Unparalleled surf first put Uluwatu on the map back in the 1970s, but there’s much more to be discovered at this cliffside community in Bali than just spectacular waves. The neighbourhood has been developing at a rapid clip since the pandemic, and every couple of months, a new crop of concept stores, yoga studios, restaurants and bars open their doors along its dramatic limestone cliffs.
In light of this influx of energy it’s perhaps funny to reflect on Uluwatu’s name, an Indonesian portmanteau combining ulu (land’s end) and watu (rock) that was originally used to refer to its 11th-century temple. For here on the southwestern tip of Bali, a burgeoning neighbourhood makes the edge of the world feel like its centre.
Where to stay in Uluwatu
Uluwatu Surf Villas
Surfers like Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez and Mason Ho are among the many pros who call Uluwatu Surf Villas their base when visiting Bali, since they can easily bring their boards down the private staircase to the famous surf breaks below.
Opened back in 2001, Uluwatu Surf Villas have been instrumental in helping to redefine the neighbourhood’s once-rustic reputation. Its 25 villas are crafted from reclaimed Javanese teak and ironwood. They vary from Balinese-style thatched-roof bungalows outfitted in locally sourced antiques, to more contemporary designs with infinity saltwater pools overlooking the ocean. Borrow one of the surfboards designed specifically for Uluwatu’s waves and spend your days out on the water – or join visiting world champion Brad Gerlach on a multi-day surf retreat learning tricks from the former pro.
The Asa Maia
A quick stroll from Thomas Beach, a quieter surf spot that locals favour, The Asa Maia is a design and wellness sanctuary that defines barefoot luxury. Ten century-old timber gladaks (traditional Eastern Javanese homes) were handpicked in Java by owner Martha Booke and reassembled at the resort. There, local artisans constructed bamboo roofs by hand and sculpted Belgian bluestone into sinks and baths. Wellness experiences run the gamut from breathwork and ancient naturopathic medicine to facials with Balinese beauty brand Sensatia Botanicals.
Where to eat in Uluwatu
While some may gravitate toward Yeyes Warung for traditional rice-based nasi campur or Warung Local for modern Indonesian eats, here are some of the newer, internationally influenced spots that are currently the talk of the town.
The sister of the Canggu woodfire-focused eatery of the same name, Mason marries Mediterranean style with a minimalist-chic aesthetic – think Scandinavian-style wooden tables and stools, terracotta brick and touches of steel. Sit by the bar to watch the team in the open kitchen, where they whip up flatbreads with burnt chili hummus and smoked tuna dip with olive oil and lemon zest, on custom grills and a wood-fired oven.
This combination surf shop and café is a popular place to post up with a laptop on the open-air patio while you sip an artisanal coffee. Take your pick of Drifter Café’s iced chai masala, energising cacao or traditional Indonesian jamu juice with tamarind and turmeric. You can also indulge in an all-day breakfast with a mix of healthy and hearty plates like açai bowls and avocado benedict. Vegans can look to their vegan burrito supreme with scrambled tofu as well as other plant-based options. Don’t leave without eyeing the desserts on display inside — it’s never a bad call to snag a sea salt chocolate bar or goji berry slice to-go.
This buzzy eatery spills out onto a sidewalk terrace, giving it an open-air, laid-back feel. A go-to in Uluwatu for bagels and baked goods like red velvet croissants, Ulu Artisan is also a popular lunch pick thanks to a menu of customisable bowls of rotisserie chicken or barbecue-glazed tofu. It also has a standout sandwich selection that includes charcoal-roasted aubergine with grilled mushrooms, burrata and prosciutto and pan-fried local sardines with capers and red onion gremolata. Enjoy them served on sesame ciabatta or focaccia bread, baked in-house daily.
Where to drink in Uluwatu
Palm trees and warm lights strung over the pool give this seaside spot a romantic vibe, especially come sunset, when you get prime views of the Indian Ocean from the deck. Situated on one of Uluwatu’s characteristic cliffs, Ulu Cliffhouse’s mid-century touches are a nod to Palm Beach while its cocktail menu is very much Balinese in style. The Cliff Colada is a riff on the classic, mixed with local coconut water and topped with flamed coconut meringue, while the Roasted Pineapple Margarita is a gastronomic version of the Mexican favourite, composed of oven-roasted pineapple blended with tequila and topped with pineapple foam. International DJs are a regular sight at the pool deck, their takeovers transforming the space into an open-air club.
Peering over the ocean, this cliffside Italian-inspired restaurant is a popular hangout at sunset. The Tuscany-born duo behind La Terrazza’s concept bring authentic elements of their homeland in the form of homemade gnocchi and some of the best pizza you’ll find on the island. There are also plenty of street food-style appetisers like arancini and bruschetta that make for the perfect aperitivo.
What to do in Uluwatu
The namesake Hindu Uluwatu Temple – locally known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu – carved into the cliffs 70 metres above the sea is one of Bali’s must-visit temples. While the view of the sunset and traditional kecak (a form of Balinese Hindu dance and music drama) are iconic of the region, here are two other quintessential activities to try your hand at while here.
Surfing at Uluwatu Beach
The barrels and breaks in Uluwatu are truly not to be missed. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to start small at Thomas Beach, where you’ll have plenty of room on the water (and foam boards available for rent) to learn on decent-sized swells.
Along Uluwatu Beach, more advanced surfers and pros ride waves from sunrise to sunset at surf breaks like Temples, Racetracks and The Bombie, home to some of Indonesia’s largest waves. If you’d rather watch the show from above, take a seat in a Java teak daybed poolside at restaurant Mana. Otherwise, head to cliffside beach bar Single Fin for sunset Bintang beers overlooking one of the most famous surf breaks.
Morning Light Yoga Studio
In Uluwatu, it seems that new yoga and Pilates studios are a dime a dozen now that wellness retreats have become one of the island’s major draws. But Morning Light Yoga Studio is one of the OGs, and continues to hold its own amid the booming scene. This open-air yoga shala is propped between the jungle and waves, ensconcing one in the sights and sounds of nature. Its 75-minute morning classes in the reclaimed teak temple change each day and range between dynamic flows and softer sequences. Its restorative practice are perfect for stretching and unwinding between surf sessions.
Where to shop in Uluwatu
The cotton candy-pink façade framed by cacti makes the concept shop feel like it was plucked out of Mexico, but the curated collection of housewares, clothing, jewellery and accessories at The Find champions some of Bali’s most talented artisans and makers. The result is a bohemian-chic aesthetic with a selection of flowy linen dresses, signet rings inspired by traditional Indonesian carving and ceramics reminiscent of Namibia’s sand dunes.
Fields of Yarrow
Fields of Yarrow is a Bali-based skincare brand whose small-batch products are crafted from organically sourced local plants. Tucked between a swimwear shop and a Pilates studio not far from Padang Padang beach, it’s one of the first in Bali to offer all-natural facials. South of France-raised founder Souhela Ferrah designed the botanical-based line – around natural ingredients like moringa oil and jicama extract – in collaboration with some of the country’s best batch masters and scientists. Here, you can book a customisable Wild Rose classic facial or acupressure glow face massage that takes place in the tranquil treatment room in the back of the boutique.
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