The ultimate guide to exploring Bali, Indonesia
Bali is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, it really is. Bali is an island that holds so many beautiful components beyond it’s wildy lush tropics and beaches. The local Balinese people are equally as treasurable and are one of the reasons that this island feels so familiar every time I step foot back onto it.
I’ve visited Bali on four separate occasions over the last 6 years and I have certainly watched word catch on and tourism increase in particular areas. I know there are so many rumours that Bali has been ‘ruined’ and that ‘it’s too touristy’ but I beg to differ.
Western culture is certainly changing things in areas like Seminyak and Canggu but the stunning roots of Balinese culture and of the islands offerings are still in abundance to find.
If you’re planning to head to Bali, take some time to explore beyond the western resorts and establishments. Speak to the locals. Go on a road trip and discover some waterfalls. It’s a beautiful beautiful island and I think it’s up to us to give back to the locals, to play part in their community and to not just take from their beautiful island.
Okay let’s get to it…
The ultimate guide to exploring Bali, Indonesia
It’s really hard to recommend a ‘single’ destination to head to in Bali, particularly as things change so quickly here in Bali. When I first explored in 2013 I fell in love with Seminyak and now I totally avoid it when exploring Bali. That view changed in 11 months and I returned rather taken aback by how much had been built and how crazy busy it was.
What I would say is, if you’re using travel blogs, make sure they are up to date… hence why I’m doing a new one now in 2020.
Each corner of Bali offers something different and I’ve been to a fair few corners now so I’m going to go through each one and tell you just what you can expect there…
Where is Bali?
Bali is one of the most popular islands in Indonesia, located in South East Asia.
How Much Money Should You Save For Bali?
Bali is definitely not as cheap as it was when I visited five years ago, but when compared to the likes of Europe and the America – life here really does come come at a fraction of the price.
Bali is definitely a great option if you are looking for a gorgeous tropical holiday, without the price tag of the Maldives.
When should you go to Bali? What’s the weather like?
In Bali you can expect a tropical warm climate all year round. Rainfall is highest (rainy season) between November and March. The most popular time and drier months to come are June to August.
Of the four times I’ve explored in Bali, three of them have been between the months of December and March, during rainy season. Should ‘rainy season’ stop you from coming? Absolutely not. It feels hotter and more tropical for sure but the rain doesn’t ‘ruin’ your holiday. Rainfall is often short, it’s sometimes heavy but it passes. It’s warm rain and the rain is the reason the island is so lush! I love the odd day here in my wooden hut where I’m reading my book to the sound of the rain. I’d say we’ve had 2 full days of rain and 7-8 overcast afternoons and showers in nearly 6 weeks!
How do you find accommodation in Bali?
Whilst Bali most certainly can be done on the cheaper side of things, there is definitely still a presence of your 5 star western resorts, should you seek them. Booking.com is always a great option to see what’s available in the area, and to give you a good idea of the cheap and the luxury options available.
If you’re looking for some super unique and gorgeous experiences in Bali, the Airbnb options there are out of this world. Split the cost of a villa between you and your friends and it works out a similar cost to that of a hostel. The value for money is madness. A lot of the villas come with personal cooks and drivers.
If you are backpacking or you’re just an all round bargain hunter, then hostels or, more common here in Bali, Homestays are going to be your new best friend. A homestay is basically accommodation run by locals. It may be multiple villas, a b+b or even a spare room in a house. They are dotted all over the streets – you really won’t struggle to find one. A few of them are advertised on the internet but a lot of them, because they are run by locals, aren’t.
Areas in Bali to explore…
Perhaps kickstart your Bali adventure inspiration by popping over to my ’10 amazing things to do in Bali’ blog post here.
As I mentioned previously, the island is filled with so many gems beyond the ‘main area’s. So whilst the below suggestions are absolutely valid and can cater for the most beautiful of stays, I highly suggest taking time, if you have it, to explore and go beyond the resorts whilst on the island.
Ubud is known as the cultural hub of Bali with temples, holistic centres, yoga studios and local markets on every corner of the street. With access to locally grown produce of every variety, it is here in Ubud that the vegan and raw dining culture was born. The food and drink options are incredible, as well as the options to explore the famous rice fields, the nearbyand the legendary Monkey Forest.
Check out my hike up Mt Batur here.
As a result of the tourism takeover in Seminyak, the lime light seems to have now shifted over to Canggu, or ‘the gu’ as locals call it. Canggu is the younger sibling of Seminyak, located just north of Seminyak on the west coast. Canggu is one of the hottest spots on the island with surfers and if you go – you’ll most likely end up with a cocktail or two at Old Man’s as you watch the sun descend beyond the horizon.
