A Local’s Guide to Bali

local-guide-bali

Bali may be an enduringly popular holiday destination, but there are plenty of ways to discover the island beyond the surf of Kuta Beach. From lush rice terraces to chocolate-making tours, follow our top tips for what to do in Bali off the tourist trail…

 

1. El Kabron

Cliff top club with spectacular ocean sunsets

Located on the cliffs on the west side of the Bukit (a peninsula to the south of the island), this beach club and restaurant is one of the finest places to visit in Bali of an afternoon. El Kabron not only boasts some of the best ocean views and sunsets in Bali, but it also has a pool overlooking the ocean. It’s a great place to enjoy a sundowner or a glass of wine or two, with the Spanish chef and local Indonesian team cooking up a range of traditional Spanish dishes. Don’t miss the squid ink seafood paella, and try some chocolate ganache truffles to round everything off!

How to get there

The club can be a little difficult to find, which makes it even more special; just get on the road to Bingin Beach (approx 20 km/45 minute drive from Bali Airport), then you can pick up the signs for El Kabron from there.

Bali sunset over the ocean
2. Big Tree Farms

Chocolate tours and workshops

Real chocoholics, Big Tree Farms Bamboo Chocolate Factory should definitely be on your Bali sightseeing hit list. Working in partnership with farmers across Indonesia, Big Tree Farms support local communities to grow organic coconut, salt, cashews and cacao which is used to make the tastiest products. Join one of the daily tours around their factory (Mon to Fri from 2pm) – there are free samples in it for you, including a welcome Coco Mojo drink. If this is not chocolately enough for you, they also organise group chocolate-making classes. Email tours@bigtreefarms.com to check times and guarantee a spot.

How to get there

The factory is located a 30 minute drive south of Ubud.

 

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Loaded cold brew! @wellandthecity has an amazing signature mix. #rawcacao #bigtreefarmsbali

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3. Nusa Penida

Majestic mantas and gorgeous coastline

Love diving or snorkelling? Jump on a boat and head out to the spectacular Nusa Penida island southeast of Bali, with some of its most beautiful beaches arranged around the southern coast. From April to October you may encounter magnificent manta rays here. Many dive operators in mainland Bali resort Sanur offer day trips to Nusa Penida to include two dives or snorkels, as well as a spot of lunch on nearby deserted white sand beaches. As with any of the Bali attractions, do your research and check the credentials of the company before booking. Crystal Divers, within the smart Santai Hotel in Sanur, is a good option for beginners.

How to get there

Travel to Sanur on Bali’s east coast, around 30 minutes from the airport, then either take the ferry from Sanur Beach or scout around the tour operators to find a good deal on a day trip.

Manta Ray underwater, Nusa Penida

 

4. Pura Tanah Lot

Volcanic beaches and a rock temple

A trip to photogenic Pura Tanah Lot, perched precariously on its miniature island on the beach, is one of the most popular things to do in Bali. Inevitably, this means it’s rather commercialised and busy, but don’t let this put you off – hire a driver and design your own itinerary, combining the temple with a trip through the nearby lush green rice fields or travelling further up the west coast and claiming a sparkling black sand beach for yourself. Visit the temple early in the day so you can enjoy it at its quietest, or if you really want to go at sunset, head left up the hill to one of the local clifftop bars to avoid the crowds. This beautiful temple earned a mention in our guide to the top attractions in Indonesia – find out where else you should visit in this island archipelago here.

How to get there

Pura Tanah Lot is located on Bali’s west coast, north of the airport and is just over an hour’s drive from Ubud.

Pura Tanah Lot temple, Bali
5. Nusa Lembongan

Laid-back island living

Escape Bali’s lively south on the laidback island of Nusa Lembongan for a few days’ peace and quiet. If you are feeling active there are plenty of classic Bali watersports including surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and diving. For those catch-up days, relax with a massage and soak up the views of the volcano Mount Agung on Bali and, on a clear day, Rinjani on Lombok.

How to get there

Getting over to Nusa Lembongan is easy: just hop on one of the daily boats out of Sanur, which take about 60 to 90 minutes and land in the main hub of Jungkut Batu on the island.

Surfing in Bali

6. Power of Now Oasis

Yoga by the sea and the best nasi campur in town!

