Many people visiting Indonesia just visit Bali. The island is on most travellers’ lists, even if it’s for just two days. It’s no surprise, there is plenty of things to do in Bali. If you organise yourself well you can do and experience a lot in one week and I want to share some of the best bits with you.
After an article about things to do in Jakarta and things to do in Yogyakarta, I want to share with you about things to do in Bali. I hope a compilation about things to do in Bali will be useful for first timers. On Bali island, the area you can explore is extensive, around 2,232 sq miles (5,780 km²).
In fact, there is more to Bali than just the main island. You can explore places like Lembongan Island, which is one of those must visit destinations that I managed to tick off my bucket list – so happy about it, and Lembongan is awesome! Feel free to check out my articles on Nusa Lembongan here, here and here.
So here they are in no particular order, things to do and see in Bali. I’ve done most of it by myself and had a lovely helping hand from another fellow Indonesian blogger for no. 11. Check out what activities that I personally recommend to you as a first timer in Bali.
1. Eat at a Nice Restaurant
There are so many nice restaurants in Bali. Way too many! It is like every week a new one pops up. This is especially the case around Seminyak. Realizing that I am quite bad at trying new restaurants/cafes, I tend to stick to one resto/cafe if I like them, I asked a helping hand from Cumi of CumiLebay.com. He’s always up to date reviewing funky restaurants around the island. You can find a few other recommendations below.
i). Sundara – Four Season Jimbaran
The special thing about Sundara, besides their tasty food, is that they provide a lot of free stuff. At the beach club, you can swim for free (and they even provide a towel) without any minimum order. Every 15 minutes, there will be a waitress that offers you free finger food so you can taste (until you are full up at the end). Until now, Sundara is not too busy, but the staff are super friendly. The Four Seasons Jimbaran is pretty good as well.
ii). Rimba Jimbaran
Lots of restaurants in Bali offer tasty food and fantastic views, however most of them make you pay a lot for the experience. If you want to enjoy the unique views, but with food and drinks prices that are still competitive, try going to the Rimba Jimbaran.
iii). Bambu Indah Resort and Spa, Banjar Baung, Desa Sayan, Ubud, Gianyar
Bambu Indah is perfect for people who like traditional things combined with nature. Visiting this restaurant will make you feel like you are in a village, perhaps from decades ago. In addition to the great food, drinks and service, the scenery at Bambu Indah is also spectacular. Candle light dinner with a view of rice fields cliff could be an unforgettable experience.
iv). Mak Beng Warung, Jl. Hang Tuah No. 45 Sanur
Warung Mak Beng has been running since 1941 and has not lost its lustre. People were willing to stand in line and eat food at Warung Mak Beng. Perhaps because the menu provided only two options; yellow fish soup and fried fish. Mak Beng has stayed focused and never fails to make the customers come back for more. The homemade sauce (sambal) is very spicy.
v). La Favela – Jalan Lakarmana Oberoi No. 177x Basangkaoa, Seminyak
Though this restaurant looks pretty tiny from the outside, like the old phrase: never judge a book by its cover, this restaurant is pretty spacious inside. The restaurant has a super cool interior design. It used a lot of old / used stuff that has been recycled, but it still looks pretty and tasteful. You should try the tasty mocktails.
2. Visit Lembongan Island
A lot of people say that Lembongan Island is a bit like Bali used to be (say 20 years ago or so). They basically mean that Lembongan is more relaxed and less developed. It’s the kind of place that you can go to and simply chill out by the beach and recharge your batteries. Definitely recommend adding a visit onto the end of your Bali holiday. If you have the chance check out Lembongan Beach Club. It’s a bit expensive, but well worth the money. Even if you don’t stay you can visit the restaurant (and the food is pretty great).
3. Visit Pura Ulun Danu – Tabanan
Super touristy? Yup.. no doubt about it. It is one of the most touristy places in Bali. And probably one of the most photographed spots in Bali… Still, Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a very beautiful place to visit. It doesn’t take long to explore. You can wander around the complex in less than 10 minutes if you want to be quick, 30 minutes if you’re taking a peaceful stroll (recommended).
