Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. The island is home to religious sites such as cliffside Uluwatu Temple. To the south, the beachside city of Kuta has lively bars, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns. The island is also known for its yoga and meditation retreats.

OutUK correspondent Robin Newbold reports on the appeal and charm of this beautiful part of Asia.

We found this lush island has diversified and is appealing to a more fashionable crowd with the numerous boutiques, art galleries, some stunning restaurants and bars that have opened over the last couple of years, particularly in the Seminyak area.

It has very much thrived at the expense of Kuta, since the drop-off in the number of Australian backpackers.

A beach bum and his "woodie", one of the commonest
and most pleasant sights on Seminyak.
Photo: Robin Newbold.
Seminyak is the area that has really thrived at the expense of Kuta and the beautiful people are flocking here in their droves without a backpack to be seen, for this, without a doubt, is Louis Vuitton territory.


This being Bali, the beach is the place to be seen. On Seminyak the stretch of sand between the Oberoi Hotel and The Legian is one of the busiest but as the dimensions are so vast it never really seems crowded. The huge rollers often make it treacherous to swim but there are boogie boards (small surfboards) for hire and big "woodies" if you can handle them. If surfing is not your thing, however, just watching the procession of tan beach boys frolicking in the waves is a sport in itself.
A popular beach hangout by day and by night is the Ku de Ta restaurant and bar, serving food that's inspired by the island's seasonal produce. It has gained notoriety for itself and featured in the pages of The Times and various other style bibles. This Australian-run venue may be cool but it couldn't be more relaxed; there are even sun loungers for the totally laid back.
Bali's "beautiful people" enjoy a sundowner at
Ku de Ta restaurant & bar.
Photo: Robin Newbold.
And as the sun dips into the ocean, the candles aglow and the beach boys shower off, there's no better place to enjoy Bali's unique and magical atmosphere.


Coming from Bangkok I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Bali's gay scene but after a couple of outstanding nights, kid in a candy store wouldn't be a bad description. Situated in Jalan Dhyana Pura, Seminyak, Mixwell Gay Bar is Bali's top rated gay bar and just across the street is the axis of this fairly small but beautifully formed scene, though there are a smattering of other gay bars in the surrounding area. The boys are incredibly friendly - though some of the scene is commercial admittedly, there are plenty of genuine lads looking for fun not rupiah - and it doesn't take long to find out where people are heading onto later and where the party is.

Even in rainy season these venues were packed to the rafters with locals and tourists, particularly at the weekend. Kudos reaches a climax at midnight with a terribly amateurish cabaret show, which really sums up the very welcome lack of pretension here. The pace tends to slow between 1-2am when the more up-for-it crowd often head to uber club Double Six rather than going home. It's actually walking distance from Jalan Dhyana Pura, though taxis are very cheap if you're not sure of the way. This mixed club's open from sunset till sunrise and is the place for hardcore clubbers with the beachfront area often crowded with celebrities and models, though not always looking their best! For only a small entry fee there's also a swimming pool and bungee jumping facilities if you're looking for the ultimate come down, though the dance floor is the place to cruise those cute Balinese.

Sky Garden was once home to Club Pride, a gay club within the host 61 Legian complex, otherwise better known after its landmark rooftop venue, Sky Garden Rooftop Lounge. The club used to welcome all colors of the rainbow in an often-packed fourth floor partying hub but it still has many gay followers. The Sky Garden has just reopened after a major redevelopment, but just at the moment the SOS Rooftop Lounge & Bar, is still closed.

Bali Joe is a weekend gay bar that serves as the beacon for the LGBT community in Seminyak, Bali. Located on Jalan Camplung Tanduk, the bar is a great spot to chill out with the friendly staff and hospitable bar crew.

F Bar is only a few footsteps away from Bali Joe. F Bar, just like many of the best gay bars in Bali, comes to life near midnight and offers drag queens in parade together with male dancers with ripped abs and in the sexiest costumes you could ever imagine. Six-pack abs, scantily clad men and male dancers having a load of fun to good music.

The Potato Head Beach Club is also not exclusively gay, but your Bali experience cannot be complete without a visit to Potato Head in Oberoi. This restaurant & bar is a wonderful place to enjoy a sunset cocktail on a lounger next to the swimming pool and selection of excellent chill-out music. Located next door to the W Retreat hotel, the bar has an amazing façade constructed of old window shutters of all sorts of different colours and sizes.

