Bali Nice Beach

Is Bali Worth A Visit?

I’m not supposed to be in Bali right now. Just one week ago, in fact, I had a booked-and-paid-for flight to Sri Lanka — which, you might remember, is one of my top 7 places I still need to visit. I changed my plans in the 11th hour, to appease a picky Brazilian man who is no longer my boyfriend.

Plan your trip to Indonesia

Bali’s reputation varies, depending on who you ask. Party animals from Australia and Europe list Bali as their top destination; “real” travelers check it off their list early in the game, if they come at all. (Until last week, I didn’t think I would.)

Beautiful Bali beach
Junkie monkey
Ubud Rice Terraces
 

But I did in fact deplane at Ngurah Rai International Airport five days ago and, in spite of the how unappealing everything I saw around me during the taxi ride to my all-male, clothing-optional hotel was, made a vow to enjoy Bali to the fullest extent possible.

Unfortunately, enjoying Bali is easier vowed than done.

Not An Island Paradise

Disgusting Bali beach
 

My now-ex boyfriend and I arrived in Bali’s Seminyak area rather late Sunday night, so it wasn’t until Monday morning that I got a chance to judge Bali in daylight. While Henrique popped into a local massage parlor, I made a beeline for the beach.

Or at least I tried to.

“Sorry,” said the un-armed guard standing three-quarters of the way down a nondescript dirt road leading in the direction of the ocean. “No beach access.”

I half-laughed. “Why not?”

“Private road,” he replied, without giving further elaboration.

“So how do I get to the beach?”

He pointed northward. “W Hotel.”

I laughed louder, but more cynically. “But I’m not staying at the W Hotel.”

“That’s OK,” he smiled. “You white.”

White skin, it turns out, is something of an all-access pass in Bali: The guard at the W didn’t so much as ask what room I was staying in as I trespassed on to the hotel’s property, nor did any of the dozen or so staff I encountered en route to the sea.

This is a good thing. What currently exists along the shores of Seminyak is not worth going to jail or even paying a fine for — steel-grey sand, bruise-colored water and clear-cut vegetation do not an island paradise make.

The silver lining of my hour-long stroll? Putty-faced people building cheap-looking sandcastles, with construction cranes in the background. Cosmic irony!

Does Bali Have Nice Beaches?

Bali Palm Trees
 

Shockingly, Seminyak is not the worst of Bali’s beaches. That honor goes to Kuta Beach, where Henrique and I watched sunset with Fido, an Indonesian friend of mine I knew from Shanghai.

Nature-wise, Kuta Beach isn’t much more disgusting than Seminyak; it just has larger crowds of largely pale-skinned people, whose palor draws extra attention to the metallic hue of the sand and water.

Not wanting to offend my local friend, Henrique had kept his mouth shut on the beach. But once we were in the Blue Bird taxi on the way back to Spartacvs, he let loose.

“I’m flying to Phuket tomorrow,” he announced. “I fucking hate Bali. I didn’t fly all the way across the world for this!”

I’ll spare you the gory details of the argument that ensued (My defense: I was under the impression that my boyfriend flew “all the way across the world” to be with his boyfriend), except to say that I talked him into staying one more day: Fido had agreed to show us Bali’s most beautiful beaches on Tuesday.

The good news? Bali’s most beautiful beaches, from high-class Nusa Dua, to surfer-infested Padang-Padang beach, are among the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. (Disclaimer: The most beautiful Bali beach I saw, located near the Uluwatu Monkey Temple, sits no less than 1,000 feet beneath a sheer cliff, i.e. totally inaccessible).

The bad news? Bali’s beaches weren’t beautiful enough for Henrique, who was packing the last of his things when I came back into our hotel room Wednesday morning, after having blogged outside to avoid waking him.

“I’m leaving!” He answered, after I asked him what the fuck he was doing.

As the door slammed, I had no idea where Henrique was off to (I have a feeling, based on his earlier outburst, that it was Phuket), or to what extent Bali’s suckitude influenced his decision. But I did know one thing: The only thing worse than coming to Bali with someone you love is being left in Bali by someone who no longer loves you.

The Bali From “Eat, Pray, Love”

Eat, pray, shop?
 

Henrique hatched the idea to travel to Bali with me after we watched the abortion known as “Eat, Pray, Love” together, so it is ironic that he peaced out when he did: Wednesday was the day we’d set aside to see Julia Roberts’ Bali.

