The only tourist development on the south coast is Kuta, 54km from Mataram and 32km from Praya, a tiny fishing village situated behind a sweeping, white-sand beach. It’s great for a few quiet days by the sea, especially if you like wild coastal scenery and turbulent surf, but you need to have your own transport (hiring a motorbike is ideal) to reach surrounding beaches and make the most of the area. Apart from the Sunday and Wednesday markets, Kuta is a quiet and laidback place. The main road runs just inland from the beach and accommodation is spread for about 500m on the far side of the road. There are also places to stay in the village.
Kuta days revolve around the beach or pool. You can hire surfboards at Kimen Surf in the village. The only dive operator in the area, Dive Zone (w), knows of sites for all levels of experience, and arranges snorkelling trips to Gili Sudah and Gili Poh.
The glorious beaches of Seger and Tanjung Aan to the east of Kuta are, at a push, walkable, though scooters are a good idea. You could also go by bicycle, but a lot of the roads aren’t in great condition so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Past Tanjung Aan, the small fishing village of Gerupuk, just under 8km from Kuta, perches on the western shores of Gumbang Bay. There are some good surf waves here, and boatmen will ferry you out for Rp70,000 including waiting time. From Gerupuk, there are fine views across the bay to Bumbang on the eastern shore, and you can rent a canoe or motorboat to take you across.
Along the coast west of Kuta you can explore half a dozen or more of the prettiest beaches on the island. The closest is the tiny (but lovely) Are Goleng, a couple of kilometres out of Kuta, and heading west you come to Mawun, a gorgeous curve of golden sand with calm waters which are good for swimming, Tampa, Mawi (recommended for surfing) and Rowok, before reaching the small village of Selong Blanak, 15km from Kuta, from where you can cut inland to Keling and on to Praya (24km). Selong Blanak beach is well worth the distance, as there’s hardly anybody there and the white sand and gentle waves are idyllic. There’s a small shack serving refreshments behind the beach, so you can happily spend the whole day there. Take a decent road map if you’re exploring any further west from Selong Blanak and be aware that the road deteriorates badly the further west you go.