Jimbaran Seafood: Dinner on a Bali Beach

We often link to affiliate products and services that we believe will benefit our readers. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See our Disclosure page for details.
  38 Comments

The Bukit Peninsula, Bali’s southern tip, is best known for five-star luxury resorts and spas, exclusive restaurants, and picturesque Uluwatu, the Balinese sea temple at the tip of the island.

For locals and those tourists in the know, however, the area’s real draw is enjoying Jimbaran seafood on the beach.

The quiet fishing village of Jimbaran is home to some of Bali’s most exciting seafood cuisine, and nothing else on the island is quite like it.

For us, the ocean barbecue ambiance, complete with lapping tides and exceptional sunsets, is always a highlight of our visits. This is a unique opportunity to dine on the sand and to savor the experience of fire-grilled seafood, Indonesian style.

Two people walk along the beach in Jimbaran.

Warung Menega

The full parking lot is our first clue as to how popular a destination this is, as is the busy strip-mall stretch of modest warungs (cafés) that block our view of Jimbaran's beach. We are early and our dinner companions haven’t arrived yet, so there’s still time to take a walk along the water. With camera in tow, of course.

We enter a warung, jam-packed with people who are inspecting bins of freshly harvested shellfish and tanks full of assorted fish, all candidates for tonight’s dinner.

A couple of clueless tourists at the door are poring over its menu as we pass, and we shake our heads. In Jimbaran, seafood heaven comes delivered on a plate. This is not the place for a menu full of french fries and chop suey.

Behind the shellfish bins, the grill masters are sweating from the heat as they throw coconut shells into the flames. The air is full of fragrant smoke. We watch them at their work, as they baste their grill baskets and expertly turn them at just the right moment.

A cook grills seafood at a warung along Jimbaran beach

Skewers of meat being grilled at a Jimbaran beach warung

I try to get a glimpse of the fish in the tanks along the wall, but the crowds around us make it hard to get a clear view. I decide to leave that for later. it's too early to select tonight's meal victim anyway.

At the water's edge on Jimbaran beach

The white sand beach on the other side is littered with tables and buzzing with activity and we meander between the chairs and waiters to stroll to the water’s edge, where Balinese and pale-skinned tourists are sharing the waves and late afternoon sun.

A balloon vendor finds a customer, fantastic creatures arise out of the sand, and local women with kids in tow pass by, hoping to sell their typically Indonesian snack fare to hungry, budget-minded folks on the sand.

Diners on Jimbaran beach in the foreground, a golden sunset in the background.

Two balinese sculpt a fantastic creature on the beach in Jimbaran

A snack vendor opens her box of snacks for a customer.

Dinnertime

Just as we begin to consider a beachside snack, our friends arrive with parents in tow and we join them at a table. It’s nice to see Mama and Papa again. Counting the Little Guy, we are a group of seven, but the warung is set up for that. Quite a few longer banquet tables adorn the sand for larger groups like ours.

Menega Cafe, the warung where we ate dinner on Jimbaran beach.

My chair sinks into the sand as I join our friends at the table while Dan and his friend return to the warung’s tanks to select which fish we will enjoy. We all opt for the classic Indonesian dish ikan bakar. Barbecued fish is the ‘real deal’ here. Nothing can be fresher than a fish that was swimming only moments ago.

That’s fine with me; Dan knows far more about good fish than I do anyway. I turn my attention as our waiter asks about drinks. I order two large Bintangs. Bali’s beer is refreshing, dirt cheap and large enough to last us all evening.

Meanwhile life unfolds around us. People take selfies, swim, and play in the sand. The vendor’s bouquet of balloons begins to dwindle and mothers pack up their children and head home to prepare the snacks they will sell tomorrow. Farther out across Jimbaran Bay, sunlight glints as a steady stream of jets arrive and fly off to destinations unknown.

And we have nowhere to be except right here, right now. Immersed in the moment, I sigh at the luxury of it all and sink my toes into the still-warm sand beneath my chair. Dan and I toast our friends with smiles and swigs of our Bintangs.

Helium balloons backlit by the sun

A woman sells food from the bin she carries on her head.

No Indonesian meal is complete without rice. Before long our waiter arrives with plenty of it, heaped in covered baskets to keep it piping hot throughout our meal. Of course, the ubiquitous rice is accompanied by the ever-present hot sauce, sambal. I gingerly test its spiciness – some can be lethal to the tongue – and determine that it’s got a serious kick. Sambal is not for the faint of heart. Woes betide anyone who doesn’t know that Indonesian hot sauce needs to be used with discretion.

