The Bintangs are cheap, the people are super friendly and there’s bucket loads to do, so here at Urban List we thought we’d help kick off your itinerary with some of the best eating, relaxing and exploring around Indonesia’s favourite holiday destination.
Read on for the best things to do in Bali.
At breakfast time in Bali it’s not uncommon to be served a little shot glass filled with brightly coloured jamu, an Indonesian tincture developed in Java over the centuries. Usually bright orange and potently piquant with flavour, these little wellness treats are herbal elixirs concocted from combinations of tree barks, spices, flowers roots and leaves, often with palm sugar mixed in for good measure. Learn all about the health benefits of jamu (also known as djamoe), and how to make your own at Tugu Hotel in Canggu, where classes are conducted in a traditional style kitchen in the poolside pavilion.
Sleep In A Bubble
Ever wondered what it’s like to sleep in a bubble? Bubble Hotel Bali, in Gianyar, 13km from central Ubud, has turned everybody’s magical fantasy into a reality. The adults-only hotel’s six ‘rooms’ are clear, shiny, Perspex spheres containing four-poster double beds.
Tiered tropical garden, each bubble has spacious and private grassy areas with breakfast pavilions, swings and verdant jungle views. All guests enjoy private bathrooms, air-conditioning, toiletries and starry night skies, and can choose between private pools or petal-filled bathtubs. As one guest said: “It’s like sleeping in the jungle without being scared of the creepy crawlies”.
No need to pack a tent, mattress, sleeping bag or even food on your next camping trip. Locally owned Sepeda Bali Tours, is an adventure tour company that specialises in uphill hikes, downhill mountain bike rides and camping trips to some of the island’s most coveted viewpoints and landscapes. In central Bali, wake up to views of Mt Batur, before summiting Mt Abang, or go beachside in East Bali where a tented night in the jungle ends in a snorkel and downtime on turquoise Virgin Beach, one of Bali’s best.
From warehouses jammed with bamboo furniture, and shops stuffed with raffia bags and baskets, to ceramics and jewellery workshops, and art galleries, Bali is a hotbed of design and craftsmanship. Two local companies have independently harnessed this artistic bounty by offering tours around the island. Interior
Design Retreats line-up of day tours deep dive into Bali’s many creative neighbourhoods. Try the Secret Sexy Sanur tour for starters then change locale for a Chillin’ Canggu immersion For a longer stay, Bali Interiors hosts week-long retreats from a beautiful villa based in Ubud. The emphasis is on the island’s incredible architecture and the people behind it.
The Suku Bali
Image credit: The Suku Bali | Instagram
Suku is Bahasa Indonesian for people sharing a common root. This farm-to-table experience emphasises not only the importance of knowing the origin of your ingredients but celebrating the beauty of the local produce. Everything here is ethically sourced, devoid of nasties and simply elegant and delicious. We can’t get enough.
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Our beloved friends at Potato Head in Seminyak opened this plant-powered vegan restaurant that allows the flavours of the regions to sparkle right before the pandemic and are raring to welcome you back. This team has created a thoughtful multi-course tasting menu emulating the quaint family kitchens of Indonesians, street vendors and warungs. We can guarantee you’ll be blown away by their sticky, sweet and spicy dishes without giving a second thought to the meat or dairy you’re missing.
Image credit: Yuki | Instagram
Another brand spankin’ new beachside spot boasting incredible contemporary Japanese izakaya that pushes the limits right on the Batu Bolong beachfront. With some big hospitality names around town responsible, you just know you’re in for a night of fine dining and spectacularly-presented dishes – make sure you try our favourite tuna truffle sushi.
This earthy ethereal spot is quickly becoming loved for its casual treehouse vibes and gorgeous plating of all-day fine delight. The gang behind Woods favours nutritious fresh cuisine locally sourced from their neighbours, served amongst the twinkling chandeliers and leafy palms of Pererenan.
Image credit: Shotgun Social | Instagram
Sanur is another previously humble area of Bali now infested with a stunning burst of bars and restaurants; one of our unmissables is Shotgun Social. The moody interiors of this brewhouse are the perfect location for a relaxed unassuming afternoon with 16 craft beers on tap and a classic gastropub menu to please the entire family. There’s even a huge outdoor garden to soak in the sunshine.
If Canggu wasn’t already bursting with new life post-pandemic, this modern dining experience set amongst the palm trees just cements the fact that this once-sleepy surfing town is quickly becoming the culinary hotspot of Bali. With a big focus on local meat and fish, the menu is gutsy with a valiant cocktail list of classics and tropical twists.
Sundays Beach Club
Image credit: Sundays Beach Club | Instagram
As the weather gets cooler, we can’t help dreaming of Sunday Beach Club’s white sand, azure water and seaside bungalows sipping bottle service in the Uluwatu breeze. This gorgeous very instagrammable spot even has a luxe spa you can book in advance to give you the full VIP experience. Go early, stay late.
The Shady Pig
You’ll need to follow The Shady Pig’s socials just to get the daily password to enter this prohibition style bar nestled in the heart of Canggu. This sophisticated sexy space pays homage to all things decadent from the roaring ‘20s with an experimental cocktail list that you’ll be desperate to work your way through. Cheers darlings.
