Last updated on March 11, 2023 by Wandering our World
If you’re looking to spend a nice, cheap vacation under the sun, Bali and Lombok are two of the best options out there.
However despite both islands being part of Indonesia, these destinations are actually quite different…
Bali is the more popular island, and has become famous around the world for its gorgeous beaches, great nightlife scene, and unique culture. It attracts backpackers and digital nomads in their thousands, but it’s also a wildlife lovers’ and surfers’ paradise too.
However, there’s another island east of Bali that’s no less beautiful. Steadily growing in popularity, tourists are starting to discover Lombok’s breathtaking nature. This island is quieter than Bali, has arguably better hiking, and the beaches are unmatched in Indonesia.
But that’s just the beginning when it comes to how Bali and Lombok differ!
If you’re confused about which of these two gorgeous Indonesian islands you should visit for your next trip, then don’t worry because we know both well.
That’s why below we show you which has the better beaches, hiking, activities, which is better for families, honeymoons and more. All so you can make the right decision!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Has Better Beaches?
- Which Is Better For Hiking?
- How Do The Activities Compare?
- Which Has Better Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Honeymoons & Couples?
- Which Is Better For A Family Vacation?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview
Bali and Lombok are both islands in Indonesia, located just north of Australia. They’re both tropical islands with gorgeous beaches being the main attraction for tourists.
Having been a favorite holiday destination of Australians since the 1980s, the number of tourists in Bali has only been growing since.
Due to this, Bali can get very crowded, especially in the districts of Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, and Legian. In contrast, Lombok, is nowhere near as crowded as Bali.
Because it is so busy, Bali is now very tourist-oriented and many of the natural attractions have been somewhat spoiled by that.
This is where Lombok enters the scene. Lombok is a great island for those looking for picturesque natural sights that are still untouched by tourism. At the same time, Lombok is already developed enough to make any trip comfortable, especially as it has many resorts lining the coast.
The beaches in Lombok are more beautiful than those in Bali too. The sand is whiter and finer, and the sea clearer with a gorgeous turquoise color. But of course, there are many aspects where Bali still wins.
When it comes to Bali, you can’t separate the island from its Hindu roots. You’ll see countless Hindu temples and ‘sesajen’s (offerings to the Hindu gods) on the streets.
On the other hand, the majority of Lombok residents are Muslim, just like the rest of Indonesia, so don’t expect to find many temples like in Bali.
Which Has Better Beaches?
Right off the bat, the better beaches are probably the main reason more and more people are opting for Lombok instead of Bali.
Most of the beaches in Bali aren’t white sand beaches. On top of that, the beaches can often be a bit dirty (literally, you’ll find litter on the sand and in the water).
Below we’ll look at the beaches in both islands in more detail, so you can make up your own mind!
Bali: The Beaches
That being said, there are still gorgeous beaches in Bali if you stay away from the overcrowded stretches of coastline like Kuta and Sanur. And if you’re looking for tasty seafood on the beach? Go to Jimbaran instead.
If you want a secluded beach to catch the sunset, try going to Thomas Beach in Uluwatu. It’s a very photogenic beach with huge coral reefs. For swimming, Melasti Beach in the south is the best pick.
For an even more secluded beach, head to the east Bali area. This is where you’ll find more white sandy beaches, and it’s an area tourists often ignore.
In particular Nyuh Gading Beach is very popular amongst locals, with breathtaking calm blue waters. Bias Tugel Beach is another breathtaking beach on the east coast of Bali.
But if you wish to see the truly gorgeous beaches of Bali, hop on a 15 – 30 minute boat ride to the small islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Dua, or Nusa Lembongan. That is where you’ll get gorgeous white sand beaches with turquoise-colored sea, and limestone cliffs.
The most popular beach on Nusa Penida is Kelingking Beach, known to be one of the most beautiful in Bali. Trust us, taking a day cruise to Nusa Penida while in Bali is a must.
Due to the clearer water, the Nusa Islands have the best snorkeling spots in Bali too. However other great snorkeling spots you can find on the main island are Blue Lagoon, Amed Beach, and Tulamben Beach on the east coast.
Bali also has good waves for surfing. Some of the best surfing spots are Nusa Dua Beach, Balangan Beach, and Padangan Beach. As for beginners, Kuta Beach or Madewi Beach might be better suited for you.
Lombok: The Beaches
In our opinion it’s easy to state that the beaches in Lombok are better than those in Bali. Lombok even has a pink beach, inventively called Pink Beach, which isn’t something you can find in Bali.
