Bali is an island belonging to Indonesia and one of the top holiday destinations in the world. For this reason, I was a bit skeptical about going to visit it because anything that’s rumoured for having fabulous resorts and tourists galore doesn’t check many boxes for me. (So don’t expect this write up to be an extensive list of all of the top resorts in Bali you should spend your money on.) I have to completely swallow my words though because Bali is beautiful and I now get why people go and keep going back.
There are places that are the spoilt touristy rubbish you expect from a top holiday destination. Places like Kuta are heaving with people, the beaches aren’t actually anything special and I thought the traditional Balinese culture kind of evaporated there. If you want to party and have a holiday that doesn’t do much in terms of actually sinking into the life here then it’s your spot. But Bali is a reasonably sized island, there are lots of other places to explore. One of my favourite things about this island is that its culture seeps through all of the touristy things. So yes, you’ll see a lot of the tourist traps, but you’ll also be dodging religious offerings placed through the streets. It’s a rich and vibrant culture that has managed to retain itself despite all its visitors.
Like I said, Bali is a pretty decent sized island so I’m definitely going to be heading back to some of the areas I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in, or never ventured to at all. I mean, there are 6 volcanoes on Bali that are just whispering my name – (all in good time) But for now these are a few of the things I’d really recommend.
You won’t be short on offers of a ride when you hit Bali – in fact you’ll probably get sick of being asked. There’s lots of opportunities to hop on the back of a scooter, or if you’re in a group then you can hire a driver for the day and haggle a very decent price. There are also a lot of taxis for you to flag down.
Top tip: Always jump in one that has a metre and try to make it a Bluebird taxi as they’re a really reputable chain. Unfortunately, because the rest of Bali has cottoned on to this, there are also a lot of copies of these taxis. Try to find a real one.
What to do
Bali is renowned for its surf and with good reason. The waves here can get pretty huge. Carly and I took one look at the size of them on Seminyak beach and opted to start with smaller ones. You can pretty much do it along any beach around the island and there are always many people sitting waiting to give you a lesson or even surf camps if you want to dedicate all your time to the waves.
Top tip: If you’re like me and know that big waves will almost certainly drown you, the smaller waves can be found at Kuta beach and Tuban beach. Schedule this for the morning because the swell and current can get pretty large in the afternoon.
Shop, brunch and get a caffeine hit in Seminyak. I hate shopping. Like I really really hate it, but the shops in Bali have a lot of original pieces and really beautiful things. Seminyak is a great place to start looking because there are so many shops, especially around the main square. One of the other great things about Seminyak is that it has a brilliant coffee and brunch culture, which I’m never opposed to. Queue cool coffee shops galore for your coffee addictions and insta feed.
Check out the following joints for some pretty special breakfasts and some pretty yummy coffees:
The Fat Turtle
Cafe Organic – (for the most incredible and healthy breakfast imaginable)
Explore the rice fields in Ubud
Ubud is by far my favourite spot in Bali because it’s much less touristy and absolutely gorgeous. Up here there are rice fields galore, and they are so much more beautiful than you’d think. Go up and explore the area around Cafe Organik and Cafe Pomegranate. They are both gorgeous cafes set amongst the rice fields. You’ll have to walk or jump on a scooter to them but they’re worth it for the view. On the way you’ll also pass by lots of yoga joints if you feel like finding your zen.
I know a lot of these kinds of markets can be full of rubbish, and this one certainly isn’t exempt from that comment. However, in spite of this, there are also a lot of cute and traditional things that you can pick up, all for a good haggle.
Eat Babi Guling at Ibu Oka
Babi Guling is a traditional Balinese dish and Ibu Oka is the place where all the locals go to get it. For want of a better word it is delicious and definitely worth the trip if you want to sink your teeth into some authentic, local cuisine – Yummy.
See some falls
Bali is full full full of falls. Your most difficult decision will be deciding which ones are worth the visit and let’s be honest, on an island that is this beautiful, none of them are going to disappoint. I visited the Tegenungan falls because they happened to be only a small detour from some Babi Guling and they were incredibly beautiful.
Some others that look above average are:
Blemantung – known for smelling like coffee because its hidden amongst the many coffee plantations.
Gerombong -Prepare for a bit of a hike to it but very worth the energy output.
GitGit – this one is themost well-known and popular in Bali so it might be a little busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t breathtakingly beautiful.
Don’t go to the Sacred Monkey forest
If you do want to be sucked into the most terrifying experience of your life then this is perfect, but if you happen to have a completely rational fear of monkeys much like myself then I recommend that you avoid it.
As you will probably imagine, Bali is home to more than a handful of temples and many of them are worth your time. One of my favourite things about Bali is how rich the culture is despite being a tourist hotspot. Religion is still an incredibly important of their daily routine.
Tanah Lot – If you’re looking for a temple to accompany a beautiful sunsets, then this is the one you ought to be visiting. The temple is perched offshore amidst crashing waves and is a tourist hotspot, but pretty damn gorgeous.
Besakih Temple – Located on the slopes of Mount Agung, this is the island’s most sacred and holy collection of temples and shrines.You’ll need to set aside a day if you want to explore every corner of it.
What’s Bali if you don’t make it to Potato Head?
I guess everyone that has had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful island is sure to have at least heard of Potato Head. This famous beach club is pretty much recognized world-wide as a joint not to miss in Asia.
Go to the Lembongan islands
The Lembongan islands are a trio of gorgeous islands just off the South coast of Bali. They’re far less busy and their water, for whatever reason, appears far more blue. Much like Bali, they have incredible surf and white sandy beaches for you to relax away your time.
There are plenty of things to keep you occupied for a good amount of time here, so if you wanted to skip Bali altogether, you wouldn’t be missing out on paradise, although if you have the time and the money, do both because one certainly doesn’t substitute for the other. We’re talking rowing through mangrove forests, hiking, jumping into blue lagoons. Sounds terrible doesn’t it.
This is also a great place to hire yourself a scooter and explore because all three of the islands are pretty small. You can also go across a bridge between Lembongan and Ceningan.
To reach them, you just need to jump on a boat from Sanur and most of them give you a pretty good price.
Make sure you munch on…
As mentioned above:
Babi Guling – I literally cannot stress enough how damn tasty this is.
Pisang Goreng – Fried bananas usually with chocolate, sometimes cheese as well. It’s a heart attack on a plate but technically you’re still getting one of your five a day so your parents can’t really tell you off.
Gado Gado – veggies and peanut sauce. Yes okay, fine.