From humble beginnings in the 1980s, where tourists ordered cold beers and grilled satay sticks from palm-thatch huts right on the sand, Bali’s beach clubs have evolved into world-class entertainment venues.
These days, smooth tunes, tropical cocktails and haute cuisine coalesce to create the ultimate beachfront experience.
With more than 30 beach clubs trading on the Island of the Gods, knowing which one suits you can be challenging. To take away the guesswork, here’s a list of the best beach clubs in Bali for folks of different strokes.
Best beach club for nature lovers: Karma
OMG. That’s the first and only phrase that runs through most people’s minds as they walk along the coral pathways, skip across the wooden footbridge, sashay around the clifftop infinity pool and glance down 100 metres to see – for the first time – the Instagram-breaking 180-degree Indian Ocean views and Technicolor coral reef at Karma Resort on the cliffs of Uluwatu on Bali’s south coast.
From there, it’s just 60 seconds via a $1 million inclinator down the face of a vertical rainforest inhabited by voracious long-tailed monkeys to paradise – a turquoise lagoon edged by a crescent of white sand home to the Karma Beach Club.
This barefoot venue – with a day spa, private cabanas, water sports centre, sushi restaurant, pizzeria and bamboo bar – sits so perfectly in its place it seems like the architect and Mother Nature were in cahoots.
Best beach club for surfers: Finns
With nine bars, five restaurants, live DJ sets 13 hours a day, a day spa, wine cellar, an adults-only rooftop bar, adults-only pool, oceanfront lawn, a massive lagoon pool embedded with semi-submerged circular daybeds, a French al fresco rooftop restaurant staffed by French sommeliers, French chefs and French maître d’s, sushi bar, bakery, Indian restaurant and 170 metres of uninterrupted beachfront facing the sunset, Finns Beach Club has something for just about everyone.
But something Finns, which reopened in May following a multimillion-dollar expansion, offers what most other beach clubs in Bali do not: surfable waves.
From its location right in front of the Berawa Beach break in the surfing mecca of Canggu, you can even surf here after dark thanks to powerful stadium lights that light up the waves nightly until 10pm.
Best beach club for gastronomes: Potato Head
“Potato Head is one of the best beach clubs in the world. Probably the best in the world. If you come to Bali, you have to go there.”
That pitch doesn’t come from the club’s marketing team but from one of its toughest competitors – the Australian co-owner of Finns Beach Club, Tony Smith.
Architecture fans should visit Potato Head at Potato Head Beach Club, in the trendy coastal enclave of Seminyak, to study the dome facade lined with thousands of antique Dutch window shutters.
Music fans shouldn’t miss the regular Sun Down Circle happenings – featuring international DJs and local acts, while greenies will be blown away by the venue’s cutting-edge sustainability workshop where polystyrene is recycled into bricks. But the number one reason to go to Potato Head is to eat at all three of its restaurants.
There’s a lounge bar that smashes out the best burgers in Bali; Ijen, a seafood joint with a zero-waste philosophy where everything down to the tables and plates is made from repurposed junk; and Kaum, a modern-take on Indonesian cuisine with a unique menu that took Potato Head’s chefs three years to devise.
Best beach club for swimmers and brunchers: Sundara
Occupying pole position on the southern tip of Jimbaran Bay, a long golden sweep of sand on the isthmus connecting central Bali and the Bukit Peninsula in the island’s south, Sundara at the Four Seasons Resort is a swanky restaurant, bar and beach club rolled into one.
It’s got the longest beachfront pool in Bali – 57 metres from end to end. You can sometimes even spot Bali-based two-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Klim knocking out laps.
Sundara also puts on Bali’s longest Sunday brunch, a six-hour affair where for $70 you can stuff yourself silly on modern Australian, Indian, Indonesian and pan-Asian cuisine, plus organic Bali chocolate handmade by 2018 Valrhona world champion chocolatier Yusuke Aoki.
At night, live jazz and acoustic guitar sessions plus outdoor fire pits and the flickering lights of Bali’s west coast also make Sundara Bali’s best beach club after dark.
Best beach club for party animals: Omnia
In 2015, British hospitality company the Hakkasan Group rewrote Las Vegas’ late-night entertainment playbook with the Omnia, a $150 million nightclub within a nightclub featuring special rigging for acrobats and theatrical lighting that became a drawcard for superstar DJs and Hollywood’s A-list.
