Tourists are drawn to the South of Lombok for the stunning beaches and scenery, the laid-back lifestyle, and almost year-round sunshine - as well as for some of the best surf breaks in Indonesia!
Kuta, is the main town and tourism centre on the south coast of Lombok and is the hub for exploring the fantastic southern beaches and the many places of interest in the region.
The Lombok International Airport (LIA) is the only commercial airport on Lombok and is located just 25 minutes’ drive north of Kuta, making access to the south relatively easy. Located around 60 km south of Mataram, and about one and a half hour's drive from Senggigi, Kuta makes for an exquisite excursion from other points in Lombok or an alternate holiday destination for travellers exploring Lombok. Major roads have been upgraded and the main road to Kuta is in very good condition.
The proximity to the airport has sparked an investment boom in the area over the past couple of years and Kuta has blossomed, with many new hotels, restaurants and cafés catering to increased numbers of tourists. One such is the proposed Mandalika Resort development, with its plans for a luxury hotel, villas and facilities on over 1000 hectares of prime beach land, will transform the south coast in coming years.
The drive down to the south coast from the centre is an interesting glimpse of rural life as the road winds through small villages and farming communities. Fields upon fields of tobacco, corn and peanuts line the roadsides where local farmers work the land using antiquated ploughs stilled pulled by large water buffalo. Just before you descend into Kuta, the road passes two traditional Sasak villages, respectively named Sade and Rambitan. On the east side of the road, you will find Rambitan, a village which primarily caters to tourists and has authentic clusters of thatched Lumbung (rice barns), and traditional homes made of thatch and bamboo, with cow and buffalo dung floors.
Slightly further south you will find Sade, another hilltop village with even more Lumbung and traditional homes. Both of these traditional villages have been renovated and primarily cater to the tourist market, but there are still good examples of traditional Sasak architecture and communal living within the compounds, where life continues as it has for centuries before. Residents of the villages (whom can be rented as guides for a small fee), encourage visitors to walk through either of these villages and are more than happy to share a glimpse of their life with visitors.
Nearby, on the hilltop, is one of the oldest mosques in Lombok - Masjid Kuno. This small building with its thatched roof is considered holy by believers and many make pilgrimages here dor prayer.
Kuta itself is a town on the move that is evolving quickly and positioning itself as the main tourism hub for South Lombok. In the past, it offered mainly low budget hotels catering to the thousands of surfers from around the world who are drawn to the area every year. These days, there is a wide variety of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes, from simple and cheap hotels to luxurious villas with private swimming pools.
As with accommodation options, new restaurants, coffee shops and eateries are springing up in the area almost monthly. Restaurants and cafes in Kuta now rival the foodie scene in Bali and offer a range of choices including Mediterranean, Japanese, Mexican, Asian Fusion, vegan and gluten-free, nouvelle cuisine, home-made cakes and bread. Diners are truly spoilt for choice and you can dine in a different place every night without being bored! Kuta offers a full range of tourist facilities from motorbike hire, car rental and tours, surf lessons and surfboard hire and more. There are several small shops and mini-markets in town selling drinks, snacks, toiletries and most of your other daily needs. You will also find ATM facilities plenty of the ubiquitous tour agencies and more.
Kuta attracts thousands of visitors every year for the great surf locations at Gerupuk, Ekas and the beaches to the east. It’s easy to hire a board and a surf guide from here to learn to surf or, for experienced surfers, to access the more challenging surf breaks in the area. Hire a car or motorbike and you can spend days visiting beautiful, mainly deserted beaches, both to the east and west of Kuta.
Just east of Kuta is Seger beach (sometimes called Mandalika Beach, after the legendary Princess Mandalika – a beloved character in Sasak folklore who is believed to have sacrificed herself for the good of her people from the rocks overlooking the beach). It is here that thousands of people gather every year to celebrate the colourful ritual of Bau Nyale, when masses of sea worms spawn in the waters offshore. There are great views from the beach and even better if you take some time to climb the surrounding hills. There are usually stalls selling drinks and snacks to enjoy after taking a swim or a stroll and nearby there is a monument in the bay which commemorates the legend of Mandalika.
Tanjung Aan, barely 5km eastward of Kuta, is a long, picturesque beach with a wide sweep of powder white sand, perfect aquamarine water and shady trees along the shore. There are a number of warungs (or beach cafes), along the beach selling cold drinks and beer, as well as snacks and simple meals. One of the most popular is Warung Turtle but there are plenty to choose from. We hung out at Café Rizki a bit further down the beach and found wonderful fresh juice there with welcoming hosts.
The water at Tanjung Aan is calm and mostly clear, with a sandy bottom making it suitable for swimming. There are also local outrigger boats available for hire, offering trips around the bay and to the nearby surf breaks. There is a small hill towards the east end of the beach with steps carved into its side. An easy climb to the top will provide for lovely views from where you can watch surfers catching the waves offshore. On the opposite (far western) end of the beach is Bukit Merese - a somewhat larger hill and a much tougher climb to the top - but worth the effort for the fantastic views. It is popular in the late afternoon when everyone climbs up to see the spectacular sunsets.
Further east of Tanjung Aan is Gerupuk – well known as a top surf location and situated on a peninsula of land that juts out into the ocean. The bay is used for lobster farming and is filled with local boats, which ferry avid surfers to no fewer than five surf breaks nearby. Gerupuk is also evolving and offers a range of simple accommodation and restaurants to cater to the growing tourism trade. The beaches and scenery continue all the way to the east coast, with fantastic places such as Bu