Take a 30-minute drive southward from Lombok International Airport and you’d find yourself in a beach paradise called Mandalika. Cruise through the long stretch of beautiful white sandy beach along the south coast of Lombok Island and stumble upon the breathtaking view of an endless horizon.
Unlike the over-commercialised Bali, Mandalika is a 1,250-hectare sanctuary with luxurious resorts, golf courses, spas and an abundance of nature. Once a surfers’ best-kept secret, Mandalika — also dubbed the ‘new Bali’ — is an emerging destination thanks to the Indonesian government’s massive investments in tourism development.
However, it is not just all about its geographical attractions — Mandalika is also known for its vibrant bars and nightclubs, exhilarating racing circuits and a myriad of water activities. There will also be a Moto GP scheduled in the island by 2021.
What to do
Mandalika is home to some of Indonesia’s most beautiful white-sand beaches including Tanjung Aan, Serenting, Gerupuk and Seger Beach — each offering something different for visitors to enjoy and experience.
The main beach is Mandalika’s Kuta Beach that spans over 7km and it is where all the major activities take place — swimming, wake boarding and all sorts of fun water sports. If you’re one who prefers a peaceful and serene setting, head down to Serenting Beach.
Gerupuk Beach on the other hand is perfect for fishing, swimming and surfing — especially loved for its challenging waves. You can also hike the hills to check out Mandalika from a different vantage point. Head over to Merese Hill for a much more challenging yet rewarding trail especially during sunrise (the sunset crowd may be a little too much for most people). Start your expedition at about 4.00am and the morning light will leave you holding your breath as you gaze into the azure Indian Ocean.
But if you have time for only one beach, we’d recommend going to Seger Beach for the best of both worlds — marvel the gorgeous natural phenomenon and immerse in the one of a kind cultural experience. The vibrant Bau Nyale Festival is held annually on the last week of February, when people flock to catch the appearance of Nyale sea worms in the first light of day. It is said that a successful catch promises good fortune, but the festival is not just about scooping some sea worms out of the water. The weeklong festivity also includes surfing competitions, creative dialogues, a culinary expo and a photography contest.
While you’re at Seger Beach, look for Princess Mandalika — a local legend in Lombok that is perpetualised in a form of a statue along the beach.
What to eat
When in Mandalika, it is mandatory to try the food of the Sasak tribe — the indigenous people that make up 85 percent of the total population in the island. Fiery sambal and skewered grilled beef cubes (satay rembiga) are as easily accessible as mie bakso and babi guling in Bali. But try something more local like bebalung (beef or mutton soup) as well as the sayur nangka (jackfruit curry similar to the ones found in Malay cooking).
One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of food stalls and restaurants in the heart of Kuta Beach. Kemangi Restaurant offers a menu that combines Western and Asian flavours using locally-grown and imported ingredients. Try also Kemangi’s cocktails that are concocted using local herbs and tropical fruits.
If healthy and fresh is the name of the game, head over to Kenza for a change of scenery. The relaxing interiors is paired with soothing pastels and textures of wood and bamboo. Order anything from superfood smoothies to acai bowls that are perfect for your IG feed. Other cafes with a similar concept include Café Fin and Terra — both offering vegan and plant-based options as well.
Where to stay
The are plenty of hotels and resorts to choose from in Mandalika. The Novotel Lombok is one of the more luxurious options, and is strategically located right where the busiest part of the city is. The resort is accented with traditional Sasak-style rooms and private pool villas. Enjoy the lush tropical gardens as you stroll down the beach-fronting resort overlooking the turquoise bay.
Slight north from Kuta Beach is Origin Lombok, a gorgeous boutique-style resort that features an all-white architecture amidst the lush tropics. We’d say check in here on the last night of your stay to simply experience the art of doing nothing — soak in the sun, lie by the pool and sip a cocktail (or two) all day long.
If you’re travelling in a large group, book a luxury stay at Villa Sorgas that’s located between Tanjung Aan and Gerupuk Beach. The hillside villa has an infinity pool that doubles as the perfect spot to witness both sunset and sunrise — promising you an unforgettable stay that’s truly sublime.
Take a direct flight to Lombok International Airport and it’s a mere 30-minute drive to Mandalika’s Kuta Beach. You can also take a ferry from Bali, from Padang Bai Harbour to Lembar Harbour in Lombok. From there, you can hop on a bus or taxi that will take you two to three hours to Mandalika.