California. Not to mention this money goes a long way for the local photographers trying to earn a living.
Uluwatu is one of the most famous left-hand surf spots in all of Indonesia and it can be sectioned off into five different peaks or takeoff points.
The Bombie – Only surfable on huge days, this peak (which is dormant during most swells) often requires a tow-in from a jet ski on the days it’s active. It’s a huge wave that breaks past the reefs and is suited for experienced to advanced riders only.
Temples – This peak got its name by being the furthest break in Uluwatu that sits closest to the cliffside temple. It requires a significant paddle out to get in position but for those who do, the payoff is worth it. The crowds are mild compared to other peaks and surfers can regularly be seen scoring some of the best barrels Uluwatu has to offer.
This is a fast-breaking hollow wave that can be pretty sectiony. It’s a make-it-or-break-it ride. For every surfer that successfully makes it through the hollow sections, there’s three that got pitched into the reef.
It’s one of the most reliable peaks at Uluwatu working at almost any given time, any day (for those with the skill to navigate it).
Outside Corner – One of the most famous waves on the island of Bali, Outside Corner sports one of the longest-facing walls with a tube section beyond your wildest dreams. On larger days this peak really comes alive and people often linger around the beach bars on the cliff to watch riders catch some of the best waves the Indian Ocean has to offer.
The Peak – A peaky (duh) break that offers a good barrel session, especially on lower tides, and an open face for turns and maneuvers. The takeoff point for the peak can shift slightly from set to set so keeping a good eye and positioning yourself right will be your key to success.
It offers a fun “wild card” experience because it’s not always the guy who has priority in the lineup that gets the wave. But like any spot, respect is everything. Don’t take a free-for-all approach to any of these spots.
And don’t take the wave all the way in, it gets shallow and reefy towards the end (as do 98% of these breaks).
The Racetrack – Nicknamed due to its extremely fast wall, this is another grab-and-go type of wave. It’s the easiest and first peak you’ll paddle to in Uluwatu and also collects the majority of the crowd.
On low tide, this break turns into a tube frenzy but be aware of the reef at the end sections. I kicked out of multiple waves only to find myself sitting in waist-high water directly over the cheese-grading reef.
How To Enter And Exit The Surf At Uluwatu
Uluwatu is the only break that deserves instructions on how to enter and exit the surf. The current at the bottom of the cliff rips really hard (and can be seen in many of the Surfers Of Bali videos). It’s especially treacherous on high tide.
When entering the surf let the current take you, fighting it will do nothing apart from exhaust you before your session. The current will spit you out at the end of the Racetrack and you’ll be on your merry way.
Coming back in is a different story. But once you know what to do it’s simple.
Instead of paddling straight to the cave, you’ll need to compensate for the current’s drag. From the perspective of being in the water facing the shore, paddle way to the right of the cave and when you get closer to the cliff let the current pull you along towards the cave’s opening. Once you drift closer to the cave paddle towards the opening (hard) to escape the current and to get to shore. It’s as simple as that.
If you miss the opening you’ll have to paddle all the way back out and do it again. A mistake that will cost you another 15-25 minutes.
One of the most perfect waves in all of the Bukit, Bingin is a fast-paced left that hands down produces some of the best barrels on the entire island. On a mid to low tide, Bingin opens up into a perfect backdoor grab-and-go ride that lasts about 50-75 yards.
Drop in, tuck behind the lip, sneak a turn or two, and get out. But get out… This is not a wave that you want to ride all the way in. If you do you’ll be greeted by the sharp and very shallow reef waiting for you.
For good reason, Bingin attracts a thick crowd. Despite needing to walk down a Mount Everest level of steps to reach. But even with a large crowd this wave is ridiculously consistent and offers enough rides for everyone to have a good session. There’s a clear takeoff point and everyone does a good job taking turns. Usually.
And similar to many great beasts, this wave has a softer side. On high tide, Bingin washes out and turns into an easy, playful wave perfect for a novice looking to improve their basic fundamentals on a longboard.
For other reasons that we will get into later, Bingin grew to be arguably my favorite place in all of Bali.
Famous for its endless lines and relatively empty lineups, the picturesque view of Impossibles is most surfers’ wet dream. But looks can be deceiving.
