Top Bali Hotels
Bali's beaches are a little overrated and don't really live up to the tropical paradise image they seem to have. But they certainly aren't bad and they compete healthily with much of Asia. An unfortunate aspect of many Balinese beaches is the relentless hassling you'll experience for massages or to buy various rubbish - it can get very irritating after a while.
In the south, Kuta and Legian are the most popular length of beach and represent the tourist capital of Bali. The stretch has a high concentration of shops, restaurants, bars, traffic and vendors. The pace is energetic, particularly in Kuta with little chance to get away from it all, but it's the place to party, and very popular with younger visitors. The beach itself is in good shape and being long and broad can easily absorb the numbers.
It starts to fizzle out at either end. To the north is one of Bali's better beaches, Seminyak, a peaceful, clean beach that keeps Kuta at an accessible arm's length. South is Tuban - close to the airport with a poor rather grubby sands and ugly breakers. Nearby aircraft, although not thunderous, can be distracting.
The second most popular beach strip would be Sanur. A much smaller, shorter and more compact bay, it tends to attract mature visitors. It is good in the middle but deteriorates further out with ugly concrete barriers at one end and virtual mudflats at the other.
The exclusive resorts of Nusa Dua offer the best-maintained and cleanest sands on Bali. Most of Nusa Dua's sand has been transplanted, but it's impossible to tell. It's spread out, calm and generally relaxing. Not far away is Ulu Watu - Bali's best surf. Surfers rather than swimmers head out here as energetic waters crash onto the cliffs.
The beach at Jimbaran Bay is reasonable, clean and the waters fairly clear and safe. You can make out the airport in the distance but you can't hear it. Almost deserted Tabanan north of Seminyak is an average blacks and beach. Canggu is similar, extremely quiet with dark sand although not black like in the north. It's quite rough with strong currents and high sea spray. The beach is strewn with quite a bit of natural rubbish like coconuts and driftwood.
In the east is Candidasa a quiet coastal village overlooking dramatic and clear sea. There are breakers to protect the good coral here. There's some good snorkelling near the blue lagoon but no beach. It attracts many budget travellers with its casual and laid back atmosphere.
To the north is the black sand Lovina Beach. The volcanic beach isn't particularly attractive - it looks more like coal dust than sand and many visitors stick to hotel pools. One main road offers the necessary cafes and diveshops with rugged mountains completing the backdrop.
Difficult to get to is Permuteran Bay in the northwest, another peaceful black sand beach and a good base for diving at Menjangan. There are also reefs offshore and a similar mountain skyline - very quiet.
Bali is filled with beautiful scenery, temples and charming villages and great little spots to spend the day. It's particularly rewarding to get into the countryside and just soak it up. Although Bali's attractions are enjoyable, nothing in particular stands out as a 'must see'.
The Ulundanu Water Temple at Bedugul is a picturesque natural spot. A graceful pagoda and shrine are set on lush green islets on the shores of a Lake Bratan. A photo will show a peaceful and secluded, romantic spot, but Bratan is often a busy touristy place with little serenity due to noisy boats and touts.
The green inland town of Ubud and its surrounding villages form the cultural centre of Bali. Ubud has plenty to recommend it - a broad choice of cultural shows and dances, abundant fine arts and great restaurants, all fringed by a beautiful rice terraces and some of Bali's best countryside. Ubud is Bali at its most Balinese, although it is developing fast and sadly becoming heavily littered. But it's still pleasant, definitely worth visiting and makes a good base for exploring Bali's emerald heartlands.
Monkey Forest is on the edge of Ubud. Try not to take food into the forest and beware of your bags and any jewellery as the wild monkeys may run off with it. They can be quite intimidating - nevertheless it's an interesting stroll under the canopy. The Elephant Cave a few km east dates from 11th Century. Although not very large it does have some interesting historic carvings and is believed to be a source holy water.
