Photo credit: Sunova Surfboards, Flickr
Often viewed as Bali’s little sister, Lombok has long lived in the shadows of its surfing sibling - but this doesn’t mean you should go there – you should definitely go there (especially if you want to escape the intensity of Bali). The time is right to plan your trip before the rest of the world discovers this hidden gem.
Only four hours (at the most) from Bali and you’ll arrive at often a place where almost perfect empty waves meet deserted white sand beaches waiting to be discovered.
Not only is the island home to one of the world’s best left-handers and a variety of other breaks, Lombok is much less crowded and more consistent than other popular Indonesian surf regions - lets find out why.
To travel to Lombok, you only need an Indonesian tourist visa. These can be obtained for $35 USD at any international airport and last for 30 days.
If you require more than 30 days you have the option of extending the tourist visa for an additional 30 days. This can be completed for a fee at the Mataram Immigration Office during your third week in the country. If that doesn’t work for you, a visa run to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore via Lombok International Airport is your only option.
How To Get There
Flying from outside of Indonesia - Most surfers come from bali, but if you want to fly direct to Lombok certain airlines will take you there (AirAsia is one of them). To find out which airlines go fly there from your town, jump onto Sky Scanner and enter your origin & destination, and you'll see which airlines will take you there. You can then book through Sky-scanner, or contact the airlines directly to save money.
From Bali - you have 3 options:
- Public ferry - takes 4-5 hours and costs $2-3 USD per adult. Head to Pandag Bai (1.5 hours north of Kuta, Bali)
- Speed Boat - Prices start at $25 USD depending on the company you choose, and how much luggage you have. Visit Lombok fast boats for information and prices, or simply turn up at the port of Pandang Bai or Serangan in Bali.
- Flying From Denpasar - Takes 30 mins (add check in/out times to this) and costs $30-50 USD. If you're travelling with boards, you will have to pay extra fees
When To Go?
During the dry season from April to October - Bali and G-land are on (and busy!), but Lombok can be very hit and miss. While most of Bali’s breaks are on the west coast, the majority of Lombok’s are on the south coast, meaning the strong western swells hitting Lombok can easily be spoiled by the trade winds that kick up after 9AM.
During the wet season from November to March it rains almost continuously, however, the swell changes from west to south, creating favourable surfing conditions in Lombok. The swells are typically smaller but cleaner when compared to dry season.Many of the southern breaks will only start to work during the wet season – yes, the weather may be less than ideal, but the water is warm and you will most likely share a wave with only a handful of foreigner.
If you do find yourself in Lombok during the dry season it’s best to stick to the west coast of the island. This coast is where you’ll find Desert Point and other lesser-known breaks, whereas the southern breaks usually only fire before 9AM. If you’re lucky with the southern breaks and the trade winds calm for a day, be ready for some of the best waves of your life.
Accommodation – Unlike Bali, Lombok does not feature nearly the range of accommodation found on Bali. Surfers generally stay in two main areas:
- Kuta - offers the widest range of accommodation near the greatest number of surf spots. You’ll find anything from $10/night basic huts to $100/night five star accommodations at the Novotel. On average, expect to pay about $18 per night. For budget hotels, show up and haggle for the best deal. For anything nicer, book ahead online for a good price.
- Desert Point - the accommodation around the wave that put Lombok on the map consists of a basic surf-camp style gig. Most places to stay are simple huts on the beach with no electricity. $5-$10 per night.
Simply turn up and pay if you plan to stay in the basic accommodation at the point, or book in advance if you want to stay in the more expensive but more comfortable hotels/bungalows. Desert point lodges is a favourite.
Food - Lombok’s “Sasak” cuisine is both delicious and cheap. Filling meals at street stalls or “rumah makan” cafes cost $1-$3. Don’t leave without trying Ayam Taliwang (sweet and sour barbecued chicken), Sate Ikan Tanjung (fish kebabs), and Babalung (beef rib soup).
If local (read: spicy) food is not for you, western food can be found in abundance near tourist hotspots. Expect to pay $7-$10 per meal for pizza, pasta, and burgers.
Getting around - Motorbikes cost about 50,000IDR per day – however don’t plan to travel long distances on a bike as the roads are littered with potholes.
Cars can be hired for $15-$25 per day. For vehicle hire, it is important to have an international driver's license and to ensure your traveler’s insurance covers driving in Indonesia. In addition, protect yourself against “you damaged my car” schemes by taking photos of the vehicle before signing a rental agreement.
If driving isn’t for you, consider hiring a taxi or a car and driver. Metered taxis can be found quite easily around the airport and ferry ports. For trips around the island, expect to pay a flat rate of $30-$40 per day for a car and driver.
