It seems that almost all the time, Kuta pops up to the top of the itinerary list when one starts their plan to visit Bali. "If you have not been to Kuta, you have not been to Bali," as the saying goes.
It is often confusing when one mentions the word Kuta. Just try doing a Google search, and it will return at least a hundred different hotels and restaurants. Officially speaking, Google is right. After all, Kuta actually represents the name of a district in Bali, covering a total area of 17.52 km2. But the heart of Kuta - where all excitements are happening, kids are building their sand castle, novices are picking up surfing - stretches only about 1 km long.
The beach line in Kuta district is segmented into three parts - Tuban Beach, Kuta Beach and Legian Beach. So the next time you head your way down to Bali, be sure of where you are going. As its name implies, Kuta Beach is 'central' beach, accessible from Jalan Raya Pantai Kuta. Over the past decades, Kuta Beach has evolved to become the central magnet of Bali. When you enter Jalan Raya Pantai Kuta, you will be greeted by the Hard Rock establishment. Due to its aggressive marketing in places such as Singapore, many first timers who come to Bali for a short 3 Days 2 Nights gateway think that Hard Rock is the best that Bali has to offer. As you go down the street (Jalan Raya Pantai Kuta), you will find Harris followed by Mercure Hotels. Personally, I do think that these three hotels are comparable. The view from Mercure's pool is unbeatable. As you continue walking down the streets, you can find wide variety of eating choices - from Pizza Hut to McDonalds, from Nanxiang Restaurant offering fine Chinese cuisine to Vivo Rosso offering dine and lounge experience.
If you prefer something that is small on budget but great in taste, there is a food court located right at the center of Jalan Raya Pantai Kuta. You can pick from Chinese seafood to traditional Indonesian to Western dishes. Just be prepared to be aggressively courted by the stall vendors. They will not force you to buy, just politely tell them that you want to first look around before deciding your pick.
As you continue to head down the road, few more decent hotels - Grand Istana Rama, Kuta Seaview Cottages and Kuta Bali Hotel - add to your list of accommodation choices. Choose one of these hotels (along the main street) only if you plan to spend your entire days doing nothing else but hanging out at the Kuta Beach. Otherwise, smaller (but not less descent) hotels or inns offer more budget-friendly alternatives.
The Kuta Beach
Hundreds of Thousands of tourists visit Kuta Beach every year. Absent of any disasters or major disruptions, the beach is crowded throughout the year. This is a place where many Balinese (and even migrants from land as far away as Java and Sumatera) depends on for their living.
What you can do. At Kuta Beach, there is a lot you can do. You can simply bring your own towel or sarong (or buy one if you did not bring one), lay it on the sand and start your sun tanning treatment. If you want something hassle-free, you can rent one of the beach canopies and even the wood or plastic chair (if you prefer not to sit on the sand). If you are a little more adventurous, you can sign up for a surfing lesson that covers a little bit of theory and practical. After all, Kuta Beach used to be one of the favourites surfing destination. Today, due to the crowds, advanced surfers are compelled to look for a greener pasture. Or if you want to know how it feels like to be a Queen of Kuta for a day, you can choose one of the spot under the tree. Sit on the towel or chair. Indulge yourself from head to toe. Hair Braiding costs you between US$2-5, depending on the number of knots you do (and of course your bargaining skills). Tattooing costs you between US$2-3 and it lasts for 2 weeks. Manicure and pedicure costs $5-10 each. Back shoulder or foot reflexology massage costs US$3-5 for 90 minutes each. (Have covered from everything from head to toe? I hope I did not miss out a thing)
After being a Queen Royale and you start feeling hungry, you can try some of the stalls. There is sweet rojak (Javanese Style), nasi padang (Sumatera), nasi uduk (Jakarta), bakso (Obama says it's delicious). When you are thirsty, give Teh Botol (Bottled Iced Tea) a try. But be warned that these stalls do not come with hygiene warranty. So try them at your own risk and if you think that your stomach can cooperate with your taste buds.
Simply sitting by one of the stalls, enjoying gentle touch of sea breezes and watching people of all kinds - age, race, nationality and fashion - would make my day. In the evening, you can sit back, relax and watch the sun disappears from the horizon.
With so much to see, do, try and discover, it is no wonder Kuta is probably one of the most famous beach in World.