Spotted by the air in the 1970s, Uluwatu was the first world-class surf break to be discovered in Indonesia.
It was, and remains, the most famous surf break in Bali due to the quality and consistency of the waves which are perfect or near-perfect every day from March to November.
Uluwatu is huge reef open to all swell directions, set below a stunning limestone cliff.
A goofy-foot surfer’s paradise with so many different peaks that turn on at different tides and swell size, there is always a bustling vibe and while the party crowd like to see and be seen at Single Fin, the cool crowd go down one level to the Edge for a perfect view of the surfing action.
Uluwatu spot info
Uluwatu has five main known peaks that turn on at different tides and swell size. There are also two unknown spots which we can not give the exact location for, but one spot works on a small swell at low tide, and the other on a medium-size swell at high tide. Explore and look with your eyes!
These main five waves all break predominantly left due to the shape of the reef and the swell direction which is always from the SSW or SWS:
Temples breaks very heavy and fast on quite shallow water. Usually a lighter crowd here as a long paddle up the reef, but there is usually a hardcore crew of ex-pat surfers on it, and it is for advanced-expert surfers only.
On smaller days it can be worth paddling up the reef a bit as Temples picks up a little bit more swell than the other spots further down the reef.
The Bombie is aptly described as on small-medium size swell as it is an indicator wave that breaks softly and is not rideable, except on a foil surfboard. On bigger swells, the bombie is transformed and can hold waves up to 40 feet.
The bombie can produce rideable waves in the 20 foot+ range that can go for up to 2km, and link up into Outside Corner. A lot of the waves also shut down and you need to be prepared for the wipeout and hold down of a lifetime.
A surfing spectacular that must be seen if you’re on a trip to Bali and there is a huge swell running.
Very few dare to paddle out at the Bombie on big days and it has claimed a few brave lives over the years. As the wave is travelling very fast in deep water, board sizes tend to be in the 10 foot Hawaiian Rhino gun category as paddle speed is the priority.
Outside Corner is the premier big wave surfing spot in Bali, if not the whole of Indonesia. On a big swell, Outside Corner is usually best at low tide. Access to the water across the shallow reef with a lot of water moving is a challenge in itself.
On massive swells Outside corners will still break well on a medium tide, but will fatten out at high tide. For serious big wave surfers only, it is a great viewing experience from the cliffs to see the surfing gladiators below battling massive waves.
The Peak is a high tide break, located 50 metres south of the cave entrance. The peak is the most consistent section of the various waves at Uluwatu. Other sections of Uluwatu tend to have longer lulls between wave, while the peak is like a wave machine.
Unfortunately, the peak attracts the crowds of surfers who see the consistent waves hitting this section of the reef, so tends to get crowded and competitive.
Punchy medium-length rides with plenty of barrels are the norm on the peak from mid to high tide. On smaller swells it flattens out at high tide, but on a medium/large swell the peak is amazing at high tide.
Racetrack is where you paddle out from at the cave.
Most visiting surfers start at the racetrack but end up at the peak due to a combination of watching the waves consistently break at the peak, and also the current runs in that direction. Most local surfers stay on the racetrack section as it is the best section of the reef, offering the longest rides.
Racetracks is a very fast powerful wave that throws medium size barrels on takeoff, and huge barrels on the end section. 300-400m rides are typical on good days.
Best at low/mid tide but gets super shallow and scary at dead low tide.
Common hazards surfing Uluwatu
This is the premier surf spot in Bali and attracts top local and travelling surfers. The peak is particularly competitive to get a wave as the take-off spot in small.
If you are not the best surfer then it's better to find a spot that is not so good but less crowded or choose a time of day that is not popular.
Early mornings are always quiet, and sunset can also get quiet with people heading home to Kuta before dark.
There will usually be at least one of the five peaks at Uluwatu working well during any time of the day. The higher the tide the slower and more mellow the wave becomes, therefore, more suitable for lesser experienced surfers while leaving the experts to make the most of the lower tides and hollower performance waves at this time.
Uluwatu is generally very crowded particularly when the surf is small and a ‘small crowd’ at Uluwatu may be considered a ‘considerable crowd’ at many other surf locations. The crowd thins out when the surf reaches 6 foot plus with some of the best surfers on display.
Crowds and unassuming surfers out of their depth entering and exiting the surf are a major hazard — particularly entering the surf on low tide through the Racetracks section.
