Bali might be a small island but every time I visit I’m wowed by how many places there are to visit in Bali. And the best part is that every one of them is completely different. From rice terraces to tiny islands to turquoise beaches, Bali really does have something for everyone.
During the past two years I’ve had the chance to visit Bali a handful of times. While I haven’t quite managed to see every inch of the island, I have had the opportunity to see a lot. So here is a smattering of the fun and unique places to visit in Bali.
6 Kickass Places to Visit in Bali!
1. Kuta Beach
Kuta is raunchy, gritty and really touristy. Most people hate Kuta Beach but for some reason I’m oddly fascinated by it. There might be a lot of drunken tourists and relentless touts, but if you’re looking for a good time Kuta is bound to show it to you. Kuta is a great place to live it up on any budget. There are loads of excellent international eateries (from Mexican to Lebanese), great hostels and boutique hotels and, of course, lots and lots of pretty Balinese temples.
Kuta has a distinct spring break vibe. And most people who come here have one thing in mind – partying hard. In Kuta it’s perfectly acceptable to walk (or shall I say stumble) down the street before noon with a beer or cocktail in hand. And you’ll no doubt encounter in-your-face touts hawking obscene t-shirts and giant penis bottle openers…you’ll even be asked if you want to be tazed. This is all very normal in Kuta.
Like I said this place is wild. Kuta is all about indulging in everything from booze to sun to shopping. It might not be my scene but I still think it’s a fun place to kill a couple of days. And if you’re down to let loose and get a little crazy, Kuta is great fun. Also, the beach is kinda pretty…
Where I stayed: There are so many hotels in Kuta but it really is hard to find quality. My new favorite place is called the Lemongrass Cottages. Rooms go for around $50. It’s brand new (as of 2016) and right off of the main drag, Jalan Legian. The rooms are clean and super comfy, the customer service is amazing and it has a nice little pool. They also serve a great breakfast with awesome smoothies. If you’re looking to spend a little less, I really enjoyed my stay at Tanaya Bed & Breakfast. It’s clean and quiet and located right on the main drag, Jalan Legian. A double room goes for $20 and you get a free breakfast. The only drawback is that there’s no pool.
2. Nusa Dua
If Kuta Beach is your crazy and irresponsible little sister, then Nusa Dua is your mature and refined older sibling. Nusa Dua is my latest discovery on Bali and I have to say, I was impressed. Nusa Dua is located on the eastern side of the Bukit Peninsula on the very southern tip of Bali. With its fancy resorts it definitely attracts a slightly older and much more upscale crowd. It’s a great place for those who want a bit more of a mellow vacation but are also seeking ample beach time and an infusion of culture.
But even if you’re not staying in Nusa Dua, the area is well worth a visit. There are plenty of fun things to do in and around Nusa Dua. I highly recommend a visit to the picture-perfect Suluban Beach. It’s not a swimming beach but who cares when it looks like this?
If you surf head here and if not go here anyway. Just relax with a Bintang and watch the turquoise waves roll in and the monkeys play around on the cliffs. Also make sure to actually go down the stairs to the little cove and check out the caves. I assure you it’s really cool!
Uluwatu Temple is also a must if you’re based in Nusa Dua. This 11th century temple is perched on a limestone cliff 70 meters above the ocean. The scenery is remarkable. Plus there are lots and lots of monkeys!
Where I stayed: There are quite a few mid-range options. I booked a double room at the Hotel Santika Saligita for around $30 a night. It was really nice with an awesome pool and an amazing free buffet breakfast. It was far from any beaches so you’ll have to take taxis or rent a scooter. If you’re looking for a little more of a splurge and a private beach, my friends stayed at the The Novotel Bali Nusa Dua so I had the chance to see it for myself. You can find double rooms for about $90. The room are luxurious and the pools and grounds are incredible. You also have access to a stunning private beach, making this place quite the bargain for Bali!
When I visited Sanur it pretty much rained for the entire three days I was there. I wasn’t able to do much there but I did like what I saw between rain showers. Sanur is located on a lovely stretch of beach in Southern Bali and it’s an incredibly popular destination for families and retirees.
Yes, it’s nicknamed “snore” but despite the moniker there is plenty to do there, no matter what your age or interests. Sanur might not be as party-centric as Kuta but there is an abundance of laid-back beach bars and great restaurants. There are also some great diving and snorkeling spots offshore, old temples scattered around and, as always, lots of shopping.
Make sure to head down to the beach during sunset when tourists and local families flood the beach. It’s a prime time to do some people watching and indulge in fun Indonesian street snacks like freshly grilled corn with sambal and fried tofu.
