BALI : WHERE TO GO ON THIS MAGICAL ISLAND? INSIDE TIPS FROM EXPATS
Beautiful Bali may only cover a distance of 5,780 kilometers squared but you’ll never run out of things to do, see and enjoy while you’re here. This small island is home to jungles, mountains, picturesque sandy beaches, active volcanoes and more.
And the fun doesn’t stop above sea level: take a dip into the waters just off the island and you’ll be treated to plenty more incredible experiences. Heading to Bali soon and not sure where to start? Read on for all of the best places to go in Bali.
Jungle-clad Ubud should definitely be one of the first places you visit when you next come to Bali. Known widely as the spiritual center of the island, Ubud is home to relaxing yoga retreats, breathtakingly beautiful restaurants set amongst rivers and rice paddies and tranquil spas.
Where to stay in Ubud
Ubud is spoilt for choice when it comes to hotels, with a large range of International brands and boutique hotels perched next to the town’s rivers and rice fields. Weda Cita is one of our favorite hotels: a stunning five star resort surrounded by lush greenery. As well as spacious, bright rooms set overlooking the hotel’s pool, it’s home to a spa and a restaurant.
Some of our other favorite hotels in Ubud include The Kayon Resort (which you may recognise for its famous multi-level infinity pool overlooking the jungle) and Pramana Watu Kurung, set within a Balinese village that’s poised above the Ayung River valley in Kedewatan.
What to do in Ubud
Ubud is famous for yoga. So you should definitely schedule a trip to The Yoga Barn while you’re here. You’ll find a huge range of classes at this picturesque spot, including multiple types of yoga as well as meditation, ecstatic dance, art, aquatic dance and more.
If you’re hoping to do some souvenir shopping, wander through the stalls at Ubud Art Market for beautiful wooden ornaments, vibrant, airy clothes, freshly rolled incense sticks and lots more.
Stretch your legs with a walk along Campuhan Ridge Walk or admire the vast green terraces of Tegalalang Rice Fields. Drive a little further north from here and you’ll come across one of the famous Bali swings, where you can snap a few photos above those very same rice paddies.
Where to eat in Ubud
Ubud’s restaurant scene offers something for everyone, no matter whether you’re searching for a vegan-friendly brunch spot or a fine dining experience. For the former, there’s nowhere better than Zest: a plant-based restaurant sat on a hill with nature flowing through its literal center.
Locavore and Mozaic are renowned for their masterful and meticulously designed dishes, fusing Indonesian culture and local ingredients with worldwide expertise. If you’re hoping for dinner with a view, check out The Sayan House: a Japanese-Latin fusion restaurant spread across multiple levels overlooking the Sayan valley down below.
Day trips from Ubud
The best day trip from Ubud is Kintamani, a beautiful town about an hour’s drive north of Ubud. Set above the clouds, Kintamani’s cafes and restaurants come with gorgeous views of nearby Mount Batur and Lake Batur. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also climb Mount Batur at sunrise to gaze down at Bali from above.
Canggu & Seminyak
Lively Canggu and Seminyak are perhaps Bali’s newest tourist hotspots and are where you’ll find most of the nightlife on the island. Filled with surfing beaches, boutique clothing stores, a worldwide array of restaurants, co-working spaces and the digital nomad crowd, Canggu and Seminyak are well worth a visit if you haven’t chosen to base yourself there during your trip to Bali.
Where to stay in Canggu and Seminyak
You’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Canggu and Seminyak to suit all options. If you’re looking for luxury, there’s nowhere better to stay in Canggu than Como Uma. With its own spa and a large pool overlooking Echo Beach, this premium hotel is well located for exploration yet offers all the peace and tranquility you’ll appreciate after a long day of seeing the sights.
Down in Seminyak, our favorite hotels include Alila Seminyak and W Bali. If you choose to check into the W, make sure to try the famous Sunday seafood brunch, complete with a live DJ and plenty of time to lie by the pool. Canggu and Seminyak are home to plenty of hostels if you’re traveling on a budget, including The Farm, Lay Day Surf Hostel and Dip & Doze.
What to do in Canggu and Seminyak
Canggu is all about dining, drinking, shopping, and surfing. So you’ll want to try all of the above while you’re here. Batu Bolong and Berawa Beach are two of the best places to surf and you’ll find plenty of schools here if you’re a newbie.
Wander down Batu Bolong and around Echo Beach if you’re looking to buy a new bikini or treat yourself to a new outfit. You’ll also find Love Anchor down Batu Bolong, home to endless market stalls selling trinkets, clothes, accessories and other souvenirs. Down in Seminyak you’ll find more of these shops but with a bigger focus on premium boutique stores with the price tags to match.
At around 5:30 pm each day you’ll probably want to head down to the beach to watch the sunset. There are a huge number of warungs and beach bars (including the famous La Plancha in Seminyak) or you can step things up a notch with a sunset cocktail at La Brisa.
Where to eat in Canggu and Seminyak
Where to start! You’ll find international cuisine from all over the world in both Canggu and Seminyak, no matter whether you’re in the mood for French, Italian, Middle Eastern, British or, of course, our very own Indonesian.
Some of the best restaurants in Canggu include Mason (for seafood and cocktails), Zali (in nearby Pererenan for Middle Eastern food), Hoi An (for Vietnamese food) and Tanau (for Indonesian food).
