A surfing trip in northwest Bali away from the crowds

If you’re looking for dynamic surfing spots with a large variety of breaks to suit any level of surfer and plenty of other activities to enjoy for any budget, Bali offers it all.

Sofia Vallasciani
Sofia Vallasciani

Sofia is a sustainable travel writer currently exploring Indonesia. She loves finding local gems and uncharted spots.

A surfing trip in northwest Bali away from the crowds

In Bali, surfing is quite popular. There are classes everywhere, and people are always talking about the hobby. Anybody’s itinerary for a surfing holiday in Indonesia starts and ends in the Island of the Gods, more precisely in the South. Canggu, Dreamland, Uluwatu, and Kuta are the homes of old Vario scooters with surfboard racks, gentle left-hand waves, and cold Bintangs at sunset. While these hotspots are being invaded by thousands of tourists every year, there is still hope for a regenerating surfing holiday in Bali. The seemingly forgotten Northwest coast of the island makes for an accessible and peaceful trip away from the crowds.


How to Get There

Indonesian transport in Bali

Photo: Joko SL/Shutterstock

Leaving Canggu behind can be difficult, especially after a late night at Old Man’s. reaching Balian is super easy, even with a bad hangover. This is the perfect starting point for a North Bali trip, as it is only one hour away from the masses. Locals selling overpriced private cabs up to Balian will love anybody that falls into their traps, but there is a dark-green worn-down bus that runs every hour from just outside Canggu or Denpasar.

Nobody knows what time to expect it, and the ticket’s price changes depending on how long they think their passenger has been traveling. The fee ranges from 150k IDR ($10) for “I just got out of the plane” tourists to 40k ($3) for navigated travelers.  Opting for the bus will not guarantee a comfortable journey, but it’s a cheaper one.

The Surf

Surfer jumping off the back of a wave at Balian Beach

Photo: Gekko Gallery/Shutterstock

Balian is one of the lesser-known surf spots in Bali, it is recognizable for its shiny black sand and high green cliffs that hug the bay, like the similar volcanic beaches in Indonesia. It’s located a few meters North of a nearby river-mouth. It’s never busy, and often there’s only a few people there or none. Balian’s waves break both left and right, with the first being longer and gentler.

It is consistent, with some occasional unexpected sets that can challenge even the best surfers. Balian is recommended for intermediate to expert surfers that are trying to avoid Uluwatu’s crowds and longboarders. The flow from the river mouth has eroded the bottom of a thin channel, which makes for an easy paddle out.

The Atmosphere

Balian Surf Villas

Photo: Balian Surf Villas/Booking.com 

Balian is a half-moon volcanic beach hugged by green cliffs on both sides. There aren’t large resorts here; only a few warungs not too far away from the unspoiled beach. Balian Surf Villas has one of the best views over the bay. It’s the perfect spot to admire the sunset or watch surfers do their thing. The pace of life in Balian is extremely slow. This is reflected by the service in restaurants and bars. The small town not far away from the beach has a real Bali feeling to it. You’ll find yoga schools, beer huts, and surf shops there to keep you entertained.


How to Get There

Transportation in Indonesia

Photo: Smurwani/Shutterstock

From Balian, intercept the elusive worn-down bus which runs on the main road. The journey is just as uncomfortable as the first one and takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The ticket’s price changes according to the “two weights, two measures” unwritten Indonesian rule. With a bit of haggling, the fee can get down to 40k IDR. The drop-off is just a few meters away from the surfing point. The beginner’s friendly spot of Sambul Beach Break is reachable with a 10 minutes’ walk towards the north.

The Surf

Surfer riding big wave at Padang Padang beach, Bali

Photo: Hagen Production/Shutterstock

Medewi is better known than Balian but still forgotten by the partying crowds. Famous for being one of the longest left point breaks in Bali, it guarantees some fun for any surfers, from beginner to expert. There are three sections along with the point, one for each level of difficulty. The bottom is sandy, but the cobbles pushed out by the nearby river mouth make for a challenging paddle out, so boots are recommended. Medewi is a balanced mix between the gentle waves in Kuta and the bigger swells of Balian.

The line-up is mainly made up of brave foreigners committed enough to have made the trip and friendly always smiling locals. This makes for a relaxing and supporting vibe. For beginners, the nearby and seemingly ignored Sumbul Beach Break is a chilled-out spot with few hazards. The sandy bottom and long left-hand gentle waves make for a great place to learn surfing. During winter, intermediate surfers can have fun riding through the occasional barrel.

The Atmosphere

Surfer heading to the beach in Bali

Photo: Joyfull/Shutterstock

Medewi beach is at the end of a tiny road spotted with cafes, warungs, hostels, and luxury rooms. Overlooking the point, you’ll find a concrete terrace with a few tables, fairy lights, and a beer hut. Watch the surfers here at sunset with a cold Bintang. For a cheaper option or for beginners, Sambul Beach Break is only 20 minutes walk on the right. You won’t find nightlife or large hostels here, but Nal’s Kitchen cooks affordable food. Right at the end of the slope that connects the main road with the beach, there are a few barbecue fish warungs. The food is delicious and made to order. Which in Indonesia means that you will eat 45 minutes after you order. Enjoy a couple of games of chess right on the black sand beach while you wait or eat.

Get Ready

An aerial view near Medewi beach

Photo: Mario Andi Supria/Shutterstock

The highway that connects Medewi to Balian to Canggu is affectionately called the highway of death by the locals. The ATMs are far away from the surfing points, and ironically nobody accepts cards. To avoid having to rent a scooter and drive through the mad traffic, bring enough cash when you are in the civilized areas of the south of Bali. Safe for coral sunscreen and surfing boots are a must when you visit the north. Now that you’ve got it all, the only thing left to do is to try to catch the bus.

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