West Bali truly is the wild west of the island, with deserted beaches hammered by pounding surf, rolling green hills, lush rainforests and traditional Balinese villages that seem untouched by time. Whether you’re exploring the natural wonders of the West Bali National Park, hitting the swells at Balian Beach or snorkelling in the impossibly clear waters around Menjangan Island, one thing is for sure: this certainly ain’t no Kuta or Seminyak.
West Bali National Park (AKA Taman Nasional Bali Barat) covers a significant portion of Bali’s western tip, and is a protected sanctuary for verdant plant life, exotic animals, coral reefs, mangroves and pristine coastlines. The park may be a bit of a trek from other parts of Bali, but the trip is well worth it to see some of Bali’s most incredible and pure natural sites.
Nestled in between the mountains and the sea, the small town of Negara is famous for its traditional bull races. The mighty bulls pull small chariots with village men inside, and the men urge the bulls to charge down roads and long stretches of sand in the hopes of crossing the finish line first. The best time to see the races is in August, when the region holds the Bupati Cup to determine the champion bull racer of the year.
It would be a shame to come to Bali and not see Tanah Lot, considering the temple is an easy trip from most southern holiday hotspots. Tanah Lot rests on a rocky outcropping just offshore, and can only be reached during low tide. Although non-Balinese people are not allowed to enter the temple, you can still enjoy the views of the sun setting behind the silhouette of the multiple tiers from the beach.
Things to Do
Nature lovers won’t want to miss a trip to West Bali National Park, where you can see over 200 species of plants, 300 species of birds, and a myriad of fascinating creatures, including pythons, iguanas, barking deer, macaques, wild pigs and turtles. If the underwater world is more your style, the waters off of Menjangan Island offer some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities on the island. Think vibrant coral fans, massive manta rays, eels, crabs and thousands of fish swimming by in schools.
The west coast is also well-loved by surfers from far and wide for the excellent swells that roll in consistently during the dry season (April to October). Balian is Bali’s up and coming surfing hotspot, with both small guesthouses and upscale villas and resorts proliferating. The stellar left-hand break here is a huge draw for surfers of all levels. Further west, Medewi offers slightly less crowded waters and a long left-hand break that carries you right into the mouth of the river.
Many people who visit Bali never make it west, preferring instead to stay in the tourist meccas of the south or the arts and culture capital of Ubud. The majority of people who do head west go for the outdoor pursuits like trekking, diving, snorkeling or surfing. Along the coast, you’ll find many laid-back surfers who are happy just to hit the waves and have a few beers at night, while nature lovers head to West Bali National Park and Menjangan Island. In the villages scattered throughout the lush countryside, it’s mostly locals you’ll meet as tourists are few and far between.