Arriving to Denpasar
Getting in and out of Bali has become a breeze after recent airport renovations. If you arrive late at night, there will without a doubt be a number of taxis to choose from and bargain with if you want to negotiate a price to your destination. There are metered taxis, but for the most part the driver will have a set price and may or may not lower the price if you want to bargain and start with a lower number.
Typically, getting to and from the airport in a taxi will be slightly more expensive than in town. The standard price will be anywhere from $15 – $40 depending on how far you’re going. Any beach town on the East or West coast of the island will be within 45 minutes of the airport. Ubud is in central Bali and could take up to an hour to reach, more or less depending on traffic. Canggu, Seminyak, Sanur, and Nusa Dua are the closest beach towns to the airport.
Once you get to the town you’re staying in, taxis and Grab are the easiest way to get around. Or, rent a scooter and explore the island at your own pace! This can be a cheaper, more accessible option. Just make sure to always wear a helmet and know that there are little to NO traffic rules in Bali.
When to Go
The best time to visit Bali is generally during the summer months of June, July, and August when the weather is driest and the days are sunny. However, this is also the most touristy time to go and you’ll find yourself amongst many others trying to get a good spot on the beach away from the crowds.
Also, the temperatures can reach high numbers during the summer months. I preferred coming to Bali in October. Although this is the start of rainy season, the weather was overall very nice during the two months that I was on the island. There would usually be rainstorms in the middle of the night, and sometimes a shower mid-day that would only last an hour or so.
A good compromise is to risk the occasional rain showers in exchange for more peace. The shoulder months before and after the high season of the summer can also be slightly cheaper in terms of tours and accommodations.
Where to Stay
Because Bali is so easy and accessible to get around, it’s best to spend a few days at a number of different spots so you can get a feel for the island. If you only have a week, you can still easily visit three locations. It all depends on the vibe you’re looking for and how you want to spend your holiday.
Seminyak is a great combination between delicious bars, cafés and restaurants, fashionable boutiques, and stunning beaches. When it comes to the accommodation, Seminyak offers everything from luxurious hotels and villas to low-budget guesthouses.
Petitenget Temple is the cultural landmark in this area and definitely a must-see if you want to learn more about the traditional Indonesian culture. Make sure you dress appropriately i.e. cover your shoulders and wear a sarong.
Nothing compares to the sunsets in Seminyak. The sky offers a fantastic show almost every evening, with different shades of pink, orange and lilac.
If you want to witness one of Seminyak’s memorable sunsets, there is no better place than the beach bars where you can enjoy the company of other travellers, locals or simply enjoy in peaceful solitude. If you want to lounge at the beach all day (because who doesn’t) and have service for drinks and food, a few popular beach clubs are Potato Head Beach Club and Ku de Ta.
Accommodations: Mid-Range – Tijili Seminyak // Budget – Grandmas Plus Hotel Seminyak // Luxury – Anantara Seminyak
Yoga: Seminyak Yoga Shala, Yoga 108 Bali
Eats: Clean Canteen Bali, Seasalt, Seacircus, Hibiscus, Breeze
Once a quiet fisherman village, Sanur is a lovely escape from the craziness of Kuta and Seminyak. You don’t hear of as many people coming to Sanur because it doesn’t necessarily have a “niche” unlike the other cities that I mention in this blog.
However, that may be part of the reason it has such appeal. It’s not overly crowded, overpriced, or hyped up. Its location is fantastic as you’re on the beach, and at the gateway for getting to and from the nearby islands by ferry.
Sanur holds a special place in my heart as I stayed here for almost two months while completing my yoga teacher training, and here is why.
You can bicycle/scooter up and down the boardwalk and find local vendors, beachfront restaurants, wellness spas, local “warungs”, and trendy bars within 10 minutes of each other. The fact that Sanur isn’t overly crowded makes it very easy and accessible to get around, and the cost of living here as a tourist is exceptional.
Eats: Genius Café, Bali Buda, Soul in a Bowl, Malaika’s Secret Garden, Three Monkeys
Yoga: Power Of Now Oasis, Koa Spa
Accommodations: Mid-Range – Hotel Segara Agung // Budget – Tjana Homestay // Luxury – Fairmont Sanur Beach
Canggu is a nice balance between surfer party town and healthy beach escape. I felt like it was a cross between Ubud and Uluwatu, with the abundance of healthy restaurants, smoothie bowls, and yoga; along with being a surfers town with the option for nightlife.
The once-sleepy fishing village is now buzzing with surfers and yogis alike, recently referred to as “the new Ubud.”
Social: Be sure to check out Deus Ex Machina, Old Mans, Finns Beach Club, and The Lawn.
Eats: Nalu Bowls, Betelnut, Dandelion Café, Shady Shack, Crate Café, Milk & Madu
Yoga: The Practice Bali, Desa Seni, Samadi Bali (also offers accommodation & café), Serenity Eco Guesthouse & Yoga, Canggu Studio
Accommodations: Mid-Range – Frii Hotel Echo Beach// Budget – The Green Room // Luxury – Tugu Bali
Famous for the hit film and novel, Eat Pray Love, Ubud is the place to go if you seek healing, comfort, and health. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a place of solitude, you can easily find solace within the city. Many affordable accommodations are within walking distance of the main roads, yet are a safe-haven of peace and quiet.