But I didn’t want to sulk in my hotel room (or, worse, sulk outside amid the stark-white ass cheeks of the mostly-older guests at Spartacvs), so I traveled to Ubud, the Bali portrayed in the film, alone.

My first stop was Ubud’s Monkey Forest. I’m not sure what’s worse: That I saw a monkey playing with an aerosol can; or that most of the others tourists who saw it seemed amused by it. Suffice it to say, it was difficult to tell the difference between tourists and monkeys.

The tourists who visit Bali are the very worst types of tourists in the world:

They viciously argue, without removing their Prada sunglasses, over 20 or 30 cents, without realizing that employees in even Bali’s most posh resorts are lucky to earn this amount in exchange for an hour of extremely hard work

They lament the muddiness of their feet after tromping through the Tegalalang rice terraces that feed thousands of local people, and resent the thought of tipping the young boys and girls who accompany them on their treks so that they don’t accidentally fall 10 (or more) feet down the hillside

They are thankful for, and not devastated by, the destruction of Bali’s natural habitat — it is, after all, so that a higher-end artificial habitat, designed especially for them, might be created

The sad truth is that Bali, at least the Bali you’re likely to see on a short- to medium-length vacation, is a cesspool; it is damaged beyond repair, save for a sudden pandemic that keeps tourists out for a decade or more.

I hear Phuket is better.

About The Author

is the author of 551 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 
 

  informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Tim:

    I appreciate your perspective. My point was not that there is nothing worth seeing in Bali, but rather the amount of effort required to arrive somewhere that isn’t terrible might be better spent elsewhere. Thanks for reading and here’s to more lively debates in the future!

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  • Lina Eroh

    sorry you had such a crappy time in bali! agree that it’s not the easiest place to discover the “undiscovered” in, but we managed to find it over a week or so. like you mentioned, some of those surfing beaches are INCREDIBLY beautiful. some of our favorite spots here: http://erohisms.com/beautiful-bali-worth-your-time-despite-the-crowds/

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Thanks for providing your suggestions to my readers!

  • The Traveler

    Bali is the planets toilet in everyway no person should ever go there… Worst Place EVER!

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Glad you agree!

  • mona

    Avoid Kuta/ Legian/ Seminyak! ..move up north instead..off the beaten track..it’s only a short trip away from the most commercialized side of the island!.For example: I had the most beautiful bike ride the other day trough amazing rice paddies, authentic villages and the greenest and unspoiled nature ever.
    Best beaches & sea: nusa dua, tones of perfect tropical spots in the bukit peninsula, amed..I have been living in Bali for 2 & 1/2 years..it’s not all perfect here. For example, the garbage problem is massive, increasing traffic and construction..all in the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak district though!The rest is worth a visit or two !

  • andrew

    Even though you’re not keen on them, maybe a guidebook would have come in handy? Just a suggestion. It would have steered you away from the over-touristy south and given you some ideas of places to go elsewhere on the island.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Hi Andrew:

    I think the problem with that logic is that although there are nice places in Bali, you have to suffer through the hell of Denpasar (and possibly, one night in Kuta or Seminyak) to access them. It’s like, I’m sure a guidebook on Detroit could tell you some nice restaurants to eat at, but you’d probably get shot at on the way.

  • Rob

    I realise this is your domain to say what you feel but if this is an attempt at a review, I find it in poor taste. So you went to two of the most touristy areas on the island and summed up the whole place in a nutshell. You generalise ALL tourists who come to Bali and you make a mockery of this island. So you got dumped. Why let that affect your professionalism. You’re influencing the travel decisions of people you’ve never met based on a breakup and a shit choice of locations to visit.

    I live in Bali and I defend this place like you would if I reviewed wherever you live as being a complete shit hole. How about next time, you actually do some travelling here. Sure, it has it’s bad side but that’s not it’s only side. Get up into the mountains, go see Amed, do some world class diving, go visit a village where the kids run behind your bike because they don’t actually see tourists ever!! Travel!! That’s what this site is about right??

    People wanting to visit Bali, do it! This place is shitty and it’s amazing. Be thankful we can travel anyway.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Hi Rob:

    Thanks for your comment. With regard to my post on Bali, it was of course meant as more than a review. Here on Leave Your Daily Hell, as I hope you’ll notice if you take a deeper look at my content, it’s always a blend of information, inspiration, entertainment and empowerment.

