My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali (Updated in 2018)

My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Understand

Bali is called ‘the island of gods’ for a reason – the unique combination of volcanoes, tropical climate and beaches, combined with the hospitality of the world’s most friendly people – this is a vacation paradise. However, Bali has come a long way and is now a victim of its own success.

Bali is a bit like a European capital in summer – lots of visitors and so much to see and do. You will need to do your research and have figured out what you want in order to enjoy the island. You can stay ultra-cheap and explore the island on your own or go upscale luxury and just stay inside the resort save for the occasional day tour.

Things to do in Bali

Most of the hotels and action in Bali are spread around the areas of Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu. In this order, the areas get more interesting. However, there are many hotels south of the airport and on the eastern shore as well.

Bali is one of the planet’s hottest creations. It’s very humid and very hot at the same time. Bali beaches aren’t that great (they usually have gray or dark sand) but the west coast beaches offer great surfing.

My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Get Around

As always on the Indonesian archipelago, people are addicted to their cars and motorcycles.

Things to do in Bali

Don’t expect anyone to walk more than 500 feet at any time – and neither should you! Save your energy for the beaches.

Uber used to be great on the island. Now that it has been sold to Grab and this is your only app alternative. I find Grab not as convenient to use and the drivers to be less friendly but it is cheap. Taxis are plentiful but so are the taxi scams.

My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Safety

Crime and violence are on a minimal level in Bali. Yes, you may be bothered by the occasional tourist tout but to actually get mugged, you need to really push it. Traffic is an issue with the super-annoying motorcycles in every alley and walkway.

Things to do in Bali

My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Sights

The distances on Bali seem short on a map but driving still takes more time than you would expect. Roads have been improved and Jalan Sunset Road has become something of a real highway by now but the next intersection can still cost you 30 minutes – so plan accordingly.

Gunung Batur and Gunung Agung volcanoes and Pura Besakih Temple

This is a great day tour from Kuta or Seminyak, to see the volcanoes that tower over the island. It’s easy to hire a driver for this trip. I remember the temple to be surprisingly chilly even in the late morning hours.

Things to do in Bali

Things to do in Bali

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On your way back, you will most likely go through the Kopi Luwak Farm. By now everyone must have heard of Kopi Luwak that is ‘fermented’ in a Paradoxurus hermaphroditus’ bowel. That coffee isn’t that great if you ask me; still, it could be worse…

UBUD

Ubud gets busy from all the daytrippers during the day. It is cheaper and has more culture than the beach cities.

Things to do in Bali

Puri Saren Ubud (Ubud Palace)

Many people choose to stop by Ubud Palace, which I liked a lot a few years ago (though I was so sick I remember most of it as a hot blur).

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Things to do in Bali

Things to do in Bali

If you want my advice, DO NOT go to the Monkey Forest. It’s crowded and full of hyper-aggressive monkeys. There are a number of nature walks around the area but I can’t seem to find them anymore.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

The rice terraces have gotten really famous with the Eat Pray Love movie. It gets really crowded but it’s still worth venturing out for a hike and taking a few pictures.

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Things to do in Bali

Things to do in Bali

Seniman Coffee Studio

After all this ‘work,’ stop by Seniman Coffee Studio in Ubud to get some of Bali’s best coffee and great food.

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Things to do in Bali

Pura Taman Ayun

This is a great temple to admire the Balinese religious architecture – it gets a smaller share of visitors and is right on your way to Ubud.

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Things to do in Bali

Things to do in Bali

Tanah Lot Sunset Terrace

Tanah Lot is a fantastic place to watch a sunset (as are other nearby beaches). Visit this Indonesian restaurant on a clear day, and combined with the gentle warm breeze, you will see why Bali is so popular.

Things to do in Bali

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Surf the waves of the Indian Ocean

Bali has some of the world’s most predictable surf – it keeps rolling in almost every day. The waves are fast and powerful though, much more than the (moderate) wave height suggests. The good news is that many beaches have no rocks or coral and when you wipe out you only hit the water and the sand (or your board).

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Surfboards can be rented almost anywhere you see waves for $3/hour or less.

Karma Kandara Hotel

All the way down at the southern tip of Bali sits Karma Kandara Hotel. It’s an architectural marvel, to begin with, and is one of the few places that has its own elevator to their private beach (though the surf can be rough).

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It’s just beautiful though and if you have a day to spare it’s a great itinerary. There is a fee for using the private beach of IDR 350,000 per person, which includes a IDR 150,000 food & beverage credit. Children under 6 years old get in free (though it is not a great beach for children).

