Kuta, Lombok Travel: Explore the ‘Better’ Kuta
Since we’re not huge fans of the ‘other’ Kuta, on Bali, it was only natural to give its namesake a try – especially after we heard good things from fellow travelers. This is a subjective point, though: what attracted us to this corner of Lombok was the fact that the area is not that developed yet, unlike resort towns that dot Lombok’s western coast.
Kuta is, historically, a small village in a bay in the south of the island, surrounded by fishing settlements and suring beaches. Eventually it started attracting western surfers, but the infrastructure and services are somewhat more basic than in similar locations on Bali. And that is just fine!
Our point of departure was Gili Meno, leaving with the public boat. We bought the combination tickets public boat+car transport from the counter at the boat landing, costing us 85K per person. The boat ride can be bumpy, and you might get wet. Getting off at Bangsal, you first have to wade thorugh knee-deep water, and then get accosted by 15+ horse cart and/or scooter drivers, offering to take you to the pick-up point. Since no taxis are allowed in the harbor, the locals have established this to be a convenient source of business – taking travel-weary tourists on a 2-minute ride, when you can easity walk that. The pick up spot for your van transport will typically be a cafe or restaurant just outside the harbor area. It’s a 10 min walk, about 1 km on the main road out.
After locating our driver and waiting a good hour or so (things never happen quickly in Indonesia), we got into a mini bus and drove down along the coast to Kuta.
The sights on the way were spectacular, and it took us about 2 hours in total, including a car switch because our first one was literally on its last breath, making strange sounds and having difficulties getting up even the mildest incline.
Exploring Kuta, Lombok: Secluded Beaches at Their Finest
Upon arriving at Kuta, Lombok, we found ourselves in the midst of a rather dingy seaside town – more of a village actually. Unimpressive at first, this place surprised us beyond expectation.
The nearest beach left us underwhelmed at first sight, too – there is the old fishermen’s village which is littered with boats and boasts somewhat cloudy waters, though the local kids won’t hesitate to surf there. The sand is not the cleanest and you may find stray dogs wandering around, looking for food. And the village kids are REALLY clingy – so be careful if you’re not a fan of being surrounded by 10 tiny humans.
Nevertheless, if you veer east off the main roads in Kuta, you’ll find the Pearl Beach, which is nicer though still not perfect for swimming, as well as other smaller beaches and coves that get better with each step. Along one of our beach walks we continues west as far as possible, crossing behind a rock that juts out into the water, only to find a secluded cove just for us (and a tired stray dog).
The thing about Kuta Lombok is that you’ll always need a scooter to get around, since the really nice beaches are a couple of miles away in both directions. The best choice is always to rent from your homestay (though we’ve heard that some homestays are in on some local motorbike scams, so be careful and always take pictures before you rent). The instant mobility of a scooter lets you visit gems such as Tanjung Aan beach, probably the most gorgeous beach we’ve visited thus far.
A very nice beach should be Mawun, but we unfortunately didn’t make it there. Instead, we opted for Seger Beach, which offers one part better suited for surfing, with good breaks and a cozy surrounding, while the other half is better suited for swimming. We found ourselves a neat corner between the two and explored the low tide shore. The surrounding rolling hills also give you an opportunity to hike and get a bomb ass view of the bay.
Accommodation and Food
On a second look, Kuta does indeed deliver in terms of beaches, tasty and cheap food and affordable accommodation – we paid 150K for a fan room at La Mancha Homestay, with a veranda, tasty breakfast and a genuinely warm and welcoming family. While it’s certainly not resort hotel standard (no hot water shower), it’s more than enough if you’re a low-maintenance traveler like ourselves.
Similarly to the Gili Islands, seafood lovers will also get into their element with the selection of fresh fish grilled up daily at nearly every warung in the village. We had a grilled tuna with sides for 2 – totaling at 120, 000 Rupiah, including drinks. Now that’s a bargain!
One of the restaurants we stopped by even had a giant mahi-mahi on offer – reportedly caught by the cook’s brother after a 3 hour struggle.
Apart from that, there’s a profusion of smaller warungs and bigger restaurants, but the prices are very fair. We often ate at a small warung near Pantai Homestay, where an indonesian dish and a fruit shake would set you back 60,000 rupiah, or got a kebab at the main road leading out of Kuta. There are also inexplicably many pizza places, that claim to have ‘authentic Italian pizza made in a stone oven’. We tried one and it didn’t live up to the hype. At the same time, we won’t get mad at that – it’s simply impossible to get the right ingredients for an ‘authentic’ pizza here. So just adjust your expectations, and you’ll be golden.