Sanur sits over on the eastern side of Bali. It’s quite a way from the hustle and bustle of the most famous resorts – Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Canggu – and is known for its calmer stretches of sand and more laid-back atmosphere. But is Sanur worth visiting during your adventure to the Isle of the Gods this year? Let’s take a look…
Despite being less than 10 miles from the hubbub of Denpasar (the Balinese capital), Sanur retains a traditional village feel and beach-town vibe. But it also has modern conveniences, less traffic, and plenty of restaurants, bars, and even live music for those who like a slice of nightlife. On top of that, you’ll find immersive historical and cultural landmarks like the Le Mayeur Museum as well as the ancient Blanjong inscription.
Tying the whole thing together is a series of reef-ringed beaches that have some of the calmest swimming on the island, plus rare white and golden sands (many of the beaches in Bali are black sand). All converge on a large port, from where it’s possible to launch adventures across Bali itself but also out to other isles. Let’s dig a little deeper see seven reasons why Sanur is worth visiting…
Because it’s easy to reach
With the main Ngurah Rai Denpasar International Airport right on the doorstep, Sanur is a great place to stay before or after a flight. In fact, we’d say that Sanur is among the closest of all the major resort areas to the airport. You can whiz out of the arrival taxi and be there in 15-20 minutes. There’s not usually all that much traffic getting in the way, either, since this part of the island doesn’t suffer from the infamous congestion that you see across in the more western resorts.
More than that, Sanur also has a port. It’s one of the most important ports for traveling in and around Bali and its neighboring islands. You can take boats to and from the ever-popular rock of Nusa Penida, home to the ray-filled coral gardens of Manta Point and the glinting white sands of Crystal Bay. You can also arrive in from the ridiculously handsome Gili isles – it takes around 2.5 hours in the fast boat and costs $42 per person.
Whichever way you come, whether jetting in on one of the abundance of long-haul flights from Europe, Asia or the Middle East or sailing over on a boat, Sanur remains one of the best-connected resorts on the whole island. It’s just one of the reasons we say it’s so darn perfect for families and couples who want to get the Bali fun started without too much hassle on transfers and whatnot.
There are actually seven individual beaches threading down the coast of Sanur on the southeast side of Bali. Each one offers a vibe and range of fun activities on its own. What’s more, you’re in line to get white and yellow sands here, which is rather rare on a volcanic island that’s got far more black-sand beaches.
The locals generally favor Pantai Indah because of its central location and soft, golden sand. As an added bonus, there are plenty of local restaurants scattered along the sea there, in addition to affordably priced lounge chairs and umbrellas for hire. You can look just behind the sands to find a series of large-scale resort hotels that have walking access to the coastline.
The other beaches that are worth knowing about in Sanur are:
- Pantai Segara Ayu – There’s a whole reef system protecting this one, which keeps the waves small and the conditions pretty great for swimming.
- Sawangan Beach – This one’s technically not in Sanur but in neighboring Nusa Dua, which is a bit more upmarket. It’s worth the trip for the sugar-soft powder and turquoise seas, though.
- Taman Inspirasi Mertasari – A well protected beach with a children’s playground, Taman Inspirasi Mertasari has a pleasant rivermouth strolling path and some very good coastal restaurants.
Naturally, you could also explore the equally entrancing Matahari Terbit and Mertasari shores, or walk further south to experience the vibrant fishing and boating scenes of the Sembawang, Cemara, and Prama Sanur beaches.
All those day trip options
We can safely say that there’s no shortage of options If you’re looking for an interesting day out in Sanur. For starters, you could visit the infamous haunted theme park, Taman Festival. Legend has it that it briefly opened in 1997, but was struck by lightning less than a year later, and has remained a vast, abandoned attraction ever since. These days, its deserted entrance gates, empty cafeterias, and deteriorated main buildings with partially collapsed roofs are a firm favorite of photographers looking for a creepy setting.
You could also attend the annual Bali Kites Festival on the northern end of Sanur at Padanggalak Beach, where you’ll see thousands of colorful kites with the troupes maneuvering in their droves. The kites usually have wingspans of between 5 and 10 meters, and we recommend bringing your camera along to document the exciting take-off and landing process.
However, arguably one of the best things about Sanur is the fact that it’s a great base for exploring all the joys of south Bali only without the business and energy of Kuta et al. That means you can launch adventures to see a whole host of the most popular places on the island but stay somewhere nice and chilled. The following are top suggestions:
- The Bukit Peninsula – The southernmost peninsula of Bali and a veritable surfing mecca. Head here to see the big waves and enthralling temple at Uluwatu and the unforgettable sunsets at Bingin Beach.
- Seminyak – You can hop over to Seminyak to taste the electrifying nightlife and gastronomy scene of Bali’s most upscale hotel hub.
- Canggu – Spend a day in hipster Canggu for cool eateries and mellower surf breaks.
- Tanah Lot – Arguably the most-photographed temple in Bali, Tanah Lot sits on a craggy rock above the Indian Ocean. It’s truly amazing and within day trip distance of Sanur.
From the fishermen who return to the shores with their daily catch in brightly colored fishing boats to the women who walk to the temples with a tower of offerings on their heads, Balinese tradition and Hindu culture are visible at every turn in Sanur. The town is also home to Le Museum Le Mayeur, which turned the former house of Brussels artist Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merpres into a museum showcasing his work.
