With year-round tropical weather and waves, there is no doubt that Bali is a true surfer’s paradise.
It’s actually incredible just how many surf spots there are on this relatively small island, with waves for every level of surfer, from learners to pros.
However, if looking to learn to surf in Bali, there are a few things you need to be aware of, as well as to avoid; all of which will be explained in this detailed guide from a former Bali resident with nearly 3 years spent living and surfing on the Island of the Gods.
Let’s go, or as they say in Indonesian, ‘ayo’!
Where can I surf in Bali for beginners?
Bali has a good few learner surf spots but the best are as follows:
- Batu Bolong
- Kuta Beach
- Nusa Lembongan
More on each below!
This mellow surf spot is probably the best all-round option for learning to surf in Bali.
I say that because it has plenty of space with mellow learner waves that break almost every day of the year.
There are multiple surf schools and surf camps in the area and it’s literally a stone’s throw from the happening Canggu beachfront (which has more advanced waves).
The only downside to Batu Bolong is that it is about 20 minutes’ drive from Kuta and is in a relatively quiet area, but that’s fine if you’re just looking for surf.
It also has black sand, like many of the beaches in Bali, which actually makes the sand hotter under foot, making for a quick run down to the water’s edge!
It might sound cliché but Kuta Beach is a legitimate and excellent learner surf spot. This is because it has a very long, expansive beach with plenty of space.
You can almost pick how big of a wave you want to surf as the waves get smaller the closer you get to the airport, or bigger further up the beach away from it.
There are surf schools and rental spots all up and down the beach so it’s really a case of picking anyone who seems reputable.
Just be sure to give the board a good once over to check that it doesn’t weigh a ton (waterlogged) or has loose fins (bit of a scam to make you pay when it falls out).
Otherwise, you’ll be good to go and have a blast learning at Kuta.
This is actually a smaller island off the coast of Bali, with ‘nusa’ meaning ‘island’ in the Balinese language.
It’s a 45 minute boat ride across on the fast boat which is inexpensive and Nusa Lembongan, or just Lembongan for short, is a veritable paradise isle.
It has all the tropical waters, great food you would expect for this part of the world but a much more chilled vibe than anywhere on the nearby Bali.
There are not so many surf schools on the island but all the locals are friendly and genuinely happy for your custom, making them some of the friendliest you will meet on your trip to this part of the world.
There are a couple of great learner spots but they can get a little crowded.
You can also cross the bridge and head over the ‘sister’ island of Nusa Penida, which is right next to Lembongan.
Nusa Penida has a good surf spot and some absolutely stunning scenery, making it also worth a trip.
This is another low-key beach that is popular with learner surfers. Just be sure to head out to the right as to the left there are rocks, but you will see this from the level of surfers in the water.
Berawa has fun waves and is a good spot but it can get quite heavy if bigger so factor that in to your plans and have a back-up plan ready (usually the far end of Kuta Beach when big).
Where should I stay in Bali for surfing?
I would recommend staying at any of the spots mentioned above for surfing in Bali, but each has its own best audience, as I’ll explain here.
Batu Bolong is ideal if you just want to laze around and have the easy/mellow life at a surf camp, not traveling far for your surfs. It’s not for you if the party scene is on your agenda, though, as it’s just a touch too far out from Kuta for that.
Kuta is ideal if you want to surf by day and party at night. There is a party scene every night of the year there and you can’t fail to have a good time by day or night.
Kuta neighbors with trendy Seminyak and Oberoi, which have their fair share of boutiques and eateries, so you’ll never be short of places to shop or food to eat.
The only downside is that the Kuta backstreets are a bit grubby and do have their share of street hawkers, although the crime you might have heard of is overstated in my opinion.
Nusa Lembongan is the paradise isle getaway that is ideal if you just want to sit and chill, as well as surf and be by the sea. The island itself is small so there is not much ground to cover, but its stunning natural beauty is special all by itself, not to mention the incredible views of Bali’s biggest volcano, Mount Agung.
This one is not for you if you’re looking for a party or shops as it has almost neither, but it makes up for all the above in soul and chilled vibes.
Berawa is probably the least appealing location on this list as there isn’t much there, so I’d recommend staying in nearby Canggu instead, although there are some nice places to stay right on the beach.
Is surfing in Bali dangerous?
It can be dangerous, yes, but if you visit all the spots mentioned above and take the usual precautions of going out with friends and/or surf guides, you will be fine. If you venture to the more advanced spots then there are crowds, currents and reefs, so choose your spot carefully.
How much do surf lessons cost in Bali?
This varies greatly but the best surf lessons in Bali are still a lot cheaper than you would find in places like the USA. You can get a good surf lesson for around $10, which is a quarter of the price.
You can pay around $30 for a whole day for a group surf lesson (3 people), similar to what you might pay for the same service for an hour in the USA.
You can also get great deals with surf camps where they include board hire, travel and lessons as well as accommodation, so look into their offers.
Remember to book with a surf camp that you trust. Laws and regulations are extremely lax in Bali (and that’s putting it mildly) so take care to do your due diligence go with only surf schools that you feel you can trust.
Why I Do Not Recommend the Inside Wave at Padang Padang for Learner Surfers
I used to see lots of groups as well as photos of learner surfers out at the inside part of Padang-Padang, learning to surf, when I lived in Bali.
They are taken there by surf schools in the area, keen to please their punters and put them on a learner wave.
It’s a beautiful spot with high cliffs and stunning scenery all-round.
However, I don’t think it’s a great option for the following reasons:
- One take-off spot
- Over rocks
The take-off spot there is small and means that many people are all trying to ride the wave at the same time.
Although this isn’t a major problem for beginner surfers, it’s still very different to how it will be when you improve and it’s also just a bit claustrophobic, with so many people in close proximity.
On top of the above, it’s always crowded which, although a given at just about every surf spot in Bali, is made to feel worse by the fact that it’s all tightly packed into a small area.
There are also rocks below it, so it’s not as relaxed as surfing over sand elsewhere on Bali, but they are admittedly not much of a concern as I’ve not heard of many people hurting themselves there.
There can also be some serious currents at the inside wave at Padang-Padang, making it more intense than many other learner spots on Bali.
This is more of an issue when the waves are bigger, so you may not experience it when heading out with a surf school, but when the currents kick in, they can be fierce, making for a tiring bit of paddling.
Incidentally, Padang-Padang is also a world-class surf spot on its day, renowned for its power and huge barrels. Fortunately, that only really happens a few times a year and is a completely different wave, so no worries there.