The ultimate travel’s must-dos if this is your first time in Bali, Indonesia
Known as the Island of the Gods, Bali is Indonesia’s most famous and gorgeous island located in the western tip of Java and boasts an interesting geographical terrain that encompasses magnificent mountains, numerous paddy fields (Ubud), rugged coastlines and cliffs (Uluwatu) to volcanic hillsides and countless sandy beaches.
Amidst nature, Bali also serves up stunning sceneries due to its unique local culture, art, and architecture. Thus, it is a popular choice of destination for tourists from all over the world to experience a truly one of a kind laidback lifestyle and beach vacation.
In this post, you will find the top recommended things to do by Tourist Secrets while planning for an unforgettable first-time vacation in Bali.
Cafe Hop In Bali
Peppered along Seminyak, Kuta, are numerous cafes that each have their own carefully crafted themes but the thing that is never missing is that colorful and artistic surroundings that make it so quintessentially Bali. With that being said, cafe hopping is naturally the number one thing to do on this list.
Head to Sisterfields cafe for Instagrammable food and backdrops, Motel Mexicola for traditional Mexican food and its colorful personality, and Mrs Sippy for yummy Mediterranean bites by the pool. For the more adventurous travellers, try traditional Balinese coffee, Kopi Luwak at Satu Satu Cafe in Canggu.
Party During The Day
Another top thing to do while in Bali is to soak up its VIP party vibes at clubs that play from soothing tunes to happening anthems set against great nature backdrops such as OMNIA Dayclub at Uluwatu, Potato Head Beach Club Bali at Seminyak and Finns Beach Club at La Brisa at Canggu.
Catch The Sunset At Seminyak
Whilst partying, don’t forget to catch the sunset at 6pm. These day clubs usually play music into the night and have plenty of lounge beds to take you from basking under the sun to scoring a prime seat view for watching the glorious sunset by the beachfront.
Also consider checking out the rooftop bars in Bali such as famed Rooftop Sunset Bar at Double-Six, Seminyak as they can be an ideal site to watch the sunset from.
Visit An Art Gallery
Traditional or contemporary, whatever tickles your fancy when it comes to art consumption and you’re spoilt for choice in Bali. Almost every corner and area there are art galleries to explore and visit and some of the notable galleries include; Nyaman Gallery and Reservo Art at Seminyak.
The Slow and Crate Gallery at Canggu and TONYRAKA Contemporary and Modern Art and Nyoman Jendra at Ubud. Heck, you can even enjoy a large amount of graffiti work by local and international artist collectives by the cafes as well as roadsides throughout Bali.
Visit A Water Temple In Ubud
Bali locals are predominantly Hindu and have their own unique rituals and practices meshed with folk traditions. What better place to learn about their religion than to pay a visit to their temples peppered across Bali.
The island alone, contains thousands of temples known as Puras, but the 9 directional temples which are considered to be the most auspicious places throughout the island.
Last but not least, pay a visit to the beautiful water temple, the Pura Taman Saraswati located in central Ubud. Also in Ubud, there is the Monkey Forest which is a nature reserve full of over 500 monkeys and the three temples here date back to the 14th century, and Goa Gajah, “Elephant Cave” which has a cave built as a spiritual place for meditation but without the elephants.
When visiting temples, it is advised to dress as modestly as possible where flip flops are fine as long as the legs are covered. Left the hotel in shorts? Not a problem as you will be lead to loan a scarf at most entries and have them tied around your waist before entering the temples.
Watch A Cultural Performance In Uluwatu
If you are in the south, catch traditional Bali dance performances such as the Kecak Fire dance at Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple. While in Gianyar area, catch the Barong & Kris and Joged Bumbung dance, Wayang Kulit shadow puppet shows and other traditional performances at Cafe Lotus or Laka Leke Garden Restaurant in Ubud.
Cafe Lotus is a restaurant located beside the recommended water temple, Pura Taman Saraswati. Be sure to check the schedule at Cafe Lotus’ site for its daily performances and to make a booking for the best view overlooking the lotuses and onto the Temple’s open stage.
