Famous for its beachside grilled seafood, Bali's glistening Jimbaran Bay is a popular seaside destination just south of the airport. A wonderfully calm golden beach, Jimbaran sweeps gently from the airport south towards the Bukit. Jimbaran is not a particularly popular destination when compared to some other areas in Bali and this is all the more reason for heading here for a stay yourself. The accommodation options on offer tend towards the higher end and are a little thinner on the ground. Finding suitable digs in a budget price range may pose some problems.
At the very northern end of the beach is the international airport and it's pleasant to watch the planes come in to land and take off in an endless stream from morning to night. Surprisingly, you can hardly hear the noise from the airport. At night, the beach comes alive with countless beachside seafood restaurants placing candlelit tables and chairs right on the sand. It's a lovely experience to eat fresh seafood with your feet in the sand while the waves of the bay lap the shoreline.
Aside from the fantastic eating opportunities of Jimbaran, the bay itself is a pleasant place for swimming and sunbathing with few of the hassles that one gets on the beach in Kuta and Legian. The ocean is usually much calmer here too meaning you don't have to fear for your life every time you go for a dip. In fact, the whole vibe in Jimbaran is far less chaotic than Kuta and Legian despite them being just over the other side of the airport, which more or less splits the two beach destinations.
Best known for its sunsets and seafood barbecues, Jimbaran offers a great option for families with young kids looking for calmer waters than what you’ll find in much of South Bali. The beach is on the far (southern) side of Bali’s international airport and while the area is very built up, the bulk is residential and small businesses, along with a few rather grand hotels. It lacks the chaotic messy vibe of Kuta/Legian or Seminyak but all the creature comforts are within easy walking distance of the beach.While Jimbaran is a surf beach, the break is small and most of the time a long way offshore, giving toddlers and young children plenty of shallow, relatively calm waters to run amok in. You’ll still need to keep an eye on them, but Seminyak or Kuta this is not.
Out of the water, the beach is also home to the Jimbaran fish markets — you’ll often see dozens of jukungs — traditional outrigger fishing boats — anchored offshore, but in the early morning they run up onto the beach to deposit the morning’s catch. And while we’ve been told the catch continues to dwindle, if you are in the area a visit to the market is well worth it — you’ll be fighting off chefs and buyers from some of Bali’s top restaurants as this is where many of them do their shopping. At the other end of the day, the beach is enveloped in plumes of smoke as mountains of coconut husks are set alight for the nightly seafood barbecues. Yes, you’ll pay more for seafood here than you may elsewhere, but the setting is extremely comfortable and, when the sunset really turns it on, particularly photogenic. There are three clusters of restaurants beachside and while all the food is good, we particularly like Cafe Made Bagus in the last cluster near the Four Seasons at the southern end of the beach.
Paint a Pot at Jenggala Keramik
I often complain about the lack of things to do in Bali with toddlers. Jenggala paint a pot in Jimbaran won’t really help you with a two-year-old (that’s what Jari Menari is for…) but I’ve taken a three-year-old there with great success. Added bonus: the excellent coffee and cake at the cafe, and the ceramics shopping (though pricey) at the adjoining showroom. The entrance to Jenggala Keramik is imposing and somewhat offputting to say the least. But waltz on in through security and head left to get to the cafe and paint a pot section. The building is airy, modern and stylish, with plenty of tables in the cafe section ready for your three year old to run wild. Kidding, kidding.
Do book ahead for a paint a pot session. There’s no set fee, you simply choose and pay for the pieces you wish to paint. What’s available to paint varies month to month. On my last visit, there were fridge magnets for 50,000 rupiah, side plates for 100,000 rupiah, large water jugs for 200,000 rupiah and a large horse for 230,000 rupiah. With a three year old, you’ll likely get away with 2 fridge magnets for a session or maybe a side plate as well. While staff will assist you with paint preparation and they’ll do the cleaning up, you really do need to supervise your own children during the actual session itself — especially younger children, obviously. I found my three year old lasted for about an hour, tops, with some playing with friends during the session. If you’ve got older kids, you can let them take a seat at the bench while you take a seat at the cafe.
