by Bali Dave • The best hotels & resorts in Bali
Last updated: January 11, 2023
My Favorite Hotels in Bali
• Nusa Dua: St. Regis
• Jimbaran: Four Seasons
• Seminyak: W Bali
• Legian: Padma Resort
• Kuta: Hard Rock
• Ubud: Four Seasons Sayan
• Sanur: Tandjung Sari
• Best New Hotel: Raffles Bali
Bali Hotels – Tips & Advice
• Where to Stay in Bali • Best Beaches • Hotels for Families
- I love Bali. It’s jam packed with great hotels and beach resorts. If I had to pick just one as my favorite it would have to be the Four Seasons in Jimbaran. Magical.
- The best website for booking Bali hotels is Booking.com (safe, reliable, huge selection, best rates).
- Best Luxury Hotels in Bali
Four Seasons Sayan (Ubud) • St. Regis (Nusa Dua) • W Bali (Seminyak) • Four Seasons (Jimbaran) • Padma Resort (Legian)
- Best Boutique Hotels in Bali
Viceroy (Ubud) • Ecozy Dijiwa (Canggu) • Jimbaran Puri (Jimbaran)
- Best Cheap Hotels in Bali
Kuta Beach (Kuta) • Febri’s Hotels & Spa (Kuta) • Puri Cendana Resort Bali (Seminyak) • The Open House (Jimbaran) • Alam Indah (Ubud) • Nick’s Pension (Ubud)
- Where to stay in Bali? My favorite beach towns on Bali are Jimbaran (quiet stretch of beautiful sand, great seafood restaurants, luxury hotels) and Seminyak (nice beach, trendy restaurants, quality hotels). My favorite inland town is Ubud (wonderful art, culture, and food; surrounded by rice paddies and countryside).
- Bali is a great year-round destination and weather shouldn’t make a huge difference in deciding when to visit Bali. That said, expect the least rain and most sun from April to early November.
- See Also: Bali Hotels for Families.
- About Bali Dave
On This Page
- Best Bali Resorts
- Kuta Hotels
- Legian Hotels
- Seminyak Hotels
- Jimbaran Hotels
- Bukit Hotels
- Nusa Dua Hotels
- Tanjung Benoa Hotels
- Ubud Hotels
- Sanur Hotels
- Candidasa Hotels
- Nusa Lembongan
- North Bali Hotels
- Hotels with Private Pools
The 38 Best Resorts in Bali
1. Four Seasons Sayan – Ubud
Best Resort in Ubud – Unimaginable opulence in a breathtaking, riverside setting, with stunning pool, world-class spa, and kids club with creative activities.
• My review • Check prices for the Four Seasons Sayan
2. St. Regis – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Nusa Dua – Five-star excellence with opulent suites and villas on a virtually private white-sand beach.
• My review • Check prices for the St. Regis Resort
3. W Bali – Seminyak
Best Resort in Bali for Pools – With infinity edges and swaying palms, as well as “beaches”, “islands”, and “waterfalls”, the pools are stunning for their size, design, and position.
• My review • Check prices for the W Bali
4. Four Seasons – Jimbaran
Best Resort in Jimbaran – Pool villas offering tranquility, opulence, seclusion, and eye-popping sea views.
• My review • Check prices for Four Seasons Jimbaran
5. Padma – Legian
Best Resort in Legian – Long-established and so central, it has massive gardens and marvelous facilities, especially for families.
• My review • Check prices for the Padma Resort
6. Raffles – Jimbaran
Best Resort in Southern Bali for Pool Villas – Almost redefining the word luxury, the 32 very secluded and peaceful villas are spread across an incredible 57 acres.
• My review • Check prices for Raffles Bali
7. The Laguna – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Nusa Dua for Facilities – Facing a sublime beach, it offers tennis courts, abundant family activities, game room, kids club, and seven pools.
• My review • Check prices for The Laguna
8. The Ritz-Carlton – Bukit Peninsula – south of Nusa Dua
Best Resort in eastern Bukit Peninsula – Breathtaking setting close to Nusa Dua that’s ideal for families with sheer opulence and absolute extravagance.
• My review • Check prices for the Ritz-Carlton
9. Grand Hyatt – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Southern Bali for Beach – Massive, convenient, traditional, and world-class facilities, it faces arguably the most beautiful beach in Bali.
• My review • Check prices for the Grand Hyatt
10. Tandjung Sari – Sanur
Best Resort in Sanur – Since 1962, the “Cape of Flowers” has been oozing serenity, tradition, charm, and romance – all in a top-notch location.
• My review • Check prices for the Tandjung Sari Hotel
11. Viceroy – Ubud
Best Boutique Resort in Ubud – Sophisticated and romantic, a family-run and award-winning haven with personalized service and magnificent setting.
• My review • Check prices for the Viceroy
12. AYANA – Bukit Peninsula – near Jimbaran
Best Resort in western Bukit Peninsula – With twelve pools and 222 acres of tropical gardens, there’s so much luxury and elegance across an extraordinary clifftop setting.
• My review • Check prices for the AYANA Resort
13. Hotel Tugu – Canggu
Best Resort in Southern Bali for History – With antiques and relics all over, it oozes so much class, charm, and history – but also very convenient.
• My review • Check prices for the Hotel Tugu
14. Meliá – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Nusa Dua for Gardens – One of the finest settings in Bali, with a marvelous beach, world-class gardens, beautiful facilities, and a convenient location.
• My review • Check prices for the Meliá
15. The Oberoi – Seminyak
Best Resort in Seminyak – With vast gardens and fantastic facilities, the beachside setting and village-style layout are superb – and in downtown Seminyak.
• My review • Check prices for The Oberoi Beach Resort
16. Andaz – Sanur
Best Resort in Bali for Tropical Gardens – Very new, outstanding for families, and some of the most magnificent gardens imaginable anywhere in Asia.
• My review • Check prices for the Andaz
17. InterContinental – Jimbaran
Best Resort in Jimbaran for Facilities – Being substantially renovated in 2022, it has vast tropical gardens, six pools, tennis courts, and an excellent kids club with abundant activities.
• My review • Check prices for the InterContinental
18. The Seminyak – Seminyak
Best Resort in Seminyak for a Romantic Holiday – Luxurious suites with a jacuzzi, secluded villas with private pool, and one of the most magical beachside pools.
• My review • Check prices for The Seminyak
19. Komaneka at Bisma – Ubud
Best Resort in Central Bali for Setting – Unrivaled luxury and heavenly pools in a dramatic setting facing a ravine, forest, river, and rice-fields – yet in downtown Ubud.
• My review • Check prices for Komaneka at Bisma
20. Ecozy Dijiwa – Canggu
Best Boutique Resort in Canggu – Quiet and well equipped rooms with private gardens or private pool in thriving area; also butler service and super-friendly staff.
• My review • Check prices for the Ecozy Dijiwa
21. Jimbaran Puri – Jimbaran
Best Boutique Resort in Jimbaran – Hidden gem where adorable villas and cottages face the perfect beach, manicured gardens, and palm-lined pool.
• My review • Check prices for the Jimbaran Puri
22. Hard Rock – Kuta
Best Resort in Kuta – Vast grounds, massive pools, and endless family-friendly facilities – yet, remarkably, in downtown.
• My review • Check prices for Hard Rock Hotel
23. Poppies – Kuta
Best Resort in Southern Bali for Charm and Romance – Built in the 1970s, Poppies still exudes history, elegance, and class within an oasis in downtown Kuta.
• My review • Check prices for Poppies
24. Conrad – Tanjung Benoa
Best Resort in Tanjung Benoa – Luxury suites and villas, perfect for families, facing the gigantic grounds or the flawless beach.
• My review • Check prices for the Conrad
25. Mövenpick – Jimbaran
Best Resort in Jimbaran for Families – Staggering size, mall attached, and amazing facilities for families with children of all ages.
• My review • Check prices for the Mövenpick Resort & Spa
26. Hilton – Bukit Peninsula – near Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Bukit Peninsula for Facilities – Truly massive resort on a cliff-top with pools featuring “beaches”, as well as tennis courts, amphitheater, and all sorts of family activities.
• My review • Check prices for the Hilton Resort
27. Sofitel – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Nusa Dua for Location – Stylish design, family-friendly, and gorgeous beach, with definite bonus of being walkable to facilities in neighboring Tanjung Benoa.
• My review • Check prices for the Sofitel
28. Hyatt Regency – Sanur
Best Resort in Sanur for Families – Newly renovated throughout, the central location, world-class facilities, and vast gardens are adored by families.
• My review • Check prices for the Hyatt Regency
29. Alam Indah – Ubud
Best Hotel in Ubud for a Romantic Holiday – Traditional, serene, and charismatic, with adorable bungalows in spectacular ravine setting close to downtown and Monkey Forest sanctuary.
• My review • Check prices for Alam Indah
30. Westin – Nusa Dua
Best Resort in Nusa Dua for Families – Compact, convenient, and luxurious, with excellent facilities for families.
• My review • Check prices for the Westin Resort
31. The Bandha – Legian
Best New Resort in Southern Bali – Exquisite luxury and fantastic facilities in superb location along the pulsating street and sandy beach.
• My review • Check prices for The Bandha Hotel & Suites
32. Anantara Vacation Club – Legian
Best Apartments in Southern Bali for Families –Very rare collection of large and well-equipped apartments in a great location with a kitchen, living area, and up to three bedrooms.
• My review • Check prices for the Anantara Vacation Club
33. Segara Village – Sanur
Best Resort in Sanur for Facilities – Long-established and traditional, with adults-only wing of rooms and pool, but also family-friendly with a kids club, tennis courts, and playground.
• My review • Check prices for the Segara Village Hotel
34. Grand Mirage – Tanjung Benoa
Best Resort in Tanjung Benoa for Families – One of two adjoining resorts called Family Paradise with a vibrant design, abundant facilities for children, and five types of rooms for families.
• My review • Check prices for the Grand Mirage Resort
35. Aquaria Eco Resort – Candidasa
Best Boutique Resort in Eastern Bali – Cute, eco-friendly, and peaceful, with perfect beachside position and lovingly furnished rooms.
• My review • Check prices for the Aquaria Eco Resort
36. Genggong – Candidasa
Best Resort in Eastern Bali for Sea Views – Serene and secluded property where all the rooms have views of the beach lined with traditional boats and dotted with small islands.
• My review • Check prices for the Hotel Genggong
37. Indiana Kenanga – Nusa Lembongan
Best Resort in Bali for Tropical Island Vibe – Sumptuous and serene villas in idyllic location between genuine village and powdery-white beach.
• My review • Check prices for Indiana Kenanga
38. Tamarind – Nusa Lembongan
Best Resort on Nusa Lembongan – So lovable and convenient, with large, quiet and stylish villas (with up to three bedrooms), and perfect rooftop pool with extensive views
• My review • Check prices for the Tamarind Resort
KUTA – THE BEST HOTELS
The 12 Best Places to Stay in Kuta & Tuban
Pictured above: Sheraton Kuta Resort
The hub of the Bali tourist scene, Kuta is busy, noisy, hectic – and a lot of fun. It’s where you’ll find the most nightlife in the form of large thumping dance bars. Crowds are younger but older travelers are in the mix too. This is the busiest beach on Bali but still a great place to suntan and swim. Also, a great place to take beginner surf lessons.
1. Hard Rock
Vast grounds and endless family-friendly facilities — yet in downtown Kuta.
This inconceivably massive resort is, remarkably, on the busiest corner of Kuta. The Hard Rock theme continues with autographed guitars on the walls and an immense cocktail bar decorated with gold records. But the main attractions for many are the pools, which never seem to end. They feature islands, a beach with volleyball courts, lifeguards, a beach club, and huge gazebos. All types of rooms and suites are luxurious and face extensive gardens. They are also nicely distant from the traffic noise outside. Probably the finest resort on Bali for families, the Hard Rock provides a children’s pool with a playground in the water, two exhilarating kids clubs with extensive activities for different age groups, and a range of other fun things for the whole clan. Yet, incredibly, the main entrance is only 50 meters from Kuta Beach and just a few minutes’ stroll from the world-class Beachwalk Shopping Center.
Historic, elegant, and charming oasis within the chaos of Kuta.
One of the very first hotels built in the region, Poppies oozes a romantic vibe. The gardens include fountains, bridges, ponds of goldfish, and thatched umbrellas with rattan chairs. The gorgeous cottages feature a corner sofa, a thatched roof, an open-air bathroom with a sunken marble bathtub, and a private patio facing flourishing gardens that provide privacy without isolation. The stylish pool is a decent size and lined with shady palms and blossoming bougainvillea, while a library, bar, and jacuzzi sit alongside it. Lofty stone walls keep it quietly secluded, and it’s directly opposite the equally-renowned Poppies Restaurant, where breakfast is included. But it’s only meters away from a selection of shops, cafés, and bars, and a short stroll from the renowned Kuta Beach.
3. Bali Garden
Stylish, convenient, unpretentious, and old-fashioned — but in a good way.
The traditional design, with its lotus-filled ponds and trickling fountains, is more appealing than most other resorts nearby. All rooms are spacious and tasteful, featuring contemporary Balinese decor and face the sea or tropical gardens. The main pool with a swim-up bar is very shady, while the adults-only pool is lined with gorgeous gazebos, and a third pool is alongside the sea. Still part of the curved Kuta Bay, the beach in front of the resort is broad, and the sand is white, among the best in Tuban, South Kuta. The Bali Garden is also ideal for families with teenagers because of the excellent beach, pools, and location; adjacent to the Discovery mall, with familiar fast-food outlets, opposite the fantastic Waterbom waterpark, and next to a beachside path perfect for cycling. The resort is also close enough to walk to Kuta (500m) but distant from the comparative chaos there.
Exquisite luxury that could not be closer to Bali’s most popular beach and mall.
The gigantic lobby sets the scene: waterfalls, men playing gamelan instruments, and young ladies in traditional costumes welcoming guests. This contemporary and fashionable resort is perched above the multi-level Beachwalk Shopping Center and in the midst of downtown Kuta. Every room is opulent and features vibrant decor and a plush “Sheraton Bed.” Many rooms are angled with a balcony offering beautiful views of Kuta Beach and its celebrated sunsets. The upper-level infinity pool and adjacent gym also boast superb vistas and welcome breezes. And somehow, the entire resort avoids most of the noise from the traffic below. Note: in late 2022, the hotel was still undergoing extensive renovations to its rooms, restaurants, and other facilities.
Unique charm, ambiance, and tranquility in the midst of chaotic Kuta
The name of this adorable hotel emanates from the Balinese kulkul tower at the front and the Indonesian word for nature. It’s squeezed between two mega-resorts and resembles a traditional Balinese village. The low-level buildings are surrounded by lovingly landscaped gardens packed with rattan furniture and dotted with ponds, palms, statues, and fountains. Two adequately-sized pools feature a bar and wooden deck. The standard rooms are very comfortable and contain a veranda or balcony and feature a Balinese-style thatched roof, a wide veranda, a four-poster bed, and windows that maximize light and views. All rooms are at least 100 meters from the traffic along the beachside road. Accessible along a stone path, the villas are airy, tranquil, and secluded. The hotel entrance is 50 meters from Kuta’s famed beach, sunsets, and endless cafés, bars, and shops.
6. Bali Dynasty
Superb facilities, terrific location, and extra special for families.
While this resort does not directly face the ocean and, therefore, no rooms offer sea views, guests can still enjoy the private Beach Club very close by. The main pool, with its “waterfalls,” volleyball nets, and swim-up bar, is truly massive. Another caters to children, and a third pool is for adults only. All rooms are very comfortable, and those specifically designed for families feature bunk beds for up to three children. Most rooms overlook the pools and extensive gardens, but some face the parking garage and entrance road, so choose carefully. The two main selling points are the location and the facilities for families. It’s walkable to the Discovery and Lippo malls and the world-class Waterbom waterpark. And family fun includes two cheerful kids clubs, a 50 meter waterslide, and a range of fun all-day activities.
7. Aloft Kuta
Perfect position for Kuta’s major attractions: shopping, surfing, and swimming.
The little sister to the nearby Sheraton Hotel is the new four-star Aloft hotel that’s unashamedly hip, quirky, and instantly likable. The words SAVVY and SASSY are displayed in the lobby that pulsates with flashing lights and DNA music. It’s quietly positioned 200 meters down a dead-end lane and adjacent to the world-class, multi-level Beachwalk Shopping Center entrance. Moreover, the Aloft is only a five-minute stroll to Kuta Beach, renowned for its sand, surf, and sunsets. The compact rooms, which feature colorful decor and innovative design, are dominated by a massive Smart TV that swivels for maximum viewing pleasure. Despite the limited space, the Aloft also provides a gym and outdoor pool overlooking the shopping center below.
Stylish, sophisticated, nicely-located, and fab for families.
With its eye-catching layout and design, this five-star resort offers charm and elegance. The rooms and suites feature modern design and Balinese decor rarely seen in the Kuta region. Most of the ground-level rooms provide direct access to the lagoon pool. The onsite spa and restaurants are also as classy as expected. The ANVAYA is popular with those on a romantic getaway, yet also impressively set up for families, with eight pools, plenty of activities, Family Premiere Rooms, and a small but engaging kids club. And the location is undoubtedly a major attraction. It faces the finest beach in Tuban, South Kuta, and is easily walkable to two malls, Discovery and Lippo, the world-class Waterbom waterpark, and numerous places to shop, eat, and drink.
New, chic, and convenient — and already popular.
Opened as recently as early 2022, the Tribe is already setting the standard in a revitalized area of northern Kuta (not far from Legian). Facing the beachside road, this very stylish boutique hotel is unapologetically hip and caters so nicely to the younger crowds. It offers a range of compact rooms and suites at lower-than-expected rates, but there’s nothing traditional about the design or Balinese about the decor. The location is meters from the beach, which is considerably less crowded than just 200 meters further south or north, and a brief stroll to the world-class, multi-level Beachwalk Shopping Center, crammed with places to eat and shop. The rooftop holds the sublime, bright-blue infinity-edged pool that almost seems to drip into the sea.
Likable, colorful, and wonderfully hidden from traffic and crowds.
Part of a small chain of luxury boutique hotels across Bali, the Amnaya has distinctive mauve paint and wood-stained balconies. All rooms are spacious. Most face the elongated and inviting pool, while the Family Suites feature two of everything – bedrooms, bathrooms, and balconies. And the villas are concealed behind lofty walls yet still only a few meters from the pool. Located 150 meters along a tranquil path from the busy road through Tuban (also known as South Kuta), the Amnaya is less than 400 meters from the beach and about 1 kilometer from shopping heaven at Kuta. Also, the hotel is close to a cluster of tempting eateries, convenient to the Discovery Shopping Mall, and behind the world-class Waterbom waterpark (which does make the resort a little noisy in places).
Chic, dazzling, lovable, and in a revitalized part of Kuta.
Squeezed alongside the equally adorable Bali Tribe hotel, the MAMAKA is the essence of a boutique hotel: compact, trendy, and so easy to like instantly. Nothing about the layout or design is Balinese, but it’s vibrant throughout. The rooms and suites (with names like Swagger and Top Gun) are highly functional and feature all the latest conveniences; some offer two bedrooms and a kitchenette. Bonuses rarely seen elsewhere include a free minibar during certain hours, self-service laundry, and breakfast (included). Moreover, the glorious beach over the road is considerably less crowded than elsewhere in Kuta, and rates are lower than expected. However, the major attraction is on the rooftop: sparkling pool, heavenly ocean views, lounge chairs, gazebos, bar, and outdoor cinema.
Newly-renovated and nicely-located, it’s unfussy and terrific for families on a budget.
This four-star resort boasts a vast array of rooms in low-level buildings facing gardens that are rarely this extensive in downtown Kuta. Almost hidden behind a small arcade, the SOL is pleasingly quiet, and the two bright-blue pools, one with a swim-up bar, are particularly shady from all the frangipani trees. The location is a selling point, too. It’s between Kuta, rightly famous for its beach, shopping, and nightlife, and the northern part of Tuban (also known as South Kuta), lined with sports bars and restaurants offering live seafood. The SOL is also recommended for families. There is plenty of space to run around, a few games are offered, and rooms with connecting doors are easy to arrange. Moreover, it’s an easy walk to the world-class Waterbom waterpark, and rates are very competitive (often including a hearty buffet breakfast).
Hotels on Map: Pullman • AlamKulkul • The Stones • Akmani • Tribe • Kuta Beach • Sheraton • Kuta Seaview • Hard Rock • Poppies • Bali Garden • Amnaya • Bali Dynasty • Febri’s • Holiday Inn • Patra
LEGIAN – THE BEST HOTELS
The 10 Best Places to Stay in Legian
Pictured above: Padma Resort in Legian.
Legian is largely indistinguishable from Kuta other than it being calmer and quieter as you move north. There are still plenty of places to eat and drink, and the sand and surf are still great. The hum and nightlife of Kuta is just a short walk away.
Massive, traditional, convenient, and perfect for families.
This long-established five-star resort is based around lovingly landscaped gardens in a gigantic area within walking distance of Kuta and Seminyak. Of the 13 categories of accommodation, the spacious and comfortable bungalows, called chalets, include a balcony overlooking tropical plants. The smaller Deluxe Rooms are in motel-style blocks with patios on the ground-floor rooms that spill out into one of four pools. Some suites have two bedrooms and are ideal for families, while the Presidential Suites, with three bedrooms, a private pool, and butler service, are fit for, well, a president. The beachfront pool appears endless and has one of the most enticing swim-up bars imaginable. The younger ones would enjoy the children’s pool with waterslides and all the fun activities offered at the supervised kids club and attached Game Center.
2. The Bandha
Exquisite luxury, perfect position, and fantastic facilities.
With an ideal location set 100 meters from the main street and facing the beach, The Bandha is easy to miss and larger than it looks. There are two distinct sections. One area faces the larger Lagoon Pool, surrounded by extensive decking and lounge chairs. Another cluster of rooms is near the infinity pool and across from the beach. Most rooms on the ground floors offer direct access to a pool. And the suites are truly magnificent: some with two bedrooms (so perfect for families); many with a spa bath; one on the rooftop with a private pool; and a few provide the sort of direct sea views rarely possible in Kuta, Legian, or Seminyak. Topped with a rooftop lounge and café with friendly, attentive service.
3. Anantara Vacation Club
Wonderful apartments ideal for families and long-stayers in glorious location.
This newish four-star resort offers the sort of self-contained apartments rarely found in this part of Bali. Perfect for families and those staying a while, these apartments are huge. Each contains a kitchen with extras like a water cooler and rice cooker and plenty of luggage space for everyone. The extended balcony on the upper levels also adds to the immense feeling of space. For families, some apartments have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the one on the rooftop with three bedrooms boasts a plunge pool. The shady pool sparkles, although most guests prefer the lovely beach just 50 meters away. Extras like free bicycle rental, laundry machines, and free shuttle service to neighboring Seminyak shops add tremendous appeal. There’s also a reasonably sized kids club. The other attraction is simply the location in the most likable part of the Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak region: facing a quiet beachside path and top-notch eateries.
4. Legian Beach Hotel
Vast, convenient, long-established, and popular with families.
The delightful Balinese style and charm starts at the entrance, flanked by goldfish ponds, and extends to the lush gardens dotted with fountains. On the edge where chaotic Kuta blends into laidback Legian, one side of the resort faces a pathway alongside the glorious beach. The facilities include tennis courts, a surf shop, and two beautiful, shady beachside pools. The standard rooms are smallish but comfortable enough, while the secluded and traditionally-designed bungalows have been lovingly renovated. Some villas have two bedrooms, and many feature a private pool. The Little Starfish Kids Club offers Balinese dance and squirrel feeding, and the game room is great for older children.
Compact and classy, with resort-style facilities but not the crowds.
This charming resort faces a serene stretch of beach far from traffic and is within a short stroll of the neighboring regions of Seminyak (for boutiques and bistros) and Kuta (for bars and surf). Pleasantly compact, the Niksoma features an appealing design of beige and maroon, as well as two pools with sea views and gardens scattered with lounge chairs and gazebos. The range of accommodation is also impressive. Deluxe Rooms are in small three-level buildings facing the gardens and inviting split-level pool. The suites, with a four-poster bed and marble bathroom, are perfect for a romantic getaway. The (singular) two-bedroom Presidential Villa is the height of seclusion and luxury. 50 meters north of the resort is a path that leads guests to downtown Legian, crammed with places to eat, drink, and shop in about a five-minute walk.
Gorgeous design, expansive gardens, and prime location.
Less opulent and, therefore, more affordable than neighboring resorts, the Bali Mandira features a pleasant Balinese-style design. Rooms don’t offer sea views, but they do face the beautiful gardens filled with ponds and statues. All rooms are spacious and renovated with many Balinese touches. The cottages are nicely secluded and accessible along a village-style path. The extensive lawns are peppered with lounge chairs and palm trees, and the glittering beachside pool features a “waterfall” and sandy “beach” with thatched umbrellas. Another pool is for adults only, and a third for children has waterslides. Other reasons to stay include the modest kids club offering activities in Indonesian culture, the thatched two-level Azul Beach Club, which provides tasty meals and splendid views, and, of course, the glorious white sands and magical sunsets of Legian Beach just 50 meters away.
Massive resort with impeccable location and superior luxury.
Along the invisible divide between Kuta and Legian, the five-star Pullman enjoys a prime position with many shops, cafés, and other facilities in all directions. Plus, the white sands of the famous Kuta Beach are just across the busy road. Most rooms and suites don’t hear the street noise and provide a sizable balcony or patio facing the vast gardens or the main pool. Rooms on the third level or above enjoy sea views. Although the design and decor are rarely reminiscent of Bali, guests come (and return) for the impressive facilities, including the gorgeous rooftop infinity pool with sublime views, the world-class spa, and the two kids clubs offering engaging activities.
8. The Stones
Perfectly combining luxury and location with elegance and convenience.
This massive, opulent resort is along the invisible border between chaotic Kuta and laidback Legian. The spacious rooms, each with trendy decor and the latest conveniences, can be dark inside. Better are those on the ground floor with patio steps leading to a private pool that opens to the main pool, which is lined with cabanas and surrounded by a wood deck. Alternatively, the fabulous pool on the rooftop provides welcome breezes and lovely views. The kids club is indoors but still bright and airy, although The Stones is not that focused on families. It’s so close to the famous Kuta Beach, the world-class Beachwalk Shopping Center, and so many other shops, bars, and cafés, yet quietly distant from the busy beachside road.
Stylish yet unpretentious, convenient yet quiet – what’s not to love?
The Ossotel is centrally located in downtown Legian. Surrounded by places to eat, drink, and shop, and only a two-minute walk via a pathway to a shady beach of white sand. The hotel is instantly likable. The modern design of the building contrasts delightfully with the old-style photos in each room. Despite the limited space, all accommodations are large – particularly the suites that feature a balcony or patio with comfortable outdoor furniture. Most on the ground floor has direct access to the lagoon-style pool lined with a wooden deck and lounge chairs. The staff is attentive, the rates are favorable, and there’s a café and bar facing the street.
10. Three Brothers Bungalows
Charming, traditional, and mid-priced oasis.
One of the very first hotels in Legian is still one of the very best. Stretching across a vast property and facing a relatively quiet street lined with shops and cafés, this hotel boasts a setting and size envied by five-star mega resorts. Three Brothers doesn’t look or feel dated, with constant renovations ensuring modern comforts without sacrificing charm. Rooms are primarily semi-detached in low-level, traditionally-designed buildings, away from the noisy pool, lobby, and roads. Most feature ornately-carved doors, a four-poster bed, and a high thatched ceiling. The sparkling-blue pool, with an attached children’s section, is almost hidden behind thick palms. The well-established gardens that ensures room privacy are home to masses of birds. The Staff is accommodating, and the street-side café uses organic ingredients.
Hotels on Map: W Bali • Potato Head • The Seminyak • Anantara • Royal Beach • Puri Cendana • Blu-Zea • Double-Six • Bali Niksoma • Melasti • Three Brothers Bungalows • Padma • Bali Mandira • Legian Beach Hotel • Mercure
SEMINYAK – THE BEST HOTELS
The 10 Best Places to Stay in Seminyak
Pictured above: infinity pool at the The Seminyak
Seminyak is where you’ll find high-end dining, trendy clubs, and the best hotels of the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak region – which is basically one long beach town. The crowd here skews older and wealthier but it’s still a fun and lively place. Lots of bars, nightlife, shopping, and music. The beach is wonderful too (and quieter than Kuta and Legian).
1. W Bali
Luxurious and modern, and with one of the most stunning pools anywhere on Bali.
This five-star resort on a colossal property in northern Seminyak is innovative and chic without feeling trendy or unwelcoming. Rooms are angled to maximize ocean views in a building facing the sea. The luxury villas, with up to three bedrooms and names like WOW and Marvelous, sacrifice views for seclusion with their high walls but offer direct beach access. These villas also feature a huge private pool, a dazzling open-air lounge and dining area, a large sofa, and a long desk. The infinity pool alongside the beach is arguably the most spectacular in southern Bali – and massive enough to feature “beaches,” “waterfalls,” and “islands” with palm trees. Although a little isolated from facilities, the W is within a short stroll along the sand from several glitzy beach clubs.
2. The Oberoi
Prime position, vast gardens, fantastic facilities, and not as overbuilt as others.
The Oberoi proudly claims that 70% of its 15 acres of grounds in downtown Seminyak are dedicated to bright-green lawns, lush tropical gardens, and lily ponds with fish. There are fewer rooms, only about 70, that are nicely secluded and on one level. The villas designed with stone walls and thatched roofs are laid out like a traditional Balinese village. They are all luxurious and beautifully furnished. Some even offer a pool – and one that’s large enough for a family. The Lanai Rooms are just as stunning, with rattan chairs and a four-poster carved bed. Any promised “ocean views” may disappoint because the beachside areas are for all guests. Frangipanis frame the excellent restaurant and attractive pool. The gym and spa are world-class, and The Oberoi also offers rare extras, such as a tennis court and amphitheater for traditional performances.
3. The Seminyak
Vast, stylish, and serene – and one of Bali’s finest beachside pools.
Located where the reasonably quiet street narrows towards the beach and within a short walk to the numerous bars, bistros, boutiques, and beach clubs for which the ‘Yak is renowned. Rooms are either in the Beach Wing facing the sea or the extensive Garden Wing on the other side of the main road. All rooms are comfortable, without being opulent, and feature modern Balinese decor. The larger and more luxurious suites offer a jacuzzi with sea views, and the secluded villas with a private pool are sumptuous. The main pool is one of the most magical in Bali, with a swim-up bar, beachside location, infinity edges, and lined with many palms, statues, and fountains. A better value than most rivals in Seminyak, this resort is particularly romantic, although families are still welcome.
Utterly charming, attractively designed, and different from nearby resorts.
This four-star boutique hotel is simply captivating. The striking design is reminiscent of the colonial era, e.g., the checkered tiled floors, lobby filled with lounge chairs, swaying palms, whitewash walls, and brown-stained window frames. The hotel grounds are compact without feeling cramped and offer plenty of seats on terraces under overhead fans where guests can sip a G&T as if it were Singapore in 1852. There are two separate wings of rooms, each with its own lovely pool. All rooms are as adorable as hoped and contain lampshades, a leather headboard, a marble floor, old-style photos, and all the usual modern conveniences. The limited number of guests ensures personal service, and it’s nicely located among Seminyak’s restaurants, boutiques, and ultra-hip beach clubs. Absolutely worth a splurge, so book ahead! But note: young children are actively discouraged.
Stylish and modern, yet personable and old-fashioned – and with a truly exquisite pool.
The first impression of The Legian (which is actually in Seminyak, not the adjoining area of Legian) is the modern design. However, the lobby area with lounges, a library, and a gamelan musician is delightfully old-fashioned. The resort is smaller than nearby rivals, and the staff is attentive. All the facilities are exceptional, especially the spa and gym, and the standout feature is the classic tropical-style pool. It has three tiers, is lined with swaying palms, overlooks the beach which is three meters away and has those infinity edges that seem to merge into the sea and sky. The rooms, called suites, are lovely. Some are antique with a four-poster bed, others are more contemporary, and the pool villas are exceptional. The resort is also nicely located in a classy part of Seminyak and within walking distance of many bistros, boutiques, and beach clubs.
Fashionable and in an ideal location for shops, sunsets, and sand
Along the invisible border between stylish Seminyak and laidback Legian, this five-star resort features a design of stone, glass, and wood that’s almost futuristic. The luxurious suites in five-level buildings feature funky furnishings and abundant windows to maximize the ocean views. Those at ground level have a patio with steps leading to the magnificent infinity pool overlooking the beach. The Penthouse stretches across two levels and has butler service and a jacuzzi on the terrace. The facilities are equally as impressive and include an amazing spa, a 1920s-style restaurant, and the aptly-named rooftop Sunset Bar. Its location faces the beach, strewn with bean bags for drinking cocktails and watching sunsets. Within a short walk are stylish shops along the street and cafés down the beachside path, also ideal for jogging and bicycling.
Luxury, seclusion, and romance.