In 2017, Hakkasan repeated the trick with Omnia Bali, a gargantuan open-air day club set on the clifftops of Uluwatu. Featuring a giant curved infinity pool for ‘swim-dancing’, a swim-up bar surrounded by VIP cabanas with private plunge pools of their own and a giant shimmering cube for 3D mapping projections, Omnia is the biggest and most rambunctious entertainment venue in all of Bali – and that’s saying a lot.
But word to the wise: the music, vibe and clientele here are full on. Think speakers the size of phone booths, Russian Instagram models in tooth-floss bikinis that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination and muscly dudes waving glow sticks around like they just don’t care.
Best beach club for nostalgics: Tropicola
On the west end of Seminyak Beach, Tropicola is a new amphitheatre-shaped beach and pool club cut straight out of 1980s Miami Beach.
Everything here is unapologetically loud – from the fat disco tunes, to the bright yellow parasols and zebra-stripe-print daybeds, to the crisp red and white staff uniforms and high-octane tutti frutti cocktail list.
“Our philosophy is simple,” says marketing manager William Hayden. “We want people to remember, if they’re old enough, the best of the 1980s. And if they’re not old enough, we want them to experience this great era for the first time – not in a nightclub but in the paradise of Bali.”
Oh, and the sunsets at Tropicola? They’re out of this world.
Best beach club for cocktails: Ku De Ta
When Bali’s original beach club, Ku De Ta, opened in Seminyak in 2000, people told the owners they’d go broke.
“Back in those days, all the action was on Kuta Beach and if anyone said let’s go to Ku De Ta, they would say to them it’s too far, you have to go through rice paddies and dirt roads to get there,” says operations manager Justin Smyth.
While Seminyak is now fully urbanised and the rice fields are long gone, Ku De Ta has stayed true to its roots – a super-chilled beach club constructed from local materials catering to a Euro-centric crowd that demands equal measures of substance and style.
Regularly featured on the world’s best bar lists, Ku De Ta’s cocktails are made with only top-shelf spirits. Its Bananas in Bahamas, which combines banana puree, Myers’s dark rum and salted caramel, is a top hangover cure, though it’s hard to go past the Ku De Ta mojito, a blend of peach, mint, orange, passionfruit and Ketel One vodka.
Best beach club for families: Manarai
Set in the Sofitel in Nusa Dua, a gated enclave of large-format five-star resorts on the south-east coast, Manarai Beach House, which opened in April, is Bali’s newest beach club.
With soft island tunes, an a la carte menu serving Western and Balinese cuisine, pizza stations on the deck and two big pools encircled by day beds, the venue is perfect for families and couples during the day.
At night, the vibe is decisively more upbeat, with themed evenings like Splash Saturdays featuring live DJ sessions, sangria stations and paella stations for late-night munchies.
Best beach club, full-stop: Ulu Cliffhouse
Inspired by the whitewashed beach clubs of the Mediterranean, with an expansive infinity pool, lush green lawn spotted with palm trees plus daybeds and heart-stopping clifftop views of the Indian Ocean and Bali’s west coast, Ulu Cliffhouse in Uluwatu evokes all the glam and grandeur of the riviera’s ultra-exclusive beach clubs – sans the pomp thanks to an open-door policy and the infallible hospitality of the Balinese people.
Add a stairwell that leads to an ocean deck and a private little beach, a seafood brunch accompanied by smooth Afro-Latin beats on Sundays, special events headlined by chart-topping DJs like Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox plus a VIP car service for seamless pick ups and drop offs, and it’s not hard to see why Ulu Cliffhouse has become a favourite among expats in Bali since it opened in 2017 – and why it tops my list of the best beach club in Bali.
The bottom line
As an indication of beach club prices, expect local beer (Bintang) to cost about $5; cocktails are $15-$20. The cheapest glass of wine is about $15. The cheapest bottle is generally about $80-$100.
Food starts from $5 for nibbles and averages about $20 for mains – but some things cost up to $40.
Omnia has a $20 cover charge every day of the year. Clubs that hold special events charge $100-$150 for a ticket. Karma Beach Club charges $50 to use its inclinator down to the beach, but that includes with $30 of food and drinks.