Shop Local Designers And Boutiques In Bali
With a thriving arts community, it is no wonder why Bali is the destination of choice for plenty of Australians and other expats to set up fashion and design brands in Bali.
There are Deus Ex Machina and its motorcycle lifestyle, Parisian elegance with Magali Pascal, and swimwear and beach specific clothing at the Thaikila Bikinis Bali (formerly known as Blue Glue).
Another popular thing to shop and hunt for in Bali are its homewares, bedding, and accessories to recapture Bali style at the comfort of your own homes. Check out Kim Soo and Kevala Ceramics at Seminyak, Bungalow Living at Canggu, Bali Zen, and Threads of Life Gallery in Ubud.
Relax With A Balinese Spa Treatment
How can you not treat yourself for the ultimate relaxation experience when vacationing at a place like Bali? Again, you will be spoilt for choice. For a range of body treatments, go to Spa Alila of Alila Seminyak or Away Spa at W Retreat Bali, Seminyak.
If it is hair services you’re looking for, check out Spring Spa. And if your face is in need of some TLC see facials at AMO, Seminyak, and Goldust, Canggu.
Additionally, if you’re into alternative therapies, such as Ayurveda, you could also try Shirodhara. Which involves a head massage or Chakra massages at Prana Luxury Spa, Seminyak and Suravi Spa, Ubud.
Fine Dine When In Bali
Head to Seminyak, Bali’s finest locale for a medley of fine dining options to bring your significant other on a date to. To name a few, there is KAUM, which serves up exotic Indonesian dishes and is run by the same owners of Potato Head Bali, Teatro for French-Asian gastronomy by celebrated Indonesian chef Mandif Warokka and Metis Restaurant & Gallery which is one of the original fine dining joints in Seminyak.
For fine dining with a view, head south to Uluwatu for the perfect vantage point for admiring the stunning Indian Ocean, JU-MA-NA at Banyan Tree Ungasan.
Discover Hidden Spots Around Bali
It wouldn’t be a Tourist Secrets’ post if there weren’t any suggestions to hidden spots and at Bali, visit the Keramas Beach at Gianyar for an adults-only black sandy beach, Bambu Indah Resort in Ubud for the bamboo architectural marvel set against forests and rampant paddy fields.
Another gem includes climbing a volcano for its breathtaking views. Set at Mount Batur, Kintamani, it is one of the easier mountain treks in Bali to tackle (but not without its challenges!) for an unforgettable experience with nature.
Take a tour to the top which usually starts out at around 4 am and catch the spectacular sunrise overlooking the crater and surrounding lake.
Indulge In Bali Water Activities And Sports
Although anytime is ta good time to surf in Bali, December is regarded as the best time of the year for surfing enthusiasts. This is due to the fact that it is the monsoon season and what that means for adrenaline junkies is that tides will be strong and high to practice those advanced manoeuvres and tricks.
With over 60 surf spots and even more beaches scattered around the island, surfers are indeed spoilt for choice. Echo Beach at Canggu is considered as one of the best spots for surf enthusiasts.
For scuba divers, January is also a great time to take advantage of the warm water but really there just isn’t a specific best time to visit as Bali weather is practically sunny all year round with the exception of some rainy days. Waterbom Bali in bustling Kuta area is fun and has won numerous awards, but most of all, is family and kid friendly!
Located on one of the best stretches of Uluwatu, Sundays Beach Club offers great views; good food, cocktails, and music; and a range of fun activities. Guests can borrow kayaks, stand up paddle-boards, or snorkel equipment. The entrance fee gives guests full beach club and access, a towel, Wi-Fi, a food and beverage credit, and equipment rental.
Island Hop To Nusa Penida, Gilli, Nusa Lembongan, Or Lombok
After all the activities listed, there is still time to kill? The small islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan are located to the southeast between Bali and Lombok. Snorkel in Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.
