Bali Travel Guide
Last year I checked something off my bucket list and went to Bali. My soon-to-be-husband and I were planning our honeymoon and had a couple destinations on our list — most of them in Europe — but I really wanted to do something lavish and head somewhere I knew we’d never justify any other time than right after our wedding. Truly, it was the best trip I’ve ever been on (and not just because it was my honeymoon). I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot in my life, but Bali is by far one of the most exquisite places I ever visited.
Where we stayed:
We were in Bali for 10 days in total and stayed in Ubud (which is inland) for the first half of the trip and in Seminyak (by the beach) the second half. In Ubud, we stayed at the Royal Pita Maha Resort, which was unlike any place I’ve ever seen before. Situated on the side of a cliff overlooking the Ayung River, this resort is all villas with private pools surrounded by lush greenery. I’ve done quite a few beach destinations in my lifetime, but have never stayed any place like this. With the sound of the river (that we eventually whitewater rafted down) below us and the sounds of local birds around us, it felt private and relaxing, which was the perfect way to decompress after our wedding. Because our villa was one of the lowest ones, we lost sunlight in the afternoon and spent a lot of time by the main pool as well, which was surprisingly almost always dead (I guess that makes sense?). Also, every time we ordered drinks to our rooms, it would take them 15 minutes to bring them (we were ordering a few at a time) because the resort was almost all stairs (the only reason we didn’t gain any weight that first week).
The last few days, we moved to the coast and stayed at the W Hotel Bali-Seminyak. While the W chain of hotels spares no expense or detail in their resorts, it felt like just another resort with overpriced cocktails by the pool. Don’t get me wrong, this hotel was gorgeous, the staff was friendly and the food was great, but the beach totally stole the show.
What to do:
After planning a wedding for over a year, tbh Adam and I were exhausted, but we’re also not the kind of people that can just sit and do nothing for two weeks straight. And when you’re traveling to the other side of the world for the first time in your life, you have to experience all that it has to offer. We got ample downtime sitting by the pool and beach (I devoured three books while we were there), but we also worked in some excursions, too.
Whitewater rafting: As I mentioned, since we were literally overlooking the Ayung River (and could hear people rafting down it every 20 minutes), we had to try it ourselves. There are a ton of companies in Ubud that organize this. My recommendation: Look for one that starts the excursion at the very beginning of the river — we booked through our travel agent, but I found out after that our hotel also offered it, however they started the raft partway down the river. It took about two hours to raft down the entire river, with ample bumps and cool sights along the way.
Monkey forest: Monkeys are a staple in Bali, but there are sanctuaries throughout the island that house literally thousands of them, like the Sacred Money Forest Sanctuary in Ubud and Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest. They are friendly and will probably jump on you (I was terrified), so if you’re carrying around a backpack or purse, make sure it’s completely closed.
Temple tour: There are over 6000 temples in Bali (yes, really — it’s not even that big an island) so you’ll probably not get to all of them, but there are a few that are definitely worth seeing. Indonesia’s main religion is Hinduism and it’s still a massive part of the country’s culture. Driving or walking down any street you’ll see offerings (consisting of rice, flowers and incense) outside of storefronts on the sidewalks and in altars outside of homes — even all of the villas at the Royal Pita Maha had offerings sitting outside them. We visited one of the temples at the Royal Pita Maha and also went to one of the coolest places to see the sunset: Tanah Lot. It’s a massive temple sitting atop a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and is one of Bali’s (many) sunset-watching spots.
Take it all in: There’s lots to see and do in Bali, depending on where you go (we didn’t even make it to the Gili Islands for sightseeing or Lembongan for surfing). From the rice fields in Ubud to strolling around the towns, do what you can to experience it. On our last two days, we rented a scooter (terrifying) and went around Seminyak to see a little bit more. The driving is crazy there, but it was definitely worth it.
Where to eat:
Admittedly, once we made our way to Seminyak, finding local cuisine was harder than I expected. There are a lot of Australians and New Zealanders living in Bali and there were more burger joints, Mexican restaurants and pizza places than I was expecting, which was a little disappointing. With that being said, we did venture into Seminyak one night and went to The Butcher’s Club Bali and had probably one of the best burgers of my life (the Wu Tang, which had sriracha, kimchi and sweet potato tempura).
For some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat, head to Jimbaran for dinner and to watch the sunset (another amazing spot). There are thousands of tables lined along the shore with small seafood vendors. They all charge by weight and cook everything up fresh. You’ll eat some delicious fish and shellfish while watching the sun dip on another amazing day.
Bali has an impressive coffee and gelato offering (the gelato caught me off-guard). If you’re in Seminyak, definitely go to Café Organic Bali. This café offers up an Insta-worthy menu with even more Insta-worthy decor and has delicious food and coffee to boast about. Gelato you can snag pretty much anywhere, especially if you make it to the beach towns like Kuta or Seminyak. Try something different like passionfruit and you won’t be disappointed.
Bottom line: This was one of my favourite places and I will definitely go back one day.