Planning a family trip to Indonesia and can’t decide between Bali and Lombok? We’ve got you covered! In this blog post, we’ll compare both destinations and help you make an informed decision on where to go. Over the last 20 or so years, we have made several visits to Bali and more recently visited Lombok in 2019 and again in 2023. Both islands have amazing things about them so let’s look at Bali vs Lombok in more detail.
How to get there
Luckily, Bali and Lombok are next door neighbours. You can fly direct from most Asia cities, with both Bali and Lombok having an international airport. It’s also really easy to travel between the two, with a choice of flights or lots of ferry options.
Around Asia we use 12go.com to check out our transport options.
Places to Go
Bali, known as the “Island of the Gods,” offers something for every type of traveller. From the bustling streets of Kuta to the serene rice terraces of Ubud, you will find anything you need here. This also means that every type of traveller comes here.
Lombok, on the other hand, is less developed and offers a more laid-back experience. It has been described as the Bali from 20 years ago and you will not find the crowds here (except for at the Moto GP sessions)!
- Lombok: Indonesia’s Paradise for Family Travel
- Going to the Gili’s: the best bits with kids
- Bali with kids? The best 7-day Ubud itinerary for families
Kuta, Bali vs Kuta, Lombok
Just to add some confusion, both Bali and Lombok have a Kuta.
Kuta, Bali: Known as the party side of Bali, Kuta is a surfing haven and a buzzing hub of activity. The nightlife in Kuta is legendary, with bars, clubs, and beach parties keeping the energy alive until the early hours. If you’re a market enthusiast, Kuta offers bustling markets where you can haggle for Balinese souvenirs with shopping malls alongside it. With 5 miles of beach, it’s a great spot for sunbathing, swimming and surfers for all levels.
Kuta, Lombok: Now, let’s shift gears to Kuta in Lombok. It’s like Bali’s laid-back cousin. Here, the pace is slower, and the atmosphere is more relaxed. Once a sleepy fishing village, Kuta Lombok has transformed into a tourist hub, attracting surfers, backpackers, and families. With small boutique shops and cool cafes, there area is definitely becoming more popular and is the best place for bars and nightlife, but not on the scale of Kuta, Bali.
Our verdict: I would choose Kuta Lombok, with a slower pace and relaxed vibes over its congested neighbour.
Rice fields Bali vs Rice fields Lombok
Bali is famous for its iconic Tegallalang rice terraces in Ubud. They are beautifully crafted. The rice fields in Bali hold cultural significance, often tied to traditional irrigation systems called “Subak.” Balinese rice paddies are not just agricultural landscapes but also spiritual and cultural symbols. Get there early to beat the crowds.
Tetebatu Rice fields:
Tetebatu, is known for its stunning rice terraces against the backdrop of Mount Rinjani. The landscapes here are very peaceful and demonstrate the traditional Sasak Farming Traditions.
Our verdict: That’s a tough one, we loved wandering the empty terraces in Lombok but Bali wins this one. Offering something for everyone, near Ubud, and beyond.
Bali Beaches or Lombok beaches
Bali is famous for its stunning beaches, with something to suit every taste. From the popular tourist spots like Kuta and Seminyak to the hidden gems like Bingin and Balangan, you’ll find crystal-clear waters and golden sands.
Lombok, on the other hand, offers a more untouched and secluded beach experience. The Gili Islands are known for their white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, perfect for snorkeling and diving. We loved the empty stretches of white sand on Lombok, especially around Kuta on the south coast.
- Energetic atmosphere.
- Ideal for surfing.
- Lively nightlife.
- Upscale ambiance.
- Chic beach clubs and resorts.
- Pristine, white sandy beaches.
- Hub for water sports and luxury resorts.
- Relaxed ambiance.
- Famous for seafood dining on the beach.
Uluwatu and Padang Padang:
- Stunning cliffs.
- World-class surf breaks.
Kuta Beach, Lombok:
- Laid-back atmosphere.
- Uncrowded waves, suitable for beginners.
- Crescent-shaped bay.
- Calm waters, perfect for swimming.
- Pristine white sands.
- Scenic landscape for tranquility.
- Picturesque beaches.
- Coral reefs for snorkeling and diving.
Our verdict: This round goes to Lombok, the beaches are more scenic, quieter and less developed.
Things to Do in Bali vs Lombok
Both Bali and Lombok offer a huge range of activities; something for nature lovers, adrenaline junkies or those seeking a more cultural experience.
Waterfalls in Bali Vs Waterfalls in Lombok
Bali Waterfalls: Bali has no shortage of stunning waterfalls. With so many, they are also easily accessible. Most are maintained by locals and charge a small fee to help with maintenance.
Lombok Waterfalls: Lombok has some absolutely stunning waterfalls, the big difference here is they are not as easy to reach. But, they are worth the effort to get there and you get to trek through vibrant, lush, green landscapes.
Our verdict: I do love a challenge, but having so many waterfalls in Bali within a short distance and with facilities when needed gives this round to Bali
Climbing volcanoes in Lombok vs Bali
Lombok – Gunung Rinjani:
In Lombok, Gunung Rinjani is Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, is a more demanding hike over 2-3 days. The views from the summit are even more spectacular than those of Mount Batur, and the challenge makes this climb less popular.
Bali – Mount Batur:
Mount Batur is an active volcano and is one of the most popular tourist activities offering stunning views. With a moderate climb, you can head up in the early hours for sunrise views. But with it being so popular, expect crowds, and don’t forget about the tour guides who will be working hard to get your business, whether you want it or not.