From the main street, an arched pathway lined with dense bamboo trees leads to the charming lobby area. From there, guests can walk (or be taken by golf cart) to the very secluded villas. Each villa has one or two bedrooms and a private pool. The apartment suites are in a separate building in the back and have one or two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and a balcony. The ambiance is tranquility and romance. The whole place is well-designed, ensuring distance from traffic noise and maximum privacy for guests. There is ample parking, an attractive pool, engaging activities for the kids, and a poolside restaurant. Nearby, a few restaurants and boutiques are starting to pop up along the street, but the Avani is a little isolated. It’s easy to grab a taxi, ojek (motorbike taxi), or the free shuttle service to the lovely beach or sophisticated shops.
New, with a striking design, fantastic facilities, and top-notch location.
Inside the Courtyard are Rows of rooms and suites on three sides, and the lobby and restaurant surround the long pool. The triple-tiered pool is stunning and flanked by frangipani trees, colorful beanbags, and comfortable lounge chairs. All rooms feature a balcony or patio overlooking the pool or, less appealingly, the main road. Some of the rooms on the ground floor provide direct pool access. Other attractions include the award-winning spa, kids club offering engaging activities, and sunken pool bar. And the location is among the most pleasing in Seminyak: along a reasonably quiet street packed with restaurants and boutiques. Less than 500 meters from the beach, with cafés and bars on the sand.
Small, funky, great value, and in a quiet yet convenient area of classy Seminyak.
The Tijili is part of an expanding chain of affordable, quirky, three-star boutique hotels. The lobby has yellow-and-red furniture and attentive staff. The rooms are nicely decorated and larger than expected. They are also thoughtfully designed and offer extras often lacking in five-star resorts, like multiple electrical outlets, a rain shower, a particularly comfortable bed, and an internal sliding door that effectively blocks out light and noise. The pool is a decent size and alongside an even funkier bistro. The Tijili is on a reasonably quiet, meandering street where some facilities are popping up. It’s also only 200 meters to a road packed with restaurants and boutiques and a little further to the beach. But for most, the attraction is simply the great value rates.
Inviting and unpretentious mid-range option in the heart of classy Seminyak.
Despite being rebranded in recent years (from The Breezes), this resort remains very popular among guests who return year after year for the location, facilities, and great rates. Almost all rooms are in low-level buildings facing the pools and far from the busy road. The furnishings are very comfortable, the Balinese decor is stylish, and plenty of traditional art adorns the walls. The balconies or patios offer views of the tropical gardens, which are small but tastefully designed. Of the two huge connecting lagoon-style pools, one has four tiers, the other a sandy “beach.” Other welcome attractions include a sunken pool bar, library, special lounge for late flights home, pool table, and tennis court. And the kids club has improved considerably. The hotel is only 400 meters from the beach and is surrounded by the sort of bars, bistros, and boutiques for which Seminyak is renowned.
JIMBARAN – THE BEST HOTELS
The 7 Best Places to Stay in Jimbaran
Pictured above: The fantastic beach at the Jimbaran Puri Hotel.
One of my favorite beaches in Bali though it could be a little too quiet for some – if you want shopping, nightlife, or trendy bars this isn’t the place for you. Jimbaran is minutes from the airport and makes a perfect spot for the first few days before heading off to explore the island. At night the beach is lined with seafood restaurants that serve some of the best food on the island.
1. Four Seasons Jimbaran
Such tranquility, opulence, and seclusion – and the finest views in Jimbaran.
Cascading down an extensive hillside facing the sea and among ornate tropical gardens, this resort offers a range of villas with up to four bedrooms. Each villa is secluded, spacious, and sumptuous, with subtle Balinese decor, a stunning bathroom, and abundant windows to maximize the views of Jimbaran Bay. Every villa also features a private pool with a gazebo, and the main infinity pool blends seamlessly into the horizon. The Jimba Kids Club offers an impressive range of activities for the young ones and the whole family. There is no beach directly in front, but guests can easily walk (or get transported by cart) to the immaculate, private beach club and the seafood cafés set up on the sand for yet another magical sunset.
Height of luxury, serenity, intimacy, and seclusion – perfect for a romantic getaway.
The grounds at Raffles Bali are unbelievably extensive: only 32 villas scatter the 57 acres of gardens, forest, and jungle among streams, ponds, and flourishing plants. Villas (some with two bedrooms) are big and impeccably furnished and include a private pool and Wellbeing Butler service that almost redefines luxury. The substantial private pools face the ocean and are surrounded by lounge chairs. Alongside is a gazebo perched to maximize sea views. Seclusion and privacy are guaranteed: villas are behind walls or thick foliage, and there’s an option to check-in inside the villa. Guests can swim in the infinity pool with edges that seem to merge into the sky and sea or at the Crusoesque cove of powder-white sand only accessible from the resort. Nothing is within walking distance, but Raffles is just a five-minute taxi trip from a delightful outdoor mall and the beachside cafés with tables on the sand for yet another magical sunset.
Massive resort offering luxury, convenience, and fantastic for the family.
The grounds are vast, and all the rooms, suites, and villas are spacious, feature traditional touches, and garden views from sizable balconies or patios. Suites in the exclusive wing are sumptuous and include 24-hour butler service. The extensive gardens are packed with statues, fountains, ponds, and corridors lined with Balinese art and photos. The resort also offers six gorgeous pools and one just for youngsters. The kids club is among the finest in Jimbaran. Families can also enjoy tennis, water sports, and other activities. The resort is within walking distance of beachside cafés set up on powdery-white sand for Jimbaran’s renowned sunsets. Note: extensive renovations were being undertaken of the older wing in mid-2022.
4. Jimbaran Puri
Hidden gem with perfect tropical-style beach, pool, and villas.
This gorgeous boutique resort, facing a magnificent stretch of powder-white sand, beautifully marries the traditional (thatched roof) with the new (private pools). Among the manicured gardens are spacious cottages with teak furniture, a sunken bathtub, and marble floors. Elsewhere are secluded villas (with one or two bedrooms) featuring a substantial private pool and a private butler. Adding to the charm and tropical holiday vibe is the boutique, library, and shimmering infinity pool alongside the beach, lined with cabanas and palm trees. The resort is serenely located 300 meters from the main road, in a quieter part of Jimbaran, and only a short stroll to the seafood cafés that set up tables on the sand for the majestic sunsets.
Staggering size, mall attached, and amazing facilities – the finest in Jimbaran for families.
This new and large resort is now the premier destination in Jimbaran for families. The spacious rooms and suites feature a contemporary design and decor. The Jimbaran Pool Suites, four times larger than the standard rooms, comes with a private pool and (distant) ocean views. The resort offers multiple pools, a jacuzzi, a sunken pool bar, “beaches,” and a children’s pool playground. The Meera Kids Club offers various interactive and fun-filled programs, including classes in Balinese culture. Conveniently located next door is Samasta Lifestyle Village, a nice outdoor mall. About one kilometer away is a glorious stretch of white sand, where cafés set up tables for dinner at sunset.
Colonial-style, serene, charismatic, and adorably unique.
Just across the road from the InterContinental resort is a truly wonderful surprise: the enchanting, four-star boutique hotel, Balquisse. Spread across a former coconut plantation, guests are immediately charmed as they approach the open-air lobby. Everything is exquisitely cozy, with shuttered doors, checkered tiles, woven mats, Clawfoot bathtubs, and ornate chandeliers. It feels like you’ve stepped back into the mid-19th century. Each of the 16 rooms, bungalows, and suites are individually decorated with antique furniture (or perfect replicas). The Plantation Master Suite is as lovable as it sounds. There are still modern comforts, of course, inside and out, including a spa and sizable pool. Set way back from the main road in a quieter part of Jimbaran, the Balquisse is so peaceful that the birds are louder than the traffic.
7. ASAI Village
Huge villas offering serenity, sophistication, and seclusion – perfect for two couples.
ASAI Village offers something quite rare: modern, self-contained, but fully-serviced villas. Most are two-level and have a huge living area, fully equipped kitchen, and dining table, all overlooking the private pool that accommodates four people. Upstairs, both bedrooms have an attached bathroom and are the same size – ideal for two couples traveling together. The villas are light and airy, and the whole complex is peaceful, secluded, and private. ASAI Village is a 15-minute steep walk to Jimbaran beach and the cafés with tables on the sand for dinner at sunset. Note: A total of 20 villas (some with one bedroom and a shared pool) are planned, as well as a gym, café, and spa.
Hotels on Map: The Open House • Jimbaran Puri • InterContinental • Le Meridien • Four Seasons Jimbaran
BUKIT PENINSULA – THE BEST HOTELS
The 8 Best Places to Stay in the Bukit
Pictured above: The beachfront pool at The Ritz-Carlton.
The peninsula south of Kuta and the airport is known as the Bukit Peninsula. “Bukit” means “hill” in Indonesian. The area is dry, hilly and rocky, with lots of scrubby bush – not good for growing rice, so there are no real villages. Outside of the beach areas of Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa (described separately below), there is little shopping and the beaches (such as Padang-Padang and Dreamland) are mainly for surfing. The cultural highlight of the Bukit is Ulu Watu, the isolated sacred temple on the south-west tip. In the middle of the peninsula is the rather odd Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, designed for Indonesian tourists, with traditional dances, souvenir stalls and massive religious statues; and awesome views. There is no public transportation or tourist shuttle buses, so the only way to get around is by taxi – or rented car or motorbike (not recommended). Anywhere in the peninsula, taxis would normally have to be pre-ordered by your hotel.
1. The Ritz-Carlton
Oh-so immense and luxurious – and marvelous for families.
The luxury and absolute extravagance commence at the lobby perched on a cliff overlooking the vast beach. From the lobby, a glass elevator hurtles to sea level, where guests wait for transport to the villas and suites among the lush tropical gardens. Suites are comparatively modest, and ground-level guests have direct access to the stunning infinity pool facing the sea. The contemporary Cliff Villas and Sky Villas have private pools. The resort also caters well to families. Many activities at The Ritz Kids Club focus on Balinese culture and are available for the whole family. The children’s pool and playground are large, secure, and supervised. And with the resort providing free, regular shuttle buses to the restaurants and shops at Nusa Dua, The Ritz-Carlton is not as isolated as it may feel.
Luxury and elegance in an extraordinary clifftop setting.
Spread out over 222 acres, the AYANA Resort (with the adjacent AYANA and RIMBA villa complexes) boasts one of the largest grounds on Bali. It’s recently renovated and even more stylish and elegant, with exquisite Balinese furnishings and carvings. The lawns are vast enough for an 18-hole putting course, and the lush gardens are comparable to some city botanical gardens. It features twelve pools across the grounds, including one for children and the stunning clifftop infinity pool connected by an outdoor elevator to the renowned Rock Bar and a tiny cove of white sand. The AYANA caters very well to families, with a game area, children’s playground, and an impressive kids club with a cinema. Guests rarely leave the property with so much to do and about a dozen places to eat and drink. Nothing is within walking distance, but there are regular shuttle buses to Jimbaran and Nusa Dua.
Such opulence with family-friendly facilities and astonishing cliff-side setting.
At this massive resort, carved from an extended cliff, an elevator plummets 15 levels from the lobby to the exquisite white-sand beach below. There are 21 types of accommodation, ranging from rooms at ground level with direct access to one of four pools to the Presidential Suite Ocean View with two bedrooms and twin balconies. The main lagoon-shaped pool is grand enough to feature sandy “beaches” and “waterfalls.” The Hilton also offers amenities rarely found elsewhere, like, tennis courts, a medical clinic, and an amphitheater for traditional performances. Families enjoy special rates, an adventure playground, and the Jungle Kids Club. It’s 5 kilometers from Nusa Dua but easily accessible by a resort shuttle bus.
4. Apurva Kempinski
Unparalleled size and unrivaled extravagance.
For once, descriptions such as eye-popping, jaw-dropping, and mind-blowing are not exaggerations. The sheer magnitude of this resort is almost impossible to believe without being there. For example, about 100 meters across the lobby from the reception desks, an elevator descends 15 floors to sea level, where guests get transported by golf carts to the beach. The extravagant design, decor, and furnishings are extraordinary. No expense has been spared – from the spa (with its own pool) to the 60-meter-long main pool and the Jalak Family Club. Over half of the 475 rooms, suites, and villas have a private pool. About 5 kilometers south of Nusa Dua, the Apurva Kempinksi feels isolated, but almost everything required is within the resort, and a shuttle bus makes regular trips to the outside world.
5. Suarga Padang Padang
Relaxed, enchanting, and attractive in an exquisite seaside location.
The layout of this elegant, charming, and sustainable boutique hotel is instantly striking, from the wooden floor in the lobby to the superb lounge facing the ocean. The cliff-top setting is stunning, with the open-air restaurant, the infinity pool, and many rooms facing the sea. However, there is no direct access to a beach. There are 36 rooms and villas furnished and designed to maximize the breeze. They also feature Balinese crafts, and most have a balcony with direct views of the extended bay. The Suarga is energy efficient, and the staff is professional and personable. It’s in a more developed part of the increasingly hip area of Padang Padang and barely 100 meters from the steps down to the spectacular surf beach that is no longer a “secret.”
6. Ulu Segara
Contemporary, intimate, elegant, and endless sea views.
Far smaller than neighboring mega-resorts, the Ulu Segara faces a small private beach accessible by narrow steps that mostly disappears at high tide. The villas are massive and feature modern decor, a private garden inside and out, and abundant windows. They also contain a bathroom as large as the bedroom, comfortable living, kitchen, and dining areas, and a private pool. Some have two or three bedrooms. Suites feature a kitchenette, a huge lounge area, and a broad balcony with stunning sea views. With a swim-up bar, the infinity pool overlooking the sea is one of Bali’s finest. The Ulu Segara is large enough for a great gym and spa, yet small so guests can receive personalized service. A free, regular shuttle bus to the shops and eateries at Nusa Dua (6km) is available. It’s romantic and popular, so book ahead.
7. Radisson Blu
Huge, modern, quiet, fabulous facilities, and great value.
This surprisingly large hotel is in the midst of farmland, about 1.5 km from the renowned surfing beach of Padang Padang. (It is not in Uluwatu, famous for its temple about 6km away.) The hotel layout is instantly striking, and the rooms and suites are superb. The gym, spa, and restaurants are as impressive as those in larger resorts, and the pools with “islands” of palm trees seem to stretch in all directions. Adding to the attractions are the free yoga classes, vibrant play area for children, exceptional service, and it’s pet friendly. The Radisson Blu is along a 1km paved path where cows still roam. It’s also a little further from facilities in the increasingly trendy area of Padang Padang, with a stunning beach that is certainly no longer a “secret.” Free hotel shuttle buses help offset the isolation and lack of sand nearby.
Utterly adorable and memorable, relaxed and convenient.
Part of a chain of funky boutique hotels spread across the region, the PinkCoco is designed with a Mexican-Spanish influence. The namesake color is everywhere – from staff uniforms to the flamingo statues – and the decor and furnishings are enchanting throughout the 28 rooms and suites. Many rooms feature an outdoor alcove or patio with bright cushions and are secluded despite the limited space. Both pools are charming, and guests also rave about the staff. It’s in a more developed part of the increasingly hip area of Padang Padang and about 300 meters from the stunning beach that is certainly no longer a “secret.” (Despite the name, the hotel is not at Uluwatu, it’s about 4km away, and famous for its cliff-side temple.) The PinkCoco is eco-friendly and for adults only.
Hotels on Map: Sakala • Grand Mirage • Hotel Nikko • Conrad • Holiday Inn • Sol Benoa • Club Med • Sofitel • Nusa Dua Beach Hotel • Westin • The Laguna • Meliá • Grand Hyatt • Merusaka • Novotel • St. Regis • The Bale • Mulia • Hilton • The Ritz-Carlton • Ulu Segara • The Asmara Heavenly Residence • AYANA
NUSA DUA – THE BEST HOTELS
The 13 Best Places to Stay in Nusa Dua
Pictured above: The Laguna in Nusa Dua.
Nusa Dua is home to more 5-star resorts than any other beach town in Bali. It’s a great destination if you want to sit by the pool and drink cocktails. Not so great if you want to see the “real Bali”. The beach here is lovely with soft sand. There is a large shopping mall (Bali Collection) filled with high end western name brands but not the eclectic collection of shops that you’ll find in Kuta, Seminyak, or Ubud. The area has benefits unheard of elsewhere in Bali: minimal traffic, wide roads, flat footpaths. The world-class Museum Pasifika showcases arts and crafts from across Indonesia and the region. A lovely pathway lines the beaches at Nusa Dua and extends to Tanjung Benoa; the path is ideal for strolling and cycling – rent a bike from your hotel. There are also two world-class golf courses in the Nusa Dua area.
1. St. Regis
Exceptional facilities and ultra-opulent villas facing a flawless beach.
As expected, everything about this incredibly vast resort is truly world-class. Fronting one of Bali’s longest and loveliest beaches, each villa, with up to four bedrooms, boasts an idyllic seafront position. Serene and secluded, these villas feature the most up-to-date appliances, a kitchen, personal butler service, and a sparkling private pool. The stunning suites face the sea (but at a distance), with ornate furnishings, a walk-in closet, and a sunken bathtub. The main lagoon-style pool is enormous, and the extensive gardens burst with coconut palms. Families enjoy the kids club, which provides engaging activities. The St. Regis is just south of Nusa Dua but within walking distance of a few affordable shops, cafés, and some restaurants in neighboring resorts.
Faultless luxury among vast tropical gardens in a superb location.
The wide variety of rooms, suites, and villas are spacious and superbly furnished with subtle Balinese touches. Some newly-renovated rooms face the lotus-filled lagoons, after which the resort is named, and some are angled towards the sea. Many at ground level have direct access to one of seven pools. A few are large enough to feature “islands,” “waterfalls,” and “beaches.” The actual beach out front is immaculately groomed. There are plenty of family activities, such as tennis, yoga, and water sports. Youngsters adore the kids club, children’s pool, and game room. Located within a short stroll of all that Nusa Dua offers, guests can also access the numerous facilities at the adjacent Westin resort.
3. Grand Hyatt
Massive and convenient, with world-class facilities and one of Bali’s finest beaches.
The lobby of this enormous resort sets the tone with its lotus ponds, thatched roof, and welcoming staff. Most rooms are in traditionally designed buildings spread over vast lawns and gardens referred to as “villages.” Spacious and designed with stylish Asian decor, the rooms and suites also feature an expansive balcony or patio facing the sea or gardens. The luxurious villas offer more seclusion, a beachfront setting, and a large private pool. Guests love the curved beach, where the sand is white and clean, and the water is calm and shallow. Other attractions include the five pools (some with a swim-up bar), tennis courts, an outdoor boutique mall, and a water sports center. There are many family activities, and youngsters enjoy the beach playground, children’s pool, extra-long waterslides, and kids club.
Perfect location, sublime beach, and world-class gardens.
Boasting one of the finest settings anywhere in Bali, the Meliá is within an easy walk of the Bali Collection shopping mall and the twin headlands, which lend Nusa Dua its name. The resort faces a curved bay of white, clean sand and calm, shallow water. Perhaps even more impressive are the 27 acres of landscaped tropical gardens with ponds and fountains reminiscent of the water palace at Tirta Gangga in eastern Bali. Traditionally designed and tastefully decorated, all of the eighteen types of rooms, suites, and villas are very comfortable and spacious. They offer a broad balcony or patio with views of the gardens or lagoon-style pools, some of which are large enough to feature “islands.” The kids club has many games and activities for the whole family. Guests can also choose all-inclusive rates, including all meals and a few enticing extras.
Stylish, convenient, and family-friendly.
All rooms and suites feature elegant and contemporary decor, a corner sofa, a marble bathroom, and a balcony or patio with a rocking chair overlooking the gardens or pools. Many at ground level have direct access to the main pool from the patio, and some suites, and all villas, have a private pool. The gardens are comparatively modest but still immaculate, and lawns run up to the beachside path that meanders through Nusa Dua and beyond. The huge pools feature a striking design and sandy “beaches.” The Sofitel caters particularly well to families, too. The impressive kids club offers abundant activities, and a reef protects the pristine beach, so the water is particularly calm and shallow for swimming. Adding to the overall appeal is the proximity to Tanjung Benoa, with a selection of shops, cafés, and water sports within walking and cycling distance.
Compact, convenient, understated luxury, and excellent for families.
Smaller and more personable than some nearby resorts, the Westin offers 19 types of rooms and suites. All are comfortable, functional, and warmly decorated and offer views from floor-to-ceiling windows of the gardens, pools, or ocean (at a distance). There are also several great room options for families. The five pools are shady and shaped like lagoons. Some even have a “waterfall” and “beach.” The Westin faces a scenic, sheltered bay with immaculate sand and calm, shallow water for swimming. The kids club, with a shady playground, trampoline, and spa, is among the finest in Nusa Dua. It accepts children aged from a few months to 12 years in separate secure areas, indoors and outside. The Westin is also centrally located, so everything Nusa Dua offers is within walking and cycling distance.
Sumptuous, spacious, and secluded – ideal for a romantic getaway.
This exquisite five-star boutique resort offers just 39 luxury villas on surprisingly vast grounds where terraces laced with wisteria lead to ponds with “islands” of palms and flamingo sculptures. From under a futuristic-looking arch, a path meanders towards villas among the largest and most secluded in Bali. With up to three bedrooms, they all feature a long private pool, jacuzzi, substantial open-air living area, and contemporary Balinese decor. The Amarterra is much smaller than neighboring resorts, so the staff can be attentive and personable. Still, it’s also large and stylish enough to offer a gym, top-class spa, bicycle rental, and shuttle services around the area. Candlelit dinners and “floating breakfasts” in the guests’ private pools add to the feeling of romance. The eco-friendly Amarterra resort is located in Nusa Dua, where walking and cycling are enjoyable, especially to the golden sands at the private beach club 300 meters away.
Convenient, luxurious, and more affordable than nearby resorts.
Formerly known as INAYA Putri, this resort exudes more personality and flair than most rival resorts. The 400+ rooms and suites are stylish and compact, and many at ground level offer direct access to the main pool via a patio. In a separate enclave, luxury villas have one or two bedrooms and a lovely private pool. The main pool has three tiers and is conveniently located in front of the building packed with facilities. Adding further to the appeal are the billiard-table lawns, immaculate beach lined with funky lounge chairs, water-sports counter, and kids club. Plenty of other activities are available, including the unique outdoor market-style arcade. All of what Nusa Dua has to offer is within a short stroll or bicycle ride via the delightful beachside path, but for many, the main attraction is the competitive rates.
Unpretentious, nicely designed, and welcoming for families.
With traditional gates, ponds, statues, and an abundance of palm trees, the Novotel oozes a classic Bali vacation vibe. Comfortable and spacious rooms feature a wide balcony or patio with views of the gardens or pool. Ideal for families, the suites have up to four bedrooms and a massive lounge, kitchen, and dining area. Some also have a private pool or jacuzzi. The lack of a beachfront is easily compensated by the vast, two-tiered lagoon-style pool and the shuttle buses to the private beach club (500 meters away) with white sand and water sports. The Novotel is also firmly focused on families. The kids club is substantial. The spa offers “kids funny massages,” “beautiful Barbie packages,” and creative activities. Young ones would also love the special children’s pool, playground, and bicycle rental. Parents like the discounts on children’s accommodation and meals. Moreover, many inexpensive shops and cafés are just outside the gates of Nua Dua and within an easy walk of the resort.
10. Nusa Dua Beach Hotel
Tasteful, traditional, and particularly affordable.
Reminders of Bali as a tropical holiday destination are so wonderfully evident throughout. With intricate carvings, lush gardens of swaying palms, murals of traditional art, dragon spouts among ponds of lilies and goldfish, an ancient Banyan tree, and a stone amphitheater where dance and music performances are held most nights. Thatched bale huts face the shady gardens. All rooms and suites, some with two bedrooms, are spacious and feature a subtle Balinese decor. The long beach out front is curved and immaculately groomed. The main pool has an extensive sheltered deck and a fabulous swim-up bar. Families also enjoy the special Family Rooms, two children’s pools, game room, sandy playground, and the many activities offered through the vibrant Gecko Kids Club. The competitive rates and package deals are also attractive.
Compact, functional, unpretentious, and great value.
The Courtyard is subtly but significantly different from many resorts nearby. Firstly, the lush tropical gardens are walkable, with no need for a cart to get around the grounds. Secondly, rates are probably lower than expected because it doesn’t face a beach (600 meters away.) Thirdly, the resort is easily accessible (400 meters) to inexpensive cafés outside the southern gate of Nusa Dua. And lastly, it’s connected by a side entrance to the adjoining Marriott Gardens, and guests are welcome to use the facilities at both resorts. Of course, the Courtyard has everything expected of a luxury five-star resort, including a sizable kids club, access to a private beach club, complimentary shuttle service around the area, and a meandering lagoon-style pool among the finest in Nusa Dua. Overall, the resort design and furnishings are about functionality rather than tradition and value over luxury.
12. Marriott Gardens
Compact, appealing, affordable, and twice the facilities with the sister resort next door.
The Marriott is instantly likable: the grounds are compact, so guests don’t need carts to get around, and the resort is stylishly designed and highly functional. Many rooms and apartments (also called “villas”) face the meandering pool, and those at ground level have direct access from a cute patio. Families love the vibrant kids club and various activities (including free bicycle rental). And the two-bedroom apartments with a fully-equipped kitchen are large enough for a family of five without feeling cramped. What’s more, rates are more attractive than at most larger and flashier resorts nearby. The entrance is along a road just outside Nusa Dua, so guests can easily access the many inexpensive places to eat, drink, and shop. Another definite advantage is that the Marriott is connected, by a side entrance, to the adjoining Courtyard Resort, and guests are welcome to use the facilities at both resorts. Also, the Courtyard Resort is a shortcut to the beach (1 km), or there’s a free shuttle bus.
13. Grand Whiz
Compact, affordable, and likably different from most other Nusa Dua resorts.
Ignore the cheesy name and consider what this has to offer: four-star facilities within the upmarket area of Nusa Dua, but at a fraction of the rates charged by much larger resorts nearby. This hotel is small, so the staff is personable and attentive, but it still offers everything expected, like a bright-blue pool, spa, outdoor jacuzzi, and private beach area. Plus, comparatively inexpensive things, like bicycle rental, meals at the poolside restaurant, and breakfast buffet. The variety of accommodations includes one pool villa with four bedrooms, and the rest of the rooms are neat, unfussy, and not nearly as costly as others in Nusa Dua. Within a three-minute stroll is a glorious beach (use the path alongside the Sofitel) and all the facilities (including water sports) at Tanjung Benoa. All these factors make the Grand Whiz understandably popular with budget-conscious families.
TANJUNG BENOA – THE BEST HOTELS
The 7 Best Places to Stay in Tanjung Benoa
Pictured above: The beachfront pool at the Conrad Hotel in Tanjung Benoa.
Tanjung Benoa is the entire ‘thumb’ that protrudes northwards from the Bukit Peninsula and is located directly north of Nusa Dua. It is about 6 kilometers of long straight coastline with constant white sandy beach – almost no shade but plenty of stalls and cafés to sit at. Tanjung Benoa is a more affordable option than Nusa Dua, and has a good range of mid-range to top-end hotels, with several places catering well to families (but very little in the budget range). The area is the center of water sports on the island and the best place to arrange jet skiing, parasailing, or banana-boat rides. Worth exploring is the likable village of Benoa at the northern tip of the peninsula, which has the usual market, streets of local shops, and a mosque, Chinese temple, and Balinese Hindu temple within 200 meters of each other. The beach at the village is a good place to organize water sports at cheaper prices, as this is where most Indonesian tourists go. No waves for surfing but very calm for swimming (though you do have to watch out for jet skis).
Vast, modern, luxurious, and convenient – also ideal for families.
Spread over a gigantic area, the Conrad features three massive wings: one with suites and villas (some with a private pool) and the second packed with rooms. The extraordinary variety of accommodations is ultra-modern and immensely comfortable, with superb views of the gardens and pools from a balcony or patio. Suites on the top two floors are more likely to offer genuine ocean views, while ground-level ones have direct access to a pool. The extensive gardens and the main lagoon-style pool lined with swaying palms feature “islands” and a sandy “beach.” The beach out front is wide and immaculately groomed, where thatched umbrellas provide shade. The Conrad caters well to families. The kids club offers a range of activities for the whole clan, and almost all accommodations can comfortably fit a family of four. Nearby are shops, cafés, and water sports kiosks.
2. Grand Mirage
Two resorts: one with massive gardens and sea views, the other solely for families.
This resort is divided into two sections about 100 meters apart and accessible by a golf cart along the beachside path. One part has vast grounds with seemingly endless lawns and ponds. All types of accommodation here are spacious and feature an elegant design. Most rooms offer genuine ocean views. The main pool has a swim-up bar. And there is also an adults-only Infinity pool. The other part of the resort is appropriately called Family Paradise. Uniquely designed for those with children, everything is bright and cheerful and packed with facilities for youngsters. There are five types of rooms for families, including the alluring Kids Suites and Girls Suites. All-inclusive packages include meals and drinks, water sports, and traditional performances at the amphitheater. The beach is clean and distant from jet skis.
3. Royal Santrian
Unimaginable luxury and unrivaled seclusion.
Almost in another world from the traffic and tourists along the main road, this boutique resort offers just 22 exquisite villas among manicured gardens. Every villa ticks every box: spacious, luxurious, private, secluded, and indulgent (with butler service). They all feature a marble bathroom, a large private pool, and refined furnishings rarely seen anywhere in Bali. The deep-blue main pool has infinity edges that seemingly blend into the sky. The Royal Santrian grounds are small, so guests don’t need carts to get around, and the staff offers personalized service, yet it’s large enough for a boutique and spa. Out in front, along the powdery-white beach, water sports are available at a quiet distance. The resort is well-positioned in southern Tanjung Benoa and just 1 kilometer north of Nusa Dua, so that guests can enjoy a range of facilities within walking (or cycling) distance.
4. Holiday Inn
Compact, great-value, convenient, and fabulous for families.
This comfortable and comparatively low-key resort is reasonably close to Nusa Dua, offering a wide range of cafés, shops, beaches, and water sports. There are 14 types of rooms, and some suites offer ocean views or direct access to a pool from the patio. The spacious Family Adventure Suites and Kids Adventure Suites provide a second bedroom with colorful walls and many playthings. Around the four inviting pools are a swim-up bar, jacuzzi, and children’s area with a waterslide. The bright and well-supervised kids club offers a range of activities. Families can enjoy bike riding, cooking classes, snorkeling, and the extensive game room. Families return year after year because often, the rate allows children under 12 to stay and eat for free.
5. The Nest
Cute, charming, convenient, and top value.
This boutique hotel is as adorable as it sounds. A little hip, compact, and quite modern, everything about The Nest is simple, unassuming, and functional compared to the massive resorts nearby. It only offers four types of rooms and suites, each spacious and comfortable with a balcony. Especially appealing is the rooftop area, where an infinity pool shares space with a restaurant and bar with an intriguing design and interesting menu. From the rooftop, views extend across wetlands that few tourists even know exist. The Nest is small, so staff is attentive, and rates are competitive, but it’s still large enough to offer a fitness center. The hotel is conveniently located along the invisible border between Tanjung Benoa (renowned for water sports) and Nusa Dua (with divine beaches). Facilities in both areas are easy to reach on foot or by bike along the main roads or beachside path.
6. Nikko Benoa Beach
Compact, good-value, family-friendly, lovely gardens, and terrific location.
This resort is instantly likable, with staff dressed in Balinese clothes and corridors lined with traditional sculptures. It’s also comparatively small, so it’s easy to get around the grounds that are packed with tropical plants. All rooms and suites are spacious and elegantly furnished. Some offer distant ocean views, others have bunk beds for families, and a few on the rooftop overlook the sea. The lagoon-shaped pool with a swim-up bar is shady and beachside. The youngsters will relish the Cening Kids Club and its educational activities. Halfway along Tanjung Benoa, a low-key but likable tourist area, a decent range of facilities are within walking distance.
Family-friendly, functional, and convenient – with all-inclusive rates.
This impressive five-star resort offers rooms and suites vibrantly decorated with a pleasant nautical theme. The beautifully landscaped gardens are packed with ponds and fountains, and the lagoon-shaped pool provides plenty of shade. The enticing beach has a cordoned-off swimming area along the scenic bay. Although there is no kids club, the game room, pool, beach, bicycle rental, and package deals make it ideal for families, especially teenagers. And the two-level Sol Family Suites have two of everything: bedrooms, balconies, and bathrooms. Near the invisible border between Tanjung Benoa and Nusa Dua, guests can enjoy a wide range of cafés, shops, and water sports. Both areas are easily accessible by foot or bicycle along a lovely beachside path. The “all-inclusive” rates include drinks, buffet meals, and (depending on the package) entertainment and activities.
UBUD – THE BEST HOTELS
The 16 Best Places to Stay in Ubud
Pictured above: Komaneka at Bisma near Ubud.
