Kuta in Lombok
Kuta in Lombok
In the south of Lombok is a rapidly growing locality of Kuta, also spelt Koeta. I first went to Kuta in Lombok in 2011 and a visit in March 2016 was an amazing reflection of how quickly things can change.
Scenically stunning, Kuta is set around a large bay with lots of small mountains all around. My previous trip was memorable from the standpoint of the number of lovely day trips I could do on my bike.
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If, like me, you find the combination of verdant greens, red earth, high mountains falling into the ocean, wide bays and winding valleys appealing, you will love touring in this area.
When I was first there it was very quiet, with maybe three or four stand-alone restaurants serving fairly basic food, and while there were some surfers and the younger European tourist there was not much to do.
Accommodation was a bit scarce also, or at least of the more budget variety. There were a few lodgings at the lower end of the scale which were pretty tatty or there were the resorts and more expensive hotels along the esplanade in front of the beach..
Yes the views to be had in Kuta were pretty spectacular but I was left wondering why anyone would want to go there. Peace and quiet maybe, but that has never been particularly attractive to me.
Now that Lombok has its own international airport 30 minutes from Kuta it does seem to have given the local tourism a bit of a lift.
Fast forward to 2016 and Kuta is a town bustling with tourists and Lombok locals who want to be free of the staid and seemingly fairly controlled life of elsewhere in Lombok, with the exception of the Hong Kong of Indonesia (by virtue of them seemingly not being subject to the same laws as the rest of Indonesia – what happens on the Gili islands stays there!), the Gili islands up north and Senggigi on the west coast.
The variety, quality and low cost relative to Bali (probably due to the fact that land prices have as yet, not gone crazy) of eating out in Kuta in Lombok is amazing, ranging from organic modern European restaurants to seafood restaurants where you can eat very well for 50k.
And there are usually parties most nights in busy season where live music and/or DJs play and you can meet people easily.
Mushrooms and grass are readily available but be warned that being caught in possession of grass is a very big problem, so be careful if you are that way inclined. The law around mushrooms seems to be somewhat less strict, though I would not like to have to buy my way out of being caught by police.
One restaurant owner I spoke with talked about the Western restaurant owners building a school for the local and expat kids – Kuta’s growth has happened way too fast for government schools to even be considered, let along built.
There are a few other projects that this group of benefactors are involved in to make their community better safer and make the growth of the village sustainable into the future. The school vision arose from the large numbers of local children hawking tourist kitsch all day and night on the streets.
See the bottom of this page for more photos of Kuta in Lombok
Lombok is great to explore on a motorbike or a car as the roads are much better and safer than in Bali. Bali. Although Bali brings in some 40% of Indonesia’s foreign currency very little of that is spent in Bali by the Muslim central government who tend to curry favour in their religiously aligned states like Lombok.
The mountainous nature of the southern coast and the various bays (including Kuta bay and about 20 minutes east the bar around Tanjung Aan beach with a peninsular of an identical shoe-shape to Italy) make for beautiful scenery, and well worth hiring a bike or a car to see.
There are some good surf breaks that are popular with Westerners which are widely known and not so busy.
Car and bike rental in Lombok is far more expensive than on Bali so be prepared!
I brought my bike over on the big ferry, a four hour trip from Padangbai in Bali, which cost 120k each way for the bike, me and my friend. Bringing a car over is much more, around 700k each way including all passengers, but if you are staying for more than a few days it is worthwhile.
Please note you will need to have the papers and owner’s permission to take any vehicle from one island to another.
The locals are pretty relaxed, much like the Gili island locals, but there is also a dark side there inasmuch as there are many testosterone packed boys and young men there to hustle and make it in their life. Be careful. Things can go pear-shaped fast.
I was surprised at the price of local accommodation – you can find a nice room, with AC and views for under 200k a night – which also explains why it is popular here with the younger European travellers.
A ferry service is available to the Gili islands also.
Give yourself a week here, make it your base to explore the south and east coasts of Lombok.
By Mark O’Brien, August 2016
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