The Ultimate Guide To Bali

Proof that you can have any kind of holiday you want on this island paradise. Words by Bianca O'Neill

By Bianca O'Neill, 8/12/2016
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When you think of Bali, what comes to mind? The heady bars of Kuta and the laidback luxury of Seminyak are probably up there. But any seasoned Bali-goer knows that you can have any kind of holiday you want there. This diverse, eclectic island is just waiting for you to discover it – no matter what kind of traveller you are.

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Image: Locavore / Facebook

For The Foodie

Seminyak and Ubud hold all the cards for the food-lover heading to Bali. Sure, there are amazing warungs to discover in hidden spots all over the island, but if you’re looking for world-class cuisine, that’s here too.

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Bali is home to every type of food you could wish for. Looking for juicy tacos and a margarita or two? Head to Mexican mainstay, Motel Mexicola, or for the higher-end, Barbacoa, both just outside Seminyak. Meanwhile, Ultimo in Seminyak is your best bet for delicious (and affordable!) Italian, with a solid selection of wines, charcuterie, and pasta.

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Image: Barbacoa

If you’re here for the authentic experience but still want your Indonesian with a side of finger-licking flavour, everyone knows Naughty Nuris is the spot for pork, pork, and more pork. Their ribs are worth the wait.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ubud is home to a range of restaurants of the white tablecloth variety, such as Mozaic, named the 50th best restaurant in Asia by San Pellegrino, and Locavore, where you have to book two weeks in advance for dinner.

Side note: a little road trip to Jimbaran Bay is a must for any foodie looking to experience simple, fresh seafood served in the Indonesian way – with a heap of sides, spicy sauces and a hefty serve of beer – all on the beach as the sun sets.

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Image: Kaum

Any aspiring foodie should find the boutique hotel at luxe bar Potato Head, Katamama Hotel, is the perfect spot for seeking sustenance. Make sure to check out Kaum – which uses indigenous recipes for completely authentic and unique Indonesian cuisine.

For The Luxe Traveller

Looking for the luxury treatment? Have the time of your high-end life at resort-dotted Nusa Dua, the chic sleek Uluwatu, or up-and-coming five star haven Jimbaran.

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You’re here for the day spas, right? Ok then! If you’re in the main town, head to Acqua Perla while taking in a spot of shopping in Seminyak, or Bvlgari’s luxurious spa centre in Uluwatu. Also in Uluwatu, Spa Alila is indulgent and holistic. Tick!

Look, sure, you could spend all day at a spa, but you’re on an island right? It’s time to hire a yacht, clearly. Try Pulau Luxury Charters who will pick you up from your 5-star accommodation, and whisk you away to the crystal clear waters around Bali.

Food-wise, Merah Putih is about as fancy as it gets, with white tablecloths and an architectural double-height roof enveloping you into the most glam glasshouse you’ve ever seen.

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If you’re a big resort lover, head to the glorious and extensive Conde-Nast award-winning Ayana Resort and Spa right near Jimbaran Bay. You’ll get easy access to their legendary Rock Bar and the chance to snap a photo at their Insta-renowned infinity pool.

Everyone knows the Alila in Uluwatu is amazing, with its much-photographed wooden pavilion jutting out over their infinity pool, but you could also try The Mulia in Nusa Dua for A++ swim-up-bar action. If you’ve got the dosh, hire a private villa – the stunning private grounds and personal butler are hard to beat.

While you’re there, make sure you head to their awesome Sunday brunch at Soleil – all-you-can-eat seafood, charcuterie and desserts; with free flowing champagne and cocktails? Yes please!

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Image: Bro Resto / Facebook

For The Sporty Adventurer

Surfers should head to Canggu or Uluwatu, while those seeking extreme sports action are best to head north for some canyoning among the waterfalls.

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If you’re a surfer looking for some great breaks, it will all depend on the season. Dry season is the peak, from May ’til September, when Uluwatu, The Impossibles, Canggu and Balangan will be packed. In the wet season, head to Sanur and Green Balls. Check out Bali Waves for more details.

Follow up your surf with a visit to Echo Beach Club, in the Canngu region, overlooking the popular surf break at Echo Beach, or Bro Resto for a nourishing smoothie bowl. If you’re at Uluwatu, Single Fin is the place to be for drinking post-surf bevvies.

