Denpasar (map) is located in the south of Bali and is the largest city on this island. With more than 800.000 citizens it is also the capital of Bali. Denpasar consists of many different suburbs. Right next to Denpasar, lies the well-known city and area of Kuta. Kuta and Denpasar are closely linked to each other and most travelers do not even realise that these are two different cities. During our trip we stayed 3 times in Denpasar and Kuta and spent our time in Sanur, Legian, Kuta and Seminyak. We will therefore concentrate on these areas.
Kuta is the busiest part of the southern area of Bali and is a favourite holiday destination for Australians. In general, Kuta is the most famous area of Bali. For some it is the number 1 party location and pure paradise and for others it is simply the most touristic part of Bali. Kuta offers several beach bars, restaurants, pubs, shops and a very modern shopping mall. In a way, Kuta appears to be very ‘western’. To some Extremists this western lifestyle was a provocation to their own lifestyle. In 2002 and 2005 Kuta experienced 2 terrible terror attacks during which 202 and 26 people died. Since these attacks a lot has changed. You will find armed security men, police and soldiers along the most popular tourist destinations. If you want to enter the main shopping mall, a security man and a soldier will first check your belongings. The fear of a further attack is still visible. Still, Kuta has recovered mostly and is nearly as busy as it has ever been. Walking through Kuta is like walking through any kind of touristic town in southern Spain, France or Italy but with a special Australian touch. Most restaurants serve Australian food and most bars show Australian football. And most people you meet on the streets are Australians. This seems to be the number 1 get-away for Australians. Sadly the interest of most tourists in Kuta seems to be just partying, drinking and eating. Kuta reminded us of the touristic parts of Palma de Mallorca on the island of Mallorca. It has nothing to do with the ‘real Bali’. There are more tourists than locals in Kuta and most of them seem to be drunk or on their way to get drunk. So if you want to party -Kuta is the place to be. But do not expect to learn something about Bali, its people or their traditions. You will probably learn more about Australia or any rules of a drinking game.
Legian and Seminjak also belong to the Kuta area, but are more quiet and also more expensive than the city of Kuta. There are also a lot of tourists and Legian and Seminjak are dominated by western bars and restaurants, but it isn’t really a party hot spot like the city of Kuta. On the beach you will find one restaurant or bar after another and as there are many huge waves, surf schools are everywhere on the beach. We chose Legian for a short stay, because it is close to the airport (15 min.) and the hotels are very cheap. We stayed at the Loft Legian Hotel Bali and only payed 19€ for 2 persons/ per night. We can definitely recommend this hotel. In Legian and Seminjak you will find many restaurants and there are also some great ones. We can definitely recommend the ‘Fat Chow’. It is always fully booked and you will have to wait in front of the restaurant and put your name on a waiting list. But it is worth it. The ‘Fat chow’ offers different Asian dishes. Try their chicken wings!
Sanur belongs to Denpasar and is located on the other side of Kuta. Sanur is more quite than Kuta and a lot of families spend their holidays there. We stayed at the ‘little tree house’ right next to the Mercure Hotel in Sanur. We booked this accommodation through Airbnb and were really happy with it. It is located a bit off track, very quiet and beautiful. As they have a couple of rooms, one central pool, an open living room and a kitchen, you will always meet your fellow travelers and still enjoy your privacy. Sanur is also touristic, but it is totally different to Kuta. It is a more healthy and calm tourism that combines the local life with international tourism. Nearly all activities, restaurants and bars are run by locals. One day we went fishing in a traditional boat with a local fisherman and caught some reef fish. It was easy to organise as most fishermen are willing to take you out fishing. It costs usually 1 million IDR (70€) for the whole boat and for about 4 hours. After our fishing trip, we were able to cook our catch at our house. If you do not want to catch your own dinner, you can enjoy the cuisine of different Restaurants and Warungs in Sanur. Right on the beach you will find ‘La Playa’ for a romantic evening with fresh seafood. The Restaurant and Café ‘Lilla Pantai’ is very modern and offers great snacks, juices and dinner. We went there several times. But our favourite place in Sanur wasn’t a fancy restaurant, it was a small Warung called ‘Warung Amphibia’. This Warung offers fresh fish and seafood right on the beach. The owners of this Warung only sell what they catch. You can choose your fish, crab, octopus or crayfish and you will pay its weight. And it is very cheap. A 400g crayfish costs about 15€ including side dishes. The taste is unbelievable. They have great sauces and an unbeatable scenery. The team of the ‘Warung Amphibia’ is very friendly and you feel like you are eating with your family. It is simple, but it is the best. Besides their restaurant, the owners also have a small turtle sanctuary which is located right next to their Warung. You can have a look at the baby turtles and the injured ones and donate some money if you want to. Sometimes you can even see turtles that lay their eggs in front of the Warung. We were very happy that we found this Warung through our friend Mario. He offers spearfishing, surfing and snorkling tours in Sanur and is very friendly and helpful. If you are interested in maritime sports, just google Mario spearfishing.
In general, Denpasar and Kuta are the best-known and touristic parts of Bali. We didn’t really like Kuta, as it is just too crowded and dosen’t seem to be ‘real Bali’ anymore. Sanur on the other hand was one of our favourite spots. It is also quite touristic, but combines it with the locals’ lives. If you are planning to stay in the Denpasar/ Kuta area, we recommend to stay in Sanur. And if you want to party you can still take a taxi and hop over to Kuta. Sanur offers a great range of activities and restaurants and also a local impression of the Balinese lifestyle.