No, no, no...not Kuta, Bali...Kuta, LOMBOK. The Kuta in Bali is an overly crowded area known for partying and having way too many drunk Aussies. I stayed one night there and, to say the least, it was not my favorite place. But Kuta in Lombok is a completely different story and not to be mixed up! My short time spent there were some of my favorites moments while in Indonesia.
Kuta is on the southern coast of Lombok and is popular for surfing, the beautiful beaches, and the social life. It has one of the more lively social scenes for tourists in Lombok, minus the Gili Islands. However it is still much quieter than Bali, as Lombok as a whole is less touristy. A trip here is really whatever you want it to be; whether you're looking to party, have an adventure or simply relax, secluded away from anyone, it's really your choice!
Out of my 2 weeks on Lombok island, I spent my last 2 days in Kuta. It was a spontaneous and last minute decision before my visa expired. And honestly, I wish I had gone sooner! But in my short two days I had the time of my life. I made the most of the area, soaking in the sun at remote beaches, enjoying long scooter rides, navigating the roads alone while passing beautiful scenery and exploring anywhere I wanted. I felt completely alive and independent and in awe of the natural beauty surrounding me. If you're planning a trip there yourself, you will not be disappointed!
The surrounding areas of Kuta have some of the most beautiful pristine beaches; and a day laying on a bamboo chair with a coconut facing turquoise water is difficult to beat.
Tanjung Aan is one of the more popular beaches without being overly crowded. With its popularity, many Indonesian people have set up shop all along the beach. There are plenty of bamboo "huts" serving as restaurants and bars (called warungs) and provided chairs to lay on. It's a great place to relax, read, or drink on the beach.
To get there it is a 20 minute drive outside of Kuta's center. The road is all paved until the end where it is dirt or gravel, however easy to drive on. It is 10,000 IDR ($.80 USD) to park your scooter at the entrance of the beach, or you can park behind a warung for free and buy a drink from them, which are reasonably priced.
Pros: It is a beautiful beach, not too far away from Kuta and right next to Merese Hill. It's a good balance between not being too crowded, but having people and warungs around so you don't feel like you're on a deserted island. There are swings and plenty of places to lay.
Cons: If you're looking for a secluded beach, this is not it. Also there are many local people and children who walk along the beach trying to sell you bracelets or sarongs; it can be difficult to relax and you constantly have to say no. It is also not a beach for surfing.
Pantai Tampah is a beautiful beach perfect for relaxing in peace and swimming. There are no local people trying to sell you bracelets here. However, you still have access to food and drink by the few local warungs. There is also plenty of lounge seating and it doesn't get very crowded. When I was there, there were only a few couples, and then later a group of friends came to play beach frisbee. But the ratio of beach size to people is good, so if you want to get away even more (like me), you can walk down and simply find your own spot to lay in the sun.
To get to Pantai Tampah, it is a 25 minute drive from Kuta's center. The road is paved, goes up and down hill, and there is beautiful scenery. Overall its a wonderful drive, there's hardly any traffic and you may be the the only one on the road at times. After about 10km, on the left of the paved road, there will be a sign pointing towards Pantai Tampah; you'll turn left and follow a short dirt road to the beach. To park your scooter and enter the beach, it is 10,000 IDR ($0.80 USD).
Pros: Beautiful beach with clear water perfect for swimming and relaxing, not too crowded, but still have access to food and drink.
Cons: Farther out of Kuta (but a beautiful drive), and may be boring to someone looking for more of a social scene, also no swing.
Pantai Lancing is actually on the same exact bay as Pantai Tampah. I believe you could even walk along the sand to one another, so I'm not sure why they're considered separate beaches. However, in terms of atmosphere Pantai Lancing is slightly different. It has even less people, and there is only one warung. It also has a swing! I swam at this beach and laid for a few hours reading and unbothered by anyone except for some local children that wanted a high five 😊
To get here, you could walk down the beach from Pantai Tampah, but Lancing does have its own entrance, as well. It is 25 minutes from Kuta and along the same route to get to Pantai Tampah; you simply go down the road a little farther. It is 10,000 IDR ($0.80 USD) to park your scooter. Coconuts are around 40,000 ($2.50 USD).
Pros: Relaxing and secluded, but you still have the chairs and drinks; wonderful for swimming.
Cons: Not many options for food, there is only one warung; not a great social scene.
