The Beaches (Pantai)

This post is dedicated to Mitch and Kelsi who planted the Bali bug in my ear when they were planning their own Far East odyssey.

The Bukit rises high above the sea.  This means many steps down and even more coming back up. 

My favourite beach is Balangan which has the fewest steps and is the nicest beach I have visited.  It has a high promontory that is very popular for weddings.

Balangan Beach, or Pantai Balangan, is one of Bali’s most unknown but most scenic, featuring a gorgeous half-kilometre stretch of golden sand bordered between vegetated limestone cliffs and a reef with one of the longest left-hander breaks on the island.

Balangan Beach shares the same vicinity as Dreamland, set only a kilometre apart, but 5 km by road and separated by a small headland that serves as the famous signature Hole 15 of the New Kuta Golf Course, from where players get the best bird’s eye-view over both beaches and the ocean horizon. Bingin Beach Homestays are clinging to the cliff in the upper left corner.

15th Hole

The beach is long and kept very clean. There are a few surf schools and basic cafes.  Because it is fairly difficult to find, the beach is not busy and the service is very good.  A chair and umbrella rent for 50 thousand Rupiah (CAD$5) per day.  The surf is good, too.

 

The plus is relatively few steps to navigate.

Stairs to Balangan Beach

Bingin Beach is a short 5 minute walk from the villa to the top of the cliff before you start a really disconcerting decent on very uneven stairs.  The  walkway to the stairs is very Balinese.

Make an offering and say your prayers!

The Bingin challenge.  Imagine navigating these with your surf board, luggage, and supplies for the rooms at beach level.

And, surprise, I have no pictures at beach side and couldn’t convince myself to make one more decent/accent to get one.

The view from mid stairs at Bingin towards Dreamland Beach.

However, what makes Bingin special is the way that the various Homestay surf rooms cling down the cliff.  Bingin is in the right upper hand corner. A picture says a thousand words.

The view from Dreamland to Bingin Beach

Dreamland Beach.  It sounds so dreamy and looks that way too, from afar.  The beach is relatively small and dominated by a large ugly hotel, Klapa New Kuta Beach Hotel, that guards the entrance down to the beach.  You have to enter the hotel and use their stairs to get to the beach.  They want 600,000 Rupiah (CAD$60) to create an account from each person not a guest at the hotel.  You could then charge drinks, food, chairs and umbrellas.  At the end of your stay, you would get a refund or pay more depending upon how wild you got.

The beach itself is small and pretty with good surf.

The hotel is a favourite package tour destination for the mainland Chinese who love to chain smoke and seem to like looking at their phlegm. A lot.  

The day I first went, I marched in like I belonged and went down to the beach without being challenged for a deposit.  I didn’t stay because the chairs were all taken and the beach was quite dirty.

The second time I  went was with Kelsi and Mitch and it was then that we learned about setting up expense accounts.  We, left but I knew there must be another way down to the beach because we could see motor scooters and food carts across the river valley from the hotel grounds.  Bali, being Bali and the way the roads worked saw us actually driving about 5 kms  back towards our villa and then down a steep bricked road to the beach on the other side of the river.

Road down to Dreamland.
Local shops along the river at Dreamland and the cement bunker that is the hotel.

It was from this vantage point that we could see that there was a problem with pollution.  Both on the beach and in the river. 

But, to our delight, after we went around the rocks to the left, we found a beautiful stretch of deserted sand dominated by an abandoned Homestay/Café/Bar.

Padang Padang Beach.  Locally referred to as Pantai Labuan Sait, for the main road beside it, is one of Bali’s most famous surf spots, located on the north-western coast of the Bukit Peninsula.  This beach features an exotic setting.  The beach is accessible down a flight of stairs through a unique hollow rock entrance.

Labuan Sait crosses a bridge that connects the two sides of the limestone cliffs, offering a glimpse down to the beach from up high. Halfway down the flight of stairs is a temple that overlooks the surf.

