Still more to explore in Bali. This time I decided on a 5 day trip to North Bali, basing myself in Lovina, the quiet town known for black sand beaches and dolphin sightings.
Continuing my annual pilgrimage to Bali (after Canggu last year and a touch and go the year before), the elusive north seemed like a good region to explore. A good friend joined me this time and that made it easier to arrange for transport. (Jump to Lovina transport information)
Getting from Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar) to Lovina
Perama Tour offers bus services between Kuta and Lovina, leaving at 10am daily and arriving around 3pm, for 125,000IDR. However, our flight was arriving after 10am and as we wanted to get to Lovina on the same day, we started looking for drivers. Perama Tour offered a private car from airport to our accommodation in Lovina for 700,000 IDR so that formed our baseline – pretty sure we could do better than that. Here were the other drivers I contacted (based in North Bali):
Nyoman – Whatsapp: +62 823-3994-9871
Hendra – Whatsapp: +62 877-6293-1148
Agus – Whatsapp: +65 818-0569-9660
I was quoted between 550,000 IDR and 650,000 IDR for the trip. We decided to go with Nyoman and were glad we did as his company made the long trip up north more interesting. But given the good reviews Hendra and Agus have I’m sure they’ll make good guides/drivers too! One thing to take note that it is usually expected for you to pay for the driver’s coffee/ meals along the way, if any.
I had originally wanted to drop by Jatiluwih on the way to Lovina but due to much heavier than expected traffic, and a heavy afternoon downpour, we gave it a miss. Instead, we made small stops along the way, for lunch and for coffee.
The ride from Denpasar to Lovina takes around 3 to 5 hours. We got stuck in a heavy jam not far from the airport, and when we finally got out of the jam it started to rain. Luck didn’t look like it was on our side for this trip. Fortunately, Nyoman kept us engaged with colourful stories of his culture, religion, and life in north Bali.
Coffee break on the way from Denpasar to Lovina
Late in the afternoon, we stopped at some sort of coffee stall/ mini plantation. Obviously this was catered for tourists travelling between north and south Bali. The coffee came from a plantation around Kintamani, but the company managed to get a small plot of land big enough to showcase the different crops and processes, and the highlight of all coffee in Bali, Kopi Luwak.
Kopi Luwak is made from civet cat droppings. Civet cats are apparently able to pick out the best coffee beans, and the digestive process adds ‘magic’ to the coffee. The droppings are then processed and turned into one of the most expensive coffees available in the world. Other than the obscene price of the coffee, animal lovers may be taken aback by the caged civet cats on the plantation for tourists’ viewing pleasure.
At this coffee stop, a ‘guide’ will introduce you to various crops (including coffee), and a small demonstration of how coffee goes from its raw form to being ready for brewing. Then, you’d be able to try out a wide variety of teas and coffees for free, except for Kopi Luwak, which comes at 60,000 IDR for a cup. Finally, you’ll be brought to the shop where you can purchase any of the sampled teas or coffees. I think the prices at the shop are quite ridiculous, but I was happy to try out all the different teas as well as pay for a cup of Kopi Luwak, especially on that cold rainy day.
Local life in North Bali
Beyond the coffee stop there was still a long winding way to go through the mountains. Nyoman, being our warm and friendly host to north Bali, asked if we’d like to join in some local activities at his village, not far from Lovina. We couldn’t give up on the opportunity.
Definitely not for animal lovers. Even for us casual tourists it was quite a squirmy sight. It was interesting watching the proceedings before the fight, with bets being collected, people discussing the odds. But the fight itself was fast and furious. Blades tied to the cocks’ legs went slicing at stuff. ’nuff said. We were the only tourists there, and were glad to leave after a round. Hardcore gambling at cockfights is also a problem, as Nyoman explained.
The temple ceremony
Next, Nyoman brought us to the temple next to his house, where there was to be a ceremony that night. We were apprehensive at intruding upon locals’ ceremonies, but he told us his god would be happy with him bringing guests to the ceremony, so along we went.
Nyoman got us dressed in the traditional attire and we arrived at the temple to find it packed. There was chanting, blessings and offerings but we didn’t quite grasp what was going on. Nonetheless a very intriguing experience, and some of the temple goers were just as intrigued to see us.
Just outside the temple, there was a traditional performance of Wayang Kulit, a puppet/shadow play. I had read about it in primary school textbooks but never witnessed one before, so that was definitely eye opening too. The puppet master single-handedly provided all the visual and audio effects for the play. The show didn’t seem to garner much interest but the puppet master still put in lots of effort and completed the show which seemed over an hour long.
Local fruit with locals
After the ceremony ended, Nyoman brought us back to his house where his family shared durian and soursop with us. Simple, amazing pleasures in life. We couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to north Bali.
For our stay in Lovina we stayed at Summer Guesthouse. It wasn’t one of those on the beaches but had loads of chill vibes. Rooms were clean and staff friendly. We can’t really complain about the breakfast views over rice fields and across the mountains too.