Pantai Semeti is a very secluded beach with amazing natural sights, perfect for exploring. Not only is the view unreal, but the cove is an example of nature's art, and there is even a cave somewhere (I never found it though, I didn't have enough time before dark). If you visit this paradise, you will more than likely have the place to yourself and can explore every corner in peace. It's also great for shell searching!'
But in order to find this beach, you have to work for it. Getting there takes about 45 minutes to an hour from Kuta. The first half is simple; it's the same road that takes you to Pantai Tampah and Lancing: some hills, some flat, but all paved and no traffic. However, the last half of the drive is quite difficult. In fact what's considered a road, really is not a road at all. It's dirt, gravel and potholes. Additionally, some hills are steep so it's really quite dangerous. The road continues like this for about 3km until reaching the beach. I somehow made it without any problems, but I was quite nervous at some points. Just understand the risk, and go slowly and carefully. Scooter accidents are never fun.
Pros: Visiting here is an adventure, from the scooter ride to having so much to explore once you're there, and having the place all to yourself.
Cons: May not be the best idea if you're not experienced on a scooter; also, because it is so secluded, there are no warungs and no umbrellas or palm trees to shield you from the sun (so bring sunscreen and clothes to cover as well as food and water)
Unfortunately my stay in Kuta was short-lived, but there were many other beaches on my list worth sharing.
Pantai Mawi is just adjacent to Pantai Semeti. Along the dirt "road," towards the end you can choose to go left for Semeti or right for Mawi. Mawi is a lovely beach, but is mostly know for surfing. The waves here are quite big and I've heard not suitable for beginners, but a lot of fun for experienced surfers. Either way, it's worth exploring nonetheless, especially if you're going to Pantai Semeti.
This beach is especially popular and for good reason. Not only is it a lovely beach, but it is quite large with many warungs and is great for swimming and beginner surfers. If you're looking for a fun beach day to rent a board and learn how to surf, this is the place to go!
This beach is not really close to Kuta, actually (hour and 40 minutes away), but I thought it worth mentioning because it's unique! Otherwise known as the Pink Beach, the name says it all. The sand is supposed to be pink, although the color intensity varies throughout the day and how the sun hits it. But pictures look quite amazing, and it's on my list next time I'm in Lombok!
I'm actually mentioning Kuta Beach, but not to recommend it. Although I never went there, I heard it's really not worth it. It is popular to locals and because it's walking distance from Kuta's center. However, it is paved in concrete, and I've read it can be dirty. Not really worth the trip.
It's no secret where the best sunset is in Kuta: Bukit Merese Hill. This place is definitely worth the hype! Many people gather on the hill with snacks and drinks to enjoy this beautiful view. Just don't forget to carry out your trash, and watch out for baboons! One stole my water bottle :(
Bukit Merese Hill is right next to Tanjung Aan, you simply keep going down the gravel road. On the left there's a very small sign pointing to 'Bukit Merese Hill,' but it's easy to miss so keep an eye out. Parking your scooter is 10,000 IDR ($0.80 USD).
Side note: Bukit Merese hill although popular for sunset, is also supposed to be a beautiful sight during the day when the tide is high and you can look down at the waves crashing!
Ashtari - Horizon Restaurant and Lounge, Yoga Loft
There are many options in Kuta from Western fried food to local Indonesian food to bohemian vegan spots. These were my two favorite:
Delicious Mediterranean food and a really decorative venue. This is a great spot for both lunch and dinner, or even to stop for some tea!
I went here for breakfast twice because the food and coffee were so delicious. Not to mention it has that hip coffee shop vibe with a side of bamboo. My kind of aesthetic.
Other Places to Eat:
Ashtari - Horizon Restaurant and Lounge, Yoga Loft
HostelWorld lists 17 hostels in Kuta, ranging from $3 a night (for a dorm room) to $30 for a private room. The prices vary place to place as well as the reviews, so do your research to find what is best for you.
I stayed in Slumber Party Hostel because I liked the facilities and it had good reviews. I had a comfortable dorm bed for $7 a night. It is considered a party hostel, so if you're into drinking and meeting people, you'll have fun here! Personally, I was only there 2 nights and I didn't participate in the activities because I was out busy doing my own thing. And this was fine, because everyone left by 11pm to go to bars, and it was not loud. If I were to stay in Kuta for a longer period of time though, I would have found somewhere more suited to me.
