Sanur is a favourite destination for those looking for a tranquil and relaxing getaway. This idyllic and charming seaside town is located on the eastern side of the island, only 15 minutes away from Denpasar, Bali’s capital city and 25 minutes away from the airport and from Kuta beach. In the early days, Sanur is home to the island’s first beach resorts, hotels and retreats.
Today, you’ll find a pleasant mix of restaurants, bars, spas and shops lining its streets, lending the town a delightful, eclectic mix that pleases every wanderer and traveller. Despite all this, Sanur maintains its laid-back ambience and remains pleasingly quiet; a refreshing opposite of bustling Kuta and holds a more traditional Balinese ambience to the modern tourist enclave Nusa Dua.
Derived from the words “saha” and “nuhur”, which means having a passion to visit a certain place, Sanur represents an important moment in Balinese history – the first Dutch troops set food on the island on the beaches of Sanur back in 1906. Sanur is also the site of the first Dutch-Balinese war where thousands of brave Balinese defended their lands from encroaching colonialism. This war is later known as Puputan Badung; a heroic historical event that holds so much significance to all Balinese today.
A proud centre for the arts and culture, Sanur remains very much under the radar when it compared to the more popular Ubud. Le Mayeur, a famous Belgium artist, made his home in Sanur in the 1930s. He fell in love with the people and the abundance of nature, which inspired him to create hundreds of paintings. Sanur was also the home of the infamous painter and illustrator, Donald Friend, who was also known as Tuan Raksasa or Lord Devil Donald.
By the 1960s, Sanur was the “in” place where Walter Spies, Sophia Loren and even some royalty frolicked in luxurious privacy as they enjoyed their stay in paradise. Even Mick Jagger and his former wife Jerry Hall made Sanur their second home. They stayed at Tandjung Sari Hotel where they were united in a traditional Hindu Balinese wedding ceremony in 1990.
The former fishing town has a well-deserved reputation for magic. In the ’70s, there were ongoing wars between the shamans of Sanur and of the Kamasan village in the Klungkung regency. It is said that many people witnessed strange occurrences during this time such as red lights darting above houses and other unexplainable phenomena.
Today, Sanur retains its laid-back atmosphere with a few positive changes. Thankfully, there are no more signs of “black magic”, however, nature’s magic still retains, much to the relief of many. Many new restaurants have also opened up, offering a wide variety of both Western and Indonesian cuisines. Trendy restaurants such as Spice by Chris Salans and Ryoshi are situated on the main road, Jl. Danau Tamblingan, which runs through central Sanur. There are also many of charming cafes, warungs and restaurants on the beach or down side streets. If you are looking for a more authentic culinary experience, then you should definitely check out Warung Mak Beng, a favorite among locals since 1941.
The beaches of Sanur are perhaps the best feature of this quaint village. They span from as far north as Padang Galak Beach, with its expansive stretch of black sand, and down south to Mertasari Beach. Several beaches lie in between, and all blend together seamlessly with an attractive boardwalk that spans the tract from Sanur to Mertasari. Visitors can take leisurely walks or cycle stress-free because no motorbikes are allowed here. There are also several small gazebos built on the jetties for visitors.
Thanks to reefs and break waters, which are today popular for tourists’ shots and Instagram spots, the waters along its coastline remains calm and gentle, perfect for small children and water sports like snorkeling, swimming, paddle boarding, parasailing and even a diving trip to Nusa Penida, where they can view all kinds of beautiful tropical fish and colorful coral. Surfers could venture out beyond the break waters to enjoy a thrilling ride on Bali’s famous surfs.
For those seeking more laid-back, enjoyable and relaxing activities and who prefer to experience a bit of the “old” Bali, try renting a jukung — a traditional wooden boat decorated with multi-colored paint. These boats are customarily used for fishing in the seas, but local boat owners often supplement their income by taking tourists out to the reef for snorkeling or sightseeing. Yes, there are hawkers here too, but they don’t hassle visitors as much as they do on other beaches, and escaping them is easy enough with a smile.
Major events not to be missed here are the annual Sanur Village Festival (SVF), usually held in August featuring cultural performances, sports, culinary events and other fun activities; and the Sanur Kite Festival, a major provincial highlight that takes place annually between July and October at the start of the windy season.
Domestic and international tourists are invited to enjoy the festivals, as well as all the other treasures that Sanur has to offer. With its myriad of authentic uniqueness mixed together with the charm of old Bali, Sanur is truly worth a few visits.
Getting There & Around
Sanur can be reached in about 15 minutes by car from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. Of course this depends on traffic. There are taxis, or if you are staying at a hotel, take the shuttle. Those feeling adventurous can rent a motorbike for the day. Sanur area is quiet and calm, thus biking or walking is the best way to explore the area.