Definitely head to Tanjung Aan Bay for a dreamy view of the sea. The water is very blue and the sand powdery white. There’s a small hill that you can hike up to get the best view of the sunset too.
A more lively beach (but still nowhere near as packed as those in Bali) is Senggigi Beach. There are many resorts and bars there, alongside water sports activities such as jet skis, paddleboards, and kayaks.
For some reason, there’s also a beach named Kuta in Lombok! This Kuta is one of the most beautiful on the island and is conveniently situated close to the airport. It’s known as a great surfing spot, especially for beginners.
For surfing, Bali and Lombok are pretty much the same: both have good quality waves and good water temperatures. The best surfing spots in Lombok (for all levels) are Mawi Beach, Don-Don Beach, and Selong Belanak. Avid surfers will love Are Guling Bay and Desert Point.
Just like how you can visit the Nusa Islands in Bali, Lombok has the Gili Islands that you can get to via a short boat ride. Gili Trawangan is known as one of the cheapest and safest diving spots, and is also beginner-friendly.
Snorkeling with sea turtles is a popular activity in Gili Trawangan. Meanwhile, there are amazing underwater statues called ‘The Nest’ in Gili Meno.
In general, the water is also clearer in Lombok than in Bali, and there are far better (and more) spots to snorkel. This is why avid snorkelers love Lombok and especially the Gili Islands.
Which Is Better For Hiking?
Bali is home to several stunning hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks.
Mount Batur and Mount Agung are some of the most popular hikes on the island, especially for sunrise watching. Both are active volcanoes offering panoramic views of the island.
Another popular hike is to the Sekumpul Waterfall, which takes you through lush forests and rice paddies to a stunning seven-tiered waterfall.
In Lombok, hiking Mount Rinjani is amongst the top things to do. Standing at 12,224 feet above sea level, it is the second-highest volcanic mountain in Indonesia that is still active!
From the mountain peak, hikers will be treated to a view of the whole island and the mountain’s vast crater. For Mount Rinjani alone, we would have to say that Lombok wins over Bali when it comes to hiking.
Climbing to the very top of this mountain is hard though, and it’s not for beginners. But don’t worry, there are many other gorgeous viewpoints which you can hike up to instead. There’s also the Hot Springs Rinjani which is considered an easy-level hike.
Aside from that imposing mountain, there are plenty of limestone cliffs in Lombok that you can hike alongside to get gorgeous views of the sea.
There are also many other hiking trails, such as the Gili Trawangan trail, Pergasingan Hill, and the trail to Tiu Kelep Waterfall.
How Do The Activities Compare?
Overall, we have to say that Bali offers more diverse attractions unique to the island.
In particular, the cultural attractions in Bali are excellent and we’re sure the memory of visiting them will stay with you forever.
But below we look at the top activities in both Lombok and Bali so you can see which island suits your vacation preferences the best.
Bali: Tourist Attractions & Activities
When visiting Bali, going to one or two Hindu temples is a must.
The most iconic one is probably Tanah Lot Temple, which sits on a rock formation above the sea. There’s also the Uluwatu Temple that stands dramatically on a cliff. To get to the temple, you have to walk along a trail with a stunning view of the sea.
Other iconic temples are Pura Tirta Empul, Ulan Danu Bratan Temple, Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang, and Pura Besakih.
Pura Tirta Empul is especially worth visiting because it’s a sacred bathing place with holy spring water.
Aside from the temples, you must experience Bali’s culture by watching the traditional dances and rituals. The most popular is the Kecak dance, which is performed at Uluwatu Temple every day at 6:00 pm.
Bali is also better than Lombok for shopping. You’ll find many streets lined with markets and people selling handmade goods, local snacks, and beach outfits. One of the best shopping areas is Seminyak.
You also must explore the Ubud area. It’s a cultural hub filled with many art galleries, temples, and traditional markets. There’s also the Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary where you can meet monkeys!
For a natural attraction, try going to the Banyu Wana Amertha waterfalls. It’s a beautiful formation of several streams and cascades that fall into a pool. The waterfall is still relatively unknown and the trail is easy.
With beaches, mountains, forests, and waterfalls, who knew that Bali also has a beautiful savanna? Savana Tianyar is a great spot if you’re a photographer or just love seeing different landscapes.
And for lunch with a view, Tegalalang Rice Terrace is a popular spot. It’s a hill of rice paddies and there are swings and zip lines, too. Another option is going to Kintamani Highland to see Lake Batur.
