Bali’s Best Surf Breaks

Bali’s best surf breaks rate among the best in the world.  They have been a must for surfers since gaining popular fame in the movie “Morning of the Earth” in the early 1970s. The sight of Stephen Cooney riding the waves of the then unknown Uluwatu still inspires surfers to go to Indonesia to look for new surf breaks.

The number of known breaks is slowly being added to. Medewi near Negara has been ridden for many years as has Nias Island off North Sumatra. More recently, Nusa Lembongan Island off Sanur in Bali and Grajagan on the eastern tip of Java have been added to the surfing trail.

Take your own repair kit with you, as none are available in out of the way places.

Getting to the Break

It is best to “charter” or hire a bemo with two or three other surfers to share costs. Organize the bemo the afternoon before you want to go. This is the best time to make a deal with bemo drivers because it is a slack period, and you will have more time to bargain and play one bemo driver against the other. Apart from the fact that you want an early hassle-free start, there are not as many idle bemos in the morning and they are hyped up for the day’s work. The price you will have to pay depends on how far you want to go and how long you want the bemo to wait. Always charter for the return trip.

You have to pay for the return petrol anyway, and the surcharge for waiting isn’t much. If you don’t arrange for the bemo to wait you may have great trouble finding another bemo when you have finished surfing, and the driver will know he has you at his mercy as far as price goes. Besides, who wants to hassle with a bemo driver after an exhausting surf.


This break is situated at the bottom of the cliff near the temple of the same name. The temple is at the terminus of a regular bemo route. There are usually Balinese hanging around who will show you how to get down to the water and carry your boards for a negotiable fee. The break is very variable and quite dangerous because of the coral reef over which the waves break.

Padang-Padang and Kuta Reef.

These two reef breaks are quite far off-shore between Uluwatu and the airport. They are best reached by chartering an out-rigger. Padang-Padang is off the distant headland that is visible to the south of Kuta.

Kuta & Legian Beach Breaks

These vary a lot depending on the banks and the season. Restrictions similar to Australia are in force, with the Kuta and Legian Surf Clubs setting up flags each day. There are a few hot locals who get possessive about the waves, so try to get to know them and reduce the tension.


Cangu is a beach break a few kilometres along the beach north of Legian. At low tide it is possible to reach it by motorbike along the beach. By bemo, follow Jalan Legian towards Krobokan, and then turn left back towards the coast. From Legian it is vaguely visible as the centre of the arc of the beach that stretches north. If there is no swell the break will disappear.

Nusa Lembongan

This is an island off the east coast of Bali which is reached by boat from Sanur Beach. On the island there is a variety of accommodation stretching from the village up to the shipwreck. There is a left-hander near the wreck and a long right-hand break in the centre of the bay. The swell usually picks up on the new moon.

Try not to worry about the sharks that feed near the left-hander. There are plenty of fish for them to eat without bothering to take a bite out of surfers. Still, pandemonium breaks out every morning and afternoon when the sharks move in to feed and the surfers race for shore. Hire an out-rigger for a day and look for waves near Nusa Penida.


Medewi is situated near the town of Negara about two hours drive from Kuta. It is approximately half way to the Java ferry terminal at Gilimanuk.


A number of surf tour companies ( including Kuta Surf Club) arrange tours to Grajagan which is in a National Park on the eastern tip of Java. Grajagan itself is approximately 50 km south of Banyuwangi, which is on the Java side of the ferry. Going overland the trip will take around six hours, depending on how long you have to wait at the ferry. Or you can join an on-board safari and sail from Benoa in Bali and sleep just outside the break.