The Other Kuta
On a magical island
where durian spills
from overgrown jungle trees
gangs of monkeys halt morning motorbikers
a volcano spews
and waterfalls gush from misty cliffs
lies a coast as green as the ocean is vast
gifted with white sand beaches
and a glassy cerulean sea.
Ask me if this is Bali
and I’ll smile sadly.
This is Kuta.
The other Kuta.
This is Kuta, Lombok.
Where surfers zoom down roads
that part the hills like a prophet at sea
take their pick of hidden beaches
and ride barreling waves fearlessly.
Villagers tend their rice fields
children wave and squeal hello
water buffalo cross the road
cows graze in fields
The call to prayer rings out
from one of many mosques
devout residents bow to God
others scam on tourist chicks at the surf shop.
Markets sell mangosteen
Street vendors open young coconuts
fry scrambled eggs in roti
dish out noodle soup.
Wild dogs own the streets
some menacing all starving
incessant sarong and bracelet sellers
stalk you in restaurants and on the beach
but ask them their names and their interests
you might find friends unexpectedly.
Spectators watch sunset sessions
from the top of a grassy hill
as the sky ignites a Western fire.
Live music plays nightly
from a local bar or café
Indo surf boys cover U2, Adele, Nirvana
and plenty of chilled out reggae.
Tourists and locals dance barefoot together
on the Bintang soaked sand
no egos, no machismo, no attitude
just smiles, freedom, and fun.
Though initially I felt discomfort
and admittedly even fear
on the isolated stretches of countryside
with masculinity always near
I embraced the thrill of adventure
I accepted the support of my friends.
may not be a place for holidaymakers
it may not even be a comfortable place
for women traveling alone.
Head to this Kuta if you like raw and rugged.
Head to this Kuta if you like real.
How to Get to Kuta Lombok
Lombok now has an international airport connecting with Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Perth, but for the best deal you’ll likely fly on a local carrier from Jakarta or Denpasar. Flights with Lion Air typically cost around $30 and arrive in under an hour. Kuta is a 30 minute, $10 taxi ride from the airport.
The slow ferry is certainly the most cost effective route from Bali, costing just two dollars from Padang Bai to Lombok. The entire voyage takes about 5-7 hours and a taxi will run about $20 from the ferry terminal in Lombok to Kuta. Ferries run every hour.
This seems to be the most popular option, but in my opinion the worst. It only makes sense if you plan to stop over on the Gili Islands on your way to Kuta. Tour offices all over Bali offer door to door service from your hotel in Bali to your hotel in Lombok which involves a 1-2 hour fast boat depending on the weather. Booking online often costs $50 each way but once in Bali you can negotiate for half that rate. Keep in mind, if the swells are big this trip is nauseating and during the rainy season fast boats are often cancelled for days on end. This is by far the least reliable option.
Where to Sleep in Kuta, Lombok
There are plenty of homestays and hotels scattered around Kuta on the main road and across from the beach. There are no hostels in Kuta, but solo travelers and those on a serious budget can ask around at places leading out to the beach and negotiate for a private room for 100,000 rupiah, less than $10.
I met Steve nearly a year ago in Puerto Viejo. He was staying at Om Yoga so we saw each other daily on the mat, he put some chick flicks on my laptop, and he even used me as a test dummy for his Thai Massage course. I fell asleep in the middle and apparently snored. After Costa Rica he headed to Indonesia with a mission to find a new home. He found it in Kuta, Lombok and has been busy building the absolute oasis that is Kies Villas. It’s quiet, tranquil, beautiful, full of amenities, has an amazing pool, and he’s got plans to bring in that health culture we enjoyed so much in Costa Rica, yoga studio and all! Tell him I sent you and you’ll soon be part of the family.
$40-80 for a double room
If you enjoy the convenience of walking to bars and restaurants, Family House has a prime location. The rooms are comfortable and clean and the hotel has a nice pool in a garden setting and an onsite restaurant.