Soon more dishes appear. The steaming plates of cap cay and kangkung are fragrant with spices and garlic. Mama eyes Dan and our newly-arrived platter of grilled mahi-mahi, fragrant with herbs and the smoke of coconut husks. She’s concerned because Dan is the only bule she’s ever known who likes the cheeks and eyeballs as much as she does. Westerners usually leave those behind, but Dan knows a secret: The meat in the head is actually really sweet.

Our waiter places a final touch of bowls of citrus-laced water on our table, a visual reminder that Indonesians like to eat with their fingers. We will rinse our fingers in the water both before and after our feast.

Mama decides to offer Dan half of the head, then nods in approval when he gets every last bit of his share.

Lobster on a plate at Jimbaran beach. We recommend the fish.
Our little guy smiles and shows off his empty plate

The sun sets quickly in Bali. As the light fades, staff come to light candles for our table. The beach soon becomes dotted with hundreds of twinkling lights, joining the stars and fishing boats in the distance.

By the time our flavorful meal is finished, nothing is left but skin, bones and a very few overlooked grains of rice. We lean back in satisfaction and continue our conversation until the Little Guy’s eyes begin to droop. Even though Jimbaran warungs have a “linger longer” custom, his flagging energy is our signal that it’s time to head home.

View of candlelit tables when looking back toward Jimbaran warungs

No individual element makes eating on Jimbaran Beach impressive; it’s the package deal that holds the allure. The buzz of a few hundred candlelit conversations, the incredible spice aromas wafting out from the dozens of grills, waves crashing in the background, of course the flavor-packed food, are all part of what makes warung dining in Jimbaran so incredibly attractive.

We’ll be back.

How much does it cost to eat on Jimbaran beach?

Although prices have been climbing in recent years, eating on the beach in Jimbaran is relatively inexpensive. With a few exceptions (I'm looking at you, lobster), meals are well below the $15 mark (USD). Add a few drinks to the bill and you might spend an extra US $2-10 more.

Here are two recent menus. As a rule of thumb, 100,000 Indonesian rupiah convert to about $7.50 (February, 2016).

Cost to eat at Jimbaran beach, Bali, Indonesia
Tips on finding a good place to eat in Bali

Here is some more information to help you plan your own trip.

  • With over 40 warungs to choose from, it’s easy to become befuddled. Fortunately, they are divided among Jimbaran’s three beach areas (Kelan, Kedoganan and Muaya), so that makes it a bit easier.
  • Most warungs have similar menus. The differences lie in flavor, cost, and quality of service. Don’t be afraid to ask an experienced Jimbaran traveler or a local for their recommendation; they will happily share their favorites.
  • If you want to play it safe, head to Muaya. (We ate at Menega Café) For whatever reason, the warungs there are particularly attractive to tourists.
  • You pay for your seafood selection by kilogram. Indonesians love to barter and competition is high between cafes, so pull a staff member aside to quietly negotiate a discount. Begin by offering 50% of the asking price and haggle from there. Based on your bargaining skills you can easily land 20% or more off your seafood selection.
  • Arriving early (say 5:00pm-5:15pm) should allow you that freedom of choice. You won’t always have to make a reservation, but at peak holiday periods that is certainly the way to go. If you stay a few hours, make sure to pay your taxi driver beforehand to wait on you. It can be nightmarish trying to find one after finishing up.

Please share this story with your friends.

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

You may also like...

38 thoughts on “Jimbaran Seafood: Dinner on a Bali Beach”

    • Yes, Bali has many wonderful diving spots and once under the ocean the wild life never ceases to amaze. We enjoyed diving in Tulamben and Amed. Where is your favorite diving location?

      Reply
  1. Excellent article, Linda!
    we will be coming with my wife next year, we are looking for inspiration and found this page!
    As a fish lover, that looks like paradise! 😉
    Bob

    Reply
    • Nice of you to say, Bob, but we found something on Bali that was even more divine: diving in Tulamben, Bali. Before we began traveling we had a 90-gallon saltwater aquarium. It was fun to see so many varieties of fish that we used to have, because we’d point and say, “There’s $50, that one’s $20…” We lost all desire to own another tank, because we’ve decided that nothing can match seeing such beautiful fish in their own environment.

