Loud, frenetic and brash are just some of the adjectives commonly used to describe Kuta and Legian, the centre of mass tourism in Bali. Only a couple of decades ago, local hotels tacked their signs up to palm trees. Amid the wall-to-wall cacophony today, such an image seems as foreign as the thought that the area was once rice fields. Worse, parts are just plain ugly, like the unsightly strips that wend their way inland from the beach.
Although this is often the first place many visitors hit in Bali, the region is not for everyone. Kuta has narrow lanes jammed with cheap cafes, surf shops, incessant motorbikes and an uncountable number of T-shirt vendors. However, newly opened flashy shopping malls and chain hotels suggest a more mainstream future.
Kuta has Bali’s most raucous clubs, and you can still find a simple room for US$15 in dozens of hotels. Legian appeals to a slightly older crowd (wags say it’s where fans of Kuta go after they’re married). It is equally commercial and has a long row of family-friendly hotels close to the beach. Tuban differs little in feel from Kuta and Legian, but does have a higher percentage of visitors on package holidays.
As for the waves, they break on the beach that put Kuta on the map. The strand of sand stretching for kilometres from Tuban north to Kuta, Legian and beyond to Seminyak and Echo Beach is always a scene of surfing, playing, massaging, chilling, imbibing and more.
Navigating the region will drive you to a cold one even earlier than you had planned. Busy Jl Legian runs roughly parallel to the beach from Kuta north into Seminyak.