Over the years Bali has become my home away from home. In fact, I’m currently planning my 2-month stint there this summer. Because I’ve had the chance to spend so much time on Indonesia’s most popular little island I’ve come to know Bali fairly well.
Despite the fact that Bali is a relatively small island, there are actually a lot of different areas to visit. And the confusing part is that they are all really different. So if you’re headed to Bali for the first time and you’re confused about where to stay hopefully this will give you a little insight. Whether you’re looking to glimpse stunning rice terraces, relax in a luxurious villa or surf the days away, Bali really does have something for everyone.
How to decide where to stay in Bali…
Some people love Kuta and others loathe it. As for me, I’m somewhere in the middle. Kuta is basically the tourist epicenter of Bali. It’s definitely the place where people go to party hard. But Kuta does have a lot going for it. There is a reason I tend to book a couple nights here to start and end my trips to Bali. Given its proximity to the airport Kuta is a great place for budget travelers to either kick off their trip or even to base themselves. It’s super cheap, there are great restaurants, nightlife and shopping, and it’s walking distance to the beach. If you’re looking to be in the center of it all during your Bali trip and stick to a budget, then Kuta might just be the place for you.
Who’s it good for: Budget travelers, backpackers, beginner surfers, and party-goers. It’s also super close to the airport so it’s great for anyone heading in or out of Bali.
Seminyak is where most people stay during their Bali vacations. People talk about Seminyak like it’s worlds away from Kuta, but it’s literally located a few kilometers up the beach. That being said it does have a distinctly different vibe. Things definitely feel a lot more upscale in Seminyak versus Kuta. The beach is a bit cleaner and a little less crowded. The hotels, shopping and nightlife are much more high-end, so if you’re looking to live it up during your Bali vacation, Seminyak is an excellent choice. It is a great place to lounge by the hotel pool, dine at international restaurants, shop at trendy boutiques and hit the beach clubs.
Who’s it good for: Pretty much anyone looking to lounge in luxury. While you can stay in Seminyak on any budget the more money you spend here the more fun you’re likely going to have!
I really only discovered Canggu on my last trip to Bali in the summer of 2016. Canggu is definitely the new ‘it’ place in Bali – and for good reason. Located 10 kilometers up the coast from Seminyak, Canggu is far less touristy and much less crowded than its neighbor. However, it still has stunning beaches (and rice terraces), excellent shopping and arguably the best (and most affordable) cafés and restaurants on the island. Canggu has become a haven for digital nomads, hipsters and surfers in recent years and offers a much more mellow, beach town vibe than either Seminyak or Kuta. Its relatively affordable villas also make this an incredibly appealing place to chill and stay for days, weeks or even months.
Who’s it good for: Digital nomads and long-term travelers, beach lovers, surfers and yoga enthusiasts.
Nusa Dua is located on the eastern side of the Bukit Peninsula on the very southern tip of Bali. It’s only about a 30-minute drive from Kuta and Seminyak but it is completely different. With its fancy resorts Nusa Dua definitely attracts a slightly older and much more upscale, family-oriented crowd. It’s a great place for those who want a bit more of a relaxing, yet luxurious, vacation away from the crowds of Kuta and Seminyak. There’s not really all that much to do in Nusa Dua aside from relax at your hotel pool or private beach and dine in one of the few restaurants in town.
Who’s it good for: Families, honeymooners and anyone who’s looking for a resort-oriented vacation.
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 your age or interests. Sanur might not be as party-centric as Kuta but there is an abundance of laid-back beach bars and some truly great restaurants. Sanur is also a great choice for scuba divers as there are some excellent diving and snorkeling spots offshore.
Whose it good for: Families, people looking for a more mellow vacation, scuba divers.
Most people go to Uluwatu to see the famous Uluwatu Temple. But Uluwatu is a great spot to set up shop, especially if you’re a surfer. Uluwatu has a number of breaks, which is why this place is so popular with surfers. That being said, as a non-surfer I loved my time in Uluwatu. The hidden beaches, beautiful countryside and excellent restaurants were more than enough to keep me entertained. I actually have fantasies of living there!
Who’s it good for: Surfers, independent travelers and those looking to do a little exploring. Taking a motorbike around the area is the best way to experience Uluwatu.
Nusa Lembongan has long been popular with the backpacker contingent, but it’s becoming more common for group tourists, families and mid-range travelers to stop off here. Regardless, it is still an incredibly mellow place. Though the small island is only 30 minutes away (by boat) from the hyper-tourism and mega-resorts of the mainland, Nusa Lembongan is a rustic little island where it’s possible to stay in dreamlike beach bungalows, find hidden surf spots and snorkel right offshore. The best way to see all that Nusa Lembongan has to offer is by renting a scooter. The island is studded with turquoise beaches, expansive mangroves and amazing vistas.
Who’s it good for: Backpackers, adventurous families, snorkel and dive enthusiasts.
I always rave about Nusa Penida because it really is my personal favorite place in Bali. This rugged little isle is bursting with natural beauty and natural attractions. From jawdropping vistas to hidden beaches to world-class diving there is no shortage of things to see and do on Nusa Penida. That being said, getting around the island is not for the faint of heart. Because of the relative lack of tourism on the island the only real way to get around is on a motorbike. The roads on Nusa Penida are not so good, so it’s best to skip it if you’re not really comfortable riding a scooter. That being said, if motorbiking around an authentic Balinese island sounds like your idea of fun, I highly suggest it!
Who’s it good for: Adventure travelers, experienced scooter drivers, beach lovers and scuba divers.
I’ve always been a little bit ambivalent about Ubud, but I’m coming around to it. There is a reason I’m one of the very few people who didn’t fall head over heels for the cultural capital of Bali upon my first visit. Downtown Ubud is both tourist- and traffic- riddled, but it is chock full of lovely temples, vibrant markets, healthy cafes and hip yoga studios. But, if you ask me the best part of Ubud lies outside of the city center. The countryside boasts stunning rice terraces, awesome coffee plantations and great hiking trails. And the villas on offer in Ubud look incredible. I’m not going to lie, as a part-time digital nomad I’ve considered basing myself in Ubud during my lengthy stints in Bali.
Who’s it good for: Culture and art lovers, yoga enthusiasts, vegetarian and vegan travelers, digital nomads and long-term travelers.
Well there you have it. I hope this helps you make a little more sense of Bali and where it is that you’d like to stay. Happy trip planning!
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Which of these places would you like to stay during your Bali trip?