The cultural heart of Bali – Ubud is where to go to watch traditional Balinese performances, take a cooking class, wander through rice fields, or buy from local artists. The food here is wonderful, and some hotels have jaw-dropping settings. I highly recommend 2 to 4 days in Ubud.
1. Four Seasons Sayan
Unimaginable luxury in a dramatic, riverside setting.
A short path from the main road connects to a footbridge floating above a yawning valley to the spaceship-like lobby suspended in mid-air. The split-level suites, with separate living and dining areas, face the river and ravine smothered with trees. The villas with a private pool are hidden behind high walls – sacrificing views for seclusion. All types of accommodation are spacious, luxurious, and immaculately furnished. They feature modern touches like an espresso machine and sunken bathtub, a wide balcony or patio, and abundant windows to maximize the views. The massive infinity pool provides some of the finest views anywhere in Ubud that seems to blend into the forest. The Four Seasons also offers many creative tours and activities for children and a kids club (quite rare for Ubud). It’s a 20-minute ride to central Ubud by resort shuttle bus.
Romantic, award-winning haven in a spectacular setting.
This very sophisticated, family-run boutique resort offers truly personalized service, with over 170 staff serving just 40 villas and suites. All villas, with one or two bedrooms, are perched along a hillside offering uninterrupted views of the rice fields, forest, and valley. They are spacious and feature a subtle Balinese design, a marble bathroom, and an espresso machine. The standout feature in each is the large private pool, which is uniquely heated. The newer suites are more modest but still luxurious. The main infinity pool is divine and blends into the unspoiled hillside across the river. Adding to the appeal are the elegant Cascades bistro and world-class five-star Apéritif Restaurant. Both use ingredients from the spice garden and greenhouse on the grounds. With few shops or cafés within walking distance, the Viceroy is isolated but only a short ride to downtown Ubud via the free resort shuttle bus.
3. Komaneka at Bisma
Unparalleled luxury amid downtown Ubud.
Facing a pristine forest spread across a vast ravine, this resort feels remote but is, remarkably, only a short stroll from all the shops and cafés along Monkey Forest Road. Both pools are divine, lined with palm trees, and surrounded by rice fields that appear to blend seamlessly into the environment. A five-kilometer jogging track (including a boardwalk) meanders among the untouched wilderness. The opulent suites feature modern decor and a 180-degree view of the forest, ravine, and terraced rice fields from balconies with a swinging chair. Even the bathtubs provide incredible vistas. The secluded villas, with up to three bedrooms, are even more luxurious and have a private pool and charming kitchen and dining area. Adding further to the appeal is the world-class spa and range of available activities. The Komaneka is along Jalan Bisma, a quiet street with plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop nearby.
4. Alam Indah
The reason why so many come to Ubud – traditional, serene, charismatic, and affordable.
Alam Indah Means “beautiful nature” in Indonesian. This enchanting boutique hotel feels wonderfully isolated, with only the sounds of trickling fountains and happy birds within. Close enough to the Monkey Forest sanctuary to hear and see some of the macaques, this group of ten bungalows, first built in 1995, is perched along the edge of a ravine, with a creek 100 meters below. Each bungalow is bright, airy, and individually designed in a traditional way. They feature delightful Balinese-style furniture, a huge bathroom, and numerous windows providing jungle views and valley breezes. Telephones and TVs are deliberately not offered. One cobblestone path meanders past ancient banyan trees to the sizeable pool. The hotel is in the tranquil village of Nyuhkuning, an extension of Ubud, once famed for woodcarving but now packed with cafés. The hotel offers competitive rates, which include breakfast.
Individually designed villas in a pristine valley — ideal for honeymooners and families.
This sophisticated and luxurious resort offers a rare range of villas laid out like a Balinese village in a genuine rural setting. The extensive landscaped gardens are sprinkled with palms, gazebos, fountains, and statues. The heavenly Infinity pool, perched alongside a ravine, features a classic swim-up bar. The chalets and villas, with up to three bedrooms, overlook rice fields, lagoons, gardens, or the valley. Every type of accommodation is traditionally designed and very elegantly furnished, and some villas also have a private pool, personal butler service, and club lounge access. Although actively promoting “romantic getaways,” the Kamandalu also caters nicely to families. The range of activities for youngsters and the whole clan are more engaging than at most resorts in Ubud. There’s also a playroom and children’s pool. The resort is a little isolated, although some tourist facilities are opening up along the main road 200 meters away, and it’s only a 10-minute ride to downtown Ubud via the free shuttle bus.
6. Tejaprana Bisma
Luxurious pool villas in serene and convenient location — perfect for couples.
This luxurious resort provides one of the finest locations in central Ubud. The Tejaprana is beautifully hidden 200 meters from the southern edge of Jalan Bisma, a surprisingly quiet street beside rice fields. It’s only a five-minute walk to all the facilities along Monkey Forest Road but within a peaceful, unspoiled rural setting. The enormous and exquisite villas, some with two bedrooms, are secluded among rice fields and along a dramatic ravine smothered with jungle. Each villa features elegant furnishings, a large pool in private gardens, and an outdoor bathtub. The main pool, with its infinity edges facing the untouched jungle, is one of the finest in central Bali. The resort oozes a romantic and intimate vibe but also caters to families.
Luxurious, spacious, tranquil, and central — yet with rice fields on the grounds.
This deceptively large boutique hotel offers substantial rooms with charming Balinese decor. Rooms further from the busy road feature a free-standing bathtub, a long desk, and plenty of luggage space. The bamboo-lined balconies or patios are wide enough for a table and chairs and overlook the pool, lush gardens, or rice fields within the hotel grounds. The two lagoon-shaped pools are shady and peaceful, and the on-site restaurants are trendy. Remarkably, all this space, charm, and tranquility are at the junction of Ubud’s major thoroughfares: Monkey Forest Road (packed with shops and bars) and the more upmarket Jalan Hanoman street (lined with boutiques and restaurants). Book ahead because guests continue to return year after year.
8. Bisma Eight
Fashionable, elegant, and serene — and in the finest part of Ubud.
Past the lobby scattered with fascinating sculptures, a narrow path lined with palm trees and bamboo plants leads to the 38 suites. They are large and modern and feature all the luxuries needed, including a Japanese soaking tub. Most rooms are dark due to the natural wood design of this award-winning boutique hotel, but the low-level lighting and warm colors add to the intimacy and charm. A standout feature is the rooftop, where the infinity pool, restaurant and bar, and chill-out area (also used for yoga) share extensive views of a ravine and jungle. The hotel is on Jalan Bisma street, where rice fields still flourish just one block from all the facilities along Monkey Forest Road. (Bisma Eight’s ultra-swish villa complex is 500 meters south down the street.)
Petite, tranquil, and charismatic, with exquisite suites and pool villas.
The traditional style and open-air lobby with its ornate furniture and eye-catching boutique is indicative of this loveable resort. A path lined with palm trees leads to the suites, each with a huge bed and a balcony offering views of a forest. The villas have one or two bedrooms and a private pool. All are particularly secluded, surprisingly spacious, lovingly furnished with Balinese crafts, and decorated with warm colors. The infinity pool overlooks a dramatic ravine smothered with trees, and the edges seem to blend into the sky. Adding to the appeal are the rooftop restaurant and bar with live music and a range of activities, some free, including hiking and cooking. The Goya is quietly located along Jalan Bisma, a surprisingly underdeveloped street with facilities nearby and some rice fields. Moreover, all the shops and cafés along Monkey Forest Road are within a 15-minute walk. (Ask staff about the shortcut.)
Luxurious pool villas in a serene and convenient location — perfect for couples.
This sumptuous resort provides one of the top locations in central Ubud. Peacefully nestled within an unspoiled rural setting, yet only a five-minute walk to all the facilities along Monkey Forest Road. The enormous and exquisite villas, some with two bedrooms, are secluded among rice fields and set along a dramatic ravine covered in jungle. Each villa features elegant furnishings, a large pool in private gardens, and an outdoor bathtub. With its infinity edges facing the untouched jungle, the main pool is one of the finest in central Bali. The resort oozes a romantic and intimate vibe and is perfect for a romantic getaway, but it also caters to families. The Tejaprana is beautifully hidden 200 meters from the southern edge of Jalan Bisma, a surprisingly quiet street with pockets of rice fields.
11. Royal Kamuela
Tranquil and very classy boutique resort in a central location.
The brochure states that the Royal Kamuela is exclusive, private, and luxurious. It offers a limited number of suites and villas scattered across either side of a creek within grounds that stretch between Monkey Forest Road (crowded with shops and cafés) and peaceful Jalan Bisma street (where rice fields still flourish). Villas are secluded among gardens dotted with Balinese carvings and shady palms, and guests can enjoy personal butler service and a private pool large enough for four. The decor is modern, with a few subtle Balinese touches. Adding to the appeal are the delightful open-layout living, kitchen, dining area, and a sunken bathtub large enough for a couple. The newer suites in the two-level buildings facing the bright-blue pool are spacious and elegantly furnished. Guests return year after year for the convenient location, personal service, and rates which aren’t as high as probably expected.
12. Wana Bucu
Romantic, intimate, and secluded — perfect for a romantic getaway.
Eight villas, almost exclusively designed for couples (with another four to be built later), are lovely for a honeymoon. Each is individually named, isolated among striking rock sculptures, and accessible along a mossy path. Everything is just oh-so-romantic with a huge marble bathroom, four-poster bed, extensive private gardens, and exquisite outdoor, but covered, bathtub. The private infinity pools are large, with lounge chairs in the water and a colorful couch for cuddling. Guests rave about the staff, who are attentive while also allowing absolute privacy. These villas are along a quiet, surprisingly underdeveloped street with several tempting eateries nearby and only a 15-minute walk to Monkey Forest Road, which is packed with facilities. (Ask management about the shortcut.)
13. Murni’s Houses
Gorgeous boutique hotel oozing charm and tradition; also tranquil yet convenient.
This hotel is still owned and operated by the lady who set up the stylish Murni’s Warung restaurant, which has been operating nearby since 1973. The hotel is becoming increasingly modernized, there is now a small pool, but it still retains the sort of old-world charm slowly being replaced across Ubud by concrete villas. It only offers 12 rooms, suites, bungalows, and apartments (large enough for a large family). All are individually designed, and some are in a new building with a genuine rarity in Ubud: an elevator. Also within the mossy grounds are a charming café, adorable boutique, award-winning spa, and many places to unwind and hear the birds sing. The hotel is in a likable (and elevated) suburban area about a 15-minute walk from all the facilities along Monkey Forest Road. A path from the nearby Abangan Warung café leads to the back of Jalan Bisma street, where it’s quieter and remarkably has thriving rice fields.
14. Nick’s Pension
Old-style, mid-priced option that’s convenient yet serene.
One of Ubud’s oldest hotels, Nick’s still offers so much charm and tranquility at pleasing prices. Boasting a prime location in downtown Ubud, bungalows face fertile rice fields alongside a quiet suburban street or overlook a creek with a quaint bridge and genuine temple. The hotel is a few minutes’ walk from many shops and cafés along Monkey Forest Road. It only offers three types of rooms, including the “Suite Family,” ideal for those with young children. All accommodations are bright, airy, traditionally designed, and modestly furnished – with nothing trendy or unnecessary added. The substantial balconies or patios overlook lush gardens where mossy paths meander past Balinese statues and lead to the sizeable pool alongside the pleasant café.
15. Adiwana Monkey Forest
New and adorable boutique hotel in a prime location – and terrific value.
So cute and instantly loveable, the Adiwana only offers 21 rooms and suites clustered around the sparkling pool with a bridge, spouts, and abundant frangipani trees. The rooms or suites are considerably larger than expected, despite the limited space throughout, and feature a terrace or balcony perfect for relaxing and chatting with other guests. With wall art, wooden partitions, and a stand-alone bathtub, the furnishings and decor are as enchanting as the hotel overall. Guests are attracted by three important factors: (1) staff are attentive and personable, (2) the location along Monkey Forest Road, with all sorts of cafés, bars, and shops nearby, and (3) value for money, as the number of neighboring rivals keeps rates competitive. Book ahead now that the secret is out.
16. ARTOTEL Haniman
Lovable, quirky, and affordable in an area with a village vibe.
The ARTOTEL is part of a prospering chain of funky, compact boutique hotels offering loads of personality. The studios face the busy road, with blinds to shut out the light and noise. Those rooms at the back overlook the untouched forest. The rooms are decorated with art, the outside walls are painted with murals, and the staff is energetic. Adding further to the appeal are the swanky Flock restaurant next door, free yoga classes, and a lovely little pool. The ARTOTEL, named after Jalan Hanoman, a street now rivaling Seminyak for its chic boutiques and hip restaurants, is a five-minute walk away. The hotel is within a likable area with a genuine village feel, as most facilities within 100 meters are for locals, not tourists.
SANUR – THE BEST HOTELS
The 14 Best Places to Stay in Sanur
Pictured above: The brand new Andaz Hotel on Sanur Beach.
A quieter alternative to Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak. A lovely beach, though narrow in spots, and calm waters protected by a reef make Sanur popular with families. Nightlife is restrained, but there are still plenty of places to get a late-night drink with lots of restaurants and shopping.
1. Tandjung Sari
Still exudes serenity, tradition, charm, and even romance – all in a top-notch location.
Built way back in 1962, the “Cape of Flowers” is one of the very first hotels in Bali. Designed to resemble a traditional village, all the buildings are low-level, and mossy paths meander around ponds of goldfish and bowls of lotus flowers. With all rooms at least 100 meters from the main road, it’s peaceful but still within a brief stroll of many cafés and shops (and the four-level mall and entertainment complex to be opened nearby in late 2023 called Icon Bali). Bungalows are separate and secluded behind lofty stone walls and feature an elegant, individual design that marries traditional four-poster beds with modern sunken baths. The two-level viewing area with a reading room overlooks the beachside path, perfect for cycling, the beachfront pool, and the immaculately-raked sand. Worth the splurge, especially for a romantic vacation, so book ahead. And breakfast is included.
New, outstanding for families, and some of the most magnificent gardens imaginable.
Built on a massive property that lay remarkably undeveloped in central Sanur for decades, the Andaz has resisted the urge to overbuild. The design of the buildings and three lovely pools are modern but with delightful Balinese touches. Probably half the grounds are lawns and gardens as fine as any city botanical garden. The Andaz also offers some of the finest facilities for families outside Nusa Dua. The kids club is vibrant and spacious, with many activities offered to all guests. All accommodations feature a substantial balcony or patio overlooking the lush gardens, while some suites provide ocean views and others have direct access to a pool. The villas are secluded and contain fine furnishings. The beach is wide and clean, with water sports available. And, incredibly, all of this is in downtown Sanur, with plenty of facilities within a short walk.
3. Hyatt Regency
Newly-renovated with world-class facilities and unimaginably vast gardens.
After major and much-needed renovations in recent years, the Hyatt is firmly back as one of Bali’s premier resorts. The grounds are massive enough for guests to need maps, and with so many ponds, plants, trees, and lawns, it truly resembles a city botanical garden. The vast array of rooms and suites all feature a sizable balcony or patio, and many are large enough for a king-sized bed. There are plenty of accommodation options for families, including a children’s pool, playground, and spacious Camp Hyatt kids club. Everyone enjoys the immaculately maintained beach, the three superb pools, and the range of water sports. Remarkably, all of this is in downtown Sanur,with many places to eat, drink, and shop along the main road and beachside path, perfect for walking, jogging, and cycling.
4. Segara Village Hotel
Enchanting resort with a traditional feel, excellent position, and impressive facilities for families.
Still delighting tourists for 65 years, the Segara continues to modernize without sacrificing charm, especially around the sprawling gardens packed with ponds and fountains. The Deluxe Rooms are compact and comfortable, with Balinese touches with a broad patio or balcony overlooking bright-green grass or one of the three pools. More appealing are the bungalows concealed behind tropical plants at the back of the property and those in the adults-only Segara Club section. The main pool features a stunning design and is only meters from the pristine beach. The resort caters well to families, with a kids club, adventure playground, tennis court, and so much to explore around the vast grounds. Plenty of facilities are spread along the main road, but most guests prefer to eat or drink at cafés along the beachside path, which is ideal for walking and cycling.
5. Maya Sanur
Opulence, luxury, and first-class facilities in an ultra-modern resort.
The entrance of the Maya resembles a temple from Central America, but most guests are probably more impressed with the splendid location and excellent facilities. All rooms and suites are spacious, feature contemporary decor, and have names like “Wonderful Garden View” and “Impressive Nest Suite.” Some ground-level rooms provide direct access to the Lagoon Pool from a wooden patio, and others offer a private pool. The Heavenly Ocean View Pool Suites are, indeed, heavenly. There are four pools, including one for children, and the young ones are well catered for at the colorful Cheeky Monkeys kids club. Moreover, the beach is wonderfully maintained, and the infinity beach pool is quite divine. There are plenty of inviting places to eat and shop along the main road, and a few cafés are along the delightful beachside path, ideal for walking and cycling.
Serene, distinctive, captivating, and oh-so-easy to love.
The Klumpu is unique: a loveable cluster of bungalows (villas), each designed like a traditional lumbung rice barn but with teak furniture, a marble floor, and a kitchenette inside. All feature a substantial patio, where an excellent breakfast can be served while admiring the lush gardens and sparkling-blue, lagoon-style pool. The whole place is very peaceful with an attentive staff. Other attractions are the quiet location within the backstreets of Sanur, the large parking area, and the free bicycle rental. Sanur is ideal for cycling. The sign is easy to spot, about 200 meters down a lane shared with cars from the main road through downtown Sanur. The secret is out: the Klumpu is understandably popular, so book ahead.
Exquisite design, serene setting, and stylish pool — so much to love.
The Sudamala combines a boutique hotel’s quaintness with a large resort’s top-class facilities. The design is almost colonial and compact without feeling overbuilt or cramped. Rooms (suites) are in two-level buildings, mostly facing the extensive lawns, and the two-bedroom villas are secluded behind lofty walls and chunky gates. The pool is substantial and peacefully set in the back of the property, where guests can hear birdlife. The Sudamala is small, with a personal and attentive staff but large enough to offer a spa, boutique, cocktail lounge, library, and gallery promoting local artists. The hotel is in a less active part of southern Sanur and is within a short stroll of numerous cafés, bars, the beach, and water sports.
Vast, modern resort with superb facilities recently upgraded.
This gigantic resort was bought and rebranded (formerly the Fairmont) in recent years and was undergoing massive renovations and reconstruction in mid-2022. The suites and secluded villas, with up to three bedrooms, will be remodeled, but the raised infinity pool promises to be as divine as ever. The facilities, especially for families, such as the kids club, children’s pool, playground, and waterslides, will be even more impressive. The top-notch location won’t change, with the curved beach just meters away and so many facilities in both directions along the main road. More places to eat and drink are peppered along the beachside path, which stretches through Sanur, and is ideal for walking, jogging, and cycling. Water sports are also easy to arrange along the calm waters nearby.
9. Puri Santrian
Enormous, modern, and peaceful, with something for everyone.
This fantastic resort was one of the first of its kind in Sanur and, unlike most others, seems to get better with age. Among the compact, manicured grounds, several wings of rooms offer a traditional design or colonial-style features. Rooms have been recently renovated and are now more contemporary in decor, but they haven’t lost any of their appeal. Those in the exclusive Santrian Club are the height of luxury, with a four-poster bed, walk-in closet, and garden-style bathroom. Each of the three pools is dazzling, especially at the Santrian Club. Numerous cabanas face the calm perfectly groomed beach, and water sports are easy to arrange nearby. The resort is in a quieter and more upmarket part of southern Sanur, with plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop within walking distance. The beachside path is perfect for walking and cycling.
10. Prama Sanur Beach
Massive, family-friendly, and with terrific facilities.
Undergoing significant renovations during mid-2022, the Prama is not as flashy as rival resorts but offers fantastic facilities across large grounds. The enclosed lobby opens to the elegantly designed gardens and expansive lawns scattered with swaying palms. The beach is wide, virtually private, immaculately groomed, and packed with cabanas and lounge chairs. The main sparkling-blue pool is gigantic with a classic swim-up bar. All rooms and suites have been tastefully renovated but are still spacious and functional. Families return year after year for the colorful and cheery kids club, children’s pool with waterslides, tennis and basketball court, water sports, and beachside path ideal for walking and cycling. Other guests like the arcade of boutiques and charming beachside restaurants all within the resort grounds in a quieter part of Sanur.
11. Griya Santrian
Contemporary yet traditional, and with convenience and value rarely offered elsewhere.
The stylish and family-owned Griya Santrian has been promoting local artists and offering considerable comfort, service, and value to guests year after year. Quietly distant from the main road but still amid Sanur’s finest shops and cafés. Tropical gardens and billiard-table lawns surround the clusters of modern low-level buildings. Rooms feature pleasant decor and face the pools or gardens from a balcony or patio. Suites are even more spacious and have colorful art, a four-poster bed, and a sunken bath. The three pools (one with a bar) are shady, and the powdery-white beach is immaculately groomed.
Central, quiet, and compact, with unusual colonial-style design.
The Akaya is quite striking. The white handrails and extended outdoor corridors are reminiscent of an inn from Singapore in the 1930s. The rooms are nicely furnished and feature a private terrace. They are spread across two levels facing inwards over the pool lined with frangipani trees and distant from traffic noise. The bright-blue pool contrasts nicely with the white paint, and a chill-out area upstairs with potted plants and wicker chairs overlooks the pool and road. There is also a renowned dive shop in front and the attached café serving healthy meals and drinks. Akaya is located in a quieter part of central Sanur, 250 meters from the beach, surrounded by places to eat, drink, and shop.
Cute, quirky, great value, and excellent location.
Part of a blossoming chain of boutique hotels spread across Bali, the ARTOTEL is unashamedly compact, trendy, and just bursting with personality. The sculpture out front, contemporary Indonesian art in the lobby, and the wooden staircase are part of the charm. The rooms, facilities, and service are top-notch, and the rooftop infinity pool and attached bar are divine. The tiny balconies don’t have views, but the location is quiet in downtown Sanur. Plenty of facilities are within walking distance, and the dead-end street outside leads to the beach with lots of water sports options 200 meters away. And with rates less than expected, ARTOTEL checks so many boxes.
14. Holiday Inn
Nicely located, competitively priced, and with everything expected.
The Holiday Inn provides convenience, service, style, comfort, value, and all the facilities needed. Located almost at the end of a quiet dead-end street to a beach (100m away) where all sorts of water sports can be arranged. A decent array of classy cafés and shops are also within a short stroll along the main road or beachside path, which stretches the length of Sanur. The hotel is reasonably small, the staff is personable and attentive, and all rooms are spacious and functional. The rates are attractive, often lower than expected, and geared toward families. Facilities include a gym, spa, café, and rooftop pool.
CANDIDASA – THE BEST HOTELS
The 8 Best Places to Stay in Candidasa
Picture above: The pool and gardens at Ganesh Lodge.
On the east side of Bali, the small seaside town of Candidasa, a former fishing village, provides a laidback mix of culture and the beach. The area around the three islands off the coast offers excellent diving, snorkeling, and boat trips. On the main road, there are restaurants, shops, and hotels. It’s a great area to stay and explore the east side, and close to historic Tenganan Village, one of the oldest in Bali.
1. Aquaria Eco Resort
Cute, convenient, and quiet – and such good value.
This petite resort boasts a perfect location: just off the main road and, therefore, peaceful but within a one-minute stroll of Candidasa’s finest facilities. Most of the 12 rooms are in a small row along a terrace facing the pool. Other rooms (one with two bedrooms) front a small cove of sand. All rooms are airy, colorful, and furnished with little extras, like a water cooler. Guests are encouraged to relax, chat, and explore, so some rooms don’t have a TV. Frangipani trees shade the pool, and a tiny saltwater pool overlooks the sea. Guests return year after year for the superb service, excellent restaurant, and competitive rates – and breakfast is included. The resort is eco-conscious, and guests are encouraged to follow suit. Ideal for couples.
Stylish design, excellent service, and views.
The overwhelming attraction of this adorable boutique resort is the wow setting. Quietly located in the most serene part of Candidasa (which is very laidback anyway), it directly faces the sea dotted with tiny islands and a beach lined with traditional fishing boats. The Genggong offers old-style bungalows and modern rooms with a living area in a three-level building. Rare in this region, all accommodations provide sublime ocean views from the floor-to-ceiling windows and extra-wide balcony or patio (although better on the upper floors). Adding further to the appeal are the divine pool, billiard-table lawns peppered with palms, charming beachfront restaurant, and outstanding service. Moreover, boat trips and snorkeling are easy to arrange, and all rates include breakfast.
3. Ganesh Lodge
Adorable, tranquil, nicely located, and oh-so different.
The statue of Ganesha (the Hindu elephant-headed god) laced with garlands at the entrance sets the tone for this gorgeous boutique hotel. It is so loveably different from anything else in the region. Clustered around a bright-blue pool (with a waterfall), rooms have a sitting area, marble floor, and contemporary art. Thatched gazebos pepper the garden where guests relax for hours, the classy café has a French influence, and the shop sells wonderful arts and crafts. Adding even further to the appeal are the friendly staff and peaceful location — almost at the end of a quiet road in eastern Candidasa, about 700 meters from the main road. The Ganesh Lodge is understandably popular, so book ahead.
4. Forty Eight Resort
Modern, unique, and quiet — yet convenient.
This boutique hotel offers something unique: just seven nicely-spaced cottages facing the expansive gardens. The cottages are compact but lovingly furnished, including a very comfortable bed. One is actually a “room” designed for a family, and another is a “villa” with a private pool. Little else is offered except a large pool lined with thatched cabanas, a stylish restaurant, and a pool table near the reception desk. While other hotels have to be a little isolated to offer a peaceful setting, this one is distant from the traffic noise yet along the main road with the finest facilities in Candidasa nearby. A side entrance leads to a pretty lagoon and tiny sandy beach where boat trips can be arranged.
5. Bayside Bungalows & Bayshore Villa
Likeable, inexpensive, quiet, and along the beach.
Considerably more impressive than it looks outside, this hotel is far from the traffic noise. Villas and bungalows are in two adjoining properties with lush gardens. Spread around a bright-blue pool, the Bayside Bungalows are endearingly old-fashioned. Bayshore Villas offer a superb range of villas, residences, and suites — some with a private pool, others with several bedrooms. The hotel is small, and the staff is attentive, but it’s large enough to provide a spa, gym, and boutique. The other major selling points are the excellent rates and beachfront restaurant. The hotel faces the sea, but (like most of Candidasa), the sand is dark gray. It’s in the western end of Candidasa – walkable to eateries offering competitively-priced meals and handy to the adorable and historic village of Tenganan (4km) that predates Hinduism in Bali.
6. Dasa Warna
Charming and old-style, with simple bungalows, lush gardens, and great rates.
The Dasa Warna provides the sort of old-fashioned setting and accommodation slowly disappearing in Candidasa (and mostly gone in Seminyak). The unfussy bungalows spread across some of the finest gardens in Candidasa, and (unlike other hotels nearby) it’s distant from the traffic noise. The Bungalows also offer privacy and seclusion not possible at similar hotels, and there’s plenty of space to relax at the pool and adjacent café. A few bungalows can fit three or four people comfortably. What’s more, rates are very competitive. The entrance at the western end of Candidasa is about 200 meters from the (gray sand) beach and an easy stroll to eateries offering competitively-priced meals. Dasa Warna is also handy to the adorable and historic village of Tenganan (4km), which predates Hinduism in Bali.
Serene and spacious, with heavenly pool and plenty for families.
Although very large and quite modern, the Ramayana (formally Rama) manages to feel compact and remain personable. While a breakwater offers sheltered swimming, the lack of beach is compensated by one of the most photogenic pools in Bali. The gardens are enormous, and the immaculate lawns, swaying palms, and trickling fountains are a haven for abundant birdlife. The facilities, especially the spa and gym in a glass-fronted building, are among the finest in eastern Bali. The Deluxe (standard) rooms are spacious and feature Balinese photos and carvings, and the cottages are secluded, some with perfect ocean views. Several activities are offered (many for free), such as snorkeling, yoga, and traditional painting. The Ramayana is a peaceful 200 meters from the main road, but the walk to central Candidasa (1.5km) is not that pleasant, so take advantage of the resort’s shuttle bus.
8. Puri Bagus
Old-style, quiet, and inexpensive — great for yoga, diving, and families with older children.
Although it could use an update, the hotel is serenely located and a delightful stroll (1.5km) to most facilities in Candidasa. (There is a free hotel shuttle bus.) Cottages are spread around the gardens, ensuring privacy, and many offer genuine ocean views. But what sets the Puri Bagus apart are the yoga retreats and the onsite international-standard dive center that arranges diving and snorkeling trips and training. Other activities include cooking classes, cycling to a traditional village, mountain hiking, and a boat trip to a “secret” beach. Special multi-day package deals are available for those who want to focus on diving or yoga or to immerse themselves in Balinese art and culture.
CANGGU – THE BEST HOTELS
The 7 Best Places to Stay in Canggu
Picture above: The COMO Beach Club at COMO.
Canggu is a coastal village on the western side of Bali and just up the coast from Seminyak. The dark-sand beaches provide surf and sunsets as legendary as Kuta, but the area is more remote and less touristy. It’s filled with lush green rice fields, surfing, shops, restaurants, music, and nightlife.
Much to love — it’s historic, fascinating, and convenient.
The Tugu oozes the sort of class, charm, and history not seen in Canggu and rarely found elsewhere in southern Bali. The lobby sets the tone with its hardwood floors, massive Hindu statue, and intricate carvings. The flourishing gardens include an extensive boardwalk and numerous fountains and ponds. Uniquely, the hotel also houses many antiques and relics in various rooms, including a 300-year-old temple. (Best appreciated with a guided tour.) All the suites and the two villas (both with a private pool) are designed and decorated with gorgeous old-fashioned but functional furniture. The location is also superb: barely 100 meters from the beach and in the most likable area of Canggu that’s packed with stylish restaurants and boutiques. Better still are the café and bars perched on the sand a one-minute walk away, perfect for watching Canggu’s famous sunsets and surf.
2. Ecozy Dijiwa
Compact, great value, and, yes, oh-so-cozy.
Part of a flourishing chain of boutique hotels across Bali, the Ecozy is along a thriving section of Canggu. It’s about 1km from the beach, famed for its sunsets and surfing, and surrounded by places to eat and drink. The rooms are surprisingly well-insulated from traffic noise and well-equipped with everything a traveler needs, including a comfortable bed. All rooms are the same inside, but those on the ground floor have a back patio leading to a private garden or a private plunge pool. Other attractions are the sparkling main pool, free parking, butler service (with some rooms), friendly and helpful staff, and the adorable Blou Café (with substantial discounts for guests).
Large and sophisticated, with divine pools and a prime location in pulsating Canggu.
The design of the COMO is ultra-modern but not overly chic or pretentious. It fronts a gray rocky beach (typical of this part of Canggu), and the location is quiet and secluded, yet so convenient to the sea and all the beachside café and bars. The COMO offers a range of luxurious rooms, suites, and residences, and most on the ground floor have direct access to the Lagoon Pool, surrounded by lounge chairs and shady trees. The ultimate in luxury are the three-bedroom COMO Penthouses, each with a rooftop pool and a private butler. The second pool, only meters from the beach, is one of the finest in Canggu and part of the exclusive COMO Beach Club. All the other facilities are excellent, such as the kids club and wellness center that includes yoga and Pilates. What’s more, rates include an extensive buffet breakfast.
4. The Palms
Lovely, hidden gem that’s serene, safe, and sociable.
The Palms offers a limited number of compact rooms in a secluded and private little space seemingly a world away from the buzzing part of Canggu along the main street. It’s just the place where guests soon become friends with other guests and with the personable staff. Rooms are functional, cozy, and decorated with fascinating art, and the gardens are laid out with the namesake trees. Some rooms also have a large patio area. There’s a two-level, covered patio alongside the pool with chairs, sofas, and beanbags for chatting and chilling. Also offered are the sort of daybeds found at four-star resorts and a communal kitchen, pool table, and ping pong table. The Palms is quietly located about 150 meters down a surprisingly undeveloped lane and about 2 kilometers from the beach.
Convenient, quaint, and quiet tropical oasis.
The family-run CalmTree is an adorable collection of wooden bungalows (more like huts) with thatched roofs clustered around the main pool and gardens. These bungalows are rustic, with walls made of rattan, hanging lamps, wooden windows, an open-air bathroom, and a large balcony. There is air-conditioning but no TVs. Some have two floors designed for families, and at the back of the property are more modern rooms with a private pool. All rooms include an a la carte breakfast. The Staff is attentive and can arrange tours and bicycle rentals. The CalmTree is quietly located 100 meters down a road in a busy part of Canggu and a 15-minute walk to the beach.
Terrific location and great value with four-star facilities at three-star rates.
The Aston is located in a booming area of Canggu. This unfussy hotel doesn’t pretend to be (nor charge like) a five-star resort but still offers a gym, spa, and room service. The main feature is the rooftop pool with a restaurant, bar, and swinging chairs. Rooms are spacious and stylish, and balconies face each other across the meandering lagoon. Those at ground level offer the most privacy. It’s only 150 meters from the sea, and cafés and bars, perfect for watching Canggu’s renowned surf and sunsets. There is also a dead-end street outside the hotel lined with places to eat, drink, and shop.