Head north to Payangan for tubing and see the famed Pura Ulun Danu Beratan temple while you’re there, while Kali Mudah is the spot for some pretty picturesque canyoning. Both are situated around the Ubud region.

For a view of the island with some action attached, try an early morning hike of semi-active volcano Mt Batur and catch the sun rise over the island.

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If you’ve got the money, check out our luxe section for Uluwatu options. For those looking for a cheaper option, The Chillhouse is a surf retreat that offers surfing lessons, yoga sessions and more – but there are some great villa options in Canggu on Airbnb for groups.

If you’re headed north for adventure, Ubud is a great base. The luxurious Hanging Gardens are a must if you can afford it, while the Sri Bungalows are a great budget option.

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Image: Dennis Keller / Flickr

For The Laidback Zen-Seeker

Love lying back on the beach? Looking for a zen vibe? Or maybe some retreat relaxation? We’d recommend heading to the ultra-chill Gili Islands, the wellness mecca of Ubud, or the luxe shores of Jimbaran.

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For the chill at heart, the Gili Islands are the place for the ultimate laidback island hopping getaway. There are no cars on the island (only horse-drawn carts), the vibe is relaxed (with the occasional dose of party), and the only thing to do is hire small outriggers to island hop your way around the relatively quiet crystal blue waters. Find the famous Gili Swings for the perfect Instagram shot.

If a spa is your ultimate relaxation activity, check out the day spas in the luxury section or, for a twist on your usual spa spot, try the Four Seasons Healing Village Spa. They have yoga and meditation, as well as healing arts practitioners alongside traditional spa treatments and special visits from international wellness gurus.

Yoga and wellness retreats your thing? Ubud is your new mecca. Naya Ubud has been voted one of the best for yoga and meditation retreats, while Fivelements just outside of Ubud is also well-known for their wellness, raw food and detox retreats.

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One of the most relaxed places around Bali is Le Pirate on Gili Trawangan. On the quieter side of the main island, there are no TVs in these cute little huts, but there are outdoor showers, which is even better. Perch yourself on the patio overlooking the beach and pool, and watch the sun dip into the horizon with a Bintang in hand.

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Image: Le Pirate

If you’re not planning on staying at the wellness or yoga retreats in Ubud, try Kupu Kupu Barong instead. Stay in an ultra-private villa perched over the jungle-covered hillside with a private pool, and eat dinner by candlelight in your own branched pagoda, jutting out over the drop below. Now if that doesn’t take the stress level down a notch, nothing will.

For The Cheap And Cheerful Party Animal

Kuta and Seminyak are your new best friends if you’re looking for good times on the cheap. Sure, Kuta may have had a bad rap due to many an Aussie’s questionable antics of yore, but locals are bringing the vibe back with a range of affordable boutique hotels.

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Sure, you’ve got your solid party spots in Kuta to fulfil every clubber’s dream, like Pyramid and Sky Garden (who often do free-flowing beer and spirits for about $10 at happy hour), but you’ll find the best bars are in Seminyak – especially for those looking to start the night somewhere fun, but without the frenzy.

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Image: Sky Garden

A go-to spot to start the night is Café Bali which has an extensive, affordable menu and a fun atmosphere. Grab $3 beers on the beach at Blue 9 Beach Bar and watch the sunset on a bean bag before dancing the night away after dark. Look for happy hours at a heap of great drinking spots around the area too.

If you’re set on Kuta, try the pop-up milk-crate vibes with local beer prices at Sam’s Bar, which sets up every morning on Kuta Beach out the front of Grand Inna. Alternatively, you can always go BYO and watch the sunset with your own six pack.

During the day, visit Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple for some amazing views and an injection of local culture.

Stay

The Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest is a bargain with big resort facilities from $38 a night if you’re willing to stay a little outside Kuta’s main strip. Meanwhile, the Bene Hotel is in a prime spot for only $77 a night.

Sure, Seminyak is full of some pretty fancy hotels, but there are bargains to be had here too. D’Alang Alang Villas deliver a clean, airy room for $52 a night, and a private pool villa from $120. You can also stay at the Sense Hotel for around $77 a night – plus, it’s right near cocktail haven Sea Circus, and massage mecca Bodyworks which does on hour treatments for about $20. Bonus.

(Lead image: Vincent Rommelaere)