Bali's south coast has been attracting surfers since the 70s with the southwest coast of the Bukit Peninsula, from Balangan to Nyang Nyang, featuring some of the island's top beaches and most consistent surf, with varying degrees of accessibility. Although several of Bali's best beaches have succumbed to mass tourism there are still plenty of quiet, safe, sandy spots both to the north and the south of Kuta, so don't be downhearted if you're staying in the south. On the north coast, around Lovina and Pemuteran, things are a lot quieter with gentle waves, perfect for snorkelling. Although, it has to be said, Menjangan Island, within Bali Barat National Park boasts some exceptional coral, just offshore. East coast Bali, around Amed, also has some wonderful stretches of coastline, making it ideal for exploring off the beaten beach track before considering heading out to the Gili Islands where white sands and crystal clear shallows await.
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Set to the south of one of Baliís dive highlights, the WW2 wreck of US transporter The Liberty, the Amed coast continues south for about 12km from Amed to Aas with several untouched fishing villages and volcanic sand beaches in between. Views over Lombok and Mount Agung at sunset are worth the visit alone although rent a snorkel, mask and fins and youíll find underwater coral terraces dense with sponges, parrot fish, barracudas and brightly coloured wrasse, just below the surface. The centrally located coastal villages are probably the most developed but not so youíd really notice with Bunutan and Lipah beaches both offering a range of laid back facilities, although views from the headland at sundown are often all thatís required after a good day at the beach.


Escape the clutter of Kuta by heading northwest along the coast until you reach the village of Lalang Linggah which has long been the weekend retreat for surfers and yogis looking for a pocket of peace amongst the dunes. Although the nearby rice paddies have traditionally provided income for the local community itís surfers that have put this out-of-the-way beach on the map with consistently large waves rolling towards Balianís black sand beach to ensure intermediates are in their element. Although itís well worth visiting Balian for the beach, this is not a spot for snorkelling or for surfing newbies, mainly due to the size of the swells and the river that empties right out into the ocean Ė guaranteed to cause rips as well as hide the occasional shark.


Early morning dolphin tour boats leave Lovina just before the sunrise however, hang around a little longer and youíll find a really laid back north coast community inviting a chilled out day at the beach where gentle waves and fine volcanic sand are all thatís required for a good old soak. Away from Lovinaís main beach, to the east, rows of colourful outriggers line up, steadied before the eveningís launch, and a top tip is to wait until Javaís conical peaks stand out on the horizon before whipping out your camera to snap volcanic silhouettes against the shades of sunset.


Translated as Deer Island, due to the resident muntjacs, Menjangan sits just off Baliís northwest tip surrounded by some of the brightest and most fascinating coral reefs within the protected marine area of Bali Barat National Park. A lack of strong current and an abundance of tropical fish and hawksbill turtles add to the attraction for snorkellers with one of the best preserved reef systems in Indonesia to be found hardly any distance at all from the waterís edge. As Menjangan Island is only 3km long it doesnít boast much in the way of huge strips of sand but what it does offer are plenty of small rocky and sandy bays as well as the occasional wild deer wading through the shallows.


Avoiding the crowds on the Bukit Peninsula, south of Kuta, may seem like mission impossible but thanks to the rather remote location of Nyang Nyang you might well have this large expanse of white sand all to yourself. Situated east of Uluwatuís monkey infested sea temple, Nyang Nyang is a bit of a hike, with around 500 steps down to the beach; however, once you arrive, with a dayís provisions, youíll be treated to an incredibly remote experience with rock pooling at low tide definitely not to be missed.


Situated just off the main road, as part of Perasi village, about 5km past Candidasa, Pasir Putih is Baliís answer to the Bounty advert with crisp white sand and swaying palms flanked either side by verdant tree-covered hillsides.
Relatively Ďundiscoveredí, with no major developments, Pasir Putih provides those tropical screen saver shots with traditional outriggers aligning the shore as soft waves hide what can be quite severe rips below the surface. Plenty of shade can be found to the left under the cliff overhang or there are several beach cafes and warungs with palm parasols or canvas umbrellas from where to escape the heat, although probably not the hawkers.


When looking for Baliís best beaches itís safe to use the proximity to Bali Barat National Park as a general vote of confidence, which is why Pemuteran, on the north coast, is rated so highly. Close enough to Lovina and Singarja, without being too intrusive, Pemuteran is gaining a reputation for its sublime snorkelling thanks, in part, to the artificial bio-rock reef sitting just a pebbleís skim offshore. Although the fine grain volcanic sand does tend to get everywhere it also keeps away the crowds so bring your mask and flippers, but leave the bucket and spade at home.


It takes about an hour and a half to stroll around the coastline of Gili Meno so take your pick in terms of which beach best suits. Meno is the most relaxed and natural of the three Gilis with beaches in the southeast offering a cluster of coastal cafes and accommodation whilst, to the north, thereís pretty much nothing other than white sand and the occasional dive school. Green and loggerhead sea turtles are no strangers to the Gilis and thereís a conservation team on Gili Meno dedicated to keeping hatchlings and fully-grown turtles free from harm.
Photo credits: [Top box: Selamat Made] [Amed Coast: Ben Godfrey] [Balian: hata] [Lovina: Andreia] [Menjangan Island: Selamat Made] [Nyang Nyang: Sergio Fernandez] [Pasir Putih: Doni Ismanto] [Pemuteran: Selamat Made] [Gili Meno island: SarahTz]
Written by Chris Owen
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