After spending our first 5 days in the jungles and rice paddies that surround the Ubud area, we decided to head south to the sunny-beachy area of Seminyak-Legian-Kuta. Kuta is the bigger of the three areas and has the highest population of tourists in Bali. I had heard mixed reviews about Kuta from people who have traveled to Bali. Some said they liked it because they had more “to do” activities- I will elaborate on that further in a minute. While others said they didn’t like Kuta because there were too many tourists and felt that it was a “typical” Southeast Asia city filled with stores, bars, and restaurants. For this reason we stayed a few miles north in Seminyak which I read had more of a chill vibe and less tourists but still had all of the comfort and amenities that Kuta had to offer.
Kuta is known as the tourist hub/destination of Bali, primarily because there are miles of beaches for surfing, boogie boarding, body surfing, etc. I also heard that Bali is a favorite vacation destination for a lot of Aussies and I particularly found that to be true in the Kuta area, as well as A LOT of surfers (like seriously, I was like share the beach!!).
Where We Stayed
Like I noted above, we decided we wanted to stay in Seminyak to avoid the hustle and bustle that I heard about Kuta. The hotel that we chose for Seminyak was similar to Furama in that we got another lagoon style villa, at a fairly inexpensive hotel ($150/night), with a restaurant on-site and free-ish transportation. Most of the hotels in the area will have some type of free shuttle service to take you to their main respective beaches; Seminyak Beach, Kuta Beach, Legian Beach, etc. depending on your hotel location. They’re all actually the same beach and overlooking the same view but just are separated because you are entering a different jurisdiction (I think). Our hotel offered free transportation to downtown as well as to the beach three times a day and offered at-cost transportation services for very little when traveling outside of Seminyak.
This is the view of the lagoon pool which was accessible from your backdoor if you rented the lagoon villa. The water is so warm you can just walk right in and go for a swim- why can’t this be my life all the time.
The hotel was very conveniently located and we could technically walk to the beach or downtown area from our hotel within 10-15 minutes. Usually we chose to ride a taxi because the street network in Bali is not built very well for pedestrians- with rocky sidewalks and no signals at most intersections making it extremely dangerous and agonizing to cross the street. Once you’re in the shopping district, the road narrows and there are less cars (a lot more scooters) so it is easier and safer to walk. We rented a cute 1-bedroom lagoon villa at Villa Seminyak (http://www.villaseminyak.net/villas-bali-lagoon-villa.html) and I reserved this room SUPER early, almost a year in advance and got like 30% off of our room.
The hotel was very clean and the staff (as with everyone in Bali) was extremely friendly and attentive with your needs. and since you are closer to the coast there were significantly less bugs than our first 5 days in Bali- which made me extremely happy! However, our room was constantly invaded by birds, especially during the morning and early afternoon hours.
***I’m not going to lie that was probably my least favorite part of the hotel if not the entire trip. I felt like my space was completely invaded, my short patience for this could also have been attributed to the fact that we were in the jungle for five days and eaten by bugs. I tried not to let it bother me during our stay and will not mention it again in this post, but just something to think about and look for when researching your stay in Bali (or anywhere).
Similar to Furama, the villa comes with complimentary breakfast every morning. We chose to go to the restaurant to enjoy our breakfast because it’s always a good time to get to meet the other hotel guests as well as the staff that work in the restaurant that you often don’t see on the grounds. Again, the staff was really friendly they would often chit-chat with us for a few minutes during breakfast. After breakfast our morning would consist of just lounging and swimming around the lagoon pool. Living in true Balinese vacation style I would go for a short swim and layout in the sun and then order some more room service (retirement goals AF), until it was time for the complimentary noon shuttle (10AM, 12PM, and 3PM) to take us to Seminyak Beach.
We stayed at Villa Seminyak for 4 days 3 nights and checked out both Kuta Beach and Seminyak Beach. Here is my personal on the two beaches.
Seminyak Beach is great if you want to rent a poolside lounge chair and order some tapas with some refreshing drinks and Kuta will be a better option if you are looking to enjoy some water sports such as surfing, boogie boarding, etc. (If you are looking for other water sports such as jet ski, snorkeling, scuba, etc those are in Nusa Dua where the water is a lot more calm and meant for those kinds of activities).
