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SANUR BEACH Bali Seaside Extraordianaire

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Sanur beach Bali

gorgeous Sanur beach in south Bali

gorgeous Sanur Beach, Bali

SANUR BEACH Bali Seaside Extraordianaire

Sanur is one of South Bali’s beach-side tourist areas, and one of my favorite places in Bali. Although Sanur is quite developed, it’s very tastefully developed with a rather upscale, refined vibe. And it’s full of great Balinese ‘treasures’ including gamelan (Balinese music), jukung (Balinese sail boats), coral-stone walls, stone statues, temples and wind-whistlers.

The atmosphere at Sanur is a great contrast to that at the Kuta-Legion-Seminyak sprawl about 30 minutes away. Kuta is the heart of the party-bars-tacky souvenir shops-surfing-go-crazy scene that Bali has become notorious for. That scene, By the way, only exists in one small section of Bali. The rest of Bali is entirely different.

Sanur beach Bali

 

As for Sanur:

Long ago, Sanur was a fishing village. It also was the center of Bali’s upper class priestly Brahman Hindu caste, which accounts for Sanur’s refined atmosphere, distinquished traditional Balinese architecture, and botanical beauty. Some of the origional Sanur resorts were started by wealthy Balinese families, as opposed to westerners, and several of those resorts still exist.

Sanur stretches along 5 km/3 miles of unending white-sand beach fringing a calm shallow sea. The entire coastal stretch is lined with a long pedestrian walkway and backed by tasteful upscale resorts, small boutique resorts and refined open-aired restaurants. There’s no road, thus no traffic. This makes Sanur’s beach side very natural, peaceful and quiet. You’ll only hear wind blowing in trees, birds singing, gentle waves washing across the beach and the distant roar of ocean breaking on Sanur’s fringing reef, which sits about 200 M offshore.

Sanur beach Bali
You can walk for an hour or more from one end of the beach to the other, under the wide wide blue sky, past majestic trees and bushes full of fragrant flowers, past beautifully designed resort gardens and unique garden pools, old coral-stone walls and gateways, wild Balinese stone statues, and amazing Balinese architecture. Out in the sand, many resorts display rows of  tall Balinese ‘banners’ bending in the breeze. They are essentially long bamboo poles covered in brightly colored fabric.

The far southern end of Sanur, where few tourists venture, is bordered by a massive mangrove swamp.  A small Balinese temple surrounded by a beautiful coral-stone wall sits on the swamp’s edge. That mangrove forest extends  along the coast westward for several kilometers towards Kuta and the airport.

Sanur beach Bali

 

Just north of the mangroves and coral temple, on the southernmost edge of Sanur’s sandy beach,  you’ll find some intriguing beach ‘toys’ that make use of Sanur’s often strong wind. One type consists of tall bamboo poles with holes cut in their sides. As the wind blows across them, they make a strong, piercing, eery whistling noise. Another type are Balinese ‘windmills’. They are wood carvings of  Balinese shadow puppet characters with wooden ‘propellers’ attached to them and then tied on top of tall bamboo poles.  These windmills also make a long wailing sound.

Sometimes you can watch a local man holding one of these large puppet-head-propellers, attempting to control it as a strong wind whirls the propeller furiously around in a whirlwind of speed.

Sanur beach Bali

 

Because of  Sanur’s strong seasonal winds, kite flying is a popular hobby.  June and July, when winds are strongest, bring the annual kite-flying contest. Bali’s gigantic kites have to be seen to be believed.  Many are literally much bigger than a human. The kites bodies can be up to 3-4 M wide and 3-6 M long  ( 12 ft x 18 ft)  Kite tails are up to 10 M long. It takes several men to carry these huge kites. I’ve even seen kites carried on top of trucks and cars. The kites actually outsize the vehicles!

Several small temples are situated at Sanur’s southern end . This area is popular for cremation ceremonies, during which the ashes of dead relatives are cast into the sea along with various offerings. Because of the many temples, temple offerings, beach side ceremonies and abundant flowering trees, the air is wonderfully fragrant with tropical flowers and incense along the entire Sanur coast.

