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+ Concentrated world-class spots
+ Wet and dry season waves
+ Beginner and expert spots
+ Unique balinese culture
+ Wild night-life
+ Cheap
- Very crowded waves
- Traffic Jams
- Dangerous driving conditions
- Touts and Hustlers

Bukit Peninsula, Indonesia, EAST ASIA

Uluwatu, John Callahan/Tropicalpix

Surf Spots

Padang Padang
Green Ball
Nyang Nyang

The Surf

Bali is “The island of 1000 temples” which the locals believe is blessed by the gods. The gods certainly have blessed the local surfers, because they live in a perfect, tropical surf paradise. Although 40 years of booming tourism development has drastically transformed the landscape and the line-ups, Bali remains an essential surfing experience. There is no denying the quality and quantity of its surf, when SW swells wrap consistent lines around the Bukit Peninsula into straight offshore winds, creating a list of world-class lefts, including Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Bingin and Kuta Reef. Add to these the quality beachbreaks of Kuta and Legian, plus the east side rights of Nusa Dua, Sanur and Keramas or Shipwrecks and Lacerations on Nusa Lembongan, then it becomes obvious that Bali has one of the highest concentration of quality waves on the planet. It’s geographical position mid-chain with the plunging depths of the Java Trench just offshore plus the island like symmetry of the Bukit peninsula poking into the regular SW swell train, offering offshore flexibility during the predictable trade wind seasons are just two of the defining factors that make Bali’s surf so good. There’s a huge variety of wave types from sublime, coral-floored caverns to supine, sand bottomed beachies that seem to bring the best out of surfers from complete beginners to budding pros. This microcosm of perfection has bred a couple of generations of supremely talented local surfers, who surf with a grace and ease that sits beautifully alongside the poise and unhurried approach to life that the general Balinese population exudes.

When to Go

Like the rest of the south-facing islands in the archipelago, Bali benefits from an almost endless supply of Southern Ocean groundswell arriving form the S to WSW (180º-247º) but by far the most consistent direction is due SW (225º). These swells range from 3-12ft (1-4m), with averages around 5ft @ 11secs from Nov-March, then upping to 7-8ft @ 14secs in the middle of the April to Oct high season. Underlying windswell can mix in from the SE to the W but has little bearing on the surf at most breaks. Sometimes, 6-10ft (2-3m) tropical cyclone swells can arrive from far off disturbances in the western Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar and occasionally from storms a lot closer, forming around the Keeling Islands and NW Australia through the southern hemisphere summer. The big Bay of Bengal typhoons are too far north for Bali. Swells are focused onto the Bukit Peninsula because of the deep-water channels on either side of Bali, particularly the east side Lombok channel, which can draw in overhead waves to Nusa Dua when everywhere else seems too small. The ESE trade winds blow reliably from April to Oct, giving west Bukit breaks a 50% chance of being a 5 star day throughout June, July and August. Transition months can have oscillating winds with a bit of everything – Nov blows mainly from the SE to SW. Winds then shift SW-NW for the Dec to March wet-season, with either side of W dominant and a higher percentage of SW than NW, which is not ideal for many east coast spots like Nusa Dua, Serangan and Keramas. March is more W-SW with 1 day in 5 swinging back to ESE offering the chance of empty Ulu’s for the switched on. Wet season wind speeds are on the whole lower, usually staying below 10mph (16kph) compared to the dry season SE trades which regularly hit double that. Tide charts are posted in surf shop windows. There is a big and a small tide each day (semi-diurnal odd) and some spots only work at certain stages of tide especially if it is small. Full and new moons often see a jump in swell size as tidal range increases and these spring high tides occur around the same time of day throughout the year. Charts are widely available in surf shops and on the internet.

dominant swell - - - - - -
swell size (ft)
consistency (%)
dominant wind - - - - - -
average force
consistency (%)
water temp (C)
Bali - 3,551,000

437km (271mi)

GMT +8h

Travel Information


The two distinct seasons don’t always run like clockwork and El Nino years in the Pacific usually extend the dry season to its’ limits of April-Nov when temps range from a night low of 23°C (74°F) to a day high of 33ºC (92ºF), tempered by sea breezes and the odd rain shower during the night. Conversely, La Nina patterns can bring unseasonal, torrential rains in mid dry season months. Nov-April is hotter, wetter, and more humid. Jan-Feb suffers from heavy afternoon rains and stifling humidity averaging at 85%. The mountains can be quite cold, especially at night. Water temps are usually a tepid 28°C (82°F), but can dip to 25ºC (77ºF) and always feels a tiny bit cooler at the deepwater spots like Nusa Dua. Surfing in a white T-shirt can aid cooling while a light vest may add a thin veneer of protection against the reef and cold mornings.


Unusually for Indonesia, the Balinese practice an unusual form of Hinduism with a dash of Buddism and Animism, creating a fascinating religious culture centred on ritual ceremonies and offerings. Favourite tourist haunts include the artist village of Ubud, sunrise over Lake Batur and the lofty volcanic peak of Agung mountain, which dominates the landscape. There are also famous temples (Uluwatu, Tanah Lot, Besakih), myriad shopping opportunities and great restaurants serving international and local Indonesian meals. Kuta nightlife is a legendary, hedonistic melting pot of nightclubs and parties fuelled by cheap(ish) alcohol.


Mosquitos carry dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and malaria (officially not present on Bali) – avoid bites. Considering the lack of sewage treatment and general sanitation levels, it’s not surprising that cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, Bali-belly and TB are prevalent. Avoid rivermouths. Don’t drink local water supply, ice or fruit/veg not freshly peeled/cooked. Dogs can carry rabies. Be careful of thieves, scammers and hustlers – drugs are a big no-no. Motorbike road-rash or shallow reef-rash are the biggest threats. If injured seriously, many recommend flying to Singapore or Darwin for hospital treatment as opposed to entering Denpasar Hospital. Private clinics and hospitals have improved treatment facilities but are expensive cash up front deals – get medical insurance!


Kuta has the highest concentration of well-stocked surf shops in the world and prices may compare favourably when looking at high airline board charges. It is possible to sell your gear to local shops and giving kids your spare boards, boots, leg ropes is normal practice. Learn some basic Indonesian, which is easy to pick up. Be courteous to the local surfers who may include surfing legends Made Kasim, Wayan Suwenda, Ketut Menda, Wayan Ganti, Made Switra, Rizal Tandjung, Ismael Dooley and Made Adi Putra to name just a few.