Functional, convenient, quiet, and great value — what’s not to like?
It may not look like much outside, but the Eastin is understandably popular. The breezy lobby and friendly staff set the tone by providing what guests need and nothing more. There’s a large pool lined with colorful beanbags, a poolside restaurant and bar, and a fitness center. The rooms and suites (some with two bedrooms) are larger than expected and brightly decorated. It’s located along a quiet dead-end street, about 200 meters from the beach and the cafés and bars along the sand. And also a few minutes’ walk to streets packed with upmarket cafés, bars, and shops.
NUSA LEMBONGAN – THE BEST HOTELS
The 10 Best Places to Stay on Nusa Lembongan
Picture above: The Beach Club on Mushroom Bay at Hai Tide Beach Resort.
A gorgeous island southeast of Bali that’s only a 30 to 45-minute speedboat ride from Sanur. It’s one of three Nusa Islands and is linked by a yellow bridge to Nusa Ceningan island and by boat to Nusa Penida. Lembongan is small with white-sand beaches and reefs that are great for diving. Things to do include cycling, walking, snorkeling, surfing, boating, and swimming in Mushroom Bay. There are also beautiful views of the active volcano Gunung Agung on Bali.
1. Indiana Kenanga
Sumptuous villas in an idyllic location along the street and beach.
This luxury resort is along a narrow block on Jungutbatu street between the white sandy beach and the port. They Offer only spacious villas secluded behind tall walls and quietly distanced from the road. Each features a private tropical garden and patio. Villas with two bedrooms have a private pool. The two main pools are fabulous, and the beach out front is shady, clean, and free from boats (ensuring perfect views of the ocean and sunset.) The resort is particularly romantic due to the owner’s French influence.
2. Tamarind Resort
Stylish and convenient — and very suitable for families.
Named after the 300-year-old tree out front, the Tamarind boutique resort is conveniently located at the southern end of Jungutbatu village. The luxurious villas are lovingly furnished, surprisingly large, and pleasingly quiet. Many rooms have balcony views of the sea, beach, and village. The resort sits along a steep section of land, with plenty of steps, especially to the rooftop infinity pool (for those staying in special villas). This pool offers a swim-up bar and unrivaled views. Another pool is alongside the restaurant, and a third is designed for children. Families can book villas with two or three bedrooms, a spacious living area, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a private rooftop. Management prides itself on their world-class service to guests – from booking to pick up at the speedboat terminal (300 meters away) and for various tours and activities across the island.
3. Hai Tide
Huge resort with a perfect location and magnificent facilities — and fab for families.
The Hai Tide spans a massive area dominating Mushroom Bay, the nicest (and safest) beach on Nusa Lembongan. With entrances along the beach and access road, the resort arguably boasts the finest location on the island. The range of accommodations includes garden villas, two-level bungalows designed like lumbung rice barns, and other villas with a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a private pool. What’s more, the gardens are lush, the three pools are gorgeous, and the restaurant is classy. Guests can also lounge at the Beach Club. Hai Tide is easily the finest resort on the island for families. The kids club is modest (but free), and all sorts of activities are available for no cost. The bay out front is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat trips are easy to arrange. Added attractions are the direct speedboats from Bali (30 minutes) and complimentary breakfast is included in all rates.
4. Lembongan Cliff Villa
Cliff-top views and Crusoe-Esque beach, yet still walkable to the main village.
Cascading down a hillside, these villas boast some of the island’s finest sea views. The villas are spacious and modern but with subtle Balinese touches. All come with a wide balcony. There’s a pool at the street-level lobby and another with a café and bar up higher. But it’s all about Song Lambung beach, 200 meters away (sometimes called Coconut Beach or Selambung Beach). This divine cove of white sand is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports. The beach is also delightfully undeveloped: only two other hotels share the same road, and only two cafes are on the sand. A boardwalk links Song Lambung beach with Jungutbatu village (10 minutes) via a cluster of classy restaurants and bars. Note: the steps at the hotel are steep.
5. Sanghijang Bay Villas
Spacious grounds, lovely pool, quiet location, and terrific for families.
Named after what is now known as Mushroom Bay, this locally-owned boutique resort offers a range of rooms, huts, and bungalows (not really villas). All are individually designed, and some are so large they seem sparsely furnished, but this does allow plenty of space for luggage, surfboards, etc. With some bungalows attached by connecting doors, the resort is also well set up for families — particularly those with older children, who would relish the space, and nearby facilities. All villas face the pool, which seems to sparkle all day and is particularly shady from the frangipani trees. And the location is excellent: serenely set back from the access road and 200 meters from the beach, which is curved, powdery-white, and superb for swimming and snorkeling. Within a two-minute walk are plenty of cafes, water sports shops, and the spot for direct speedboats to and from Bali.
6. Song Lambung Beach Huts
Location, location, location — perfect cove of white sand and walkable to the village.
Only three hotels share Song Lambung beach (sometimes called Coconut Beach or Selambung Beach). This one offers a delightful collection of wooden bungalows that have avoided modernization. Inside, they are all comfortable, and the pool is lovely and shady. But it’s all about the bleached-white sand about 200 meters away, which is cleaner than Jungutbatu, quieter than Mushroom Bay, and safer than Dream Beach. This adorable cove is small, curved, and ideal for swimming, snorkeling, boat trips, surfing, and other water sports. With only two places to eat and drink on the sand, the beach is pleasingly undeveloped. The huts and bungalows are layered up a steep hillside, so there are plenty of steps. The hotel is easily connected to Jungutbatu village (10 minutes) via a path and boardwalk that skirts around the cliffs through restaurants and bars.
Traditionally-designed cottages in tropical oasis at likable village.
This popular boutique hotel offers a limited number of Balinese-style cottages facing a garden bursting with tropical plants. Each cottage is tastefully designed, with a thatched roof, wooden floor, and a large veranda perfect for chatting with neighbors. Some are better than others, but the detached two-story Suites (with a living area on a lower level) that are bright, airy, and packed with Balinese arts and crafts. The pool and café suffer a little from traffic noise, but the rooms are quiet and separated by shrubs. Tigerlillys is also conveniently located along the main street of Jungutbatu village (with speedboats to and from Bali), 200 meters from the beach, and within a two-minute walk of the island’s finest cafés and bars.
8. Dream Beach Huts
Facing a stunning but remote beach, it’s traditional, rustic, and – yes – dreamy.
Perched on a cliff at a breezy southwestern point on Nusa Lembongan, these wooden huts feature a traditional design, although some are more modern as renovations and upgrades continue. They are all comfortable, with a thatched roof, balcony or porch, an outdoor bathroom, and facing the ocean or sandy gardens. The huts with two levels contain two bedrooms and are designed for families. The two infinity pools blend seamlessly into the horizon. The restaurant and bar share the same panoramas of the powdery-white bay. But note: the water is too dangerous for swimming or snorkeling. Ask the hotel about the shuttle bus service to Mushroom Bay (the island’s safest beach) and the main village of Jungutbatu, with the speedboat port going to and from Bali.
Delightful cabins in beachfront location at dreamy beach.
Sharing the exquisite cove of Dream Beach (which is unsafe for swimming) with the namesake resort, D’byas is smaller, quieter, and less trendy than its neighbor. D’byas offers a cluster of wooden huts with a traditional design and modern conveniences. Most huts face each other across a garden rather than toward the sea. The infinity pool, adorable café with wooden furniture, and colorful beanbags spread across the sand, add to the laidback tropical feel. The main draw is, of course, the setting. At the island’s southern tip, the bay in front is postcard-perfect — curved and small, with white sand, rocky edges, and navy-blue water.
10. Lembongan Beach Club
Spacious and chic pool villas in ideal location.
Although part of a lively beach club, villas are quietly hidden behind well-secured doors at the back of the property in Jungutbatu, the main area on Nusa Lembongan. Accessible by cart along a village-style path lined with tropical plants, each villa has one or two bedrooms and a striking dark-wood design. Most also boast a decent-sized private pool surrounded by a deck. At the beach club, the main infinity pool and lounge chairs are meters from the turquoise sea. The resort entrance is along the main street, with the island’s best facilities, and about 1.5 kilometers from the informal port for speedboats to and from Bali. The beach club is popular and noisy, but it’s easy to find more space and serenity elsewhere along the clean, sandy beach.
NORTHERN BALI – THE BEST HOTELS
The 7 Best Places to Stay in Northern Bali
Picture above: The beachfront at the Adi Assri Beach Resort & Spa.
The north is more laidback and quiet than southern Bali. Lovina has a long coastline and three main villages: Anturan, Banyualit, and Kalibukbuk. The beach, though not great for swimming, is lovely to walk along and offers fabulous sea views, breezes, and sunsets. The beach town is known for diving & snorkeling but is also great for walking and cycling among the back roads close to the green mountains. Nearby are Brahmavihara-Arama (Bali’s largest Buddhist monastery), the Banjar Hot Springs, and Pura Beji temple (one of the oldest temples in Bali).
1. Amertha Villas
Spacious resort with traditional design and lush tropical setting.
With an extensive beachfront and a stunning mountain backdrop, this resort boasts one of the most expansive grounds on Bali. The one- and two-bedroom villas, each with a private pool, open-air kitchen, lounge, dining area, and charming gardens, are somewhat private. Still, the Balinese-style design and modern furnishings are impossible to fault. The suites are more secluded in a two-story block and feature a kitchenette. The beach is typically grey but immaculately maintained, and the vast gardens are peppered with Balinese-style statues and fountains. The massive pools are framed by palms and face the coastline. The resort is 300 meters from the main road, with a limited selection of cafés and shops nearby.
2. The Lovina
Luxury, tranquility and convenience, and ideal for families.
This resort sits in a massive block facing the sea and 300 meters from the main road. The suites open out to the main pool but are a bit dark inside, while the secluded villas feature a massive kitchen, dining, and lounge area, a sizable private pool, and sea views. The palm-choked gardens are spacious, and the two beachfront pools are very enticing. It caters particularly well to families, offering free activities to guests, such as yoga and dance lessons. The Lovina is a 10-minute stroll along the road or beach (or on a free shuttle bus) from Kalibukbuk, with the region’s best selection of shops and cafés.
3. Lovina Beach Hotel
Convenient and unpretentious mid-priced option that welcomes families.
First built in 1953 but extensively renovated and expanded since, and still retains some genuine charm. The rooms are distant from the traffic, and many face the sea. While the gardens are delightful, and the decent-sized pool would never feel crowded with guests. The standard rooms only offer fans, but the more comfortable and secluded cottages feature air conditioning, traditional rattan furniture, and balconies. The family-sized bungalows are bright, spacious, and an excellent value. The beach is typically grey but unusually clean, shady, and picturesque, with swaying palms. The hotel is only 200 meters from Lovina’s best selection of shops and cafés in Kalibukbuk.
4. Adi Assri
Delightful tropical setting and traditional design with mountain backdrop.
Stone paths flanked by palms and bougainvillea meander through gardens so extensive that even staff can get disoriented. The villas are semi-detached but secluded and feature a private pool, but none of the accommodations offers real sea views. The deluxe rooms are spacious, with an open-air bathroom, tasteful Balinese decor, and a large balcony overlooking the gardens. The three main pools are so enticing that guests ignore the typically grey and gritty beach. The resort is located along the busy road, with its modest selection of shops and cafés, but well sheltered from traffic noise.
5. Villa Teman
Luxury villas – new, secluded and convenient.
Probably the nicest of its kind in Kalibukbuk (which has the best selection of shops and cafés in Lovina), these villas are located along a quiet country lane used more by cows than tourists. Each of the three sparkling-new villas is bright and airy and offers absolute privacy and seclusion behind high walls. They feature a gorgeous open-air (but undercover) living, kitchen, and dining area and two separate bedrooms, both overlooking a private pool large enough for five people. Little touches, like a modest library in the lobby and umbrellas for guests, are part of the personal service often not found in large resorts.
6. Lilin Lovina
Cluster of villas—chic, convenient and popular.
These one- and two-bedroom villas are cozy and secluded behind rather stark grey walls. Each features a private pool, while many also face the sea, and the decor is fashionable and tasteful. The gardens and beach can be noisy from the traffic, but the villas are sheltered from the noise. Although the sand is typically grey and gritty, the views, especially from the café facing the sea and main pool, are superb. Lilin is located where the main road almost touches the sea. It is barely 700 meters along the road or beach from Lovina’s best range of shops and cafés at Kalibukbuk and a short stroll to the classy Spice Beach Club.
Luxury without extravagance in an irresistible setting.
One in a chain of luxury resorts across the island and designed like a Balinese village, but none of the accommodations face the sea. The Deluxe Cottages look over open rice fields or dense foliage, offering limited privacy. They are attractively designed with Balinese-style carved doors, a thatched roof, and tiled balcony, but a little dark inside. The Superior Rooms are designed like an old-fashioned homestay, with rooms facing a shared but partitioned veranda. The beach is typically grey, but the seaside pool is sizable and inviting. The resort is 150 meters from the main road, with its traffic, and within a 10-minute stroll of Lovina’s best selection of shops and cafés at Kalibukbuk.
Bali Hotels with Private Swimming Pools and Plunge Pools
Picture above: A private pool along the river at the Four Seasons Sayan.
Hotels that offer suites, villas, and rooms with private pools are common in Bali. They’re a wonderful experience and highly recommended if they fit within your budget.
Bali Hotels with Private Pools (alphabetical by town)
Hi David, my boyfriend and I are going to Bali in mid-October for the first time. We’re only there for a long weekend. Our priorities, in order, are: Amazing beach, nightlife, hiking/cultural activities. We are currently booked at the Grand Bali Nusa Dua which gets good reviews but I’m worried it’ll be too touristy or kid-friendly. I’d love something more romantic and character-filled. Also, should we just stick to one place or can we do beach in the mornings/afternoons and take a taxi somewhere at night for clubbing?
Thanks so much!
I would not stay in Nusa Dua for nightlife or anything romantic. Seminyak is where you’ll want to be. Great hotels, nice beach, and good nightlife. Kuta is a short taxi ride away if you want something a little wilder.
Hi David. This is very helpful. I am travelling to Bali in January for my Honeymoon. We will be staying for a week. Please suggest 2 ideal places (Seminyak/ Ubud/ Jimbaran/ Padangbai/ Sanur) for hotels. Looking to have a great romantic experience along with sightseeing and adventure activities. Also where can we get quality seafood who dont charge a bomb in the name of fresh catch of the day. Thanks.
Of those towns I’d go to Seminyak and Ubud. Both great places with lots of great food. At Seminyak it’s mainly about the beach. In Ubud it’s more arts and cultural and also very easy to do day trips to inland Bali’s wonderful sites, mountains, villages.
Hi David, We (family of 5 = parents with our 3 older teenagers / young adults). Heading to Bali 15 days in early January. Staying in Ubud 3 nights, then a 6 night window which I’m uncertain of where to go. We finish with 5 nights in Seminyak. We like high end, villa accommodation, culture, low key adventure, with a bit of beach thrown in, (shopping can be saved for Seminyak leg), basically things we can do as a family unit. Thinkign Canggu, Sanur, or go across to Lombok beaches? Open to suggestions, but want simplicity – have done complicated logistical OS trips, we kind of want a break from that and just stick to day trips. Many thanks.
Canggu, Sanur, and Lombok are all great places and could easily suit your needs. Sanur is better for day trips. Canggu and Lombok are both great for chilling. Going to Lombok introduces another 2 days of travel. It’s really just flip a coin if you’re still uncertain.
My boyfriend and I are debating where to stay in Bali. I want to stay in a small boutique hotel with lots of character. He wants to stay in a resort with American chain restaurants nearby. Any suggestions?
Get a new boyfriend.
Will be in Ubud for Christmas holiday. Want to spend a couple days at a beautiful beach where my my boyfriend can dive. Staying as far away from Kuta as possible, as it is not my scene. Willing to drive a ways out for the beauty and good diving experience. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
If it needs to be a beach then Bloo Lagoon near Padangbai (and not too far from Ubud) is probably your best option. Another dive site is to take a boat from Sanur to Nusa Penida island (40 minutes) and dive there.
My husband and I are looking at going to Bali in December for 6/7 nights. I must admit my reluctancy at visiting Bali based on its reputation of being a tourist filled night haven for the young but research shows that it has far more to offer (I certainly want to give those tourist areas a wide berth). We are in our 30’s and are really looking for a trip away from tourist/overly-commercial areas or resorts. We are looking for somewhere to experience Balinese culture and also to spend time strolling through local markets with handmade local items. We also love great food and spending our evenings in restaurants and bars with an enjoyable fun atmosphere including some live music, staying in luxury accommodation. Any adventure sports like white-water rafting or diving would definitely be a plus but certainly not a must. We like the beach but an inland water spot or even a nice pool would suffice and so not a priority. We are not interested in the nightclubs or tourist-filled bars and restaurants.
Based on our interests, it is likely we will need to split the holiday to two locations and Ubud did catch my eye. Your recommendations on areas and also hotels and restaurants in those areas would be greatly appreciated.
Based on your interests I would recommend splitting your time between Canggu and Ubud.
My partner and I are going to Bali on 23/Dec and flying out on 25/Dec.
Can you recommend someplace nice and away from the hassle and crowd areas. We love food, especially local.
Our main concern is to make it to the airport on time on Christmas Day, around lunch time.
Thanking in advance.
Stay in Jimbaran. Nice beach and great local seafood restaurants along the beach. Very close to the airport. The best luxury hotel on Jimbaran is the Four Seasons. The best budget hotel is Puri Bambu.
Heading to Bali from Singapore with my sister to get some sun and have a few days away from the kids. We want to sit on a nice beach, get some spa treatments and not spend a ton of cash. We are heading over in the beginning of Dec and will only stay a long weekend. I don’t want to risk being on a beach that isn’t great for swimming and relaxing. Thoughts?
I would recommend Seminyak with the only caveat being that it’s not cheap. Look for a hotel back from the beach and more to the north and that should save you some money.
I’ve read most of your replies and appreciate your unpretentious style of travel.
We’re spending New Years in Seminyak, skip off to Gilli T (not booked so I’m considering Gilli Meno for the BEAUTIFUL places that keep cropping up on my Booking.com searches). BUT…. To end the 2 week trip (the remaining 4 nights are open). I’m looking for a remote, peaceful place to ooh and ahh over the views and vibe. At/under/around/ish $50 a night. Canggu?
Travelling with my 31 yr old boyfriend and I’m celebrating my new decade of 30. Appreciate any recommendations for this extremely exciting trip happening in 4 weeks. Thanks David!
p.s. Coming from our home on the beautiful beaches of Cape Town so Bali has a lot to live up to.
Canggu is a great place with a quiet vibe and some fun restaurants/beach bars. The one caveat is that you’ll probably end up in Seminyak most of the time to eat/drink/party – and you might end up thinking, “Why didn’t we just stay in Seminyak?” But if you’re really looking for a secluded location still close to the sea then Canggu might be it.
We’re traveling over to Bali in late April and are planning on spending 3 days in Ubud before moving on to some surrounding islands for 6 days, We’re looking to be in a good location to do things in the day whilst in Ubud and then finding something nice and secluded whilst on an island. We’re looking for a little luxury in Ubud, nothing too extravagant and then something a little simpler on the islands, I’ve had a look at the Gilis and I think Meno sounds like what we’re looking for but any info or tips would be greatly appreciated about Ubud and Bali’s surrounding islands.
Adam & Hannah
The Gilis are great – Gili Trawangan has a fair bit going on (bars, restaurants, nice hotels), Gili Meno is much slower and quieter. It will take almost a full day to get to Gili Meno from Ubud – ferry to Gili Trawangan and then small boat to Gil Meno. Same thing on the way back. Nusa Lembongan has a similar vibe to Gili Meno (no bars or nightlife), good snorkeling, and relaxing but is much closer to Bali. It might be a better option.
Next July we are going to spend 11 nights in Bali with our kids aged 19 and 17. We would like to stay in 2 different places during that time. Where would you recommend? We would like a bit of beach, shopping, food and culture.
I would do Seminyak and Ubud. Ubud is not a beach town, but has lots of culture and interesting things to do in the surrounding area.
Could really do with some advice, amazing site found by accident.
I want to book a holiday for my sister (big birthday coming up). She loves long walks on the beach and loves to sleep to the sound of waves. As she will be travelling on her own, she needs to be close to restaurants, shopping etc. I have been looking at Seminyak Beach Resort & spa and also the Westin. But what would you recommend for a single female who loves both beaches and interactions with local amenities? thank you
Definitely the Seminyak Beach Resort if she wants to be near amenities, a large choice of restaurants, and shopping. The beach is also more suitable for long walks.
So glad I came across your page and would really appreciate any tips.
I’m a 28 year old solo female traveller looking to relax on a beautiful beach but at the same thing me close enough to areas where I could possibly get to meet people.
I’m looking at spending about two weeks and would like to check out Bali as a whole as its my first time there.
It’s easiest to meet single travelers in the Kuta/Legian area. In general, the restaurants, bars, and nightlife as you head from Kuta north to Seminyak get more expensive, older, and trendy. That’s not to say you’d feel out of place in Seminyak as there are plenty of solo travelers there too.
Starting honeymoon planning for mid-to-late May. Looking for, if possible, a combination of quiet, beautiful beaches with reasonably easy access to good hiking and wildlife. We’re not committed to a hotel; would be OK with a resort.
The Menjangan has an amazing location in West Bali National Park. Great hikes nearby and excellent snorkeling and diving. This is a nature-lovers dream.
I wanted to ask your opinion as to which area in Bali would be best and if you would recommend any resorts/accommodations.
The trip would only be for 3 days 4 nights for 3 couples all married – good friends all in late 20s. Ideally three separate bedrooms would be preferred. One couple is starting their honeymoon through this trip. One couple would be 7months into their pregnancy.
They just want to have a good time having a holiday together, good food maybe some nice massages and nice pools/beaches.
Would be great if you can recommend some areas and resorts that you know that are good quality but not too expensive.
Inexpensive Hotels but Still Very Nice:
Dash Hotel Seminyak
Bali Agung Village
Dash Hotel Seminyak
More Luxurious with Private Pool:
The Buah Bali Villas
RC Villas Bali
The Dusun (has 3 bedroom villa for 6 adults with private pool)
Hi there, amazing site, so much time and effort gone in so thanks for all the help! I have seen above you mentioned taxis are fairly easy but we want to really explore the island. Thinking (based on what you have said above) of going to Seminyak, Nusa Dua, and Ubud as our bases and then visiting the little towns and sights from these locations. Daft question, but how do most get around? Should we hire a car? A Scooter? Or can we solely rely on taxis? Lastly we’re on a 6 month trip (long honeymoon) how long do you think you need in Bali to feel like you’ve experienced the main sites? Are we seriously missing out if we don’t make it to Gilli Islands?
Taxi, hired car, chartered bemo (minivan) are all sort of the same thing – find someone willing to drive you and negotiate to get a fair price. Hiring someone for the day is the way to go if you have multiple stops planned. 2 to 3 weeks in Bali is a good compromise (lots of places to see in the world but you could easily spend a month or two here and still leave a lot undiscovered). I’d use Jimbaran, Seminyak, and Ubud as your bases.
2 ladies, mid 50’s travelling first time to Bali. Would like to stay in 2 places. One for beautiful beach to
relax but with good restaurants, without too many children and also somewhere with some culture, shopping, and great restaurants that are within walking distance to hotels. Night life not a big priority but somewhere to have a drink in the evening. Thanks. Deborah
For beach I’d recommend Seminyak (good beach, lots of restaurants, nightlife, shopping), Jimbaran (good beach and great seafood restaurants), or Nusa Dua (great beach, large resorts, not a lot around that’s very interesting). For a cultural town nothing beats Ubud (great restaurants, shopping for local arts and crafts, good local shows/performances, beautiful walks through the rice paddies and villages).
I’ve been teaching in China for the last year, working way too hard. I get some time off in February, and I want to spend a week of it lying on a beach doing nearly nothing. I did a search for low-cost flights to “everywhere” and Bali looks like a reasonable choice. I want to spend as little as possible on accommodations, and my objective is just to relax… I’m not a drinker, and I don’t want to go on any tours. Can you recommend the best area for me?
Look at Kuta or Jimbaran – both have some very cheap hotels ($30 to $50) that are still nice and have pools. Kuta has more cheap hotels but perhaps not great if you’re looking to relax as it’s pretty hectic. Jimbaran is quieter with great cheap seafood restaurants. (Puri Bambu is my favorite budget hotel in Jimbaran.)
Your blog is very helpful for Bali travelers.
But I need more specific advice please.
My boyfriend and I (25 years old) are planning to go to Bali end of January from January 31 till February 2 (maybe less as we have another option to go explore Yogyakarta). We are budget travelers, seeking to explore Bali and do activities as well as not exhausting ourselves and give some time to enjoy the beauty and relax.
Can you recommend which we can stay in it and from it move around EASILY to others? I’m confused about where to stay UBUD/SEMINYAK/SANUR….
Thank you in advance.
Ubud and Seminyak are generally pretty expensive (though as you move away from the central trendy areas it gets less so). Kuta has lots of cheap hotels and Jimbaran has several inexpensive good value hotels. Sanur is in the middle (and better if you want to explore central and north Bali on day trips).
I will be planning to go to Bali in July when I am 28. I plan to spend half my time in Ubud and half my time near a beach but I am having trouble deciding where. This will be for my honeymoon so I would like a nice hotel with a nice (white sandy) beach, clear water, and not too strong of a current. I’m fine with just staying around the hotel and the beach for this part of the trip. However I would love to go scuba diving and since I don’t really know the area I can’t tell which beaches these dive sites are close to. Any suggestions?
These are the links I was using to find good dive sites:
Dive World and Dive Zone
There are no great dive sites near the best beaches of Bali. The two best diving spots on Bali are in the east near Amed (this is where you’ll find the Liberty shipwreck site) and in the northwest near Pemuteran. These would be best visiting as day trips from Ubud. If you really want to stay on a beach but be close to good diving spots then look at Nusa Lembongan. Nearby are the Manta Point, Blue Corner, and Crystal Bay dive spots (but these are not for beginners). Nusa Lembongan has great beaches and is a short ferry ride from Sanur.
Hi Dave, what are the best choices of hotels for solo travelers with fresh seafood dining? thanks
Look in Jimbaran and Canggu.
Thank you for all your info, it’s priceless!!
I’m headed to Bali end of January, beginning of February for about two weeks, traveling solo. Ubud is definitely on my list and I’ll probably stay there for a week.
The second week I’d like to spend on the beach. Here is what I’m looking for:
– ideally a beach bungalow right on the beach, so I can wake up to the sound of the waves :-); basic and inexpensive (I’m on a budget :-))
– nice, clean beach; possible to swim in; the more secluded the better (but still close to some places to get great street food or grab a drink). Still beach bungalow would be my priority over the more/less secluded beach.
– time to relax; party’s are the last thing on my mind 🙂
– beach or other places to go for a longer walk or a jog
I can stay on Bali or go to Gili’s, I don’t mind moving, as long as I know I’ll find what I’m looking for.
I read through your posts but it is hard to say which beaches are fine for swimming and which should at the same time be clean this time of year. So any recommendation is more then welcome.
Thank you in advance.
Nusa Lembongan is what you’re looking for. It’s a short ferry ride from Sanur.
I have 3 Questions for you. We will be in Bali for 2 weeks starting April 3. Jimbaran for 3 nights, Seminyak for 4 nights, Ubud for 3 nights and then probably to Gili Islands for 3 nights before back down south for the remainder of the trip.
1) What are some day excursions you’d recommend? These can be nature filled or hiking etc.
2) Ubud is obviously overrun now, but what are some top spots?
3) Do you recommend a scooter rental and are there plenty of Dual rentals to put my girlfriend on the back?
It’s great that you’re staying at different places and having a good look at what Bali has to offer. From Jimbaran, I’d suggest daytrips to the south, including Ulu Watu temple; Nusa Dua beach and shops; Tanjung Benoa for beach and watersports; and isolated surfing/swimming beaches like Padang-Padang. From Seminyak, head to Tanah Lot temple (best at sunset but also very busy then); check out the markets in the capital, Denpasar; and maybe zip over to Sanur beach and nearby mangroves. Ubud is an ideal base and places to visit on daytrips include Goa Gajah temple, Tegallalang rice-fields; Petulu village with the daily migration of birds; stunning Gunung Kawi rock temples; and the sacred Tirta Empul temple and springs.
However, your best idea is to hire a car with a diver (it’s cheap, convenient, and much safer than driving yourself or renting a scooter). The driver will offer you up to 10 different itineraries for daytrips from wherever you are. These trips include everything you should see and some possible extras, such as a temple with a ceremony or some rice-field views with no tourists around. I’m sure your hotel can offer some drivers they know or just walking down the street should garner a number of offers for a driver and tour.
Ubud seems overrun with tourists during the day, but quietens down when day-trippers and buses leave. In fact, Seminyak will feel more touristy than Ubud. In Ubud, visit the Monkey Forest; the Museum Puri Lukisan art museum; the ARMA art museum and gardens; take a rice-field walk behind the Puri Lukisan; and stroll around Penestanan village.
Hi! Looking for recommendations for our honeymoon in October. Current plans included longest stay in Jimbaran, then to Lombok and finally to Gili. Looking for relaxing beaches with options for great food and outdoor activities. Would you say Jimbaran is too touristy? I noticed you recommended Seminyak often and debating switching locations. Lastly, if you have any favorite hotels, it would be greatly appreciated!
Jimbaran is the most underrated and under-visited beach resort area on Bali. It’s convenient to the airport but far from the relative chaos of Kuta (30-minutes away by taxi) and offers a superb crescent of vacant sand and sea. A seafood dinner on the Jimbaran beach at sunset will is a highlight of a trip to Bali. In contrast, Seminyak has become a trendy extension of Kuta and Legian – full of shops, cafés, clubs and tourists, and (on average) higher prices.
In the Seminyak area (technically Petitinget, the next beach to the north), the W Retreat & Spa is quite extraordinary – vast enough to offer a buggy cart to reach the main road from your bungalow. And in Jimbaran, it’s hard to beat the Four Seasons for sheer elegance and views to die for.
My husband and I are doing our first trip to Bali at Easter. We are going for 7 nights, staying in Ubud for either 3 or 4 nights – then want to go to the coast but don’t know what area to go. We like nice beaches – ones that don’t have hawkers, with cheap beach restaurants and nice bars. Not into the raging night scene – would also like some good shopping.
Bali has several different beach resort areas. The most popular is, of course, the chaotic Kuta and the northern extensions of Legian and Seminyak – with all the bars and shops you could possibly need. But to get away from the surfers and night-clubbers while remaining in the convenient southern region of Bali, stay in Sanur. It is uniquely situated along a 7km beachside promenade lined with cafes, shops and hotels. There are a few bars, and some shops – but for malls, you can head to Kuta in 30 minutes by taxi.
Better still is Padangbai, a village on the east coast and easy to reach from Ubud. It offers a genuine village vibe, delightful beaches (especially at Blue Lagoon), and is a perfect base to explore the region. There is very little nightlife and even less shopping but these are blessings for many who have ‘endured’ Kuta/Legian. Padangbai gets a little chaotic for 1-2 hours a day as island hoppers to the Gilis come and go by ferry but it’s reasonably quiet otherwise, with plenty of restaurants (which double as bars) facing the curved beach lined with jukung fishing boats. If staying there, you can also can easily daytrip by chartered car or local transport to Goa Lawah temple, Klungkung royal capital, Ujung water palace, and the secret beach paradise of Pasir Putih.
You did a great job helping me with my recent trip to Santorini and Mykonos. I ended up proposing to my fiancé at the Mykonos Blu and it was amazing. We are considering going to Bali for our honeymoon and we would like your recommendation on two hotels. One in the mountains and one on the beach. 5 star accommodations. Budget is not a concern.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
The popular beach area of Kuta/Legian is too hectic and touristy for some, and not ideal for a serene romantic getaway. Seminyak has more of a honeymoon vibe but since it’s really indistinguishable from Kuta/Legian it’s still going to have a busy feel. A better choice is Jimbaran, a quick taxi trip from the airport and to the shops and bars of Kuta. Jimbaran offers a superb stretch of swimmable sea and empty beach, and there is no more magical moment than a seafood dinner on the sand at sunset with wandering musicians, fireworks and traditional dancers. You can admire the extraordinary sight of hundreds of candle-lit tables along the beach and of fishing boats bobbing in the bay from the Four Seasons Resort. This cliff-side resort offers spacious bungalows and villas among a forest of frangipani trees, a luxurious spa, an art gallery, and the associated Beach Club for relaxing on the private stretch of sand.
