What Instagram doesn’t tell you about Sanur Beach

The first stop on my Bali two week itinerary was the beautiful laid back province of Sanur.  After a long 17 hours of flying, I was looking forward to nothing more than hitting the beach for a relaxing few days in the sunshine, and Sanur looked to be the perfect place to do just that!

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Is Sanur Beach Bali worth visiting?

Home to a 5km long beach, that is backed by a splendid paved cycle-path! Sanur’s sandy shores offer shallow water, and cultural charm, thanks to the many traditional fishing boats that rest on the sand.

Meanwhile, grand Sanur resorts and hotels back onto the main section of the beach, and it’s here you’ll find the best facilities and soft golden sand that Bali is famous for.

sanur beach bali
Sanur Beach Bali

The first time I visited, I quickly felt at ease surrounded by fellow holidaymakers and the apparent natural beauty of one of Bali’s most popular beaches!

In addition, finding somewhere to eat and drink along the beach couldn’t be easier. In fact, visitors are spoilt for choice! I decided to set myself up for the day at one of the many boho styled bars and loved watching the world go by from the prime beach location.

Litter in Bali


The other side of Sanur Beach – 

In this way, it would appear that Sanur is the perfect place for beach lovers to visit and stay. After all, I found the beach to be a little slice of paradise. However, unfortunately, Sanur beach stretches beyond the small section described above…

If you walk further along the beach, passed the luxurious hotels, and beyond the paved cycle path, you’ll find that the beach quickly changes. What instantly struck me was sheer amounts of litter washed in by the tide, it was a heartbreaking sight!

I also noticed that the sand was different! Almost grey in colour, it was rough on my feet. It almost felt a bit like walking on glass. Given Bali’s volcanic history, looking back, this really shouldn’t have been a surprise. However, I was taken aback by the contrast between it and the sand on the developed section of the beach.

Litter and rubbish on sanur beach
Here you can see just some of the rubbish and litter that is washing up onto Sanur Beach

The Harsh Truth –

I’ve since discovered that the soft golden sand found by Sanur’s resorts is imported and raked daily by staff, who also vigorously litter pick their ‘section’ of the beach to create the picture-perfect paradise visitors (myself included) expect to see.

Because of this, for the rest of my time in Sanur part of me was constantly nagged by guilt! I was very well aware that the only reason the part of the beach I was enjoying was so perfectly manicured was due to the big resorts which backed onto it!

Sadly this story is the same in Seminyak, Kuta, and other popular vacation areas in Bali.  Resorts go to great lengths to protect the pristine image of Bali’s beaches, but really they’re just shielding visitors from a major environmental problem!

sanur beach rubbish

The harsh truth is that litter is a huge issue across Bali, and not just on its beaches. In fact, the problem spreads across the whole of Southeast Asia, and yet no-one seems to talk about it online!

An image has been created, largely thanks to Instagram, that Balis beaches (including Sanur) are unspoilt. However, this is clearly not the case, and while visitors aren’t to blame for the problem, I still think it’s important to highlight the issue, rather than hide behind filters!

Sanur Beach Bali
One image of Sanur Beach Bali that I took… Which makes it seem a pristine paradise!

I myself am guilty of taking photos that only show the ‘nice’ side of destinations, as you can see above. It’s easy enough to do, even subconsciously! Which just proves that photos shouldn’t be taken at face value!

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I didn’t write this post to dissuade visitors from going to Sanur, or from enjoying Bali’s beaches! But I simply felt that I should use this blog to try to educate my fellow travelers, so others aren’t as naive as I was!

Sadly hotel chains in Bali and even the island’s government seem to have little interest in cleaning up the beaches. In fact, Indonesia is the world’s second-largest producer of plastic waste after China!

However, there are several organisations striving to make a positive environmental impact in Bali: 

  • Get involved in helping clean Sanur Beach! Trash Hero Sanur organise regular clean up missions!
  • The ROLE Foundation is a great charity to support, they are working towards a sustainable future for Indonesia’s islands and oceans!
  • Avani also aims to help rehabilitate Bali by offering sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives to hazardous products that locals and tourists use every day.

Sanur Bali

2020 Update: Since writing this post the government in Indonesia are finally taking steps to improve plastic pollution in the country! They have Pledged to reduce waste by 70% by 2025, and have plans to ban single-use plastic!

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Bali Indonesia is beautiful and picture perfect! But there's another side to Bali's Beaches! Sanur Beach is just one beach in Bali facing a major litter problem! click to Learn more #balitravel #balibeach #baliindonesia #travel

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33 Comments

  1. July 14, 2017 / 4:35 pm

    Sometimes photos and reviews on Internet can be misleading. I love that you gave honest review. I did same on one of my blog post.

    • July 14, 2017 / 7:16 pm

      thanks for the lovely comment! Sometimes it just has to be done 🙂

  2. July 14, 2017 / 4:41 pm

    Glad that you pointed out things honestly.. quite appreciable ✌️

  3. July 14, 2017 / 8:54 pm

    Thank you for providing an honest review – very refreshing. There is a lot of this around and it is surprising how many “dream” places are not what they seem to be when you finally get there!

  4. July 16, 2017 / 12:50 am

    Girl!! Speak your truth! If that’s what you found then that’s what you found! No need to disclaimer that shit! We believe you! And you’re allowed to have a negative opinion so THANKS FOR BEING HONEST!