Searching on AirBnb you can find many beautiful stays with large white beds paired with a pool and a beautiful view. Although private villas are not as popular here as Bali, you can find private rooms within a resort and sometimes even bungalows.
There are many, many homestay in Kuta that can be found on Booking.com. And most are nicer than you think, some even with a pool! By staying at a homestay you are supporting local people and will get to meet the host family, and probably other travelers while having the luxury of your own room just like hotel. My friend stayed at Homestay @ 79and raved about it how wonderful the people were and how comfortable the room was; it's also rated highest on Booking.com!
**When searching for places to stay, make sure and type into the search engine "Kuta, Lombok" because if you only type in Kuta, you'll get results in Bali
To get to Kuta, first you have to arrive on the island of Lombok. This can be done in several ways.
If Lombok is your first stop in Indonesia, you'll fly into Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport otherwise known as Lombok International Airport. From there, Kuta is about a 25-30 minute drive down south. You can get a taxi or private driver to Kuta, or Indonesian's version of Uber: Gojek or Grab. Prices should be around 70,000 - 100,000 IDR ($5-7 USD), usually less for the apps (especially if you book a scooter rather than car).
Keep in mind though, often times when booking a Gojek or Grab, they are not allowed to come to Arrivals, and you might need to walk out of the airport some. Otherwise, taxis/private drivers will be waiting at arrivals readily available. If you're not hip to transportation in Indonesia, you may think these drivers look unofficial because they don't have a "taxi" sign, however it is completely normal and I never had a problem from a driver in the many times I was alone with them. Just be sure to negotiate a price before getting in the car; I always compared prices to the set one on Grab, to convince them to go lower to meet the price.
Many people visiting Lombok are coming from Bali. Going from Bali to Lombok you have two options: traveling by air or by boat.
Traveling by speedboat or ferry is very popular amongst tourists (especially if going to the Gili Islands as the airport is not close to there). It cost about 250,000-300,000 IDR ($18-22 USD) and takes about 2-4 hours. You'll arrive at Bangsal Harbor which is 2 hours drive from Kuta. You'll easily be able to get a driver/taxi from here to Kuta which would cost you around 200,000 IDR ($14 USD) with some bargaining.
Flights from Bali to Lombok are about $18-25 USD, although that typically does not include luggage (Asian airlines can be very strict too about what qualifies as a carry on). The flight is only 30-50 minutes long. You'll arrive at Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport otherwise known as Lombok International Airport. From the airport, Kuta is about a 25-30 minute drive down south. You can get a taxi or private driver to Kuta, or Indonesian's version of Uber: Gojek or Grab. Prices should be around 70,000 - 100,000 IDR ($5-7 USD), usually less for the apps (especially if you book a scooter rather than car).
So which one should you take: boat or plane? Well they are similar in prices, and although the flight is shorter, the total travel times are probably the same too, when you add in arriving to the the airport early before the flight and waiting for your luggage after. However, the drop off point is different, the airport is much closer to Kuta than the harbor. But this might work for you if Kuta is not your first stop in Lombok.
So it really comes down to what you're comfortable with doing and what your itinerary looks like. Personally, I opted to fly. I would rather have taken boat as it is more environmentally friendly, however I get very seasick and had just had a bad episode recently. I've heard taking a boat is hit or miss. Sometimes it is smooth sailing, and sometimes the waves are so huge, everyone gets sick and you may start to question if you're going to make it alive (as told by people I met). But for some, flying is a bad experience and they will do anything to avoid airports. My advice, weigh the pros and cons, look at your itinerary and go from there.
*Note: leaving Kuta, whether you're going to the airport or harbor, you will have to get a private driver/taxi. There will not be any Gojeks or Grabs in Kuta. So get transportation from your accommodation, or you can find some in Kuta's center.
So once you're in Kuta, how can you navigate around? By far the most popular is to rent a scooter. Wherever you decide to book accommodation, ask reception or the family and they will either have scooters for you to rent or know where you can.
Renting a scooter is around 60,000 IDR a day ($4 USD), and is really easy to drive in Lombok. The roads are not busy at all like Bali, and so it's a great place to learn. If you are learning, however, I would make a friend and ride on the back of one first before driving for the first time. If you do decide to drive yourself, just know getting to many of the beaches I mentioned, the roads (although good quality) are up and down hill with some turns. So you must be comfortable with that. Otherwise driving a scooter is so much fun and one of my favorite things to do! Especially when the destination is as beautiful as the beaches of Kuta.