When I dream of Bali there’s only one place I think of: the plunging cliffs and glittering shores of Uluwatu.

Driving there after the days spent in Seminyak and Ubud we could feel a distinct change of vibe: entering the cradle of the local surf culture, an almost mystical energy of the wave-worshippers.

The dusty roads, the lush gardens of the villas and homestays perched on the limestone cliffs, the incessant sound of waves at reef breaking point. Everything inviting you to disconnect from your old habits and embrace the new element of life force. I was about to discover the real Bali, beyond the crowds and the commercial thrills of busy Kuta.

Our stay: Morabito Art Cliff Villas

The Bukit area has no shortage of lavish resorts – a honeymooners’ dream with luxurious accommodations, private infinity pools overlooking the ocean and world-class dining like an art piece on your plate. But these are also the type of fancy secluded places where barely you get to talk to anyone…and you retreat in the intimacy of your villa where your butler has prepared you a rose-petal most-Instagrammable bath. So this wasn’t exactly what we were looking for- but more of a buzzing area where you get to interact with the local scene…with more than just a polite nod. This is how we chose the Morabito Art Villas, on  the always-happening Bingin Beach. 

Heavenly grace, the pure awesomeness of this place…Wow. The moment we put down our luggage after going up and down on countless spiraling stairs, and ran on the terrace of our apartment…mind-blown. We held our breath just like when something wonderful has struck you out of the blue! And blue is was, all around us the amazing view upon the ocean.

Mornings and at sunset I would simply stay on the terrace and look at the surfers, mesmerized by the sudden swelling of the sea, the rising wave, trying to spot the first surfer that would glide on his longboard and tunnel thru the most beautiful water passage in all its ocean glory. The man- or the girl, making the ocean her element of comfort- patiently awaiting to catch the peak, and rise on the lip of the wave, that foaming crest. Soul-surfers, wannabe surfers- they all contribute to this unifying, free-spirited vibe that makes Uluwatu so special. The soul comes together over this blend of sky, ocean and a ride over a shiny longboard.

A spectacle that I could never tire of, so awe-inspiring. For this was the spirit of Uluwatu imprinted in me, of surf and wilderness and open sea, a subtle transformation happening inside that made you believe you could change your life and stay here forever.

And wanna talk about how easy-going this crowd is? Salt-curly hair, Billabong, Rip Curl or Single Fin swimming shorts, slick wetsuits, cool hoodies, sipping Bintang beer and chilling after the wave tubing. Having a burger or some avocado on toast. No high-and-mighty attitudes, no snub looks- just friendly banter and a lot of ‘surf is life’ talk.

Getting around Uluwatu 

Hop on a motorbike – the best way to freely explore and get lost…with a purpose: discovering the best beaches and hang-outs in the Bukit peninsula, making those Uluwatu memories happen on the road! Go find Thomas Beach with its generous stretch of white sand, the more secluded (and monkey-guarded) Green Bowl Beach, or surfers’s playground, Suluban Uluwatu Beach with its secret caves and mesmerizing wave swell.

Uluwatu Temple: best sunset views 

We were aiming to arrive here before sunset, and watch the daily 6 pm Kecak Dance performance on the grounds of the temple. Dragged down by the blissful lounging at Sundays’ Beach Club we got here late, and all the tickets for the traditional dance were sold out! Expect masses of tourists (though somehow less than Tanah Lot, another famous temple in Bali), packed buses maneuvering through the parking lot…and monkeys. That somehow become scary after dark…and gave me a fright several times ruffling through the bushes and jumping out of nowhere!

But the ancient temple on top of the cliff is truly a magnificent sight, and considered one of the six pillar temples of Bali: Pura Uluwatu protecting the island from the evil spirits of the sea.

Favorite surf-inspired hangout in Uluwatu? Single Fin – Bali’s Best Sunday Sessions. Sunset parties, delicious tacos, groovy tunes, a cute boutique well stocked with all things beach. I got some seriously tan-enhancing bikinis here (along with the ones I scored from the Aussie-born Gooseberry Swimwear in Seminyak) – and also quirky sunglasses, eco-friendly sunblock, surfboard wax and just about everything you need to work the surfer look: soft worn-cotton tees, bucket sunhats, flower-print shorts and flip-flops.

You can grab yourself a board and hit the waves, or just chill on the deck, with an mesmerizing view of the sunset and the skilled  surfers gliding on the famous Padang Padang Pipeline- a reef break similar to Hawaii’s legendary Banzai.

Vibe rating: 9/10 

Favorite day-turns-into night beachside reverie? Sundays Beach Club 💯 ! 

Again it’s all about the vibes, the perfect mellow VIBES! Going down to the beach on an elevator and slowly as it lowers absorbing the view from above: the emerald-to-turquoise color-changing lagoon, the powdery feel of the sand.

Sipping from a fresh coconut while laying down on their turqouise beach pillows, jumping on a paddle board and exploring around; getting those pangs of hunger and ordering the best nasi goreng this side of island: hearty, fresh and delicious.

And just when you thought maybe it’s time to make a move and go somewhere else, because let’s face it, you’ve spent most of your day here…there’s a sunset bonfire happening on the beach, live music playing soothing tunes, and marshmellow roasting. So you sink deeper into your beach pouf and watch the sunlight fade behind the cliff (there’s no direct sunset view here unfortunately), and start considering the cocktail list. Vibe rating: solid 10 ! 

Ulu Cliffhouse: breathtaking views and a fancier vibe

The place definitely feels like you’ve just stepped into an Instagram feed, with everyone and their crochet-wearing mother posing on the ocean deck and boomerang-ing their Aperols and Mojitos. The atmosphere is polished but warm, there’s free pizza at happy hour, freshly caught and sustainable seafood & plant-based dishes, chilled beats (that turn to raging techno on some nights) and sundowner sessions…so makes perfect sense that you’d pay this clifftop venue a visit!

Beautiful place, but the vibes aren’t as expected:

OMNIA Bali – with their weekend flagship pool parties igniting the nights of Uluwatu, creative cocktails by the Cube bar, and world-famous DJs sessions heating up the dance floor- everyone in the area wants a piece of it: it’s big, it’s glitzy, it’s all over Instagram, it’s models and fit bodies splashing around the infinity pool. But yeah, it’s just one more extravagant pool party (sorry I know I sound biased by living in Dubai and having access to this all year long!). I just felt like in Bali I need something different.

El Kabron – hailed as Bali’s best Spanish restaurant, offering a beautiful sunset view…but what I experienced there again is a lack of the special vibes that other places possess and make you wish to come back over and over again.

So keeping it local, keeping it authentic is the key to making travelers’s dreams happen: I was way happier in a place like Kelly’s Warung on Bingin Beach, with their delicious simple eats, loaded baguettes, healthy smoothies and surf views!

As I’m thinking of a closing line for this post I can already feel the desire to return building up like a rising wave…I’ll make Uluwatu my base for exploring further the amazing islands of Indonesia!