Sanur beach Bali

One oddity of Sanur’s southern end are wandering cows. Cows are just not something you’d ever expect to find at a beach, let alone at a tourist resort area. Even stranger, one large Sanur resort keeps a lone cow permanently on its premises. The cow has its own little grassy pasture and cow shed, located just behind the beach and beside the resort rooms. I still don’t understand WHY there’s a cow AT the resort, but he’s always an amusing, delightful sight.

A huge variety of boats are anchored in the calm, shallow waters of southern Sanur. They range from small modern speed boats to larger diving boats to the traditional wooden Balinese jukung. On land, southern Sanur is the ‘poor’ neighborhood, still sporting a few thatch/wood cafes and bars, which are nearly extinct in Bali, a remnant from the 60s and 70s pre-tourism boom. A bit further north Sanur’s big classy resorts begin, starting with the ‘cow’ resort.

Sanur beach Bali

 

Although I don’t always like large resorts, I have to say that most of the resorts along Sanur beach are really exceptional. They sport stunning beaches, shady trees, gorgeous gardens, beautiful architecture and tasteful swimming pools. Hppily, Sanur has very few massive-tourist-suburbanite-vacationer hotels. Instead, Sanur offers one charming resort and small boutique garden after another, interspersed with atmospheric open-air restaurants.

Sanur beach Bali

 

Walking northward, you’ll eventually reach the award-winning gardens and grounds of Bali’s Grand Hyatt, with it’s massive trees, long sweeping beach and landscaped grounds. It’s one of my favorites. Just beyond that are several private homes, set behind coral-stone walls. The walls are low enough to glimpse into the gardens of these luxurious properties.  North of the private homes are more small resorts and restaurants with great architecture, walls and gardens. One of the nicest, most tasteful is the Tandjung Sari Resort, one of Sanur’s first resorts, started in the 1960s by a wealthy local family. Originally it was their home, surrounded by a few walled, private villas for guests. They’ve since expanded to include more villas, all set in well-established gardens.

Sanur beach Bali

 

Now you’re in the heart of Sanur beach. It’s a good time to remember that Sanur is great for swimming, unlike many beaches in Bali that have deep water and very strong, often dangerous currents. Sanur’s coral reef, situated about 200 M offshore, catches the ocean waves, leaving the area inside the reef calm and shallow. Even so, there can be a somewhat strong current moving parallel to shore in one direction or the other. To break up this current, a series of stone ‘jetties’ has been built out from the beach. Built of beige stone and topped by beautiful wood pavilions sporting red clay tiled roofs, these ‘breakwaters’ actually look fantastic and add an exotic touch to Sanur’s coast.

Although not many people know it, Sanur is also a great place for snorkeling! Though much of the sea bottom is full of sweeping green seaweed, there’s a huge variety of sea creatures and tropical fish. I’ve seen exotics like seahorses, robust ghost pipefish, snake eels, morays, sea snakes, sea urchins and starfish, crabs, corals and many colorful reef fish.

Balinese Hindu Ceremony

Balinese en route to ceremony

Moving farther north you’ll pass more resorts and restaurants plus a few somewhat tacky souvenir shops. Luckily they only exist in a few places along the Sanur coast. Soon you’ll come to the one ‘eye-sore’ resort of Sanur: the ugly towering white slab of the Sanur Bali Beach Hotel, also one of Sanur’s very first resorts. What a contrast in taste. Luckily, the resort features an amazing, long, wide sparkling white sand beach, probably the most beautiful in Sanur.
This beach is lined with a long row of unique ‘umbrella trees’ whose dense branches form a perfect horizontal circle. Great trees, providing dense shade. Colorful wooden jukung line the beach. Unlike the working fishing jukung in Bali’s northeast coast of Amed, Sanur’s beautiful jukung are now seldom used. Occasionally they take tourists out for a sail; otherwise they decorate Sanur’s glistening sand.

Sanur beach Bali

resident cow at a Sanur beach resort

At Sanur beach you have a spectacular view of the Balinese coastline stretching north then eastward, curving around into the distance. When the skies are clear, you are treated to the magnificent sight of Mt. Agung, Bali’s highest and most sacred volcanic mountain. It’s nearly a perfect cone, imitating Mt. Fuji in Japan, but with views from the sea. Spectacular!

