Everyone has heard of Kuta in Bali, the overcrowded “surfs up dude” party capital of Indonesia, but Kuta in Lombok, Bali’s larger sister island, is far superior if you ask me. Although Kuta Lombok is an up-and-coming destination, it has many local cultures and traditions which are still practiced there today.
Located in the South of Lombok, the coastal town of Kuta is growing steadily and making a name for itself. With its rugged views, lush green hills and white surf beaches, we wanted to see what the fuss was about.
So why should you visit Kuta in Lombok?
There wasn’t a “lets’ get smashed” vibe, instead it had an authentic and laid back feeling. Yes there are plenty of surfers, but there was more to it. A happening place for travellers as well as surfers, the rich culture is still evident, and we liked that. We felt comfortable and relaxed in Kuta Lombok.
There is a multi-billion dollar development scheme being developed by Bali Tourism Development Corp (BTDC), who were responsible for the up-market Nusa Dua in Bali. Hotel developments and an 18-hole golf course are planned, plus the Mandalika Resort is rumoured to include an F1 Race Track, integrated theme park, concert hall and underwater marine museum. In the future, laid-back Lombok won't feel quite so "rustic", and I'm unsure whether it's more-conservative population will be able to handle the change this influx of tourism will bring.
At the moment, there are a few supermarkets, plenty of local clothing stalls, and a good variety of eateries to please every palette. Aside from Warungs serving delicious local dishes, there are many western establishments. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of happy hour deals on food as well as drinks. We stumbled across Gecko Lounge & Bar, a chilled out restaurant with good music … and delicious pizza!
We were lucky enough to see a few of the Lombok traditions during our stay which I will talk about later.
Experiencing Kuta Lombok
We booked a couple of nights at Hadiqa Villas. We enjoyed our time here and in Kuta so much, we extended our stay. We had a sweet hotel room with air con, a nice shower (although cold water), comfortable bed with a duvet, flat screen TV, a balcony and a swimming pool – all at backpacker prices! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The simple things in life you take for granted.
Mawun Beach – the beach which tells two stories
Kuta is known for its pristine white beaches, allegedly some of the best in Indonesia! That is rather a bold claim, considering we have travelled a lot of Indonesia, so we decided to head for one of the most popular beaches - Mawun.
We scootered along a mountainous road winding up and down, through developing sites and rice fields. Eventually we reached Mawun Beach, paid our 10,000 IDR and parked.
We parked in the first parking area and walked onto the beach. What a shock we had. To the left was nothing but rubbish; plastic upon plastic washed up from the ocean covering the entire length of the beach. Our hearts sunk. We could not believe this beach was considered beautiful. What had happened, when had things changed? It was yet another sad reminder of the world’s trash problem which we had recently encountered at Pink Beach and Gili Kedis.
We know Kuta, Bali has a huge issue with trash on the beach which isn’t helped by the vast number of visitors it receives. Thankfully efforts are continually being made to rectify this problem.
For a beautiful Mawun beach experience, park at the second area near the warungs.
This is what we look for in a paradise beach; peace, tranquillity and a gorgeous view.
- Kuta Beach – the main beach in Kuta, perfect for families
- Tanjung Aan Beach - good for snorkelling, considered by many to be the best beach around Kuta
- Selong Belanak – popular with surfers, and listed as one of the best places in the world to learn
- Ekas Beach – a paradise for surfers and kite surfers
- Segar Beach – surfers and sun worshippers will love this beach, also a great sunrise/sunset spot
- Mawi Beach – good beach for experienced surfers but difficult to reach
- Lancing Beach – a secluded beach with no facilities, take food and refreshments with you
- Semeti Beach – difficult to reach and no facilities, take food and refreshments with you
Ashtari Coffee House
The view from Ashtari Coffee House is what draws people here. On the road leading to Mawun beach, Ashtari is a lovely, cool open plan restaurant, coffee shop and yoga place perched at the top of a hill looking down into Kuta Bay.
If you are in Kuta, make time to stop at Ashtari Coffee House, any time of day or night.
Sasak cultural events
As mentioned, Lombok is rich with Sasak culture and traditions, a few of which we had a chance to witness.
Nyongkolan - a traditional Lombok Wedding Parade
Most Saturdays you will see a wedding parade marching through the streets. It’s a wonderful, colourful, noisy event but one that is definitely worth stopping to watch. This unique Sasak tradition is a wedding processional line called Nyongkolan, made up of relatives wearing traditional, colourful clothing. Musicians are playing as they walk; tambourines, various percussion instruments and drums of all different sizes Many locals participate in the parade walking alongside the procession which often causes traffic jams. If you are caught up in the traffic, don’t fight it, just relax and roll with it, this is a special event and a privilege to witness.
Sade Sasak Village is built in the traditional Bale (pronounced baa-lay) style. If you are unfamiliar with the Sasak Culture, this is a lovey place to start. I have read reviews about friendly guides providing information about the local traditions.
