Some 30 minutes from Denpasar city or 15 minutes from Ngurah Rai International Airport. Pretty much all local taxis and bemo will go to Kuta if you request to.
Coming from a long journey through Central Bali (Ubud - Pura Tirta Empul - Kintamani - Pura Besakih) with incessant torrential rain that never seemed to subside since leaving Pura Besakih, I arrived in Kuta quite late in the evening. The initial plan was to arrive well before sun down for a quick stroll and perhaps some shopping.
The tropical downpour certainly didn't help my timing, slowing down the otherwise breezy journey through Central Bali to Kuta. From Denpasar vicinity to Kuta, the traffic became considerably heavier until almost a complete standstill just before Jalan Kartika Plaza, reputably a trendy shopping and dining area.
I counted my blessing as the rain stopped. A quick window-shopping walk to look for bargains (I was looking for T-shirt souvenirs to bring back home). Words had it that the area has about similar bargain that could be found in Kintamani (read: Rp 10.000 or $1.00 per shirt) minus the relentlessly aggressive street vendors. Hopes did not spring eternal in Kuta for me. It rained cats and dogs again! I had no choice but to flag down a comfortable Blue Cab.
Nonetheless, Kuta was never kind to me. The traffic was not moving at all on the main thoroughfare of Jalan Kartika Plaza. The cab meter kept on ticking. The cab driver was a friendly lot, fortunately, just a typical Balinese would act. Apparently there was a huge shopping event at Discovery Kartika Plaza Shopping Centre. The street also boasts some fine dining restaurants. A great place to venture if it was not raining. Glamorous hotels like Kuta Paradiso, Kartika Plaza as well as Ramada Bintang Bali are located along this stretch.
The traffic only got better as we turned into Jalan Kstaria near Tuban, and eventually the 4-lane highway of Ngurah Rai Bypass which brought me safe and wet at Swiss Belhotel Bali Aga in Nusa Dua.
Great place for shopping and food. Can't comment much about night life because it is not my cup of tea. Traffic can be uncooperative in Kuta and probably best handled on foot.