Considered one of the sleepier towns and host to many family orientated hotels, Sanur tends to be the underdog with young travellers. I absolutely love it here; it’s the perfect place for a more laid back Balinese experience. Plus, you are right on the gateway to the nearby islands of Nusa Archipelago, Lombok, Flores, Komodo and the Gili’s, all of which you can explore in a day trip or two.
Uluwatu is home to some of the best surf breaks in Bali and to some of the most consistent, sought after reef breaks in the world. Uluwatu is located on the south of the island on the Western cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula where you’ll also find the Pura Luhur temple and some of the most exclusive hotels and restaurants on the island.
See my complete guide to explore Uluwatu here.
Seminyak is one of the closest towns to Denpasar airport (the main airport on the island) and is home to the likes of W Hotel. There’s only a few seconds per minute where you’ll be without the sound of the taxi horns. It’s busy to say the least but the magic of the sunsets is undeniable. There are some absolutely delicious cafes and beach club vibes here too. I would suggest only staying a night or two if you decide to come here, perhaps a good place to kick start your adventure. If you’re backpacking – definitely check out my stay at Umahku Hostel.
Kuta is a pretty party orientated town. The energy centres around the Sky Garden which is a multi story club serving all-you-can-eat BBQs on the rooftop. I’m sure there are many that this would suit, but considering I had travelled from the other side of the world – I was looking for the magical, laid back island beachy vibes. Rumour has it that Kuta is the ‘Magaluf’ equivalent for Australians. Cheap flights, lots of booze and a nice climate. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Nusa Dua is an area of Bali with luxury 5* resorts that back onto the white sands of Nusa Dua beach. The hotels and restaurants are all at Western prices – even the water activities are on the pricey side.
When staying in Nusa Dua, the best sunset is viewed at Jimbaran Beach where the sun sets into the sea (it doesn’t at Nusa as the coast is facing East). Jimbaran is worth a visit in itself. It’s known as the place to get your dose of fresh fish on the island. Kick back in one of the beach front restaurants here for sunset dins.
I haven’t actually explored much of the East, but no doubt at some point I will return to Bali and when I do, a road-trip up the east coast is at the top of my list. There are some gorgeous temples located up the coast alongside rice paddies spilling over countryside left, right and centre. Go and check them out for me and let me know what’s good.
The first time I ever visited Bali we met a local in Kuta and persuaded him to take us to see some of Bali’s finest offerings. He took us to the very north of Bali, to Lovina, where we ate at a local warung before waking up at 4am and heading out to watch the dolphins at sunrise. It was magic.
Check out: Banjar hotsprings, Banyumala waterfall, Bedugul, Banjar, and Sekumpul waterfalls.
I recently returned to the north to experience Spa Village Tembok (see my review here) which was just so relaxed. The North is completely untouched when compared to the rest of the island so if you’re looking for a more peaceful secluded experience… this could be a good stop off for you.
Basic itineraries for Bali…
A 1 week Bali itinerary:
- Spend three days in Ubud (take one morning to hike Mt. Batur at sunrise, followed by the hot springs)
- Head to Sanur, hire a moped and float around the east coast for a couple of days. Serangen is an awesome spot to check out if you want to dive into the local culture.
- Get a boat over to the Nusa archipelago and kick back and relax in paradise for two or three days.
A 2 week Bali itinerary:
- Spend four days in Ubud (take one morning to hike Mt. Batur at sunrise, followed by the hot springs)
- Take a day trip to Uluwatu or Canggu and learn how to surf!
- Hire a moped and float around the east and north coast for a few days. Check out the dolphins in Lovina! Serangen is also an awesome spot to check out if you want to dive into the local culture.
- Get a boat over to the Nusa archipelago and Gili Islands and kick back and relax in paradise for three days.
- Spend your last few days on Lombok.
My top tips and travel hacks for Bali…
There are certainly some things worth knowing before heading out on your adventure to this Indonesian paradise. For example: Bali Belly. Bali belly is an unpleasant reaction a lot of international guests have to the local water here on the island. It is advised to not drink from the taps here but sometimes we accidentally do or food becomes contaminated with traces of it and we get a poorly tummy. I’ve had it twice. Not fun.
There are many top tips I have to share with you for your adventure in Bali…
Have you been to Bali?
What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know!
Love as always + happy adventuring,
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