    In terms of Bali itself, I don’t doubt that there are some nice places – it is a huge island! But just as there are probably nice places in, say, Detroit, Michigan or Lagos, Nigeria, Bali’s being home to nice places doesn’t nullify the awfulness of places like Kuta and Seminyak. To be sure, if I wanted to ensure I had a good time in Indonesia, I’d go to Lombok or Raja Ampat, where such crap doesn’t exist.

    Hope this makes it clearer!

  • Putu

    Just by your words ‘PARTY ANIMALS’ I definitely know how your personality is. No doubt how Bali is disappointing for you. How you define your self anyway? 😉

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    As a cat :-)

  • pinthedonkey

    crap exists everywhere, doll. in lombok, raja ampat, barcelona, cancun, cabo san lucas, paris, etc. even phuket! reading this is like reading a piece on “spain” & yet you only talked about ibiza.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Crap does exist everywhere, but Bali is especially crappy!

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  • Adrina

    just visited Ubud and it was okay so far. Never visited other places and never wanted to go to other places because my sisters and I are not so fond of the ‘luxurious’ or whatever party life. Beaches are so much better in Thailand or Malaysia.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    I agree!

  • http://victoriahaneveer.com Victoria Haneveer

    I was in Bali about 15 years ago and was really disappointed with it. We were based in Kuta (which was a total dump back then and sounds like it still is now) although we also traveled around the island, but nope – not one of my favorite places. I prefered Gili Air and Gili Trawangan.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    I agree, there are so many better islands in Indonesia!

  • Eva Allison

    Aaarghh!!!! WHY Robert???! I’ve been trying to plan our trip to Bali for weeks!!!! And everything was going along smoothly…. got my faves marked from tripadvisor… was narrowing down the search… finally got it all organized…. even found the best beaches in Bali…. but THAN!!! Alas, my google search for “What are the worst beaches in Bali” popped up your blog and completely burst my happy bubble! As I kept reading on, my heart sank to the lowest bowls of my stomach until it felt like some sort of a ulcer flareup ( think I’m gonna puke). Isn’t the East coast a bit better? What about Ubud? Do I have to start all over? My plan was to go to Ubud for a peaceful detox yoga thing, than up north or the east coast to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of non-western civilization. I want us to be like the couple in the commercials! All bright eyed and bushy tailed mingling with the locals drinking alcoholic concoctions in coconut shells … you know, fancy free. But now I’m not so sure :( Our honeymoon a year ago was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l!! We went to St Maarten (French side) followed by Anguilla. The experience was beyond!! I want the same thing again… but somewhere else. I have talked to friends that have gone to Bali and they did warn me about some dirty areas… but nothing like this. However, I did like Monas rebuttal to your post. She said “Avoid Kuta/ Legian/ Seminyak! ..move up north instead..off the beaten track..it’s only a short trip away from the most commercialized side of the island!” she said ” The rest is worth a visit or two” and “Best beaches & sea: nusa dua, tones of perfect tropical spots in the bukit peninsula” so there still might be hope! Maybe with more research I may find something worth visiting. Nonethless, thank you for your post!

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Eva, to be frank, although Bali isn’t the worst place in the world, there are far better places in Indonesia. If you are looking for true paradise, check out my post on “Raja Ampat.” (Use the search bar!)

  • 8yearsIndo

    robert i find your writing to be sophomoric and distasteful – why project such spite??? bali is an amazing place IF you care to drop a dime. but then again where isn’t? people: treat yourself to a RESORT experience on bali or subject yourself to the harsh realities of third world despair. indonesia is a country of vast disparity in terms of wealth distribution… upon which side would you prefer to be? times have changed. you simply cannot expect to have a champagne experience on a cool-aid budget. and hey, if you think bali is bad you should go to surabaya!!! now THERES a place to hate on, zero redeeming qualities whatsoever : /

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    I’m sorry, but I find your comment sophomoric and distasteful…even offensive. The idea that I should have to “elevate” myself above local people to enjoy myself (i.e. why they suffer) is disgusting, and totally antithetical to the reasons I travel. What planet are you from?