Located just south of Bingin, from the cliffside view Impossibles breaks elegantly over the shallow reef for sometimes 500 yards or more (not a typo). But as the name suggests, scoring some of these waves is next to Impossible (on most days). The speed of this wave makes it extremely difficult to ride and more often than not you’ll see surfers struggle to pump down the line fast enough to keep up with the oncoming sections.
But when the pace of the wave slows down (as it sometimes does for those lucky enough), you’re looking at one of the longest rides of your life. Every once in a while you’ll catch a glimpse of someone looping endless turns for the better part of a football field. And similar to Bingin, lower tides offer the best shape.
The paddle out to Impossibles is long but manageable. You can paddle out on the north end of Bingin Beach to catch the end section of impossibles but arguably the best option is to enter near Padang Padang and coast through the channel at the top of the reef.
The holy grail of surfing can be found at Padang Padang. When it’s working this wave will give you one of the best rides in the entire world.
And by now, I know I sound like a broken record.
But in order to maintain this reputation a lot of pieces need to come together. This puzzle can be solved with a combination of large swell, low-mid tide, and off-shore wind. But even then, predicting when this fickle beast will awaken can be extremely difficult.
On its best days Padang Padang offers stand-up barrels (sometimes two on the same wave) and an open face for strong turns.
But this isn’t for everyone. Not even close.
Wiping out here is no joke. Especially on the end sections during low tide. Padang Padang is a dangerous playground fit for the top 1% of surfers.
The ones who feel at home here often have the skills to make it look easy, so watch these surfers with humble eyes.
Desired by many intermediate/advanced surfers, Balangan is a fun and speedy wave that works best on lower tides with large swell ideally over head-high. On the best days, surfers can score rides for 100 yards or more. But overall this wave is the less attractive cousin to popular spots on the Bukit like Uluwatu, Bingin, and properly working Padang Padang.
Barrels here are less common (which is often seen as a positive thing for surfers who arrive on the Bukit only to find out they aren’t quite cut out for the punchy waves this island is famous for).
On smaller swells, Balangan turns into closeout city. You’ll need to maintain a lot of speed to get past quick-moving sections.
And during high tide on smaller swells, Balagnan gets flooded by beginners on longboards. So if you’re looking to learn the basics in a non-intimidating lineup, this is a good starting point.
Just north of Bingin, Dreamland is one of the prettiest beaches and the greatest spots to watch the sunset on the Bukit. Breaking in relatively deep water with a sand-covered reef, this wave is much more tame compared to many if not all other breaks on the Bukit Peninsula.
Even on larger swells, Dreamland is a rolly, playful wave that rarely barrels making it an ideal spot for novice-intermediate surfers who have fewer options that match their skill level.
On low tide, you can get lucky with long rides that turn into a steep, fast-moving end section which often attracts a separate lineup of surfers looking to throw uncompleted airs on the shore break.
High tide pretty much wipes Dreamland off the table entirely.
Because Dreamland attracts a slew of surfers with subpar to mediocre skill levels, if you’re a talented surfer looking to score a lot of waves in a short amount of time, this is the spot to do it. However, you’ll be sacrificing some quality for quantity.
And because of the mediocre crowd, the surf etiquette here is pretty embarrassing compared to other spots on the Bukit. The lineup is more of a free-for-all and you’ll often need to announce your takeoff and shout off other surfers accidentally pulling down the face in front of you. There are no bad vibes, but I quickly learned that communication is critical to succeeding here.
What Do You Need To Pack For Your Trip To The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali?
This is where most people tend to overthink. Don’t be most people.
I was surprised when making my way through the Denpasar Airport how many tourists walked around with one or two suitcases full of their belongings. Unless you’re a full-time resident of Bali, lugging around camera equipment, or something like that, bringing a suitcase full of shit seems very unnecessary.
To me at least.
The Bukit Peninsula of Bali is NOT like other areas of Southeast Asia. It’s way more developed than you realize and in many of ways, it’s right up there with the standards of the Western world when it comes to amenities, food, stores, services, etc. Many of the Western comforts you rely on will not be sacrificed during your trip to the Bukit.
Long story short, pack light. Mobility is key and the more unnecessary shit you bring, the more items you’ll be responsible for lugging around.
99% of things you could forget, lose, or break during your trip can be easily replaced for often times a fraction of the price you’d pay back in America.
For a two-month trip I brought my laptop, two board shorts, a hand full of tank tops, two pair of nicer pants, one pair of shoes, and one pair of flip flops.
