5 Tips To Absolutely Nailing Your Trip To Bali
For first-timers and fanatics alike.
A holiday to Indonesia’s most popular island, Bali, is a rite of passage for many Australians – one that’s as well-worn as the travel packs of its most fervent devotees. It’s easy to fall into old habits if returning, or to follow the well-established trail of empty Bintang bottles, lush villas and colourful cornrows. But there’s heaps more to than this to discover in Bali, for first-timers and fanatics alike.
Discover killer beaches, world-renowned surf breaks, a lush forested interior and warm welcoming locals with our tips for absolutely nailing your next Bali trip.
#1 Get out of Denpasar and Kuta
While fun, busy Kuta and Denpasar are best for those wanting to save a few bucks on beers, taste nasi-goreng and swim or surf at beaches crowded with Australians. But, if you want some beauty, Balinese culture, and adventure (and want to actually feel as though you’ve visited a different country) then jump on that rental scooter, in that taxi or on that bus and get out of town.
For an easy escape head down to the Bukit Peninsula on the island’s south. Bukit means hill or heights in Indonesian, and that’s a very literal translation of the landscape here. Wild, rocky cliffs tower over some of the best beaches the island has to offer. From Nyang Nyang, Uluwatu (also home to an amazing cliff-top temple that looms over the ocean) to Balangan – this peninsula seriously provides.
Accessing these magical coves requires descending snaking stairways built into the rugged cliffs. Be prepared to feel the wrath of a thousand squats in your thighs the following day (put that in the Beyonce Bank!).
Head to Bingin for a good surf break and an all time holiday favourite – fresh seafood barbecued on the beach and cold beers in hand, all while watching a huge vermillion sunset. That’s the universal language of contentment right there. Also check out Padang-Padang beach for clear turquoise waters and a solid selection of nearby eateries that will satiate your urban fancies (think granola and espresso, Mexican or fancy burgers).
#2 Seek balance
We don’t mean this in a yoga-pose kinda way (although if that’s your bag, go forth and downward dog, Bali is a mecca). We mean you should balance a night out in Seminyak’s cool bars with a day or two exploring nature, like hiking Mt Agung. The archipelago of Indonesia is home to some mind-blowing volcanoes, epic mountains and some of the best hiking around.
For a sense of achievement like no other – well beyond organising the spice rack in your kitchen or the time your tweet went viral – don your Kathmandu and get climbing. One of the most popular ways to do a mountain hike in Indonesia is by night-climbing. This means you avoid the day heat and get to watch the sunrise from a volcano top, resulting in many, many smug selfies and the aforementioned sense of achievement. There are plenty of trekking tour companies to ensure your hiking adventure is a pleasant (lies, it will probably be brutal, but oh-so worth it) and safe one or you can use the old compass and go solo.
Alternate activities to seek balance are the shopping/spa couplet, the eating too much Gado Gado, mie goreng and gorengan (translated, means fried things) then spending the day diving to forget about it, and the dusty mind from a few too many Bintangs balanced by a day of hitting the surf.
#3 Check out the nightlife
There are some places that only exist in the unique ecosystem that is Bali, so it would definitely be remiss of you not to do some ‘cultural’ exploring by heading out for the night and observing the local customs and festivities.
A solid night out does require a bit of pre-planning, in that you’ll have to make the onerous decision of where to enjoy cocktail hour and watch the sunset. Seminyak is by far the most salubrious of areas in Bali to get festive: it hosts the most options for a night out that aren’t super-clubs and it’s located on prime beach-sunset viewing territory.
Make your way to Potato Head, to A) see what all the fuss is about, B) drink some pretty incredible cocktails, and C) to feel like P. Diddy in the early noughties – like nothing can get between you and your super yacht. Some other places to check out are Mexicola, an uber hip Mexican eatery/bar that boasts an interior worthy of a Vogue spread, and La Favela, a popular restaurant with a large, covetable outdoor garden space that turns into a prime dancing destination when the clock strikes 11pm.
#4 Learn to surf!
If you surf already, you’ve probably been to Bali more times than there are appendages to count on and your weary passport tells a very common story – occupation: surfer, religion: surfer. But if you’re a virgin wave catcher, Bali is definitely the place to pick up a board and start to live out your Kelly Slater dreams.
What makes Bali such a famed surf destination is the variety of surf breaks: beach or reef, beginner through to pro. There are loads of surf schools to choose from, plus private teachers (like this guy) as well as locals who cruise the beach offering lessons. Let your budget and confidence make the decision, but do make sure you get the down-low on the surfer’s code of conduct: you don’t want to be ‘dropping in on anyone’ and making enemies in the water before you’ve launched into your new hobby (or life obsession). A good spot for both fledgling Slaters and seasoned pros can be found around Canggu, like Old Man and Echo Beach.
#5 Visit the birthplace of the green juice – Ubud!
It’s likely that several other health hubs around the world would have a few things to say about Ubud’s claim of being the nascent home of the Insta-famous green juice. Granted, we can’t ever be sure where the concoction first dropped, but Ubud is definitely a destination for people seeking health tonics of questionable flavour. It’s also a very beautiful sprawling town that’s home to many artists, museums, temples and markets, giving it the title of the cultural centre of the island.
Depending on your interests there are heaps of activities to keep you occupied and entertained in Ubud. If you’re an active type, choose one of the long walks or cycle routes that take you through the tiered rice paddies and lush forests. If it’s culture you’re seeking, head to Ubud Temple, Museum Puri Lukisan (Balinese Modern Art Museum) or visit in November to attend the famous Ubud Writers Festival.
If you’re a health-food green juice devotee, then you’ve arrived at your heaven on earth. Hit the local market early in morning to pick-up more tropical fruit than any human needs, then check out Kafe, or Sari Organic (getting there involved a very scenic walk just out of town) to get your nourish on.
(Lead image: Dan Nguyen/Flickr)