So you want to go to Bali, your excited but have no idea where to go. Bali has many different sides. This is a great thing, especially if you know a little bit before you plan, so you can arrange the most wonderful Bali trip to suit you.
So much goes into planning a Bali trip, as does for any holiday or new adventure. Everybody is after something different. Time and interests are the main two things to consider. The most important thing is to consider is what you want to take away from your trip. Do you want to taste the best food (or cook it), learn the language, be adventurous and challenge yourself, live the party life or just be in the most relaxing spot to rejuvenate and escape. Bali is definitely a place that caters to most interests.
Jimbaran Bay: One of my favorite places in Bali. This is because it is the home of Ayana. Let me tell you about about this luxurious resort…
Ayana offers a 290-room hotel and 78 private pool villas which are spread out along its 1.3 kilometer coastline. For a completely indulgent holiday, escape to the most premier villa Bali has to offer. Wine and dine at lavish restaurants and relax in the five star hotel with no schedule except your next treatment at the Thermes Marins Spa. Enjoy Bali’s only Aqua-tonic Sea Water Jet Pool, rejuvenate with a 2 hour healing journey overlooking lush gardens and coast or take advantage of the professional salon for your day to day beauty needs.
This pristine 90-hectare integrated resort has unique facilities each designed specifically for specific travelers. There are multiple activities and services that are available for your personal pleasure including golf on the hotel’s putting course, balance your bliss during Yoga Meditation or even creating your own special take-home gift at their Perfume Making Class. There are 11 swimming pools to choose from, so whether you are honeymooners seeking privacy or a family in search of some fun, Ayana exceeds expectations for all.
The rooms are priced between $360-$750 AUD per night so if this is out of your budget you don’t need to panic. You can spend the day relaxing by the infinity pool over looking the ocean by renting a day bed for as little as $20 AUD. You will be offered complimentary sun glass cleaning services, cold towels to refresh and an abundance of attentive service. As the sun starts to set, head down the resorts famous Rock Bar via Ayana’s dramatic cliff side lift. Featuring a glamorous sunset vibe with views over the Indian Ocean you can listen to premier international DJs play from a custom DJ booth carved directly into the cliff face. Bare in mind that there is sometimes a queue for the lift down.
My favorite beaches around Uluwatu include Bingin, Padang Padang and the beaches at Karma Kendara Beach Club and Sundays Beach Club. These beaches can be reached easily from Uluwatu and Jimbaran within 15 – 30 minutes, or from the Seminyak region within 45-60 minutes, as always in Bali, depending on traffic.
We spent a full day at Sunday’s Beach Club on our last Balinese adventure and had the most wonderful time. Cocktails, massage, ice cream and paddle boarding with beautiful views over the white sand and calm ocean. If gorgeous beaches are what you are looking for then head in this direction- not to Kuta! Uluwatu is also famous for some of the best surf that the area has to offer. Take a lesson or simply soak in the scenery and watch the professionals surf the waves.
Single Finn, located on the majestical cliffs of Uluwatu is nestled neatly just above the warungs and just below the beautiful Blue Point Hotel. Enjoy a Bintang while watching the surfers break the waves as the sun starts to set. This is an ideal stop off on the way back to your hotel after a day at Sunday’s Beach Club. The views are spectacular and you really feel that holiday vibe. They open daily from 10am till 10pm, on Wednesday’s they have an acoustic artist with a DJ that goes on from sunset till midnight and on Sunday’s they boast one of the islands best Sunday Session’s which goes on till 1am.
Another favourite is Pandawa beach which is only a 10 minute drive from Nusa Dua and easily reached from Uluwatu and Jimbaran within 20 – 30 minutes.
Ubud is known as the cultural heart of Bali. Here, you often see traditional Balinese ceremonies. Having said that, you can see Balinese culture almost everywhere you go in Bali. There are also many temples to visit, including Uluwatu Temple and Tanah Lot. When visiting temples, it is essential that your shoulders covered so take a sarong along with you. Lots of people fall head over heels for Ubud’s yoga-healthy living-new age vibes, so if you are into clean eating and mediation then this is the place for you. One thing that can’t be denied is the town’s beauty. It’s surrounded by lush jungle and rice paddies, and there are ceremonies almost every day. The name itself means medicine and as such the town has become a magnet for not only Balinese healers, but also Western alterative health practitioners of every kind – something that was only exacerbated by the book and film Eat, Pray, Love. I actually met the famous ‘Medicine Man’ Ketut Liyer on my first trip to Bali a few years back and felt absolutely blessed to be in his presence, along with feeling blessed with the predictions that he made for my future. You won’t find any beaches in Ubud however there are plenty of beautiful fresh waterfalls.
Central Ubud is made up of a very busy one-way system, lined with shops and restaurants. At one corner is the Monkey Forest, and at the other end the Royal Palace and Market. Along this circuit and the roads that run off of it/parallel to it is where you’ll find most of the town’s best restaurants. The two main roads are called Hanuman and Monkey Forest Road. The Monkey forest is a great adventure, they are very tame and will often come and sit with you. Don’t be surprised if you see the odd cheeky monkey roaming around the streets outside of the forest itself.