Many of the fish are brightly coloured and are similar to the ones you might see if snorkelling some of Bali's reefs -- it's hard not to wonder about the sustainability of these fishing practices and we've heard from some Bali chefs who have commented that the selection of fish available has dropped off over the years. The best time to visit the market is in the morning when all the stalls are still set up and the best range of seafood is available. After a brief look here, you might even like to visit one of the nearby warungs or beachfront restaurants for your own tasty seafood meal. There’s more than meets the eye to consider when you go for a stroll through Jimbaran‘s fish market. Yes, it’s a stunning sight as traditional boats, or jukung, bring their catches to shore in the lemon-yellow morning light.
Jimbaran seafood barbecue
We’ve written before about grabbing a seafood dinner at Jimbara in southern Bali, and we’re sorry to say that here we are writing about the same meal (yes, seafood barbecue) at the same place (Cafe Bagus, though now it’s Cafe Made Bagus), on the same piece of beach (Four Seasons end of Jimbaran beach). Why? It’s that damn good. More than a dozen seafood barbecue places line the beach here at the southern end of Jimbaran beach, and while it does have a decidedly touristy tilt (with higher prices than what you’ll pay elsewhere) the food is that good and the sunsets so spectacular that if you’ve got to pick one evening to embrace your inner tourist in Bali, this is it.
Depending on the season and the weather, Jimbaran is a great beach for kids. It has a broad, very shallow drop-off and generally quite gentle waves, meaning it is an excellent choice to let young children play in the shallows in a way you might be uncomfortable with at one of the rougher surf beaches. And for those who can’t swim, there’s plenty of find sand for building sand castles and so on. Be it swimming, playing in the shallows or building Boroburdur out of sand, it’s a great way to work up an appetite.
Start a meal at Cuca at the outdoor bar, where the professional staff whip up truly notable cocktails. The menu doesn't make the drinks sound particularly fabulous, but we came for one and had, hiccup, several. The iced rose, for instance, is described as: hibiscus ice, brandy, wild honey, lemongrass (90,000 rupiah). The Bali Mary is merely tomato water, vodka, Balinese chilli and citrus (95,000 rupiah). In reality, both drinks are intensely flavoured, special creations that deserve to be lingered over.
As does the food! Sit at the food bar and chat with the chefs as they cook, or take a seat at the tables, gently separated by hanging fabric. Cuca serve what they call tapas plates -- really, these are simply dishes designed to be eaten family-style. We've eaten here several times and have always been delighted by the unusual dishes and memorable combinations on offer. To kick off there's a fluffy ball of, well, flavour -- pop it in your mouth and it dissolves to nothing but an intense ayam betutu essence. Gimmicky, perhaps, but also quite amazing.
We love the ceviche (pictured), sliced raw fish with chilli lime dressing and watermelon ice (90,000 rupiah), and the honey-baked pumpkin salad (80,000 rupiah), a mix of granola, plus wing beans and tarragon. The marinated pulled pork with onions, soft boiled egg and crispy potato is also delicious (80,000 rupiah). Desserts are worth leaving room for too. If you're travelling on a tight budget but looking for a one-off special evening, Cuca is worth considering.
Jalan Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran
T: (0361) 708 066
Bemos travelling along Jalan Uluwatu in a northerly direction head to Kuta and Denpasar. Expect to pay 10,000 rupiah to Kuta and 15,000 rupiah to Denpasar's Tegal Sari terminal.
It is possible to catch a cab here from Kuta and depending on traffic, should cost around 70,000 rupiah. There is also a plentiful supply of private drivers who can be hired should you be interested.
If you're looking for one final beach dinner before the flight home, allow 15 minutes from here to the airport.