The magic island – that’s what I call Bali, Indonesia. Bali is an incredible mix of Balinese culture and history, unique tradition, stunning sceneries, delicious cuisine, thrilling activities, and tranquil nature. The island has so much to offer and anyone from anywhere in the world could find something so special that they can’t wait to return before their departure.
I have shared a few amazing places in Bali in my previous posts. As I was flipping through my album, the island actually has quite a lot more things that I don’t think you should miss as a first-time visitor!
De-stress in a beachfront resort or wellness retreat
Bali has been one of the best destinations in the world of resorts and spas before many other Southeast Asian cities came to play. Many of my friends went to Bali and stayed in different kinds of resorts with great reviews. There are countless resorts all over the island (many of them are international hotel chains), and it’s impossible to try them all, yet I am sure they all have their own unique selling point to all sorts of customers. Well, I already feel so de-stressed when I saw a picture with a private outdoor hot tub in the hotel suite overlooking beautiful paddy fields in the Ubud forest!
I stayed in a few resorts in Bali before including the InterContinental Hotel Bali, which is my favorite.
InterContinental Bali Resort is one of the many hotels along the stretch of Jimbaran with a private beach where hotel guests can have a dip in the water any time of the day during their stay. It is a great place for families as the resort has facilities that everyone can enjoy – the beautiful tropical garden is a secluded enclave that features outdoor pools, bars, and restaurants. Talk a walk through the trails under the palm trees and discover handicrafts and souvenirs at the mini night markets in the evening. Enjoy a spa treatment at the spa center, or sign up for an excursion or many activities that the hotel recreational team has planned. The exclusive beach has everything you need for a relaxing day by the ocean; But if you are looking for something more active, join the Beach Volleyball, Beach Soccer, or cycling activities that are complementary to hotel guests.
My experience staying at the resort was superb because it was my birthday celebration – sipping cocktails by the private beach in the club, watching a traditional dance performance during dinner in the restaurant, walking by the pool and courtyard at night, searching for local souvenirs in the mini night market in the resort, enjoying spa treatments in the spa center… it was amazing.
If you are staying in Bali for a week (which I think you should), my suggestion would be to stay a few days in the south of the island and then migrate to the north, like Denpasar, Canggu, Uluwatu or Ubud. These places have many amazing hostel or homestay that is absolutely beautiful for budget travelers. The only problem is the traffic. It might take much time to deal with the long-distance travel to explore different parts of the island if you only stay in one location.
Even if you are not a spa lover, the spas usually offer a wide range of treatments that you might try, and you might be pleasantly surprised that how these treatments could leave the stress of your hectic daily life behind.
Go on a shopping spree and take a cooking class in Ubud
Many tourists, still, come to Bali for Julia Robert’s “Eat. Pray. Love.” Experience. It has probably become a wanderlust’s quest for fulfillment. So, rent a bike, travel around Ubud – just like what Julia Roberts did. There are shops and markets alongside the main street in Ubud, leading up to the Ubud Palace, many of them are local handicrafts: home décor, soaps, homemade jam, fragrance (aromatherapy stuff), fashion, and books. If time is allowed, take a cooking class in the culinary academy where you could learn and actually make an Indonesian lunch for two in two hours.
Paon Bali Cooking Class
Ketut’s Bali Cooking Class
Periuk Bali Cooking Class
Many of the cooking classes include a guided tour of a local food market, and it’s a good way to get in touch with the locals and learn a bit about their eating culture. I also took a class in Yogyakarta and wrote about it in (Cooking in Jogja), I had a pleasant one-on-one time with our cooking teacher and a nice meal at the terrace afterward!
For those who aren’t planning on getting their hands “dirty”, enjoying a dinner at the Lotus Café by the Ubud Water Palace is what I would recommend before catching the Barong Dance Performance. Try to make a reservation though as sometimes the restaurant could be full.
