Think of Kuta and it is nonstop pulsating nightlife and a vibrant surfing culture that immediately springs to mind. This is all true but it offers much more besides.
Away from the obvious tourist traps, Kuta showcases some interesting and seldom-visited Hindu temples, fascinating art workshops and festivities. It offers up intriguing contrasts in architecture with traditional Balinese village compounds rubbing shoulders with chic designer bars and boutique villas.
It undoubtedly appeals to younger travellers keen to party hard and surf its pounding waves but families too will find rewarding fun attractions in and out of the water.
There is no escaping the lure of Kuta beach which is possibly the most beautiful stretch of sand in Bali. Overcrowded and touristy it may be, but it does offer up an intoxicating energy that is hard to resist.
It is a lively hang out for the surfing community and a great place to mix or indulge in a spot of windsurfing, beach volleyball and kite flying. The pursuit of people watching is a colourful experience here and offers up a vivid image of contemporary Indonesian life. Relax awhile and wait for the most spectacular ocean sunsets imaginable.
As Kuta beach winds its way north towards Legian, things quieten down as the busy adjacent road heads inland. There is also less attention from beach hawkers and it is the ideal place to simply lay back and soak up the tropical sunshine.
In the opposite direction at nearby Tuban beach, sunbathers can even have a wide stretch of golden sand completely to themselves. This is the safest place to swim and enjoy water sports with calm seas in a sheltered shallow reef. When the heat gets just too much take refuge in one of the many elegant beachfront diners overlooking the sand for refreshing cocktails and delicious grilled seafood.
Temples in Kuta
There is no one major Hindu temple in Kuta but several neighbourhood ones located in each district. Due to its beachfront location, the temple of Pura Batu Bolong is the most popular with visitors. It features an intricately carved sandstone entrance depicting various Hindu deities. Each morning and at sunset local Balinese come to pray and present offerings and during full moon for ritual bathing in the sea. Situated off Kuta Main Street is another temple well worth exploring. Pura Khayangan is the ‘temple of the dead’ and also showcases fascinating stone carvings. For a small donation tourists are allowed inside to the inner courtyard.
Bali Bomb Memorial
Located on the exact site of Bali’s tragic terrorist attack of 2002, lies an evocative and lovingly maintained memorial dedicated to all 202 victims who lost their lives.
Made of beautifully carved stone and marble, it lists the names and nationalities of all who died and is wonderfully illuminated at night. It is a popular spot for both tourists and locals to pay their respects and each year on 12th October sees a remembrance service attended by Indonesian and Australian politicians.
Art workshops in Kuta
Kuta has a myriad of art workshops which, despite the cosmopolitan surroundings, show that traditional time honoured craftsmanship is still alive and well. Explore colourful Tuban High Street and its cheek by jowl collections of traditional woodcarvings, eccentric stone figurines and rattan basketwork.
There are still a few working artist studios that can be toured and customised items can be made to order. Mirota Bali is definitely worth a look. It is a far cry from the mass produced cheap souvenirs that Kuta has become infamous for.