There are countless health food cafes and restaurants, vegan bakeries, and an overall community of like-minded people all sharing one main interest – upholding a healthy lifestyle.
You can find yoga studios with drop in classes scattered throughout the town, meditation workshops, sound baths, cacao ceremonies, theta healing one-on-one sessions; the list goes on!
Head into the rice paddies where you’ll stumble across local art galleries, cafes, boutique accommodations, an open air bamboo yoga studio, and restaurants overlooking the sprawling fields.
Eats: Lazy Cats Café, Kafe, Sayuri Healing Foods, Café Pomegranate (read more about my favorite places to eat in Ubud here!)
Yoga: Yoga Barn, Radiantly Alive, Taksu Yoga, Ubud Yoga House
Accommodations: Mid-Range – Nicks Pension // Budget – Nicks Homestay // Luxury – Como Uma Ubud
Uluwatu has the surfer vibe down to a T. Although you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy this paradise at the bottom of the island, or “bukit” as many call it, brace yourself for the number of boutique clothing shops, surfboard rentals, and many other a tourist trap.
This place has boomed over the last couple of years since I came in 2016. The cost of a daily scooter here is priced as high as 120k Rupiah (almost $10 USD) which is by far the highest price I came across on the whole island. You’ll have to do some serious bargaining to arrange your transportation for your time in Uluwatu.
The main areas to stay are off the main road in Padang Padang – a small strip of restaurants and shops just before Padang Beach. Other popular areas near the beach are Bingin Beach, and near the cliff in Uluwatu.
Bingin Beach is by far my favorite spot, due to it’s location being slightly off the beaten path. Bingin is essentially a cliff side with a couple resorts, and a whole lot of homestays, tucked into the hill. To get down to most restaurants and hostels, you must get dropped off in the carpark or leave your scooter at the top of the hill.
The stairs are a little daunting, and it is near impossible to walk down if you have anything other than a backpack (or a very strong companion.) At the bottom of the stairs you’ll find a much less crowded beach compared to what you may see in Padang or Uluwatu, funky yet charismatic ocean-view restaurants and bars, and a nightly barbecue fish dinner in the sand at sunset. Bingin is a truly charming escape from the crowds.
Social: Cashew Tree in Bingin (Thursday nights live music), Single Fin on the cliff in Uluwatu (Sunday night DJ)
Eats: Mango Tree Café, OM Burger, Buddha Soul, Bukit Café, Cashew Tree (Bingin), Kelly’s Warung
Yoga: Cashew Tree, Blue Heaven (Padang Padang), Temple Lodge (Bingin), Morning Light Yoga at Uluwatu Surf Villas
Accommodations: Mid-Range – Bingin Green View // Budget: Sticky’s Warung // Luxury: Bingin Beach Villas
The Nusa Islands – Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida
Nusa Lembongan is the closest island off the East coast of Bali, departing from the port of Sanur. You can book your ferry ahead of time, or you can arrange transportation in Sanur.
There are 20+ boat companies going in and out of Sanur every half hour offering similar rates. You can easily go to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida on a day tour from Bali, but I recommend to stay on the island for at least a night or two.
Nusa Lembongan – Only 40 minutes from Bali, a small village on a lush, tropical island with beachfront accommodations, tour agencies, and restaurants lining the white sand coastline. The middle of the island is almost completely uninhabited, so the majority of the resorts and hostels are located on the east and west sides of the island.
I recommend to stay on the West side of the island, as it’s more central to restaurants, bars, snorkeling and diving, etc. You can easily rent a scooter and get to the other side of the island in thirty minutes time.
Things to Do & See:
Dreamland Beach – cliffside bungalows and restaurant, infinity pool, snorkeling beach; a truly picturesque haven.
Blue Corner Dive – snorkel, PADI dive certifications, open water dives, manta ray tours, etc.
Yoga: Yoga Shack, Serenity Yoga Lembongan
Nusa Penida – Unlike Nusa Lembongan, the spectacularly beautiful Nusa Penida Island is a tricky place to independently. For a start, there is little public transport available; even taxis are hard to come by. Lots of tourists rent motorbikes when they get to Nusa Penida, because it’s truly the easiest way to get around.
However, I must mention a forewarning – it’s not like scooting around Bali or even Lembongan. The roads are WILD; extremely windy, narrow, at times rocky and full of potholes. I wouldn’t feel comfortable scooting around the majority of the island other than just in a small area near where I stayed.
Most people see the main sights of the island on a guided tour. This way, you’re guaranteed to get around the island safely without having to worry about petrol, directions, or any other potential bumps in the road – no pun intended.
You can choose to get to Nusa Penida yourself, spend a few nights on the island, and book your tour while you’re there, OR book an all inclusive tour of the island ahead of time with everything included.
What You’ll See on Nusa Penida:
Angel’s Billabong: A natural tidal pool, swimmable at low tide at your own risk.
Broken Beach: An inaccessible yet breathtaking beach with an impressive stone archway which you can walk across.
Kelingking Beach: The most beautiful beach on earth with a natural rock formation resembling a T-Rex.
Crystal Bay: A great beach for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and hanging out in the small waves.
Because Nusa Penida is a little trickier to arrange and know how to get around and plan your holiday, I’ve written a more in-depth guide on how to see the island, tips for your visit, and what to plan for here!
The Traveling Yogi