Feast your eyes on traditional dances
Religion is part of the Balinese culture and they express these cultures through different forms of performance. The Barong dance is a performance based on classic Balinese mythology. It is a story about Barong, the king of spirits and a lion-like creature (represents the good), who triumphs over the demon queen Rangda (represents the bad). The Barong Dance is so endearing to the local culture because it ties to their ancient beliefs that once held sway over the island before Hinduism spread; To me, I also love the traditional Balinese music that featured the Legong orchestra amplified with large bamboo flutes, the sound of that was quite mesmerizing. The dance is one of the most fabulous traditional dances in the world. There are several places for Barong Dance performances but I really love the one at the Ubud Palace, the dance performance in the form of a historic setting is just incredible.
Barong Dance is a very popular dance performance. Yet there are numerous Balinese Traditional Dance performances, including the Kecak Fire Dance, Trunajaya Dance, Legong Dance, Pendet Dance, Baris Dance, Panji Semirang Dance, Puspanjali Dance, Balinese Topeng Dance, and Panyembrama Dance.
Visit the sacred places around the island
As I mentioned before, the Balinese are religious. Temple is a great part of their lives and I learned a lot about the Balinese Hindu culture as I explored these sacred sites one by one. If you really only have time for one of these places I would probably recommend the Tanah Lot Temple. ‘Tanah Lot’ (in Balinese means ‘land in the sea’) is a unique rock formation on the shore of the island; and Tanah Lot Temple, along with the Uluwatu Temple, is one of the seven magnificent sea temples in Bali and probably the tourist’s favorite. Featured heavily in Bali mythologies, the photogenic temple looks mesmerizing at every angle. As I was sitting on a cliff overlooking the temple from afar, listening to the soothing waves crashing on the rocks every few seconds, I was as if got taken to another spiritual place, check out more on the 12 most important spiritual and sacred sites to explore in Central and South Bali. More, visit the “water temple” and the “Elephant Cave”…
Sip civet coffee in front of paddy fields
It was a tasty experience to dive into all sorts of Indonesian cuisine during my travel in the country: Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Gado-Gado, Otak-Otak, Bakso, Pisang Bakar Coksuke, Rujak, and more local dishes! I didn’t compile a “Yummylicious” post for Bali (at least not yet), but I did one for Yogyakarta in Java (Indonesia Food Guide: Best Places in Yogyakarta for the Authentic Javanese Cuisine), while most of the delicious dishes mentioned above could also be found in many local restaurants and delis in Bali. Walk along the busy streets in Kuta Beach and you may find numerous restaurants from “upscale classy” to “street style”. You may know my motto by now: looking for food, always follow your nose… and the crowd.
To my surprise (mostly because of my ignorant), the coffee plantation in Bali is prominent. Do you know that kopi luwak (or civet coffee) is the most expensive coffee in the world? This ”poop” coffee is so special mainly because of its production process.
Here is the story: The fruit of a tropical flowery evergreen plan, Coffea, contains caffeine that defense against animals except for the palm civet cat. The Palm civets (a.k.a. luwaks), eat the ripest coffee cherries and digest the pulp of cherries. During this process, a unique fermentation occurs, which is responsible for the coffee’s special flavor. After the seeds are defecated by the civet cats, the feces are collected from farmers and hence washed, dried, sorted, and roasted to turn them into luxurious coffee.
If you are a coffee lover, don’t miss the ultimate coffee experience and have a sip of the most expensive coffee in the world!
We visited Bali Pulina Agro Tourism, a nice place in the central part of the island where we learned a lot about the production and sampled different kinds of this expensive coffee outdoor looking over the paddy fields! It’s important to mention that natural kopi luwak coffee is produced without harm to the animals. Civet cats roam freely on the coffee plantation and coffee is collected on the ground, delivering unique and authentic flavored coffee beans to customers. Visitors may even meet the civet cats and learn about how the coffee is made. There are illegal farms, sadly, that keep civet cats in cages or sell fake kopi luwak; be mindful and check the creditability of the coffee plantation during your visit.