Having lived on Gili Air for a year, we were familiar with the Sasak culture, so wanted to stroll around for ourselves. Clearly this was not appreciated. There is no entrance fee, but an option to pay for a guide to take you around. Notice I said “option”, I will be honest, this wasn’t true for us. We were made to feel we had to have a guide to receive an authentic experience. We tried to say several times that we wanted to know how this village compared to Sasak on GIli Air, but money talks and our words were unheard.
Most of the various style Bales have been made into shops for locals to sell their wares, it felt like a tourist trap and less of a traditional village.
We visited Lombok early March, at the time of its annual Bau Nyale Festival. This week long event celebrates the legend of Princess Mandalika, and culminates with locals gathering on the beach to catch sea worms. In the Sasak language, Bau Nyale translated means to catch sea worms; Bau is “to catch” and Nyale is the name given to the sea worms
At the Bau Nyale Festival, there are many cultural events including the ancient marital art of Peresean stick fighting, which recreates the legend of Princess Mandalika.
We were surprised at how much we enjoyed Kuta Lombok. There was something raw about this area which appealed to us. Would we recommend Kuta to our friends? Yes, absolutely!
Bali v Lombok – important differences you need to know
I have to point out the most important difference between Kuta, Bali and Kuta, Lombok – the religion A difference in attitude and understanding needs to be applied, because residents of Lombok are more conservative. This is also relevant if you are visiting Gili Trawangan, Gili Air or Gili Meno.
Lombok is predominantly Muslim and follow Islam which recognises only one God, Allah. Pigs are deemed dirty so pork, bacon, ham, sausage or anything deriving from pigs isn’t eaten. Beef, however, is enjoyed, Rendang being a popular dish.
Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims in the world, and the call to prayer from neighbouring mosques is heard five times a day. Once a year, Ramadan is observed so patience and understanding needs to be applied during that time. If you wish to know more about this time of fasting and spiritual exploration, read Ramadan Explained.
In Lombok, walking (or scootering) around the streets away from the beach area whilst scantily dressed in bikinis is culturally offensive. Muslim women dress modestly, and you will see the majority of women wearing a headscarf (hijab). Topless sunbathing is strictly forbidden. In Bali, Balinese women used to go topless well into the 20th century, and some can still be seen in rural communities today, so there is more tolerance (but respectful dress should still be applied away from the beach area, even though this is often ignored).
A couple of annoyances to beware of
Child bracelet sellers
This is a difficult and complicated topic. I don’t know the reason behind the sell, but I feel uncomfortable buying bracelets from children, and don’t wish to unwittingly contribute to child tourism.
Lombok isn’t a rich province, and anyone visiting will be considered to have money, even if you are a backpacker watching your pennies.
In every restaurant and bar we visited, there were always children aged five and upwards attempting to sell cheap bracelets from a folded cardboard display. The kids were charming, friendly and talkative, they shake your hand and understand that getting personal with you is the way to sell. Then they unleash their big doe-eyes on you as they go in for the kill, and start the haggling process of convincing you to buy from them. We have also heard about persistent child sellers on the beaches, some hug your leg which appears cute, but that’s when you have to watch out for pickpockets!
Hiring a scooter (relevant not just for Lombok, but all over the world)
We hired a scooter for 60,000 IDR per day from our accommodation, but beware, there are some less than reputable businesses running scams such as “you damaged my bike now pay for it”. When hiring a scooter, make sure you inspect the bike taking photos of scratches or any other damage. Always check the bikes mechanics; the lights, brakes and tyres. Never give your passport or drivers licence as security.
Always insist on wearing a helmet. No day trip is worth risking your life over. We were astonished at the number of people who did not wear helmets! One evening when siting on a roof top bar overlooking the road, we decided to count. Out of 100 people, only 14 people wore helmets. If you hire a scooter, please do not follow this lead – always wear a helmet and travel safe guys!
How do I get to Kuta, Lombok?
There is an airport in Praya, Lombok, about an hour from Kuta. You can then catch a taxi to Kuta.
Travelling from the Gilis? Get a local hopper boat from the Gilis to Bangsal, then a taxi to Kuta which will take about two hours. Haggle with the drivers, or walk just a little further onto the road and get a metered Bluebird taxi. Cost should be around 250,000 IDR.
Travel Facts & Tips
- A 30 day visa is given at the time of arrival in Indonesia (not for all countries, check with your embassy).
- The local currency is Indonesian Rupiah £1 GBP = 18,000 IDR
- Their official language is Bahasa Indonesia which is similar to Malaysian and throughout Indonesia in general
- If you can use just a couple of Indonesian words, this will give you big smile in return, even if you simply use “Pagi” (morning) and “Terima Kasih” (thank you), it will be hugely appreciated.
- There are plenty of ATM’s in Kuta.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, homestays, warungs and restaurants.
- A warung is a small, family run restaurants offering cheap, tasty local and western dishes.
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