Bali is a teardrop in the Indian Ocean. From the black-sand beaches of the south coast to the dolphin-splashing seas of the north, it’s a land famed for its wonderful waters. They’re perhaps best known for the world-class surf breaks that filter through in the dry season months from May to August. But what about snorkeling in Bali?
Well…there’s plenty of that too. Yep, Bali is a mecca for sea lovers who come with the bubble pipe and snorkels in tow. It’s scattered with coral gardens and rugged volcanic reefs, bays of see-through H2O and even swimming spots beneath mystical Hindu temples. There’s no shortage of places to dive under and meet the local marine life.
Generally speaking, the best snorkeling in Bali is on the east, northeast, and far northwest sides of the island. Those tend to be the calmest spots of all, and where the famous reefs fringe closer to the shoreline for better access and exploration. This guide will focus in on 11 of the prime locations for diving under, with info on what you can expect from each and what animals you might encounter.
Snorkeling can be limited in the southeast due to the regular strong currents and riptides, but the Tanjung Benoa reef of Nusa Dua is an exception. It’s actually the ideal snorkeling spot for beginners. Crystal-clear waters and colorful coral fringe a beach that lies in front of a coastline that’s packed with big resorts and hotels. It’s the great casual option for snorkel sessions between sunbathing on the sands or by the poolside.
The water is shallow and the reef isn’t too expansive. That all makes it kid-friendly and a great first-time snorkeling spot. Simply wade out from the edge of Nusa Dua beach to be immersed in the reef whenever you fancy it. Things will be better at high tide, when there’s more water volume pushing over the higher reef shelf some 300 meters out from the shore. It floods into pockets of seaweed-filled tide pools and clutches of corals that host small fish by the bucket load.
The other great thing about Nusa Dua snorkeling is the abundance of tour providers in this part of Bali. Most hotels will have dedicated desks for booking outings, most of which will also offer private snorkeling adventures. We’d also put this down as the place to go for your snorkeling in Bali if you want five-star luxury to return to once you’ve departed the water.
Padangbai is mainly seen as a good transit point when visiting or returning from the Gili Islands and Lombok. However, it’s also much more than that for the budding snorkeling. That’s mainly down to the Blue Lagoon, which sits to the north of the town proper and offers arguably the crème-de-la-crème of the snorkeling in Bali.
Highly protected from dominant dry-season S-SW currents, it’s enfolded by rugged volcanic rock on three sides. That keeps the water super still and clear. Then, you factor in the rich coral reserves that lie beneath and you start to get the picture. Those host everything from zebrafish to seahorses, but also the occasional sea turtle and even stranger animal life like blue ringed octopuses (do not touch!).
While the Blue Lagoon is certainly the star of the show on the lineup of snorkel spots in Padangbai, it’s by no means the only place to go. You can scout south to Bias Tugel Beach where there’s some snorkeling to be done past the strong shore break waves, though it’s surely only for the strongest swimmers. Or, there’s always those boats to the Gili Islands, which have some of the finest snorkeling in the whole Nusa Tenggara region!
Virgin Beach in Karangasem is a slightly sloping stretch of white sand, widely regarded as undiscovered but now growing in popularity due to its pristine shoreline and the fact that real white-sand beaches are pretty darn rare in Bali. Anyway, for now at least, limited crowds and shallow waters promise tranquil conditions and undisturbed marine life for snorkeling.
The Virgin Beach reefs are just 5 to 10 meters from the shore, making them easily accessible for beachgoers and sun-lovers. Abundant tropical fish and sometimes even turtles populate the location, and you can readily rent snorkeling gear from any of the beachfront warungs for just a handful of dollars per session.
Virgin Beach is 20km from Padangbai going north and is an idyllic spot to spend the day, largely still under the radar. Virgin Beach is also just a short drive from the Taman Ujung Water Palace in Amed, a former monument of the Karangasem empire.
The signature black sands of Amed might not scream snorkeling hotspot, but this town on the northeast side of Bali is actually one of the best places to explore the underwater world. The surrounding reefs are among the healthiest on the Isle of the Gods as a whole, and there’s everything from volcanic rock clusters to sunken shipwrecks on the menu for those that dive in.
The reef at Amed Beach in front of the Kembali Beach Bungalows is the best-known entry point. It’s not got the most colorful coral displays around but it’s a known stomping ground for sea turtles, who can often be spotted grazing on the shallows in the early morning. From there, move just a touch north to Jemuluk Bay. This is one of the overall best snorkel spots in the whole of Indo – but then what do you expect of somewhere with a whole temple hidden below the surface?