Nusa Penida is currently a popular destination out of the two due to a highly favoured and photographed mounds shaped like a dinosaur at Kelingking Beach. Many also love climbing it due to its narrow but long trek to the edge of the cliff and phobia-inducing height. Afraid of heights? Challenge that fear by also catching the swing at Diamond Beach Nusa Penida.
Then there is Gili; characterised by sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, they’re known for their coral reefs just offshore. On the smallest island of Gili Meno, sea turtles swim at Turtle Point. At Gili Trawangan, the largest island, a sunken ship sits at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach.
And last but not least, Bali’s closest neighbour to the west is the island of Lombok, home to Mount Rinjani which is one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes and houses a National Park. From Lombok, you may also get to the iconic and romantic pink beach at Komodo Island.
Eat Local Balinese Food
In spite of all it’s foreign influences, don’t forget to eat local food! One has not sampled local Balinese culinary without having tasted the island’s most famous local dish Babi Guling.
Famed for its crispy skin, the pig is seasoned with local herbs and spices then roasted whole. The tender meat is served on rice with stewed vegetables, pork sausage and fried pork meat.
Also, sample Bebek Betutu (smoked duck) which has the duck wrapped and marinated with local seasonings and then smoked for 24 hours. There are also salads in Indonesian dishes such as the Rujak Buah which is a traditional Balinese fruit salad served with a spicy sweet and sour dressing of ground chilli, peanuts and palm sugar.
Alternatively, try the Gado Gado which is an Indonesian warm salad made with slightly steamed vegetables, tempeh (soy product in cake form), boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. The salad is served with a spicy peanut sauce and crispy fried shallots.
Shop Oleh-Oleh Souvenirs
Had a memorable holiday and would like to bring a piece of Bali home for your family, friends and relatives? Shop for local souvenirs, called oleh-oleh along the streets of Legian (you are encouraged to haggle).
Otherwise, you could hit the one stop warehouse shop at Krisna Toko Oleh Oleh Khas, Kuta, Bali. To buy a piece of Bali’s rich art culture, head to Sukawati Art Market at Gianyar. Be prepared to hunt for notable pieces to add into your art collection as well!
Ready For Your Trip To Bali?
Here’s How You Get There
Flights to Bali, which takes you to Ngurah Rai Airport, are plentiful and at the airport, you may catch the taxi to Denpasar, Bali which usually takes around 30 minutes.
Thankfully, being a notable hub for South East Asian culture and creativity, there are plenty of international flights from major airlines as well as some low cost regional carrier options connecting to Bali. There are flights connecting to Bali as well from major cities in the United States from New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Chicago.
When planning your trip back to the airport, be aware that there are usually traffic jams and especially if you are traveling from further locations such as Ubud to the Bali airport. Remember to factor in the time spent stuck on the road and move about an hour or so in advance.
Where To Stay In Bali?
Besides the plethora of luxury hotels available throughout Bali, villas with own private pools are also a very attractive option especially for those traveling with families or a larger group.
Renting a villa is a wonderful option because they are sometimes located along smaller streets and close to living areas of local residents making the experience immersive into local Balinese culture.
Getting Around In Bali
Essentially, the main mode of transport to get around Bali will be taxis and there are plenty cabs available from Blue Bird where fares are charged according to the meter.
Although it is available, it is not advisable to Grab private hire drivers in Bali especially in Seminyak because of the perceived etiquette that is expected by the locals to respect the existing taxi drivers who are dependent on customers to ride their taxis.
You are, however, not required to tip but if you are feeling generous then you may absolutely do so. Other alternative modes of transporting ideas include renting a Vespa to move around Seminyak or Ubud.
To Sum Things Up
These are some of the activities you can include while planning for your first trip to Bali. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list as there are simply so so much you can do in this thriving locale that is the land of thousand temples and a million smiles. Bali caters to EVERYONE.
What do you think of the suggested places? Are there any other spots in Bali you would like to read about? We would love to hear from you!