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The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

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Bali is an entire island made up of many different towns, all unique and different. Having just finished a second visit spending a collective three months exploring Bali, I've developed this Ultimate Bali Travel Guide. Here I'll break down what to see and do, where to stay, and where to eat in the most popular towns throughout Bali.

Bali is an entire island made up of many different towns, all unique and different. Having just finished a second visit spending a collective three months exploring Bali, I've developed this Ultimate Bali Travel Guide. Here I'll break down what to see and do, where to stay, and where to eat in the most popular towns throughout Bali.

Before my first visit years ago I thought Bali was a town in Indonesia. As it turns out, Bali is an entire island made up of many different towns, all unique and different. Having just finished a second visit spending a collective three months exploring Bali, I’ve developed this Ultimate Bali Travel Guide. Here I’ll break down what to see and do, where to stay, and where to eat in some of the most popular towns in Bali.

If you need packing list help, check out this article on what to pack for Bali

Seminyak

Seminyak is a suburb in northern Kuta. While Seminyak definitely has many visitors and a larger party scene than most other places in Bali, it’s less infamous than Kuta, which has earned a bad reputation for being full of drunk tourists. Many feel this area isn’t as “bad” as Kuta, because the prices are some of the highest in Bali and keep many of the budget travelers out.

What to Do:

Shopping- Seminyak is famous for shopping. The busy main street is lined with everything from boutique local shops to high end designers. You can find endless rows of stores to pick up something for yourself or souvenirs for friends and family back home.

Hit the beach- The beach in Seminyak isn’t the most beautiful in all of Bali, but it is pleasant, and made more so by the trendy spots for lunch or sunset cocktails that line the shore. You can spend the day relaxing, sunbathing and eating lunch delivered right to your sun bed before patroning one of the many beachside bars and restaurants for a sunset cocktail.

Nightlife- Seminyak definitely has an active nightlife scene. With drink specials and various bars and clubs competing to get you in the door, you’ll definitely be able to find whatever you’re in the mood for. The Mirror Lounge and La Favela are two of the most popular spots.

Visit Potato Head Beach Club- The highlight of my time in Seminyak was the day I spent at Potato Head Beach Club. You’re able to pay to visit the beach club even if you’re not staying at the attached hotel. The prices are definitely set to target tourists, but the food quality was great, and the drinks were designer versions of the classics. For me, though, it was all about the sunset:

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Where to Eat:

Seminyak has emerged as the foodie capital of Bali. Here, you can find everything from high-end restaurants to some of the best street food in the country.

For high-end dining, make sure to check out Teatro’s degustation menu. Eating here was more of an experience than a dinner. Each dish that emerged from the kitchen was insanely gorgeous, like edible art. If you decide to visit and experience this for yourself, I highly recommend you splurge and choose the menu with suggested drink pairings.

Teatro Resto - Ultimate Bali Travel GuideFor more casual eats, and something you don’t see a lot of in SE Asia, make sure to try one of the insane loaded macaroni and cheese skillets from Macheese Cafe. Macaroni and cheese is just one of those dishes that’s rare in this part of the world, so to when I not only find the dish on a menu, but then discovered it was very well done, it was a nice surprise.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

For a complete guide covering where to eat in Seminyak, click here.

Where to stay:

Grandmas Plus Hotel is an affordable, no frills option located a short walk from the beach. The rooms were small but clean, the wifi was some of the best I found on my trip, and the staff were all incredibly helpful. There is also a constant stream of taxis waiting outside to take you wherever you want to go.

Canggu

Canggu is often described as a “hipster hangout”, and probably for good reason. Canggu is a small surf town where many who work online choose to base themselves. It gets some tourism traffic, but not nearly as much as many other areas. After spending a collective three months in Bali, I’ve come to the conclusion that Canggu is my favorite location and the only town in Bali I could see myself living in. The laid back surf community atmosphere, paired with fewer tourists and trendy shops and restaurants, make it ideal.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

What to Do:

Surfing- Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Canggu has beaches appropriate for everyone. Many people would spend the morning surfing before grabbing lunch and hitting a cafe or coworking space to work the rest of the afternoon.

Where to Eat:

Canggu does not lack amazing eating options. Many of the trendy restaurants feature organic ingredients and focus on healthy choices. This is a surfer community, after all.

My can’t miss choice for breakfast/brunch would be Crate. I could have eaten here every morning. The menu was full of delicious options at affordable prices. Make sure to try the Peas Please- spinach, avocado, and peas on toast topped with a poached egg, cheese and pesto. It makes the perfect light start to a day.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

For a complete guide covering where to eat in Canggu, click here.

Where to Stay:

The Kayuri Guesthouse was the perfect base during my time in Canggu. Centrally located, the rooms are basic but clean and comfortable. The management were very friendly and is happy to help you arrange for motorbikes during your stay if you require.

Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is a resort town in the south of Bali. While there are some small hotels and guesthouses in town, the beach is lined with high-end resorts, so most of the activities Nusa Dua offers are arranged by and handled through your resort. I decided to stick around for a couple of days after leaving the resort and was honestly bored.

If you’re a budget traveler and want to visit Nusa Dua, this is one point in your trip where I would encourage you to splurge a bit. Most of the beaches are private, so if you do decide to stay in town at a smaller, more affordable guesthouse, you’ll have to pay to visit the beach anyway.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

What to Do:

Hit the beach and top up your tan- I honestly didn’t find much to do in Nusa Dua other than enjoy the beaches. If you’re traveling long term or on an extensive trip around Bali, you’ll definitely want to plan to slow down here. The beaches are gorgeous, and the town doesn’t have the party scene you’ll find in other areas, so grab a book and a towel and find the nearest sun bed.

Where to Eat:

If  you’re staying at a resort, you’ll likely eat there most of the time. Because most of the resorts are high-end, you’ll probably be impressed by the quality and selection wherever you stay. If you choose to stay in town, there are a number of budget friendly options ranging from street side BBQ spots to Indian restaurants and some surprisingly great pizza I found at Nusa Dua Pizza.

Where to Stay:

The Ayodya Resort was the perfect place for my stay in Nusa Dua. The resort is gorgeous, perfectly placed along its own stretch of private beach, and has many restaurants that suit everyone’s tastes. If you’re not in the mood for the beach, the property also has multiple swimming pools, a spa, and exercise facilities.

Ayodya Resort Bali - Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

For my complete review of the Ayodya click here.

Jimbaran

Jimbaran is a fishing village on the south end of Kuta. Recently, many resorts have built up properties in this small town. The beach in the main town features typically calm waters with small waves, making it an ideal setting for families.

What to Do:

Fish Market- Every morning the local fisherman sell their fresh catches to businesses and individuals alike. Even if you’re not planning on purchasing seafood, observing the process and haggling going back and forth make for an intriguing visit. If you do choose to buy, several small restaurants will grill up your purchase for you and provide rice, vegetables and soup as well. Or, if you choose to stay in a nearby serviced apartment or Airbnb, you can take purchases home to cook yourself later.

Seafood dinner on the beach- Visiting this fishing community gives you access to some of the freshest seafood in all of Bali. Many of the restaurants that line the beach allow you to choose your own seafood and specify how you want it prepared. Grab a beer, choose a table, and watch the waves come in while the cooks prepare your feast.

Where to Eat:

Kuyamanis Resto- Do yourself a favor and make a reservation a the Kuyamanis Resto during your stay in Jimbaran. All of the dishes we tried here were incredible, and their presentation was impeccable. The restaurant is set within a tropical garden, which gives it an intimate feel. Not only are the dishes delicious, but the restaurant prides itself on providing incredible service to their guests.

AKAU Bali- AKAU Bali is a Spanish beachside restaurant that introduced me to my new favorite fish- barramundi. The menu features Spanish dishes with fresh local ingredients. The setting is modern and sleek, and you can even take in sunset views from the rooftop. I’d recommend any of the seafood dishes- the owner proudly serves the freshest fish possible.

KAUM Jimbaran - Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Where to Stay:

The Bali Breezz Hotel had a great location, multiple swimming pools, consistent wifi and incredible staff. What more could you ask for? I will gladly book this property again during my next visit to Jimbaran.

Sanur

If I had to choose my second favorite spot in Bali, it would be Sanur. Sanur is packed with great places to eat, a lot to do, and gorgeous beaches without the crowds common in other parts of Bali. Overall, the town has a quiet and relaxed feel and is frequented by more middle-aged travelers than younger backpacker types.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

What to Do:

Organized tours- I found that Sanur offered the best prices for organized river rafting, jungle trekking, ziplining, day trips, and other tours. I was also able to find the best prices on ferries to the Gili Islands from Sanur.

Click here to read my Ultimate Guide to Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Scuba diving- Many of Bali’s most established dive sites are located in Sanur. Be sure to talk with the different shops and compare prices to find the shop you’re most comfortable with.

Where to Eat:

For such a small town, Sanur is loaded with incredible dining choices . My number one favorite pick, and where I found myself over and over again was Soul in a Bowl. I loved their menu, their staff was incredible, and it was a great place to take my laptop and spend the day working. On several occasions I came for brunch but ended up working until it was time to order dinner.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

For my complete guide on where to eat in Sanur, click here

Where to Stay:

Kirana Homestay was so pleasant that, when I found myself in Sanur for a second time, I booked another stay. In fairness, you can probably find many similar guesthouses in the area. It’s basic, not upscale, but it’s clean and the staff were amazing.

Uluwatu

Uluwatu is famous for its dramatic limestone cliff coastline. The beach is famous with surfers, but is largely missed by most visitors to Bali.

