The tranquil shores of Sanur are fringed by a series of coral reefs that have given safe haven to sailing boats and protected the golden-sand shores from storms for centuries. One of the oldest archaeological remains on the island can be found here, in Pura Belanjong, a temple built by the Buddhist king Adhipatih Sri Kesari Varmma -- the first in the sequence of kings and queens of the Varmadeva Dynasty -- in A.D. 914. Within this temple is a stone column crowned by a lotus cushion that bears ancient inscriptions in both old Balinese script and Kawi (similar to Sanskrit). Only partly deciphered, it is thought to refer to a military expedition against enemies in neighboring islands, perhaps Nusa Penida, or even some more distant part of the Indonesian archipelago, commemorating victory in battle. Two other similar pillar edicts have been discovered further inland near Tampaksiring and Bangli, documenting further conquests.

Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan, and Penida make up a group of three islands 20km (12 miles) off the southeast coast near Sanur and offer a sedate and peaceful alternative to the "mainland."

Of the three islands near Sanur, Lembongan is geographically closest and remains to date the only real tourist destination. Both Ceningan and Penida are largely unspoiled and for the most part unaware of the majority of developments of the 21st century. Lembongan is famed for its surf breaks and laid-back style while Ceningan and Penida are known for their nature, pristine landscapes, and traditional local life and culture. All three are famous for their world-class diving and snorkeling.