While we were at Seminyak we checked out B9B Bar that had beachside seating (majority of the restaurants do) in bean bag form with a table. We ordered some appetizers, again they had many western inspired food choices as well as some drinks (~$10). There were a lot of seats to rent from if you wanted to get closer to the water and not order food. In addition, you could bring your own beach towel to sit and tan/lounge around. The water was extremely warm so you can easily just walk right into it and start swimming around. Because there waves are more intense on this side of the island compared to Nusa Dua, there was a lot of shore swimming, boogie boarding, etc. However, most of the surfing can be found on Kuta beach.
We decided to save boogie boarding for Kuta because we heard the waves were better there for those types of activities and opted to go for a swim at Seminyak Beach. It was fun to splash around like a kid jumping up and down through the waves. Northern California’s beaches are entirely too cold to do such things. Overall, Seminyak Beach is great if you want to rent a poolside lounge chair and order some tapas with some refreshing drinks.
Seminyak Beach is lined with plenty of seating and restaurants beachside.
**Recommended if you have kids because they can swim around and play in the water and the equipment is pretty inexpensive as well. Kuta is a lot more crowded and there are a lot more people playing in the water so if you want more personal space in the water then I would recommend Seminyak as well. However, they are only about 15 minutes apart from each other and can easily check out both.
The downtown area in Seminyak has a lot more American, European, and Australian stores in comparison to Ubud.
We checked out Kuta Beach after checking out Seminyak and equally enjoyed it, but just had different experiences at both. Kuta has a lot more to offer in terms of shopping, food, massages, water sports packages and activities than Seminyak but if you’re looking to relax on the beach with less crowds and don’t mind having 50% less of the above mentioned amenities (restaurants, bars, shops), then check out Seminyak if you have to pick one. Kuta also has a lot more hotels located along the beach and depending what day of the week you are there you may be able to catch a pool party at one of the big hotels down there. The beach area is also lined with a lot of vendors who are renting out boogie boards, surf boards, and other water equipment for about $5-$10/hour depending what you’re renting. Do keep in mind that if nobody is going to stay onshore to watch your stuff, you will need to most likely pay the vendor to leave your belongings there while you’re out in the water.
Unlike Seminyak there aren’t many chairs for rent in Kuta and there seemed to be less beach front restaurants. However, there are lifeguards onsite at Kuta (probably due to all of the surfers) every 50 or so meters which definitely makes you feel more safe if you’re going into the water compared to the beach at Seminyak. Like I mentioned earlier, Kuta Beach is tries to cater more to the tourists in Bali and will have noticeably bigger hotels with day pool parties including drink deals, music, dancing, etc.
Bars, Clubs, Nightlife
The nightlife scene in Bali seemed to be nonexistent (to me at least) outside of Kuta. We took a taxi to Kuta one night to check out the bar scene in Bali. There were definitely a lot of bars and restaurants and a lot of people in general just walking around getting their night started. Very different to the jungles we experienced in Ubud. You could tell that the nightlife in Bali does start slow and doesn’t get going until about midnight, especially the bigger nightclubs and bars. There was even one nightclub we walked past that had 4 clubs in one building! The area also provided a good variety of bars and nightclubs. We saw a few Irish Pubs, lounges, restaurant/bars, as well as multi-level nightclubs with both Top 40s, Hip-Hop, Pop music. So it was nice to see that there was a lot of variety for your mood. Most of them did not have a cover fee, though big ones like the 4-clubs-in-1 did have a cover fee, so it does vary. Also those big hotels I mentioned earlier that have day parties, also have nightclubs. I did not have a chance to check them out, but did read up on them before going to Bali and if I had more time I would definitely go check them out!
TIP: Use your taxi driver, they will know what some popular nightclubs are.
The nightlife scene is always a fun way to meet other tourists and locals alike, nothing like some drinks to bring a few people together. Everyone is friendly in Bali, even the tourists. Kuta has a proportionately higher tourist rate than any other area in Bali that I was in and with that comes some of the “underground” world. For example, if you’re looking for drugs and/or red light district type activity then Kuta would be the area it can be found. I had a guy or two try to sell me drugs and I did see a handful of prostitutes, but nothing or no one was too obvious in any of their doings and we felt completely safe and secure. Basically, if you’re looking to go out and do some partying in Bali, do it in Kuta!
TIP: If you’re looking for water activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, tandem diving, and such, those activities will primarily be about an hour drive around Nusa Dua. If you’re not going to stop in that area to stay overnight for several days like we did, then I would recommend you check out Nusa Dua at least for one day. It is so beautiful on that side of the island and definitely more upscale than Kuta and its surrounding area so and definitely worth the day trip. All over Kuta and Seminyak you can find local tour options that will take you to Nusa Dua to do any of the above mentioned activities ^_^.