Bali Paulina Coffee Plantations
Admire sunrise at the summit of Mt. Batur, sunset by the cliff of Uluwatu
The landscape in Bali is diversified – rugged cliffs in the south, sandy beaches and coral reefs in the middle part, and tropical forests and volcanic mountains up in the highlands in the north of Bali.
These are my two favorite spots on the island and please let me know if you differ. Mount Batur is a caldera in Kintamani located in a highland in the northeastern part of Bali. It is an active Volcano, yet many active travelers may find climbing the mountain an amazing experience. The Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking tour kicks off as early as 3:30 am to 4 am and reaches the summit (1,700m) in time at 6 am for the glorious sunrise. The hike is relatively easy and it takes only about 2 hours each way. For those who don’t climb and want to stay in bed, join the Volcano Jeep tours and explore the lunar-like landscape of black lava fields in a 4×4 adventure jeep.
To have a good panoramic view of the caldera, there are many restaurants lining up along roads like the Jl. Raya Penelokan in the Southside of Lake Batur. Both Lookout Resto & Bar and Lakeview Restaurant are great – they have an outdoor terrace with an unobstructed view of the entire area.
Lakeview Hotel & Restaurant
Address: JL. Raya Penelokan, Kintamani, Sukawana, Kintamani, Denpasar, Bali 80652, Indonesia
Phone: +62 366 52525
The Lookout Resto & Bar
Address: Kedisan, Kintamani, Bangli Regency, Bali 80652, Indonesia
The romantic sunset at Uluwatu was one of the most memorable sunsets that I saw and would always be the first to come to mind when we were talking about sunsets. It was located at the southern tip of the island and the silhouette of the temples on the cliff did accentuate the beauty of my photos. Leave ample time in the afternoon because it might take more time to get there than you think, and you want to get there earlier to secure a good seat for the Kecak and Fire Dance performance. The show starts at 6:30 pm and it usually goes from twilight to darkness. Many of my friends saw it and they all say they would recommend it.
Kecak and Fire Dance
Cuddle an elephant, befriend a monkey, observe the dolphins
Bali is filled with Monkeys. Yet, no monkeys in every part of the island behave the same way. While the monkey babies in the sacred Monkey Forest would “politely” pry a banana out of their hands, monkeys in Uluwatu commit robberies.
Apart from the primate encounter, I visited the Elephant Safari Park and it’s a sanctuary of such wonderful creatures. There I met, greeted, and treated the elephants up close and personal. I really appreciated my quality time with the elephants – each of them has its own quirks and personality treats and it was almost therapeutic to leave my stress and trouble behind.
Elephant Safari Park and Lodge
Have you heard of Lovina Beach? It’s the best place to catch sightings of dolphins in Bali. The boat trip usually starts pretty early in the morning so bring a jacket. It was rewarding to find a school of dolphins happily jumping by! Hang around by the beach as there are many local operators who would approach you for an outing.
Dolphin Watching at Lovina Beach
Surf, scuba dive, snorkel and sunbathe at the beaches
Being one of the most popular tropical travel destinations, there’s no way not to have a dip in the ocean. To make it more fun, try any of the exciting activities that Bali has to offer in between your chilling sunbathing.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, go to Nusa Dua Beach. You may consider staying in a resort in that area because several parts of the Nusa Dua Beach were private to those premises. There are many beachfront seafood restaurants at Jimbaran and Kedonganan Beach like the Blue Marlin Café, Melasti Kedonganan Café, New Moon Café, Jimbaran Bay Seafood Club, and much more. Enjoy some prawns and grilled fish at a table by the ocean, and after that, you could go straight to the night stroll by the moonlit water.
The surrounding of the “famous” Hard Rock Hotel by Kuta Beach is a busy area. This is also where beginners of surfing would go.
Bali Learn to Surf
For advanced surfers who are looking for a challenge, head to Padang Padang Beach near Uluwatu. It is a classic surfing spot famous for not only its top waves but also the beautiful landscape.
Padang Padang Surf Camp
More, go snorkeling, go scuba diving, or even go rafting in the forest… if you managed to have energy left at the end of the day.