Staying in the “mountains” involves lengthy (1-2 hours one-way) taxi trips from the airport or resort areas. If you want seclusion and views, but also be within a short trip to temples, markets and the other wonderful things that Bali can offer, consider staying in or near Ubud. The cultural and spiritual heartland of the island also offers superb art museums, rice-field walks and a wide range of restaurants. Within 15-20 minutes of Ubud by chartered car, you can stay somewhere with sublime views of jungle-clad ravines, postcard-perfect rice paddies, and one of those Infinity pools that seem to extend forever. One hotel that fits the bill, and is perfect for a honeymoon, is Hanging Gardens, which is spread around a steep jungle with a funicular lift.
Thanks for your site. Best info I’ve found on Bali so far. Do you have any recommendations on which would be the best volcano walk to do in Bali? And what are your 3 favourite temples?
Bali is dotted with volcanoes, many over 1.5km high, but there is no real place on the island for a ‘volcano walk’ if reaching the peak is the aim in a couple of easy hours. There are several ideal places, however, for walks from 2 to 4 hours along volcanic slopes. These include: (1) Around Tirtagangga, a gorgeous water palace, where it’s easy to hire a guide and explore the cascading rice-terraces and traditional villages; (2) Along the road from the ancient Bali Aga village of Tenganan to Candidasa; (3) Along the road from Putung village to Manggis in the east; and (4) From Bali’s only monastery to the village at Banjar in the north.
If you want to hike (as opposed to walk) and reach a volcanic peak, the best and really only place on Bali is Gunung Batur mountain, which erupted as recently as 2000. Within its caldera, there’s a superb lake, hot springs resorts, and several quaint villages with basic but comfortable accommodation, including Toya Bungkah. From there, it’s easy – but not cheap – to arrange a hike to the peak of Batur through your homestay. (Everyone in the village is a guide or related to one!) The easiest hike is 3-4 hours, while the toughest is 7 hours, commences at 3am, and timed to relish the sunrise from the peak.
Bali has literally thousands of temples, but many are remote, crowded with tourists, or not open to non-Hindus. One favourite is Pura Goa Lawah, which is easy to reach along the east coast, has a scenic coastal setting, is host to frequent ceremonies and has a eerie cave choked with bats. Get there before midday to avoid the tourist buses, and before 9am you may have the place to yourself.
Another is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, the postcard-perfect temple often seen in brochures and even on the 50,000 rupiah note. Although overrun by western and Indonesian tourists from 10am to 4pm, the setting alongside Lake Bratan cannot be beaten, and you can stay nearby and visit at other times. And, finally, Pura Luhur Batukau, is perched high on the slopes of Bali’s third largest volcano, and surrounded by a serene forest. Visited by only a handful of tourists each day, you can combine it with oh-my-god views of the UNESCO-listed rice terraces at Jatiluwih.
Two women, mid- forties 1 week in Bali. Twin accommodation around $100 – $150 per night. Priorities are: relax, cocktails, massage, and beach (for at least half the time there. Looking at Ubud for a few nights too)
What advice for beach accommodation and area to stay? And where in Ubud would you recommend?
With so many great resort regions to base yourself and a plethora of fantastic hotels to choose from, it’s hard to make recommendations, but let’s try ….
Assuming, you are too mature to be dedicated night-clubbers and as you want to ‘relax’, I’d suggest ignoring the very busy Kuta/Legian/Seminyak region, which is full of surfers, shoppers, and clubbers. And with only a few days, you don’t want to waste time travelling to/from the north or west coast. And you want somewhere with a range of bars and spas, so I’d suggest Sanur. It’s still close to the airport, and to Kuta/Legian if you need malls and sunsets, but Sanur boasts a 7km beachside promenade lined with endless hotels, cafes and eateries, with enough shops, bars, and spa/massage places to satisfy.
And in Sanur, I’d suggest these places in the range mentioned. They have all the mod-cons expected of 3-4-star resorts and front the beach: Besakih Beach Hotel, with its superb location and appealing swimming pools; Griya Santrian, also with a perfect setting surrounded by lovely shops and cafés; or Mercure Resort Sanur, if you prefer a little isolation in southern Sanur but crave the facilities offered by a brand-name resort.
In Ubud, consider Alam Indah which offers traditionally-designed bungalows facing a jungle-clad ravine near the Monkey Forest, but – deliberately – no TVs; ARMA Museum Resort, which costs a little more but worth it for the garden setting of the renowned art museum; or Ubud Heaven, a new set of villas in the delightful village of Penestanan, an easy walk from downtown Ubud.
This is one of the most spot on reviews I have come across. We are going for out second trip to Bali from our beautiful home of Cape Town, so we are very spoilt, but the exchange rate makes it a very expensive trip for us. We all loved Canggu and stayed last year at the amazing Tugu Hotel, this time we are looking at villas on AirBnb. I am looking to pick your brain for two or three other suggestions for destinations. We are traveling as parents with a 22 and a 19 year old. Where would you recommend? I have also looked at the Menjangan but seems so far to travel for a few nights.
As you stayed previously in Canggu and are now seeking ‘similar destinations’ I assume you’re familiar with the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak region and looking for something different. Sanur may be a little too docile for your children and Nusa Dua may be out of your budget, so I suggest two other options.
Firstly, Tanjung Benoa, along the thumb-shaped part of the southern peninsula, with a charming village at the tip. It offers a 4-5km stretch of sand with the usual type of hotels, cafes, bars etc, but is also the epicenter for Bali (and all of Indonesia) for watersports. Jet-skiing, para-sailing etc (but not surfing) are available for a fraction of what it would cost back home, and is only 15-20 minutes by taxi from the airport and Kuta, with its malls and sunsets.
A second option is the mostly-overlooked island of Nusa Lembongan, only 30 minutes by speedboat from Sanur (US$10 one-way by Perama). This gorgeous island has no cars, so it’s perfect to explore on foot, bicycle or motorbike – and ideal for new or inexperienced riders as people who rent motorbikes don’t worry about international licences, or even registration papers, number plates or helmets because there’s no traffic police! There are pockets of sand with appropriate names like Dream Beach and Sunset Beach, mangroves, villages, superb snorkeling and diving, and surfing 200m off-shore. And, perhaps, best of all, it is very good value.
You refer to Menjangan, which is actually an uninhabited island with no tourist facilities in a national park, so you probably mean Pemuteran, the nearest beach resort. It’s rather spread out, has minimal facilities, offers a scruffy beach and, you are right, a long way from the airport (4-5 hours by chartered car).
BTW: a rash of villas have been built recently across Bali. While they offer privacy and some seclusion, they (usually) also provide a fully-equipped kitchen, which very few guests use because there are so many good-value restaurants nearby and who wants to cook on holidays anyway? You’ll probably find that renting 2 or 3 separate rooms in a comfortable 2-star hotel with air-con, pool etc will be cheaper than getting a villa anyway.
I am planning to visit Bali with my family (2 kids) for 4 days in mid March… We are Hindus and would like to visit as many temples as possible but also have some time at the beach.
Any suggestions on where to stay (Area) and possible places to visit, etc… Please guide.
As the inside of many temples on Bali are off-limits to non-Hindus, you will have greater access than most tourists and gain a far better insight into the island’s unique form of Hinduism. However, before you would be allowed into a temple that is off-limits to tourists (i.e. non-Hindus), you should bring with you a letter of introduction from your temple in English and translated into Indonesian (just use Google translate) on official letterhead.
These are a few of the temples you should visit: Pura Tanah Lot, spectacular but impossibly crowded at sunset, but you would be able to cross the water (if the tide is out) and go inside the temple; Tirta Empul, where you could also pray and bathe in the holy springs; Pura Luhur Batukau, set in a gorgeous forest and off-limits to non-Hindus; and Pura Pasar Agung, with a magnificent setting way up the Gunung volcano and completely off-limits to non-Hindus, but involves some steep steps.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are very few temples of note anywhere near the main resort regions, such as Kuta or Nusa Dua. The best temples are located inland and often near or on the slopes of volcanoes, so the best bases for visiting temples would be Ubud, the cultural and spiritual heartland of the island and close to Tirat Empul and others; and Padangbai, a delightful village with appealing beaches and close for day trips to Pura Pasar Agung, the renowned but touristy Pura Besakih, and Pura Goa Lawah, with its cave full of bats.
And remember: the best advise will always come from a local. So, hire a car with a driver (never drive yourself as the traffic is absurd and roads often abysmal). He will be a Hindu, too, and be able to escort you into the inner sections of the temples normally off-limits to tourists and know of ceremonies, which you can always witness and, perhaps, even join if invited.
I wanted to know your opinion about the Karthika Plaza Hotel in Kuta. Is it a good option? Or are there better hotels in that range? Our main concern is we want a five star hotel with good rooms, good food, and a pool to relax.
This is one of many large resorts in the area more formally known as Tuban (or, sometimes, South Kuta). Still within walking distance of the shops, bars and cafes along the southern end of Kuta, this resort is, however, a long walk to Legian and a taxi trip to the trendier bistros and boutiques of Seminyak. But this may not matter because The Kartika is located next to (and owned by) the enormous western-style Discovery Mall, which boasts almost everything you may need. The resort features 7 restaurants and bars and a magnificent seaside setting, but the ‘private beachfront location’ (as described on the website) is not as grand as it sounds; in fact, the beach along that part of Tuban has mostly concrete barriers or thin grey sand that disappears in high tide. But many guests hang around the Kartika’s sumptuous pool or walk to the beach in Kuta.
Kuta is mostly a collection of narrow lanes with homestays and cheaper hotels built for surfers in the ’60s and ’70s and, more recently, budget travellers – although a few resorts have been built along the very busy beach road in Kuta. Most five-star resorts/hotels are located south of Kuta in Tuban and to the north in Legian and Seminyak. Among the many popular luxurious resorts with genuine beachfront locations in Legian are the Padma Resort; the Bali Niksoma Boutique Beach Resort; and the Bali Mandira Beach Resort. In Seminyak, check out these resorts: The Samaya; The Oberoi; or The Legian.
Hi Dave, I really appreciate your comments and articles about Bali and its culture, your work is very generous and talk very good about yourself. I’m from Peru, South America, and will travel with my fiance to Bali in october (honeymoon, it will be our first time in Asia). There is not a lot of people around here who knows the island, so I have been researching in internet about it. We will stay 8 days, the first 4 days will be in Ubud. I would like you to recommend us a real white sandy beach (preferentially for swimming) to stay the other 4 days, not too noisy or crowded and with options of fun, relax, water sports and romance.
Thank you in advance for your recommendations.
It’s great that you’re dividing your time between a beach and Ubud, with its many temples, rice-field walks and art museums. Perhaps not too surprisingly most ‘real white sandy beaches’ are popular and, therefore, (potentially) busy and crowded. Bali is an island dotted with volcanoes, so some visitors are disappointed that the sand on a few beaches (eg Lovina and anything north of Seminyak) is greyish – still perfect for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, but not so appealing for some.
However, there is one beach resort region that fits your requirements perfectly. Close enough to the airport to see (but not hear) planes coming and going, Jimbaran is astoundingly undeveloped … so far. With no malls, surfable waves, or nightclubs Jimbaran is mostly ignored by tourists, so for much of the day you may have parts of the extended crescent of bleached-white beach to yourself.
However, from 5pm every day some sections of the beach are crowded with candle-lit tables where diners indulge in the freshest possible seafood as the sun sets. Later everyone is entertained by wandering musicians, fireworks, and traditional dances on makeshift stages. This will be a highlight of your visit and is certainly one of the more romantic things to do on the island.
Jimbaran has many cafés and mini-marts, but for better daytime shopping and serious nighttime clubbing, the Kuta/Legian area is only 20 minutes away by taxi, while Tanjung Benoa, a little farther away on the eastern part of the southern peninsula, is where every conceivable type of watersport is available.
Thank you very much for your time and advice. You are the best! I will recommend your travel guide to every one around here. Keep doing this excelent work.
This probably won’t be my first time asking you these questions but I need your help! My boyfriend and I have booked a hotel in Ubud for 11 nights. He wanted a more relaxation trip and I do as well but along with some exploring and fun in the sun. We have decided to maybe spend half the time by the beaches. I want crystal clear water, white sands, and I am interested in doing some shopping before I leave. Please advise which beach you recommend and a hotel near there to stay at. So far I have seen Belitung Island, Balangan Beach, Padang-Pa, Lombok. Please help! Your opinions matter.
If you’re based at Ubud visit beaches along the nearby east coast. Padangbai, which is a village more known for ferry trips to Lombok and speedboats to the Gili Islands, faces a lovely curved harbour of white sand, but for swimming, the Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugel beaches are ideal and within walking distance of the town. But the most appealing beach on Bali – and still without a hotel in sight – is Pasir Putih, not far from Padangbai, with beachside cafés and snorkeling gear for rent. Padangbai offers a small range of hotels from the funky Topi Inn to the luxury Blue Lagoon Resort.
Otherwise, Nusa Dua has a range of luxury resorts, all facing a perfect beach with those ‘crystal clear waters’ and ‘white sands’ you want, including the highly-recommended Laguna Resort and Nikko Bali Resort. Adjoining Nusa Dua is the busier and more authentic Tanjung Benoa with several kilometres of perfect beaches and many lower-priced hotels, such as Rumah Bali and Ombak Puith Bungalows.
But the best place for magical waters and sand is not on Bali, but easily accessible from there. The three Gili Islands are a couple of hours by boat/bus from Bali and tick all the boxes: they are relaxing (even on the party island of Trawangan), loads of fun, and offer plenty of activities. On Gili Trawangan, recommended hotels include Alam Gili, Villa Ombak, and Gili Teak Resort. If the Gilis are too far, a closer option from Bali is Nusa Lembongan island.
The best shopping is available in the Kuta/Legian area, to which you could easily day-trip from Ubud, Nusa Dua, and Tanjung Beno. Or, perhaps, leave your shopping to the last day as the airport is only minutes from Kuta beach.
Thanks for your input. I searched how far Pasir Putih Beach was from our resort in Ubud (Puri Gangga) and it says it is 6hrs 45min. We then checked how far Pasir Putih is from Pandangbai because you said it is not too far and it says 8hrs. Am I checking something wrong here?
Pasir Putih is about a 1.5 hour drive east of Ubud. (You must have brought up the wrong beach somehow.)
I’m planning a trip with five 23 year old friends in July to Bali. We still don’t know which place to choose, Kuta or Nusa Dua. We would like to have both nice beach where we can swim and nightlife. What do you recommend? Also, I would like to know if we stay in Kuta, can we find everyday trips to some beaches worth visiting? And in the end, do those trips have reasonable prices? Thank you in advance.
As you probably know Bali has many resort regions, most of which offer different things to different people. Nusa Dua is a purpose-built enclave of 4- and 5-star resorts. With most resorts facing a lovely beach with a long promenade, the area appeals to families and, perhaps, older tourists, who spend much of their time soaking up the sun on a lounge chair. There is an outdoor mall but no other shopping or nightlife. In short, Nusa Dua probably wouldn’t suit a group of 20-somethings.
In contrast, Kuta can seem overwhelming to first-time visitors and anyone who hasn’t been to similar places like Phuket in Thailand. Kuta offers endless shops, bars, cafés, and hotels along a maze of lanes choked with taxis and wandering tourists. The resort regions north of Kuta, i.e. Legian and Seminyak, are more relaxed and tranquil, but still within minutes by taxi of the nightclubs and malls of Kuta.
From Kuta/Legian/Seminyak, several beaches in southern Bali are easily accessible by chartered car with a driver. (Never drive yourself.) Six of you can squeeze into a comfortable SUV for a total of about US$50 per day and visit gorgeous beaches like Sanur (relaxed, with no traffic and a promenade for bicycles); Tanjung Benoa (for water sports); Jimbaran (seafood dinner at sunset), and Padang-Padang (for an extraordinary setting). And just north of Seminyak are delightful surfing beaches (also worthwhile for swimming) with beachside cafés such as Echo Beach and Berewa.
Two other options worth considering: rent a villa in Seminyak, which may end up being cheaper than renting 3-5 hotel rooms, and you often get your own pool and even a maid; or head to Gili Trawangan island, only 2 hours by speedboat from Bali, which has perfect sand and sea, and a party atmosphere enjoyed by so many.
Thank you, this helped us a lot!
Hi dave! You’re site was really helpful when I went to Santorini. So I’m back to ask about Bali. It will be my first time in Bali and I will be staying in the Seminyak area. I will just be travelling from July 26-30. Limited number of days. What do you think is the perfect itinerary to explore the best of Bali? Thanks!
It’s great that you want to spend some time exploring this paradise island, although it is tempting to spend much of your days lazing by the pool or on the beach.
Seminyak is an ideal base and it’s easy to organise through your hotel a car with a driver (never drive yourself) for about US$50 per day (and that’s a full day of 10 hours of exploring). Taxi drivers double as informal tour guides and most can offer you some 10-12 itineraries for daytrips including all the temples, markets, and rice-field views you could possibly see. They might not be well informed on the history and significance of different sights (or at least not be able to communicate it in English) but most know where the highlights are and what tourists want to see.
That said, I’d suggest these four itineraries in central and southern Bali to avoid too much travelling and most of the crowds, and to see the “real Bali”. Start early (preferably by 8am) to beat the traffic and crowds at major temples and other sights.
(1) Explore Ubud, the cultural heart of the island, with its magnificent art museums, rice-field walks and monkey forest; and then visit the stunning rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi and the sacred temple and springs at Tirta Empul.
(2) Go to the capital, Denpasar, to see the renovated national museum and marvel at the chaos at the produce and souvenir markers; then go to Sanur, with its lovely café-lined promenade, ideal for cycling, walk the boardwalk trail at the nearby Mangrove Center, and drive around Pulau Serangan island.
(3) Head south along the Bukit Peninsula, visiting stunning surfing beaches (also great for swimming), such as Padang-Padang; drive around the sanitised enclave of resorts at Nusa Dua with its Museum Pasifika art museum; visit the scenic Ulu Watu temple; enjoy water sports at Tanjung Benoa and explore the charming village of Benoa; and finish with a seafood dinner at sunset on the beach at Jimbaran.
(4) Explore the hills at Candikuning, along the chilly volcanic slopes, with its markets and impressive Botanical Gardens; have lunch at a lakeside restaurant (your driver will likely be able to recommend something) and take a boat trip at Bedugul, with no tourist in sight; finish at the magnificent Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple.
I’m headed to Ubud the beginning of April for a 13 day yoga retreat in Ubud. Following the retreat, I will have three days to explore on my own. In that very limited time, I would like to see Tanah Lot and Uluwatu and perhaps take a surf lesson. Given that the majority of my trip will be in the rice fields of Ubud, I would like to stay on a sandy, accessible beach. I plan to hire a driver to take me to the temples, but would prefer to spend more time exploring than driving, so location will be important. Do you have recommendations for an excellent four or five star hotel with character?
Bali offers many different types of beach resort regions, but perhaps you would prefer one near Ubud (and the airport) to avoid too much travelling, and one that is relaxing. The noise, traffic and crowds of the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak strip of coastline may be unsettling after a 13 day yoga course in the rice-fields of Ubud, so consider staying in Sanur.
Sanur is only 30-40 minutes from Ubud; it boasts a 7km stretch of beach with a promenade lined with hotels, cafés, and bars facing the sea, all far from the busy main roads; and is a good base for daytrips around the island. While Sanur has no surf, it’s also only 20-30 minutes by taxi from the beaches at Kuta/Legian, which is the best place to organise a surf lesson, as well as rent gear.
From your hotel, it’s easy to organise a car with a driver (never drive yourself) for about US$50 per day (10 hours). Tanah Lot is spectacular, especially at sunset, and spectacularly busy, especially at sunset. If you visit during the morning, you may have the whole complex to yourself. Ulu Watu has another extraordinary setting, although the temple itself is fairly underwhelming. It is worth being at Ulu Watu at sunset (the crowds are far less than at Tanah Lot) for the remarkable traditional Kecak fire-walking dance.
There are a number of great hotels in Sanur, and you’ll probably want one facing the sea. The Tandjung Sari is exquisite. One of the first built on Bali, it’s is designed like a Balinese village. Others offering all the mod-cons as well as character, sea-views, space, and tranquility include Griya Santrian Beach Resort (good value compared to others in that range); Maya Sanur Resort (with a stunning seaside setting); and Puri Santrian (in a quieter part of Sanur).
I love your site its very helpful! I am planning a trip to Bali for 8 days. Do you think that is too much time to spend there? Should we try to include some time in Thailand? If you think 8 days is a good amount of time, do you suggest we stay in different parts of the island? If so, which ones and how do we get around? Thank you!
8 Days is enough time to have a nice visit on Bali (perhaps stay in two different towns for 4 days each) but is certainly not too much. One could easily spend a month exploring Bali and never retrace their steps. Thailand is a 4 hour flight away so you’d be spending two of 8 days to travel with very little benefit. Some great spots to think about staying are Seminyak, Jimbaran, Sanur, and Ubud. The best way to get around Bali is by hiring driver (basically a taxi).
I’m travelling to Bali in April. I’m looking to stay at two places. I’m looking to stay first near gorgeous beach where nice atmosphere to get cocktails etc. I’m 40 and travelling on my own. Where would I find similar age group people to meet? Then I’m wanting to go to Ubud for tranquility and do meditation and hoping to find somewhere spiritual for healing mind and body.
What can you recommend?
Thank you Dave,
It’s great that you are dividing your time between a beach and Ubud, the spiritual heartland of the island.
Bali has no shortage of beaches, most offering different things to different people. The most popular resort regions are Kuta, which attracts mostly younger budget-minded travellers, including surfers, and the adjoining Legian, which caters more for families.
So, your best option may be the next beach further north, Seminyak. More classy and relaxed than Kuta and Legian, Seminyak offers plenty of bars and cafés facing the sea, including some with beanbags strewn across the appealing sand and live music during the famed sunsets. Seminyak is only a short taxi ride from the malls and clubs of Kuta/Legian, and a good base for daytrips by chartered car and driver to the islands’ attractions. It also boasts many stylish bistros, boutiques and live-music venues where you may meet like-minded people of a similar age.
Ubud can get busy during the afternoon with day-trippers from the southern beaches, but is fairly relaxed at other times, especially in charming villages such as Penestanan and Nyuhkuning, which are separate to, but part of, Ubud. In Ubud, you have a choice of staying at a specialised yoga retreat (such as One World Retreats); a hotel that has yoga and meditation facilities (such as Naya Ubud); or staying wherever you like and simply joining a walk-in class of yoga, meditation, and everything else in between at places like Ubud Yoga House (in the rice-fields) or Intuitive Flow (in Penestanan).
I have a choice! Girls trip to relax, spa, culture, spa, wildlife, relax … did I mention spa? Not interested in clubs or shopping or families! We are all in our mid 40’s and FUN. Flying into Singapore we have three options. Bali for 8 days, Bali for 4 Phuket for 4, or Phuket for 8 days. And we love luxury boutique hotels/villas. Fortunately, we are not on a budget. All of this happening in July – Help Dave!
Bali has all that you seek – and more! But it is worth noting that some places calling themselves a ‘hotel & spa’ really only offer little more than massages, manicures, and pedicures. Only the more upmarket (and expensive) places have genuine hot-tub-style spas. And while Bali has loads of culture and beautiful scenery it doesn’t really have too much obvious and accessible ‘wildlife’, although all sorts of wild animals can be seen in the Bali Zoo, Bali Elephant Safari Park, and Bali Bird Park.
Spending 4 days at one destination and 4 days at another will involve wasting the best part of a precious day in taxis, checking in, waiting at airports and flying, so it’s probably best to spend all of your 8 days on one island.
To avoid the multitude of shops and clubs along the most popular resort region of Kuta and the family resorts around Legian, it’s best to base yourself in Seminyak, the next strip of beach to the north. This is an area of classy boutiques, bars (including live jazz venues), and cafés. There are plenty of chic resorts in Seminyak to help you relax, such as the extraordinary W Retreat & Spa (which does have a real spa), The Oberoi, The Legian, and The Samaya. Another option for a small group is to rent a villa in Seminyak, which may be cheaper overall than several rooms in an upmarket resort, and you have your own kitchen, pool and, maybe, even a personal butler!
Love your site! We are a family of 4 (17 & 19 year old sons) and will be visiting Bali for 2 1/2 weeks late November early December this year. What are you recommendations for accommodation/location for the family if we were to split our time between 2 locations? We are experienced snorkellers and divers, want to experience the culture, be close to activities for the teenagers, car and driver rentals, massages and walking distance to a nice selection of restaurants and bars. Shopping is not a priority and definitely looking for a more authentic experience (i.e. not Kuta area). Is a villa a better option than a resort hotel? Our preference would be for white sand beach if on the coast…and we love the idea of beachfront. Not looking at 5 star, perhaps 2-3 star. But location and experience is more important to us. Appreciate any advice and recommendations.
It’s ideal that you’re splitting your time between two places on Bali. And when you are direct about what you don’t want, it’s easier to make recommendations.
If you want to avoid Kuta, and crave an ‘authentic experience’ with snorkelling rather than shopping, we can also rule out other southern beach resort regions like Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Tanjung Benoa. One place that fits your bill nicely is Padangbai, a charming village squeezed between hills along the east coast about 2 hours by taxi or chartered car from the airport. Padangbai fronts a cute white-sand beach, but within walking distance are two even better beaches for swimming and snorkelling at Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugel. Padangbai has all the bars and cafes you need and some decent 2-3 star beach-front accommodation (try Kerti Beach Bungalows, Puri Rai Resort, or Bloo Lagoon Resort), and is ideal for daytrips by chartered car/driver to the bat cave temple at Goa Lawah, the stunning water palace at Tirtagangga, the ancient village of Tenganan, and Pasir Putih (probably Bali’s nicest beach and with no hotel in sight – yet?)
Happily, Padangbai is also a major departure point for speed boats (2 hours) to the Gili Islands, three gorgeous droplets of white sand and turquoise seas off the coast of Lombok. They are perfect for snorkelling and diving, and no cars are needed because there are no vehicles on the islands! Gili Trawangan is more of a party island, though there are lovely quiet stretches of beach, but a more authentic experience can be found on Gili Air, which has a real village vibe with plenty of places to eat, drink, get massages, and organise underwater activities.
A villa is probably cheaper than two rooms in a 3-star resort, and you can get privacy and maybe your own pool, but rates include use of a fully-equipped kitchen which most guests probably don’t use much – or at all. There are no villas that I know about in Padangbai, really only Seminyak and Ubud on Bali, but the Gilis do have many villas for rent – try Kai’s Beach House (Gili Air); Bamboo House (Gili Meno); or Gili Khumba Villas or Villa Sunset Beach (Gili Trawangan).
Hi thank you so much for all the information you have kindly put on your website!
I am planning to visit Bali in August and I’m really unsure of where to stay. Initially I chose Nusa Dua for its view and peace and quiet as I’m not much of a clubber. However, I want to do water ports such as seawalking, watch the sunset go down, cruise shopping and good local food. Please can you suggest where is the best town for me to stay? I would ideally want a beach front hotel. I am partially sighted and want to make the most of the health I have got.
Bali has many resort regions, each with its own attractions and personality, so choosing your base is important but also difficult.
Nusa Dua is a purpose-built enclave of 4-5 star resorts with superb facilities and views, and none of the hassles of other resort regions (eg hawkers and traffic), but it does cater very much for couples and families, so it may not suit a single person. And the resort grounds are often so huge that guests need golf buggies to get around. If you’re after the “real Bali” this isn’t it.
Sanur is probably more suitable. This region stretches about 7km along an appealing beach with a promenade ideal for strolling and cycling, but with traffic jams and vehicle noise a pleasing distance away. Sanur still has enough handicraft and souvenir shops but no malls, and offers a few bars but no real nightclubs, and is also the base for Seawalker trips. (Other water sports can be arranged at Tanjug Benoa, a short trip by taxi across the tollway from Sanur.) Sanur doesn’t have sunsets, so you would have to take a 20-30 minute taxi ride to Kuta or Jimbaran, which is especially good for a seafood dinner on the beach as the sun goes down. Sanur, of course, boasts oodles of cafés and hotels, and with a long strip of sand many of those face the beach.
And please note that August is a very busy time with many thousands of tourists flocking to the island from Europe, so book far ahead for hotels.
I am doing a 14 day tour from Sanur-Kintamani-Ubud-Candidasa-Lombok-Gigi Islands and back to Sanur. I have 2 days & 1 night before heading back to the US. I am traveling solo & am in my mid 30’s and would like to stay at a nice beach resort but don’t want something too romantic. I was looking at AYANA resort but I’m concerned that the beach there isn’t ideal for swimming and my only food options would be at the hotel. I’d love a luxurious beach hotel within walking distance of a town with stores and restaurants. It looks like Seminyak may be a better location, however it seems a bit far from where my tour ends near the Grand Bali Beach in Sanur. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! Jaimee
Your trip sounds amazing and you will certainly see the many highlights of Bali and the neighbouring island of Lombok.
Ayana Resort is remarkable and luxurious, but like many along that part of the coastline it does have a very small sandy beach, which may well disappear completely during high tide. And Ayana is some distance from the main road with other cafés, shops and bars, so you would probably end up eating, drinking, and shopping at the resort. Ayana is certainly romantic (perfect for honeymoons), so perhaps not the ideal choice.
As you only have one night you don’t want to waste too much time travelling to/from your hotel, and assuming you will be staying at Sanur before you start, you may want to consider Jimbaran. The surprisingly unhurried resort region of Jimbaran boasts a superb crescent of white sand, and is very close to the airport but still quiet. By 4pm parts of the beach become packed with tables of diners relishing the freshest possible seafood and one of the best sunsets on the planet, so that may be a perfect way to finish your Bali trip.
Recommended luxury resorts in Jimbaran to consider that have superb beaches and are within walking distance of shops, bars and cafés (including those on the beach at sunset) include: The Four Seasons, The Intercontinental, and Karma Jimbaran.
Our family (2 adults and 2 children: 14 and 16 years) are travelling to Bali for a month in June. We would like to travel around the island, to stay at the beach for some time and maybe visit nearby islands.
Usually we rent a car and travel by ourselves when on holidays but you mentioned many times not to drive by yourself. Is it because of traffic or other reasons? My husband is very keen on driving a car in different cultures.
What route would you recommend? We could stay in 3-4 different places. Could recommend some nice villas (Balinese style would be an advantage)?
What about the west part of Bali? What is worth seeing there?
Thank you in advance.
Absolutely, driving around Bali is NOT recommended, particularly for first-time visitors, and two minutes after leaving the airport you will agree. The reasons are many: the traffic in the south is diabolical at most times, with a confusing array of overpasses, poor signs and U-turn lanes blocking roads. In the countryside, roads are often potholed, used by farmers to herd cows and ducks, and have almost no signs – and sat nav equipment probably won’t be fitted in your rental vehicle. You will have to stop constantly to ask for directions, and if you have an accident you will be responsible, whether it’s your fault or not, on the irrefutable logic that the accident wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t there! And if that doesn’t dissuade you major rental agencies such as Hertz and Avis are poorly represented and only available at the airport. Renting a vehicle from a travel agency is just asking for more problems. So, for just an extra US$10 per day, you can organize a car with a driver, who will handle all these hassles, allowing all passengers an enjoyable day out, and he will know of great rice-field views not in any guidebook and a temple ceremony you can watch or even attend.
Exploring Bali with a car and driver can be organized almost anywhere, but best from your hotel. The ideal bases for exploration are: the charming village of Padangbai (for the east coast) – try staying at Bloo Lagoon Resort; the laidback village of Lovina (for the north) – try Rambutan Boutique Hotel; and the spiritual heartland of Ubud (for the central regions) – try Nick’s Pension. Among the southern beach regions, it’s best to hire taxis between major sights, and you won’t need any vehicles on islands like Nusa Lembongan or the Gili Islands, because there are none …
Your driver will offer you an array of itineraries for day-trips including all the major sights. If you are all ‘templed-out’, you may want to consider these routes. From Padangbai, (day 1) visit ancient village of Tenganan; bat cave temple of Goa Lawah; Bali’s best beach at Pasir Putih; and resort of Candidasa. (2) water palace at Ujung; remarkable fishing villages and views along the remote far east cost; lunch at Amed; and stunning water palace at Tirtagangga. (3) Head to the extraordinary Mt Batur and into the volcano for hot springs at Toya Bungkah, buffet lunches with views on the rims boat trips and hikes.
From Lovina, visit the second city of Singaraja; Gitgit waterfalls; and monastery and springs at Banjar. From Ubud, (day 1) cave temple at Goa Gajah; walks at Yeh Pulu; rock sculptures of Gunung Kawi; sacred temple and springs at Tirta Empul; rice-field views at Tegallalang; and bird migration at Petulu. (2) Bedugul/Candikuning with the scenic Bratan temple; lunch and watersports on the lake; impressive botanical gardens; hiking along volcanic slopes; and lakes Buyan and Tamblingan. (3) UNESCO-listed rice terraces at Jatiluwih, lovely Luhur Batukau temple; and scenic Tabanan-Seririt road via Munduk.