$25 for a double room
This place has a social vibe where you can easily meet other surfers and travelers. It’s across from the beach so you’ll need to get to the main street with bars and restaurants by scooter about 5 minutes away. The rate includes breakfast and wifi, and they have a swimming pool.
$25 for a double room
This is another surfer’s haven with clean bungalows including free wifi and breakfast. It has a prime location right near bars, restaurants, and the main junction.
Where to Eat in Kuta, Lombok
$1 for a meal, $.50 for a juice or smoothie
Do you want delicious? Do you want local? Do you want crazy, almost insultingly cheap? You want Nanna’s. Nanna’s is where tourists and locals rub shoulders after a surf session and chow on traditional Indonesian dishes like gado gado, nasi campur, and cap cay. Their famous spring rolls are stuffed with mashed potato and cheese. No trip to Kuta is complete without at least 3 meals at Nanna’s.
$2-4 for a meal, $1 for a juice or smoothie
Be prepared to wait. Like really wait. A long, long, time for your food. But trust me, it’s worth it. I had garlic grilled prawns with a perfect char on crisp sautéed veggies covered in ginger and lemongrass. It was hands down one of my best meals in Southeast Asia. Come here early, before you’re hungry and before they run out of everything.
$3-5 for a meal, $2 for a juice or smoothie
I ate here nearly every day as the food is healthy, AMAZING, affordable, and the people are lovely. They even close every Saturday to cook a big feast for the local kids in the community. I highly recommend the nasi goreng which uses brown rice, lots of vegetables, and big pieces of ginger, lemongrass, and herbs. The best nasi goreng in all of Indonesia! Non veggies can enjoy one of their fish dishes.
$4-7 for a meal, $5 for a cocktail
Warung Boule is what foodie on a budget dreams are made of. The food served here is on par with the best restaurants in Bali and certainly many high end restaurants in the United States. Except you get a big piece of grilled fish with potatoes and vegetables for ummmm what $5?!?!?!?!!!! Yes, that’s right friends. I had a big seared tuna steak with grilled bok choy, roasted potatoes, and Asian salsa. Every dish I tasted here was phenomenal especially the seafood tempura. Don’t miss it.
Stopping in at Ashtari is a non negotiable part of any Kuta itinerary. The restaurant has sweeping views of Kuta and its surrounding hills and bays and the space has cozy nooks and corners with board games and big bean bag chairs outside on the deck. The staff all seem to really love working there and are always laughing and making jokes. My favorite time to come was first thing in the morning for a big plate of tropical fruit and at happy hour for sunset views and snack specials. The menu is exclusively vegetarian and they have a nice selection of healthy salads.
What to Do in Kuta, Lombok
Rent a Scooter
$5 per day
Getting around by scooter is imperative in Kuta. The hills are far too steep for a pushbike or walking and limited yourself to just Kuta bay keeps you from all the best this area has to offer. The roads are uncrowded and good for beginners with gorgeous views.
Explore the Beaches
Lombok’s South coast seems to have endless white sand beaches hidden down small roads. Tanjung A’an was my favorite with a huge bay, calm turquoise water for swimming, some trees for shade, and a grass covered rock that juts out into the center of the bay that makes a perfect meditation spot. I’ve heard the small break in the center of the bay is great for kite surfing.
Diving is emerging as a sport in Kuta, Lombok. I did not dive here, but I hear the coral reef is much more alive than in much of Southeast Asia. See for yourself by taking a dive with Discovery Divers in Kuta.
Check the conditions and head to Seger, Mawi, Air Guling, or Gerupuk. Intermediate and advanced surfers will certainly get their thrills, but Kuta is also a great place to learn. Take a surf lesson from Kimen Surf or venture on your own to Selong Belanik about a 45 minute motorbike ride outside of town where board rentals are plentiful and the gentle beach break is fun and easy.
Nights in Kuta are best spent listening to live reggae while sipping on a Bintang. Bars take turns for their “party night” and will promote it outside the day of. I really enjoyed myself on Wednesday’s at Magic for live music and all night dancing and at My Cafe on Fridays for the same same but a little different.