What defines a “good” beach? Is it the golden sand, the warm water or the idyllic surroundings? Maybe all three? Or is there more to a dreamy holiday beach than just sand, water and lots of sunshine?
Since I’ve been living in Sydney, I have become quite picky when it comes to beaches. You see, Sydney has plenty of really nice beaches, most of them clean, and with various surf conditions – some of them suitable for small children while others are wonderful surfing beaches. So any beach that doesn’t at least have warm and clean water, no trash, no crowds, no flies, lots of sunshine and soft sand won’t make the cut for me anymore.
A really good beach, in my view, has to have that warm and welcoming feeling, and ideally needs to sit in a sheltered bay that protects you from the wind like an embrace in your mother’s arms. It also needs to have plenty of colour and contrast for some extra visual appeal.
If you happen to find yourself on Lombok Island, Indonesia one day, consider yourself blessed as you have come to a place with the most outstanding tropical beaches. Here’s what to expect:
This famous beach is probably the best of the best in all of Lombok. It is located to the south of the island, a crescent shaped paradise beach with soft white sand and turquoise waters. You can lie here on one of the lounge chairs that are for rent and enjoy the idyllic scenery with the lush green mountains framing the picture, go for a swim in the calm water and even learn to surf on one of the boards that are for hire.
The beach is partly used by local fishermen, and you will find a number of traditional fishing boats in beautiful pastel colours occupying a stretch of the beach. If you befriend one of the locals they might take you out on a fishing trip for a small fee, or you may want to strike a conversation with one of the fishermen’s wives who prepare the daily catch right on the beach.
Can it get any more idyllic than this? Selong Belanak is definitely my number one beach in Lombok.
Tanjung Aan Beach
Tanjung Aan is also located on the south side of the island, another brilliant white, 2km long beach in a crescent shaped bay.
What makes it pretty special is that it is connected to a local legend – the story of the beautiful Princess Mandalika who jumped into the water here to escape the advances of a prince – that’s one way to say ‘no’ to a marriage proposal! Anyway, it is said that Madalika turned into a sea worm, which apparently is even today an important food source for the local people. If you want to get into the spirit of this story, visit Tanjung Aan Beach in February when it takes centerstage at the annual Bau Nyale ritual.
There is a great sunset viewpoint nearby, check with the locals.
Gili Meno Beach
If Lombok is not remote and peaceful enough for you find your way out onto one of the small islands that are right next to Lombok, the Gili islands. The most romantic of the lot is said to be Gili Meno, a beautiful piece of paradise that is perfect for honeymooners and couples looking for a relaxing vacation in idyllic surroundings.
The beaches on Gili Meno are maintained by the hotels that are located next to them, so the stretches between hotels may look a bit rough and not pretty at all. However, those areas that are prepared for tourists are just stunning and simply beautiful. When I say “hotel” don’t get the wrong picture – this small island is still very undeveloped and basic.
The water here is very clear, and snorkelling will soon become your most favourite past-time. Along the so-called Gili Meno Wall you have good chances of encountering a sea turtle or two. Snorkelling equipment can be rented locally. A big bonus is that you won’t be disturbed by hawkers here, but you still can find food and drinks at the warungs that line the beaches.
To get to Gili Meno catch the boat from Bangsal harbour in Lombok – there are no scheduled transfers, so if the wait is too long you may want to buy up all remaining tickets to convince the captain to set off on the 25 minute journey.
Sometimes things just feel right. When you enter Mawun Beach you cannot help but feel at home, just by the way it is set up. The two ends of the bay that shelter this beach are almost touching, and they are covered in lush green forest.
This beach felt a bit steeper than for example Selong Belanak, and I understand that there are more waves here and stronger currents, although on the day that we visited the surface of the water was pretty much ripple free. Mawun Beach is therefore more suitable for experienced swimmers and surfers.
There are a couple of warungs here where you can stock up on food and drinks. The hawkers can be a pest but I have the feeling they will leave you once you have purchased one of these gorgeous sarongs (which make perfect beach towels), or if you send friendly but clear messages for a couple of minutes.
Its closeness to Kuta is a blessing and a curse – on the one hand you only have to drive for 20 minutes to get here, but the same goes for pretty much everyone else, so you may end up with noisy groups on this beach which may be a bit of an annoyance and not quite the dream holiday you wished for.
Indonesia has a number of so-called “pink beaches” which all seem to be the result of a mix of white sand and red coral that has broken down into tiny fragments and has washed up onto the beach, creating this surprising visual effect. Don’t think that what you see on Pinterest is the real thing – pink beaches are not actually THAT pink. They have a slight tint, and it really depends on the time of day and whether or not the sand is wet.
So besides the fact that the beach is an unusual colour, it also boasts very clear water and is great for snorkelling.
Getting to this beach can be a bit of an adventure as you will find that the last stretch of road is not sealed. Plan for a three hour ride from Senggigi. On the upside this means that there are no people living here which turns this little stretch of sand into your own little piece of paradise. Still, it will be possible to buy food and drink here, so that you can plan a really nice long beach day here.
Some more tips when visiting Lombok’s beaches
The best way to get around the island is by rented motorbike. You may find that you need to ask for directions to some of the beaches because there are no direction signs in these rather remote locations.
Most beaches will have a local restaurant/bar where you can buy cheap local food such as fried rice, fried noodles, seafood, and fresh fruit. Make sure you have money with you as they won’t take card and there is no ATM around.
Don’t be surprised when you do find some trash on the beach. Indonesia is a third-world country, and usually all you need to do is find a clean spot and ignore the bits that are a bit nasty. If nothing helps, be flexible and move on to the next beach.
The sun in Indonesia is really, really hot. Make sure you stay in the shade, use plenty of suncream, a hat and sun glasses. Don’t sizzle your skin, no tan in the world is worth the risk of skin cancer. You may find that enclosed shoes are more useful on hot sand.
The locals will try as best as they can to make a living of you. They will try to sell to you sarongs, food and drink in a more or less obtrusive fashion. If you really don’t want to buy anything of them, be friendly but firm and divert your attention to a good book. However, you will find that a freshly cut pineapple by a cheeky boy is just the right thing to complete your holiday experience.
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With this last piece of advice I will leave you to enjoy some more pictures of my most favourite Lombok beach, Selong Belanak.