A GUIDE TO ONE DAY IN ULUWATU, BALI
Uluwatu feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of other trafficked tourism spots in Bali.
You won’t find ultra-modern cafes crammed in side to side, like in Seminyak or Canggu.
You won’t find a buzzing main street clogged with traffic and tour operators, like in Ubud.
You won’t find drunk Aussies who’ve only come to Bali to brunch, like in Kuta.
And, for all those reasons, I love it.
As much as I love living in Ubud, a getaway to see other parts of the island are essential. After short trips north to Seririt and Munduk, and east to Sideman, I started looking at places to stay in Uluwatu.
At the time, I was working a schedule that wouldn’t allow me to take several days off, and with good wifi being a bit of a question in Bali’s most southern tip, I decided to drive down for a day visit while staying in Canggu in the lead-up to leaving Indonesia my first visit.
A note: Although, I say I ‘live’ in Ubud, I usually spend a few days in Canggu either when I first arrive or before I leave to see friends that live there, reap the benefits of Instagram cafes, and have a few beauty and personal care things done. Arguably, I could do that last bit in Ubud, but I’ve found a greater abundance of modern, yet affordable spas and salons in Canggu and Seminyak.
Why Visit Uluwatu?
Back to Uluwatu.
About an hour south of Canggu, it’s a place that quickly became one of my favourite parts of Bali.
Off-the-beaten path, tropical and with sweeping ocean vistas, it’s the epitome of relaxation.
And, if you’re into the day club scene, don’t worry- there’s plenty for you to do in Uluwatu, too.
I love Uluwatu for its dramatic cliffs, and calmer vibes. It’s also home to some of Bali’s best beaches, and a veritable surfer paradise.
How to Get to Uluwatu
When I visited, I chose to self drive myself and a friend. The route from Canggu is relatively straightforward- you’ll be on major highway for about half of it, then typical Balinese roads for the rest.
There will be major traffic- especially on the highway- and you’ll need to navigate directional signage, which we found a bit confusing at times.
Generally, head south for Nusa Dua until you see signs for Uluwatu (about half way in). And, on the way back, follow signs for the Kuta until you’re far enough back to watch for the turn off you need into Seminyak or Canggu.
Here, driving on the left is a bit of a suggestion, versus the actual law. I drove at my own pace, but even being ultra careful, we had a few close call moments- including a-near crash at high speed.
I’d been driving motorbikes for a few months when I drove us down, and while I’d do it again, I wouldn’t recommend it for new motorbike drivers.
Instead, I’d hire a driver to take you down for the day. No need to book a structured tour, just hire a driver and tell them where you want to go. This is a better option for flexibility in schedule, and if you have a group of people, usually works out as the more affordable option to a packed group tour.
Where to Stay in Uluwatu
If you’re spending more than one day in Uluwatu, there are two main areas to stay- The Bukit and Pecatu. They’re only about 20 minute apart from each other via scooter, so it’s possible to the other if you stay on one side.
We only spent the day, and so I can’t recommend any properties personally. I did search a bit on Agoda when we were debating a stay-over and can confidently say there’s no shortage of accommodation, no matter your budget.
Uluwatu is famous for its cliffside resorts, so if you’ve got the cash to splash, this is the place to do it.
On the Bukit side, you’ll find Single Fin and Ulu Cliffhouse. And, in Pecatu, you’ll be spoilt for choice with Omnia Dayclub, The Edge and Sundays. The Edge in particular, is one of the world’s most famous luxury resorts, boasting a pool that looks straight down 150 meters to the cliff.
Most resorts offer day pass options, so if you’re only visiting for a day, and want to pop in to cool off at their pools, you’ll likely be able to do so. We decided to spend our time on a beach, but did check out Single Fin for a mid-morning juice break.
What do to with One Day in Uluwatu
I’m not comfortable driving distance at night in Bali (lack of lighting, drunk motorbikers, etc.), so we left early after having coffee in Seminyak with the intent of returning mid-afternoon.
Our plans saw us leave Seminyak at 7:30 am, and start our return at 3 pm, which left more than enough time for what we set out to do. The result was a nice, relaxed day where we didn’t have to worry about traffic, and even had time to hit up MadPops in Seminyak for vegan gelato (much needed after a mid-day scooter ride) on our way back to Canggu.
By the time we made it back to our villa, it was nearing 5 pm. The drive down took about 45 minutes, and the return, just over an hour with mid-day traffic.
On our list to see in Uluwatu (in this order):
- Uluwatu Temple
- Nalu Bowls (breakfast)
- Single Fin
- Bingin Beach
- Kelly’s Warung (late lunch)
First stop, Uluwatu Temple. We ventured here first in an effort to beat the day-trip crowds, and it worked pretty well. When we left just after 10 am, more buses and vans were pulling up and the parking lots were become quite crowded.
Entrance to the temple is 50k (~$3.54 USD), and parking is 2k for motorbikes (~0.14 USD).
Some people don’t rate this temple, because it’s an active temple, which means Balinese are the only ones allowed inside. I think that makes it all the more special.
We loved meandering the cliff walk with sweeping views, slow rolling waves and fragrant flowers. Not to mention, the perfect image of a temple perched delicately on top a soaring cliff.
