Surfers from Australia began arriving in Bali in the late 1960s inspired by tales of empty, undiscovered waves peeling alongside cliffs where divine temples stood guard. Since then Bali’s reputation as a surfing destination has only grown with wave seekers from all over the planet traveling to the island for a chance to score perfect waves in this beautiful land.
Why Surf in Bali?
There are a couple of reasons why the waves here are so good. The shape and location of the archipelago means that it receives a substantial amount of the Indian Ocean swells whipped up by the storms between Australia and Antarctica. During the Dry season, the trade winds blow offshore all day for the breaks in West Bali and the opposite occurs for the East coast during the rainy season. The consistent surf, predictability of the winds and the ease with which you can access both sides of the island means that you can always find a suitable wave.
Where to Surf in Bali
Bali's most famous surf spots are concentrated in the Bukit, the Southern Peninsula where the ocean swells wrap into long lines around the cliffs. This is where you will find the iconic Uluwatu, Padang Padang - the Indonesian pipeline, Bingin and Balangan. Further up the West coast there are miles of surfable coastline starting with Kuta and the outer reefs, the hipster destination of Canggu all the way to Medewi the longest wave in Bali and beyond. The East coast, is known for its reef breaks - Nusa Dua, the powerful right hander called Keramas and Serangan - the turtle island.
When to Go Surfing in Bali
There are 2 seasons in Bali - the Dry season and the Wet season and they have a major influence on the type of waves you will be scoring. The Dry Season is the best time to go if you want to surf the famous left hand point breaks in the Bukit Peninsula and the West coast of Bali, While the Wet Season is best for the East coast right hand reef breaks like Nusa Dua and Keramas.
During the Dry Season, Bali gets consistent waves due to the phenomenon known as the Roaring Forties which sends South Westerly swells straight into it's Western coastline. Its also when the surf is at its biggest. South Easterly Trade winds blow offshore for the West coast breaks all day. The situation is reversed in the Wet season when the East Coast surf spots turn offshore. Being close to the equator you can expect tropical weather and warm sea temperatures throughout the year although the rain can put a damper on enthusiasm during the wet season.
You may also want to plan your trip not to coincide with the Aussie school holidays, where families from down under will make the trip to Bali enmasse.
Dry Season April-Sep
Wet Season Oct-Mar
Surf Trip Types
Go it yourself
Booking websites like hotels.com & airbnb are used extensively in Bali. Check out the Wave Explorers area guides and book accommodation near the waves you want to surf. Most areas will have local surf schools, surf shops and other amenities.
There are many, many surf camps in Bali. Some are no more than a room at someone’s house and an enthusiastic guide. The more reputable camps cater to different nationalities and all levels of surfers. They provide accommodation, board hire, instructors and daily transport to the waves. They are a good option for beginners and those that like to socialize with fellow learners.
You can also organize your own accommodation and hire the services of a local surf guide. These guides will pick you up from your hotel, bring you to a suitable spot depending on conditions and drop you back after the tour. Tours are usually around 4 hours, so you have the rest of the day to relax, get a massage etc before it begins again the next morning.
The Waves - Especially during dry season, the perfection on offer is unbelievable to people who are used to surfing close out beach breaks.
The Cost - Bali is relatively cheaper than holidaying in other countries. There are food & accommodation options which cost hardly anything through to ultra high end hotels & restaurants.
The Line up - Compared to places like Australia where every family and every family member surfs, very few Balinese locals even own a surfboard as a proportion of the population so the lineups aren’t super busy. Unless of course it’s Australian school holidays.
Watch out for
Rips & Currents - Aside from Kuta, most of Bali's beaches are un-patrolled. Rips are strong and drownings happen every year to locals and tourists. There are no warning signs so you should always be cautious.
Traffic - Narrow streets and roads can make for exciting travel. Tourists succumb to scooter accidents regularly with some proving fatal. Wear a helmet, drive safely. Save your bravado for the surf instead of the roads.
Bali Belly - The price of food adventurism. This can range from slight inconvenience to surf trip ending trauma. Having some medication in your kit helps. Cooked food gets rid of germs and watch out for the ice.
Magic Mushrooms - There was a time when Jalan Benesari was lined with coffee shops selling mushroom shakes. Not anymore. Indonesian government does not take lightly to recreational highs.
Schoolies - Young Aussies taking advantage of Bali's lax drinking rules often in Bintang singlets.
Surf Schools - Some surf schools push their beginners onto waves way above their level and sometimes in the path of other surfers. Try not to get too upset. Just remember the guides are there to earn a living. If they weren’t working, they would probably be burning you on a wave.
Sharks - Very few sightings and encounters. When they do occur, they are usually around river mouths. There was an attack in 2016, 2017 and 2022 at Balian with surfers suffering minor injuries.
Arak - The local spirit is now regulated by the government and you can buy it in stores. However it is not uncommon to be offered some home brewed from a jerry can. Our advice would be to pass politely. There have been a few deaths from methanol poisoning.