Uluwatu vs Canggu: Which Destination in Bali to Visit?

Uluwatu vs canggu
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There are more than 17,000 islands in Indonesia, but Bali is the bucket-list destination. Popularised by the social media feeds of the Instagram elite, this island is instantly recognizable for its luscious greenery and turquoise waters. Uluwatu and Canggu are two of Bali’s best destinations. Wondering which one to visit? We’ve done the research for you. Read on to find out whether Uluwatu or Canggu is the destination for you. 

Before we get into specifics, let’s get to the grips with the basics of each destination. Uluwatu is on the south-western tip of Bali’s Bukit peninsula. It rose to notoriety in the 1970s as a surfing hotspot, and has been well known amongst the global surfing community ever since. Nowadays, it’s home to some of Bali’s most luxurious resorts, as well as a wide range of pristine sandy beaches. 

Canggu, on the other hand, is a coastal village also in the south of Bali. Its long stretches of beaches and vibrant green rice fields have attracted the attention of the expat community, and it’s become a hub of digital nomads and backpackers. From places to stay to things to do, let’s see how the two destinations measure up. 

Uluwatu or Canggu: Accommodation

Morning yoga in Bali
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Every great holiday begins with the perfect place to stay, and Bali has an abundance of beautiful hotels, holiday rentals and hostels. Uluwatu is one of the island’s most luxurious destinations. Clifftop resorts with private beaches have earned this area the nickname Billionaire’s Row. The Bulgari Resort, Bali is the perfect example. With expansive views of the Indian Ocean and a private beach accessible only via elevator, this clifftop resort is the pinnacle of luxury in Bali. But it will set you back a cool $1,000 a night!

If like most of us your budget doesn’t stretch so far, there is affordable accommodation nearby. The Sun and Surf stay, right on Pingin beach is a great find for beachheads and surfers. Meanwhile for backpackers on a budget, there are ample hostels, many of which have their own swimming pools. Bali Beats Guest House and Uluwatu Backpackers are our faves. All in all, Uluwatu has a good range of accommodation, ranging from high-end, to affordable.

What Uluwatu has in luxury, Canggu has in laid-back, low-key vibes: think boutique hotels, low-rise villas and eco resorts. A yoga hotspot, you’ll find multiple retreats in this part of Bali. Ecosfera is a great stay for traditional Balinese hospitality, as well as daily yoga classes. Canggu has a strong backpacker scene, meaning you’ll find plenty of high quality hostels in this part of the island. Dip and Doze Hostel is a popular choice due to its superb location just 800 yards from Berawa Beach. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s COMO Uma Canggu. A recent addition to the area, this 5* hotel is one of the only luxury resorts in Canggu. It boasts one of Bali’s best spas. 

So, which of our chosen destinations comes out on top accommodation-wise, Uluwatu or Canggu? Ultimately, the answer comes down to the vibe you prefer. Are you going to Bali for its world-class luxury? If so, Uluwatu is probably the destination for you. But if you’re after something a bit more laidback, bohemian, and cheaper, Canggu’s your spot.

Uluwatu or Canggu: Price

A classic Bali sunset
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Bali made its name as a budget friendly destination, but the recent explosion of tourism to the island has somewhat hiked prices up. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible to have a cheap holiday in Bali – it all depends on the types of places you decide to visit. So Uluwatu or Canggu, which destination stands out in terms of affordability? 

Considering Uluwatu’s aforementioned nickname – Billionaire’s Row – you might be able to answer this question for yourself. Uluwatu has a reputation as one of the island’s most premium spots. According to analysis by Champion Traveler, an average week in Uluwatu as a solo traveler sets you back between $1,101 and $2,989, factoring in food, accommodation, entertainment and flights.

A number of factors contribute to Uluwatu’s higher price tag. Besides its tendency for luxury accommodation, there are also lots of Western-style restaurants in this area, with much higher prices than you can expect at your more traditional, Balinese joints. In order to get around Uluwatu’s many different beaches and clifftop locations, most people hire a scooter, which is another expense to consider when visiting Uluwatu.

Canggu, on the other hand, is slightly more affordable. It’s reputation as a backpacking hub has given rise to accommodation and restaurants catering towards lower budgets. Champion Traveler predicts that an average week in Canggu will cost you between $782 and $2,665 as a solo traveler. Of course, this is all very dependent on where you stay, which restaurants you go to, and how much you spend on entertainment. But in either Uluwatu or Canggu, if you eat at local Balinese places, opts for villas instead of resorts and spend your days on the beach, you should keep things fairly cheap. 

Uluwatu or Canggu: Food

A delicious Bali breakfast
Alexandra Andersson on Unsplash

Bali has a rich and varied culinary tradition which draws influence from many different parts of the world, including China, India, Malaysia and Australia. Classic Indonesian cuisine appears alongside Westerned-inspired fare in the island’s many cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s also a great culinary destination for vegans and vegetarians, who are spoilt for choice with the island’s vast selection of plant-powered kitchens.