Ubud may be the yoga Mecca around these parts, but consider an alternative studio if you like the sound of yoga by the sea. Located on the beach in Sanur, The Power Of Now Oasis offers a range of yoga classes in their stunning bamboo studio. At the end of class, continue your health kick by popping into Warung Kecil. Run by Balinese-born Novi, she serves up the cleanest, freshest and healthiest nasi campur in town (traditional Balinese mixed rice, veg and meat dishes), plus fresh juices and salads made with organic, local ingredients. She even sources Bali-made camembert cheese!

How to get there

The Power Of Now Oasis is located next to the Mercure Hotel on Sanur seafront, while you can find Warung Kecil 15 minutes’s drive inland on Jalan Duyung no 1.

Yoga by the sea, Bali

7. Green Village Bamboo Trails

Bali’s world of bamboo

As an island rich in bamboo, this is a unique Bali attraction. Learn all about how bamboo fits into the island’s economy and culture at the Green Village, on an inspiring tour that takes in the design workshop of master Balinese craftsmen, a visit to the renowned nature-based education centre, the Green School, and the super-stylish private residences at the Green Village. Email tour@greenvillagebali.com or call the office on +62 361 7132045 to ask about staying or visiting here.

How to get there

Sitting on the Ayung River in Bali, Green Village is between Denpasar to the south and Ubud to the northeast. It’s around a 25 minute walk from the Big Tree Chocolate Factory, if you want to combine two places on your Bali tour.

8. WooBar, Seminyak

Part of the chic W Retreat & Spa, it’s worth dropping into the WooBar just to glide in via the grand tree-tunnel entrance, twinkling with lights at night, even if you can’t afford the rooms. There are creative, almost-scientific looking cocktails to be tried behind the bar, including the ‘I – Candy’, topped with candyfloss, and a reliable line-up of top DJs on the decks as dusk falls on the bar’s open-air skydeck.

How to get there

Find WooBar in the coastal town of Seminyak, around a 15-minute drive north of the better-known resort of Kuta.

 

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When the sun sets, the energy rises at Woobar Bali. Img by : @cnlulaby

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9. Ubud

Beyond Monkey Forest

A trip to Bali isn’t complete without a visit to Ubud, the cultural and spiritual centre of Bali, adorned with masterful carvings and ornate temples seemingly on every street corner. Escape the big tourist attractions like the Monkey Forest and Ubud Palace and hop on a bike with Bali Eco Cycling to get into the heart of the surrounding countryside, chancing upon village ceremonies and, if invited, visiting family compounds. If you prefer two legs, take a walk west of the town centre from the main road Jalan Raya Ubud, and hike up the ridge towards Campuhan, a walk that’s replete with views over rice fields and wooden stilt houses. When you need a break, grab yourself a real Indonesian Arabica coffee or deliciously fresh kelapa muda (young coconut) back in Ubud. We like the creative Seniman Coffee Studio and ethically-minded Freak Coffee.

How to get there

Ubud is centrally located, around an hour’s drive from Bali airport, and also on the Kura-Kura shuttle bus route if you don’t mind the slightly longer journey time and multiple stops.

Local ceremony, Bali

10. Take a tour of Bali overland

Volcano hikes and jungle treks

By far the best way to appreciate the diversity of Bali is to go on an overland safari. Trips can be tailored to specific timescales and interests, including: volcanoes, crater lakes, jungle trekking, mountain retreats, coffee plantations, temples, waterfalls, coral reefs and WWII wrecks. Look out for the epic Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, the sleepy village of Pemuteran where you can plant your own baby coral and nearby Menjangan Island to dive, snorkel, see resident deer if you’re lucky and enjoy views of Java. Head east to see the Taman Tirtagangga Water Palace, as well as the laid-back village atmosphere and traditional salt makers of Amed…the list of things to do in Bali is exhausting!

How to get around Bali

Safari trips in Bali are best organised from the main tourist hubs like Ubud, Denpasar or Kuta. Bali Traditional Tours in Ubud are consistently well-reviewed for a range of bespoke day trips, while others focus on interests from cycling to surfing. If you can’t find a tour to suit you, you can haggle with local travel operators to hire a driver for the day and simply go wherever you please.

Rice fields, Bali