The temple in Ulu Watu is precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. This is an important and historic Balinese temple, the scenery is dramatic and a number of small restaurants have popped up to cater for the droves that pull in for a sunset snap.
The uninspiring Git Git waterfall isn't far from northern Lovina. Git Git has a very tacky feel and lots of rubbish and plastic bags floating around. Bali's highest waterfall is more of a spillage than a falls. Be prepared to run the gauntlet of vendors lining the winding path to the falls - can easily be missed.
Banjar's enjoyable Hot Springs offer one medium pool for swimming and two smaller ones in the sulphurous breeze. This is well worth the trip. Greenery and spouting gargoyles lend a tropical feel and the caf is not overly congested. Take care - the steps in are slippery with algae.
The active South tends to be the most popular and developed with the highest concentration of beach hotels and resorts. The region is famed for its beaches and is readily accessible from the airport and capital.
Central Bali is green, lush and hilly featuring many of the new leafy spa resorts. The East and black sand North are much quieter and less developed with smaller, more remote properties.
Tourist Information Offices
Tourist information is available at the airport and just about everywhere. Thousands of locals are willing to provide you with helpful info or act as a guide.
Entertainment and Eating Out
Bali is bursting with entertainment with literally hundreds of good restaurants serving great local and international dishes. Competition is fierce, prices are low and the choice is broad. Large numbers of holidaymakers ensure that Balis entertainment and nightlife is vibrant.
Further up towards Legian and Seminyak it calms down a little but theres still plenty happening at night. Double Six is a narcotic free for all - anything goes.
Of the excellent restaurants of Bali, a few places are worthy of a special note. La Lucciola is a rightfully popular Euro-Balinese style open front restaurant facing Legian Beach. For Italian food definitely try Fabios in Seminyak. Nearby is French Kaf Warisan with some truly excellent dishes and good views of the paddies.
More international menu offerings are served in a motley of venues. Not to be missed are Axiom (for its chicness and excellent six-course menu), The Living Room (pan-Asian fare), and the hottest spot for breakfast and sunset cocktails, Ku De Ta. Yet more is in store for anyone in search of gustatory delights-- memorable lunches under the trees at Gado Gado; sandwiches and light snacks at Bali Deli; and the inescapable after-hours institution since the 70s, Made's Warung. Traditional inexpensive Japanese can be had at Hana and for a more stylish setting, head for Kuni's.
Ubud has several great places to eat out and hang out. Perhaps the most scenic is the larger of the two Lotus restaurants - an open restaurant with lily ponds, gamelan music and a temple backdrop. Murni Warung is a very popular for its ambience and Balinese fare.
The fish market on Jimbaran beach serves some exquisite seafood on simple beach tables. There are a few mangy dogs hanging around but the seafood is superb. The scales used to weigh the fish are a bit dodgy, and your fish mysteriously shrinks by the time it reaches the table but its worthwhile.
Cultural shows exist all over Bali, but the most comprehensive selection is found in Ubud. Traditional dances, exotic costume dramas, shadow plays and fire dances all take place within a few kilometres of the town centre.
There are several good golf courses dotted around Bali. Two easily accessible ones are the 'Nirwana Bali Golf Club' in Sanur and the 'Bali Golf & Country Club' situated in Nusa Dua.
Several bungee jumping companies also operate in Kuta, including the 'Slingshot' catapult which dramatically propels willing victims vertically upwards into the night sky.
Shopping on Bali is very good - wide choices and low prices. But there's some rather annoying hassling in some areas and regular attempts to rip visitors off. Kuta has been cleaned up but there's still quite a bit of it in Sanur. Some excellent highly skilled handicrafts are available with whole villages devoted to art, mostly around fertile Ubud.
Kuta has everything Bali offers, but at inflated prices. There are some good shops offering cut-price brand names. Kuta Art Market is OK if you're pushed for time or if you don't mind paying a bit more for the convenience, but it's prices are a good 40% higher and it's one of the prime centres for rip offs on the island.