The beaches and clifftops of Uluwatu are awash with great places to eat. You’ll find an ample selection of cafes, serving up everything from brightly-colored Buddha bowls to tacos and Indonesian classics like Nasi Goreng. Campur Campur, in the heart of Uluwatu, is an inexpensive spot for some seriously delicious local cuisine. Bukit Café’s vibrant, meat-free menu satisfies even the most devoted of carnivores, while the tacos at Mango Tree are an absolute must. As you would expect, there are also a good few high-end, fine dining spots in Uluwatu housed in the area’s luxury resorts. 

There’s a fair amount of overlap between the two destinations’ food scenes. A few of Uluwatu’s restaurants, such as The Loft, even have sister restaurants in Canggu. Due to Canggu’s popularity with expats, there’s a fair amount of international cuisine to be found in this part of Bali. From Pho at Leroy’s Vietnamese, to pizza in Milk and Madu, you can eat your way around the world in Canggu. Be sure to stop at The Give Cafe, where all profits go to charity. 

 So Uluwatu or Canggu, which destination takes the biscuit when it comes to eating out? As far as we’re concerned, it’s even stevens. Both destinations boost a rich variety of different cuisines.

Uluwatu or Canggu: Activities

Rocky outcrops in Uluwatu, Bali
Darren Lawrence on Unsplash

Before the billionaires arrived, Uluwatu first became popular for its extraordinary surf breaks. As such, people come to this part of the island mainly for the beach – and there are many to choose from. Bingin beach and Dreamland beach are two of the tourist hot spots, but if you’re a bit more adventurous, there are plenty of more private stretches of sand to explore in Uluwatu. If you can brave the trek down to the sea, Nunggalan Beach offers vast stretches of white sand. There’s also the remains of a shipwreck wedged into the sand, which makes for a great pic! 

Aside from surfing and beach-hopping, there are a few interesting cultural sights in Uluwatu. Uluwatu temple is the main attraction of this variety. This stunning cliff-top temple is over 1,000 years old, and is a great place to spot monkeys. Uluwatu is also home to Single Fin, one of Bali’s legendary beach clubs. Tourists and residents alike flock here at dusk to sip cocktails and listen to live music on the venue’s ocean view balcony. 

If you’re easily bored of beaches, there’s plenty to do in Canggu besides sunbathing and surfing. The ancient Hinu shrine of Tanah Lot is a particular highlight. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the temple offers brilliant views of the Indian ocean, and a chance to learn about the cultural heritage of Bali.

For fans of more recent culture, why not take a tour of Canggu’s vibrantly decorated streets? There’s plenty of interesting street art to discover. You’ll also find yoga classes, cookery workshops and plenty of independent boutiques in this vibrant part of the island. If it’s a toss up between Uluwatu and Canggu when it comes to things to do, we’d say Canggu has the edge. If you’ve come to Bali for an action-packed holiday, we’d point you in the direction of Canggu.

Uluwatu or Canggu: Beaches

Canggu beach at sunset
Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Long hailed as one of the best-surfing destinations in the world, it goes without saying that Uluwatu is home to many impressive beaches. From vast stretches of white sand to hidden coves, you could spend a week just exploring the many different seaside spots this part of Bali has to offer. As we’ve already mentioned, Dreamland and Bingin beach are the tourist favorites.

However, don’t just settle for these. It’s well worth getting away from the crowds and exploring the likes of Pemutih beach, Thomas beach and Suluban beach. Pristine sand, rugged rock formations, and crystal clear waters are what makes the beaches of Uluwatu special. It’s worth noting that, due to Uluwatu’s cliff-top location, a lot of Uluwatu’s beaches are accessible only via narrow and steep stairways. The beaches are therefore not the most accessible for those who might have difficulty climbing and descending stairs.

There are five kilometers of coastline to explore in Canggu, with five main beaches. Each one offers something a little different. Surfers will find the best break at the popular Berawa beach, while Nelayan beach is the best for swimming. If you’re less concerned about swimming, and more partial to a beach cocktail, Echo beach has the best range of beachside bars and restaurants. There’s a hidden temple at the end of Batu Bolong Beach, while you’ll find a lovely, secluded zone at the north end of Pererenan beach.

So are the beaches better in Uluwatu or Canggu? Providing you’re able to manage all the steps, we’d say that Uluwatu has the edge here. It’s the rugged, wilderness of the landscape, combined with the unspoiled and secluded nature of its beaches that truly makes Uluwatu’s coastline so spectacular.  

Uluwatu or Canggu: Where is better to visit?

The temple of Tanah Lot, Canggu
Nick Fewings on Unsplash

So all in all, Uluwatu or Canggu? Where’s the better destination to visit in Bali? It really depends on what type of traveler you are and what you’re hoping to experience in Bali. If your idea of the perfect holiday is one split between luxury accommodation and secluded beaches, you’ll probably prefer Uluwatu. Similarly, if you’re seeking out world-leading surf, head to Uluwatu. But if your perfect trip involves interspersing beach days with sightseeing and cultural activities, we’d say you’ll love Canggu. However, Canggu is only a 40-minute taxi journey from Uluwatu. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t visit both!

Hungry for more information on Bali? Check out our comparison guide of Bali vs Lombok.

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Charlotte Hanwell is a writer and travel enthusiast from London. Her studies of Spanish language and literature have taken her from Barcelona to Buenos Aires. In between travels, she loves to run, read and cook her way around the world.