My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Eat & Drink

Since transportation can be such an issue on the island, I have grouped my recommendations by city.

SEMINYAK

KU DE TA

KU DE TA is the granddaddy of ‘cool’ Seminyak. It has a fantastic sunset view and is just a beautiful bar. The DJs are top notch and it’s moderately cheap (though it has gotten more expensive since my last visit).

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Potato Head Beach Club

Just a few minutes away is Potato Head Beach Club, which is a full-blown beach club that sees many families. If your plan is to meet expats from Singapore and Hong Kong, then you should head for Potato Head Beach Club right away.

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It’s still a wonderful way to have fun at/near the beach on a hot day. The minimum spend for using one of the beach beds is IDR 500,000, which won’t be too much for a family.

WOOBAR @ W Retreat & Spa Bali

I swear the Potato Head Beach Club and the W must have hired the same architect – that’s how similar it looks.

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The W, of course, is grander and bigger and while I’m not a fan of W hotels, this one is pretty cool! It likely also sells the most expensive drink you can buy on the island.

Revolver

Revolver makes Bali’s best coffee. Many of the coffee shops throughout the island use their coffee beans. There is some good food to be had as well and the WiFi works too (sometimes, that is).

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Motel Mexicola

Motel Mexicola is your destination should you start to crave Mexican food while in Bali. The food is just OK but tastes original. It’s the decor and funky interior design that make this place a winner.

Things to do in Bali

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Cafe Marzano

Cafe Marzano cooks up delicious thin pizzas with their top-notch pizza oven and it has a great outdoors vibe.

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of TripAdvisor

Warung @ Souvlaki.gr

I did not see that coming, with the restaurant named this way, but the place churns out great Greek food in a cozy outdoor setting. Don’t miss!

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Bali Go Where

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Franck cm

Ultimo

Ultimo is just such a well-run machine. It has a huge dining hall (extended several times) and serves half the island with food every night. But to my surprise, the quality is still great, with yummy Italian cuisine and steaks dished out by the hundreds at very fair prices.

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Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of D Kenny

CANGGU

Canggu is Bali’s hippest area – everyone seems to be tall, tanned and tattooed from head to toe. Also, scooters are the way to get around here – you will be looked at in a car.

Milk & Madu Cafe

Milk & Madu is one of the protagonists of healthy and stylish food options before the tanning starts. It’s too much style before quality for me but it’s still a great place for a breakfast.

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Milk & Madu

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Milk & Madu

Hungry Bird Coffee

Hungry Bird Coffee is another breakfast option if you are running out of menu options at Milk & Madu.

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Hungry Bird

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Hungry Bird

Nook

Nook has one of the best restaurant views ever. It’s in the middle of a rice field and just looks fantastic. The food is just OK but it’s also really cheap and the WiFi is fast. Don’t mind the food – just take in the views!

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Pison Coffee-Eatery-Music

Pison has a lovely location and serves very good coffee over two floors. It’s a great place to get work done during a hot afternoon (it’s indoors and cool).

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KUTA

Kuta has a bad reputation for mass tourism and tourist touts galore. It’s well-deserved but it also provides the breeding ground for hole-in-the-wall places that are cheap and great at the same time – you just need to find them!

Grain Espresso

Grain Espresso looks like any other tourist trap along the strip but it likely has the best food and coffee on the island. It’s cheap too and the beautiful, delicious and fresh food creations made me go there twice a day. What a find!

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Swich Sandwich 66

Right behind Kuta Beach is Swich Sandwich 66, which dishes out enormous, healthy sandwiches for just $3. As far as cheap and delicious meals go, this place is a hit!

Things to do in Bali

Picture courtesy of Hiveminer

Sacred Ground

This place may look touristy but it churns out great coffee and likely the best avocado toast on the island. The new WiFi is fast too but keep in mind that it is outdoors only.

You can also get bottled IPA beers but the $8 prices are a bit of a discouragement.

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Capil Beach Bar & Grill

Capil is the definition of enjoying a low-key sunset beer at the beach. Fantastic sunset views, chill bean bags, cold beer and live music (at a modest loudness) – how much better can life get?

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My 28 Favorite Things to do in Bali – Where to Stay

The number of hotels in Bali is mind-boggling. It also has the full range, from super cheap to super expensive. I recommend going either ultra cheap and using it as a base for exploration or go super luxurious and plan most days inside the resort.

During this trip, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Bali Raya Kuta and the InterContinental Bali Resort.

4 / 5 stars     

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