  • Franz Chong

    I went there in 2000 and it was enough to put me off for life.The place was dirty and disgusting and the less that is said of some of the people I encountered the better,Being hassled by hawkers everywhere isn’t my idea of a holiday.Have since switched to South Pacific Cruising to New Caledonia and Vanuatu.Very Pleasant and Lovely Place by comparison and have no hesitation in doing regular visits there.If I want an Asian Holiday though these days I’ll pay the extra to go to Singapore thanks as boring as it might be.The Sightseeing,Food and Overall Cleanliness plus ease of getting around more than make up for it.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Thanks for providing your insight, Franz! I am both sad and happy that you share my viewpoint.

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  • Annette

    Crap doesn’t exist everywhere. Sometimes it does but it doesn’t outweigh the beauty of the place.

  • bob

    with all the paedos that hang there

  • Steph

    Hi Robert,

    I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it is sad to read how bad your experience in Bali was. And even more sorry to read what you had to go through in Bali. It sucks! No other words to go about it.

    I am Indonesian and I’ve been to Bali more times than I can remember. All I can say is if you are looking for the peaceful Bali, staying Kuta/Seminyak/Legian will not be it. I wish your friend would have told you on other better areas to stay in Bali, but places up north like Amed is beautiful and peaceful. It is far less developed than the areas you have mentioned, even though it is rapidly being developed right now. You can enjoy the sea on one side and you have Mt. Agung on the other side. You get to meet the real locals who will talk to you and actually offer you a traditional grilled fish and traditional pop corn, not for money but because of their generosity. I stayed there for 8 nights in a tiny retreat (they only had 3 other guests when I stayed and it was almost full capacity), not the massive touristy one you mentioned in Ubud. It really was one of the best experience I had in my life. Very enlightening and cathartic as I was at a very bad place at the time.

    The people were one of the best things about the place, I met a ‘real’ local Balinese Hindu priest (think Ketut Liyer from Eat Pray Love who is so commercialised and so exploited, it’s actually sad to see), and he was kind and gentle and a big part of why my stay was so memorable.

    Because of the lack of clubs/shoppings/fancy eateries, Amed is not infested by tourists. You will not meet the Aussie bogans (sorry if I sound racist, I actually love Australians, I stayed in the country for 11 years so I have a bond with Australia but Australian tourist in Bali really do give the Australians a bad rep and I really feel that they are a big part of what ruins Bali, acting as if they are the king of the world! Getting drunk and puking and shouting!). It does take 3 hours drive from the airport but if you stay in one of the villa, they can easily organise transport for you and you’ll be glad because when you do this, you are actually helping the local balinese people.

    That above is the real Bali you have to experience. I hope someday when you ever decide to visit Indonesia again, you will try this new experience. I’d be more than happy to share with you the fun and beautiful side of Bali. Actually, if you have time to go to Jimbaran, there are already beautiful beaches, with easy access, and lots of amazing and fancy places too, if you want to mix it up a bit. And lots of good food too in Bali! :)

    Hope you don’t mind the super long post.

    Cheers,
    Steph

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Steph:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain to me how I might have a better time in Bali next time – I really appreciate your thoughtful response! I am not sure if I will ever devote another trip to Bali, but if I do, I’ll be sure to use your comment as a starting point.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Really? I had no idea.

  • not fido

    yeah but who the fuck is fido?

  • danny

    bali is one of the worst places in the world. stealing money in professional ways

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    True

  • Vero

    Me and my boyfriend are visiting Bali at the moment. We have been to all parts by car, looking for something better… But better never came and we hate it here. Dirty place and dirty people who don’t
    seem to care about living in their own shit.

    13 days to go before flying back to Western Europe. :/

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Aw, I’m sorry Vero. One option to spend your time could be to take a ferry over to Lombok and explore there. Have you looked into that option?

  • TheTruth

    Most asian countries are shit holes. I wouldn’t go beyond HK, spore, or the airport at bangers.

  • 1/2 of NatureCouple

    I have been reading and largely enjoying your site this year, as I embark on my own round the world trip.

    However, this post on Bali is deeply disturbing. It reflects a know-it-all approach to travel journalism from someone who barely scratched the surface and relied on a movie to create his idea of a beautiful country. Worst of all, it’s clearly colored by your personal woes in Bali.
    I could go on and on about everything you missed about Bali. Does Bali have unbelievable pollution and many issues plaguing the country? Yes. But it also has rich culture and rugged natural beauty that clearly was entirely lost on you. I urge you to reconsider leaving this post live on your site. It’s a bad look on you; and, you’re just wrong.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Well you’re wrong, too: Bali is not a country!

