I regularly receive emails from travellers asking me the top things to do on their visit to Bali. I lived in Bali for seven months and even though I was there for an extended period of time, and whilst I like to think I know a fair bit about the island, this is by no means an exhaustive list. The best way to get around Bali is by renting a car (I rented a little Suzuki Karimun very cheap for $200USD a month) or if you don’t drive then you can hire a driver for very little money. Many tourists rent bikes, although, after my bike accident I’m not going to recommend that one. Taxis are also very cheap in Bali so, whilst there’s no public transport system on Bali, you’ve got a range of options for touring the island.
Here are some of the best things to do in Bali:
1. Buy something from a Kuta Stall
Whilst many dislike the tourist trap of Kuta, with its stalls selling fake sunglasses, fake DVDs and Bintang T-shirts, it’s still an experience all the same. This bustling network of narrow streets is filled with stalls, budget hotels, cheap warungs, and bikes galore. Walk down a Kuta street and there are bikes buzzing past, cars trying to get through crowds of tourists and people trying to sell things wherever you go. Although it’s heavily built up and designed for tourism, it’s great for budget hotels, cheap surf wear and cheap food. There’s certainly something about the energy of Kuta that you shouldn’t miss out on.
2. Eat breakfast at The Tuck Shop in Seminyak
Seminyak, just north of Kuta, is the equivalent of an up-market suburb. Most of the expat community live in the trendy area of Seminyak, with its designer shops, international restaurants of every cuisine, luxury villas and its swanky bars. Most of Seminyak centres around Oberoi road, where you’ll find my favourite breakfast place, the Tuck Shop. Serving delicious smoothies, healthy salads, amazing omelettes and fresh fruit salad, the Tuck Shop was my favourite hang out in the morning. Another regular haunt of mine was Cafe Zucchini with it’s yellow and white striped canopy and pick and mix salads.
3. Have a cocktail in The Rock Bar
The Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort in Jimbaran is a stunning bar literally on the ocean, you couldn’t get any closer if you tried. A lift takes you down onto this exclusive bar perched on the rocks where you can enjoy a cocktail as the waves crash against them. It offers one of the best views of the sunset on the island, all to the sound of live jazz.
4. Go to the monkey temple in Uluwatu
The temple in Uluwatu, down in the south of the island, is home to many many wild monkeys and it’s a great spot for taking photos. Beware though, don’t wear any hats or sunglasses as they’ll steal them from your head!
5. Sunbathe on Balangan beach
My favourite beach on the island, Balangan is the most “European” looking of them all. Since it’s tucked down towards the south of the island after Jimbaran and before Bingin, Balangan is secluded enough that it isn’t packed with tourists. It’s great for reef surfing (and hot surfers for that matter) and Suzuki Warung does incredible banana milkshakes. You can laze on the sun loungers or, when the tide’s out, explore the rock pools on the reef.
5. Have a drink at Black Dog, Bali
The trendiest spot in town, Black Dog is tucked down a side street in Seminyak near to Bintang supermarket. Popular with the surf crowd and fashionistas of expat Seminyak, Black Dog is a chilled out night in a courtyard with live bands.
6. A night out in Kuta
No trip to Bali is complete without a night out in Kuta. If you’re on a budget go to the Green Box, Alleycats and Skygarden where the alcohol is ridiculously cheap.
7. Visit Tanah Lot
The Tanah Lot temple in Tabanan is one of the most visited spots in Bali and a main temple for the worship of the Balinese gods. It’s popular because of its dramatic landscape on the ocean.
8. Go surfing
Bali has some of the best surfing spots in the world. If you surf reef then you’ve got Uluwatu, Bingin, and Balangan, if you’re a beginner you can learn in Kuta and Seminyak…there’s something for everyone. There’s also Sanur, Canggu and Nusa Dua, plenty of surf spots to keep you entertained. The problem is, which one do you choose?
9. Have a retreat in Ubud
Ubud, made famous by Eat Pray Love, has been the island’s centre of arts, crafts, dance, food and music for many years. Located amongst scenic rice paddies, Ubud was once frequented by backpackers and bohemians but is now the place to be for the island’s designers and glitterati. Many people visit Ubud to be immersed in Balinese culture and it has been a popular destination for spa retreats and yoga holidays. Ubud has some great organic restaurants and cafes and there’s also a sacred monkey forest.
10. Try some amazing food from the street stalls
Don’t be afraid to try the food from the Balinese street stalls, I’ve never had any stomach upsets. Try delicious satay, Nasi Goreng, Bakso soup or Babi Guling, which is my personal favourite. People in Bali disagree over where to get the best Babi Guling, but I always enjoyed the Babi Guling served at Pak Malen on Sunset Road just as you turn into Seminyak.
11. Eat seafood in Jimbaran Bay
If you go down to Jimbaran Bay at night and walk along the sand you’ll see dozens of warungs and hundreds of candle-lit tables and chairs on the beach. Dine on freshly caught prawns, squid and fish right next to the water.
12. Go to White Sand Beach, Padangbai
White Sand Beach in Padangbai is exactly what its name suggests, a beach with white sand! You’ll feel like you’re on your own Caribbean Island!
13. Have a drink in Ku De Ta
Ku De Ta in Seminyak, although a little pricey, is a must-see on everyone’s Bali holiday. This trendy outdoor bar on the ocean front looks a little bit like a hotel resort with sun loungers, dining and lounge areas. It serves amazing cocktails, pizzas, appetizers and sushi, has an incredible view of the sunset and hosts unforgettable parties during high season. Think charity events, toga parties, Egyptian parties, white parties, Christmas parties and New Years Eve celebrations.