For anything creative head for Ubud and its surrounding villages. Ubud showcases some of the best Balinese handicrafts on the island and some intriguing art galleries including the Puri Lukisan Museum which displays fine Balinese art amongst its tranquil gardens. The somewhat fragrant market is OK for a wander but tends to be overpriced nowadays.
The island's better jewelry comes from Celuk, just north of Denpasar. The silver centre of Bali has a street of silver shops, most with a team of jewellers working out the back. Gold is also available. Haggle for cut-price bracelets, earrings and tableware.
The woodcarving capitals are Tegalang and Mas near Ubud. Some appealing little souvenirs and huge statues are churned out here. Tegallalang a little north is famous for its beautiful rice terraces. Mas is particularly well-known for its carved masks.
Other villages around Ubud are specialist craft centres. Ubung is a pottery village and Batubulan is noted as the stone carving capital of the island. Further away the southern town of Ulu Watu is famed for its lace.
Towards Candidasa is Tenganan a traditional village notable for its ikat fabrics. A small fee is charged to see the cottage industry weaving colourful ikat and baskets. OK for a cultural stop but geared towards opening your wallet - the whole village is one big souvenir shop.
Note: heartless hagglers should take advantage of the Balinese 'morning price' superstition. In order to repel ill fortune stallholders must accept the price offered by the first customer of the day - no matter how low it is. If a very glum shopkeeper batters their wares with heather and chants miserably, you really have got your bargain for a steal.
Internet cafes are very popular and are easy to find in the busier regions. Rates are generally fair but there are a few places that will try to rip you off if they can, particularly in Sanur. Strangely, the more expensive-looking ones are often the cheapest. Connections can be frustrating.
Getting from A to B
Getting around is quite easy, there's a good infrastructure although it can take longer than expected to cross the island. Kuta's congested roads are struggling to cope with a boom in vehicles. On top of this, processions and ceremonies can plug up roads.
Taxis are very common in tourist areas and can be flagged down easily. Further out they are rare - very few roam past. Prices are good but most drivers are very reluctant to employ the meter, particularly around Kuta or at night.
Useful for travel are the bargain bemos that scoot around. Visitors can hop on or off at any point, but will need to barter. The rather uncomfortable bemos can also be chartered for longer trips. A cheap, handy option for short distances is the horse and cart.
It's easy to hire cars or motorbikes on Bali. They provide a good cheap way to get out and about, but the roads can be congested in the south and the driving alarming. Ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy - some are definitely not. Bicycles are a great way for the energetic to get out into the villages and paddies. Plenty are for hire, particularly around hilly Ubud.
Gamelan music for truly Balinese dining
Full trips inclusive of tourist buses and ferries to Indonesian destinations are available from tour operators and can be a real bargain albeit an uncomfortable one. There are a few public buses running around but no trains on Bali.
There are ferry connections to adjacent Lombok and Java. They are fairly old, slow and basic. The clanking Lombok ferry leaves Padangbai in Bali and docks at Lembar, about 45 minutes from Senggigi. The crossing takes 4-6 hrs, depending on the weather. The Java ferry departs from Gilimanuk and arrives at Ketapang around 30 minutes later.
The best sea route is via the flashy catamaran Bounty Cruise link from Benoa direct to Senggigi in Lombok and then Gili Meno. The journey caters for tourists, takes around 2hrs and is very comfortable. The Mabua Express is another high speed and comfortable link taking around 2 1/2hrs and docking at Lembar.
Ngurah Rai International airport is only 10 minutes from Kuta and well linked to major international cities with daily flights to many Indonesian cities. Taxi fares are set and tickets are available from the official taxi counter.
The ancient village of Tenganan, inland from the east port of Padangbai, can only be reached by motorbike. It's a walled Bali Aga village, alive with unusual customs and festivals. Tenganan is noted for its weaving of original double ikat cloth, and its traditional dances. The 'Mother Temple' of Besakih is close by and found on the ascent of Mt Agung. This interesting collection of temples and shrines dates back 1000 years and has a fine view.