Lombok: Tourist Attractions & Activities
Away from the coastline, Lombok has numerous spectacular waterfalls. Visit the gorgeous cascades of Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu Waterfalls that penetrate through trees. There’s also the magnificent Tiu Kelep Waterfall in northern Lombok.
The village of Sembalun is popular as a starting point for hiking Mount Rinjani. But one of the most popular things to do here is paragliding over vast rice fields with a view of the mountain.
At the village, you can also pick strawberries and rent a bicycle to tour the traditional houses. For a view of the rice fields and the mountain without paragliding, go to Selong Hill.
A new attraction in Lombok is the Mandalika Circuit. Get a view of the motorcycle race circuit from Seger Hill.
Because this island is still relatively untouched, the sky is dark and is great for stargazing. The best stargazing point is, of course, on Mount Rinjani, where you’ll be able to see the Milky Way. But if the sky isn’t cloudy, you’ll be able to stargaze even on the beach.
And for a taste of local culture, visit the traditional Sasak villages. Their houses are made from bamboo and thatched roofs. Visitors can also watch locals make traditional weaving and try the local cuisine.
All in all, Bali has more tourist excursions, as well as many temples and natural attractions. The activities in Lombok are more nature-based, but as the less busy island, it’s also a great destination for hiking, stargazing and discovering culture.
Which Has Better Nightlife?
Bali: The Nightlife
Nights in Bali are never boring and are definitely more wild than in Lombok. And on this island you’ll often find that people party in the open at outdoor beach clubs instead of in dingy nightclubs.
When in Bali, you’ll find that the nightlife scene is mostly concentrated in Canggu.
One of the hottest beach clubs is Café del Mar, a large beachfront restaurant slash mega nightclub. Finn’s Beach Club is another popular beach club in the area for all-day parties and drinks at sunset.
Just 30 minutes away, the district of Seminyak is also lined with beach bars. Some of the most popular places are Potato Head Beach Club, Mixwell Bar, and EnVie Lounge.
Lombok: Nightlife Scene
The nightlife scene in Lombok is growing steadily, but expect laid-back beach gatherings rather than wild beach parties.
However Gili Trawangan island is a big nightlife spot in Lombok. The night entertainment here is very chill, with live music, beach parties, and bonfires, while savoring fresh seafood and tropical drinks.
On the main Lombok Island, the district of Senggigi is home to numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants that stay open late into the night.
Kuta Beach Lombok is also a popular nightlife hub. After surfing during the day, locals and tourists wind down at the beach bars, nightclubs, and enjoy cheap eats at street food vendors.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
Bali: For Honeymoons
With luxury resorts, beaches and a gorgeous coastline, Bali has been a dream honeymoon destination for years.
It’s an island that is well set up for honeymoons and romantic escapes, and for that reason you’ll find the resorts there tend to be a little better and more upmarket than the ones in Lombok.
There’s plenty of romantic beaches too, and one of the best in Bali is Green Bowl Beach. It’s very secluded, and you have to walk down a 75-meter-tall cliff to get there. But the view is absolutely worth it.
For a romantic evening, book a sunset cruise. Luckily you don’t have to spend big bucks for this sort of activity as there are many cruise options, from sailboats to luxury yachts.
We also recommend visiting some of Bali’s waterfalls on your honeymoon. There’s just something about hiking the trails to the waterfall together, and then enjoying the waterfalls at the end, that creates exceptional memories.
Some of the most beautiful waterfalls are Sekumpul Waterfall, GitGit Waterfall, and Banyumala Twin Waterfall.
Again we recommend taking a cruise to the Nusa islands to see the gorgeous beaches. It’s also a good way to escape from the main island’s crowded energy for a bit.
Lombok: For Honeymoons
On the other hand, Lombok offers a far more peaceful honeymoon. It’s so much easier there to find beaches that aren’t packed with tourists compared to Bali, so you can enjoy each other’s company without the crowds.
While the resorts in Lombok in general aren’t quite the standard of Bali, there’s still some fantastic honeymoon choices.
In particular, Katamaran Resort and the 7 Secrets, are two all-inclusive options that are perfect for couples.
Overall, both islands are great for honeymooners. But Bali is fantastic for couples who like many things to do and vibrant nightlife, while Lombok is perfect for couples looking for a much more quiet honeymoon.
Which Is Better For A Family Trip?
Bali: For Families
Because of the diverse and many activities you can do on the island, we think Bali is probably the better choice for a family trip than Lombok.
