Ubud vs Kuta? Which is best for a holiday in Bali? If you’re trying to decide whether to stay in Ubud or Kuta then this article is for you. Both are popular destinations but they offer a very different experience.
Kuta is the best-known destination in Bali. Famous for sun and surf, Kuta Beach is a long stretch of sand that extends for miles and includes several beaches including Legian Beach and Seminyak Beach.
Kuta is a traditional beach holiday destination in Bali and has been drawing visitors for decades, If you enjoy swimming and surfing, beach sunsets and lively nightlife then Kuta could be for you. Ubud, on the other hand, is the cultural heart of Bali and offers a completely different experience. If you enjoy temples, museums, beautiful scenery, yoga and luxury spas then head to Ubud.
I’ve been to Bali as a solo traveller several times and I’ve spent time in both Ubud and Kuta. I tend to stay in Kuta when I need to be near the airport. I’ll enjoy a beach sunset and some shopping and then move on to Ubud to enjoy Balinese culture, temples, rice fields and waterfalls.
Whether you choose to stay in Kuta or Ubud really depends on your personal preferences and what kind of holiday you’re looking for. This article looks at the similarities and differences between these two famous Bali destinations to help you decide which is better Ubud or Kuta. You might even decide to spend some time in both.
Kuta vs Ubud: Pros & Cons
|Kuta Pros – reasons to choose Kuta||Ubud Pros – reasons to choose Ubud|
|Close to the airport||Ubud Palace & Temples|
|Surf beach & coastal location||Rice Terraces|
|Gorgeous beach sunsets||Waterfalls|
|Nightclubs||Yoga, Wellness & spas|
|A wide variety of accommodations from hostels |
to luxury resorts
|Restaurants & Cafés|
|A choice of cheaper accommodation||Ubud Monkey Forest|
|A choice of shopping Malls||Markets & Boutique shops|
|Resort deals||A good base to explore the rest of Bali.|
|Cons Kuta – Reasons to avoid Kuta||Cons Ubud – Reasons to avoid Ubud|
|Very touristy & Westernised||No beach|
|Not much Balinese culture||Traffic can make getting around Ubud very slow.|
|Less safe||Quiet nightlife|
|Pollution: Rubbish washes up on Kuta Beach in the wet season (November to March)||1.5 hours to Kuta or the airport|
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Kuta vs Ubud: Location
Where is Kuta in Bali? Kuta Beach is on Bali’s west coast and is conveniently located around 5 kilometres from Denpasar International Airport. Without traffic, the taxi ride from the airport to Kuta takes around 15 minutes.
Where is Ubud in Bali? Ubud is located 37 kilometres inland from the Airport and the trip takes around 1.5 hours by taxi. You can expect to find heavy traffic along the way, and this can slow the journey so allow plenty of time for travelling.
So, which has a better location, Kuta or Ubud? Kuta is easy to get to from the airport and has a great location on the beach, but Ubud is a good base for exploring the rest of Bali and is surrounded by serene green landscapes.
Ubud vs Kuta for Culture & Authenticity
What is Kuta like? Kuta is a resort town in Bali Indonesia with a long stretch of sand and surf, dramatic beach sunsets and an energetic party and nightclub scene. Kuta offers a Westernised version of Bali with all the services tourists need.
There are cheap touristy markets and a selection of shopping malls where you can browse for designer labels in air-conditioned comfort and eat at restaurants that cater to Western tastes and charge Western prices. Unfortunately, the town has been overdeveloped for tourism and the local culture is hard to find.
What is Ubud like? Ubud, on the other hand, is a centre for Balinese art and culture. With a Royal Palace, temples, museums and local markets, Ubud offers the authentic Balinese cultural experience that Kuta lacks.
Kuta vs Ubud for Safety
Is Ubud safe? Ubud has a friendly feel and is safe enough to visit. The locals are warm and welcoming and there’s a low crime rate in Ubud. But you may come across petty theft and scams so it’s best to always be on your guard and take care of your belongings when you’re there.
Is Kuta safe? Kuta is one of the least safe places in Bali. With its nightclub strip, Kuta has a seedy side, especially late at night. It was also the place of the Bali terrorist Bombings in 2002.
While Bali is generally a comparatively safe place to visit, nowhere is completely safe and Kuta is the place you’re most likely to be scammed or robbed in Bali. So, if you’re out alone at night take good care of yourself.
Kuta or Ubud for Nightlife
Kuta is famous for its nightclubs and is known as a party town where you can dance the night away and sleep on the beach through the day. Kuta is a popular spot with the young crowd who like to party at clubs like the Engine Room, LXXY or Bounty Discoteque to name a few.
In comparison, Ubud has a more relaxed vibe with a much quieter nightlife without the pubs and clubs of Kuta. Ubud is known for its restaurants and has a lively café scene. You can go out for a meal and a quiet drink or perhaps listen to some jazz at the Laughing Buddha Bar, but the energetic nightspots are in other parts of the island like Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu.
