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The Best Beaches of Bali

For the majority of tourists to Bali, time honored images of palm fringed beaches are uppermost in the mind and probably the biggest single reason for purchasing that ticket to paradise.

The reality is all that and more. While those palm fringed beaches do exist, there is also the wild coastline of the west with black sand beaches and treacherous waters, as well as the dramatic surf beaches of the bukit, the aquamarine lagoons of Lembongan island and the sleepy coves in the north.

KUTA beach remains the most popular strip and extends all the way up to Candu and down towards the airport in Tuban. Kuta proper remains the whitest stretch of sand and is a big draw for those who want to test their surfing skills with both a beach break and a reef break further out.

Its popularity continues to grow and for all ages, it is a wonderful place to lay your sarong, frolic in the waves and soak up the warm sun. These days beach sellers are kept behind an invisible line, so peace is still possible on this action packed strip.

SUNSET LEGIAN is a no-holds barred beach where locals, expatriates and tourists mingle, bargain with the best, play paddle ball and football, indulge in a massage and manicure, catch up on reading, meditate, exercise, you name it.

The two camps are easily recognized; the workers have as many clothes on as possible and the bules (westerners) wear as little as possible. Be prepared for scantily clad Brazilians, G-stringed Italians, Coppertone Germans, and Australians in designer surf gear and pretty Indonesian girls in multi-platform sandals - it is the United Nations of beaches.

Sunset is peak time at Sunset Legian, when the beach bars fill, the football field is at its busiest and the locals knock off work and wade fully clothes, skirts swirling, into the waves.

TUBAN, between Kuta and the airport, big hotels line this stretch of beach. A little less frantic than Kuta, it's a good place to grab a deck chair and a good book. Swimming here is safe, as the hotel, lifeguards will put up flags if there are any nps, but mostly it is pretty well protected.

ULUWATU, PADANG PADANG, BINGIN, DREAMLAND were formerly the playground of surfers almost exclusively. The former teak forest was only accessible over rough dirt tracks and the hike down to some of the beaches deterred just about everyone but the most dedicated wave riders.

This is no longer true. A number of developments planned on the barren bukit have meant that tarred roads have been put in, and slowly steps and access paths have been built down to the more popular beaches. This means that virtually anyone can take advantage of these stunning beaches, which are still very quite by Bali's standards.

Small warungs offer simple food and cold drinks, the obligatory massage people have moved in and a few sellers offer basic Bali merchandises. When the surf's up you can catch some excellent rides, when there is no surf the beaches become quiet lagoons with clear water lapping the white sand.

Uluwatu is still the busiest, particularly at sunset when the monkeys play on the spectacularly located temple. Very basic accommodation is available at most of the bukit beaches.

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