The staff made sure all our needs were attended too, while not being overwhelming. In summary a chill, clean and friendly place. But not quite the place to find a party crowd or to wake up to beach views. The beach is probably 5 to 10min away by walking. Another possible downside, if it is of concern, is the dark dirt track you’d have to take to get from the main road to the guesthouse (maybe 100m). A little intimidating at night.
The day after arrival, we explored next door Singaraja, before coming back to Lovina in the afternoon to check out the beach areas. Compared to Canggu, Lovina Beach was way quieter, perfect for escaping the crowds.
While Lovina beach offers neither waves to surf on (the sea is incredibly calm) nor white sandy beaches, it’s a great place to get a balance of quiet and convenience. Luxury resorts can be found on either side of the beach.
The wooden pier is a nice place to hang out or take those Insta worthy photos. The fancier spots were taken by girls trying out every possible pose perfecting that shot so here’s one of a less popular spot on the pier.
On the beach, a group of locals started playing music with their instruments, and tourists joined in for some good fun.
After passing more unique beach accommodations along that stretch, we turned back in to the main road. On the way back to the guesthouse we got some fruits from a roadside stall, around 20,000 IDR for the durian and another 20,000 IDR for the mangosteen. I think these would not be considered cheap by local standards, but it isn’t that much. And so we spent the rest of the lazy afternoon by the poolside enjoying some fresh fruits. Not too bad for the 40/50,000 IDR spent.
Eating out at Lovina
Lovina has a good number of food options for a quiet town, many along the main road or the parallel one closer to the beach.
From near the dolphin statue a road branches out parallel to the main road, to the east, eventually linking back to the main road. There are plenty of restaurants along this stretch serving a variety of cuisines. Don’t expect anything too authentic or amazing here, but as the rest of Lovina offers, plenty of chill, easy vibes. We tried out a couple of warungs around the middle of this stretch. Around 30,000-50,000 for Indonesian food and more for western cuisines.
Back out on the main road, nearer the eastern end of Lovina and where the side beach road joins the main road, there are some stalls set up. Most seem very quiet but there are a few which are more crowded with locals. We didn’t try here but it seems to offer some nice local food.
And that was our 2nd day in north Bali. We spent the 3rd and 4th day exploring the further sights with Nyoman (more on those soon). At the end of our 4th day we made a stop at Krisna for some souvenirs.
Souvenir shopping at Krisna
Krisna is a souvenir chain in Bali. The branch at Lovina is a bit of a distance from the town center, but was huge and had a wide range. We got some snacks and coffee here. Prices were not that bad as one would expect from a tourist oriented place like this, and definitely better than at the coffee stop on the first day.
Dolphin watching at Lovina
On our last day there was one last thing to check off the list before we were to leave Lovina. Summer Guesthouse helped us to arrange for the early morning dolphin watching tour (100,000 IDR), a staple of every tourist’s itinerary to Lovina. You accommodation and the random sales person in Lovina will offer it to you at that price too. Our guide for the tour, Sude, picked us up around 6am in the morning and soon our party of 5 was out at sea.
I’m not quite the morning person, but the beautiful changing hues of the morning sky were mesmerising and made me forgot how early it was. Not that it was really early. But I’m really not an early person.
More and more boats were out at sea. All was calm. Without warning, Sude cranked up the engine, and the boats nearby followed suit. They were all headed in the same direction but the dolphins were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, the first of the dolphins breached the water, and the tourists cheered. More dolphins followed, surfacing every few seconds while heading in the same direction. After about half a minute the first one leaped in the air. Again, the rest followed. Then, silence as they disappeared underwater again.
This repeated for a few more times through the hour. You can tell the more experienced captains from the less experienced ones by seeing which are the boats leading the way towards each sighting and which are boats following the crowd. The dolphins do not seem bothered by the boats but occasionally some boats appear to get too close to the dolphins.
I caught most of the action on video so there aren’t many photographs to show, maybe a video of them in future. It was a magical experience seeing so many wild dolphins in their natural habitat. The photos above show a small number but in truth there were more (the largest group we saw was probably around 10-20).
There is some debate over the environmental impact of the dolphin watching tours, as the engines may disturb the dolphins. Considering the alternative scenarios if such dolphin watching tours were not allowed, though, I think it such activities may encourage local communities and tourists to treasure the natural environment more. Provided the boats do not get too close to the dolphins, I guess.
Dolphin watching extras – coral reef watching
Sude offered a detour to coral reefs nearby for another 50,000 IDR per person but the 4 of us on the boat (my friend and I, and another 2 tourists) decided not to do it so we headed back to shore.
Sude is also a driver and does tours too in the afternoon. He is a friendly guy, not as extroverted as Nyoman so if you prefer a quieter ride around north Bali you can look for him at 081 337 045 070.