Finally, boat hire may also be an option to reach multiple breaks in one day. See the boat charter section below for more information. For short trips from shore to a nearby break, expect to pay $1-$2 each way.
Daily Budget - To get the most of your Lombok surf holiday, prepare a budget of $30-$50/day. This includes food, accommodation, daily motorbike transportation, and boat taxis each day. With a tighter budget, you might be able to get away with $20/day but this will severely limit the number of breaks you are able to visit.
Quick Money Saving tips
- Go in the off-season - From November to March, the weather is rainy and hotel prices are at their lowest, but the waves are at their most consistent. You will also find better deals on food and transportation from tourism-dependent locals who don’t see much business this time of year.
- Is breakfast included? - Either book hotels with breakfast included or ask for it during the bargaining process. It’s not an uncommon request on Lombok and it will save you from buying at least one meal (two if you eat late) each day.
- Rent manuals - Motorbikes and cars with automatic transmission cost significantly more than manuals. If you know how to drive a manual, be sure to specify that you would like this cheaper option.
- BYO Boards - Boards are hard to find in Lombok, so bring your own or be prepared to pay (unless you want to rent a learners board - they can found easily)
Surfing In Lombok - The Waves
The best part about Lombok is that it has something for everyone in terms of waves; beginner to expert, left to right, and deserted to crowded.
Beginners - Surfers working on gaining confidence will love the protected coves concentrated around Kuta. In particular, Grupuk, Inside Ekas, and Selong Belanak offer beach breaks perfect for longboards. Ekas and Selong Belanak offer the additional benefit of being uncrowded due to their inaccessibility. Joining a surf lesson or hiring a surf guide is the best way of finding these waves.
Advanced - Most of Lombok’s breaks are most suited for intermediate to advanced surfers. All along the south coast surrounding Kuta you will find waves, with the most popular being Mawi as it picks up the most swell and can turn into a very hollow right on a dropping tide. Surfers exploring this coastline are sure to be rewarded - Enough said.
The difficult access waves of Ekas bay has waves suited for both beginners and advanced surfers - however getting here by boat is expensive, so if you want to surf these waves, it's best to stay in one of the surf camps or resorts at Ekas bay.
Desert Point - Of course, majority of surfers come to Lombok for the one and only Desert Point. Although it was voted “The Best Wave in the World” by Tracks magazine, this left hander fires only a few times a year, and when it’s on, expect to compete with hundreds of pros who flock here to ride this perfect, hollow left hand freight train. If you can't deal with the tight lineup and fierce competitiveness but still want freight train left barrels, consider a trip to G-land instead.
This does not mean you can't still score it with minimal crowds, you just have to be able to read the swell charts and get your timing right .
How do I get to desert point?
Glad you asked. Have a local driver drive you from either the airport or the ferry port, and ask to go to ‘Bangko Bangko’ (or try ‘Desert Point’ or ‘Sekotong’ if you are getting blank looks)
This shows only a few of the major surf spots and areas. Surfer who explore the Southern and south western coasts will be rewarded!
Lombok Surf Camps
If you’re going to Lombok purely to surf, surf camps may offer a better experience than a DIY surf vacation – depending on how much time you have.
If you have plenty of time, but less money, plan your own surf trip, but of the time poor but cash rich, check out one of the following options:
Lombok Surf Camp
Located in the Gerupak area, this surf camp is the oldest and most established camp on the island, and is in short reach to waves suitable for both learners and for more advanced surfers. The camp is an all-inclusive affair focused on providing strict two-week surf courses - perfect for beginners who are serious about learning to surf (but a great all round vibe for more experienced surfers)
Don’t expect to be bored in between surfs either; In addition to the variety surrounding waves, the staff will keep you happy with waterfall hikes, yoga classes, a skate-bowl (AWESOME) rock climbing on their house wall - hell, they'll even show you how to shape a surfboard!
A two week stay will set you back about $1000, but unfortunately you can't just come and go as you please: this surf camp has set start dates for their courses, but you can choose to join the course for only one week.
Location: Gerupuk area, South Coast
Best suited for: Beginners who are serious about learning to surf, and more advanced surfers who want to stay at a surf camp with awesome facilities.
Lombok Surf Shack
This new surf camp offers a deluxe stay in the middle of the action. Think swimming pool, air-conditioned villa, and daily yoga lessons. Located in Kuta, Lombok Surf Shack’s packages are flexible and diverse.
Beginners are offered two surf lessons per day on a nearby beach break, while the resort offers surfing guides for more advanced surfers. In addition to surf packages, Lombok Surf Shack can also arrange a (rather pricey) combo surf/dive package.
