Bali is perhaps the most famous island in the Indonesian archipelago. You’ll find incredible stretches of sand along its coasts, beautiful mountains, centuries-old temples, lively festivals with unique arts and crafts and friendly people who keep the island's vibrant traditions alive.
However, most visitors to Bali stay trapped in the southern Bali−Ubud axis and overlook the north of Bali completely!
This is a vast region with the biggest draw the incredible diving and snorkelling at Pulau Menjangan. Nearby the small but booming Pemuteran may be Bali's best beach escape. Further to the east is Lovina, a sleepy beach strip with cheap accommodation and even cheaper sunset beer specials.
All along the north coast, you will find interesting little boutique hotels and quality Balinese Homestays, while just slightly inland you'll find yourself mostly alone exploring waterfalls and deserted temples.
Unfortunately, there’s not much of affordable public transport to speak of in the north and your best option is often to make use of a private car and driver. It’s, however, perfectly safe and easy to drive yourself all around the island and the added flexibility having your own transport opens up a whole new world of hidden gems!
Most people tend to arrive in Bali via Ngurah Rai International Airport south of Denpasar but it’s simple enough to hop across from Java by ferry.
We had spent a few days in Banyuwangi seeing Kawa Ijen and took a quick taxi ride to Ketapang Ferry Terminal from our hotel. The ferry to Gilimanuk Ferry Terminal was IDR 8 000 (USD 0.50) per person and took around 1 hour.
Unless you have a combined ticket to Denpasar or Kuta the easiest is to walk from the ferry terminal across the road to the bus station and look for a suitable bus heading in your direction. You will get hassled by operators of private taxis and minivans but the cheapest would be to take a bus – it might take a lot longer though and you should still bargain with the bus driver as the price is not fixed.
We got suckered into paying IDR 40 000 (USD 2.50) per person to Pemuteran after waiting an hour for the bus to get more passengers. Luckily the ride to Pemuteran was a fairly quick 40 minutes and the driver dropped us off right at the entrance to the side road of our accommodation.
We chose to stay at Sari Bungalows Homestay in Pemuteran which turned out to be a rather charming place with great owners. Just take note that as with most places in Bali, earplugs are essential as there’s always roosters and mopeds around!
We based ourselves in Pemuteran for a few days and rented a scooter from our accommodation for IDR 60 000 (USD 4) per day. Usually, it’s the easiest and safest way to arrange for rental directly from the place you stay at rather than off the street as it’s far less likely for you to be ripped off in some way or another.
The best diving and snorkel spots in the Northern part of Bali are Pulau Menjangan and at Tulamben (for the Liberty Wreck) and even the dive operations in Amed will take you to Tulamben. We spent a day diving around Menjangan with FunFun Dive Center - it was a great experience as the area is teeming with marine life and the visibility was excellent. "Menjangan" in Indonesian means "Deer” and the name was given by the locals after observing wild deer herds swimming to the island every spring - covering a distance of almost 2 kilometres!
We had a bit of a scare on our morning dive in Pemuterna Bay when Lisa’s mouthpiece came loose upon descent. It was a deep dive with a strong current which made things even more tricky but luckily everything worked out fine. In the video below you will see some footage of our dives at Menjangan as well as the parts I manage to capture in Pemuteran Bay. This will give you a good idea of the dive conditions and the village life around Pemuteran.