Mangrove forests, baby turtles, and a heritage park are just a few of the top things to do in Sanur, Bali. Discover this unexplored paradise with our travel guide and go beyond its dazzling beaches, beautiful though they are.
Sanur doesn’t figure on any tour operator’s must-see places in Bali. Yet, this sleepy seaside town has a beguiling charm and it’s not just due to its glorious blue beaches. Sanur is the gateway to a chain of untouched islands and offers close proximity to offbeat attractions that let you discover Bali’s rich biodiversity.
Here are our top seven picks of things to do and places to visit in Sanur, the non-touristy part of Bali that offers the best money exchange (better than market rate) and bike rental rates (50000 IDR per day)!
1. Go on a walking trail through the Mangrove Forest (Suwung Kawuh)
Beautiful board walks, observatories and serene pools of water and greenery replete with marine and avian species make the 1300 acre Mangrove Forest a rare treasure. Mangroves are crucial for maintaining the ecosystem as they provide sustenance for hundreds of types of animals. This forest has been funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The entry fee for foreigners is pretty steep (200000 IDR per person) but we managed to get a 50% discount so do try bargaining. Once inside, you’ll be glad you paid the price. Because the Mangrove Forest is a secret web of nature in its undisturbed glory.
You may see locals fishing with rudimentary rods, young couples huddled in the huts named after birds in the forest and many strange creatures in the undergrowth. Pointed growths typical of mangroves compete for space with larger trees in the water on either side of the shaky wooden bridge. There are two or three trails that you can follow within the forest and one of them leads to a mesmerising view of the sea and the city in the distance. We were there at sunset and stayed until twilight cast its moody shadows on the water.
2. Feed baby turtles at the Turtle Conservation and Education Centre
The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre on Serangan Island is home to six different species of rescued and baby turtles. These include the leatherback sea turtle, the largest of all living turtles; the large green sea turtle; the flatback sea turtle with a flattish shell; Olive Ridley sea turtles, the smallest of the marine turtles; the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle and the commonly found loggerhead sea turtle. For a nominal entry fee (around 25000 IDR if memory serves right), one can observe these turtles at close quarters and even feed the tinier ones from little buckets holding powdery turtle food.
We enjoyed analysing the patterns on their shells and were awed by just how huge these cute creatures could be. In a little pond outside the main shelter, many medium-sized turtles swim lazily. And there’s even a hatchery to welcome new turtles into the world. This centre was opened by the governor of Bali, Mr Dewa Barata in January 2006.
3. Surf the waves at Sanur Beach
There are a host of water sports available at Sanur Beach but the real joy is in finding a good spot on the sand and soaking in the perfection of the blue beyond. We loved how clear the sky was in the summery month of May and how well the water of Sanur reflected its azure magnificence. You can spend half a day at the beach, swimming in the sea, surfing the waves or simply sun-bathing to acquire a healthy tan.
4. Watch the locals play football at Lapangan Puputan Renon
Did you know that Bali has its own worthy answer to London’s Hyde Park and Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens? Lapangan Puputan Renon in Denpasar is a sprawling garden that comes alive with joggers, walkers, football players and yoga practitioners in the evening. Part of the garden often serves as a venue for concerts and other events and when we were there, there was a Yamaha company event adding to the festive spirit of the park.
Lapangan Puputan Renon is also home to the towering Bajra Sandhi Monument, dedicated to the struggles of the Balinese people throughout history. There are three courtyards within the monument but unfortunately, entry is restricted and one has to be content with admiring the carvings on the gate. Interestingly, a lot of fitness enthusiasts prefer to do their crunches and spot jumps on the steps leading up to the monument.
5. Listen to the mesmerising temple chants at the Pura Blanjong temple
Hinduism is the dominant religion in Bali, unlike other parts of Indonesia where most residents are Muslim. However, the temple chants in Bali are quite different from those in India. Sung in the Indonesian language with bells and the traditional bamboo and flute music, the overall effect is quite mellifluous and enchanting. We paused every time we heard these sonorous chants in the evening from one of the many temples in Sanur.
The most prominent one in the area is Pura Blanjong, adjoining the Blanjong inscription. The inscription dates back to 914 CE and serving as evidence of contact between Bali, Java and the Indian subcontinent. Although the pillar is not much to look at, the temple is pretty with its coral wall and pair of headless calf statues. It was built as a cenotaph for Sri Kesari, a Buddhist apostle.
6. Take a ferry to Nusa Penida-Ceningan-Lembongan islands
Various kinds of boats ranging from cheap local ones to high-speed motor boats go to the triad Nusa Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan from Sanur Beach. There are two or three different ferry points depending on which island you want to go to. Once there, you have a host of exciting water activities to choose from such as snorkelling, swimming and canoeing. Nusa Lembongan is also home to an underground cave built by a local man, mangrove forests and glorious white sand beaches.
At Nusa Ceningan, you can jump off a cliff, get a glimpse of seaweed farming and explore a swallow’s cave at low tide. With its gorgeous marine life, Nusa Penida is the best spot for diving and snorkelling and also visiting the Bali Bird Sanctuary. This island houses incredible marvels such as a natural infinity pool and a ‘broken sea’. Day cruises will let you return the same day but if you’re on your own, you’ll most likely have to stay overnight at one of the many resorts on the islands and return the next day.
7. Go ghost hunting at Taman Festival Bali
If you love haunted places, this abandoned theme park might give you fresh fodder for the next session of ghost story telling. Built in 1997 by the Indonesian government with aid from an affluent investor, the park failed to attract tourists despite its $5 million laser show. Today, it’s a quirky attraction with ruins of a ticket booth, an arcade room, an ominous crocodile pit, many broken windows and decrepit graffiti. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any locals inside as Balinese believe such places are frequented by malevolent spirits. But the isolation and overgrown paths enhance its creepy allure!
There are also a lot of museums and galleries in Sanur such as the Le Mayeur Museum, Seiki Torige’s Open Space Gallery, Griya Santrian Gallery and Darga Gallery.
How to reach Sanur: Sanur is just a 30 minute ride away from Bali’s international airport by cab. The ride will cost you around 150000 IDR.
Where to stay in Sanur: Maya Sanur is a beautiful five-star resort with lagoon access and beach view rooms, a sea-front restaurant and bar, spa and gym.
What to eat in Sanur: There are several great restaurants and bars on Jalan Danau Tamblingan. We enjoyed pizza and mie goreng at Gopal’s Cafe and sandwiches and sayur urab (brown rice with long beans and shredded coconut) at Warung Blanjong.
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