Where to stay in Bali
Ubud has had a few different reputations in its time. Located in the centre of the island between lush rainforests and with gorgeous temples hidden around every corner, Ubud is a favourite among hippy-inclined travellers. Yoga retreats, plenty of vegan offerings and a spirituality worn on the sleeve have turned this inland enclave into a must-visit ‘Eat Pray Love’ destination. But the development of villas and resorts on the outskirts of the main town as well as the world famous Ubud Writers & Readers Festival have seen an expansion in visitors over the last few years. Backpackers are still a common sight but are being steadily replaced with foodies from around Indonesia and further afield, keen to check out this soon-to-be global hotspot.
EAT It’s Locavore’s town, we just eat in it. Head chefs Ray and Eelke combine brilliant talent, traditional techniques and locally sourced produce to create a restaurant worth crossing the island for.
DRINK The Locavore team expanded into the bar and nightlife world a few years back with Night Rooster. Located in the middle of Ubud’s busy downtown, Night Rooster is all about cocktails made from seasonal fruits and delicate local spices.
DO Opened all the way back in 1956, the Puri Lukisan Museum has conserved Balinese and Indonesian art for decades. While the website is inconsistently updated the collections remain fresh and informative.
STAY Komaneka at Bisma works with Ubud’s natural beauty, nestling infinity pools and natural wood balconies amid the town’s famous forests. It’s a splurge, but the Komaneka experience is unlike any other.
If you do just one thing…
Eat. Start eating and don’t stop. A few meals at a local street stall, known as warung, paired with a tour of the town’s hottest eateries is like a tour of the entire country without leaving the neighborhood.
When it comes to Seminyak, a neighborhood over from the notorious Kuta Beach, don’t listen to the haters. Here you’ll find a mix of Western tourists and hipsters from Indonesia’s bigger cities on weekend breaks. They’re all here for one reason: to party. In Seminyak it’s all about a good time with beach bars, recovery session brunch spots and villas filling up the neighborhood. Come prepared and it will be the best party on the island. The beach itself is nothing too special after decades of tourism but it is the congregation spot for watching a stunning sunset over some cold beers sold by friendly vendors right on the beach, before walking up the street and enjoying a night of bar-hopping.
EAT Ginger Moon loves to share. Indonesian, Balinese and Western menu offerings are all meant to be experienced together, and with plenty of vegetarian, halal and gluten free options it’s an ideal locale for big groups.
DRINK Sometimes a classic is a classic for a good reason. Motel Mexicola in busy Petitenget Street is a local favorite, and for fans of a great frozen margarita and prime Instagram decor, this is a must.
DO This icon of Seminyak holidaying doesn’t demand much from guests. Sprawl out on deckchairs, guzzle cocktails and watch the sun set across the beach while enjoying the first-class hospitality Potato Head Beach Club is renowned for.
STAY Seminyak is one of Bali’s more developed neighborhoods, but at Bvilla it doesn’t feel like it. Centrally located, all villas feel like their own private getaway with pools, kitchens and loads of outdoor lounging.
If you do just one thing…
Shop. Seminyak is a great spot to explore the island on day trips, but visitors should make use of the easy walkways and pedestrian malls to check out the bountiful boutiques offering locally made accessories and clothing.
Lovina is a sleeper hit on the northern coast of the island. Visitors tend to congregate around the southern and eastern coastlines (and facilities reflect that) but for those looking for a chilled-out dream beach holiday it doesn’t get much better than this. Lovina is a collective of tiny towns dotted along the coast which, when combined, become one of the island’s few remaining underdeveloped beach paradises. Luxury accommodation or world-class eateries aren’t easily found in Lovina. It’s more about the pristine beaches and relaxed service with a low-key traditional feed. Think days spent reading on the beach or by the pool and day trips to icons like the Banjar Hot Springs paired with evenings indulging in some of Bali’s best authentically made cuisine. With the Indonesian government pushing development of the tourism industry, this quiet, hidden gem may not remain so quiet in coming years.
EAT Global Village Kafe, like the name suggests, offers fare from around the world although its strength is certainly Balinese dishes. But the drawcard here is less the menu and more the Kafe’s philosophy: supporting the local community through employment.
DRINK Kantin 21 knows exactly what it is. Here, there is no expensive fit-out, no carefully curated wine list. Kantin 21 does what a great beach bar should – cold beer, spotty service and a great atmosphere on one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches.