At $675 for one week, Lombok Surf Shack’s beginner packages offer great value for money. It also offers a great number of non-surfing activities.
Location: Kuta, South Coast
Best suited for: beginners or intermediate surfers with non-surfing partners.
This Ekas Bay “surf resort” is the most strategically located camp on the island. Set in Ekas Bay, the resort has access to breaks that are otherwise difficult to reach. These waves include Ekas Inside, the best longboard wave on the island and quite possibly the best beginners wave as well.
Other than the location, Ekas Breaks boasts private bungalows and a swimming pool with both windsurfing and surfing lessons. The downside is that the hotel is a la carte, meaning you pay for lessons, board rental, and food separately from the $60 per night room cost.
Location: Ekas Bay, South Coast
Best suited for: travellers looking to surf and relax for a week or two in total comfort and seclusion - with almost NO threat of crowds.
Lombok Surf Charters
Unfortunately many of the Lombok breaks are quite spread out across the south coast, making driving a time-consuming pain. Boat charters offer the perfect solution by quickly ferrying between hard-to-reach breaks.
There are 3 options to consider if you really want to surf in Lombok via a boat charter:
PRO TIP: The boat charters that stop at Lombok via Sumbawa can often have empty beds to fill, and you can jump on from Lombok at a discounted rate! Simply find out when the boat charters are due to leave from Bali, and call the office in Bali the night before, or on the morning of departure - ask for a discount, and you'll be surprised at home much you can save!
Should I bring Or Buy Boards?
Bring your own boards - surfboards are few and far in between on Lombok, and buying one will be a painful, and expensive process. If you plan to be in Bali before Lombok, buy one their, or bring your own.
For beginners and learners, there are plenty of boards for hire at the main surfing beaches of Kuta so save yourself the airline baggage fees of lugging your own.
Flat Day Activities - Things To Do In Lombok
Climb Mt. Rinjani - Alright, this activity will take more than one day away from Lombok’s waves, but it is worth three days to climb this 3726m volcano. The views from the top are incredible, but this trek can only be completed during dry season.
Scuba Diving - There are a ton of dive sites spread out around Lombok’s south and west coasts. Lombok offers some of the best and easiest diving in the world. The corals, colorful fish, and sea turtles will make any flat day feel better
Yoga - If you are looking to keep fit even when you aren’t surfing, try one of the many yoga classes offered around Lombok. One of the most popular is at Ashtari Restaurant. For $10, you get an hour course with a great view followed by an organic breakfast.
Find a deserted beach - Even if the waves are flat, the beaches are still beautiful. Grab a bike and find your own paradise. Hell - you never know, you could come across a secret spot!
Waterfalls - Lombok’s topography ensure that the island is filled with waterfalls perfect for swimming on hot days. Ask the locals for directions and spend the day getting lost in Lombok’s beautiful interior.
Visit Tetebatu, Tanjung Laur, or Panuja - For a taste of local culture, rent a car or hire a driver to visit one of these three towns. Tetebatu is Lombok’s version of Ubud while Tanjung Laur has a massive fish market. Panuja is home to a plethora of craftsman making everything from gold jewelry to horseshoes. A hired driver should be able to arrange a tour of all three in one day for about $50.
- Bringing surfboards - You As mentioned above, surf boards are scarce on Lombok so bring your own if possible, or prepared to pay heavily inflated prices for very average second hand boards.
- Booties - Especially if you plan to surf desert point!
- BYO Sun protection - Suncream is critical, and it also happens to be more expensive than it costs at home - come prepared.
- First aid/medical - It’s important to bring a good first aid kit with you to Lombok. It should include antiseptic cream, bandages, tweezers, Imodium, painkillers, antimalarials, and mosquito repellant - the risk of malaria is low, but it's more common than on Bali.
- Travel Insurance is a must - As with most remote(ish) islands in Indonesia, don't skimp on travel insurance - you'll regret it one day.
Extra Travel Tips For Lombok
- Fly into Lombok International Airport - Airasia now flies directly from Kuala Lumpur to Lombok. Fares are similar to the KL to Bali route and will save you a 40USD fast boat ticket. If flying isn’t for you, try the public ferry from Bali. It leaves every hour, takes only 4 hours, and costs 40,000IDR.
- Be aware of Ramadan - Lombok is a Muslim island and most residents fast during the month of Ramadan. Because of this many restaurants and transportation methods may be unavailable during this time. If you need to venture out of Kuta or the Gilis during this time, you should be discreet about eating, drinking, or smoking in public.
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Maybe you've got some of your own travel advice for surfers in Lombok? Leave a comment below - we'd love to hear from you!