With its volcanic dark sand beaches, mountainous backdrop and tranquil location on the north coast, Lovina is a truly authentic Balinese retreat. It’s a chance to enjoy relaxing on the beachfront, perhaps with a massage on your sunlounger, then wandering through rice fields and villages, and dining at local restaurants and warungs by night.
Road to Lovina
Travelling along the north coast road of Bali my eyes were constantly attracted by colour and activity. There are children coming home from school at lunchtime in their colourfully-patterned uniforms. Women carrying loads on their heads. And fruit stalls with great mounds of grapes and tropical fruit.
Slurping the delectable white kernels from a dark pink mangosteen, I smiled at the snack sellers on the road beside the Pura Pulaki monkey temple and looked with interest at the line of dive shops at Permuteran.
Trees overhang the road, letting through dappled sunlight. There are myriad fields and crops, with rice terraces against a background of blue hills, where the road eventually lead to Bali’s central highlands. But I was not ready to take that road just yet.
Why stay in Lovina?
Soon I arrived in Lovina, a charming little town full of warungs, bakeries and accommodation beside the soft, dark grey sand and the glittering sea.
The best places to stay in Bali are sometimes the most unlikely and Lovina is no exception. On the black sand seashore, boutique hotels are interspersed with fishing communities, where chickens scratch at the waterline and colourful wooden fishing boats are anchored on the beach in the evening. Lovina is just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Bali’s capital of Denpasar but it might as well be on another planet. This is authentic Bali travel at its best.
I found a friendly, family-run pondok wisata in Lovina – Gede Homestay – and within minutes my daughter was running about with a Dutch fellow guest and the hosts grandchildren, squealing with excitement at some cross-cultural game.
This area is famous for the wild dolphins which visit the coastline most mornings. Head down to the beach before sunrise and set out on a local fishing boat for a truly remarkable dolphin watching cruise, an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
In the afternoon the traditional outrigger fishing boats of Lovina are pulled up on the sand and I spent awhile lying on a beach sunbed. Nearby Balinese women try to catch my eye, pinching their arms to offer a massage.
The smell of incense wafted across as the lady at the next door warung offered fresh pujas at her beachside shrine, which was decorated with an elegant black and white parasol.
As the sun got lower in the sky I went for a stroll along the shore, past the fishing village a few hundred metres away.
There is rubbish on the beach and pigs, dogs and chickens wander about the shacks. People are at work cleaning their nets. Children splash about in the water.
The sunset at Lovina is one of the most dramatic I have ever seen. It started off beautifully and just kept getting better and better, with colour continuing to develop after the sun had dropped below the horizon for at least 20 minutes until the whole sky and sea were pink. I took photo after photo, each time sure this was the climax.
After dark the gleam of lights from fishing boats anchored just offshore drew my eyes as I enjoyed a deliciously spicy pile of vegetables and rice from the Gede kitchen.
Later, Mr Gede started to play rhythmic, lovely chords on a bamboo xylophone, accompanied by his son on a kendang drum and a friend on a gong. The children played with crayons and paper, sprawled on the wooden floor listening to the music.
Nestled between the tropical Bali sea and the Bedugul mountain range, Lovina is a great place to relax. It’s also within a short drive of trekking routes to stunning waterfalls, and a short boat ride of the best preserved coral reefs in Bali at Menjangan Island. The extensive West Bali National Park is also on the doorstep, with unique horse trekking and wildlife spotting opportunities.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited Lovina on the north coast of Bali?