Our verdict: From a travel with kids perspective, Bali’s volcano hike is more achievable but the crowds would definitely put me off.
Surfing in Bali Vs Lombok
Surfing in Bali and Lombok offers different experiences for surfers. Bali is renowned as a surfer’s paradise, with world-class breaks like Uluwatu and Padang Padang but waves in Lombok are less crowded and offer a more laid-back atmosphere.
Surfing in Bali
Bali has spots for all skill levels; Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak have beginner-friendly waves, while Uluwatu and Padang Padang challenge advanced surfers. The Bukit Peninsula and the southwestern coast offer diverse breaks. Bali lives and breathes surf culture, with surf schools, rentals, and beach cafes.
Surfing in Lombok
Lombok provides a quieter surfing experience with beginners trying the gentle waves at Selong Belanak, while experienced ones can tackle spots like Desert Point and Gerupuk. Lombok’s southern coast has various surf spots, and the overall atmosphere is more peaceful compared to Bali.
Our verdict: Learning to surf with kids is far less stressful if the beach is quieter so I give this round to Lombok.
What to eat in Bali vs Lombok
Balinese cuisine reflects the island’s rich cultural heritage, with influences of Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese flavours, combined with its fresh ingredients, aromatic spices, and unique cooking techniques. You can also find your smoothie bowls, vegan dishes and health food easily in Bali.
Food to try in Bali
Nasi Campur Bali: Iconic Balinese dish with steamed rice, usually grilled meat, veggies and sambal (spicy condiment).
Babi Guling: Succulent roast suckling pig, a Balinese delicacy prepared over an open fire.
Sate Lilit: Made with minced meat, coconut milk, and spices and served with spicy peanut sauce.
Lombok cuisine is relies on chili peppers and other hot spices, creating a bolder and more intense flavor profile compared to its Balinese counterpart. Lombok actually means Chili in Bahasa Indonesian. Food is often simpler but packed with flavour.
Food to try in Lombok
- Ayam taliwang: Spicy grilled chicken dish, marinated in a blend of turmeric, lemongrass, and chili peppers.
- Pedas sambel: Fiery sambal is a staple of Lombok cuisine, made with a blend of chili peppers, garlic, shallots, and other spices.
- Sate kebo: Grilled beef satay.
- Rujak gobet: Spicy salad with shredded vegetables, herbs, and bean sprouts, in a tangy and spicy dressing.
Our verdict: Bali! So many options to please the whole family.
Culture in Bali vs Lombok
Both Bali and Lombok have a rich cultural heritage and are unique in their ways.
Unique in Indonesia, Bali is predominantly Hindu, and you’ll find temples and religious ceremonies throughout the island. The Balinese religion is evident in almost every part of daily Balinese life and it is a beautiful things to see. The Balinese people are known for their warm hospitality and artistic traditions, such as wood carving and painting. In Bali, immerse yourself in the local culture by attending traditional dance performances or taking a cooking class.
Being traditionally Muslim, Lombok also known as the ‘land of a thousand mosques’ has a very different feel to Bali. With the call to prayer ringing throughout the island, there is a very different feel to the island. The locals are incredibly friendly and welcoming, making you feel right at home. With a rich tradition of weaving, you can visit local Sasak villages to watch the process.
Our verdict:I just love the balinese offerings, colours, ceremonies and temples so another point to Bali.
Costs of Bali vs Lombok
When it comes to costs, Lombok is generally more budget-friendly compared to Bali. Accommodation, food, and transportation tend to be cheaper in Lombok, making it a good option for families on a tight budget. However, Bali offers a wider range of luxury resorts and high-end dining options for those looking to splurge.
Bali is best for you if…
- You enjoy cultural experiences.
- You don’t mind crowds.
- Surfing or beach activities are on your must-do list.
- Lively nightlife and beach clubs appeal to your social side.
- A range of food options, from local street food to upscale restaurants with a range of cuisines
- You appreciate a mix of relaxation and adventure in a tropical setting.
- Being part of a bustling and energetic atmosphere is your preferred travel experience.
Lombok is best for you if…
- You want a quieter destination.
- Exploring untouched and pristine landscapes is a priority.
- You like quiet, laid-back beach towns.
- You enjoy uncrowded surf breaks, suitable for various skill levels.
- Diving or snorkeling in clear waters around coral reefs interests you.
- You prefer a more relaxed and authentic Indonesian cultural experience.
- You are looking for a quieter, off-the-beaten-path destination.
Our final verdict
This isn’t an easy decision. Something about Bali has pulled us back again and again. Life is Bali can be very easy. There are a ton of activties, food is great and it’s all relatively budget friendly. And they are just some of the reasons that millions of tourists flock to Bali everywhere. For us, I think that swerves our vote to Lombok. The beaches are beautiful and quiet, the people are friendly, the nature is stunning and it offers so many similar things to Bali…but without the crowds.
So, do you agree? Lombok or Bali? What would you choose?
Meet the author
Lisa is the founder of Boston Tribe Travels. She has lived and travelled abroad for the last 15 years, visited more than 30 countries and has done most of that with her husband and two children. As a full time travel family, they like to travel slow, worldschool and seek new adventures. From living in Borneo for 5 years to backpacking South America, Lisa shares a wealth of travel experience to empower more families to travel and learn together.