As expected from an island where tourism is soaring, the nightlife in Bali is superb. Overall, Indonesia is a conservative island nation—but Bali is the exception. The island steps up as a hedonistic oasis for revelers from all over the world.
Kuta is arguably the nightlife epicenter for Bali though it can get a little “sloppy” at times, particularly in the Poppies neighborhood. Still, you’ll find the biggest nightclubs thumping music all along Jalan Legian, the main road. For beach clubs with Instagram-worthy cocktails and sunset backdrops, Canggu is the best bet. Uluwatu serves a mixed crowd of surfers and sophisticated sunset-seekers. Meanwhile, health-oriented Ubud brings up the rear where nightlife in Bali is concerned.
The legal drinking age throughout Indonesia is 21, but it is rarely enforced for tourists in Bali.
An Urgent Warning on Methanol Poisoning
Indonesia’s heavy taxation of alcohol (and outright attempts at prohibition) have fueled a thriving bootleg industry. Local arak is homemade, inexpensively produced, and often gets substituted as a clear spirit in cocktails to boost profit margins. Sadly, methanol poisoning due to contaminated arak kills or blinds locals and tourists every year. The incidents are kept quiet for fear of the impact to tourism. Bali and the nearby Gili Islands are most affected.
Even upscale hotel bars have been busted cutting expensive bottles with arak. The only sure way to avoid it is to stick with beer, wine, or purchase a bottle of spirits that gets opened in front of you. Although you’ll see arak on many bar and restaurant menus in Bali, you should avoid it completely—just a trace amount of methanol can cause organ damage.
Bamboo tiki bars playing reggae music on the beach aren’t as ubiquitous in Bali as they are in the Thai islands. Regardless, you’ll find no shortage of pubs and bars for grabbing a casual drink. There are plenty of choices for budget, atmosphere, and music.
Bars in Bali range from karaoke pubs and sweaty rugby bars to rooftop bars with views. You’ll also find European-style lounges with DJs and sanitized environments.
The most serious of Bali’s nightclubs along Jalan Legian don’t get really going until midnight. Many attempt to draw a young crowd earlier with happy hours, buffets, and food specials.
Sky Garden, Bounty, Paddy’s, and Engine Room are the biggest, busiest venues on the strip. Apache Reggae Bar, set slightly behind Bounty, is a sure bet for finding late-night dancing to reggae. Plenty of other smaller clubs along Jalan Legian post staff in front to lure tourists inside. You'll see many signs advertising discotheques, but there won't be any disco.
Entrance: Cover charges usually go into effect around 9 p.m. and may include a free drink or two. The weekend entrance fee at Sky Garden (possibly the most famous nightclub in Bali) is $20, relatively expensive for the island.
Security: The Bali bombings in 2002 at popular nightclubs killed 202 people; you can visit the somber memorial right on the main strip. Security is understandably strict at many of the clubs along Jalan Legian where the bombing occurred. Expect to get wanded with metal detectors. Purses and pockets are searched and you should leave the backpack at the hotel. Sadly, pickpocketing does occur inside some of the clubs.
Identification: Clubs such as Sky Garden claim to check identification. Carry some sort of ID card (not your passport) with you just in case.
Dress Code: Dress codes aren’t usually enforced; however, the nicest clubs request that men don’t wear sleeveless shirts or flip-flops. Wearing a clean T-shirt is typically acceptable.
The best beach clubs in Bali are found in Seminyak, Canggu, and Uluwatu. Beach clubs get busy just before sunset, but plenty of people do hang around all afternoon to swim, socialize, and watch surfers. The clientele are often a mix of tourists and Western expats living in Bali.
Dress is casual, and the settings are social. Although these venues don’t have cover charges, popular places such as La Brisa in Canggu may demand a minimum spend if you want to hang around in special areas (e.g., on the beanbags or in cabanas).
Check out some of these popular beach clubs in Bali:
- La Brisa: This club on Echo Beach uses wood reclaimed from fishing boats and serves sustainable food alongside innovative drinks.
- Finns: Finns is a massive beach club with four pools, 9 bars, 5 restaurants, DJs, and so much more.
- Café del Mar: The first Café del Mar was established in Ibiza in the '80s. Now there are 12 global locations and the Bali one brings a Mediterranean vibe to the island.
- Old Man’s: This thatched roof bar named after the famous surf break is an ideal spot to hang out with a drink or have a coffee after a day of surfing.
- The Lawn: Enjoy views of the water on a black sand beach at the Lawn relaxing on a daybed or enjoy a intimate dinner while watching the sunset.
- Ku De Ta: Head to Ku De Ta for a drink on the sand or head up to Mejekawi for elevated view of the sunset with a delicious meal.
- Potato Head: Enjoy two infinity pools, a swim up bar, daybeds, and a lively soundtrack at Potato Head.
- Tropicola: Splash around in the color block pool or have an great meal at this Instagrammable beach club.
- Single Fin: Opened in 2008, this cliffside bar overlooks the Uluwatu surf break. Watch surfers with a drink in hand and enjoy music from international DJs.
- Ulu Cliffhouse: Another cliffside locale, Ulu also boasts a 82-foot (25-meter) infinity pool, outdoor restaurant and daybeds with incredible views of the water.
- Omnia Dayclub: You can party with some of the worlds biggest DJs, have a drink at the elevated bar perched on a cliff, swim in the large infinity, and more at this large club.
Unlike the thriving scene in Bangkok, Bali’s gay nightlife is pretty well concentrated in one area along Jalan Camplung Tanduk in Seminyak. Bars open in the evening and close at 3 a.m. Bali Joe and Mixwell are two long-running favorites with nightly drag shows.
A handful of warungs (simple restaurants) and Western eateries target the post-party crowd. Take note when passing restaurants advertising 24 jam (“24 hours” in Indonesian). You’ll have the greatest success at finding late-night food along Jalan Legian in Kuta or Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong in Canggu.
Bossman in Seminyak is the go-to place for a nocturnal burger fix. Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika is a favorite for spicy food in Kuta. If you’re eating before midnight, Warung Indonesia on Poppies II Gang Ronta can’t be beat. If all else fails and you’re desperate, a few fast-food options in Kuta and all mini-marts are open 24 hours.
Tips for Going Out in Bali
- Bali is inundated with taxi drivers of all kinds. You won’t have any trouble finding a ride back to the hotel. Some drivers may take advantage of the late hours (and your inebriated state) by charging a premium or running up the meter. Even Grab (rideshare) drivers working late often ask for more money than was quoted by the app.
- Tipping isn’t expected in Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia. That said, being generous with a few rupiah can lead to better service from bartenders and congenial treatment from doormen the next time you return.
- Bali’s open-container laws are lax as long as the person in possession isn’t behaving belligerently. Stay out of the road! You’ll often see people walking on the beach or sidewalk with a Bintang in hand.