The western part of Bali is remote and offers little in the way of tourist hotels and western-style restaurants. But certainly worth visiting along the southern road of western Bali are Negara for the buffalo races; Medewi surfing beach; gorgeous Rambut Siwi temple; and the remarkable Christian villages of Palasari and Belimbingsari. Along the northern road of western Bali is Bali Barat national park; boat trips and snorkelling at Menjangan island; monkey-infested temple of Pura Pulaki; low-key resort region of Pemuteran; and Banjar.
Hi Dave! I’ve been reading your feedback to people’s questions about Bali – so helpful! My fiance and I are going on our Honeymoon to Bali for two weeks (we might start off in Hong Kong for 2 nights – any suggestions there too, we’d love!) in middle-to-late September of this year. We’re so excited but also a bit overwhelmed with the number of choices for stay. Since this is our honeymoon, we want to go ALL OUT and have the most luxurious time in the most beautiful, luxurious, and romantic places! We love laying out by the beach and vegging out – definitely want to relax in wedding bliss but also love adventure, food and drink, health/wellness – a balance of both is ideal for us. This is what we’re thinking – would love your thoughts and suggestions! Thanks so much in advance!
• Seminyak (4 nights) – The Samaya (should we look at other hotels?) – relax by the beach; Uluwatu Temple and dinner seaside at Jimbaran Beach; Sacred Monkey Forest and Tanah Lot Temple
• Ubud (6 nights) – Maya Ubud? (other places we’re considering are Mandapa, Amandari, Hanging Gardens – differences between these hotels? Any other’s you’d recommend?!) – Cooking class, Campuhan Ridge Walk, Bicycle Tour, Water Rafting
• Gili Trawangan (3 nights) – Ombak Sunset? other hotels or islands to consider? – relax on the beach
• Sanur (1 night) – Fairmont Beach – relax – does it make sense to do this?
Are we missing anything critical? Thanks again!
Bali is certainly one of the most wonderful places to enjoy your honeymoon, and it’s great that you have done some serious research already!
Bali is compact and easy to get around but to minimise unpacking/packing, travelling between hotels, and annoying 10am check-outs from one hotel and 2pm check-ins at another, perhaps stay an extra night on Gili Trawangan. Also, boat fares to the island can cost up to US$100 return so best to make the most of your money and time, and stay there for four nights.
A few suggestions:
Seminyak (4 nights)
The Samaya is super-luxurious and one of several great choices. Others to consider are: The Legian, The Oberoi and the W Retreat & Spa (in the next beach north of Petitinget). A day or two can be spent strolling among the trendy boutiques and enjoying the classy bistros, and evenings sitting in beanbags on the beach watching a glorious sunset while sipping cocktails and enjoying live music.
Day trips by charted car/driver include (1) southern peninsula with watersports at Tanjung Benoa, Pasifika Art Museum at Nusa Dua, stunning setting of Ulu Watu temple, swimming in the sublime Padang-Padang beach and finish with seafood dinner at sunset on Jimbaran beach. (2) Sanur beach, with its appealing promenade for strolling and cycling; boardwalk in the mangroves near Sanur; the frenetic produce and souvenir markets, and national museum, in Denpasar; and sunset and kecak dance at Tanah Lot.
Ubud (6 nights)
Most resorts such as the Maya Ubud and sublime Hanging Gardens (complete with funicular) are located a fair way from Ubud. Although hotel shuttle buses are usually provided to guests, you won’t be strolling out to cafes and shops from your hotel. Luxurious but more convenient options include Kusuma Sakti (with yoga/mediation facilities), Komaneka at Bisma (within an Infinity pool that blends into the jungle), and the ARMA Resort (in the grounds of the magnificent art museum).
In Ubud, go on walks, visit museums, maybe do yoga and cooking classes, bike tours and explore the monkey forest. Day trips include: (1) Bedugul/Candikuning, with its postcard-perfect Bratan temple, watersports and lunch at the recreation park, impressive botanical gardens, markets, hikes and rice-terraces at Jatiluwih; (2) rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi; sacred temple/springs at Tirta Empul; cave temple at Goa Gajah; rice-field views at Tegallalang; and eerie daily bird migrations at Petulu. (3) and for something really special … the extraordinary lake and volcano at Batur, with the volcano museum and buffet lunch at a restaurant perched on the volcanic rim at Penelokan; and the afternoon wallowing in the hot springs and cold-water pools at the luxurious Toya Devasa resort alongside the lake and towering peaks.
Gili Trawangan (4 nights)
Ombak Sunset is a good choice, far from the din of nightclubs and mosques but within a 15-minute walk of the main drag. Another quiet but convenient option is the amazing Pondok Santi in a pristine coconut plantation. Or for total relaxation, try the lovely Mahamaya or Seri Resorts on neighbouring Gili Meno island. On the Gili Islands, it’s time to snorkel, stroll and snooze.
Was googling about Bali and I came across your website.
Love the comments you posted on this blog.
I’m visiting Bali from 25th May to 28th May with my parents and family.
We are indecisive as to whether we should stay at Kuta or Seminyak area?
Also, since we are Muslims, we would prefer to stay near any halal food shop.
I understand that there are not much halal food around in Bali.
Would truly appreciate your help on this.
Also, any suggestion on how much money to bring for a 4 days trip?
Looking forward to your reply.
Kuta is unapologetically loud and brash, where the streets are often more crowded at midnight than midday. The two main roads are bumper-to-bumper traffic and the maze of laneways are choked with mini-marts, bars, cafés and massage parlours. While Legian and Seminyak are a little milder, bikini-clad women and public drunkenness are not uncommon anywhere along the streets of the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak strip of coastline. It can be overwhelming at times for some first-time visitors and, perhaps, even a little shocking for anyone from a conservative background with children and parents in tow.
Far more sedate and tranquil is Sanur, which has no malls, nightclubs or surfers. And many hotels and cafés face the beach with its appealing promenade, ideal for strolling and cycling, and far from traffic.
As you probably know about 95% of the island’s population are Hindus, and almost all tourists are non-Muslims, with the exception of a significant number of short-term holiday-makers from Java. There are Muslim communities, with mosques and halal restaurants, at Benoa, at the tip of the peninsula north of Tanjung Benoa and a short taxi trip via the tollway from Sanur; and at Candikuning, with its impressive botanical gardens and gorgeous lakeside temple. Even in Kuta you will find a halal restaurant catering for workers from Java and Lombok – ask around for a ‘warung Muslim’ or ‘warung Java’ (“warung” means “food stall”), or anything selling Padang food. Two halal places in Sanur are Natrabu restaurant on the bypass road; and Warung Mak Beng, along the main entry road of Jalan Hang Tuah, and metres from the chaotic port for boats to Nusa Penida.
Without knowing how many people in your group, it’s very difficult to suggest how much money to bring, but these prices in (US dollars) will give you some idea: Indonesian food at an Indonesian restaurant $2-3; comfortable 1-star double room $20-25; taxi from airport to Sanur $8; and car hire with driver (10 hours) $40-50.
Love your website!
My Fiancé and I are going to Bali for our honeymoon in August. (We will spend 10 days in Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai – before getting to Bali.) We are spending another 10 days in Bali and we are thinking about spending most of our time there on the Gili Islands. We definetely want to relax on the beach and eat some great food and drinks. We are not sure if we should pick Gili meno or Gili Air. We have ruled out Gili T. as most people we have spoken with tell us that this island is a bit too much of a party scene. We don’t want a place where it is super noisy all the time, but we would still like a place were we can find some options to go have a drink later in the evening. Which Gili Island would you recommend? Also what would you recommend for the remainder of our stay (probably 3 to 4 days) – we were thinking about Ubud, Seminyak, or Sanur?
Thanks for your help!
Understandably one of the most popular places in and around Bali (and all of Indonesia) are the three gorgeous droplets off the coast of Lombok known as the Gili Islands. Surrounded by golden sands and turquoise waters, each of the three islands has a different personality. You are right that Gili Trawangan is the party island, but thankfully almost all of the nightclubs that finish just before the call-to-prayer at dawn from the mosques are clustered in the south-east quarter of the island, so there are definitely quieter stretches elsewhere. But the crowds on Gili T in August will be extraordinary, perhaps making it less than pleasant at times.
In complete contrast, Gili Meno is so laidback it’s almost comatose. This is starting to change as a few boutique hotels are springing up, but Meno is still far, far quieter and less crowded than Gili T. This means, however, that there aren’t a lot of places to stay, eat and drink on Meno. Between boozy Gili T and snoozy Gili Meno is Gili Air. As the closest islet to Lombok, Gili Air has a genuine village atmosphere, but more than enough bars and cafés to satisfy anyone. And each island is within a 10-minute boat trip, so you can easily stay on one island and explore the others on day-trips.
While the Gilis are superb, they could really be along the coast of Thailand or part of Tonga. They are also officially part of Lombok, so getting a taste of the “real Bali” on your trip is also heartily recommended. And there is no better place to experience the unique culture, lifestyle and landscapes of the island than Ubud. Compared to the Gilis, you may find Sanur and Seminyak unsatisfying, so a combination of the Gilis and Ubud is perfect. And your boat ticket to the Gilis will include a transfer to/from Ubud – and make sure you book with a speedboat company that will continue to Gili Air after Gili T.
And please note that August is the busiest time (after Christmas/New Year) for tourism on Bali, and even more on the extremely popular Gili Islands. So, book your hotels and speedboat tickets as soon as you can – and expect prices to be higher than at other times.
I have just spent hours reading about Bali and found especially helpful your recommendations. So decided to add myself to your list of satisfied customers!
I am going to attend 10 days Vipassana Meditation in Kintamani area, ending 15th of May. I persuaded my husband to join me to extend my trip to a 8-9 days holiday together. He is not keen on laying by the pool or on the beach… We are in our 50ties but energetic and fit. My challenge is to arrange those 9 days to make it a relaxing but also interesting holiday for us. We both like sightseeing, touring, diving, visiting stunning sites, sunsets, hikes, good local food. We are prepared to pay for 5 star places but we prefer to pay for beautiful, unusual sites rather then standard luxury. If possible we would like to stay in one or two hotels – one on the beach and the other somewhere in Ubud area and take daily trips around the island. From your earlier advice I have a sense that Jimbaran could be a good base for the beach location but it also need to be totally quiet at night and with rooms overlooking the sea… I also read about Flores islands which I wonder if we could include in our itinerary….I would greatly appreciate your advice on our best itinerary and choice of hotels… Many thanks Iwona
Bali has so much to offer, so just about everyone will find all sorts of wonderful activities that suit their interests.
Yes, Jimbaran is a quiet and surprisingly unhurried and undeveloped beach resort region, despite being close enough to the airport to see planes arriving/departing at a distance, but without any aircraft noise. Jimbaran has several quality resort hotels, such as the Four Seasons and Karma, which offer luxury, tranquility and serenity – and sea views to die for. Jimbaran is also an ideal base to explore the southern peninsula with water sports at Tanjung Benoa; the world-class Pasifika art museum at Nusa Dua; the relaxed but stunning setting of Ulu Watu temple; and some isolated beaches such as Padang-Padang. And every evening parts of Jimbaran beach turn into makeshifts cafes offering two of the greatest things about Bali: fresh seafood and sunsets.
But, of course, total quiet at hotels can never be guaranteed anywhere on Bali: other guests can be noisy, a stray rooster can’t be controlled, locals go to work on muffler-less motorbikes at the crack of dawn …
If you are feeling energetic, here are a few ideas: (1) Go inside the extraordinary caldera of Gunung Batur (which you will get to know from Kintamani) and go on a hiking or cycling tour around the lava-scarred landscapes and wallow in the luxurious hot springs at Toya Bungkah village. (2) Go on a bike tour down the volcanic slopes and/or join a rafting tour; (3) Do watersports, boat trips and hikes to a volcanic peak at the gorgeous Lake Bratan from the Bedugul recreation park, where you probably won’t see another westerner all day, and visit the impressive botanical gardens at nearby Candikuning; (4) Undertake hikes exploring rice-terraces and waterfalls with guides from Munduk, Tirtagangga or Teganan. (5) from Lovina or Pemuteran, organise diving and hiking trips around the Bali Barat national park, especially the uninhabited but deer-infested Menjangan island.
Most of these activities (and more) are easily accessible on day trips with a car and driver from Ubud.
Flores is becoming a little more developed these days, especially along the coastline at Labuanbajo, but getting around the island will always be problematic. There are no tourist shuttle buses or long-distance taxis like on Bali and Lombok, so getting across the island will involve sardine-cans-on-wheels public minibuses along windy, bumpy roads. Not for the fainthearted or the casual visitor.
I am in my late 20’s and am going with my boyfriend to Bali for 4 days. We are not sure about 1) which part of the island is best for us to stay, and 2) if we should stay in one hotel or switch hotels during our time there to get more than one experience. We would like to relax on the beach and also enjoy cultural activities that Bali has too offer. We prefer slightly less touristy of a place (which is why we are avoiding Kuta), but still want to have fun in the evenings going to bars.
Would Seminyak and Ubud be a nice compliment? Or, would you recommend staying in Seminyak the whole time and doing day trips to Ubud? Do you know how long it takes in taxi get from Seminyak to Ubud and is it expensive?
With only four days, you obviously won’t have much time to see many places, so it’s best to stay in one area to avoid unnecessary travelling between hotels, and the possibility of having to check out of one hotel at 10am and not check in at another until 2pm.
Seminyak is a quieter and more upmarket version of Kuta – there are many classy cafes, appealing bars with live music and trendy shops but also still plenty of tourists. But without any nightclubs and malls, Seminyak is, for many, considerably nicer than Kuta. Seminyak also offers glorious sunsets, a lovely beach, genuine beachside cafes (almost unique on the island), and is only 5-10 mins by taxi from the Kuta/Legian area.
Bali is compact, so it’s easy to daytrip to see some of the sights in one day. From your hotel, organise a car with a driver (never drive yourself) for about US$40-50 per day (10 hours, all inclusive). A taxi will be more expensive and would be reluctant to go too far from Semminyak.
Your driver will offer 10-12 different itineraries for day trips, but for something different try (1) Candikuning – with recreation park and boat trips at Bedugul; lovely Bratan temple, impressive botanical gardens, and eerie lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan; or (2) Batur lake/mountain – with holy temple at Batur, volcano museum and buffet lunch with jaw-dropping views on the volcanic rim at Penelokan, and then drive into the caldera and wallow in the luxurious hot springs at Toya Devasya at Toya Bungkah village.
You can see Ubud (one hour from Seminyak) and most of the highlights around Ubud in one-two day trips from Seminyak. In Ubud, visit the monkey forest, potter about the souvenir market, explore the Puri Lukisan or ARMA art museums, go to the Goa Gajah temple, and take a short rice-field walk. On another day around Ubud, visit the extraordinary rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi (Tampaksiring), see the sacred springs and temple at Tirta Empul, go to the undervisited gardens and temple at Gunung Kawi (Sebatu) and see the rice-terraces at Tegallalang. And don’t forget to leave enough time to explore the beaches and streets of Seminyak.
Hi Dave – Big fan of your site. Was super helpful for our 3 weeks in Greece last September and I stumbled across your thoughts on Bali. We’re planning to spend 19 days for our honeymoon in Bali and are looking for a combination of relaxation and activities. Both of us are active, well versed travellers in our 30s. Currently thinking 4 days in Seminyak (after 30 hours of flying from Toronto), 4 days on Gilli T, 6 days in Ubud, and wrapping with 4 days up in Northern Bali. Thoughts on our itinerary? Any suggestions for mid-range ($50-$125/night) hotels at the North end? Not sure what town to park ourselves in.
You should certainly be able to see much of Bali in 19 days! Seminyak is the quieter and more classy alternative to Kuta and Legian and an ideal place to spend your first few nights – also because it’s close to the airport. You may consider spending 1-2 more nights on Gili Trawangan to get the most value for your money, because getting there by fast-boat will cost about US$80 return per person. And you can always visit a few sights around Ubud on daytrips from Seminyak.
Along the north coast, there are only two regions with a decent range of hotels and western-style restaurants and bars. Pemuteran is the most remote beach resort region (4-5 hours by chartered car and driver from the airport and Kuta area) and ideal for exploring the Bali Barat national park and scuba diving in the pristine waters nearby. It only attracts a handful of tourists, so there is a minimal range of facilities.
The main resort region along the north coast is Lovina, which is actually a 10km stretch of coastline with hotels dotted along the beach, some 1-2kms from the nearest decent shop or café. The best base is the compact and charming area known as Kalibukbuk, where there’s a good range of mid to upper-range hotels for very reasonable prices such as Rambutan Boutique Hotel or Lovina Beach Hotel.
But a warning … While Lovina is ideal for daytrips to Singaraja, the island’s second-largest city, and Banjar, with its monastery and hot springs, the beaches are not ideal for swimming. The sand is grey, gritty, and often lined with fishing boats or filled with flotsam and jetsam, but the sea breezes, sea views, and sunsets are as outstanding as anywhere else on the island. And Kalibukbuk offers fun-filled dolphin tours, a delightful village vibe, and the happiest of Happy Hours on the island.
Hi Dave, You are such a wealth of information! My family and I (3 adults and a 5 year old) will be going to Bali for 7 days. My husband wants to stay at the Hard Rock in Kuta, (or a similar hotel with a more American and lively feel) but I would like to go somewhere more quiet and cultural. I’m not a fan of noise, clubs, and drunks. Unfortunately most places offer one bed or two singles. So Hard Rock is one of the few to offer two double beds. With our length of time, do you recommend we stay in one hotel and commute to see the rest of Bali or break our stay into two places to get the most of all of our expectations of the trip?
Hard Rock is popular for its facilities as well as its location, but the resort is situated on one of the busiest corners in the single most frenetic region on Bali. While your room may be insulated against the noise, the area surrounding the resort is extremely busy with day-time shoppers and night-time clubbers. To be honest, it may not be the most relaxing place for a 5 year old.
Don’t forget for the price of one family room in a 4-star resort like Hard Rock, you could get two very comfortable rooms with all the mod-cons in a 2-star hotel in Kuta, where the rooms are adjoining (eg New Arena Hotel – don’t be expecting luxury, but good value) or in a two-storey detached bungalow (e.g. Suji Bungalows). Otherwise, try a family-friendly resort in Legian, the next beach further north and far quieter than Kuta but only 1-2kms from Hard Rock, the fast-food outlets and Beachwalk shopping mall. Beachside resorts in Legian genuinely face the beach (and not a chaotic road like in Kuta), such as the Padma, Melasti Beach Resort, or the Jayakarta.
Bali is compact, so with 7 days you can certainly spend 3-4 days in a beach resort region like Kuta, Legian, or the quieter Sanur, and another 3-4 days in the countryside exploring the wonderful attractions and extraordinary landscapes while also experiencing Bali’s unique culture and lifestyle. Ubud is the obviously choice, but other places to consider basing yourself are the lovely village of Padangbai on the east coast or the rugged Nusa Lembongan island, only 30 minutes by fastboat from Sanur.
My boyfriend and I will be going to Bali for 2 weeks at the end of July. We’re in our mid 20s and like excitement. We are staying 5 days in Legian and 3 days on Gili T. Where else would you recommend? Would we also have to book our fast boat tickets from now as it will be high season? Also what beaches would you recommend visiting?
The end of July is a busy time because it’s the school holidays in Australia, from where many are escaping the winter, and the start of the very busy month of August, when many tourists visit from Europe. So, book your accommodation at major hotels and fast-boat tickets to the Gili Islands online as soon as possible. A great source of information about options and prices for the boats is GiliBookings.
If you are staying for 2 weeks but have only booked 8 nights so far, you may consider these places for the extra days.
(1) Nusa Lembongan, a charming little island that is different to the Gilis, but very easy to arrange to visit on the way to/from Gili Trawangan. Lembongan offers more beaches, appealing villages, walks/cycling among the mangroves, motorbike rentals (ideal for first-timers as there are no cars on the island) and snorkelling.
(2) Padangbai, where many fastboats to the Gilis leave/arrive but which almost everyone bypasses. This lovely village is scenic and a perfect base for exploration by chartered car and driver around the east coast, including Bali’s most delightful (and undeveloped) beach at Pasir Putih.
(3) Toya Bungkah, the village inside the caldera of Gunung Batur volcano. From there, organise hikes around the volcano or walk around the lake yourself, wallow in the luxurious hot springs, and go on bicycle tours of the lava-scarred landscapes.
For the more adventurous, there is rafting (arranged from anywhere), scuba diving (from the Gilis or Amed), trekking (from Toya Bungkah), water sports (Tanuung Benoa), cycling tours (arranged from anywhere), and surf lessons (Kuta)
You seem to be a Google for Bali. Cheers for really being so helpful. I plan to visit Bali from 23rd to 29th May and after going through all your advice I have shortlisted the Kuta area and Nusa Dua area for staying. Do you think both these places are good for a peaceful and romantic holiday? Also, I plan for a one-day tour to Nusa Penida Island… Is it worth visiting Nusa Penida and what activities and attraction is there on the Island?
Will sincerely appreciate your quick helpful response.
To be honest, “peaceful” and “romantic” are not two words normally associated with Kuta. People either love Kuta for its endless shopping, massive nightclubs, and Aussie-themed pubs, while others loathe it for the incessant crowds, traffic-choked roads, and (often) unruly behaviour of tourists. In contrast, Nusa Dua is peaceful, with no hawkers, very little traffic, and wide empty streets, while most resorts there can certainly be termed as “romantic”.
Perhaps instead of Kuta, consider these options.
(1) Stay at one of the many very romantic resorts along the southern Bukit Peninsula where there is nothing much to do but admire the staggering views and laze about the massive pools, but these places are usually isolated.
(2) Stay at one of the resorts along the ravines and jungles close to Ubud, where there is plenty to do and it’s easy to arrange trips around the island.
(3) Base yourself at the more serene Sanur, where traffic is minimal and the beachside promenade is ideal for long walks and cycling.
(4) Be at Seminyak, if you want to get away from most of the crowds but still be within a short taxi ride of the malls and clubs of Kuta.
(5) Try Jimbaran, with its perfect beach and seafood dinners on the beach at sunset with wandering musicians.
Nusa Penida is the “next big thing” and slated for major development over the coming years. It is certainly worth visiting on an organised tour from Sanur with a company like CASPLA Bali Sea View, but don’t just turn up on the island and expect to arrange a tour on the spot – the island is (so far) remarkably undeveloped for tourism. Penida offers extraordinary clifftop views, weaving and seaweed factories, tourist-empty temples at Ped and at the cave of Giri Putri, charming villages like Toyapakeh, and probably the most scenic (but still undeveloped) beach in Indonesia at Crystal Bay.
I have stumbled upon your website and find it very useful! My husband and I have just booked our holiday to Bali for the beginnning of June. We will be there for a total of 12 days. As there are so many different beaches and hotels, it’s so difficult to make a decision. We love white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters, sunsets, enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling, and watersports. We also enjoy really good dining and trying authentic dishes as well. We would like to see some of the ‘real Bali’ and would probably spend some day trips to Ubud. We looked at staying in Nusa Dua and Jimbaran because of the white sand beach but then we worried about the costs associated with the luxury hotels there. Also, is it worth going to the Gili islands? Are there any hotels close to the airport as we are arriving quite late at night so we didn’t feel it worth paying full price for the first night. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Yes, it is really difficult to decide where to stay and what to do; the choices are overwhelming!
Your preferences for “white sand beaches, turquoise waters” etc exactly describes the Gili Islands, so you should definitely consider spending some time there. Also blessed with perfect sunsets and world-class snorkelling and diving, a visit to these three alluring islets will be a highlight of your trip. Gili Trawangan is the main island and renowned for its party atmosphere, but there are quiet stretches of the island too. Gili Meno is very tranquil, while Gili Air has all the cafés and bars you would need and a vibrant village vibe. The choice of accommodation on the three islands ranges from simple bungalows for US$20 per night to resorts charging ten times that. So, the Gilis would most probably fit your bill, and you could avoid the high costs of resorts that completely dominate Nusa Dua and are mostly found in Jimbaran.
If you still want to stay close to Nusa Dua but prefer to avoid resort prices, and you’re keen on water sports, consider basing yourself for part of your trip in Tanjung Benoa, where all manner of watersports are available for a fraction of the cost normally charged in the West. And, yes, to experience the “real Bali” you should head inland, and there is no better base from which to explore the extraordinary landscapes and to delight in the island’s unique culture than Ubud.
The airport is very conveniently located between Kuta (10-15 minutes by taxi) and Jimbaran (5-10 minutes by taxi), so you could try staying at either place for the first night. But with the new tollway, and if you’re arriving late at night (when traffic is less), Tanjung Benoa is only 20-25 minutes by taxi from the airport. (And perhaps book a cheaper place for that first night?)
So, your 12 days could be split between Tanjung Benoa (3), Gili Islands (5), and Ubud (4), for example.
After lots of research and a migraine, I found your website and its very very helpful. Thank you. I still need your help. I am going to Bali with my husband and my 2 year-old daughter for a week. We had been to Phuket and stayed at Crowne Plaza Panwa Beach Resort and just loved the exprience. But this time we want a beach experience plus a few activities like water sports and animals and birds etc… Which place would you recommend? I see you strees on Jimbaran a lot and I like it too. Is it feasible to travel from Jimbaran to Ubud for day tours? Puri Bambu is not available during our visiting time. Any other hotel you suggest?
With such a young child it’s best to stay at quieter resort regions with less traffic, crowds and noise, such as Sanur, which has no beachside roads, and shallow calm water to paddle in; Nusa Dua, with its wide footpaths, extensive gardens and spacious resorts; and Jimbaran, which has no surfers, nightclubs or busy malls. Sanur does offer a few watersports, such as parasailing and banana boat rides (but only at Cemara Beach and at the end of Jalan Duyung road), while Nusa Dua is within a 5-minute taxi ride of Tanjung Benoa, where every activity on, above or below the water is offered (except surfing) for very reasonable rates.
Jimbaran is serene and offers a magnificent stretch of white sand and crystal waters but no water sports. Possible places to consider for a more moderate price in Jimbaran include Keraton Jimbaran Beach Resort; VIDI Boutique Hotel; and Villa Puri Royan.
The new tollway makes getting around the southern resort regions a lot easier and quicker, but travelling can be tiresome at times (especially with a young child!) and traffic still chaotic. Travelling by a chartered car with a driver (which is cheaper than a taxi for long-distances) from Jimbaran to Ubud would take 60-75 minutes one-way, eating into your day if you did it several times. An option, obviously, is to stay in Ubud or a closer beach area like the charming village of Padangbai. Another reason to stay at Ubud or Padangbai is the proximity to the Bali Zoo, the Bali Reptile and Bird Park, and the Bali Elephant Safari Park. And note that the only ‘wildlife’ any tourist is likely to see anyway on the island is in a park or zoo …
Hi Dave, this is a wonderful website and very helpful. Me and my partner are planning to go to Bali for our honeymoon in August/September as part of a combined destination trip. We’ll be in Bali for around 5 days. For Bali we’re looking to have a romantic and, nice and relaxing time and make use of the wonderful beaches it has to offer. My partner borders on the point of being terrified of cats – I’ve heard that stray cats are a common site in Bali. Is there any part of Bali that you can recommend where we would we be able to experience the above without coming across any/many stray cats? Thanks a lot for your help. Best Regards, Steve.
We are unaware of any problems with stray cats across Bali, but there are certainly issues with stray dogs. In most villages in rural areas – but not in the tourist regions – some dogs live on the streets. Most are semi-domesticated, some are wild, and a few are even rabid, so, obviously, never approach or touch any dog anywhere in Bali. Stray animals – cats or dogs – rare in tourist regions like Kuta/Legian, Sanur, and Nusa Dua because so few people actually live in these areas and ‘own’ or feed any animals; there is simply too many people and too much traffic; and tourist workers would quickly remove any such animals, anyway.
But in rural areas, stray dogs can be a problem, and this may include quieter regions of Ubud, such as Penestanan and Nyuhkuning villages. And any possible stray cats are most likely to roam late at night when traffic, crowds, and predators (e.g. dogs) are fewer.
In short, certainly don’t let this affect your holiday in Bali, and if you stay in places like Kuta/Legian, Sanur, and Nusa Dua you will see few, if any, animals – domesticated or not.
I like your website. I am planning to travel to Bali after New Year on January with my husband and grown up son. We like Kuta but want luxury. Which hotel in Kuta would you recommend? We only stay for 4 days. Thanks
Many people call the stretch of beach along the south-west coast up from the airport as ‘Kuta’. But this 8km-long tourist region is actually subdivided into different areas, each with separate advantages: that is (heading north from the airport) Tuban, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, and Petitenget, with an area known as Canggu further north. So, in fact, Kuta itself is barely 2km long and 1km wide.
Within Kuta, you may consider these luxurious places: Hard Rock Hotel, with a prime (read: busy) location and facilities to excite your grown-up son; the sparkling new Harris Resort, part of the magnificent Beachwalk shopping complex; or The Stones Hotel, with its modern vibe and admirable spaciousness.
Alternatively, you may consider staying in Legian, a few minutes walk north of Kuta, or in Tuban, a few minutes walk south, where in both regions the hotels/resorts are more spacious and face the sea rather than the busy Kuta beach road. In Tuban, try the Discovery Kartika Plaza, attached to the massive Discovery Mall; the Ramada Bintang; or the Bali Garden. In Legian, check out The Padma; Club Bali Jayakarta; or Legian Beach.
We are planning on travelling to Bali next October for my husbands 40th birthday. We have roughly 15 adults and 10 kids going. We are trying to find somewhere that’s not too expensive. I was thinking Sanur? I like the idea of it being a bit more laid back and family friendly. Can you suggest anywhere to stay? I have been trying to find somewhere like a hotel with suites (2 bedroom), like the Sanur Plaza Paradise Suites but I think it’s a but pricey. We just want somewhere that is clean and tidy, nice pool with a poolside bar and restaurant.
The Kuta/Legian region may be a bit too hectic for such a large group, while Nusa Dua may seem a little too sedate for the children. So, yes, Sanur would be the ideal base for your stay. Sanur is spacious, quiet and laidback, ideal for families, but only a short taxi trip from Kuta, with its malls, surf and sunsets, and from Tanjung Benoa, the main centre for water sports. Sanur itself has some modest water sports, while the promenade there is delightful for walking and cycling.
Sanur offers plenty of elegant 2-3 star hotels where a lovely room costs no more than US$50 per double per night. These include Mentari Sanur, Sativa Sanur Cottages, and Paneeda View Beach Hotel. If you are set on staying somewhere with a poolside bar and restaurant – rather than just a pool – then you are probably going to need a 3-4 star hotel. Reasonably-priced family-friendly resorts include Griya Santrian, Oasis Lagoon, and Puri Santrian, while suites are available at Sudamala Suites & Villas and Kamuela Villas & Suites. But suites are always going to be expensive and, to be honest, not great value unless you positively must have apartment-style accommodation.
As you probably know, early October is the Australian school holidays and a busy time, so book ahead. And consider contacting your hotel directly (rather than through an online booking site) and seek a substantial discount or upgrade for booking multiple rooms.
Dear Dave, love your site.
I am going to Bali for my honeymoon, I booked 3 days at Ubud to do temple visits and to be at a peaceful place. Before that we visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore. So I want my beach time.
Which beach/resort would you recommend? I want something with no waves, to just relax with my wife at the beach in a great resort. Budget for the night should be 300ish. Date of travel is mid September.
I was looking at Seminyak for the nightlife but I read beach isn’t too calm for a chill swim, which is what I want, something like Maldives in Bali, if that even makes sense. Thanks and blessings,
The best region for your requirements would most probably be Nusa Dua. It is located along a stretch of coastline with no waves, and the beaches there are sheltered and those run by the resorts are immaculately clean and lined with lounge chairs you may never want to get out of. Kuta/Legian/Seminyak is renowned for its surf and not ideal for those seeking a gentle swim, while some get a little tired of the hawkers offering massages etc. But the nightlife at Nusa Dua is rather genteel, but you’re not that far from Kuta/Legian by taxi via the new tollway.
Nusa Dua has a dozen 4-5 star resorts, all luxurious, spacious and ostentatious. Recommended options include The Laguna, with pools that even have an artificial beach and waterfalls; The Ayodya, with its lush tropical gardens; and St Regis, which overlooks both the beach and golf course.
I’ve been reading your site for hours and it is fabulous! So many great suggestions and reviews! I will be traveling to Bali for 11 days with family this August- myself and my siblings are between 17-24 and our parents. We are looking to explore a lot of the island and often have no problem hotel hopping to see as much as we can. We are planning to visit Ubud, Seminyak, and the Gili Islands, but would like recommendation on one more beach place to relax, possibly surf and enjoy good seafood …Jimbaran, Sanur?
I was also hoping on researching the Elephant Breakfast and Bath experience outside of Ubud, do you have any suggestions on how to book or if it is worth the drive/ experience? Also would you suggest hiring a driver to take us around the island, is it affordable? Thank you!!!
The three bases you are considering are ideal – Ubud offers culture, scenery and glimpses of traditional lifestyles and villages; Seminyak is a classy resort region with jaw-dropping sunsets, trendy bistros and world-class shopping; and the Gili Islands offers snorkeling, relaxing and partying (if staying on Gili Trawangan).
