Bali has really surfaced in the 21st century as a popular digital nomad destination. With dozens of towns and villages to visit, Sanur is a fantastic choice for those living the digital nomad lifestyle, thanks to its many beautiful beaches and fast internet (for Bali).
Every year the number of travelers in Bali goes up, wishing to take advantage of the gorgeous landscapes, low living costs, easy-going lifestyle, lovely climate, amazing food and unique culture. For those who decide to stay longer than a few months, to call Bali their home, one of the best options is Sanur, on the East side of the ‘Island of the Gods’.
The incredible sunsets over placid, azure seas are definitely a huge draw. Especially picturesque thanks to the colourful fishing boats that dot the coastline. Long, golden sandy beaches and peaceful rice fields abound. Yet aside from all this natural beauty, which is uniquely vibrant and colorful in Bali, in recent years there’s been a number of developments allowing thousands of location-independent workers to settle in Sanur.
WiFi – The Most Important Thing
One of the most important requirements for digital nomads is internet speed. Like most countries in SouthEast Asia (with the notable exception of Singapore, and some parts of Thailand) the internet speeds are not particularly amazing. Blackouts occur, as well as sudden clogs when there are too many people connecting at the same time. Suffice to say, it’s not the most reliable connection or speed out there, but it will get the job done.
One recommendation we can’t emphasise enough is to obtain a SIM card as soon as you arrive in Bali. You can get them at the airport, or once you’re in Sanur there are multiple street shops, supermarkets and retail stores for telecoms where you can get one. We recommend Telkomsel, as it’s the largest telecommunications company in Indonesia, and will give you the best connection overall (in years it’s never failed me).
There are of course many other options, which you can explore here. In any case, the internet is generally fast and reliable enough in most cafés and bigger hotels. If you’re staying in a villa, cottage or small resort, it’s better to double check online reviews from websites like Agoda or Booking.com, to see if your accommodation has good internet. For the times it’s not working, or you’re out on the beach, your SIM card will do the trick.
Another choice to get the best connections is to work from a coworking space. There are many of these in Bali, and more have been popping up in Sanur in recent times. From upbeat, hipster places like Liv.it, to franchises opening up in Sanur like CoHive, and coworking spaces catering more to locals (like Kumpul Coworking Space and Rumah Sanur), every year there are a few more choices, to find the perfect one for you.
At the Genius Café Sanur, located on a peaceful corner of the town, right on the beach, you can get the best of a coworking space — fast internet, friendly service and cheap, flexible memberships — as well as amazing food and interesting entrepreneurial events.
You can work from the restaurant area, which serves innovative drinks and organic, mostly-plant based dishes, or chill by the beach just outside. Either way, you can connect to the world (or the digital nomads next to you) as you work on your business from paradise. It’s relatively quiet, except for a few big parties happening each month.
Plus, you can see why the Genius Café is in the top 3 cafés and spaces in all of Sanur, thanks to its incredibly friendly staff, as well as weekly, monthly and yearly events. There are weekly skill-shares, movie nights, ‘trash hero’ and ‘jazz on the beach’ days, as well as Startup Grinds — which are monthly spotlights on successful entrepreneurs — so that you have plenty to enjoy at the beach, as you learn and help the environment.
Things to Do in Sanur
In terms of overall busyness, Sanur was actually one of the first real developed areas in Bali, as tourists began flocking to the island. With many tourists now spread out in other places like Canggu, Kuta and Ubud, Sanur has a much more relaxed vibe now. It feels more local, too. At the same time, it has some excellent infrastructure, cheap and luxury accommodation at very affordable prices, as well as a fantastic culinary scene to try out.
Sanur can indeed feel sometimes quiet, despite the large amount of people living there. This is because of its very long beaches, which stretch for over 6 kilometers. They’re not particularly big waves, if any, so Sanur is one of the best places in Bali to take up a bunch of water sports, like windsurfing, parasailing, jet ski, glass bottom boat, banana boat, water skiing, coral fishing, snorkeling, dolphin watching tour and paddle boarding.
Being the coastal area of Bali’s capital (Denpasar), Sanur is pretty close to the city center, where you can do some all-day shopping in some of its biggest malls, or go to a big-screen cinema, such as at Level 21 shopping centre. It’s also one of the more family-friendly places in Bali, as well as a mecca for retirees from mostly Europe, who want to live the good life with some of the best value for their money in the entire world.
As for shopping in Sanur, there are a lot of local shops with unique designs and products, as well as international stores with more exotic fabrics and designer labels. It also wouldn’t be Bali without a few massage options, of which there are dozens. Just walking around you’ll probably find somewhere you like, but your accommodation will also be able to recommend you a massage parlor to visit, if they don’t already have one.
Day trips can range from beautiful Ubud — which is less than an hour away — to longer trips to Uluwatu, Nusa Penida or the Gili islands. Your accommodation will also be able to recommend things to do, though sometimes it’s better to book them on your own, as they may add an additional commission on top of the regular price. Checking online is always a good idea for the best prices, many of which can be haggled with tour drivers.