You’ll also get the opportunity to explore the Blanjong Temple which houses a stone pillar with Sanskrit inscriptions dating back to 914 AD, said to be a victory monument of the first king of the Balinese Warmadewa dynasty, who is believed to have installed Bali’s first formal government. As an added bonus, the temple is a national cultural heritage site that welcomes visitors year-round and showcases sandstone statues of Hindu Gods and various animal figures.
Finally, don’t forget that Sanur is still within striking distance of Bali’s cultural hub: Ubud. You can go there for a day trip or for a couple of nights to immerse yourself in art galleries and ancient Hindu-Buddhist shrines. The drive is about an hour in normal traffic, but it can take longer at peak hours.
Sanur also caters to the adventurous at heart. There are plenty of watersports on offer. It’s a great place to base yourself if you want to go scuba diving or snorkeling, since both can be done directly off the beach.
There are also quite a few reputable, well-established dive operators based in Sanur who can organize memorable trips to the nearby Nusa Penida, Padang Bai, or Tulumben’s USS Liberty Wreck. It’s even possible to take a tour that lets you swim or snorkel with harmless young reef sharks and manta rays!
Seeing as the water is sheltered from strong currents, and it’s open to winds, it’s also a popular destination for kitesurfing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, and paragliding. The calm sea waves and shallow water also make it the ideal place to introduce children to swimming and Bali’s underwater worlds.
For surfing, this probably isn’t the best place on the island. But, then again, this is Bali, so you’re never going to be too far from a world-class break. Beginners can head over to the long runs of Kuta, one of Asia’s very best learner locations. Better surfers have access to the Bukit for spots like Ulu and Bingin. And there are wet-season breaks like Keramas and Nusa Dua.
International chefs have been drawn to Bali’s distinctive cuisine for years, and Sanur’s culinary scene, in particular, has seen significant expansion, with there being more than enough dining and drinking options to satisfy every craving – this was the island’s original luxury vacation hotspot, after all!
Many of the most coveted restaurants here are in or attached to major hotel chains. They tend to serve East-West fusion food that oozes culinary flare and creativity. There are also many that focus on offering haute Mediterranean menus and Japanese sushi and sashimi – you really can get pretty much anything you’re after!
Additionally, you can find locally sourced produce at the Sindhu Market on Jalan Pungutan. This also doubles up as the Sanur Night Market in the evenings, where food stall vendors serve delicious traditional Balinese fare and various Indonesian cuisines. That’s the place to sample huge gado gado salads (see the picture) on banana leaf plates and taste coconut red curries with tofu and chicken.
The uber-relaxed atmosphere
Sanur doesn’t have much of a party scene and the area is peaceful in comparison to the bustling streets of Canggu and Kuta. This makes it perfect for anyone who’s craving a laid-back holiday or looking to explore traditional Balinese culture without the headiness of it all.
Adding to its relaxed atmosphere, the Balinese are some of the friendliest people and due to their genuine warmth and open-heartedness, making new friends here is easier than anywhere else. As a matter of fact, locals are often open to striking up conversations with next-to anyone.
Finally, the array of hotels here only helps with the R&R. Some of the island’s original chain resorts make their home in Sanur. We’re talking the likes of the InterContinental Bali Sanur Resort ($$$) and the Hyatt Regency Bali ($$$). They might not come cheap but they do take care of all the bells and whistles – think walking access to the beachfront and grand pool areas next to stunning eastern spa facilities.
Is Sanur worth visiting?
Is Sanur worth visiting? We think the answer to that has to be yes. But let’s qualify that a little. Sanur is a chilled-out option on the less-visited eastern side of Bali’s south coast. It’s a resort that’s long been favored by luxury seekers and families, which shows in the range of large-scale chain hotels and their on-site pools and restaurants.
The beaches are beautiful, white-sand affairs, and come well-protected by coral reefs. Plus, you get very good access by road to the mainstay attractions out west, and access by boat to islands like Nusa Penida for onward trips.
The downside of Sanur is that it can feel a little distant from the hubbub of the places that make Bali so famous. You won’t want to come here if you’re on the hunt for nightlife, for example. Places like Canggu and Kuta are so much better for that. You also might find it a little stale if you’re a backpacker, since most of the budget travel happens over on the Bukit Peninsula and up towards Legian.
When is the best time to visit Sanur?
While the sea temperature is suitable for swimming all year round, the best months to visit Sanur are from April to September. Bali is also warm and enticing, but the summer months see blues skies and highs of 90 degrees dominate the days. The wet season is long and enduring in Bali too and you should expect monsoon rains from late October to March. Still, if you want to avoid the crowds, consider braving the bad weather. There’s no shortage of blue skies in the wet season too and you’ll benefit from low season discounts and fewer hoards of tourists.
What time does the sun rise in Sanur?
Bali is notorious for its breathtaking sunsets, but the beaches of Seminyak, Kuta, and Canggu dominate this scene with their westward-facing locations, perfect for watching the sun disappear behind the horizon. While you shouldn’t expect much in the way of sunsets on Bali’s east coast, one thing Sanur is great for is the mesmerizing sunrises. The sun rises at around 6:00 am in Sanur and sets at around 6:00 pm. If you want to catch the break of the day, head to the beach or a viewpoint for 5:45 to ensure you find the best spot to enjoy it.
How do you get around in Sanur?
Sanur is quite small so can be easily walked on foot or by riding a bike. Most streets in Bali aren’t pedestrian-friendly, but with its beachfront boardwalks and slower pace of life, Sanur is one place for ramblers. Still, scooters prevail as the most popular form of transport on the island and there are plenty of reliable rental shops as well as scooter taxis on offer. Also, drive with a license and a helmet, and stick to walking if you’re nervous on a moped.