Thinking about surfing Uluwatu in Bali? I don’t blame you – this reeling left hander is one of the best and most famous waves in Bali, Indonesia and the planet!
But before you head to the Island of the Gods and throw yourself into some of the longest, hollowest barrels of your life, here’s everything you need to know about surfing Uluwatu – from where to stay and eat through to the best way to tackle the cave paddle out…
Surfing Uluwatu, Bali – The Complete Guide
Where Is It
Uluwatu is an area at the southern tip of Bali, Indonesia.
In face it’s part of one of the most famous surfing areas on the planet – the Bukit Peninsular.
If you’re doing a flight search you’ll want to be flying into Denpasar Airport. Numerous airlines offer flights into Bali from a whole range of international airports – including the likes of Emirates, Etihad, Singapore, Virgin Australia and Jetstar Australia.
How To Get To Uluwatu
Once you’ve got to Bali, getting to Uluwatu is a pretty simple process, well it can be if you avoid all the airport taxi hustlers!
From the airport the easiest option is a private car transfer (especially if you have surfboards), which will take about 45 minutes to an hour from the airport (very much depending on the traffic!)
Hit up my buddy Buddah who’ll be more than happy to help you out – drop him a WhatsApp on +62 819-9785-1578
Depending on the accomodation option you choose you might also be able to get a hotel transfer for a reduced rate.
Once you’re down in Uluwatu the best way to get around is by hiring a moped with a surfboard rack, which can easily be sorted via your accomodation.
Price wise the day rate is usually around 50,000IDR ($5AUD, £2.70, $3.50USD) but if you rent for a month or more this will easily drop to around 800,000IDR ($80AUD, £44, $55USD), which works out at 26,000IDR per day (just $2.50AUD, £1.40, $1.80USD)
Where To Stay In Uluwatu
Uluwatu is far from the off the beaten track destination it was and in the last few years the area has started to boom as it attempts to steal the lure that Canggu has dominated recently!
On one hand it has made the place much more busy, but the upside is an abundance of accomodation options to choose from.
Some of my top pics include:
- Yoga Searcher
- Uluwatu Cottages
- Ayodhya Uluwatu
- Ashana Hotel
- Blue Point Resort & Spa
Whens The Best Season For Surfing Uluwatu?
When it comes to surfing Uluwatu – and the other spots on the west side of the Bukit Peninsular – the Bali dry season which runs from May to September provides the most consistent, clean swells.
And because it’s dry season you’ll also score the best weather too – bonus!
What Level Do You Need To Be To Surf Uluwatu?
Despite its reputation as a pretty gnarly world class wave Uluwatu can suit high end intermediates and above – BUT this really does depend on what the swells doing.
Smaller days can be fun to push your surf skills, but when it’s cranking it’s for advanced and expert surfers only, so if you’re out of your depth just grab a cold Bintang and watch the show instead!
Booties or Barefoot?
So do you need reef boots when surfing Uluwatu? Well alot comes down to personal preference, but also keep in mind what tide you’re surfing on as well. If you’re surfing mid to low tide then personally I’d recommend it, there’s nothing worse than ruining a surf session by getting some sea urchin spines in your foot before you even hit the water!
If you’ve got solid feet then yeah risk it if you want, but my personal recommendation would be to play it safe and go with booties.
What Board & Board Hire
So what board should you pick for surfing Uluwatu? Well to be honest the swell and conditions are going to have a huge impact on this decision.
For mid range conditions up to head/head and a half your go to shortboard is going to be the best decision – something you’re comfortable on and is up to the task of speed, whacks and cover ups!
If I was heading there right now my Firewire Dominator 2 with a quad fin setup would be my go to stick.
I’ve seen a whole variety of board options out in the lineup – from performance thrusters to twinnies and alternative shapes. I’ve actually surfed Uluwatu numerous times on a single fin longboard too – although I would only recommend that to experienced loggers as it can get a bit hectic out there!
When it really starts pumping a step up board is going to give you that extra advantage on the paddle in – something with a bit of extra length and volume but still keeping the performance.
Ideally take your own board with you, but you can also hire boards from a few surf hire places on the way down to the cave. Make sure you know the deal in terms of ding and snap repair prices BEFORE you grab one though – don’t get stung!
The famous cave entrance to Uluwatu is almost a surfing right of passage on it’s own. In the not so distant pass getting down into the cave was an adventure on it’s own, navigating through the winding warungs and steep steps before negotiating the precarious final descent to the cave floor.
These days things are a bit easier, with a proper set of steps being installed – but the walk is still as awe inspiring as always!
The Paddle Out
The paddle out when you’re surfing Uluwatu is arguably even more difficult than surfing the wave itself!
On dead low tide you can walk across the reef right to the drop off, with a short paddle into the lineup.
However on mid to high tides when the cave starts filling up things get a little more tricky, especially when the swells pumping! Timing is the key here, picking the right gap between sets is essential.
Once you’ve committed to the paddle out you really need to commit hard – as the rip current can get pretty crazy and can easily wash you down past Racetracks – next stop Padang Padang!
Keep your board angled to the left a bit to avoid loosing too much ground but ideally you want to loop across to just before Racetracks and then follow the edge of the reef back out to the main take off spot.
Rather than a singular wave, surfing Uluwatu is broken down into 6 reef breaks, all of which have different characteristics and attractions and they all sit about 100m apart from each other.
On a solid, clean swell they can line up and many link together if you’ve got the skills to navigate them!