There's some good diving in Bali. Arid Tulamben is very quiet and offers very little above sea level. 200m offshore however is the WWII USS Liberty shipwreck. Permuteran Bay has some spectacular diving and Nusa Lembongan has colourful coral in good shape. Deer Island off the west coast is a National Marine Park.
For nature the Bali Barat National Park in the west is a great option with a striking range of plant and animal life. Trekkers will enjoy the hot springs and bird life of the forest.
River rafting is a popular activity, and the mostly gentle 'class 2' category of river rafting along the Ayung River is suitable for all. Travel further east to Klung Kung for the more adventurous 'class 4' rapids.
Tours to the summit of 1717m Mount Batur often involve the rewarding sunrise view of the crater lake within Batur's volcanic cone. Be prepared however for damp, cold and cloudy conditions and some aggressive souvenir sellers.
For those able to get up at the crack of dawn there's dolphin watching off Lovina. Tours in small outrigger boats head offshore in search of nippy dolphins. The dolphins are not always cooperative and can get a bit congested out there with scores of boats bobbing around and then all converging on disappearing dolphins. Most of the time is spent staring hopefully at the ocean - hit and miss.
There are a number of cruises and boat trips available. Nusa Lembongan is a popular day trip offering various water activities and lunch on board. Dinner cruises, game fishing and boat charters for longer journeys are all easily arranged. The submarine safari from Tanjung Benoa provides exciting opportunities for underwater photography through its modified portholes. Sharks are not uncommon.
The Balinese use 3 calendars, so festival dates vary wildly. Tourist offices can pull out their calculators to let you know what's on. Festivals occur almost constantly and visitors will probably encounter family ones parading noisily down the street. The big one is the Galungan Festival. The whole island dresses up and celebrates the victory of good over evil for 10 days with colourful barong dances and exotically decorated bamboo poles. The festivities spill into the streets and climax with Kuningan, the most important and final day. Rituals are held for the ancestral spirits.
The major event of the Saka calendar is the rather surreal Nyepi. No lights, cooking or noise is allowed, people must remain indoors, electricity is banned, and this goes for everyone - visitors included. Evil sprits are believed to appear at this time, any light or noise will attract them. Balinese take this very seriously, special wardens patrol in a situation akin to that of the blackout days of London's WWII bombing blitz. To avoid insulting the Balinese, respect their culture - eat salads and play cards.
A day is devoted to Dewi Saraswati, the beautiful Goddess of knowledge, art and literature. Ceremonies are held on Saraswati to bless books, scriptures and artistry and offerings are made.
June sees the Bali Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of the entire island's diverse culture. It is a month of daily performances, music, mask and classical dance, and handicraft exhibitions. Villagers from all over the island converge on Denpassar to showcase their arts - one of the cultural highlights of Indonesia.
Featured Bali Hotels
Bali Travellers Tales
Melia Hotel is situated in Nusa Dua. You can find restaurants and shops outside the complex of Nusa Dua but these are limited. To travel elsewhere means taking a taxi. We booked a car and guide (via the hotel - Bali Taksu) and visited the Volcano Batur as well as the Barong Dance, Celuk village , Batuan painters, and Sebatu rice terraces. The guide - Made - was really a great source of info but allowed us to do change the itinerary if we wanted. This is a great way to see Bali if you do not know where to go or what to see. It can be more expensive than hiring your own car but was good for us as we had not been to Bali before.
We strongly recommend Gado Gado restaurant on Seminyak beach. Wonderful food, very friendly and helpful staff and a dramatic view of high seas at night.
For beautiful sunset, go to Tanah Lot, see the sunset from Le Meridien Nirwana lounge. For a nice restaurant of local food, you can go to Bumbu Bali in Benoa. To go around you can rent a car with a driver, it''s easier if you know which places to go although your driver can recommend you also. And don''t forget to take the Bali Hai dinner cruise, it''s unforgettable.