Entrance tickets to the temple are Rp. 10,000 per person. You can explore Pura Beratan area, the lake and of course the temple in the middle of the lake Beratan. There’s a Buddhist temple in the complex. If you want to get a really great photo I’d recommend renting a boat to take you to the middle of the lake.
4. Diving in Tulamben
There are so many places to dive in Bali. One place that was quite special for me, and I think is a great dive site to check out, is Tulamben. The most special thing about Tulamben is you can see a shipwreck that is only 10-15 meters away from the beach. If you don’t want to go diving you can always snorkel and do a bit of free diving.
Though Tulamben is famous for its shipwreck site and the big fish (plus one giant barracuda), if you dive deeper than 25 meters, you can see a decent amount of macro creatures especially nudibranchs. Other dive spot that is also worth visiting is Nusa Penida where at certain times, you can (potentially) dive with Mola-Mola/ocean sunfish. Manta point in Nusa Penida is also an awesome dive spot! You can dive with lots of manta rays. I’d recommend staying one or two nights in Nusa Penida (things to do in Nusa Penida and a sample 2 day 1 night itinerary), check here for the hotel recommendations in Nusa Penida.
5. Climb mount Batur (or/and mount Agung)
You can climb two mountains in Bali; Mount Batur and Mount Agung. People usually hike the mountains just before dawn so you can see the sunrise from the peak. Yup.. Bali isn’t always about beaches! Though I never climbed Mount Agung, from reading some sources online, it appears to be more challenging to climb than Mount Batur. I considered the climb up Mount Batur to be relatively easy – medium trekking.
I started trekking from Mount Batur basecamp around 3.30 am or 4 am and reached the summit around sunrise time. The view on the way up is amazing. If you fancy to do some exercise and hike a mountain during your holiday, check this post for full guidance that I’ve written for Indohoy.com on preparing your Mount Batur hiking. This article, by travelfish, on climbing Mount Agung is also useful.
6. Visit and Explore Tegalalang Rice Terrace
So many rice fields in Bali, well.. I should revise my statement. So many rice fields in Indonesia. That is true! One of the most beautiful rice fields that I ever saw are the rice terraces at Tegalalang. You can easily spot the Tagelalang rice terrace if you are travelling from Ubud to Kintamani area. It is located on the right side of the road. There are several cafes and restaurants (and also stores) where you can have a seat, relax and enjoy the view accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee. You can also walk around the rice terraces if you feel like it.
7. Go Cafe Hopping in Ubud
Do you do yoga? Of course you probably have Ubud on your list of places to visit in Bali. Btw feel free to check here for things you can do in Ubud. Do you have a healthy lifestyle and love organic food? Two of my favourite places to eat in Ubud until now are KAFE and Alchemy. The reason is simple; both restaurants offer tasty food and great service and all at a fair price. Check here if you want to know the ultimate list of Organic Vegetarian Restaurants in Ubud by Ivana of Nomad is Beautiful.
Out of all the organic vegetarian restaurants you can find around Ubud, I would also like to highlight Seniman cafe. You should definitely check it out if you happen to visit Ubud. I love Seniman cafe for their coffee and their creativity in almost everything. Pay attention to the way they serve the coffee at your table and the funky rocking chairs.
8. Swim with Mantas, Nusa Penida
Despite the fact I got super seasick while swimming at Manta Point in Nusa Dua (I probably puked more than five times, yes yuck!), swimming with manta rays was a great experience. Manta rays swim very bold and gently. They weren’t affected by the currents at all. Sadly, besides swimming with the manta rays, I also swam with a lot of plastic debris.
Speaking with some locals in Lembongan I learnt that the plastic around Manta Point is pushed their by the currents (the plastic originates from the Bali mainland). That is one of the reasons that we should reduce the amount of plastics that we are using. Please, check here to read more about the danger of plastic bags and how you can help Mother Earth.