I purchased two light button-down shirts, one hat, and a bag of whey protein powder (most Indonesian food lacks protein). All of this could be fit into one relatively medium to large-sized travel backpack.
If we’re talking about shoes… I wore my actual (👆🏼) shoes less than five times total throughout two months; a few times going out to the bars and when I was at the airport. That is it, and that is all.
In Bali, even construction workers wear flip flops.
Pro Tip: Board shorts come in all different styles and patterns. They’re colorful and printed with vibrant lines or flowers. I avoid these for one reason: I like my items to be multi-purposed (allowing me to pack less). I’ll wear a comfortable, well-fitted pair of black boardshorts surfing, around town, and even at nicer restaurants, fitting in perfectly almost anywhere.
Plus, I hate rushing back to the villa to change clothes before my evening plans.
Should You Bring, Buy, Or Rent A Surfboard In Bali?
Ahhh yes, the debate that is often not talked about. There’s really no right or wrong answer necessarily, it just depends on you and the trip you’re looking for.
Bringing a board could make sense if you have that “one magic board” that you can’t live without but honestly, the price you’d likely have to pay in order to get it on the flight, along with the likelihood of it getting damaged during transport makes this a less than ideal solution in my eyes.
However, if you’re bringing a quiver of boards and have a bag suitable to fit all of them, that makes more sense. Especially if you plan on staying a while or surfing some high-quality swell that’s on the forecast.
Renting a board is somewhat of a decent option but from the shops I checked out on the Bukit (and I’ve been to all of them) the quality of rental boards I saw was pretty subpar for an intermediate to advanced surfer.
However, If you’re not a diehard surfer and still getting the swing of things, picking up a rental board for $5-$10 a day may be a good option.
What about buying a board?
Buying a board, in my opinion, is the best option. For a few reasons.
First, you’ll be able to pick out a board that is tailored perfectly for you, your ability, your body, and the style of ride you’re looking for. Next, it eliminates the logistics of lugging around a board through the airport and likely having to pay for expensive freight costs.
Most of the surf shops around the Bukit Peninsula have a buy-back program and will purchase your used board from you. That way, if you don’t want to take your new board home you can at least get a little money back.
I picked up a brand new board, fins, and a leash for $400 and fell in love after my first session. I intended to sell it back after my trip but quickly changed my mind and had a custom travel bag made for $100.
I shipped the board home with me and to my utter disbelief, China Airlines did NOT charge me for it. Do with this information what you will… I can not guarantee you will face the same fortune.
PS. I bought my surfboard from Board Labs and had the custom bag made by Uluwatu Board Bags (a one-man operation just up the steps from the Uluwatu cave).
Ding Repair On The Bukit Peninsula
With time the inevitable will happen.
A tipped-over motorbike, a hard wipeout, a slip down the Uluwatu stairs, or an aggressive interaction with a territorial monkey can leave you with a dinged surfboard. But on the bright side, you’re probably not as clumsy as me because I had to have my board repaired three separate times during my sixty-three day trip.
When it comes to damaged surfboards, the Bukit Peninsula is the best place in the world for it to happen.
There is plenty of options for ding repair all over the place and you’ll see signs for these shops everywhere. The turnaround for these repairs are usually 24-48 hours so if you get quoted longer, ask around. The most I paid for a professional repair was $10.
Where To Stay On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
The Bukit Peninsula, being relatively small still has five distinct “neighborhoods” where you can stay.
By looking at a map you can easily think “Oh I can’t go wrong anywhere” and to some degree, you’d be correct… But at the same time, some neighborhoods have some significant advantages over others.
Before we get into the different options, there are a few things I’d like to warn you about when choosing your villa.
Keep in mind, the Bukit and all of Bali are still growing very fast. I’ve heard stories of people renting one of the nicest villas on Airbnb only to realize there’s an active construction site directly next door. Personally, I never had an issue with that but maybe it’s worth asking before you book if you’re concerned.
Villa prices fluctuate drastically from the slow to peak seasons. During the month of May, I had plenty of good options available under $45 a night. However, just a few weeks later when I began looking in June, July, and August, prices start to increase rapidly and quality options become more scarce with the influx of tourists coming in.
For these reasons the best thing you can do is download Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, and Agoda. If you’re looking to find the best accommodation possible, check all four booking platforms before committing to your decision.