Strong currents, very sharp and shallow reef are guaranteed to be part of any session.
Watch the steep stairs on the way down the cliff to the surf and waves pounding the cliff face when entering and exiting the cave on higher tides.
How do you get in and out of the surf at Uluwatu?
Entering the surf at Uluwatu
The rickety ladder is long gone and there is now a choice of three different staircases offering access to the cave below.
The first stair access used to get shut off in the rainy season by a river of water.
The second staircase gave you a fighting chance of making it down the stairs, without getting seriously injured by the biblical water flow, but it was rather scary.
The third staircase is impervious to any volume of water from above or below, and offers safe, 365 days a year access to the cave.
There are goat tracks around the temple area but quite challenging to navigate with a surfboard so everyone enters via the cave, but not all make it back to the start point!
After climbing down the stairs on the Uluwatu cliff you will exit the cave and into the water on a high tide or have a 100m walk across sharp reef on a low tide.
When paddling out straight in front of the cliff avoid drifting with the current into the way of oncoming surfers ripping the Racetrack section to pieces.
Not only will you get in the way of oncoming surfers but you have a good chance of getting dragged over the shallow and sharp reef if you’re not a strong paddler.
You can also take a left at the bottom of the staircase through a small cave bringing you out on the small stretch of beach known as Suluban Beach. Here you can walk further down the beach towards Temples and paddle out wherever you see the best opportunity.
Exiting the surf at Uluwatu
The bigger the swell, the stronger the current, and on the inside it is always running in the direction from Temples to Padang Padang. Getting back to the entry point of the cave can be very difficult on a medium-size swell at high tide.
Low tide makes it possible to walk back on the reef, but at high tide the current will push you past the cave. A big rolling whitewater set wave can be the fastest and easiest way to avoid getting swept by the current.
On very big days it can be almost impossible to get into the cave. At mid-tide or above, it will be necessary to paddle up onto the peak with the risk of getting flogged by a cleanup set.
It can be very intimidating on a big day to paddle up and get a set wave in. If you miss the cave on a big day, the alternative is to paddle a mile or so down to Thomas beach, and do the walk of shame back to Uluwatu car park, to collect your bike/car.
Inside local Uluwatu surf knowledge
There is a keyhole to access the cave which is accessible at all tides, but can be dangerous on a big swell at high tide. If you miss the cave, try to get into the keyhole and gain access to the cave by climbing up a rock to avoid another full lap of paddling.
Exiting via the keyhole needs to be well-timed when there is a surging swell. Further down the reef, it is possible to walk back at low to mid-tide. At high tide, there is no beach and the current is too strong.
Uluwatu beach (Pantai Suluban)
The beach is accessed via the cave. At high tide, you can't access the beach but there is a small beach inside the cave suitable for frolicking in the water, sunbathing and watching the surfers come and go. Never go deeper than waist-deep as the current here is extremely strong.
The beach is white sand and beautiful. Low tide exposes the reef and it truly is awesomely beautiful. The Indian Ocean washes Uluwatu clean daily and this is a pristine beach location.
Where to stay at Uluwatu
Uluwatu has a range of accommodation from all budgets from cheap hostel costing US$10 a night to resorts costing US$1,000 a night. In between this price range are homestays, bungalows, villas and hotels. Homestays are particularly Indonesian style of accommodation, comparable with a B&B in western counties. Rooms at lower price end are typically fan-cooled or low powered aircon.
Check out our accommodation recommendations which offer excellent value for a fair price
Dining at Uluwatu
There are countless warungs (small local restaurant) in the area and on the cliff face looking down at the surfing breaks. Recently many western-run restaurants have opened and increased the range of dining option.
Street food such as BBQ corn and BBQ chicken satay is highly recommended as a budget option and usually available in the parking area in the evening.
What else is there to do in the Uluwatu area other than surfing?
The Edge is the best place for sunset drinks and to hang out and watch the surfers.
Uluwatu Temple is the mother temple and Balinese will travel from all over the island to pay homage. The temple has a magnificent setting overlooking the Indonesian Ocean. Every evening at 6 pm there is a “monkey fire dance” which is unmissable.
If there is one must-do thing in Bali, it is to watch the monkey fire dance at Uluwatu temple.
So you want to surf at Uluwatu?
Our intermediate and/or advanced groups can normally be found at Uluwatu for at least one of their daily surf lessons during dry season, so if you'd like to join us, check our availability or get in contact for more information.