Padang Padang Beach was featured as a romantic setting in the 2010 big-screen adaptation of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by the beach after all of the hype.  It has a lot of short seaweed that washes up and if not removed smells bad as it rots in the sun.  The sand is darker so appears dirty.  However, the access stairs, and there are many, are of a uniform height and depth making the going up and coming down relatively easy.  There is also a large parking lot for buses, so the beach gets quite crowded from the packaged tour groups which does make it very busy, indeed.

Suluban Beach access is very unique.  Concealed by natural limestone formations and accessed via steps and log ramps through narrow gaps in the rock. Canopied by a looming cliff face, this small beach may not be ideal for sunbathers, but serves pro surfers well as a base to paddle out and ride adjacent reef breaks, including around Uluwatu, just to the south.

Suluban Cave

Mitch, Kelsi and I made the decent down the cliff, but the  tide was in and prevented us from leaving the cave and accessing the beach.  We did go up to a café to observe the surf where Kelsi determined it was a bit too big for her.

Suluban High Tide. Surfers paddling out.
From the sea. The cave is to the left and it is high tide

I will make another attempt because there are natural swimming pools that appear when the tide is out.

Natural pools at Suluban

And last and certainly one of the most stunning beaches, Nyang Nyang.  Nyang Nyang is a pristine 1.5-kilometre stretch of coastline and also one of Bali’s least visited beaches. This is partly due to its far-flung location and the long trek required to reach it.  The beach is located in the Bukit, but is on the south coast whereas all the others were on the west coast.  It is located half a kilometre’s drive southeast of the Uluwatu Temple.  

There are two routes that I know of branching off from the Jalan Uluwatu main road that leads down to two halves of Nyang Nyang Beach, one of them is via Jalan Batu Nunggulan. From this end, you need to continue on an approximate half-hour trek down moderately rugged terrain and flight of stairs – a journey I was told that was well worth it thanks to the splendid views over the limestone hillside covered in lush greenery and flowering bushes.

Sounds and views of the ocean accompany your steady descent.  The flight of stairs doesn’t end at the beach, but on flat grassy plain. Beyond this prize view is a deserted coastline where you can sink your feet into the coarse sand. The deserted terrain is bordered by slanting cliffs as far as your eyes can see, with thin mists hanging above the ocean. Out at sea you will be able to see the natural reef that breaks the incoming tides, allowing for calm and clear waters bordering the coast.

Or, You can try the new road cut into the cliff.

The road ends a third of the way down where you can park your scooter in the shade.  That black seat gets griddle hot in the sun.  I bought a piece of batik to cover it if it has sat out in the sun for any length of time.  The rest of the decent is via a rough path through the brush.  Imagine carrying a surf board and enough food and water for the day.; there is nothing but sand and surf at the bottom.

The views are worth it.

There was evidence that it was a tough walk and you needed to be prepared.

The dead and dying litter the road

Getting back up presented a real challenge for my amateur scooter talents.  The road is really rough sand and large gravel and too much throttle caused the rear tire to spin and me to go sideways towards the cliff edge.  Easy does it!

There is one small irritant in visiting the beaches of the Bukit and that is the required pay for parking.   The fee really is nominal and I wouldn’t mind paying if the roads to the parking lots and the beach stairs were better.  Some are just trails opened with a grader and very rough to navigate.  Some leave you at the top of the cliff with very rough stairs to access the beach.  Bingin, one of the older established surf beaches charging for parking was the worst.  Padang Padang the best, but most expensive to access.  So, obviously, the parking fees at some beaches are not being used to upgrade or maintain access.  Nyang Nyang, so far, is free.  Beloved Balangan charges a nominal fee and is really easy to access from the parking lot.  Luckily, it is hidden in a maze of roads from Kuta.  From my villa you have to drive through a gated access road to the Splendid condo development, onto the New Kuta Golf Course road that ends at a guard station.  From there, down and up out of a valley on one of the roughest roads you can imagine.  Through another guarded gate before actually getting on a good paved road to the cliff edge.  But once there, your slice of paradise awaits.

 

 

 

 

 

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