Pecatu (seen on many maps as Petjatu)
Pecatu has some of the more affordable locations on the Bukit when it comes to villa rentals. $30-$60 can get you a long way here (in my experience).
It’s relatively quiet, out of the way from the hustle and bustle, yet still only 10-15 minutes from all the good surf spots, bars, and restaurants.
However, expect to hear the roosters sound their alarms at sunrise. This is pretty common in a lot of areas and is seen by many as an annoyance. Personally, I’m an early riser and wasn’t too bothered by it.
Just North of Pecatu lies Ungasan in the heart of the hustle and bustle. This is where many local businesses thrive and this area is a busy transportation corridor for people traveling to and from Kuta.
During the late morning to afternoon, the main road gets extremely congested with traffic leaving people on motorbikes to ride on the sidewalks and in between oncoming traffic to get where they’re trying to go.
Overall there are a lot of very affordable villas here and I wouldn’t say I necessarily advocate against staying in Ungasan, yet it definitely would not be my first option.
However, you’re still around 15 minutes to most quality surf breaks and within arms reach of cafes, restaurants, laundry service, and whatever else you’d need throughout your day. For a traveler on a budget, this may be a good option for you.
At the Southern tip of the Bukit Peninsula lies one of the most popular areas in all of Bali, you’ve probably heard of it. Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is where all the cool kids hang out. It’s home to the best surf breaks on the whole island, busy cliffside bars, more amazing restaurants than you can possibly eat at, and plenty of upscale shops and boutiques.
Accommodations can be very luxurious and very expensive. But that’s not to say you can’t find a deal here or there if that’s what you are aiming for.
If you’re not staying in Uluwatu, you’ll certainly be commuting to it from wherever else you stay. But if you want to be within 5 minutes away from perfect waves, the best places to eat, and all the nightlife, Uluwatu should be near the top of your list.
And personally, there’s only one place I believe tops Uluwatu.
That place is…
Ahhh yes, Bingin Beach baby. Where the Bintangs flow like water, the waves break smoother than Kelly Slater’s wave pool, and the monkeys roam like scavengers.
After two months in Indonesia, I stumbled upon Bingin Beach during my last 10 days and immediately fell in love. It’s a paradise beyond all others.
While near the heartbeat of the Bukit Peninsula, Bingin is slightly isolated as it sits at the bottom of a secluded section of cliffs. It requires you to walk down a significant number of stairs to access the villas and restaurants but that keeps the crowds to a minimum.
That being said, all the strangers I met here were some of the nicest, most fun group of individuals ever.
A place like Bingin is hard to describe and once you see it for yourself you’ll see why.
Lucky Fish Lounge looks right over the surf break, they offer a daily seafood barbecue on the sand, and host live music almost every night. Enjoy some great food, good music, perfect waves, and stunning oceanfront villas.
You’ll never want to leave but if you do, everything the Bukit has to offer is right at your fingertips.
Villa prices here will be on the more expensive end but if you can make it work within your budget I recommend Bingin over all other options.
We lucked out and found an oceanfront villa for only $60 a night.
Just remember to lock your doors and windows when you leave so your villa isn’t raided by monkeys… A lesson I learned the hard way.
Renting A Scooter On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
If you visit the Bukit, renting a motorbike is an absolute must.
The Bukit (and all of Bali for that matter) is not a walking-friendly area. And the freedom of having a scooter will allow you to soak in the full experience.
A scooter rental will cost anywhere from $5 to $15 a day depending on the quality of the bike and the duration of the rental. The longer you rent it, the cheaper rate you can negotiate.
There are plenty of scooter rental shops scattered all over the Bukit. You can do a quick Google search and contact people via whatsapp, or you can contact the host of your villa and they can often times direct you to someone they know.
Just make sure to specify that you a scooter with a surfboard rack.
125cc Vs. 150cc
Motorbikes/Mopeds/Scooters generally come in two different engine sizes; 125cc and 150cc.
If you’re going to be traveling mostly solo, a 125cc is just fine. The motorbike will be slightly smaller than a 150cc and can easily be maneuvered through Bali’s congested traffic.
If you’re consistently traveling with surfboards and a passenger on the back, a 150cc will be your best option. It has more room to fit everything comfortably and offers a little more power to keep you moving up some of the steeper hills. They will be a few dollars more per day but the quality of the ride will be worth it.
Are Scooter Crashes Common In Bali?