Far out to sea is large Nusa Penida island, with 2 smaller islands flanking it. What I notice even more strikingly while walking along Sanur beach, though, is the vast vast sky stretching out over the ocean and all the grand trees flanking the beach and resorts.

Another unique sight at Sanur beach are the wading fishermen in their traditional woven conical hats and extra long fishing rods. They wade out into Sanur’s shallow waters, as close to the roaring reef as possible, and cast their lines. I’ve chatted with a few fishermen and chekcd out their catch. Sorry to say for all us divers and reef lovers, they are catching beautiful reef fish, including parrotfish, surgeonfish and wrasses. Dagnabit! But at least they eat their catch. The fishermen have assured me that the reef fish are very tasty.

 

jukung- Sanur beach Bali

jukung on Sanur beach

North of the sprawling Bali Beach Hotel, you’re getting close to Sanur’s northern end. Soon after the resort you’ll come to several souvenir stalls. Masses of locals like to gather in this area, especially on Sundays. There’s also one special ‘treat': the museum of Le Mayeurthe, a famous European artist who moved to Bali in the 1930s, married a Balinese dancer, and became famous from painting her and other Balinese beauties. The museum is Le Mayeur’s original house, a cute little Balinese home with carved wooden doors and windows, and filled with many of his now-fading paintings.
Sanur’s sandy beach pretty much ends at the souvenir stalls, but the walkway continues a bit further north, along a rocky shore, past food stalls and another old Sanur resort, before finally ending at a narrow canal that spills into the sea. At this end of Sanur, surfers sometimes catch waves out near the reef. Daily ferries depart from this area to 3 offshore islands, which you can see from the beach: Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningani. The islands are interesting to visit for a few days or a week.

Balinese gate - Sanur beach side resorts

traditional Balinese gate at one of Sanur's beach side resorts

Speaking of eating, besides the plentiful resort restaurants, locals set up food stalls at sevaral places along the beach. Many of the vendors hail from Java, though some are original Sanur residents. You can find satays, soups, gado-gado, nasi campur, grilled whole corn and a variety of drinks.

Besides its great stretch of beach, Sanur has another major section back off the beach, which is Sanur ‘town’. It consists of one long road stretching the entire length of the coast, and lined by shops, restaurants, bars, souvenir stalls, and the main entrance to many of Sanur’s beach side resorts. It’s definitely a modern, fully developed town. But it’s still fairly quiet, upscale, and retaining its Balinese character. Even so, I spend as little time there as possible, preferring to spend my days beach side.

 

balinese statue

Balinese statue guarding resort entryway

On the far side of Sanur’s main road are many narrow winding alleys lined with local houses and larger private residences. Many long term Sanur families live down those lanes. Unlike other tourist areas in Bali that sprouted up out of nowhere purely as tourist ‘towns’, Sanur began as a real Balinese town. Because of its origins, Sanur has some great local culture.

One is the Sanur night market that sets up every night, offering an amazing array of delicious Balinese and Javanese foods. Locals eat there, of course, but I’ve noticed more and more tourists eating there in recent years. I’m always a bit surprised because the Sanur market is NOT a pretty place. It’s set on a broken-up parking lot, is fairly dirty and full of potholes. Nobody seems to mind. I certainly don’t mind, since the food is delicious and the prices very low. It’s definitely worth a visit!

Balinese gamelan troupe at local funeral ceremony

Balinese gamelan troupe at local funeral ceremony

Sanur also has a few gamelan orchestras and Balinese dance schools. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across evening rehearsals at Sanur’s local ‘banjars': community open-aired meeting halls. You’re quite welcome to watch the rehearsals, and usually some members will motion you in with smiles and invite you to sit down. I love the lively Balinese gamelan, so I’m always delighted to stumble upon a rehearsal.

