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BALI, INDONESIA
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The 19 best things to do in Bali

Unsure how to make the most of your time in paradise? Worry not, we've compiled a pick of the best things to do in Bali

Written by
Jordi Kretchmer
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What are the very best things to do in Bali? We’ve put in the hard yards to narrow the list down to a concise number, sweating our way through hours and hours to provide you with the best of the best in this magical place. What, lazing about on the island’s beaches doesn’t count as hard work? We’ll agree to disagree there. Bali is one of the world’s great tropical hideaways, one that manages to be an adventurer seeker’s paradise and spiritual sanctuary all at once, a destination that appeals to families as much as it does young hedonists. Bali is beautiful, that much is true, and the best things here are more than willing to embrace that beauty while keeping adrenaline junkies and culture vultures more than happy. 

Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Bali

What is it? A tiny three-island archipelago offering the perfect tropical escape from the already idyllic mainland.

Why go? Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air each offer crystal blue waters, diving, cooking classes, cultural experiences and more. Trawangan is mostly a destination for backpackers (think of it as the party destination) while Gili Meno Air is more accommodating for couples and families. You’ll need to get to Padang Bai harbour, before taking a fast boat to the islands, which takes around 90 minutes.

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Canggu street art
Photograph: Canggu Street Art

3. Canggu street art

What is it? Among the rice paddies of Canggu, you’ll find some beautiful street art strewn across the high fences of villas and dilapidated farmhouses.

Why go? To spot huge pieces from Sydney’s Beastman and Lister, France’s Seth and local artists that play with traditional emblems of Balinese culture spliced with colourful patterns.

What is it? A stripped-back local’s spot on Bingin Beach.

Why go? To try one of Indonesia’s most loved dishes, nasi goreng. Fried rice comes packed with veggies and an egg on top, making it a perfect post-swim or surf meal, and they’ll also do you a mean fresh juice or smoothie. Add in views of the Indian Ocean and sunshine and you’ve got a near-perfect, relaxed (and cheap) Balinese lunch.

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What is it? A cooking class that includes a trip to the local markets.

Why go? Eaten your body weight in satay, nasi goreng and ayam bakar? It’s worth booking into a cooking class so you can learn the skills behind creating tasty Indonesian meals at home. Bumbu Bali combines a trip to the local markets with a cooking class, where you’ll learn the key components of Indonesian cooking, including mastering curry pastes, banana leaf grilled meats, fiery sauces and speciality desserts.

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What is it? A popular waterfall, located in the lush forest just outside of Ubud.

Why go? A 15-minute trek through the forest will reveal a huge waterfall, complete with a thudding cascade that drops around 15 metres. It’s a powerful fall, so don’t expect to be wading underneath it. Instead, view from the rocky surroundings or take a dip in the catchment. It’s also worth noting that the walk down to it is quite steep, and it gets quite busy in the heat of the day, so consider heading to it earlier in the morning if you’re after a more serene experience.

What is it? Best described as an adults playground, this jaw-dropping jungle surrounding is not only home to vegetation galore, but 12 oversized swings that flutter you over incredible panoramic views. 

Why go? Not only does it make for a great Instagram shot, but there's an unavoidable air of nostalgia about Bali swing. With swings ranging from 12 metres to a whopping 78 metres, it's a slice of high-altitude fun (but don't worry, you’re all buckled in).

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What is it? Stretch out and realign yourself at this beautiful open-air yoga studio located in Uluwatu.

Why go? They host drop-in classes and mats are provided, so all you have to do is show up. You’ll be guided through a one and a half-hour class, where your left and right are replaced with instructions to pose towards the ocean or the jungle. After class, you’ll get an ice-cold coconut, and can chat with the super friendly teachers about their tips for the area.

What is it? A must visit Bali café with a laid-back atmosphere and calming, tropical vibe.

Why go? Bali’s café culture is on par with some of the world’s best. But Parachute stands out thanks to its quality and stylish decor. There is a nice open space with views of a skyline that's effortlessly inviting. Food-wise, you can expect mouthwatering, locally sourced breakfasts, that include omelettes, pastries, granola parfait and more. For a more unique start to the day, park yourself beneath the delicate canopy and order the passion fruit cream cheese and banana on toast. If you’re in Seminyak make sure you check out the tree house-inspired Shelter, while in Canggu Betelnut and Milk and Madu are must-visits.

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Bingin Beach
Photograph: Bingin Beach

11. Bingin Beach

What is it? This beach located on the Bukit Peninsula of Bali is a bit of a maze to get to but well worth it.

Why go? Once you descent down the steep cliffs you’ll be greeted by a small beach with a great surf break, crystal clear waters, friendly locals and a couple of great local eateries.

What is it? This smoothie bowl shack will whip you up a refreshing healthy treat that is equal parts aesthetically pleasing and nourishing.

Why go? They’ll blend up a fruity base – like bright magenta dragonfruit or banana spiked with spinach – before topping it with sliced strawberries, granola, mango, coconut chips and tart goji berries. There are four different Nalu Bowl outposts in Bali that you can visit to get your healthy bowl fix.

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Stand-up paddle boarding at Padang Padang
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Stand-up paddle boarding at Padang Padang

What is it? If surfing is still too intimidating but you want to get out on the water still, try renting a SUP down at Padang Padang Beach.

Why go? You can glide out over the water while watching surfers take on the waves. Just watch out for rips and currents – make sure you check in with a local and see what the ocean is doing before you venture out.

Hire a scooter

14. Hire a scooter

What is it? While you can hire your own personal driver or hop in cabs, it’s also really easy to get around Bali via scooter.

Why go? Tight roads and traffic jams mean that being on two wheels is one of the most convenient ways to get around, but it’s worth noting though it’s done at your own risk. Make sure you hire your scooter from a decent dealer, be clear on rental prices, take photos of the condition of the scooter beforehand, follow the road rules and finally, don’t jump on any scooters with exposed, hot engines.

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What is it? An open-air studio specialising in high-intensity fitness classes.

Why go? Drop in for a heart-pumping kickboxing session or a muscle-testing kettlebell class, where trainers will show you techniques and push you to your limits. It’s also attached to the Cashew Tree, a terrific café that’s the perfect reward for a post-training feed.

Surfing at Dreamland

16. Surfing at Dreamland

What is it? Bali has long been a surfer’s haven and for good reason – there are awesome waves year-round.

Why go? This break located near Uluwatu is a great place to surf for both experienced surfers and when the swell is smaller is suitable for beginners, as it breaks over sand instead of rocks or coral.

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What is it? A Sydney bar export, home to Bali’s largest saltwater pool.

Why go? While Bali’s beaches may offer great surf breaks, rock cliff sides and stellar sunsets, if you just want to enjoy being by the pool you’ll want to head to Mrs Sippy. They’ll serve you swish fruity cocktails on day beds to a soundtrack of international DJs and house music. Temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but this place will be open again soon enough.

What is it? This outdoor dive bar takes cues from Californian skate culture, complete with its own Lords of Dogtown-inspired skate pool.

Why go? To watch locals beam around the bowl with a drink in your hand, while local DJs spin vinyl. Love skate style? You can now purchase Pretty Poimerchandisedise on their website and take a slice of Balinese cool wherever you go. Temporarily closed as the pandemic continues to disrupt tourism.

Looking for places to stay?

5 best places to stay in Bali
  • Hotels

Planning a Bali getaway? Here, we’ve put together a guide to the five hottest regions of Bali filled with things to do, including some lesser-known gems that might not stay that way for too much longer.

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