      Reply
  2. Incredible! As food lovers we’re always on the lookout for great international destinations aaaannndd this one pretty much takes the cake. As if it weren’t enough just to be in Bali haha!

    Reply
  3. Bali is a Wonderful Island.
    and And maybe you must visit many other island in Indonesia!

    thanks for sharing about Bali.

    Reply
  4. I haven’t been to Bali, but when I get there, I know now where we will eat. This is my kind of meal, and with so many to choose from, it could be a nightly feast. I like that the meals linger.

    Reply
    • Not being rushed out of the restaurant is a joy we had to get used to, Rhonda. We were usually in a hurry to leave in Bali, but we adjusted our attitudes once we moved to Panama. Our favorite cultures are those where you are allowed to linger and your table is yours for as long as you like. Life is to short to rush!

      Reply
  5. we ate on Jimbaram beach our honeymoon in 2003. I don’t even recall menus! I think we just walked passed vendors with fish on ice, pointed to a fish or two that we liked and to the table where we would be. There were strolling musicians doing gamalan covers of Beatles songs. It was a very memorable night. thanks for reminding me of it!

    Reply
  6. This looks terrific. Dinner on the beach so the kids can muck around. Adults can hang out an listen to the waves and drink beer. And great Indonesian food. Life doesn’t get any better I would think.

    Reply
  7. Hi Linda!
    Great post on Jimbaran. reminds me of when Hubby and I had gone to Bali for our Honeymoon. I didn’t eat as much Non-Veg especially sea food as much as I do now. After a long walk along the beach, which is so beautiful especially at night, we finally narrowed down to one restaurant. Seeing the lobster, fish, crabs etc in the tanks got me so uncomfortable, that I ended up eating only vegetarian food the entire trip! Mei Goreng, the vegetarian one, is all I ended up eating thru the trip.
    I think I need to go back now to do justice to the sea food that you get in Bali.
    Great Post
    Cheers 😀

    Reply
    • Don’t beat yourself up too much, Pooja. We’ve stopped eating shellfish; it’s full of toxins. (We learned that from keeping a 90-gallon saltwater aquarium. Did you know that invertebrates filter and store all the water’s impurities? Who would want to eat THAT?) But yeah, the regular fish has an incredible flavor and is worth trying.

      Okay, that said, I don’t blame you for eating so much mie goreng. It is fabulous, though Dan and I disagree on whether the fried egg they garnish it with is really necessary. What do you think?

      Reply
  8. Linda, my mouth was watering as I read this post. I’ve been daydreaming about Bali lately as I work away here in cold, gray Germany. Thanks for bringing some sunshine to my weekend!

    Reply
  9. I love it there – my only gripe is Australians (and both times it was) eating without their shirts – yes, you’re on the beach but it is still a restaurant – and you’re putting me off my meal….(but I guess I’m old and conservative). But food and location, sensational!

    Reply
    • No, I agree with you, Lydia. Eating al fresco shouldn’t mean that one should adopt a disrespecful attitude. I’m not fond of seeing hairy chests while I eat, either.

      Reply
  10. What a perfect setting for a restaurant! This place looks like paradise and the prices are so affordable. Your descriptive post certainly made me very hungry. You guys are so health conscious: taking a walk before sitting down for dinner. We would have probably sat at the bar, while waiting for our company , LOL. I’d love to visit Indonesia someday, especially Bali. It seems you

    Reply
    • There’s nothing wrong with that, Anda; we often do the same. I don’t know about being health conscious, though … these are pretty elementary cafes and they don’t have bars.

      Reply
  11. What a beautiful story and such a wonderful evening with you both. You certainly presented the options and ambiance accurately. In all the years we have shared our meals there, we have never had a mediocre meal. You know those Balinese smile ear to ear in seeing us enjoy the dinner. BTW the Little Guy is asking when are we going to see Aunt Linda and Uncle Dan and go out for dinner? Great memories is what it is all about! See you soon!!!

    R, V and Little Guy

    Reply
    • Those Balinese smile ear to ear a LOT, don’t they? We are so looking forward to returning to Bali and creating new memories together … though I would love to visit Malaysia and experience Legoland with my favorite Little Guy. (Okay, yeah, he’s not so little anymore.)

      L

      Reply
  12. Bali is extraordinary, indeed. We spent there few weeks driving around by scooter and trying some local food. Such an inspiring place if you want to relax & have some fun! 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

shares