Running from left to right they are:
- Outside Corner
Secrets & Temples
The furthest left peaks of Secrets and Temples are the hardest to reach, but if you make the trek they’re well worth it, both offering some serious barrel time, reeling across shallow reef. Patience and respect are the two golden rules in the lineup here and both will be rewarded with some of the best waves you’ll ever surf.
Jacking up out of the deep water Bombie is often the least crowded of the main peaks. A fast and critical take off, this section can produce some big faces and a step up board is recommended to get you locked in.
Peak & Outside Corner
When it comes surfing Uluwatu, the most popular peaks are definitely Peak and Outside Corner. Clean, open and barrelling, these are the sections of Uluwatu you’ll instantly recognise from many a surf film and if you score solid swell at Uluwatu these are the spots you want to be in for that ride of a lifetime.
Being able to handle crowded lineups and super talented locals are the main obstacles here – so take your time to assess the lineup before getting involved.
The final part of Uluwatu is known as Racetracks – and for good reason! This section of the reef is super fast and you’ll need to be on your speed game to successfully navigate it. When it’s working well Racetracks is near mechanical in it’s perfect tube production so get ready for some shade!
Getting Back In
The other big skill you need to master quickly when surfing Uluwatu is getting back in!
Again the tide and swell size are going to play a huge part in how easy this is.
High tide, with a big swell is certainly the hardest option – and the easiest and safest way to get back in during this combination is to kick off the wave well before Racetracks and bodyboard in on the whitwash. The trick here is to aim well to the right of the cave entrance (facing back towards the land from the water), and paddle HARD towards the right, giving yourself plenty of leeway for current.
The last thing you want to do is hit the far left of the cave entrance and get quickly sucked around the corner and have to paddle all the way back out for another go – so time it right and paddle HARD to the right on that final approach.
Once you’re into the cave there’s going to be a lot of water surfing around so be aware of rocks and use your reserves to get up onto the sand as quickly and safely as possible.
Always wanted to get some epic surfing photos of yourself and super keen to get that photo evidence of the wave of your life? Well you’re in luck!
There’s an established team of talented local photographers taking shots of the lineup throughout the day – they’ll grab you on your way back up the steps to see your shots.
My best advice (especially if you’re surfing there regularly) is to get a folder made and choose your shots before you leave. That way you can edit out the not so good ones and can negotiate a bulk buy deal rather than paying heaps for each single image.
Also if you want the best pics, aim for a surf before midday as this is the best lighting from the cliff top vantage point they shoot from.
Other Surf Spots In The Area
If you’re pumped with the prospect of surfing Uluwatu, the chances are Padang Padang is on your radar too.
Fast, hollow and with world class barrel sections, Padang Padang is another gem of the Bukit Peninsular and well worth hitting up for experienced surfers.
The inside reef can be a bit more mellow for beginner and intermediate surfers, but only if the swell permits!
Fun, consistent and with a dreamy backdrop, the lefts at Bingin are perfect for those looking for clean barrels and is one of the best spots to head for those chasing their first tube.
The take off spots is pretty small, and often crowded, but well worth the scrabble when you slide into one!
Working on all tides, this left hand reef break can handle a huge range of swell, but low tide is best left to more advanced surfers.
Keep your speed and navigate the sections – if you nail this Balangan can offer up a super long ride with some fun cover up sections and is generally a bit less crowded than other spots in the area.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds Dreamland isn’t a great bet as its a bit more accessible for all levels of surfer and the beachfront is packed with hotels and resorts.
That being said though, it’s a super fun waves and works best at low tide.
Also one of the rare spots in Bali that offer both left and rights too!
If you want a long, high performance wave then if you score Impossible when it’s on you’ll be in heaven – on the right conditions it can run for over 400m!
However, it’s certainly much less makable than it looks – hence the name! Advanced surfers only.
Green bowl/gree ball used to be a little off the surfer hit list but has certainly gained a lot more popularity in the last few years.
Mainly breaking in the wet season, it sits on the East side of the Bukit and offers some rippable right handers.
Just be aware of the sharp reef and strong current.
Best Places To Eat In Uluwatu
As Uluwatu gets more and more popular a whole range of places to eat in Uluwatu have popped up – ranging from local warungs to upmarket restaurants and healthy smoothie bowls!
For those looking to eat on the cheap the array of local warung restaurants overlooking the surf at Uluwatu are a great spot – super cheap, tasty and with million dollar views, ideal for a post surf refuel and cold Bintang!
Some of the top restaurant picks in the area include:
- Single Fin
- Sugar Rock
- Mana Uluwatu
- Drifter Cafe & Restaurant
- La Baracca
Depending on what you fancy eating a quick scour of TripAdvisor or fellow surfer recommendation will point you in the right direction for what you’re looking for.
When it comes to partying in Uluwatu, as you’d expect from any bustling surf destination you’ve got a good choice of beach bars to choose from!
By far the most famous of all the Uluwatu nightlife spots is Single Fin – which is one of THE places to be seen in Bali and their Sunday Session is legendary.
But – if you want to avoid the crowds and overpriced drinks (seriously, Single Fin is nuts when it comes to beer and cocktail prices!) there are plenty of other spots in the same area which offer the same incredible sunset views across the surf break and are much easier on the wallet!
For those on a real budget the warungs just down the steps from Single Fin are my personal recommendation – friendly local service, great vibes, arguably better views across the lineup and at a fraction of the price!