I would definitely advise you to eat at a Jazz restaurant across the road from the hotel. The food is absolutely fantastic, the drinks are great and they also have a band who come on at 10pm every night and they rock. We loved this place so much that we went back twice. The food and drink are excellent value. I would definitely recommend this place - quite the little gem that we stumbled across.
The hotel location is strategic as there are many shops around the hotel. It is just few minutes walk to reach the shops and Legian Beach. There are many taxi just outside the hotel. You can easily get taxi to the place you like. At night, you can have dinner at Joni Restaurant, just 5 minutes walk from Balisani Padma Hotel. It is a pool side restaurant and they have a life band. Therefore, you are having dinner and enjoying the performance of life band at the same time. It is very nice!!!! Tanah Lot Temple and Uluwatu Temple are 2 temples must go to visit. Dreamland beach is nice for surfers. Kintamani Volcano scenery is really really GREAT! Do not forget to try Crispy Duck and Babi Guling (pork). For people who likes to shop, Denpasar and Ubud pasar are a must! Things there are really cheap (don''t forget to bargain)!!! The shops along the road on the way to Kintamani have lots of nice and cheap stuff.
Bali is a nice place for leisure. When we were in Bali we visited Turtle Island, went fishing at Tanjung Benoa Nusa Dua. We also visited Ubud, saw the Barongs one of the Balinese dances, to the Monkey Forest, go shopping. There are many restaurants around where we stayed and a newly shopping mall called Discovery Mall with lots of shops, play game for the children, and from there you can visit Celcius Cafe/Starbucks with its delicious coffee or go direct to Kuta beach, just at the back from Discovery Shopping Mall. You can also go surfing by the beach if you like surfing at Kuta Beach or Sanur Beach. Or just relax at Kuta Beach. Or take photos in front of the Monuments to commemorate the Bali bombings. Sometimes there are Balinese dancers standing in front of this Monument. Not far from Kartika Plaza street you can also visit Matahari Dept. Store, McDonalds, Hard Rock Cafe, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and lots of cafes, shops which surrounds the area. Along the Kartika Plaza street you can find Pizza Hut, the Sling shot for excitement, Jumping Play, Waterboom, Go Kart, Mexican Restaurant, 24 hours K Mart, small shops which sells CDs, DVDs, clothes, surfing boards, jeans, souvenirs or eating out at the well known Warung Made Restaurant, Kuta Chinese Restaurant, Wet Cafe, and many other cafes or restaurants. There are lots of tourists now coming from Australia as well as from other parts of the world. You can choose any tours you like including city tour or sailing which suits your budget and there are some that you can bargain too. But when you want a more quiet place you can also visit Lombok. Lombok is also a nice place to visit for your next trip to Indonesia besides Bali, Jakarta or any other places in Indonesia. In Lombok you can take a tour to 3 islends, Gili Island, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Or you can walk along the beach as there are small shops too or take a tour to visit the water fountain in Lombok.
Must have a meal at either of the Made Warungs as well as Bambu Bali restaurant in Nusa Dua. Jimbaran is a must visit for atmosphere ambience and food - in that order.
Bali is getting westernized little by little with all of the bad habits. Recommend that newbies only use Blue Bird cabs and learn the real price before negotiating with street cabs. Also go to Matahari or Hardy''s and check the max price for art goods then you are prepared for the markets like Sukawati.
I would say that there''s nothing much to shop and walk around there. It''s pretty secluded from the rest. But it''s still a walking distance to a small town for the pasar malam tingy. Liked the bargaining process though when negotiating with them for the price. Kuta Square is a more crowded and popular shopping attraction if you want to go out. But the transport is quite steep for the journey.
Best restaurants - Made''s Warung (reasonably priced local food), Kafe Warisan (great but dearer French food) and goto KuDeTa for the sunsets and make reservations for dinner (very expensive). Bebek Bengil (The Dirty Duck) in Ubud would also be a great place for food.