Ubud or Kuta for Activities
There’s a wide range of activities available in either Ubud or Kuta, but each place offers different things. The activities in Kuta are centred around the beach, shopping, and nightclubs while in Ubud, you’ll spend your time enjoying the traditional Balinese culture and the stunning landscapes that surround the town.
Whether you choose Kuta or Ubud, there is a wide selection of enjoyable activities available for your Bali vacation.
What to do in Kuta
- Beach activities like swimming, surfing and relaxing in the sun.
- Relax on a deckchair and watch a famous Bali beach sunset
- Learn to surf at Kuta Beach
- Enjoy the nightclubs and discos and dance the night away
- Spend the day shopping in air-conditioned comfort at the malls: Beachwalk, Discovery, Mal Bali Galeria, Sunset Point or Lippo Mall.
- Visit Water Bom Bali, a water park with rides and activities for the whole family
- Take a day trip to Tanah Lot or Uluwatu Temple
- Enjoy a fresh seafood meal on nearby Jimbaran Beach and watch the sunset over the surf.
- Easy access to the airport
What to do in Ubud
- Visit the Ubud Royal Palace and the Sarasvati Temple
- Watch a traditional Balinese dance and gamelan performance at the Ubud Palace.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Holy Spring temples outside Ubud such as Tirta Empul, Sebatu and the Goa Gajah Elephant Cave Temple. They’re just a few of the many beautiful Temples in Bali and Indonesia.
- Shop for clothes and souvenirs at the Ubud Art Market or at boutiques on Jalan Raya, the main street.
- Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest and meet the mischievous macaques amongst the trees and temples in the forest.
- Take a yoga class, a retreat or a yoga teacher training course at the Yoga Barn.
- Enjoy brunch at one of Ubud’s trendy cafes. My favourites are the Lazy Cats Café, Soulbites, and the Atman Café.
- Relax with a luxurious Balinese massage and Spa treatment.
- Walk along the Campuhan Ridge and enjoy beautiful scenery, rice fields and a village on the outskirts of Ubud.
- Visit several stunning waterfalls near Ubud; Tegenungan, Tukad Cepung, Kanto Lampo and the beautiful Tibumana waterfall are popular day trips from Ubud. Take your swimmers and enjoy a refreshing dip in the huge plunge pool at the base of the waterfall.
- Visit the Tegallalang Rice terraces at Ceking. Have a photo taken on the famous Bali swing and enjoy a zipline and other adventurous activities surrounded by lush green rice fields.
- Visit the famous Bali Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple and the water palace at Tirta Gangga on a day trip from Ubud
- Visit the most important temple in Bali, Besakih Mother Temple and Bali’s most beautiful UNESCO water temple, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple beside the lake in Bedegul.
- Take a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Jatiluwih Rice Terraces and stroll through the rice fields.
- Base yourself in Ubud and take a day trip to Mount Batur. Hike to the top of the mountain for stunning sunrise views. Indonesia has some incredible volcanoes including Mount Bromo on the neighbouring island of Java.
You can easily spend several days exploring Ubud. Here are some more suggestions for a fun and relaxing Ubud itinerary.
Ubud vs Kuta: When to go
Anytime is a good time to go to Bali but the dry season is the most popular time to visit. There’s less rain from April to October with July, August and December the most popular and busiest months to go to either Kuta or Ubud.
For cheaper prices, visit Bali in January or February. Accommodation and airfares are less expensive during the low season and there’s still plenty of sunshine to enjoy. But the weather tends to be stormy in the afternoons throughout the rainy season from November to March.
The storm clouds of the wet season create dramatic skies and stunning beach sunsets in Kuta, but Ubud is the best year-round destination.
So, which is better Ubud or Kuta? You can visit either Kuta or Ubud in the dry months and have a great experience, but if you visit Bali in the wet season, your beach holiday may be rained out. In wet weather, you can always head to Ubud where there are plenty of galleries, museums and temples to see on a rainy day. In the competition between Ubud vs Kuta, Ubud is the best year-round destination.
TIP: If you’re looking for the best weather for a holiday in Bali’s wet season (November to March), why not visit Thailand instead? Learn more about Bali vs Thailand and how these popular Southeast Asian destinations compare.
Kuta vs Ubud: Accommodation
Choose either Kuta or Ubud and you’ll find a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets.
Kuta is popular with the younger backpacker crowd and offers a good selection of budget hostels. There are also plenty of mid-range hotels and luxury beach resorts that are popular with couples and families.
Kuta is the place to look for accommodation deals, especially during the low season. More recently, visitors have preferred to stay in trendy Canggu or Seminyak and Kuta has been slow to recover from the Covid-19 slump. Some of the larger 4 and 5-star hotels and resorts are offering reduced prices, especially in Bali’s low season in January and February.
