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Kuta is one of Bali’s most famous destinations, a brash, lively seaside resort promising fun in the sun by day and non-stop partying by night. What was once a quiet fishing village nestled around a sweeping expanse of sand is today a pumping holiday destination where surfing, shopping and beach fun give way to bars and nightclubs galore as the sun goes down. The centre and south of Kuta draw crowds of younger backpackers looking for carefree entertainment. It’s here that the lion’s share of budget restaurants, accommodation and surf shops can be found. Further north, Legian caters to families and couples and upmarket Seminyak appeals to those looking for a dash more luxury.
Kuta centres on the spectacular stretch of Kuta Beach, a lengthy strip met by some of the country’s best surfing waves. A lack of dangerous rocks or coral reefs, plus clean breaks and warm waters, make the conditions perfect for experienced and beginner surfers alike, and it was this that first drew tourists to what was then just a sleepy fishing village back in the 1970s. Today it’s a surfing haven, with surf shops lining the main street and a true ‘surfer dude’ ambience. Water sports opportunities abound, abundant dive shops offer exhilarating scuba experiences, and traditional Indonesian massages are brought straight to your sun lounger. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to visit Kuta without enjoying the ultimate relaxing pampering session. There are dozens of spas offering a range of wellness experiences at some of the cheapest prices in all of Indonesia.
Away from the beach, one of Kuta’s most popular activities is shopping. There is an eclectic range of shops to explore, be it the rows of small stalls selling wacky T-shirts and kitsch souvenirs around Kuta Square or the big air-conditioned shopping malls. Pick up the very latest beachwear by international brands in the surfing and sports shops, get a traditionally woven hammock to take home, or enjoy some friendly bartering with the hawkers on the beach. Shopping malls are where the big brand names can be found, amid modern architecture, good eateries and lots of entertainment options.
Kuta’s nightlife is legendary and the streets teem with revellers until the small hours. Start the evening with sunset cocktails in a laid-back beachfront bar and end in one of the booming discos that line the strip. It’s worth taking a moment during your trip, however, to pay a visit to the Monument of Human Tragedy, built to commemorate the 2002 and 2005 bombings in Bali nightclubs by Islamic extremists.
None would describe Kuta as Indonesia at its most traditional, and temples and historical sights certainly aren’t why most people visit. But for something more authentically Balinese, get up early (or stay up late) and you might glimpse locals throwing offerings into the Indian Ocean near the temple on the beach. North Kuta is home to the Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most important Hindu temples, which is balanced precariously on an offshore rocky outcrop.