 

Of course these rehearsals aren’t done for nothing. Gamelan is played at various Hindu ceremonies, both at temples and households. In addition, many Sanur restaurants and resorts present regular gamelan/ dance performances. Most nights of the week you can find a performance at one venue or another.
Mt Agung from Sanur beach- Bali

Mt Agung from Sanur beach- Bali

Whenever I stay in south Bali, I stay in Sanur! I love everything about it: the long sweeping beach and sea, views of the Balinese coastline, occasional glimpses of Mt. Agung, colorful wooden jukung parked on the white sands, the tall Balinese ‘flags’ bending in the breeze, the sumptuous gardens, statues, walls, and architecture, the grand trees, the tasty night market and the tinkling sounds of gamelan… ahhh, Bali!

 

I sincerely hope you can visit sometime.         cheers, Lash

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  1. Suzy

    Sounds like a really interesting spot for a beach resort! Usually you don't see that much culture right next to places with surfer bars and massive resorts.

  2. LASH

    you hit the nail on the head, suzy! Thanks for reading. cheers, lash

  3. Larry

    Lash – Very much enjoyed your write-up on Bali & Sanur. Visited in 1969, before the tourist onslought, when it was paradise on earth. You captured the essence of the place beautifully.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Larry,

      Thanks… looking back on that Sanur post, I actually find it a bit LONG and perhaps difficult to get through! Glad to hear you could enjoy it. lol

      Wow, you were in Bali in 1969?! I’m so envious! Whenever I have to go through the horrid Kuta / Legion / Seminyak / Cangu sprawl, I always feel so sad, imagining what it must have been like there before it was destroyed!

      At least Sanur has managed to keep the beautiful long beach away from roaring traffic and to keep the majority of tacky souvenir shops away.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      cheers, Lash

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It describes 10 free things to do in 10 different Asian cities and destinations.Check out my Free eBook here You might also like: Guide to Scuba Diving in Thailand Guide to Scuba Diving in Bali Guide to Scuba Diving in Malaysia Scuba Diving at Tioman Island, Malaysia Sanur: South Bali Beach Town Extraordinaire————————————————————————————————————————————————————- /* /* 6 comments1 ping Suzy says: 2011/06/19 at 6:51 pm (UTC 8 ) ReplyI love beach vacations, but sadly I have the skin tone that doesn't let me stay in the sun long. I much prefer to swim rather than lay on a beach. And I always stand out as a westerner for I can't tan! You're lucky Lash. LASH says: 2011/06/19 at 9:49 pm (UTC 8 ) ReplyHi Suzy,Oh, dear, sorry if I diss'ed you for having lily skin in the tropics! But you're right, there are many people who just can't tan.. guess it's better to NOT lay in the sun then! Swimming is a great option!cheers, Lash Sofia – As We Travel says: 2011/06/20 at 10:20 am (UTC 8 ) ReplyCamping on the beach (or right next to it) is among the most romantic things I know. One of the fondest memories from camping was by an empty beach in New Zealand. LASH says: 2011/06/20 at 7:55 pm (UTC 8 ) ReplyI agree Sophia! THanks for stopping by. cheers, Lash Popy says: 2012/07/20 at 11:51 am (UTC 8 ) ReplyHi I am going to Indonesia this sept for three weeks. Me and my friend are plnninag to go to Lombok, Bali and Jakarta. Our hotels for Bali and Jakarta and flights are all set. Hard Rock Hotel in Bali and Pan Pacific in Jakarta.. But nothing yet for Lombok My friend likes to go by plane from Jakarta to Bali and ferry boat from Bali to Lombok.. I like to check on cruise ships or passenger ships from Jakarta to Bali Thus i need suggestions for this and how long does it takes to travel by sea if we do it and the places that it will pass by if there are any I tried Pelni but their site is outdated and the phones are either not functioning or not answered.. I also need suggestions for places to go and activities to do Thanks a lot Lash WorldTour says: 2012/07/25 at 1:19 pm (UTC 8 ) ReplyHi Popy,Great, I hope you enjoy your travels through Indonesia! Sounds good.I’m sorry I dont’ know anything about taking a ferry from Jakarta to Bali. I personally would not recommend that- takes a long time, boats dodgy, seas rough. . much better to fly between Jakarta and Bali or else go overland. I’ve never spent any time in Lombok, so I can’t really make suggestions about that island, though i’ve heard from many that Kuta Beach (Lombok NOT Bali) is great. Hiking Mt rinjani could be wonderful if you’re into hiking. 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