Lipah Beach and Bunatan Reef bring up the rest of the snorkel offering in Amed, a town where you’ll never be without somewhere to get exploring. There’s even a whole wreck of a Japanese ship that’s open to snorkelers, not just divers, now caked in blooms of seaweed and urchins.
Tulamben Shipwreck and Coral Garden
The small village of Tulamben, adjacent to the majestic Mount Agung volcano, is famous as the home to the US Liberty Wreck, a 125-meter-long WWII cargo ship that was bombed by Japan before washing up on Bali’s shores. After the 1963 Agung eruption, Liberty was pushed back into the shallow waters by the lava flow. Today, the wreck sits only 5 meters deep and marries global military history with Bali’s rich volcanic heritage in one seriously awesome snorkeling spot.
Divers regularly visit the location, but the shallow depth makes snorkeling the wreck even easier. Be sure to go as early as possible to avoid crowds and rough seas. The wreck sits among vibrant corals and tropical fish. There’s no buoy signposting it but finding the Liberty is part of the adventure. Plus, the shallow Tulamben Coral Garden sits just a few hundred meters from the shipwreck, and both sites make for an exciting morning of snorkeling.
Bali’s western side is tranquil and largely undisturbed. Far removed from the tourist spots in the south, you can expect fewer crowds, unspoiled wildlife, and an authentic feel up in these parts. Right on the cusp of it all, the Menjangan reserve is one of the most underrated spots in Bali for seeking natural beauty and wilder snorkeling opportunities.
This island, located 7km off the northwest coast, is a protected marine reserve with preserved and diverse coral ecosystems. Among tropical fish, you can also spot colorful seabirds and even wild deer here, who bathe in the shallow waters with the snorkelers. The best snorkeling tends to happen at the western end of the island, which has a curved sandbank with easy access to eel gardens and coral blooms.
There are two ways to get here. The easiest is to book onto an organized tour, which should be doable from most places west of Lovina on the north coast. Or do a DIY trip. For that, you’ll have to make for the port of Labuhan Lalang and catch one of the daily ferries to Menjangan Island, which take around 30 minutes or so.
This small fishing village, just a few kilometers east of the West Bali National Park, is home to the world’s most extensive coral reef conservation project. Started by locals in 2000, the total length of the artificial reef is more than 300 meters and forms a trail for snorkelers and divers to follow in the shallows of Pemuteran Beach. Today, it’s being restored using strong iron structures wired with electrical circuits to promote growth.
This bay is usually free of currents, rare for Bali’s wild shores, making it great for snorkel first-timers. Stay in the Taman Sari Resort, which is set just back from the Biorock Pemuteran Reef. There, you’ll be able to stroll right out from your villa and into the water to spot seahorses and nudibranchs whenever you fancy.
The other great thing about snorkeling in Pemuteran Bay is the proximity to Lovina – a top dolphin-watching spot on the north coast – and aforementioned Menjangan Island – another of the undisputed best spots for snorkeling in Bali.
Okay, so we’re cheating a little here, since Manta Bay isn’t on Bali at all. But it’s just stone’s throw across the strait and a quick jaunt on one of the very regular ferries from Sanur. Home to the iconic Kelingking Beach viewpoint, better recognized as the T-Rex Rock, Nusa Penida is a sacred island that, together with Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, complete the central archipelago of Bali.
If you’re not drawn in by Penida’s stunning natural beauty, then perhaps the chance to swim with one of the world’s most fascinating sea creatures will convince you? Thanks to the strong currents around Nusa Penida, manta rays are abundant all year round and can be spotted in their dozens at the appropriately named Manta Bay spot in the northwest of the island.
The manta rays gather in the shallow waters and pose no threat to humans since they are filter-feeder creatures that hoover up passing blooms of algae. Gentle and majestic, observing these animals in their natural habitat is a bucket-list-worthy activity that we think no lover of the ocean should miss!
We’re cheating a touch again here with a second spot on the Nusa islands. However, the Toyapakeh Wall is such a scuba diver’s favorite that it’s surely worth a mention. With its diverse marine ecosystems and large coral beds, the location skirts the northwestern edge of Nusa Penida, in a narrow and mineral-rich channel between next-door Lembongan Island.