Transport – Bikes, Scooters & Grabs
Speaking of drivers, Sanur town is a small place, so you can get pretty much anywhere just by walking or with a bicycle. In fact, renting a bike is one of the biggest delights in Sanur, as it’s the perfect place to ride them in Bali. There is a footpath right along the beach where cyclists are allowed to ride, so you can take in the stunning scenery, undisturbed by the usually loud and dangerous road traffic, and stop anywhere you like.
For longer distances, in Sanur like in the rest of SouthEast Asia, renting a scooter is basically a must for the ultimate getting-around experience. Public transportation is virtually non-existent in Sanur. Various places rent scooters, and daily prices can range from $5 – $10 USD, while monthly prices vary from $50-100 USD/month. Make sure to only ride on the streets if you feel confident, as accidents are mostly caused by tourists.
If you’d like to avoid riding a motorbike or scooter, you can always rent a car. However, driving in Bali in general is not the best experience, as road traffic can take a surprisingly long time — another reason renting a scooter can be so useful. With that said, there’s another option which makes getting around in Sanur and Bali even simpler.
Although Uber is not currently available in SouthEast Asia — its assets were taken over by Singapore-based Grab years ago — you can still hail the aforementioned Grab in Sanur and most other Balinese cities (though not in Ubud). Using the Grab app means you will almost certainly get a cheaper, often safer, drive from A to B than with a taxi you find on the street. Bali still has a “taxi mafia” of sorts, so using Grab will get around this.
Exploring the Culinary Delights
There are multiple delicious, award-winning restaurants in Bali, as well as casual cafés for relaxing or working, and cheap ‘warungs’ for more local fare. These traditional warungs are a great choice to try authentic Balinese food, just make sure you find one that feels right, as some have a less than perfect cleanliness in the kitchen. In terms of national dishes, do try the ‘Nasi Goreng’ (classic fried rice dish), for a simple delicacy.
It’s quite fun walking around and trying different places every day, especially if you’re on a bike. This is one of the better ways to explore Sanur’s many food options, however, if you’re only there for a few days, here are some of our top recommendations for eating:
- Coco Bistro
An international, ocean-front restaurant, with a stunning view of Semawang beach. It serves a fusion-style menu, including western, Asian, Indonesian and Italian options. The cocktails are excellent and the service is friendly, for a place that gets rather busy.
A great Italian restaurant with an Italian owner and serving authentic Italian food. They make a lot of the ingredients themselves, such as cheese and pasta, while the prices have remained fairly reasonable. They also make their own gelato, which is pretty good.
- Gecko Coffee
Funky little coffee shop in Sanur, with breakfast options as well as one of the best coffees in the area. It’s also got free WiFi, making it a nice place to work when it’s quiet.
- Warung Sciue Sciue
A mix between a warung and a little Italian restaurant, they serve pizza, pasta, gnocchi and even Italian dessert classics like tiramisu for surprisingly low prices. Its owner is renowned for saying that the prices are cheap because it’s a warung, not a restaurant.
- Bread Basket
A cute, cosy bakery making great breads, such as sourdough (which is really good!), ciabatta, baguettes and pretzels. You can also make your own sandwiches for a low price, or buy the bread loafs directly from them. Salads and coffee are available, too.
- Genius Café
The Genius Café in Sanur is an experience in itself. They use fresh ingredients, superfoods, essential oils and a variety of herbs to create their dishes. With health and wellness deeply ingrained in both the food and drinks menu, which is high plant-based, it’s the perfect way to compliment its other side as an ‘Hotspot for Entrepreneurs’.
Do try the vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese, which tastes surprisingly like the real thing. The smoothies are really good, too. My favourite is the Quiet Monkey, which is made with cacao, banana, vanilla, honey and cashew milk… Yum!
You can make reservations by phone, in person or even by Facebook.
Enjoying the Chilled Vibes
There are plenty of things to do in this peaceful place for digital nomads. It’s not ideal for surfers (as there aren’t good surf breaks) or partying (as there’s basically one late-night bar), but if you’re looking for chill vibes by the beach, it can be perfect. Incredibly cheap accommodation can be had, especially in low-season, which you can search on booking websites to find out the best deals. If you’re staying longer, checking in person is better.
Aside from water sports and cycling, another thing you try in Sanur is yoga, which for many is an essential activity to do in Bali. Next to the Genius Café is a great yoga place called Power of One Oasis, where yoga lessons are taught in a gorgeous bamboo hut. You can take Hatha, Vinyasa, Vinyasa Flow and Restorative Yoga classes, either individually or in packages of 5 or 10. They even have a lovely cow, called Angelique.
Sanur is not like Kuta or Canggu, which have daily parties and dozens of bars that close late at night. It’s a more relaxing place to set up for a few weeks, or months, while you enjoy everything it has to offer. The community is quite friendly, and it only takes a few days to start recognising faces. Plus, with all of the coworking spaces opening up in recent years it’s only going to get busier, so better enjoy this calm paradise while it lasts.