Bali Boy Dancers
Dominic Alves, CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons


Gay Bali’s sauna scene used to be quite limited with just two male-only saunas on the island. Banana Spa and Elegantz Spa & Sauna which are both located in Seminyak. Banana Spa offers you an extended menu of male-to-male massage in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, and they also have a swimming pool that's open to all their clients. Elegantz is very popular for those looking to meet both locals and visitors particularly in the late afternoon. Facilities include a large steam room, plunge pool, open & private showers, private cabins, darkroom, relaxing TV lounge, large balcony/terrace and outdoor garden.

There are now other options including the Coco Grande Spa who also offer massage for men and by men only, with techniques and products that suit the male body. XXL Men Spa Bali in Kota Denpasar also offers male massage and is also busy in the late afterooon and early evening.


Situated a short cab ride away from Seminyak's nightly delights, The Legian hotel was designed in the early 1980s by one of Indonesia's leading architects, Hendra Hadiprana. You'll be hard pressed to find a more enticing setting, set in landscaped tropical gardens, with each suite offering stunning views across the Indian Ocean, this destination offers the best of Bali with all its attendant charms.
Studio Suites are spacious and comfortable, while service is friendly and efficient without being intrusive. The Legian is also walking distance from Ku de Ta, which is obviously an added draw if all the tranquillity gets too much and the section of the beach the hotel occupies is very, very popular for surfing, which makes for great eye candy! The hotel provides boards for free and a very accommodating lifeguard offers instruction.
The dreamy outlook from the pool of the stylish
Legian hotel.
Photo: Robin Newbold.
For something a little cheaper and a little gayer, though The Legian is a so-called "gay-friendly" hotel, there are several good alternatives. A particular favourite is Bali Mystique, with it's airy bungalows and pleasant beachside location. It's close to The Legian which ensures it's always busy, as does the fact that it's very reasonably priced for what is fast becoming Bali's most fashionable little corner.

Finally, there's M.A.N Resort which is an exotic boutique day club just 800 meters away from the most beautiful double-six beach and walking distance to Bali Joe and Mixwell Bar. M.A.N stands for meditation and nature. Whether it's a sunset Martini or their most popular cocktail - The Golden Shower, you can rest your body on their lounge beds, rejuvenate body and mind with a relaxing massage or have fun in their sauna, whirlpool, steam room, meditation room or foam room. It's not to be missed.

Robin Newbold is a Bangkok-based writer whose debut gay novel Vacuum-Packed is available from Amazon and can be ordered from all good bookshops. His latest is Bangkok Burning about a closeted 40-year-old man crippled by anxiety issues and an abusive marriage who finally manages to escape, running away from his lifeless existence on a smile, a whim, swapping his life in South London for the chaos of Bangkok.

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Bali Joe (Jalan Camplung Tanduk No. 8, Seminyak; T: +62 (0)361 730-931)
Bali Mystique Hotel (Jalan Petitenget 2000xx, Seminyak, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 (0)361 473-0465; Website)
Banana Spa Bali (Jl. Drupadi No.69, Seminyak, Kec. Kuta, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 853-3300-6461; Website)
Coco Grande Spa (Jl. Plawa No.37, Seminyak, Kec. Kuta, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 819-9900-3888; Website)
Double Six (Jalan Pantai, Seminyak; T: +62 (0)361 731-226)
Elegantz Spa & Sauna Bali (Jl. Gn. Tangkuban Perahu No.18, Kerobokan Kelod, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 852-3912-2444; Website)
F Bar (Jalan Camplung Tanduk, Dhyana Pura no.9, Seminyak, Kuta, Badung Regency; T: +62 (0)361 737-897; Website)
Ku de Ta (Seminyak Beach; T: +62 (0)361 736-969; Website)
M.A.N Spa (Jalan Padma Utara GANG BUJANGGA No.8, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 (0)361 846-9521; Website)
Mixwell Gay Bar (Jalan Camplung Tanduk, Dhyana Pura no.6, Seminyak; T: +62 (0)361 736-846)
Potato Head Beach Club (Desa Potato Head, Jalan Petitenget No.51B, Seminyak, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung; Website)
Sky Garden (61 Legian Complex, Jalan Raya Legian; T: +62 (0)361 755-423; Website)
SOS Rooftop Lounge & Bar (Jalan Abimanyu No.999 X, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung; T: +62 (0)361 737-773) TEMPORARILY CLOSED
The Legian (Seminyak Beach, Jalan Laksmana; T: +62 (0)361 730-623; Website)
XXL Men Spa Bali (85GM+228, Jl. Gunung Lumut No.99a, Padangsambian Klod, Kec. Denpasar Bar., Kota Denpasar; T: +62 852-3456-7602; Website)

Revised June 2024


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