End of our North Bali adventures
And that completed our 5 day north Bali tour. Back at the guesthouse we had breakfast before our bus (more of a minivan) picked us up at 9 and got us to the airport. Traffic was much smoother that day and we ended up arriving much earlier than expected. But all was good as we readied ourselves for work again the next day.
Lovina transport information
Here are the rough indicative prices and itineraries from Lovina to some destinations in Bali (information from Summer Guesthouse, as of Feb 2018). These prices/ packages seem pretty standard throughout Lovina.
Bus from Lovina to:
- Ubud – 9am: 130,000 IDR
- Kuta – 9am: 130,000 IDR
- Sanur – 9am: 130,000 IDR
- Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar) – 9am: 130,000 IDR
- Denpasar – 9am: 130,000 IDR
- Bedugul – 9am: 120,000 IDR
- Kintamani – 9am: 180,000 IDR (min 2 pax)
- Tulamben – 9am: 150,000 IDR
- Amed/ Culik – 9am: 150,000 IDR
- Tirta Gangga – 9am: 170,000 IDR
- Padang Bai – 9am: 170,000 IDR
- Sidemen – 9am: 250,000 IDR
- Munduk – 9am: 150,000 IDR
- Madewi – 9am: 225,000 IDR
- Jimbaran – 9am: 275,000 IDR
- Pemuteran – every hour: 85,000 IDR
- Gilimanuk – ?: 85,000 IDR
You’ll need to book a day before through your hotel or Sukha Rental Lovina:
- Office: (0362) 41156
- Mobile: 085 237 598 198
Sukha also does the other tourist transport stuff in Bali e.g. bus to Java, fast boat to the Gilis/ Lombok, car/motorbike/bicycle rentals, tours, snorkelling, etc. I’ve only used their bus service to the airport so I can’t comment on the rest of the services. The bus service was straightforward enough, and affordable, but not that comfortable.
Transport by private car from Lovina to: price without aircon/ price with aircon
- Air Sanih: 275,000 IDR/ 325,000 IDR
- Bedugul: 350,000 IDR/ 400,000 IDR
- Kintamani: 400,000 IDR/ 450,000 IDR
- Kuta: 500,000 IDR/ 550,000 IDR
- Sanur: 500,000 IDR/ 550,000 IDR
- Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar): 500,000 IDR/ 550,000 IDR
- Denpasar: 500,000 IDR/ 550,000 IDR
- Ubud: 450,000 IDR/ 500,000 IDR
- Tulamben: 375,000 IDR/ 475,000 IDR
- Amed: 450,000 IDR/ 500,000 IDR
- Tirta Gangga: 500,000 IDR/ 555,000 IDR
- Padang Bai: 600,000 IDR/ 650,000 IDR
- Gilimanuk: 350,000 IDR/ 450,000 IDR
Bus from Lovina to Java
These routes are available from Lovina. Prices are unavailable so you’ll need to check with the operator or guesthouse.
To: Start time
- Jakarta: 6.30am
- Surabaya: 6.30pm
- Solo: 3pm
- Yogyakarta: 3pm
- Semarang: 7am
- Bandung: 7am
- Mt Bromo: ?
- Probolingo: 6.30pm
- Gilimanuk: any time
- Malang: 7pm
Daily Tours (9am to 5pm, max 3 pax)
Lovina Tour: 450,000 IDR non-AC/ 500,000 IDR AC
- Beratan village (gold and silversmith)
- Gigit waterfall
- Wanara Buka monkey forest
- Lake Beratan
- Fruit & flower market
- Botanical garden
- Munduk village (rice field terraces)
- Buddhist temple
- Hot spring
Kintamani Tour: 450,000 IDR non-AC/ 500,000 IDR AC
- Sangsit village
- Beji temple
- Kubatambahan (Meduwe Karang temple)
- Penulisan temple
- Lake Batur
- Toya Bungkah
East Bali Tour: 600,000 IDR non-AC/ 650,000 IDR AC
- Besakih temple
- Tenganan village
- Tirta Gangga palace
- Puri Taman Ujung palace
- Candi Dasa
Sunset Tour: 550,000 IDR non-AC/ 600,000 IDR AC
- Gigt waterfall
- Wanara Buka monkey forest
- Lake Beratan (Ulun Danu temple)
- Fruit & flower market
- Botanical garden
- Mengi (Taman Ayun temple)
- Sunset at Tanah Lot
Jungle Trekking: 350,000 IDR non-AC/ 400,000 IDR AC
- Pulaki temple
- National park
- Hot spring
- Buddhist temple
- Suzuki Jeep: 140,000 IDR self drive/ 270,000 IDR with driver, without petrol
- Suzuki Karimun: 200,000 IDR self drive/ 320,000 IDR with driver, without petrol
- Toyota Avanza: 250,000 IDR self drive/ 350,000 IDR with driver, without petrol
- Minibus: 400,000 IDR self drive/ 550,000 IDR with driver, without petrol
- Motorbike: 75,000 IDR self drive/ 150,000 IDR with driver, without petrol
- Bicycle: 50,000 IDR