Plus taking your children to experience the local culture in Bali is something that will help them be more aware and respectful of other people and traditions around the world.
From watching kecak dance and making traditional Balinese Hindu offerings, to taking part in Balinese traditional ceremonies, there are many ways you and your children can take part in the island’s interesting culture.
Many resorts in Bali also have kids’ clubs that offer these kinds of activities, including Bali Dynasty Resort, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran, and Ayana Resort.
And just 15 minutes away from the airport, there’s the Garuda Wisnu Kencana or GWK Cultural Park. There you can learn about the Hindu god Wisnu and their companion, the mythical garuda bird. However you might want to avoid visiting in the middle of the day when the sun is out because it requires a lot of walking.
One of the best attractions for children in Bali would is the Ubud Monkey Forest. There you’ll experience what it feels like to be followed by long-tailed monkeys!
For more animal experiences, the Bali Safari and Marine Park offers an educational experience with wildlife. The place is quite large with so many things to see.
Another place to see animals is the Bali Bird and Reptile Park where you can see the incredible Komodo Dragon that’s native to Indonesia.
Bali is also great for families in terms of convenience because the island is far more developed than Lombok. It’s therefore easier to find comfort foods like pizza, as well as fun kid-friendly attractions like theme parks and waterparks.
For families, we also recommend spending a night or two at a resort in Nusa Dua. The beaches there are clean and the water is very calm, with plenty of kid-friendly water sports options and family-friendly restaurants.
All in all Bali is the complete family vacation. It has pretty much every activity a kid could want, lots of familiar food, wildlife to spot, and it’s a great island to introduce children to a different culture.
Recommended: What Every Tourist Needs To Know To Stay Safe In Bali
Lombok: For Families
You will definitely have a more relaxed family trip in Lombok. Compared to Bali, you’ll probably spend more time in your resort, enjoying all that the beach has to offer, from swimming to water sports to snorkeling.
For fun family activities, definitely take your kids to release sea turtles at Senggigi Beach. And if you want more wildlife, Lombok also has a monkey forest called Pusuk Monkey Forest.
You can also do dolphin or whale watching as there are boat tour packages where guides will take you sailing so you can meet these gentle sea creatures.
In terms of activities, Lombok definitely has less to offer than Bali. However it’s perfect for families who want to relax and enjoy their resort.
Which Is Cheaper?
When it comes to costs, both islands are relatively cheap compared to other destinations.
However Lombok can be a tad more expensive than Bali. But it depends on where you stay, the kind of activities you do, and so on.
Ultimately it’s possible to visit both Bali and Lombok on a budget, but with the cost of nightlife activities and the many things to do during the day, you may have to keep a tighter eye on your wallet in busy Bali despite it being a little cheaper than Lombok.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: With beautiful beachside bungalows and a pool with an unbeatable Indian Ocean view, Nirwana Beach & Resort feels far more luxurious than the price tag. Set in pristine Eastern Bali, you’ll be taking photos everywhere you turn if staying here. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: It would be easy to recommend another beachside resort in Bali, but instead we had to suggest what must be one of the most magical hotels in the world. At Munduk Heaven Luxury Villas you’ll be walking across bridges above the treetops to get to their stunning restaurant, bar and outside pool.
But don’t expect to have your feet on the ground when returning to your room – you’ll be staying in their luxury ‘floating villas’ complete with jacuzzi and jungle views from above! It’s a place that really has to be seen to be believed. See photos and rates here!
Budget: For an affordable stay, LoTide Surf Camp is a great option. Located in Kuta, it’s close to the airport and some of Lombok’s best beaches. It has a nice pool too and the atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming. See photos and rates!
Luxury: As for luxury in Lombok, we have recommend Oberoi Beach Resort Lombok. This resort has fantastic facilities, world class service, but also maintains a traditional feel. Their private beach is just gorgeous too, and everywhere you look you will see pretty flower petals. It’s a very special place. See photos and rates!
Which Is The Better Choice?
If your aim is to be surrounded by out-of-the-world unspoiled nature, we suggest you go to Lombok.
The water is clearer in Lombok and is better for snorkeling and diving, the beaches are prettier, and the island is less crowded than Bali too.
However, if you’re looking to experience unique local culture and bustling nightlife, Bali is the one for you.
And of course, there are beautiful beaches and nature to enjoy in Bali too, though you might have to look a little harder than in Lombok if you want peace and quiet.