9. Shop Till You Drop!
You name it, accessories, clothes, art pieces, even furniture, you can get it! There are many stores in Bali, especially around Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. My favourite place to do some window shopping (and eventually shopping too!) is Ubud. You’ll find a lot of shops along Hanoman and Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. There are also several furniture workshops and stores in and around Ubud. They are mostly created from vintage or recycled materials.
Speaking about accessories, I would like to mention to you Jewel Rocks. This shop is an Indonesian brand that produces beautiful jewellery, perhaps not your style, but definitely my style. The pieces of jewellery Jewel Rocks produces are unique, funky and simple at the same time (can I also say a bit hippie like). Find Jewel Rocks at Petitenget No.1 A, North Kuta. And no… I don’t have relation with this store, but I just love the design and the spirit behind it. Oh guys, Poppies Lane are perhaps the best place to get your Bintang t-shirts if that is what you are after!
10. Visit a Waterfall – I like Sekumpul
There are so many waterfalls in Bali. One of the most famous and pretty is Gitgit waterfall, but I have never been there so I’ll not go on talking about it. Sekumpul waterfall near Sudaji village at north part of Bali is a pretty waterfall though. It is not actually a waterfall, but several waterfalls. I think it might be more than 3 waterfalls all cascading over the edge of a cliff into a deep valley.
Trekking to Sekumpul waterfall isn’t that hard and perhaps you need one hour in total. The view around the waterfalls is really pleasant, which totally made it a very enjoyable trek. If only I brought extra clothes, I would definitely have taken a dip in the pool where the water falls.
11. Jump the Pond at Tirta Gangga
Tirta Gangga is probably my favourite place to spend the day in Bali. I always think that there is something special about this place. Not sure if it is the water, the koi fishes, the plants/garden, the sculptures or a combination of everything really. Tirta Gangga water palace is just a very peaceful and serene place to relax. You’ll love it! Oh, and you can swim there too.
12. Take a Bath at a Hot Spring
Though soaking in a hot spring in a tropical country might not sound a very exciting thing to do, taking a bath at Banjar Hot Spring in Singaraja is a great experience. Besides the fact it feels so amazing to have your back massaged by the hot water flows, it is also interesting to see locals enjoying the hot spring. While some of them play in the water, others actually pray.
13. Enjoy the Ocean!
Bali has a lot of beaches (well surrounded by beaches for sure!) There are so many water sports that you can do while you’re on the island. Yes A LOT! Canoeing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, jet skiing, canyoning, kayaking, rafting, surfing, kite surfing, or even stand up paddle surfing! I just tried that last one, and it wasn’t easy. One full day doing various kind of watersports can be such an enjoyable day!
14. Explore Nusa Ceningan (And Stay For A Day)
Nusa Ceningan is a small island off of the mainland that can be reached from Nusa Lembongan by crossing a small bridge. A lot of people say that not much happens on Nusa Ceningan and people only go there for the Blue Lagoon cliff jump. From my super short visit to Nusa Ceningan, I managed to soak in the chilled and relaxed atmosphere of Bali. I toured the Blue Lagoon and the seaweed farm, which was great, and met lots of friendly locals. I also discovered Le Pirate beach club, a super nice place to stay in Ceningan.
15. Enjoy Sunset by the Beach (With a Beer)
I shouldn’t say much about this. Sunset by the beach is super romantic and definitely you shouldn’t miss the chance. Stroll around, jog, sit on the sand or the bean bags at a beach club, it really doesn’t matter. I promise you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself. Or sunrise? 🙂 I’d also recommend one of the beachside bars for catching the sunset.
*** Ooopps! Sorry this turned into a very long article! I hope it is useful though, especially for first timers to Indonesia! Btw, this is only a list of 15 things you know, you actually can do loads more things in Bali. The options are almost endless.
Have you ever been to Bali? Or are you planning your second (or third) visit? Let me know what I am missing out! Feel free to drop your input here and let other people know about other activities that you can do in Bali.