One of my favourite luxuries in Ubud is a visit to a spa. There are plenty to choose from, ranging from dirt cheap (and not so good quality) to the ultimate luxury. We opted for the mid-range, with our favorite being Sang Spa 2 which offers a dose of luxury at reasonable prices. If a massage is all you’re after and you’re not bothered about all the extra touches then Golden Hands is a fantastic no-frills option in a tiny shop on Jalen Kajeng.
Water plays a central part in Balinese spiritual life and people travel from all over the island to visit Tampak Siring, one of Bali’s biggest water temples. The centerpiece of the temple complex is a series of fountains where you can be cleansed. There are guides on hand to run you through the ritual. Although the temple is popular with tourists, the number of Balinese people far outweigh the foreigners. It’s about 45 minutes from Ubud. You can get a private taxi or hire a scooter for next to nothing.
Ubud is a yoga capital, attracting teachers and retreat goers from all around the world. The biggest and most popular centre is the Yoga Barn, which offers a full schedule of different styles from morning until night. Radiantly Alive, Taksu and Intuitive Flow are also popular.
There is no end of therapies to try in Ubud, from acupuncture to crystal healing to family constellation therapy. The best way to find things is to take a look at one of the many noticeboards in town. The best ones are outside Bali Budda and Atman.
Ubud is well known in Bali for staging some of the island’s most elaborate ceremonies, the king of which is the cremation. Although it sounds like it would be a private affair, the entire village, tourists included, are invited.
Ubud is by far one of the cheaper areas of Bali to shop. There are lots of shops and stalls to pick up handmade crafts and souvenirs. It is famous for its wood carver artisans so if you are anything like me and love to shop for home wear then you will be in your absolute element. Unfortunately new bedroom suits wont fit in your suitcase. That being said, you will still have fun mooching around and if you completely fall in love with some furniture there are international freight options available.
Kuta is located about 10 – 15 mins from Densepar Airport on Bali’s west coast. Arguably, it’s Bali’s most known destination. It definitely attracts the tourists, but this spoils the Bali experience a little. Kuta is party central and popular with backpackers.
The area is full of markets and the local shops are quite pushy. Everyone you walk past tries to sell you something whether you look interested or not. So be prepared! It can get full on, but its something I personally needed to experience as we wanted to see all of Bali. There are lots of dining, accommodation and activity options. There is plenty of nightlife and cheap drink special so if you are planning on hitting the nightlife then this is where you want to be. I have stayed in Kuta before, and thoroughly enjoyed it for the party scene however we did have a few big day trips away from the madness.
Kuta is great for budget/backpacking accommodation but if you are looking for a more laid back trip then you could take a day trip over rather than basing your holiday there. Being one of the most popular areas for travellers to choose to stay, here is some idea of the distance between other areas I have mentioned in my blog.
- Legian and Seminyak are right next door, you can even walk (although walking to Seminyak might take and hour or more)
- Jimbaran is 30 mins south (depending on traffic)
- Uluwatu is 45 mins south (depending on traffic)
- Ubud is about 1.5 hours away
Seminyak is absolutely fabulous for shopping. There are some beautiful boutique stores which you need to allocate at least one full day to tackle. Don’t expect the clothes to be cheap as you will pay similar prices to boutique shops anywhere else around the world. I found the clothing to be similar pricing as Australia. Seminyak is known as one of the more upper class areas in Bali, with nice restaurants, bars and shopping however the beach there isn’t all that flash. You can enjoy a nice cocktail while seated on the colorful beanbags at a nice beach but don’t expect the beauty that Uluwatu beaches have to offer. The vibe here is still really cool though. Whether you choose to stay in Seminyak or just come over for the day, Potato Head is one of the hippest spots in Bali. I’m a sucker for a good pool party during the day at the weekends really go off here. Enjoy cocktails and a shisha at the swim up bar or relax on one of the day beds while having lunch just steps away from the ocean. I wouldn’t recommend riding a scooter over there as there probably won’t be much chance in riding it back! A trip to Bali isn’t complete without a trip to Potato Head on a Saturday or Sunday!
Bargain – Nothing is ever at face value in Indonesia. Bargain hard and bargain often. Don’t ever pay the first price you were quoted
Scooter Hire – Always do a through check with your hire company and mutually agree on any scratches and dents prior to your use. I have heard some horror stories of people being ripped of for previous damage.
Accommodation- Unless you are going for 5* resort style accommodation, check out privately renting a villa for a cheaper rate. Air BnB and Flipkey are some of my favorite sites to go through. Some villa rentals can organise a personal chef, transportation and tours too.
Having been to Bali on three occasions, this is my ideal itinerary for my next trip:
3 days in Semininyak to relax after my flight, shop and a short taxi ride to wander around Kuta.
4 days in Uluwatu so hang out at my favorite Balinese beaches and a day trip to Jimbaran bay to hang out at Ayna and the Rock bar.
3 days in Ubud to explore the waterfalls and take advantage of some health food and rejuvenation.
If you have longer than a week in Bali then I would recommend heading over the Lombok and Gilli Trawangan, which is a completely different experience altogether. In my opinion it would be a shame to go all the way to Indonesia and miss out on this little piece of paradise. You can read my blog on Lombok and Gilli Trawangan HERE.