  5. July 16, 2017 / 5:48 am

    I’m glad you write this. I was about to write the same thing. I liked that Sanur seems pretty laid back. In fact a fellow traveler recommended it to me. I was planning to go to Nusa Lembongan so i figured might as well, stayed a few days in Sanur to also check out some dive shops. Two days, i didn’t know how to occupy my time. I love beaches so I’ve decided to check it during sunset but it looked dirty to me, plus it was low tide. I came back the next day and still the water was not that good.
    Maybe it was just wrong timing?
    I am the from the Philippines, and we have great beaches. We also have beaches that turned bad. I am not the type to compare for sure. Maybe I just have had high expectations.

    • July 17, 2017 / 2:28 pm

      That’s exactly how I felt! Beside the beach I loved the more relaxed attitude of Sanur – plus the people were so lovely!! I can’t wait to visit the Philippines one day 🙂

  6. July 16, 2017 / 7:07 am

    Hi. Thanks for sharing this. I was in Jimbaran in 2014 for the second time and I stopped swimming in the sea because I was surrounded by plastic. Every step I took, was on plastic. And the beach was very littered too. That’s why I stopped taking plastic bags when buying my grocery and try to avoid plastic bottles

    • July 17, 2017 / 2:26 pm

      its a shame that it appears to be such a problem on most beach’s on main land Bali! Me too haha, every little thing we do will help 🙂

  7. July 16, 2017 / 7:52 am

    Thank you for being so honest ❤
    Now I wanna go and do some cleaning 😂

  8. July 16, 2017 / 11:26 am

    I kind of left the same way in Cambodia – the resort’s beach was constantly cleaned while the ones on the side were full of garbage. In that particular case it was garbage brought by the sea and not left there by people. Having in mind that Asia in general is not the most environment-friendly part of the world, I guess the case in Sanur would be similar…
    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • July 17, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      it appears to be a real problem in that part of the world! Yes, I should have made it clearer in my post that a lot of the garbage appear to have been washed up as well as people adding to it by littering themselves!

  9. July 16, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    It’s interesting to see those glamourous insta-famous locations in real life. I think you got a good lesson in the truth behind some of these destinations.

  10. July 16, 2017 / 1:22 pm

    I’ve been to Bali 7 times now and yes the rubbish can be a problem but there are many programs trying to make a difference which visitors are also welcome to participate in. While I have popped over to Sanur I have never stayed there but I will be doing a quick overnighter there in August before I head to Lembongan. Let’s hope they start winning the battle to keep their beaches clean. 😀

    • July 17, 2017 / 2:22 pm

      That’s good to hear! I would have definitely participated in such a program if I’d known about them whilst there!
      I loved the rest of Sanur so you’ll have a great time! And agreed 🙂

  11. Jean
    July 16, 2017 / 9:53 pm

    Litter in Sth east Asia is a huge problem. Lack of infrastructure and education on the issue doesn’t help!

    • July 17, 2017 / 2:19 pm

      its a real shame! But hopefully more will be done in the future to help 🙂

  12. August 30, 2017 / 11:51 am

    I’m so glad this post had a happy ending! Sanur was my saving grace the first time I went to Bali – I love it down there! The black sand and beach hawkers of Seminyak were giving me serious holiday blues when I stumbled upon the peaceful and beautiful beach of Sanur!

    The trash is everywhere and coming from the western world can be really confronting. I was surprised at the amount of it on the beaches of the Gili Islands when I visited recently – they were supposed to be paradise! But the country is relatively poor, people are uneducated and they just don’t seem to care about the environment! It will be interesting to see how the growth in expats over there influences this. I’ve noticed between my trips that animals are now treated a lot better and pet shops have sprouted up EVERYWHERE! Hopefully this also influences their environmental awareness too?

    • August 31, 2017 / 3:03 pm

      Yes overall I loved sanur, so much more relaxed than other parts of south Bali! I visited the Gilis aswell but didn’t see too much litter, think it’s to do with the tides…

      Totally agree! Fingers crossed! in the meanwhile us westerners need to stop producing so much waste that washes up in these ‘paradises’ 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to comment x

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  14. Gemma
    April 4, 2019 / 8:28 am

    I’m sitting right now at Sanur’s beach, watching sadly how Balinese dig holes on the beach to hide the plastic inside and cover it up again with sand. OMG…
    I’m a plastic fighter and I changed my daily habits during the last few years to reduce the plastic in my life as much as possible.
    When I see these kind of things… Uuufff something in my stomach is up side down…
    To be honest, not sure of the resorts are the problem, or the biggest one.
    I would like to know where this plastic comes from, probably not from Bali…

    • earthsmagicalplaces
      Author
      April 5, 2019 / 6:21 pm

      I had no idea they were doing that along the beach, the silly thing is it’ll eventually wash up again. I also agree with you, most of the plastic is probably coming from us in the west which is the sad thing!

  15. Emily
    April 9, 2019 / 2:24 am

    A lot of the plastic is also from the locals of Sanur. There are efforts being made and after seeing the beach I would’ve assumed that you would be shocked, but then have a sense or an urge to make a change. Many of the locals solely depend on the income that they get from tourism and it is what they live off of to survive. Just avoiding going to the beaches because of the litter may be subtly helping the environment, but it is negatively affecting their wellness and economy. Indonesia is actually the second largest producer of plastic and most of it is coming from Java.

  16. July 29, 2019 / 6:28 am

    Thank you for sharing the truth of some of these places. Before we went to Bali we didn’t know about the plastic on the beaches. It’s certainly not shown on the tourism websites or from bloggers/ travel writers who get free trips there.

    • earthsmagicalplaces
      Author
      August 4, 2019 / 5:42 pm

      Exactly how I felt! Since writing this I’ve discovered that it’s a huge problem across Asia, Wish there was more to do to tackle it…

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