South Bali is by far the most visited part of the island and the majority of the tourism industry is focused here. The infamous Kuta Beach is the most popular destination in southern Bali and draws huge crowds of mostly party-seeking tourists.
Southern Bali is the spot you head to find low-to-middle budget accommodations, hordes of cafes and restaurants bustling with people, crowds of young tourists rushing to and from bars and beaches, and shops galore. Although generally popular with tourists, all of south Bali is not the same.
- Kuta: The most well-known area in Bali, Kuta has been a popular stop on the classic backpacking route in Southeast Asia since the 80s. Originally discovered as a surfing paradise, Kuta’s long and broad Indian Ocean beach front still attracts some surfers but its visitors today are mostly young travelers from Australia in Kuta for its notorious party scene. Kuta’s five-kilometer-long sandy beach is arguably the best beachfront in Bali, but it also tends to be full of sunbathers as well as beach vendors pushing massages, souvenirs, hair braiding, etc. This is undoubtedly Kuta’s biggest drawback – it is very touristy. The entire Kuta Beach area is full of often aggressive street hawkers and touts and loud tourists. That being said, Kuta’s biggest drawback is also its greatest advantage – the development of the tourism industry means a huge range of budget accommodations as well as a fantastic range of restaurants and shops.
- Legian: Located halfway between Kuta and Seminyak, Legian is a beachfront town that functions as a sort of “quieter Kuta.” Close to the touristy Kuta, Legian offers the same easy access to shops, bars, and nightlife but in a more relaxed and less chaotic setting. You can still find the low prices of Kuta here without most of the hassle, making Legian an increasingly popular place with travelers who want to party, shop, and mingle – without living in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
- Seminyak: As you move north from Kuta to Legian and then to Seminyak, it becomes progressively quieter and less frenetic. Seminyak is yet another beach town in south Bali but it distinguishes itself with more upmarket, luxury accommodations and high-end restaurants, bars, and shops. The atmosphere is distinctly more sophisticated and laid-back than Kuta, making it a popular choice for the gliterrati wanting to hit up the swanky establishments in the area, honeymoon couples who prefer the solace within close proximity to the hustle and bustle, shoppers looking to peruse the high-end spas and boutique shops of Seminyak, as well as the more upscale party crowd.
- Jimbaran: To the south of Kuta lies Jimbaran, home to several world-class 5-star beach resorts and high-end villas that have resulted in Jimbaran acquiring nicknames such as the “Beverly Hills of Bali” or “Millionaire’s Row.” Unlike its neighbor, Kuta, Jimbaran offers very little in the way of budget accommodations, although you can find a few moderate, mid-market hotels here. Jimbaran has a lovely white sand beach that’s safe for swimming as well as some great seafood restaurants on the beach that are ideal spots to enjoy stunning sunsets while grilling delectably fresh seafood. There is pretty much no night life here, but it has the advantage of being close to Kuta and Seminyak for when you want to pain the town red.
- Bukit Peninsula: The Bukit Peninsula is the southernmost point of Bali and covers the area south of Jimbaran and west of Nusa Dua. Also originally popularized by surfers, the Bukit remains one of Bali’s top surfing spots with numerous small, cheap bugalows close to the main surf points at Uluwatu, Padang-Padang, Bingin, and Suluban. An area with some of the most beautiful beaches on Bali – including Balangan Beach – and the famous cliff-hanging temple at Uluwatu, the Bukit Peninsula is a very popular tourist destination in Bali and has recently seen massive development in the form of high-end villas and resorts. It’s decidedly more quiet than the more popular tourist areas to the north – Kuta and Seminyak – but is close enough (30-minute cab ride to Kuta Beach) for travelers who’d prefer to stay near beautiful, less-crowded beaches but be within reasonable distance to shopping and nightlife.
- Nusa Dua: A peninsula in South Bali that is well-known as a high-end tourist enclave, Nusa Dua is a very safe, very clean area with a host of luxury hotels, the most popular golf course on the island, one of the best museums in Bali, and pristine, barely populated and well-maintained beaches with calm waters perfect for swimming. The Nusa Dua area is mostly only accessible to the guests of the luxury hotels and with three manned gates, everyone who enters the enclave is subject to a security search. As such, Nusa Dua tends to attract families with children and individuals concerned for safety after the terrorist incidents of 2002 and 2005.
- Sanur: North of Nusa Dua and east of Kuta, Sanur is Bali’s oldest upscale resort area and a mature beach-side town. Although close to Kuta, Sanur has an entirely different feel – more quiet and relaxed – and it tends to appeal mostly to middle-aged and older families.Similar to Kuta, Sanur has an abundance of restaurants and accommodation. Prices tend to be more expensive than Kuta but cheaper than Seminyak.
- Ubud: A town in central Bali that offers a thriving tourist scene that is far, far removed from the drunken bikini scene in Kuta. The name of the tourism game here is culture and visitors will find plenty of traditional Bali culture here with dance shows, concerts, and kecak fire shows presented every night of the week. Ubud is also a famous arts and crafts hub and with plentiful artists’ workshops and galleries, you’ll find amazing examples of Balinese art and handicrafts around the shops of Ubud. As the part of Bali where “Eat, Pray, Love” was filmed, Ubud has garnered a new reputation as a sort of spiritual center. Travelers can now seek solace in newly-built yoga and mediation retreats set amidst the iconic images of Bali’s lush rice terraces and beautiful Hindu temples.
- Bedugul: This lovely area covering the central highlands of Bali is the go-to place for nature lovers. The focal point of the area centers around the three crater lakes of Bratan, Buyan, and Tamblingan as well as the nearby botanical gardens.With mountains to hike and bike, the most photographed temple on the island, impressive waterfalls to explore, beautifully manicured botanical gardens, and lush green rice terraces so spectacular they were nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bedugul area is sought by travelers for its pristine natural beauty.