What to Do:

Uluwatu Temple- Even people who choose not to stay in Uluwatu will make a day trip to visit one of the most famous temples in Bali. Make sure not to miss a visit to this landmark during your stay!

Visit Dreamland Beach- A short scooter ride away from the main town, you’ll find Dreamland Beach, my favorite beach in Bali. The waves here are much larger and stronger than in the main town, so this may not be the best beach to visit with children.

Dreamland Beach - Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Rent a motorbike- If you’re not an experienced motorbike rider, Uluwatu is the best place to rent and learn to ride a bike as you explore the surrounding area on your own.

Where to Eat:

Cafe La Paison- Easily our favorite find in Uluwatu, Cafe La Paison is slightly out of the way, but definitely worth the trouble to find. The restaurant has a laid back, casual, yet funky feel, and the menu is full of creative offerings. Make sure to come in the evening for a happy hour featuring two-for-one specials and live music every night. The restaurant even has their own pool, so feel free to come to lunch or dinner in your swimsuit!

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Where to Stay:

The Devata Giri Homestay offered basic but comfortable rooms in an ideal location. This guesthouse is situated between two of the most popular restaurants in town, and they are also happy to arrange motorbike rentals.

Ubud

Ever since ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ put it on the map, Ubud has become a must see for visitors to Bali. When I first visited two years ago, I thought it was busy, but during my most recent visit, it was downright crowded.

rice terraces Ubud - Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

What to Do:

Monkey Forest- No visit to Ubud is complete without a stop at the famous Monkey Forest. But be careful– though the monkeys are typically friendly, they have been known to steal from tourists. Make sure your belongings are carefully packed away.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Visit the rice terraces- If I had to describe Ubud in one word, it would be green. Or, if I wanted to sound more cultured, verdant. The entire area is surrounded by lush rice terraces. You can rent a motorbike and explore on your own, but if you want to visit the most famous terrace, known as Tegalalang, most go with an organized tour or hire a driver for the day.

Souvenir shopping- Ubud is the traditional crafts center of Bali, so it’s the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs for friends and family back home or pick up local home decor to remind yourself of your visit.

Where to Eat:

Because of it’s popularity with tourists, Ubud features tons of amazing restaurants to choose from. The town caters to the vegan-yoga-holistic crowd, so expect plenty of healthy options. But never fear, meat eaters, there are still plenty of options for us to choose from!

Blanco par Mandif- For a dining experience that rivals any Michelin star restaurant, be sure to check out Blanco par Mandif. We opted for the ten course tasting dinner with drink pairings and were both impressed with the entire evening. The food was unbelievably delicious. They used complex techniques and the freshest locally sources ingredients to create plates that looked like edible works of art with intricate, sometimes surprising flavors. The drink pairings were well thought out, and even though I was skeptical of a few of the combinations, they all worked.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

Warung Babi Guling- also known as Ibu Oka, Warung Babi Guling is one of the most popular restaurants in Ubud. Their famous roasted suckling pig dish, known as babi guling, can actually be found all over Indonesia, but they are said to have the best. The pig is slow roasted and served over rice with a simple soup and a side of crispy skin. Make this one of your can’t miss dishes during your time in Bali!

For a complete guide of Where to Eat in Ubud, click here

Where to Stay:

The Desa Visesa is a high-end property set in an actual, working permaculture village. Staying here allows you to experience local life by participating in an assortment of cultural activities. The property also offers a spa and several restaurants to choose from. To read my complete review of the property, click here.

The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide

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Bali is an entire island made up of many different towns, all unique and different. Having just finished a second visit spending a collective three months exploring Bali, I've developed this Ultimate Bali Travel Guide. Here I'll break down what to see and do, where to stay, and where to eat in the most popular towns throughout Bali.

 

I hope you find this Bali Travel Guide useful. If you have any questions I didn’t cover, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.


 

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Ranch Office

Saturday 28th of March 2020

Bali is awesome!

Man Sagar

Wednesday 8th of November 2017

Thanks for sharing such a useful content. I am planning to visit this place in the new year. This post will be helpful for me. Thank again. Keep it up.

Nathan

Wednesday 8th of November 2017

You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful. I hope you enjoy your trip!

Agness of Fit Travelling

Friday 26th of May 2017

Bali is just the perfect place for a holiday! This was an amazing guide which will be very helpful for anyone travelling there!

Ashking

Friday 19th of May 2017

Bali oh my Bali. Such a wonderful place. And thank You very much for your photos and great tips. Bali has many resorts i know. I will visit soo. I just bookmarked this post, lol! it will be helpful for me.

Nathan

Sunday 21st of May 2017

I'm glad you found it useful! If you have any questions for me that I didn't cover feel free to ask- I'm happy to help if I can.

Wanderlust Wayfarer

Tuesday 9th of May 2017

I just found out I have a last-minute opportunity to go to Bali, so your guide came at the perfect time! Thanks for the great tips!

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