DO The centuries-old Banjar Hot Springs, found just a few kilometers out of town, are a favorite among tourists and locals alike, so expect big crowds. Don’t let that deter you though – the waters are believed to have healing properties.
STAY Lovina is still low-key when it comes to accommodation so proximity to the beach is the biggest drawcard. It doesn’t get much closer than Jublu, although a day spent by the villa’s gorgeous pool is also a winner.
If you do just one thing…
Check out Pasar Anyar. Lovina is one of few areas in the island where local markets still exist at this size and this is one is as authentic as it gets. Here you won’t find knick-knacks to take home, but you’ll come away with bags full of fresh fruits.
It’s Canggu’s moment to shine. A steady stream of yoga studios, coffee joints and great accommodation has seen this surfing haunt transformed into a new favourite for trendy travellers and the digital nomad set. For those looking for up-and-coming eateries and bars, this neighborhood has it in loads. Asian and Western fare is becoming popular, but still it is the local Balinese cafés giving this neighborhood an air of authenticity and undiscovered feel missing from other towns along the south coast. With accommodation from budget to luxury readily available, Canggu has one of the island’s more diverse tourist population. And then there’s the beaches. The swell is best-suited to more experienced surfers, but with views like this who can complain?
EAT Modern Australian cuisine is all the rage in Bali and none do it better than Canggu’s The Lawn. Think fresh local ingredients, healthy juices and crunchy salads on Instagrammable AstroTurf overlooking the ocean.
DRINK The vibe of this dive bar is in the name: Gimme Shelter. Here, you’ll find live music, cold beer and a mix of the island’s hippest locals and visitors virtually every night of the week.
DO Tanah Lot is one of the most famous sites in Indonesia and not to be missed. The throngs of tourists is thick, all clamouring for a look at the Hindu temple jutting out of the ocean. Be assured that any frustration will melt away once a glimpse is caught.
STAY The Slow bills itself as an ‘immersive experience’ and the team has certainly gotten that right. A red-hot restaurant, event space and gallery are all part of the draw but it’s the self-described tropical brutalist digs that truly shine.
If you do just one thing…
Check out the coffee scene. Coffee culture is undergoing a renaissance across Indonesia and Canggu is one of the hubs. Crate Café, Satu-Satu Coffee Company and Betelnut are leading the pack with Indonesia’s own world-famous beans.
Bukit doesn’t look quite like the Bali the world has seen. Sitting right at the bottom of the southern peninsula, Bukit is less rice paddies and forests full of roaming monkeys and more huge cliff faces and hardcore surf. This surf has enjoyed a mythology of sorts among aficionados around the world, so expect to meet plenty of pilgrims from far-flung locales. This reputation makes for a great nightlife, especially along the coastline with its unpretentious and friendly water-facing bars. Bukit can feel a little more outdated than elsewhere in Bali, with Instagrammable decor trends and smoothie bowls yet to really take over the town. For many visitors, that’s the point. Bukit is all about Bali’s basics: sun, sea and sand.
EAT Simple name, simple food. Fresh fruits and lots of young coconuts are on the menu here at Bukit Café, but stunning smoothie bowls and creative juice combinations prove that sometimes simple is best.
DRINK Most bars in Bali are all about the beach views. Oneeighty has something a little different to offer. Here, you can enjoy seasonal and classic cocktails over the venue’s sheer-drop cliff face. Perhaps not for the faint of heart, but a little Dutch courage should help.
DO Padang Padang Beach is one of the island’s best kept secrets, but not for much longer. With decades of tourism trashing some of the more popular beaches Padang Padang remains pristine and far less busy, a flashback to the days before budget tourism.
STAY Low-key, relaxed and spacious Hotel La Joya is more about lazing about and unwinding than party villas elsewhere in the peninsula. With world-class hospitality and stunning views, what else would a visitor want?
If you do just one thing…
Take a surf lesson. With classes readily available on the beach, what better place to try out the swell than in one of Bali’s most iconic surfing towns? Expert instructors from Bali and abroad help even the most novice of learners get the basics down.
Find more of the best in Bali
The tropical hideaway manages to be an adventurer seeker’s paradise, a spiritual sanctuary, a family friendly getaway, a food lover’s paradise and a surfer’s oasis all at once. Whether you want to get amongst the action of Seminyak, the relaxed vibes of Canggu, the beaches of the Bukit Peninsula or the idyllic neighbouring islands, there’s a lot to explore in beautiful Bali.