advertisement

Just a 10-minute drive from the airport, Kuta is a popular destination for budget travelers and Aussies who hop over for long weekends or holidays. Some might say that Kuta is a den of iniquity, with all the bars, drag queen shows, and Kuta cowboys waiting to find a foreign woman who will give them a taste of the good life. Kuta is not by any stretch of the imagination, the "real" Bali. Over the years, Kuta has fallen victim to rampant commercialization, which has drastically changed the environment from a small fishing village lining a pristine beach to a hopping city with blaring disco music. Kuta is really more for a younger crowd looking for action. If that describes you, then by all means stay awhile.

After World War II, Westerners and Balinese became intoxicated by the idea that Kuta could become a popular tourist destination yielding great profits for both local and foreign investors. In 1936, Bob Koke, a young Hollywood photographer and the first professional surfer in Bali, arrived with his future wife, Louise Garret. Their original plan was to paint and photograph Bali's wild natural scenery, but they became so enchanted that they decided to stay and open a small bamboo and thatch roof hotel.

By the late 1960s, Kuta became a favorite for hippies and other intrepid travelers from Australia and Europe. By the 1970s, surfers began arriving in earnest. Development continued at a slow pace until the 1980s, when numerous restaurants and hotels started going up. And by the 1990s, the environmental impact of the proliferation of businesses generated bad traffic jams, illegal immigrants from other Indonesian islands, hawkers, and serious waste management problems. The biggest burden fell on the farmers who were forced to sell their fields due to the construction of buildings that ultimately resulted in the cut-off of their water supply. Those who insisted that they wouldn't sell could no longer cultivate their crops. It was the end of an agrarian era for Kuta, which is now one of the most developed areas in Bali.