For the most part, the Toyapakeh Wall varies in depth from two meters to four meters. That means it’s a viable snorkel spot, not just for the scuba bubble blowers out there. A popular way to see this one is to drift from one end to the other using the prevailing currents to take you all the way to Gamat Bay. As you go, you’ll be able to see massive staghorn corals, brain corals, and loads of small fish.
There are some sections of Toyapakeh that simply aren’t accessible to snorkelers since they get too deep. To really make the most of those, you’ll want to book onto a scuba tour and get deeper into the water. There are plenty of dive sites in the surrounding region that can help you organize those.
The last spot on our list that’s not actually on the Isle of the Gods itself is the legendary Turtle Point of Gili Trawangan. Just as the name implies, this is the piece de resistance of snorkel spots for folks clambering for a glimpse of everyone’s favorite shelled creature. Sure enough, even a 30-minute session here usually reveals five or ten of the amazing beasts, swimming calmly through the shallows just a stone’s throw from the white-sand beach.
Turtle Point is well signposted on Gili T and really easy to reach from the main town center. For those reasons, it’s rarely empty. We’d 100% recommend rising early (which might be harder than you think on this party-mad isle) to get in the water before the crowds, when there’s more chance of seeing a graceful turtle anyhow.
Getting to Gili Trawangan from Bali can be done either on direct boats from Padangbai (another of the finest places for snorkeling in Bali) or the harbors of the southeast coast. The first take about 1.5 hours. The latter take 2.5 hours.
The sole choice on this list of the best snorkeling in Bali that makes its home on the legendary surf peninsula of the Bukit in the far south of the island is Balangan Beach. The rough waves here often keep those with the goggles and bubble pipe at bay. But there are days – particularly in the wet season between November and March – when the water will calm, and you can catch glimpses of the rock reefs and corals that make their home on the fringes of the bay.
Wait for high tide to push up and over the coral rock that fringes the sand. That gives extra depth to the beach and means there’s more to see. When you get in, you can look out for larger fish species closer to the reef wall and small, colorful fish in the corals themselves.
Balangan Beach is now very well developed and eminently accessible from resorts like Kuta, Seminyak, and Bingin. A taxi of no more than 45 minute can also whisk you in from the airport. There are plenty of hotels just behind the sand, perfect for combining a surf and snorkel holiday in one.
Snorkeling in Bali – our conclusion
Bali is a big island with hundreds of miles of coastline to get through. Much of it is famously bashed by some of the best surf swell on planet Earth. But there are also regions that are protected from the dominant S-SW pulses of the dry season. They’re the ones to look out for when you’re on the hunt for the best snorkeling in Bali.
Generally speaking, said spots wait on the eastern and northern coasts of the island. They include the glimmering lagoons of Padangbai and the isolated island reserves of Menjangan to name just two. You’ll also get plenty of options on neighboring islands like Nusa Penida and the Gilis.
Does Bali have good snorkeling?
Bali has some great snorkeling spots for first-timers, families, and even avid divers. The best locations are on the east, northeast, and northwest of the island, where you can find diverse marine ecosystems close to the shore in shallow waters. The currents also tend to be less strong in those parts.
How much does it cost to go snorkeling in Bali?
Snorkeling in Bali can be very inexpensive when you know what you’re doing and where to go. If you head to beaches on the east coast, like Padangbai’s Blue Lagoon or Virgin Beach, you can rent snorkel equipment from any of the local beach warungs for as little as $5 for the whole day. But if you want a complete snorkeling trip exploring some of the best spots in Bali, like the Menjangan National Park or the Nusa Islands, hiring a boat and a guide is your best bet – that’s best done on a tour that can be anything over $40 per day.
Are there coral reefs in Bali?
Bali is home to some of the world’s most beautiful natural coral reefs, because the surrounding tropical waters create perfect conditions for vibrant coral, fish, and sea life to thrive. Bali also hosts several artificial reefs that are part of large-scale projects to rehabilitate the coral and conserve marine life in the area, notably at Pemuteran Bay on the north coast.
Where can I snorkel with turtles in Bali?
Virgin Beach in East Bali and Amed in the north are known as great spots for observing turtles in their clear shallow waters. The coral reefs of Virgin Beach are close to the shore, and turtles have been seen moving through the shallows with snorkelers. At the same time, the black-sand sea bed in Amed makes for a great backdrop to turtle viewing. However, the Gili Islands stand out here – they’re often referred to as the turtle capital of the world!