The Balinese Hindus believe this gorgeous coastal temple protects Bali from evil sea spirits. To them, the temple is magic because the divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva become one here.
Walking this stretch of coastline, you really experience the meaning of the word, Uluwatu. Ulu meaning, edge and watu meaning, rock/cliff.
Be mindful of the monkeys on your visit- they’re quick and always ready to grab anything not attached to you- hats, sunglasses. They’re clever little buggers, and have become accustomed to being fed in return for your items. There are usually a few temple workers milling about, who can help you get your things back, but they’ll expect a fee in exchange for their service.
We had no issue with the monkeys, but were also smart about our belongings.
Because of the direction it faces, the temple is a popular place to watch the sunset. If you’re hiring a driver, I’d probably do our day a bit in reverse to end the night here.
Nearby in the evening, there’s also a Kecak dance show, usually set right before sunset time. Kecak is a form of Balinese dance and music drama established in the 1930s.
Telling a story from the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana, Kecak dance portrays struggle of the blissful prince Rama to save his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.
Beautiful to see, but not reason enough for us to consider dropping cash on a driver for the day when I felt confident enough to drive us.
Next stop, breakfast at Nalu Bowls for some of Bali’s best smoothie bowls. The acai bowl here is the showstopper, but all of the bowls are just so good. There are also locations in other parts of Bali- Canggu- if you don’t make it down to Uluwatu.
Following Nalu Bowls, we hit up Single Fin. Popular for being a beautiful resort and dayclub, the views from the outdoor bar are hailed as some of the best in the world- especially at sunset.
Again, would be a great place to come for sunset if you’re staying in Uluwatu, but since we were only there in the day, we reasoned the views would still be pretty good and decided to pop in to see for ourselves.
Sure, enough it was worth the stop.
The views were epic, and watching surfers in the swells while sipping on watermelon juice was ultra relaxing.
Their cocktail and food menus looked great, could easily imagine spending the better part of a day here, splashing in the pool, admiring the views and being well fed.
There isn’t an entrance fee to Single Fin, but you must pay 5k for motorbike parking (~$0.34 USD). We felt the fresh juices were reasonably priced for the area and view at 35k (~$2.47 USD).
After a little over an hour of relaxing at Single Fin, we continued on to our next stop, what I believe to be Uluwatu’s best beach, Bingin Beach.
I haven’t been to other beaches in the area (mentioned below), but based on what friends have told me and what I’ve seen described in reviews, I don’t think my assertion of calling this Uluwatu’s best beach is without reason.
Bingin is calmer (read: less tourists) than some of the other beaches in the area. And, there’s a fantastic warung above it, perfect for a chilled out, late afternoon lunch.
Before you even set foot on the beach, you know you’re a bit off the tourist track- you navigate a maze of backstreets to find the beach. During our drive, we didn’t see any other cars or scooters on the roads leading to the beach parking lot. The parking fee is 2k, which is roughly 14 cents USD.
Once you climb down to the beach, you’ll be treated to swaths of sand to lounge on, and large flat rocks to wander.
Again at Bingin, we enjoyed watching the surfers and snorkelers. We did a bit of swimming ourselves, but mostly lied on the beach, soaking up afternoon rays.
Mid-afternoon, hungry for lunch, we climbed up to Kelly’s Warung, which had come recommended by loads of friends.
A warung situated mid-cliff, Kelly’s is a beautiful spot for fresh, healthy food, refreshing smoothie bowls or a coconut beachside.
At Kelly’s, we shared a falafel wrap, which was huge, and cooling coconuts. An excellent treat after an afternoon in the sun.
Lunch for two (sharing a wrap and two coconuts) was about ~$10 USD. At any other warung, I’d consider that to be expensive. However, with the views of this warung, understanding all the food has to be carried down 100+ steps, and knowing the food was high quality, we felt that price was fair.
With an eye on the time, as we both had to work late in the evening in Canggu, we hiked back up the cliff to our bike and started the drive home.
Ride wise, with the exception of Jalan Raya Uluwatu (the main road), we didn’t encounter much traffic exploring Uluwatu. The roads felt a bit wider than other parts of Bali, but that could be because they’re not as congested.
Have More Than One Day in Uluwatu?
There’s loads more you can do and see in this breathtaking part of Bali if you have more than one day in Uluwatu:
- Spend more time on the area’s beaches–
- Padang Padang: Famed for being the beach most tour operators stop at (it’s quite nice, with rock formations on the beach), expect a touristy scene. Go early if you want to avoid some of the region’s crowds
- Dreamland: Situated in front of an older resort, Dreamland is also known for being a bit too touristy- lots of beach vendors, chairs available to rent, etc. Not necessarily a bad thing if you don’t mind that vibe
- Check out a few of the areas famed dayclubs– OneEighty at the Edge has a stunning pool, and I’ve heard the Sunday night parties at Single Fin are the stuff legends are made of
- The stretch of road near Nalu Bowls is also home to a few other cute looking cafes and shops, worth exploring in more detail if you have time
Have you ever been to Bali? Did you visit Uluwatu on your trip? Would you spend one day in Uluwatu?
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