Jimbaran is a lovely stretch of beach, often almost deserted in places during the day, but becomes busy in the evenings as diners watch the sunset and gorge on fresh seafood. Sanur is a relaxed and spacious resort region, with no sunsets or surf, but a lovely promenade for strolling and cycling. Both places have plenty of seafood restaurants (more so in Jimbaran) but neither have surf. You may want to do your surfing in Seminyak which has the same sort of waves as Kuta, but fewer places to rent boards.
One beach area worth considering for relaxation is Padangbai, with some small beaches and a lovely village vibe. It is a perfect base for exploration of the east coast, and you would probably go through Padangbai anyway on the way to/from the Gili Islands by boat. Padangbai doesn’t have surf, but is great for diving and snorkeling and there’s plenty of seafood.
The attraction you are referring to is at the Elephant Safari Park, not far from Ubud, and is offered by the major adventure company on Bali, BaliAdventures. It is a worthwhile experience, perhaps a bit contrived for tourists, but undeniably interesting to those who have never seen elephants, particularly children. It is also reasonably expensive compared to other attractions in Bali. The cost includes a transfer there and back for those in Ubud only.
For the Elephant Safari Park you wouldn’t need a driver, but chartering a car with a driver is very easy to arrange – best through your hotel, which will recommend someone reliable. The cost (especially if sharing) is very reasonable at about US$40 per day for 10 hours, all inclusive. The driver will be your guide and translator (they always speak competent English), he will take all the hassle out of driving, and he will drive you to gorgeous rice-terrace views and temples (not in any guidebook) or anywhere you want. He will also offer many tempting itineraries. You can also charter the car and driver for several days in a row for longer trips, but you would have to pay for his accommodation and food, so add another US$20 per day. Otherwise, just day trip in and out of Ubud.
If you are a largish group try contacting hotels directly (along with online booking sites) and ask for substantial discounts. But remember that August is a very busy time and occupancy rates will be high, so you should book ahead rather than ‘hotel hop’ while on Bali if in a largish group and you are keen to get quality accommodation.
I have read so many of the posts, You are so helpful! We are planning 8 days in Bali in April. Myself, husband and 2 kids 14 & 10. I know I want to go to the elephant sanctuary, and Monkey Forest. I would love to see some culture like temples but don’t want to bore the kids who are 100% about being at the beach. Is it possible to do these things in 2 days in Ubud? We are young at heart and don’t want the quiet secluded beach but maybe not Kuta either, any suggestions? Kids love water activities and souvenir shopping and a nice beach.
Bali is compact so you could visit the Elephant Safari Park, not far from Ubud, and the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, during one daytrip from Sanur, Kuta/Legian or any other beach resort region in the south.
Ubud is the cultural heartland of the island and an ideal base to visit temples, see a traditional dance and other highlights such as the sacred springs at Tirta Empul and the amazing rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi. So, yes, it is possible to see many attractions in two days while staying in Ubud or while day-tripping from a beach region in the south.
Perhaps, consider a long day-trip with the elephant park, monkey forest and a temple or two in/near Ubud during one day-trip from a beach, and then do another daytrip visiting the extraordinary crater lake and hot springs at Lake Batur and/or the wonderful temple and watersports at Lake Bratan. Both lakes would certainly appeal to your children, while also offering culture and landscapes to really impress the adults.
There are several options for a base while in Bali. Yes, Kuta, can be overwhelming and noisy for some, but an easy alternative is Legian, which is within walking distance of Kuta and Tuban (south Kuta), with its malls and world class Waterbom Park (for water slides). Legian offers a range of large, quiet and family-friendly resorts facing the renowned beach. Sanur may seem a little too quiet for the kids, and the swimming isn’t so good at the beach, while Nusa Dua is more sanitised and perhaps too sedate.
My husband and 9 month old will be traveling to Bali in August. We will be staying 6 nights. We are having a hard time figuring out where to stay. We want to relax, shop, eat, and maybe see the elephants. I was thinking Seminyak would be nice but am not quite sure. Also, should we stay somewhere with a private pool with our room or at one of the resort style hotels with multiple pools? We’d appreciate any advice. Time is flying by and we need to make a decision soon!
The good news is that traveling with a young child in Bali is less of a hassle than you may expect, especially as the Balinese absolutely adore all children. The bad news is that August is the high season so you should book as soon as possible, and be prepared for many European visitors.
Seminyak ticks all the boxes: it is relaxing (certainly more so than Kuta just down the road), while there are also plenty of stylish shops to browse and classy eateries to enjoy. And it is easy enough to charter a car with a driver from your hotel to visit the elephants near Ubud – and add the monkey forest in Ubud, the sacred springs and temple at Tirta Empul, and the jaw-dropping rice-field views at Tegallalang in the same day trip.
Seminyak does have a few villas with your own pool, but these can be rather expensive and perhaps a little isolated – ie quite a walk to any shops or cafes. One option is to stay in Legian, which is half-way between Kuta and Seminyak. Legian offers all the shops, cafes and bars you would possibly need, as well as several spacious resorts which are superbly set up for children, with a kiddies pool, playground, supervised activities and so on. And some resorts even offer the best of both worlds: your own tiny pool in front of your door, as well as 3-4 massive pools with lounge chairs, relaxing gazebos etc. In Legian, check out these very family-friendly resorts, The Padma Resort, the Bali Mandira and The Legian Beach, all of which would happily put a cot into your room for little or no extra charge.
Wonderful web-site. Love it! Went to Sanur in the 80’s with my late husband, did lots of sight-seeing & beach relaxing and loved the whole experience. Am now considering Bali again with a girlfriend. Although retired, we are both very fit, active, enjoy beaches, swimming, walks, culture, sunsets with a drink, and not having to totally ‘dress to impress’ for dinner! In other words 5* hotels/restaurants not required, so would like your recommendations for a different base, please. In general it’s always been a big ‘yes’ to local food, but about 5 years ago I became a Celiac , i.e. definitely NO wheat, NO gluten etc. Do you think Balinese food in general will be ok? And is anybody likely to understand my dietary problems? In the main I can eat meat, fish, vegs, salads, eggs, cheese, rice but probably not noodles, and not Soy and other sauces that have wheat thickeners. So whaddaya reckon ‘Doctor Dave?’ Obviously I would not hold you responsible if I had to write a Guide to the Loos of Bali….but would appreciate your comments. Thanks. Diane de Rees
Perhaps it won’t surprise you that Bali and Sanur have changed dramatically since the 1980s, but Sanur is still fairly relaxed – certainly compared to Kuta/Legian. You are likely to relive some wonderful memories, although almost all of what you may remember (hotels, cafe etc) may no longer exist.
But if you want to avoid the crowds, you don’t crave 5-star treatment, you want to experience the ‘real’ Bali, and you enjoy outdoor activities, you may also consider these bases:
1) Ubud – this is an obvious choice, but (a) it is the cultural heart of the island; (b) it is easy to get a nice villa/room among the rice-fields to escape the crowds; (2) there is so much to see and do in around Ubud; and (d) it’s the perfect base for outdoor activities like hiking, walking among rice-fields, rafting, elephant-riding, mountain-biking down volcanic slopes etc
2) Padangbai – a charming village, quite undeveloped compared to other resort regions, and a perfect base to explore the dramatic and fascinating east coast. There are also great little beaches nearby at Blue Lagoon, Bias Tugel and Pasir Putih, and spectacular guided hikes from places not far away, such as Tenganan and Tirtagangga
3) Nusa Lembongan – an island that doesn’t attract the crowds like the Gili Islands, but with lovely beaches, hills to climb and bike ride along, and world-class snorkeling
Obviously without being an expert, it is difficult to advise about your dietary considerations. The good news that the stuff you can’t eat, such as bread and pasta, is only offered in restaurants for tourists; almost no Indonesian or Balinese person eats these products. Wheat is not grown and very rarely eaten by Indonesians: it’s all rice, rice and rice. A typical tourist menu will offer 15-20 meals with rice, mostly chicken, fish and vegetables, with red meat being a rarity, as it often has to be imported – except for pork which is produced and eaten by Balinese. A variety of yummy salads are also offered on every menu catering for tourists.
The only potential problem is that soy sauce (and others like oyster sauce) are common ingredients in fried rice and other dishes that accompany boiled rice, such as sweet and sour chicken. You could ask for your food to be ‘tanpa’ (without) these sauces but is quite likely that the waiter or even cook won’t understand (coeliac being unheard of in Indonesia) or, worse, they would nod and say ‘OK’ to make you happy and the sauces are included anyway, not comprehending the severity of the issue. You should probably stick as much as possible to salads or grilled chicken, pork, fish and other seafood with boiled rice and/or fresh, cooked or fried vegetables, such as french fries. All of these dishes are very commonly available anywhere tourists can be found, so you shouldn’t encounter too many problems, and you can focus on enjoying yourself.
Wow, great info, thank you. I read many of the conversations, not all, so apologies in advance if you have to repeat yourself!
I am a single woman in late 50’s going to Bali alone for 19 days in September. I am an impassioned snorkeler (especially right from shore) and may also do some diving, and I also want some cultural immersion. I missed out on an Intrepid 9-day tour, now full, so will be finding my own way around.
It seems, from lots of reading, that the best areas for reef snorkeling and mantas!! – not interested in the wrecks – from shore would be Amed, Nusa Penida/Lembongan, and up north at Nusa Menjangan. Do I have that right?
I am thinking to stay in Ubud as a base for the cultural immersion part. Have not decided which to do first, so if you have any thoughts on that as well, perhaps as regards Bali in September, they are most welcome.
Last, I’d love to know any suggestions you have for gorgeous accomodations in the $50-$75/night range in any of those spots.
Bali is really quite easy to get around, especially if you stick to the main tourist areas, which are almost all connected by tourist shuttle buses, so there is often no need to join tours.
Yes, you have certainly done your homework, and the places you mention are amazing for diving. Amed and Pemuteran (for Pulau Menjagan island) are remote, and not easy or cheap to reach. Both places cater very much for scuba diving – much less so for snorkelling off shore. Nusa Penida is still quite undeveloped with regards to transport around the island, and there are only a handful of tourist hotels, although getting there is easier these days, and CASPLA arranges all sorts of tours from Bali.
If you are more interested in snorkelling from the shore, you may consider these 3 options – each place certainly offers world-class scuba diving as well
1) the Gili Islands – 3 gorgeous islets where you can snorkel straight off shore. Gili Trawangan is the party island and, perhaps, all-night reggae parties and magic mushrooms may not be your thing, so try Gili Air. Places to stay in your price range include Villa Karang (right at the harbour), Kai’s Beach (remote west coast) and worth a splurge is the remarkable Gili Air Lagoon, where all rooms face a circular lagoon-shaped pool.
2) Nusa Lembongan – easier to reach than Nusa Penida, but also close enough for day trips there with diving agencies on Nusa Lembongan. Great options to stay are Ketut Losmen Bungalows (right on the beach); Tigerlilly (charming and in the village of Jungutbatu) and Akah Cottages (Dream Beach). Excellent value can be found in the low season (which includes September), so just turn up and find a suitable place with the perfect sunset views in Jungutbatu. Snorkelling is easy to arrange off-shore at Jungutbatu but best at Mushroom Bay.
3) Padangbai – gets a little overrun at times by island-hoppers to/from the Gilis. The town beach is scenic but great snorkelling offshore is at Bloo Lagoon and Bias Tugel beaches, both within walking distance, while Candidasa and Pasir Putih (both within 30-40 mins by car) offer even more exciting options. Delightful places to stay include the new, colonial-style OK Divers Resort; Kerti Bungalows, right on the beach; and worth a splurge is the Bloo Lagoon Eco Village with jaw-dropping views and only metres to that snorkelling beach. Again, it is easy enough to turn up at Padangbai and spend 10 minutes finding your perfect place.
And, yes, Ubud is the best place to base yourself for ‘cultural immersion’. Special places to consider are Nick’s Pension; Murni’s Houses; Swasti Eco Cottages; or Alam Indah. It is probably best to stay in Ubud first, get yourself organised and settled in before rushing off to the islands or east coast. And you can organise your transport to these 3 paces listed above from Ubud (easy enough online) or through Perama shuttle bus company. There are shuttle buses from Ubud to Padangbai and plenty of boats from Padangbai to the Gilis. So, a good option would be staying, in order,: Ubud, Padangbai, the Gilis, Nusa Lembongan (which is connected by boat from the Gilis) and finish in Sanur, where boats from Nusa Lembongan arrive.
we followed your advice last year when we were in Santorini, thank you!! This year, we will be arriving in Denpasar airport on October 2 (from Seoul, South Korea). We would like to take a boat on Oct 3 to Gili Air and plan to stay there until Oct 5, then go to Ubud and stay until Oct 9, then depart to Singapore.
Where should we stay on the 1st night, to be closer to the harbor and catch the boat to Gili Air, I was thinking of Sanur, what do you suggest? You said something about boats going from Gili islands to Bali with a transfer to Ubud, can u specify which boats please? Any advice on our plan, suggestions, etc etc?
Thank you so much,
Where you should stay on your first night probably depends on where your boat to Gili Air leaves from, but all fast-boats to the Gilis include transfers to/from your hotel anywhere in the southern resort regions or in Ubud.
You have three main options for departure points for the fast-boats:
(1) from Padangbai – but avoid this as you’ll spend a boring, uncomfortable 2 hours plus in a minibus from Sanur or Kuta to get there;
(2) from Sanur – a good option as you could even walk to the departure point at the beach if you stay along Jalan Hang Tuah street (eg the Mentari Sanur hotel or Sanur Plaza Paradise Hotel); or
(3) from Serangan Island – a short minibus transfer from Kuta, Legian, Seminyak or Sanur, and therefore the quickest overall trip. These boats also the most expensive but use a jetty, whereas all boats leaving/arriving to/from Sanur involve wading in the water on to the boat.
All fast boats from Bali go to Gili Trawangan, but none go to Gili Meno, and not all go on to Gili Air, so make sure your fast boat does. Your boat trip back from Gili Air to Bali will also include a transfer to Ubud.
Return tickets are rarely cheaper than two one-way tickets. So, to save traveling time on your short holiday you could:
1) Stay in Kuta, Legian or Seminyak, or even Sanur, which are all close to the airport, and book a boat leaving from Serangan island, which will include a quick transfer from your hotel
2) Book a ticket from Gili Air to Padangbai, which is a shorter boat ride than back to Serangan or Sanur, and is only 30-40 minutes by minibus transfer to Ubud
Full details about departure points and times, and information about bookings for reliable boat companies, are available here.
Hoping you can help us… My boyfriend and I are travelling to Ball in mid-December. We are looking for a few days at a surf school/camp (preferably not Kuta) followed by a few days by the beach at somewhere quite luxurious but not a resort. Budget would be £120 a night.
Any tips/advice would be great! Thanks, Tabitha 🙂
At a ‘surf camp’ guests stay at a hotel, or even a resort, at a popular surfing location and organise lessons through the hotel. This is an alternative to taking ad hoc surfing lessons at Kuta, Legian, or further out at Canggu, but these camps are really for those who want to invest time and money to learn seriously. The attraction of learning at Kuta, as so many do, are that the waves are gentle, plenty of places offer lessons, you can stay anywhere you want, and there’s no shortage of non-surf activities. And if you take lessons at Kuta, you could easily stay at the milder and more sophisticated Seminyak, 10 minutes away by taxi, or even as far as Sanur, 20-25 minutes away.
Otherwise, for surf camps away from the Kuta region, try
1) Padang-Padang Surf Camp – not that far from Kuta, and you could even day-trip from Jimbaran. The waves around that region can be tough, but the setting is superb.
2) Rapture Camp – prides itself on safety and affordability, with highly qualified teachers. Also located at Padang-Padang, it’s popular and great way to learn among like-minded travellers.
3) Ripcurl Surf School – at Jimbaran, which is easily accessible. This school doesn’t offer accommodation, but there’s plenty of places to stay in Jimbaran, and the waves are considerably calmer there for beginners.
Afterwards, you may want to relax at one of these places:
1) Nusa Lembongan – easy to reach by boat, with plenty to see and do, or just a great place to relax. With no real resorts on the island, you could stay at the secluded but convenient Indiana Kenanga Villas or Batu Karang Lembongan Resort, with villas layered up the cliff
2) Padangbai – charming village, with two beaches, and an ideal base to explore the east coast. Try the sparkling new colonial-style OK Divers Resort or the Bloo Lagoon village, with jaw-dropping views
3) Tanjung Benoa – the place to try some other water sports for a fraction of the cost in western countries. Try the Rumah Bali, which is traditionally built and designed, and really quaint
Hi Dave, love your site and your replies. My boyfriend and I are heading to Bali for 10 days from 24 October, we are both mid 40s and love to travel for food and culture and the other half loves the water, diving, and snorkeling so not looking for party central, shopping or too touristy. So we were thinking time in Ubud, beach maybe Padang Bai and Gill Air. We are on a budget of £50 ish a night. Recommendations? thanks in advance, Tracy
You have done some good research, and those three options you mention are ideal.
Ubud is perfect for culture and food. For your budget, try
a) Alam Indah – idyllically serene but convenient to the Monkey Forest
b) Nick’s Pension – remarkably central with bungalows overlooking a ravine or rice-fields
c) Ubud Art Villa – small, personal and in gorgeous Penestanan village (but still part of Ubud)
Padangbai has a lovely village vibe and is a wonderful base for exploring nearby temples (eg Goa Lawah), water palaces (ie Ujung and Tirtagangga) and other major attractions (eg Tenganan), all a little off the tourist trail. It’s also easy to organise diving/snorkelling in Padangbai, which has two scenic beaches (Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugel) within walking distance. Try
a) Bloo Lagoon Village – maybe a little out of your budget (depending on seasonal rates) but worth a splurge for breath-taking views
b) OK Divers Resort – very new and colonial style in a superb location
Gili Air is arguably the best of the three Gilis, with world-class snorkelling and diving, but also plenty of shops, cafes, and bars (that aren’t as noisy as on Gili Trawangan!). Try
a) Gili Air Lagoon Resort – with all bungalows facing an enormous circular pool in a very central location
b) Villa Karang – the newer rooms are nicer, it’s very good value and in a convenient location
Hi David! Well done on this page. Very informative. Please may you assist me. We are flying to Bali mid November and have about ten days in total to play around with but would like to keep two days to use at Penang. So maybe 8 days in Bali. I am a diver so very keen on dive beaches whilst my wife and child are water lovers and would like mainly white sand and turquoise shore water. We intend to explore Bali and I heard some excellent views of the beaches and dive areas of Gili islands. We are strictly halaal and would therefore appreciate resorts/hotels that cater as such or areas where there are halaal restaurants. Very concerned about travelling with my 1 year old toddler in the ferry for five hours to get to Gili…happy to drive and explore, would enjoy water falls, breath taking naturist views, and hot springs as well as the Volcano’s on either islands.
Please can you advise us how to go about travelling in Bali, where to stay, for how long to stay and how to travel safely to any of the Gilli and do the ship wreck dives?
Your assistance is most welcomed and very much appreciated.
With your interest in diving and love of ‘white sands’ and ‘turquoise waters’, the Gili Islands are just what you are looking for. And in November they will be reasonably quiet, and the wet season shouldn’t have arrived yet.
There are three ways to reach the Gilis from Bali:
(1) fly to the airport on Lombok, take a taxi to the port of Bangsal, and a local boat (quite crowded) or charter a boat to Gili Air. This is the most comfortable, as it involves very little travel on a boat (about 15 minutes), and may be the best option if traveling with a child
(2) take a ferry to Lombok from Padangbai, and then minibus or taxi to Bangsal. This is the option for backpackers on a very strict budget, and would take the ‘five hours’ you mention but is very uncomfortable and not recommended
(3) take a direct speedboat from Padangbai or Sanur to Gili Trawanagan or Gili Air, which is the way 95% of travellers get there. The boat trip takes 60 to 90 minutes and can be rough at times
If you choose the Gilis, you should certainly stay at Gili Air, which is quieter than the party island of Gili Trawangan and still has world-class diving. Gili Air also has a real village with many Muslim workers and residents, so halal restaurants are easy to find – most, however, would cater for locals rather than tourists and be basic. Otherwise, to avoid a long boat trip, try Nusa Lembongan island, which is only 30 minutes or so by boat from Sanur and has lovely beaches and wonderful diving. But as part of Bali, there would be very little choice in halal restaurants on that island.
If find halal food is a priority over quality of beaches, then try staying at Sanur or Lovina. Sanur has a lovely beach, is quiet and relaxed, and has several halal restaurants: eg Natrabu Minang (on the bypass road) and Sari Bundo (in southern Sanur), while it’s only a short taxi ride to Denpasar where there are plenty of halal restaurants – just ask the taxi driver. And don’t forget, most fast food outlets, like McDonalds and KFC, are certified halal.
Lovina attracts a lot of Indonesian tourists from Java, so there are many halal restaurants, but there is certainly no ideal beaches – grey and unappealing sand – but not far away is classic diving at Menjangan island and the hot springs at Banjar. (The shipwreck dives are at Tulamben, on the far east coast, where there is nothing but dive sites and dive agencies – and, again, not perfect beaches.)
Another alternative base for exploring the countryside is to stay in Candikunung, which is home to a sizeable Muslim population and has many halal restaurants. Within walking distance of your hotel would be the gorgeous Bratan temple, the vast Bratan crater lake and the world-class Botanical Gardens, and a short ride by chartered taxi with a driver (NEVER drive yourself!) are the rice terraces at Jatiluwih and the volcano at Gunung Batur.
So, with 8 days, you may want to spend four at Sanur, from which you can easily day trip to temples and the countryside, and four days at Gili Air. More information about resorts and hotels is available from this specialty travel agency.
Reading all your posts and comments and I am torn in deciding where to go and what to do, so thought I’d ask for your help.
I am going to Bali with my boyfriend at the end of September and staying there 4 nights. I have been reading that Seminyak could be our choice but wanted to confirm. We like a relaxing, romantic vacation where we could also do a bit of sightseeing. Also prefer a nice beach and good food. We would like to stay at a 5 star hotel and are considering the W but it is a bit expensive. Any choices similar to that that don’t break the bank?
Also, what activities do you recommend around that area. I also saw you suggested the Gili islands, how far are those and are they worth visiting, since we are not there for that long.
Additionally, it is my boyfriends birthday during that time, so are there any surprise dinners by the water that they do there.
Thank you so much in advance for your input!!
Yes, the number of options about where to stay and what to do can be overwhelming, especially if you only have a short stay.
Seminyak certainly sounds the sort of place you and your boyfriend would enjoy. It’s more relaxed and sophisticated than Kuta, but still has oodles of shops, bars (some playing live music) and cafés with any number of cuisines, as well as the same world-famous beach and surf as the more (in)famous Kuta a few kilometres down south. And it’s easy enough to organise a car with a driver through your hotel and spend one or two days sightseeing around the island.
The W Retreat is quite extraordinary, but it’s also about the most isolated of the resorts in the Seminyak/Petitenget region. Closer to the classy shops and cafés on offer in Seminyak are these resorts, which would probably be cheaper than The W.
a) Anantara – boutique hotel on the beach and at the end of an access road with lots of shops
b) Royal Seminyak – in the midst of the classy eateries and nightclubs and very good value
c) The Samaya – quiet and elite, pricey with awesome beach frontage
d) Breezes Bali Resort – a good-value mid-priced option, 200m from the sea, so doesn’t have beachfront rates
Seminyak is about relaxing, shopping and eating/drinking. But nearby day-trips you may consider include Ubud, with its temples, art galleries, market and Monkey Forest; and places near Ubud, such as the Tirta Empul sacred temple and springs, the remarkable rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi and the rice terrace views at Tegallagang – perhaps finishing at Tanah Lot temple (see below) for the sunset.
To be honest, you won’t have enough time to really visit the Gili Islands. From airport/hotel on Bali to your hotel on Gili Trawangan can take 4-5 hours one-way of waiting, minibus transfers, more waiting and the boat trip, eating too much into your limited time.
I would suggest a birthday dinner at Jimbaran, where cafés spill out onto the sand for seafood dinners at sunset, with wandering musicians, traditional dances and fireworks after the sun goes down. Some cafés cater for bus groups, so choose a café (there are dozens and dozens) with a romantic table – and enjoy.
Perhaps even better is the Melasti Tanah Lot restaurant at the Tanah Lot temple (see above), close to Seminyak – sunset over a scared cliff-side temple, small number of tables on a cliff, candlelight, seafood and traditional kecak dance beforehand. Reservations recommended, especially for best tables.
Hey Dave, I’m planning my first trip to Bali with my husband and soon to be six year old daughter. I am loving the look and sound of Jimbaran, it looks idyllic, but my husband thinks it will be too noisy considering how close the airport is? Did you find the airport noise intrusive/annoying/overwhelming? Thanks for your advice.
You can see the planes in the distance but there is very little plane noise in Jimbaran.
First of all you have been doing a commendable job to guide tourists likes us. With so many options and forums you get confused. Hats off! Now we are planning our honeymoon in Bali from 5th January to 12th January. We will be arriving in Bali on 5th night and we are leaving on 12th afternoon. We have shortlisted Ubud to spend three nights, and 3 nights in Gili T. In Ubud we have shortlisted Kamandalu which we really like. And in Gili T we are undecided one of the possible option is Vila Ombok. For Gili we want a good hotel which is at the beach with nice rooms and good facilities besides it should not be too distanced from the main center of attractions and restaurants. There are some places in north of Gili T but people say they are too secluded and sometimes its a hassle to travel from there in the night as it gets dark. So please do suggest a good hotel to us. We did see Pondook Santi but its over our budget. Also what do you recommend doing in Ubud. We are planning to visit the Gitgit waterfalls too, so what other waterfall should we checkout.
We are also quite confused about where to stay in the night we land that is the 5th Jan. We will be going to Gili T on 6h Jan around 1 pm time so we were thinking that night we will stay at some beach place hotel closer to the airport and from there we will go to Padang Bai to take a fast boat to Gili T. However between Jimbaran, Kuta, Sanur and Legian we are undecided. What would you suggest and which hotel? We want a nice mid-range hotel preferable on the beach with nice rooms and bathroom so we can refresh and head over the primary destination. After reading your reviews we checked Sanur is a good option but we are unsure that between Jimbaran, Kuta, Sanur, and Legian which will be a better option? Also what sort of fast boat do you recommend any suggestions?
For transportation within the city what medium do you recommend? Uber, grab a taxi, or any other?
Thanks & TC!
With only 6 nights, it’s best to stay in only 1 or 2 places rather than spend too much time moving around and checking in/out of hotels. And remember that travelling from your hotel on Bali to your hotel on Gili Trawangan can taken 4-5 hours (ie half a day one way) of waiting for the bus transfer, travelling to the port, waiting again for the boat, travel on the boat etc.
In Ubud, The Kamandalu is gorgeous, wonderfully set in a rural part of Ubud, and particularly ideal for those on honeymoons. It is, however, 10 minutes drive from central Ubud, so you would need to confirm with the speedboat company taking you to Gili T that they will pick up or drop off there; otherwise, arrange a place in central Ubud to pick up/drop off.
In Ubud, you should certainly visit the sacred Monkey Forest; see a traditional dance at the Pura Taman Saraswati temple (or from the Café Lotus next door); go to an art museum (eg ARMA or Puri Lukisan); wander about the art and produce markets; and take walks among the rice-fields and villages. And charter a car with a driver to see the rice-terraces at Tegallalang; the remarkable rock sculptures at Gunung Kawi; and the springs and temple at Tirta Empul. Short clips about these and loads of other places are on the ‘Ubud in a Minute’ YouTube channel.
The Gitgit waterfalls are OK, but not world-class – and there are three separate places called ‘Gitgit Falls’. They are probably not worth the trip (about 90 minutes one-way) from Ubud; these are best visited from bases at nearby Lovina or Candikuning/Bedugul.
On Gili T, there are hundreds of places to stay, but bear in mind that this will be a VERY busy time for the Gilis, so book ahead. The Villa Ombak boasts an awesome location, close to the nightclubs and shops, but out of earshot too. The Pondok Santi is superb, amongst a pristine coconut plantation, and worth a splurge. It’s only 500m from the start of the ‘action’ along the main drag but to/from the port it’s best by horse and cart. Places along the north coast are perhaps too far to walk back late at night from the nightclubs, but you can always get a horse and cart to/from anywhere on the island at any time. Otherwise, try the Pearl of Trawangan, a vast resort with lots of types of traditional cottages in a convenient but quiet southern location near the Villa Ombak, or the low-key but lovely Danima Resort, half-way between the action and quiet north coast.
Your ticket to Gili T will include transfers to/from your hotel in any of the main resort regions in the south (eg Kuta/Legian, Nusa Dua and Sanur), as well as Ubud, but possibly not Jimbaran, so check first because not as many people stay there. Kuta/Legian/Seminyak is only 15-20 minutes from the airport, Jimbaran barely 10-15 minutes and Sanur about 20-25 minutes, so all these places are close to the airport. Kuta is about shopping and nightclubs and Legian offers more family-orientated resorts, while Seminyak is a classy alternative with nicer shops and cafés.
Where your speedboat to the Gilis leaves from depends on how much you want to pay for your ticket. The cheapest boats leave from Padangbai, but this can easily add two hours one-way in bus transfers (longer than the boat trip). If you don’t mind paying a little bit extra and because you have such a short holiday, you should book tickets using Gili Getaway from Pulau Serangan, which is 5 minutes from Sanur, thereby avoiding several hours on a bus to/from Padangbai. And then you could maximise your precious time by staying that first night in Sanur, perhaps at somewhere special like Tandjung Sari or Segara Village.
Details and bookings for boats to the Gilis are available online.
All taxis are metered, reliable and very easy to find in any of the resort regions, except Ubud, where you will have to charter a car with a driver if you want to get around. Uber has not taken off in Bali, because of quite militant taxi unions. And if chartering a car with a driver (NEVER drive yourself), arrange this through your hotel so you know the driver is reliable and reasonably-priced.
First of all – great site, really useful information!
My wife and I will be travelling to Bali for 7 nights in early April next year (we will combining this with 3 nights in Singapore).
In terms of where to stay in Bali, I was originally thinking Seminyak would be ideal for us. We would like to be based in a nice relaxing location by the sea, in a hotel with a nice pool etc but also somewhere that we can easily sight-see from and which isn’t too remote.
Looking into some of the places we would like to visit, a lot of these seem to be in or around Ubud- the monkey forest, elephant sanctuary, temples and paddy fields etc. This being the case I wanted to ask for your advice on whether its possible to visit all these places through a couple of day trips from Seminyak or whether it would save time to break up the trip with 2-3 nights in Ubud?
I’m always wary of staying in too many places due to the hassle and time wasted checking out of one hotel and into another, but in this instance if it would ultimately save us time travelling back and forth between Seminyak/Ubud I might consider it.
Also, in terms of hotels in Seminyak, I have been looking into the Double Six – do you have any thoughts on this hotel? It seems to have fairly good reviews online and is a bit more affordable compared to hotels like The Samaya and The W, but I have not seen you mention it here so any insight you could provide would be much appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
You are right that it’s best to base yourself in just one or two places during a short trip – and preferably just one base if you only want to visit Ubud and a beach area like Seminyak. Seminyak is a relaxing and more sophisticated version of Kuta, with less nightclubs, noise and traffic, but plenty of shops, cafés and bars, and the same sort of beach as Kuta – albeit slightly greyer in places.
Seminyak is quite spread out and often incorporates the next area north which is actually Petitenget. So, the southern part of Seminyak/Petitenget, where hotels like Double-Six and Anantara are located, offers plenty of cafés at the beach and shops along the main streets nearby. However, the area further north, around hotels like The Samaya and The W, is quite remote, with no cafés along the beach, and the back streets meander around and offer a surprisingly limited array of places to eat, drink, and shop.
Seminyak is only 10 minutes by taxi to Kuta, with its malls and clubs, and is an excellent base from which to explore places to the north, such as Ubud, because you can avoid the horrendous traffic in the Kuta/Legian region and bypass the capital, Denpasar. Seminyak to Ubud is only about 45 minutes by chartered car with a driver, so day-tripping there from Seminyak is quite easy and avoids packing up and moving to Ubud.
The Double-Six Luxury Hotel is new, ultra-modern and opulent but lacks any charm – and there is nothing even remotely Balinese (or even Asian) about the place. It does boast an outstanding location, however, with all suites offering sea views, and those on the ground floor have direct access to the pool from their verandas, but constant noise from the beach club next door may be annoying. Another option with an equally great location for cafés, shops and beach, but also cheaper and more authentic, is the Anantara Seminyak Resort.
Ubud has plenty to see, such as the Monkey Forest, while many places nearby are also worth exploring. If visiting the Elephant Sanctuary, check online or through a travel agency at your hotel about a free transfer to the sanctuary as part of your ticket. You could easily see a fair bit in and around Ubud in just two day-trips (not including the Elephant Sanctuary, where you can spend a while day). Ask your driver (which is best arranged through your hotel) and he will arrange two day’s of wonderful sight-seeing for you in/around Ubud from Seminyak.