The short answer is yes. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
During my trip, I met over six separate people who have been in crashes and I heard numerous stories from others who had their friends shipped home to have their motorbike injuries addressed by higher quality-doctors.
This sounds shocking, and to some degree it is. Especially because only half the people on scooters wear helmets. The helmet I received with my scooter didn’t even buckle properly.
There’s a natural flow that must be adhered to when riding a motorbike on the Bukit. And some people just aren’t cut out for it. If you’ve never ridden a scooter before, Bali isn’t the best place to learn (even though so many people do).
The local shops will rent a scooter to anyone with cash in their pocket, which leaves a lot of people on the roads who shouldn’t be. This is particularly relevant in more populated spots like Canggu.
But that’s not to say riding a motorbike is impossible. If you’re a competent learner and know your limits, you should be fine. But if you aren’t ready for it, save yourself (and others) the risk.
And if you’re not willing to deal with the complexities of scooting around the Bukit, you still have some options.
Using Grab And Gojek On The Bukit Peninsula
The apps Grab and Gojek are the Indonesian equivalent of Uber. You can call a ride from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. And it’s ridiculously cheap. I ordered food many times for less than $6 and had ridden across the Bukit myself for under $1.
If you’re not quite sure whether a motorbike is right for you, just get around using one of these apps for the first couple of days and if you feel comfortable you can rent a scooter after the fact.
The Best Restaurants On The Bukit Peninsula
Bali’s cafe culture is huge. Even on the Bukit.
People come from all over the world to the Bukit peninsula. They fall in love, refuse to leave, and open up restaurants serving dishes from their home country. I know it sounds funny but it’s true.
You’ll find quality restaurants serving Italian food, Thai food, American food, Mexican food, Japanese food, and everything in between. Not to mention amazing local food on basically every corner.
You can’t go wrong almost anywhere but these are my top picks.
Lolas Cantina Mexicana – Uluwatu
Coming from San Diego my standard for Mexican food is high… That’s why I was hesitant to try Mexican dishes in Indonesia. But to my surprise, this place was insanely delicious and had a super cool atmosphere. Good food, even better drinks, and right in the heart of Uluwatu.
Lucky Fish Lounge – Bingin
Live music, front-row seats to one of the best surf breaks, and a fresh seafood barbecue on the sand make this place one of my absolute favorites. If you don’t eat here at least once during your trip you’re missing out.
But wait until the evening, that’s when the music starts.
Lima Cafe – Uluwatu
One of the best budget-friendly spots on the Bukit, this place is only a 2-minute drive from the Uluwatu surf break. This was my go-to breakfast spot after a long morning of catching waves. Most items on the menu are under $6 and many of them are healthy.
Seed – Bingin
Founded by a couple of French chefs/surfers, this restaurant is probably in the top three nicest places I’ve ever eaten at. The quality of the food is outstanding and many of the ingredients are pulled fresh, daily out of their garden.
These are just a few options but I’m barely scratching the surface. Try as many different places as you can and don’t settle for the same restaurant every night! The local warungs cook up some amazing local food and the Nasi Goreng is a staple worth indulging on.
Buying A Sim Card On The Bukit Peninsula Of Bali
Many people traveling to the Bukit Peninsula arrange a temporary international phone plan through their current carrier. This is a good option however, it’s not as reliable as a local Telcomsel sim card. For unlimited 5g data, I paid about $50 a month and had better service than I have back home in San Diego.
You can get by with either option but if you plan on traveling around to more rural areas, perhaps a Telcomsel sim card would be your best option overall. Just make sure you store your U.S sim card somewhere it won’t get lost.
Also, if you want to make international calls back home, make sure you specify that with the person selling you your sim card.
What Do The Daily Expenses On Bali’s Bukit Peninsula Look Like?
The Bukit Peninsula of Bali is one of those places that can accommodate almost any budget (at least for now). Backpackers on a shoestring can get by on merely $6 a night at the cheapest hostel in town, eat for $1-$2 a meal at local warungs, and rent a decent 125cc scooter for around $6 a day.
It depends on the individual but most people would want to allocate at least $20 a day for miscellaneous expenses and random costs for fun activities throughout the day.
This leaves you with a rough daily estimate of $38 a day. Quite ridiculous. But let’s be honest, you’re in Bali. Do you really want to be the guy staying at the $6 a night hostel every night and only eating at the local food carts?
But on the other hand, you’re more than likely not coming here to stay at one of the insanely unncecessary $2,000/night villas either.