Where I stayed: There are tons of swanky resorts along the beachfront but there is also a range of boutique hotels and guesthouses for those who are more budget minded. I stayed at Prima Cottage ($25 for a double). It was actually pretty nice, traditionally decorated and had a small pool. The only drawback was that it was about a 10-minute walk to the beach.
4. Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan
Although Nusa Lembongan is becoming an increasingly popular destination among backpackers and divers it’s still an incredibly mellow place. To get here just buy a ferry ticket in Sanur. Though it’s only 30 minutes away from the hyper-tourism and mega-resorts of the mainland, Nusa Lembongan is a rustic little island where it’s possible to stay in awesome beach bungalows, find hidden surf spots and snorkel right offshore. This place is magical.
Nusa Lembongan is linked to Nusa Ceningan via a narrow bridge. So it’s possible to explore both islands in the same day. They might be tiny islands but, seriously, they are both stunning and there’s plenty to see and do.
I highly suggest renting a scooter. I wrote a guide to motorbiking Nusa Lembongan but make sure to at least check out Dream Beach, a popular surf spot and a seriously pretty cove. Grab a few beers and watch the sun set at Devil’s Tears, where you’re bound to get wet when the massive waves crash against the cliffs. Other than that just enjoy getting lost.
Where to stay: Nusa Lembongan is a great place to indulge in a beach bungalow which costs anywhere from $25 to $50 for a double. I recently stayed in a new (as of 2016) hotel called KiBata Boutique Hotel. For $40, I got a picture-perfect bungalow complete with a panoramic view of Bali’s massive volcanoes and Jimbaran Bay (pictured above). There was also a great pool and a complimentary breakfast. I cannot recommend this place more. I previously stayed in a wonderful budget hotel called Dodol ($18 for a double) which was perched on a cliff near Sunset Beach. I stayed for almost a week and you cannot beat the setting. Though you’ll need your own scooter since it’s kind of isolated…definitely part of the draw!
5. Nusa Penida
Located a mere 10-minute boat ride from Nusa Lembongan is Nusa Penida. Despite its close proximity it honestly feels like it’s a world away from the rest of Bali. Nusa Penida is probably my favorite of all the places to visit in Bali and is a must visit for anyone who’s in search of the “real” Bali.
This place oozes authenticity. There is somehow very little tourism here and life is still simple on Nusa Penida. Most islanders make their living harvesting seaweed, villagers still get excited when they see a bule (foreigner) and the island is just plain beautiful.
Again renting a motorbike is the best way to see Nusa Penida. I wrote a more detailed post about motorbiking around Nusa Penida and another guide about things to do on Nusa Penida. But to sum it up, there is a lovely beach and great snorkeling at Crystal Bay. Also check out the natural pools at Temeling Waterfall and the otherworldly landscape at Broken Beach.
Where to stay: There are honestly only a handful of hotels on Nusa Penida. I highly recommend the Ring Sameton Inn. I chose it because of its great Tripadvisor reviews and it did not disappoint. It was a steal for a double room at $35 and even had a pool and a complimentary breakfast. They will also arrange motorbike rentals.
I’ve now visited Ubud three times and it is slowly starting to worm its way into my heart. I’m still very ambivalent about downtown Ubud, but there’s no denying why it appeals to so many visitors. As a vegetarian I’m especially fond of the fact that Ubud is a haven for vegans and vegetarians. And if you’re into yoga, temples and art Ubud is going to be right up your alley.
But the real reason I’ve become so fond of Ubud is because of what’s outside of the city center. The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are incredible. I highly recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds.
Right down the street from the rice terraces there is a little place where you can sample the world-famous luwak coffee. (If you don’t know the nitty gritty behind how this coffee is produced read this.) I honestly thought we were being pulled into the biggest tourist trap ever, but the tasting was absolutely free and fun. There were so many unique flavors from white chocolate coffee to mangosteen tea to ginseng coffee.
I was also intrigued enough by luwak coffee to spend $5 on a cup…not so bad considering that it’s the most expensive coffee in the world. And I assure you it is delicious despite the disgusting way it’s made. I highly recommend doing a free tasting if you’re visiting the rice terraces.
Where I stayed: I can’t in good faith recommend the guesthouse I stayed in. It wasn’t awful but it was pretty bad. The owners were so nice I’d feel guilty calling them out publicly. But Ubud is full of great boutique hotels and super budget-friendly homestays. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about The Ayala Resort. You can find double rooms for around $120. It’s a bit of a splurge but I must admit it looks pretty tempting!