With regards to temples, another benefit of staying in Seminyak is proximity (20 minutes if traffic isn’t too bad) to arguably Bali’s most picturesque temple – Tanah Lot. It is sublime at sunset, when, of course, thousands of others also go, but still stunning during the day when you may have parts of the complex to yourself.
Thank you so much Dave, I will take this information away and now have greater confidence about our plans!
First of all, I would like to thank you for this amazing page and all the information you provide.
I just booked my tickets to Bali with my boyfriend for 16 days. I am struggling to plan my itinerary. We both want to chill but also to discover. After reading your page for the last 2 hours I was thinking staying 4 or 5 nights in Seminyak, then move to Ubud for 3 nights, and then to the Gili islands for 5/6 nights. And to finish maybe the last 2 night close to Jimbaran to be safe and close to the airport. What do you think? Is it not too much moving around?
We chose to go to Gili island because my boyfriend wants a really nice crystal-water beach, but at the same time a nice resort with good food. We booked the Pearl of Trawangan with option to cancel because we’re not completely sure. What are the best beaches in the Gili islands, or the best island to stay? Is it easy to go to another island for a day trip?
Sorry for all those questions but I am a bit lost and I want to make the best of it.
Thank you again
The choice of places to stay and things to do can seem overwhelming, and it certainly pays to organise some (but not all) things before you go.
With 16 days, it’s probably best to base yourself in three different places, such as Seminyak (for beach, shopping, cafes); Ubud (for culture, landscapes, scenery) and the Gili Islands (for relaxing, island life, snorkelliing). If you move bases too often, too much of your precious holiday is spent packing up, moving hotels, waiting to check in, etc. So, there seems little need to also stay in Jimbaran, just because it’s close to the airport. Seminyak is only 20 minutes from the airport; Ubud is 60-75 minutes (depending on traffic); and it’s easy enough to go straight between the Gilis and Bali airport (depending on the time of your arrival/departure) because boat tickets to/from the Gilis includes transfers to and from your hotel or airport.
Each of the three Gili Islands is a tiny droplet of golden sands surrounded by crystal clear waters. Each is completely circled by sand, so just walk around and find a spot that suits you. Gili Trawangan is the party island, so be careful where you stay because of all-night noise. The Pearl of Trawangan is just out of earshot from the nightclubs but less than a 5-minute stroll to the main drag of cafes, clubs and bars. The hotel has a wide range of rooms, some better than others; the ones at the back are quieter, while those with ocean views at the front are also lovely but face a surprisingly noisy coastal path.
Gili Meno is sleepy and less visited, while Gili Air is in between: with more than enough cafes and shops, while also having a genuine village vibe so it’s not too touristy. It is very easy to visit one island by public boat from another island in one day, but the boat schedule doesn’t allow you to visit two islands in one day, unless you charter a boat which is comparatively extortionate.
Hi Dave :
We are heading to Bali in January. We would like to stay around Ubud area. I’m wondering if you can give us your recommendation between Ritz Carlton Mandapa and Four Seasons At Sayan. This is supposed to be a relaxing trip with some cultural activities. Thanks.
Both the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton in Ubud are extraordinary, and there is virtually no difference in services and facilities, as expected of these internationally-renowned five-star resorts. The main differences will be price and location. Obviously, check out rates online and if staying for more than 5-6 nights, contact the hotel directly for a discount. But January is peak season so there likely won’t be wiggle room for negotiating rates.
Both resorts overlook the beautiful Ayung River, and boast sublime views of rice paddies and pristine forest, in an area known as Sayan. The Ritz-Carlton is about 10 minutes by taxi or hotel shuttle bus to central Ubud, while the Four Seasons is another 3-4 minutes farther away. So, the overwhelming difference is that the Four Seasons has virtually no cafes, shops, or bars within walking distance; you will have to eat/drink/shop in the hotel or use the shuttle bus or a taxi to find somewhere else. In contrast, the Ritz Carlton is at the start of Sayan, and within a easy stroll of a range of classy bistros, bars and bakeries, and is within 2km of the Neka Art Museum and Bintang Supermarket. In short, the Ritz Carlton doesn’t feel nearly as isolated as the Four Seasons.
Hi Dave, great site. I am planning our anniversary for next year and cannot decide between the Villas at Ayana and The Four Seasons both in Jimbaran. We will have our 7 yr old daughter with us. I am also considering doing a few nights at the Four Seasons in Ubud also. Any help or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
thanks so much, Troy
Both The Ayana and Four Seasons Jimbaran offer an extraordinary setting, facilities and views, with five-star service and total seclusion, as well as tropical gardens with Infinity pools that seem to blend into the horizon. The main – and possibly significant – differences, however, are the location and beach.
You – and perhaps, especially, your daughter – would probably like to be close to Jimbaran, which has a gorgeous curved beach of powdery-white sand and plenty of shops and cafes along the main street. At about 4pm every day, the beach comes alive as cafes spread tables across the sand for candlelight seafood dinners at sunset.
The Ayana boasts possibly the largest hotel grounds on Bali, with the main entrance about 1km from the lobby. It overlooks the dramatic coastline of Bukit Peninsula and is famous for the Rock Bar, only accessible on a funicular down the cliff. But The Ayana is a windy 10 minutes by hotel shuttle bus or taxi from Jimbaran and does not have a beach, but guests have access to a private beach club in Jimbaran. It does, however, cater well for families, with a games area and playground but no dedicated Kids Club.
The Four Seasons is along a quiet stretch of southern Jimbaran, and – unlike The Ayana – is within an easy stroll of the beach, shops and restaurants, as well as the seafood cafes on the beach (though there are also hotel shuttle buses). This resort also has an exclusive beach club, and the JimbaClub (for 4-12 year-olds) is the best Kids’ Club in the region, with loads of activities, and there’s also children’s menus, baby-sitting services and lessons/activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The Four Seasons Sayan in Ubud is also extraordinary, with a lobby that seems to be suspended in mid-air and a row of villas and suites facing a jungle-clad ravine. The emphasis is on scenery and setting, rather than any beach, of course, but is about 10-12 minutes by taxi or shuttle bus from central Ubud, and there are no cafes and shops within walking distance. And like most resorts in Ubud it does not cater well for families, though children are certainly not discouraged. More family-friendly resorts in Ubud include Kamandulu (with a kids’ pool and activities) and Alaya Ubud (with a children’s pool and Kids’ Club currently being built).
Hi Dave. Just came across this gem of a website. Thank you for the awesome insight. Hubby and I are planning an anniversary trip to Bali for March. Kindly advise on the following places for accommodation :
1. Kuta Beach Club
2. The Rani Hotel and Spa
3. The Bene Hotel
4. White Rose Hotel
We are looking to be at a lovely clean enough beach with an option for some fun at night as well. These options fall within our budget.
Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
Kuta is a busy (some say chaotic) region of bars, shops, cafes and nightclubs, with world-famous surf and sunsets, and several world-class malls within walking distance. It is, however, possible to be within walking distance of what Kuta has to offer, but to stay in quieter Legian or the more sophisticated Seminyak – and be away from Kuta’s constant traffic and nightclub noise.
Kuta, of course, has hundreds and hundreds of places to stay. The places you mention offer comfortable 3-4 star hotels with pools, some Balinese character and commendable service. If the difference in the rates of these hotels is not important, the location may be:
1) the Kuta Beach Club – is a little south of the main action in Kuta, which means it is marginally quieter but 10-15 minutes walk from the best shops and clubs along Jalana Legian street. It is very close to the Matahari and Discovery malls, but 3-4 minutes walk from the beach
2) Rani Hotel & Spa (different to the Bali Rani Hotel) – is in a similar area, close to the Discovery and Lippo Malls, as well as Waterbom (for water slides), which is as popular with adults as it is kids! The Rani does boast more authentic Balinese design than the other three.
3) The Bene Hotel – a definite boutique hotel, with all rooms overlooking the pool and those on the ground floor with direct access from verandas to the pool. It is more central to Kuta than the previous two and along a quiet street
4) White Rose Kuta Resort – certainly the classier of the four options, it is about 15 minutes walk from the beach but boasts large tropical gardens (almost unheard of, where space is so precious). It is within 200m of the main drag, Jalan Legian, but also probably within earshot of nightclubs such as the SkyGarden.
Hi Dave – your website is outstanding (for both Bali and for Santorini when we went earlier this year!).
My fiancée and I are looking to go on honeymoon next August as follows:
– KL (3 nights)
– Bali / Lombok / Gills (18 nights)
– Singapore (3 nights)
For our Bali leg, we are looking for relaxation, a bit of culture, beach resorts, activities, restaurants, high end bars etc (the usual stuff) – we were thinking the following:
– Seminyak (5 nights) – either the W, Samaya or the Legian. Which would you recommend as the best one – we don’t mind spending more if it is value for money e.g. the Legian is currently double the price of the W for similar types of rooms (e.g. one bedroom villas) but is it twice as good?
– Fly to Lombok (4 nights) – either Lombok lodge, Oberoi or Tugu (idea being a couple of day trips to Gillis but a nicer resort to come back to in Lombok rather than staying on one of the Gillis)?
– Fly back to Bali, Ubud (5 nights) – Viceroy or the Komaneka at Tanggayuda. Viceroy is about 40% more expensive but do you think it is worth the extra for similar rooms (deluxe terrace vs premier one bed villa)?
– End with beach resort (either Jimbaran or Nusa Dua) (4 nights) – which one would you recommend for a memorable honeymoon? We are thinking either the Anaya Villas or St Regis? I am struggling to choose between the beach cafes and sunset bars versus the better/more relaxing beach?!
Some additional questions:
– Do you think we should cancel one of the locations if they are overly similar (e.g. is it worth doing Nusa Dua or Jimbaran as the final leg or better to do more nights in Lombok / Seminyak and Ubud)?
– If you do recommend doing the 4th location, which would you pick between jimbaran and Nusa Dua (we want relaxing but option of doing something in case we get bored) – I feel like we might get bored in Nusa Dua?
– What is the best way (for honeymooners) to get to Lombok (we are currently thinking of flying rather than speedboat as reviews on trip advisor have been somewhat mixed)?
– Would you recommend staying on one of the Gillis instead of Lombok?
Really appreciate any help / advice you have!
Thanks so much.
Am and Terri
Bali looks compact and is to some degree, but traffic (especially in the south) and windy, mountainous roads elsewhere can increase traveling times considerably. For this reason, it’s best not to change bases more than once every 4-5 days to avoid too much packing up, moving hotels, waiting to check in etc during your precious holidays (so 3-4 different bases over 18 days is doable). And remember that August is the ‘peakest’ season and prices – especially in the Gilis – will be higher than normal and crowds substantial in places.
This is a classier and quieter alternative to the hectic Kuta, and an ideal place to start/finish your trip as it’s also only about 20 minutes from the airport. The three places you mentioned are all extraordinarily luxurious. The W is very modern, but with nothing remotely Balinese about the whole place. The Legian is elegant and boasts some authentic Balinese design and style, while The Samaya is sophisticated and elite. In essence, there is very little difference except for the rates (which you have researched) and the location. While The W is the most northerly of the three, and the entrance is 500m from the main road, it doesn’t feel nearly as isolated from nearby cafes and shops as the Legian and Samaya, which both face a beach without any stalls or shade and front a main road that has very little to offer either. With better rates, the W is probably your best choice.
Flying to Lombok only takes 45 minutes from Bali. But adding hotel transfers (especially in Lombok, because the airport has recently moved to the south and is far from the Senggigi area) and waiting for the flight can add considerably to your traveling time – about half-a-day one-way. And day-tripping to the Gilis from Sengiggi is not as easy as it sounds, and you may end up having to charter a boat yourself at great expense at Bangsal, a chaotic public port to be avoided at all costs.
In short, it may be better to stay on one of the Gili Islands, which is only 2 hours or so including bus transfers from Seminyak (with departures to/from Pulau Serangan). And despite a few recent safety issues with the cheaper boat companies, traveling to the Gilis is still safe with major companies such as Gili Getaway. From one Gili island, you can easily day trip to the others using public boats. Quiet, classy and romantic places to stay on Gili Trawangan include the Pearl of Trawangan and Pondok Santi. On Gili Meno, try the Mahamaya or Seri resorts and on Gili Air, Slow Villas is excellent. Gili T is the party island but for honeymooners, Gili Meno is ideally peaceful and romantic.
For some culture, and as a base for extraordinary sights and landscapes nearby, staying in Ubud is also a must. There are plenty of classy resorts, but most are 10-15 minutes by taxi from central Ubud. The Viceroy and Komenaka at Tanggayuda are both amazing, with sublime views, but both do feel isolated. Otherwise, the Komaneka at Bisma and the Komaneka at Monkey Forest are just as extraordinary as the sister resort at Tanggayuda but both are right in the middle of Ubud, and within walking distance cafes, shops, temples, the Monkey Forest, market, nightclubs etc
Jimbaran or Nusa Dua?
Both places are special for honeymooners – and a candlelit seafood dinner at sunset in Jimbaran is a must even if you’re staying in Nusa Dua. Both places are quieter and different to Seminyak and worthy options as your fourth (and final) base, and both are close to the airport. Nusa Dua is a purpose-built complex of resorts, so it lacks any genuine Balinese atmosphere and has very little nightlife, but is very clean, green, spacious and there’s no hawkers. The beaches at both are wonderful, with Nusa Dua being close to Tanjung Benoa for water sports, and Jimbaran being so undeveloped in parts that you may have bits of the beach to yourself.
The Ayana is a windy 10 minutes by taxi from Jimbaran, and on probably the largest grounds on Bali. It does boast the renowned Rock Bar, only accessible by funicular down a cliff, but is remote and isolated – and feels like it, too. St Regis is one of the most extraordinary places on Bali, but is also outside of Nusa Dua, so not within walking distance of any shops or cafes. And the beach there can be too rough at times for swimming. In Jimbaran, the Four Seasons Resort is convenient and luxurious, while inside Nusa Dua proper, the Laguna or the Melia may be more suitable for your needs.
My friend and I are planning to visit Bali in December. Though we’ve only got 4 days/3 nights to stay there.. Do you think we can still enjoy Bali in that short period of time? Can you recommend which place/beach is the best place to stay where we can enjoy for 4 days? We just want to run away, relax and leave the busy streets of Hong Kong for a while.
Lots of great places to stay but my first thought is Jimbaran: great hotels, great beach, great food – and minutes from the airport so you won’t waste time in a taxi and traffic.
Hello, I noticed you don’t have much info on Canggu. I am traveling solo for 10 days and plan to do Seminyak/Canggu, Ubud, and Gili T. Do you have a recommendation between Seminyak and Canggu? What are the differences? I will probably stay at a 1br Villa or Airbnb to meet people. I also want some nightlife bars, but nothing too cosmopolitan and touristy like Waikiki Beach.
Canggu is a generic term referring to the beach area from Seminyak to Tanah Lot. The region is home to thousands of expats who have moved north from Seminyak to avoid tourists heading north from Kuta. It is an upmarket area with hundreds of massive villas and many trendy bistros along roads that meander from the Tanah Lot Road to the beaches. But Canggu caters for those with their own transport because taxis are very infrequent and residents may need to walk 1km to a shop and 2km to the beach. The other downside is that the beaches are increasingly grey and unappealing. On the other hand, it is far less crowded and rice-fields still remain. If staying in a villa in Canggu, make sure you are close to shops, cafés, and the beach.
Far better beaches and facilities can be found at Seminyak. Your hotel will be close to a beach, the roads are choked with classy shops and cafés, taxis are frequent and it’s close(ish) to the airport. In Seminyak, there’s also plenty of nightlife (particularly live music), while the nightclubs of Kuta are 5-10 minutes by taxi.
AirBnB in Bali is very often used by hotels as an alternative to the usual online booking agencies. It is very rare that you can use AirBnB to stay at a family home; if so, facilities may not be to western standards (eg no hot water or air-con) and the home could be in a remote area. And AirBnB is not really useful for meeting other travelers. For this, try staying at inexpensive hotels in Bali that cater to solo travelers such as Captain Goose in Kuta and The Happy Mango Tree in Ubud.
Been reading your article on Bali with great interest as it is one of the front runners as a destination for our honeymoon next year.
One thing we were looking at doing but are lacking information on is extended stopovers to bookend the trip to Bali and breakup the flight time.
Do you have any experience of this and/or could you recommend the best stopovers? Flying from London so I believe the options are Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, HK and Bangkok.
All of those are wonderful cities so can’t go wrong. Bangkok is my favorite of those 4. Would be nice to hit one on the inbound and a different one on outbound. All have amazing food and good sightseeing. Singapore and Bangkok are the best for shopping. Singapore is the only one with access to beaches. Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are the cheapest.
Hi Dave, thank you for your website, it is EXTREMELY helpful!!!
We are meeting friends in Seminyak and then have a week for ourselves. My kids are 5 and 8 years old and they love playing in the sea and snorkling from the beach. I would love to go somewhere quiet, more Balinese, with a beautiful beach with calm sea where we can potter about happily. It would be great if its near some cafes etc as we do not want to eat in the hotel all the time – it would be great to be able to explore a little!!
After reading your posts, I think Lembongan would suit us well, but was worried the sea might be too rough as lots of surfers head there. Gili Air also sounds great, but it would be a lot further for us to get to and from. What do you think? Are there bungalows on a beach you can recommend? We can spend around $70-90 per night.
Thank you very much for your help!!!
Seminyak is a lovely spot and far better for kids than Kuta. The beach is fantastic, but waves can be too high at times for young swimmers and there is no snorkeling.
Nusa Lembongan island covers all your needs, but the 30-45 minute speedboat ride can be quite rough any time of the year and there is no jetty either end. So, getting on/off the boat means wading through waves that are often knee-high to an adult – obviously, not ideal for youngsters. The sea is calm where most people stay, with the waves that attract the handful of surfers about 200m off-shore. Mushroom Bay is the preferred beach, with a protected cove of white sand, ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Gili Air is also great, with a genuine village vibe, but involves a longer speedboat ride from Bali (plus minibus transfers) which could be even rougher and, again, there are no jetties for boarding. You could fly from Bali to Lombok and get a taxi to Bangsal and a boat to Gili Air, but getting to Gili Air from Bali any way will still take up most of one day one-way.
Somewhere that fits your needs perfectly is Padangbai, about two hours by taxi, chartered car with a driver (about US$25) or shuttle bus from Kuta. It is a charming genuine Balinese village, with temples, a market and school, all facing a lovely beach. It is appealingly undeveloped, untouristed and quiet – except when speedboats to/from the Gilis arrive and depart.
Your kids can splash about the calm beach in the village or the sublime Blue Lagoon beach, only 5 minutes’ walk over the hill. Snorkelling is good at both beaches, with gear available for rent from beachside stalls. There are more than enough cafés and bars – but only a few mini-marts for shopping and no real nightclubs, which suits many visitors. And Padangbai is a perfect base for exploring the east coast by chartered car with a driver, eg the eerie ‘bat cave temple’ at Goa Lawah; the ancient village of Tenganan; arguably Bali’s best (and most undeveloped) beach at Pasir Putih; and the remarkable water palaces at Ujung and Tirtagangga.
In Padangbai, there are several places right on the beach in the village that are more than suitable. These include OK Divers Resort & Spa, a sparkling new place with a colonial feel; and the resort-style and family-friendly Pura Rai Hotel. The stunning Bloo Lagoon Village resort, near the beach of the same name, may be out of your range, while decent bungalows cheaper than $70-90 and facing the village beach include Kerti Beach Inn and Billabong. In fact, you could easily just turn up at Padangbai and check out a few places before deciding – everything, except the Bloo Lagoon, is along the 300m-long main street facing the beach.
My fiancé and I are planning a honeymoon to Bali. We will be staying at COMO Shambhala in Ubud for 5 nights, then we will be heading south to stay somewhere along the coast for the remaining 6 nights. Our original plan was the Bulgari or the Banyan Tree, but after doing some research we are unsure if we will be too remote. The views from the hotels in the Ungasan region seem un-beatable which keeps drawing us back to those resorts. We are definitely looking for a 5-star luxury resort. We will be looking for a mix of relaxation and exploring. We are very active, we enjoy the beach, we love to explore new restaurants, and we definitely want to experience some of the local culture. Since it will be our honeymoon, somewhere that doesn’t attract a lot of children is also preferable. We also do not want a “Miami Beach” strip of hotels or restaurants. We would like to feel somewhat secluded but have the option to go out at night or explore places like Seminyak and Jimbaran without it being too difficult. Seminyak and Jimbaran look like great places to explore, but we are concerned we may feel like we are lacking privacy if we stay there. All in all, will we be too secluded if we stay at somewhere like the Banyan Tree, and are there resorts in the Seminyak/Jimbaran area that might also fit what we are looking for? We just need a better understanding of each area. Thank you so much for your help. Erin
You are right, resorts along Ungasan (the southern edge of Bukit Peninsula), such as Bulgari and Banyan Tree, are isolated, which means hiring a taxi just to find one shop, and a 20-minute taxi trip for any semblance of shopping or nightlife at Jimbaran or Tanjung Benoa – however modest. While the views are extraordinary and the rooms/amenities luxurious, none of the resorts in Ungasan have beaches; or the tiny strip of sand they claim disappears at high tide. And even in a remote resort, you could be in a luxurious villa only 20 metres from three other villas; and rooms are often squeezed along 4-level blocks. In short, isolation doesn’t necessarily mean privacy.
Seminyak is becoming increasingly popular, including with families, as Kuta and Legian are bursting at the seams. There are pockets of Seminyak that offer some seclusion and tranquility, but Seminyak may be worth visiting for the sunsets, shopping and waves, rather than for staying.
Instead, you may consider these three options if you want a luxurious resort with privacy but not isolation; a glorious beach that isn’t too busy; a convenient base for exploration of Bali; and an acceptable array of bars and cafés, some with live music. And without too many boisterous children …
1) Nusa Dua – most resorts cater very well honeymooners, with packaged deals and special suites, but they also cater just as well for families. To ensure ultimate tranquility, privacy and luxury, try one of the secluded villas at the St Regis or Ritz Carlton. All resorts in Nusa Dua are huge, so some privacy is usually possible, and there is some limited shopping and cafés at the Bali Collection Mall. All beaches are sublime and those used by the St Regis and Ritz Carlton are also very quiet, away from jet skis. Otherwise, clusters of villas just outside of Nusa Dua, such as the Ulu Segara, are superbly located for views and don’t feel like resorts, but have limited beaches and are still a little isolated.
2) Jimbaran – vastly underrated and surprisingly undeveloped, Jimbaran is ideally located for daytrips around southern Bali and elsewhere. Renowned for candlelight seafood dinners on the beach at sunset, many parts of the Jimbaran beach are astoundingly empty during the day. None of the resorts specifically cater for families, so they are quiet, and there’s a decent range of places to shop, eat and drink. It is very hard to go past the Four Seasons, with luxurious villas offering views as superlative as those in Ungasan, as well as a private beach, and shops, cafés and bars only 10 minutes away on foot.
3) Nusa Lembongan – for something different, consider Lembongan island, only 30-45 minutes by speedboat from Sanur. There are numerous very comfortable 3-4 star resorts, such as Batu Karang, with extraordinary clifftop views, while the most luxurious and romantic place is the villas at Indiana Kenanga. Lembongan has a more down to earth feel, and is not a contrived resort region. It has a genuine village vibe and plenty of beachfront cafés and bars for sunsets, but very limited shopping and nightlife, which suits many visitors. The beaches are glorious and occasionally Crusoe-esque (eg Selegimpak), and you can enjoy snorkeling, hiking, and biking through eerie mangroves.
I am so very thankful to have stubbled upon your website. My husband and I just booked 11 nights at the end of April for our honeymoon. I have felt overwhelmed with planning this as we both have different views of how to vacation. He likes luxury, at a reasonable price, and relaxing on the beach. As much as I enjoy a relaxing beach day, I find too many days like that prohibits one from seeing everything a place like Bali has to offer. I have spent the past two hours reading your site, and was wondering if you could give me a little insight.
I have narrowed down a tentative itinerary … upon arrival travel to Ubud for 2 nights, Gili Air for 4 nights, end trip in Nusa Dua for 4 nights as it is close to the airport. Upon arriving in Nusa Dua take day trips to Seminyak and the surrounding areas near Uluwatu Temple.
Can you recommend a ferry service from/or around Ubud to the Gili Islands? Should the ferry only go into Gili T, is there an easy way to get to Gili Air? Any recommendations for lodging on Gili Air, preferrably at a budget friendly rate?
I have been advised from friends who have traveled Bali to see Padang Padang Beach, Bingin Beach, Balangan Beach – are any of these worth missing? Would you recommend renting a car, hiring a driver or taking Uber?
Thank you for providing such a detail oriented website.
Most first-time visitors can be overwhelmed by the choices, so you are not alone.
Your itinerary seems quite doable, but bear in mind that travelling to/from the Gili Islands from Bali can take virtually half a day one-way with travelling by minibus to the port, taking the boat, and waiting about. And if you arrive in Bali late by plane, and/or keen to experience some Balinese culture, you might consider 3 nights in Ubud and one less night in Nusa Dua.
Nusa Dua is an ideal place to organize daytrips by a chartered car with a driver, which is very easy to organize through your hotel. From there, you could visit Ulu Watu temple; Jimbaran, where a candlelit seafood dinner on the beach at sunset is a pre-requisite highlight; and the beaches you mention, especially the scenic Padang Padang. Seminyak offers a great beach (which is only as good as the beaches at Nusa Dua), and a sunset (which you can enjoy at Jimbaran and Gili Air), so the only reason to go to Seminyak from Nusa Dua would be for shopping.
There is no ferry between Bali or Lombok and the Gili Islands – the only transport is by ‘speedboat’ (ie quick boats that hold 50-80 people). Numerous companies offer several services a day from various places on Bali. If staying at Ubud before Gili Air, leave from the nearest port to Ubud, which is Padangbai, and your ticket will include a pick up and transfer from your hotel in Ubud to Padangbai. Return speedboat from Gili Air will include a minibus transfer to your hotel in Nusa Dua.
All speedboats from Bali stop at Gili Trawangan and most (but not all) also go on to (and pick up passengers from) Gili Air. Companies and schedules are listed, and bookings are available, online. This is the best website. And the most reliable and safest companies are Gili Cat and Blue Water Express.
There are plenty of quality budget and mid-range places to stay on Gili Air. The most remarkable is Gili Air Lagoon Resort, with individual villas all facing a circular lagoon pool, only metres from the sea and the main drag with all the cafés/bars/shops. If that’s out of your range and you’re really on a budget of say US$25-50 per night, try Villa Karang, very close to the harbor; the quaint family-run Elephant Bungalows inland; and the friendly Aza Zil Bungalows, close to Elephant and also a little inland. Otherwise, just spend 20 minutes looking about after you arrive – there is so much to chose from.
The beaches you mention are almost exclusively for surfers and not easy to reach. Padang Padang is very scenic and fairly accessible, with some swimming possible, but Balangan and Bingin are remote, only accessible down steep steps, and have little or no beach – just waves and more waves. Don’t forget: you will see some wonderful beaches at Nusa Dua and all over Gili Air.
Less than 30 seconds after arriving, you will be thankful you didn’t organize a rental car. For daytrips, always charter a car with a driver, which is best done through your hotel. For shorter trips, taxis are very cheap and plentiful, except in Ubud. A militant taxi union has virtually outlawed Uber and others like it. In any case, chartered cars and taxis are very cheap, driven by reliable English-speaking people, comfortable and air-conditioned.
Hi Dave- my fiance and I are huge fans of your site. We took all your recommendations for Greece and had a great time! We are now headed to Bali for our honeymoon in late September-early October and looking for some guidance. We are currently booked for 5 days at the Viceroy for the first leg of our trip, but we are wanting a villa with a direct beach view for the following 5 days somewhere south of Ubud. We were leaning towards AYANA but it doesn’t look like there’s a direct view unless we spring for the most expensive villa. We were so impressed with our view at Canaves in Oia- hoping to be able to wake up each morning and look out at the water. Any suggestions?
The Viceroy Bali Resort is a wonderful choice: romantic and luxurious, with an extraordinary setting and truly personalized service. It’s also a good idea to then spend the rest of your honeymoon at a beach resort.
Located in probably Bali’s most spacious grounds, the Ayana is also amazing. But like every other resort along the west and south coast of the Bukit Peninsula, it has no beach. Resorts in this region are built on cliffs, offering sublime ocean views, but any stretch of sand is tiny and disappears during high tide.
Your best option is to stay in Nusa Dua, a spacious and tranquil complex of 4 and 5-star resorts. Most face superb white-sand beaches, and many cater for honeymooners with special suites and package deals. For a private villa with direct views of, and access to, the beach, try these opulent resorts:
St Regis – remarkable setting and traditional design throughout, the pool villas are secluded, face a postcard-perfect beach, and guests have their own numbered lounge chairs on the sand.
Ritz-Carlton – with the lobby perched on a cliff, the pool villas are spread among lush tropical gardens at sea level; some face the ocean.
This is the most detailed website I have ever come across on a particular destination! Desperately need your help to sort this out for us. My husband and I (late 20’s) are travelling to Bali from 12th September to 27th September this year. We’d love to do a mix of pub and spa hopping, a couple of good and worthy temple visits, volcanic sunrise trek, river rafting and of course – live for a few days bang on the beach of crystal waters and probably go snorkeling too. I understand that we must not be staying in more than 3 places to avoid wasting time on traveling – hence my idea was – 5 nights in Lombok, 4 nights in Ubud, and 6 nights in (please suggest) Seminyak/ Sanur/ south Kuta/??
Our budget is an average of 90 USD per night for 10 nights and we don’t mind spending more for the remaining 5 nights – about 200Usd per night. Where should we splurge? Where should we stay?
Also, how’s the Waterbom park? Never heard any of my friends going there.
From Lombok, is it easy to do a day trip to Gili trawangan or Gili Air? And if we can, I think it makes sense not to spend too much for accommodation in Lombok since we might be going around a lot?
Thanks in advance!
With about 15 nights, it’s a good idea, as you suggest, to stay in three regions: for example (1) a beach resort region for the sand, sun, surf, sunsets and shopping; (2) somewhere for exploring the magnificent landscapes and to delight in the unique culture; and (3) somewhere different again, perhaps a remote village or island.
If you’re a first time visitor, Kuta, the most popular beach base, can be overwhelming with constant traffic, crowds and street hawkers, and Sanur may be a little too quiet for you. Seminyak is a few kms north of Kuta, and still enjoys the same sunsets and surf, but the shops, bars and cafes are most sophisticated and the crowds considerably smaller. The beach is excellent, if a little greyer than at Kuta, while there’s more enough places to grab a meal, drink and spa, and catch some live music.
Ubud is the obvious place to enjoy the ‘real Bali’. With markets, temples and palaces in town, and plenty more within short day-trips by chartered car with driver, Ubud is a delight. From Ubud, it is also easy to organize outdoor activities, such as volcano hikes and white water rafting. (Bear in mind, that by September the rivers may be too low for rafting.)
Almost the size of Bali, Lombok boasts only two resort regions on the mainland: Kuta, which is an overgrown village nothing like its namesake on Bali; and Senggigi. Both face superb and often empty beaches, but with no night-clubbing and mall-hopping on offer they disappoint some – while delight others for the same reasons.
With a short holiday, you’re advised to spend the other third of your trip on one of the Gili Islands: Gili Trawanan, the ‘party island’; Gili Meno, which is the complete opposite and too laidback for some; and Gili Air, the perfect compromise. Easy to reach from Bali by speedboat, Gili Air is completely surrounded by golden sands and turquoise waters, with world-class snorkeling often within metres off-shore.
In the range of US$90-100, you will find plenty of great accommodation in Seminyak (eg Royal Beach Seminyak or Seminyak Beach Resort) and Gili Air (eg Gili Air Lagoon Resort).
The place to splurge on accommodation would certainly be Ubud, because some upmarket places are uniquely built among jaw-dropping rice-terraces and ravines. (But bear in mind, that many are an inconvenient 10-15 minutes by taxi or shuttle bus or taxi away from central Ubud.) In downtown Ubud among the US$150-200 range, try: the wonderful ARMA Resort & Villas, set in the lush gardens of the world-famous art museum; the remarkable Komaneka at Bisma, wonderfully set among rice-terraces but oh-so central; or the imperial Tjampuhan Hotel, cascading along a series of ravines and one Bali’s first hotels.
Waterbom Park in southern Kuta (also known as Tuban) is a water-slide theme park primarily for families, although parents seem to enjoy themselves as much as the young ones. It is primarily a family attraction, and often rowdy and crowded, but there is no reason why you couldn’t enjoy yourself there too.
The best hotel in Amed? Try to find Mejore Hotel. It has the best location in the central of Amed, Bali. The Mejore Hotel has 16 rooms, all with modern standard amenities, outdoor swimming pool, bar and restaurant, very good internet access, rooftop bar with amazing view of the ocean and Agung Mountain.
Thanks Gege. Will take a look next time I go through Amed. Appreciated.