The point is, you can go to either of the two extremes while on the Bukit. But for an average assessment in 2023, you can effectively “get by” on about $100 a day… And that gives you some freedom.
For a solo surfer looking to have a good time, $50 a night will get you a fairly nice room at a local guesthouse (which often times has a pool). You’ll need to spend about $15 a day for meals at nicer restaurants. And between a motorbike, miscellaneous expenses, and fun activities you’re looking at another $35.
Not too bad if I say so myself.
But the irony of the situation is; when you converse with experienced travelers (and many of the locals) you’ll find that on an Indonesia scale, $93 a day is expensive.
For example, in the neighboring island of Sumbawa a beautiful oceanfront villa next to one of it’s surf spots will run you $20 and a nice meal with a beer will be around $5.
However, for just $100-$200 a day in Bali, you’ll be living like a queen/king.
Below are some average expenses you’ll face during your next trip to the Bukit (these are in USD and updated to match 2023 prices).
- Nice Villa: $55/night
- Meal with a drink at a nice restaurant: $11
- Overnight laundry: $3.50
- 125cc motorbike per day: $9
- Beer at a beach bar: $2-$3
- Parking at most beaches: $0.33/day
- Meal at a local warung: $4
- Full tank of petrol: $3
- Coconut: $2-$4
- Smoothie: $3-$5
- Coffee: $1-$2
- Cocktail at a nightclub: $7
- 60 minute massage: $6-$20+
- 60 minute guided yoga class: $6
- Grab driver from the airport to Uluwatu: $20 (on the higher end)
Negative Aspects Of The Bukit Peninsula
In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons 100 to 1… However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY drawbacks.
Much Of The Local Culture Has Been Overshadowed
For starters, if you’re looking for a true local Indonesian experience full of uncompromised culture, the Bukit ain’t it.
Hell, Bali ain’t it.
Bali has almost completely molded itself into a culture tailored specifically for tourists and transient surfers, which is perfect if you fit in that venn diagram.
But if you want to be truly one with the locals go check out the less developed areas of the island or neighboring islands of Java, Lombok, or Sumbawa.
However, anyone who tells you there’s no local culture at all is simply wrong. It’s there, it’s just been molded… You’ll see when you get there. The Bule’s haven’t ruined EVERYTHING.
The Crowd Factor
Especially during the peak seasons and dry months, the Bukit Peninsula attracts a large crowd. If you’re looking to meet a bunch of people from all over the world this makes it one of the best places to do so.
But with more tourists come crowded surf spots, lots of traffic, and higher prices (on a SouthEast Asia scale). Keep this in mind if you’re looking for some peace, quiet, and solitude during your trip.
Infrastructure and Trash
While being well developed compared to other areas of Indonesia, the Bukit still lacks quality infrastructure. There are few sidewalks, plenty of ran down developments, and a very weak system for disposing of trash.
Locals burn their trash and much of it can be found in the oceans and on local beaches, a pretty disappointing sight to see firsthand. Local organizations have sprouted to combat this issue and it is good to see this problem starting to become addressed.
The healthcare in Bali is subpar at best. Getting stitches to repair cuts from the reef is one thing but when it comes to more serious matters the Bukit Peninsula of Bali is not the place you’d want to be.
This may not seem like a huge deal to many young surfers but when you think how many people are taking on challenging waves over super shallow reefs and the risks of riding scooters everywhere, relying on Indonesia’s medical system left me feeling slightly uneasy.
If your next trip is filled with exciting and slightly dangerous activities like surfing (as it should), purchasing an international insurance plan is a smart move.
You can get a temporary one-month plan for less than $20… I’m not here to shake my finger in your face and say “You outta do this”, but at the same time… Your mom will be happy.
The Bukit Peninsula Vs Canggu And Ubud
There’s more to Bali than simply the Bukit Peninsula and Uluwatu. In fact, the Bukit gets arguably less attention overall when compared to Canggu and Ubud.
Well, let me just describe each of them to you and you can draw your own conclusions.
Many young travelers and ex-pats flock to Canggu looking for an introspective, hedonistic experience full of self-discovery yet many of these individuals leave with little more than a sexy Instagram page and a newfound smoking habit.