Over in Seminyak, Sangsaka is a top choice for small plate-style Indonesian food while Ling Lings is great for Korean and Japanese dining. Canggu also has a great coffee shop scene, with BGS, Revolver, Anomali (also up in Ubud) and Coffee Cartel offering up delicious blends.
Uluwatu sits on the southern tip of Bali and is famed for its magical sunsets and stunning view points facing the Indian Ocean. Visitors come here to enjoy the gorgeous white sand beaches, catch some world-record breaking waves and relax at one of the many beach clubs. There are also many cultural attractions and activities to enjoy in Uluwatu as well as a huge range of five star hotels if you’re spending a few nights or more down there.
Where to stay in Uluwatu
Uluwatu is home to a wide range of places to stay, from awe-inspiring villas with ocean views to more modest guesthouses if you’re traveling on a budget. If you’re looking for luxury, the Alila Villas Uluwatu is a great option. These five star villas are spacious and have their own private pools, set on dramatic cliff tops overlooking the ocean.
For another splurge-worthy stay, the Samabe Bali Resort & Villas is hard to beat. This 5-star resort offers private pool villas complete with breathtaking ocean views. If you’re looking for a more budget friendly stay, check out Karma Backpacker House or Sultans of Swell.
What to do in Uluwatu
No trip to Uluwatu would be complete without visiting the famed Uluwatu Temple. Perched atop a cliff that offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean, this Hindu temple is an absolute must-see. Just be sure to dress conservatively (think long pants/skirt and a modest top) while stopping by here.
You should also definitely get in the water during your time in Uluwatu – the town’s reefs create some of the best waves in all of Bali (and possibly even the world), so even if you’ve never surfed before, this is the perfect place to give it a try. There are several surf schools located right on the beach where you can rent boards and take lessons. Some of the best beaches here for surfing are Bingin and Padang Padang.
Uluwatu’s beach clubs are also definitely worth visiting. Head to Palmilla to enjoy its infinity pool overlooking Melasti beach or check out Sundays Beach Club for a little extra luxury.
Where to eat in Uluwatu
Many of Uluwatu’s best restaurants are blessed with impressive views of the nearby beaches. And you’ll find lots of delicious places to visit any time of day, no matter what you’re after.
For brunch, check out the refined yet laid-back Mana for its nourishing, flavorful menu and a picturesque location. Suka Espresso, Cashew Tree and The Loft are all brilliant choices for brunch with relaxing settings and a huge range of dishes to suit all tastes.
For dinner, head to Rolling Fork for incredible Italian food and live music or Ours for a versatile menu and lively, buzzing atmosphere. Looking for something a little fancier? Check out some of Uluwatu’s top hotel restaurants like Sangkar at Bulgari Resort Bali or The Warung at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
The Nusa Islands
Love the charm and nature of Bali but would prefer a little more tranquility? Hop on a 30 minute boat from Bali’s east coast and you’ll find yourself on the Nusa Islands. Made up of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, The Nusa Islands are beautifully peaceful and a popular destination for tourists looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bali’s more crowded areas.
The Nusas offer travelers plenty of opportunity for relaxation or adventure, with white sand beaches, crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling and diving, temples, cliffside viewpoints, and much more. These secluded islands provide breathtaking scenery and are a perfect escape for a few days.
What to do in the Nusa Islands
Swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and scuba diving are some of the most popular activities here, as well as simply driving around the islands and checking out the gorgeous beaches and viewpoints throughout. Nusa Lembongan is the most popular of the Nusa Islands, home to a number of beaches, including Mushroom Bay and Dream Beach.
There are also several coral reefs around the island that are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Here, you can snorkel or scuba dive with manta rays and sea turtles with plenty of dive shops to choose from.
Admire the crashing waves from Devil’s Tear and drive over the Yellow Bridge to neighboring Nusa Ceningan. Here, you can check out The Blue Lagoon, sip Bintangs or cocktails overlooking the water or cliff jump into the waters below. Over on Nusa Penida, you should visit Diamond Beach, Kelingking beach, the Teletubbies Hill and Angel’s Billabong.
Where to stay in the Nusa Islands
Despite their small size, there are lots of different places to stay in the Nusa Islands. On Lembongan, The Acala Shri Sedana is a stunning luxury hotel that overlooks the neighboring island. It has a large infinity pool and spacious rooms with individual terraces.
Over on Nusa Ceningan, the Blue Lagoon Avia Villas are beautiful one bedroom spots with private pools, only a few steps away from the crashing waves of the Blue Lagoon. For those looking to be a little closer to the water, Le Pirate’s cute and cozy beach huts are located right on the water’s edge.
On Nusa Penida, those looking to splash out should check into the stunning Adiwana Warnakali Resort. There are any number of guest houses dotted across the islands with budget friendly places to suit all tastes.
Where to eat in the Nusa Islands
You’ll find no shortage of warungs on the Nusa Islands, serving up Indonesian classics like nasi goreng and mie goreng. You’ll also find a lot of international restaurants, particularly in Nusa Lembongan. Here, check out Nick’s Place for delicious ribs, Ohana’s for all day dishes served overlooking the beach, or Ginger & Jamu for organic, healthy meals – especially brunch.
Head to new arrival The Pontoon at Lago, a floating bar with a free boat shuttle service, for cocktails in the ocean or stop by The Deck Cafe & Bar at Batu Karang Lembongan Resort & Spa on Nusa Lembongan’s main Jungut Batu bay for more delicious drinks with great views.