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  • Sunny side up

    I visited Bali with my two teenagers last April and this is my take on Bali. The Bali we saw was a island of contradictions. Yes, there is poverty, and an infrastructure which is obviously struggling under the weight of mass tourism. But there is more. The Balinese people have a real genuine warmth that you just don’t see any more. Their culture is all around you…you step over it in the streets in the form of offerings. Their consideration and smiles greet you at every turn you simply have to look, and give them that same genune smile in return. I spent a week in Ubud and cried when I left. Not because of the tourist traps, but because I got up at dawn and wandered the streets and saw the REAL Ubud…children laughing while jogging during school, people sweeping their side walks and setting out there offerings, riding to work and waving and smiling at you because they can see you are genuinely happy to see them.

    Nusa Dua was the lost part of Bali that we saw and we were glad to leave that sterile Tourist area. Sanur, once you stand your ground with the touts, walk past them on the board walk and you watch the locals fishing with there long poles, we also got to watch a group of young boys doing martial arts on the beach and and then enjoy their waters. Kids flying kites on the beaches, colorful boats lined up on the shore and the sunrises and so much more!

    Dreamland, Uluwatu…who cares if you can’t get to the beach, the cliffs, the view are world class! Kuta surfing for begginers for my kids was great…touts on the beach, yes…but I struck up a very nice conversation with one of them, did I buy a sarong, yes, but I met i very nice person too. She made offerings at her sarong stand and shared her story with me of how she loved to do this. If you don’t like the touts, and they Are pusher in certain areas, just ignore them or say no thanks and keep on walking. You might need to be a little more vocal with your noes sometimes but that’s life in Asia.

    I left Bali having given my children three gifts. The first was an awesome beach vacation, the second a view of an amazing, devout people and culture. Lastly, a look at a world which changes too quickly some times and takes its toll on people and their environment. They learned how choices we make, like tossing plastic garbage can effect our whole world and how the whole world is everyone’s concern. But that until we have grown as world people and can solve some of these problems, we are privileged to glimpse through the debris to see the treasure and Bali has plenty of treasure to find.

  • Cassandra Crosby

    The only reason Bali was so crappy to you was that your boyfriend broke up with you and you were hurt. The people there even though, yes, some of their nature and forests are being destroyed, are happy. If you took the time to look around and talk to some of the locals, you would have seen that they were actually quite content. Though they are sad about how much their economic and city infrastructure is changing so fast, they are welcoming people with open arms, and are being kind to them, even if they are a little pushy. Though I don’t agree with how Bali is developing, it is still a beautiful country. The culture and preserved beaches alone are enough to make your breath catch. If you would have just sat down for a minute and enjoy the scenery of not just the land itself, but the people going about there daily lives, you might of had a better time there. The beauty of a country is not just about the island, but the kindness and daily lives of the people around you.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    I appreciate you taking the time to provide your perspective, but we both know the statement:

    The only reason Bali was so crappy to you was that your boyfriend broke up with you and you were hurt.

    is patently untrue. Yes, there are amazing parts of Bali I didn’t have the time or inclination to see on account of my personal situation. But unfortunately, a great deal of Bali is completely destroyed and about as far from paradise as you can get.

  • Frank

    We just returned from Bali and I can say absolutely would never return. This place is beyond repair. Contaminated water supply means bottled water for everyone – which only compounds an enormous trash problem… There is no rubbish collection, so trash is left beside the (alarmingly broken and dangerous) footpaths or burned. The stench is unbearable at times, sewerage/rubbish/burning rubbish. Very unpleasant. Skinny stray dogs abound, and when numbers get too high, they are brutally culled. Yellow collars mean they have been vaccinated for Rabies after a serious outbreak. The beaches and sea was full of trash, heartbreaking to see. Serious congestion issues and pretty much non existent public transport – a local told me this was de-funded to force individuals to purchase scooters – of which there are multitudes. As a result, the air quality is terrible. I could go on and on but basically, this government is appalling, and should be utterly ashamed of themselves. Marketed as ‘the Island of the Gods’, it is in fact a mismanaged hellhole. Development continues, with little thought for the necessary supporting infrastructure and services. Just disgusting. Seriously, dont bother. There are much more enjoyable destinations.

  • matt arklan

    iv been to bali 6 times over a period of 3 years and iv been absolutely everywhere
    i have to say that this review is extremely accurate, especially the last part about the tourists

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    :-(

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