Canggu is significantly more crowded than Uluwatu. The surf culture is alive, but way less prominent than what you’ll experience on the Bukit. Many of the people you’ll meet will be online coaches of some kind or social media influencers in the pursuit of likes and comments. The parties are fun, the food is great, the surf is good, and the pace is fast. Very fast compared to Uluwatu.
The surf is still high quality, especially given it’s mostly made up of beach breaks. But the crowds are thick and the beaches aren’t as beautiful as the ones on the Bukit. But for someone who’s learning, Canggu is better suited for you.
If you’re looking to mingle with other travelers, party your ass off, and want to catch some waves without making surfing the focal point of your trip, Canggu is the place.
There are plenty of people looking to make friends, nice cafes on every corner, and a handful of good beach breaks that suit any skill level.
An area full of art, invasive monkeys, scenic cafes, and incredible rice terrace-filled landscapes. If you’re coming to Ubud you’re likely trying to fulfill your spiritual journey, obtain a yoga certification, or become an artist.
All jokes aside, Ubud is a unique place that provides a lot of the scenery that Bali is famous for.
There’s good food, lots of tourists, and no waves… Ubud is inland, about an hour from the nearest coast. So if you’re a surfer, Ubud is likely not on your radar.
But for those willing to get off the beaten path and get a little lost, Ubud and the surrounding areas will show you what real life in Bali is all about.
Kids flying kites in the rice terraces, old farmers mending their crops, locals drying out rice at their doorstep, and local artists hand chiseling wooden doors and sculptures.
It’s worth a visit if you want to experience a bit more culture however, if your sole focus is to hunt down world-class waves the jungle of Ubud isn’t where you want to be looking.
So What Is Better?
It’s all subjective and depends on the experience YOU’RE looking for.
For me, the Bukit Peninsula is by far the best place in all of Bali and blows Canggu and Ubud out of the water. The food, the lifestyle, the scenery, the people… all of it.
Some of which are too good to even be put into words.
Apart from beautiful rice terraces, the Bukit Peninsula offers everything Canggu and Ubud have but without the downsides. It also has better beaches and the highest-quality surf on the island.
What Is The Future Of The Bukit Peninsula?
Once favored by backpackers and culture-seeking tourists, the ship carrying a truly local Balinese/Indonesian experience has mostly sailed away. There are still plenty of options to get off the beaten path but the culture has shifted to fit the new wave of tourism.
What was once a barren no mans land is quickly turning into a place for expats to work the visa system, digital nomads live a life of luxury (without telling their boss they are 8,000 miles away)… a place where lost souls to search for purpose, heartbroken romantics fulfill their eat pray love experience. A place where young(ish) Aussies drink until they’re crosseyed, and where no waves go unridden. There’s no place like Bali.
But really, there really isn’t.
Nowadays, a rice farmer will work morning until night to make ends meet while a tourist happily spends his monthly income to rent a villa that overlooks his crop.
Life’s a trip.
In areas around Uluwatu and Canggu, the failed real estate investments are visible with many projects half completed due to investors running out of money. It reminds me of the vacant hotels you’ll see on your next surf trip in Northern Baja, Mexico.
Cynical speculators say that tourists will suck Bali dry and move on to their next victim (Lombok or Sumbawa).
The optimistic speculators predict that in a decade or so, maybe sooner, Bali on an infrastructure level will be comparable to the standards set in place by the West. This is a positive outlook but in order for it to become reality a lot of work needs to be done.
Some say that these are just the learning curves that are experienced when a developing island is forced to meet the demands from Western tourists and over time infrastructure will be built better. The weak businesses looking to make a quick buck on the boom will die while the strong ones looking to become a staple for the island will survive the tests of time and market fluctuations.
Expat groups are already doing their work to help clean up the trash. The government is working on plans to improve traffic congestion by developing new routes. Over time the properties will be updated and built to higher and higher standards.
Soon the old days of the 60s when wild boar and water buffalos roamed free and the quiet pace of Bali’s history will be nothing more than a distant memory. Eventually, this island will be completely transformed into a permanent hub for people working remotely, establish itself as the “Hawaii for Australians”, and fulfill its reputation of a boujee surf destination fit for travelers and couples.
Is this for the good? Depends who you ask.
But when your mind becomes stressed by the bigger picture, there will be waves on the Bukit waiting to consume your focus.
Undisturbed as they were decades before and as they will hopefully be for decades to come.
If you want to find me I’ll be patiently waiting my turn to clean up the inside section at Uluwatu.