Ubud also has a wide range of accommodations for all budgets. There are hostels and cheaper homestays that cater for backpackers, and budget travellers and a wide selection of mid-range hotels well located in town.
Ubud also offers luxury villas overlooking rice fields on the outskirts of town. You can rent a private villa near Ubud and be surrounded by beautiful Balinese landscapes, lush green rice terraces or jungle.
The best places to stay in Ubud are near the main streets, Jalan Raya or Monkey Forest Road where there’s a good selection of cafes and restaurants a short walk away. But if you’re staying a bit out of town, there are plenty of Grab and Gojek rides available to take you wherever you want to go.
While iconic Kuta Beach is good for a beach holiday it isn’t an especially beautiful place. Kuta is overdeveloped and touristy and it can be very busy in the high season.
But you can choose either Kuta or Ubud and find a good choice of places to stay.
Winner: Ubud for scenery / Kuta for hotel deals
Where to stay in Kuta
Budget: The Interconnection Hostel is clean and well-located amidst the hustle and bustle of Kuta. Just a short walk to the beach or the mall, this hostel has a pool and gets exceptional reviews.
Mid-Range: Grandmas Plus Airport Hotel in Kuta is a safe, clean and friendly place to stay near the airport. I’ve stayed here a couple of times when I arrived late at night or had an early morning flight and there’s a pool and a restaurant on site.
Luxury: Alaya Dedaun Kuta is a 5-star luxury villa in the heart of Kuta with a superb location near the beach, shops and pubs.
Where to stay in Ubud
Budget – Lower Mid-Range: Yarama Cottages provides clean, basic accommodation in a central location near the Monkey Forest and next door to the Yoga Barn. I’ve enjoyed staying here a couple of times as this guesthouse is good value and has everything I need to be safe and comfortable as a solo traveller in Bali.
Mid-Range: Samas Cottages has a great location near the royal place. It’s a more upmarket area and very central to the main attractions in Ubud. The bungalows at Sama’s Cottages are nicely appointed with comfortable, luxurious bathrooms, and there’s a lovely pool, a beautiful tropical garden and good service. I enjoyed my stay here and can recommend it.
Luxury: Kayon Jungle Resort is a comfortable resort outside Ubud near the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. Surrounded by nature this 5-star resort gets exceptional reviews and is the perfect base to relax, soak in the beautiful Balinese landscapes and explore the island.
Final Thoughts: Which is better Ubud or Kuta?
You can choose either Kuta or Ubud and have a very different kind of vacation. If you’re looking for surfing or a beach holiday, with a party atmosphere or you want to be near the airport then Kuta is the place for you.
And if relaxing landscapes, lush green rice fields, ancient temples, yoga and luxurious spas are more your thing, then you’ll enjoy Ubud more.
Personally, I find Kuta very touristy and westernised but it’s conveniently close to the airport and the beach sunsets are lovely.
Ubud is also very busy and the traffic is awful, but I enjoy the culture, the café scene, the yoga classes and the beautiful scenery. So, I find myself returning to Ubud time and again. It’s a good central base to explore the rest of Bali.
Whether Ubud or Kuta is better is really a personal preference and spending some time in both places will provide variety and interest to your Bali vacation. You might also consider staying in Sanur or Jimbaran to be near the airport or Nusa Dua, Seminyak or Canggu for beach alternatives to Kuta.
How far is Kuta to Ubud?
Kuta to Ubud is around 34 kilometres by road and takes approximately 1.5 hours by taxi using the Ngurah Rai Bypass. Traffic delays are common so allow plenty of time to travel between Kuta and Ubud.
Is Ubud the best place to stay in Bali?
Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali and the best place to stay for Balinese art, dance, music, architecture and culture. Head to Ubud to visit Bali’s beautiful water temples, rice terraces and waterfalls. Ubud has a central location for easy access to other destinations across the island.
Is Kuta or Seminyak better?
While Kuta is the traditional surf beach holiday destination in Bali, Seminyak is a beach suburb next to Kuta and a bit more upmarket. Seminyak offers trendy beach clubs, coffee shops, a shopping mall, designer boutiques and a more expensive nightclub scene. Kuta attracts a younger crowd and backpackers love Kuta’s cheaper accommodation and energetic pubs and discos.
Which is better Ubud or Seminyak?
Ubud and Seminyak offer a different experience in Bali, so which is better is really a matter of preference. Seminyak is an upmarket destination for a beach holiday in Bali while Ubud is an inland town and a centre for Balinese art and culture.
As well as a long golden surf beach, Seminyak offers a busy nightlife with beach clubs, trendy cafes and shopping malls. A highlight of Seminyak is watching glorious Bali beach sunsets with a cocktail in your hand.
Ubud has a royal palace, beautiful temples, rice terraces and waterfalls. It’s a great place to discover traditional Balinese architecture, music and dance and the perfect base to explore the rest of the island.