Image credit: Savaya | Instagram
Previously known as Omnia Beach Club, the recently opened sky-high Savaya promises unbelievable views, jaw-dropping architecture (Google it) and some big-name DJs dropping in to spin the decks. Known as Bali’s ‘luxury playground’, this spot is definitely for the fabulous and those seeking a more up-market chic party club.
For those of us looking for a more boho, laidback vibe then there’s no comparison to La Brisa. This place is more of a relaxed wonderland or something out of Alice in Wonderland with hidden corners, hanging coloured lanterns and magic everywhere around you. With some of the best sunset views in Canggu, we suggest you settle in early and take advantage of their delicious all day menu with a big fruity cocktail in hand.
Café Del Mar
Image credit: Cafe Del Mar | Instagram
If you can’t get to Ibiza quite yet, then Café Del Mar is 100% the next best option. Think beautiful cocktails, multiple swim-up bars, infinity views over the ocean and Grecian-inspired white and blue interiors to really transport you to the Mediterranean. You’ll never want to leave.
Image credit: Yoga Bar | Instagram
It’s not hard to find a brilliant yoga class in Ubud, but this spot nestled amongst the luscious rice paddies creates a sense of whimsy that first-time visitors to Bali can only dream of. The Yoga Barn offers retreats, classes, detoxes and a range of divine events to help you channel your inner zen in the middle of paradise.
While we love a cheap sidewalk massage, sometimes it’s nice to really spoil yourself. TERRA team has created a soft calming space in the middle of busy Seminyak, focusing not only on incredible massage but also a range of holistic touch-based treatment such as acupuncture, reiki and ‘intuitive guidance’ that promises healing and release from anxiety. Sign us up.
The Power Of Now Oasis
Image credit: The Power Of Now Oasis | Instagram
This Sanur hub has become an institution for expats and travellers alike now offering drop-in yoga classes, short health retreats and yoga teacher training. Unwind to the sounds of the quiet beaches nearby, and stay around in their chill-out area that includes an organic juice bar, teahouse and library for a lazy afternoon read.
Arguably one of the most instagrammable spots in Bali, you may have seen pictures on your grid of dusty pink Moroccan arches and floating orange marigolds. Bodyworks has been around since 1994 and has a long-standing reputation of blissful treatments and stellar service, using only the highest quality products and offering an extensive range of body and skin pampering that will leave you absolutely glowing.
Merapu Svaasthya At Desi Seni
This Canggu spa tucked into traditional Balinese thatched cottages transports you into a Bali before the chaos, and allows your mind to wander into a state of complete tranquility. Alongside their divine therapeutic offerings, there’s a massive menu of teas and health tonics to ensure you a complex detox from the inside out before you head back to your villa.
We mean, if you didn't come to Bali to work on your breathwork...did you really do Bali right? Now, there are plenty of yoga studios and healing workshops to get into when you're around these parts but choosing the right one for you can prove to be well, difficult. We thought we'd take the guess work out for you though—enter Y Retreats. This all encompassing retreat isn't your average 'sit in a circle and sing kumbaya' affair—there are all kinds of getaways which are conventiently based in a beachfront pavilion in Bali's very lush Tabanan Regency. Retreats span a very timely 'reset and recharge' practice which takes place in January and April so you can start the new year right or an adventure-steeped retreat focussed on personal development through physically challenging activities.
Pending what retreat you choose, you'll take part in breathwork, yoga, life coaching, leadership, mental and physical challenges, stress management, emotional mastery, cold exposure, journalling and a heap of staple Bali activities too. Book your stay here.
Image credit: Mathis Jrdl | Website
Seeing you’re so close, you may as well hop on a boat and spend a day or two visiting some of the local palm tree lined islands still vastly untouched by civilisation. Whether it's snorkeling in Nusa Lembongan, partying in Gili Trawangan or sunbathing in Nusa Penida, each of these little gems are within a few hour’s ride of the mainland, and are absolutely worth a few waves on the journey.
Image credit: Oliver Sjöström | Instagram
If you’re searching for a break from the city’s hustle, grab a driver, pack the repellent and head out to some of Bali’s most stunning hidden waterfalls less than an hour or so from town. Our picks close by are Suwat or Tibumana Waterfalls, both beautifully hidden not far from Ubud up in the mountains, or head south to the quiet Tegenugan Waterfall for a mystical afternoon.
Become A Balinese Chef (Or At Least Try)
Bali is inundated with such fresh exotic local produce, so why not take advantage and learn how to create some of those most-loved dishes that you can make to impress friends back home? We’re obsessed with The Bali Farm Cooking School, a local community farming village that allows you to pick your ingredients directly from their farm on-site, or the Casa Luna Cooking School who take you perusing through the local markets before heading back to sizzle up some Balinese delicacies.
Echo Beach in Canggu is known globally for its serious barrels. Whether you’re a pro or absolute beginner, the chilled local experts at Canggu Surf Lessons offer a range of private and group lessons that will have you surfing the breaks seamlessly in no time.
Fine Dining In A Cave
Image credit: The Cave | Website
Okay so we know that we’ve already recommended some brilliant places, but this dining experience is an adventure you can’t miss. The Cave Bali, an underground cave restaurant sits only 22 guests per sitting 6.5 meters underground and is a site you have to see to believe with over 25,000 years of history behind it. Culinary Director and Executive Chef Ryan Clift has been critically acclaimed for his gastronomy around the world, so ensure you book in advance to nab a table and soak in the majesty.
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