What are the best things to see and do in Bali?

Natalie Bailey

Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the best things to see and do in Bali:
 
1. Hit the beach. It’s why you’re in this island paradise. Seminyak is a great place to enjoy the beach. It has white sand and a charming town with lots of restaurants and shops, which brings us to our next thing...
 
2. Shop. The shopping in Bali is as diverse as the landscape of the island. Seminyak is great for boutiques that sell beautiful crafts. The Klung Kung Markets on Saturday, a 45-minute drive from Ubud, are also great for antiques and local handicrafts. You’ll be tempted by sterling silver jewelry, wood carvings and beautiful sarongs.
 
3. See some wildlife. Whether it’s through snorkeling and seeing the fish in their natural habitat or on a trek through the Safari and Marine Park to get a glimpse of some white tigers and leopards, Bali offers you the chance to get up close and personal with nature.
 
4. Hike. Bali is beautiful and you will only truly grasp the truth in this statement if you get out into the mountains and rice paddies of Ubud. The tiered irrigation system is incredibly tranquil and the people seem to be among the happiest on earth. Put on your sandals, hire a driver and go.
 
5. Eat. From every part of the pig to fresh fruits and vegetables, food in Bali does not disappoint. Be sure to check out Naughty Nuri’s for its legendary ribs and Ku De Ta for a gourmet breakfast with a view.

  • On August 2, 2013
    Shitika Anand answered the question: Shitika Anand

    What is the best thing to bring home from Bali?

    Apart from a tan, a greatly relaxed mind and perhaps even a hangover, there are real things that you can bring home from your visit to Bali. 

    Celuk's jewellery - It's beautiful, intricate work that even the locals can't seem to find or understand the importance and beauty of. Find them in little alleyways behind main streets of Seminyak and Kuta. 

    Go to Jimbaran's shopping area - Jenggala produces quality functional homeware that can be found in abundance in these markets at Jimbaran. The company’s ceramics factory in Bali runs tours, operates a showroom and offers daily Paint-a-Pot lessons from 9 to 5.

    Mani's Art shop - About 22 km north of Denpasar, the village of Mas is a fountainhead of woodworkers and artisans. You can also see it all being made live in front of you. 
  • On August 2, 2013
    Shitika Anand answered the question: Shitika Anand

    What is the best way to see Bali in one day?

    Make sure you have a taxi organised prior to your arrival in Dempasar that will take you to your hotel, the airport scene is pretty intense, so you want to avoid last minute haggling. Book one night's accommodation in a villa off Seminyak - this will ensure you're living quite central and still not part of the madness.

    Head out for a traditional Indonesian-style breakfast at cafes on the main street of Seminyak; there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from along the main road.

    Stroll along the beach road to check out the local shops and experience the Bali culture. Then take a taxi to Potato Head to spend the afternoon in the pool, overlooking the ocean, with a cocktail in hand. The vibe here is really great and will make you feel like you're truly on a holiday. Make sure you don't wear flip-flops to this place, because you might be denied entry.

    Around 4pm, take a taxi down south to Ayana Resort and Spa, located at Jimbarin beach. You don't have to be a hotel guest here to visit their famous and stunning Rocks Bar. Have a meal at the Italian restaurant, located outside in the garden area and watch the sky change its colour as the sun goes down. After sunset, head down to the Rocks Bar which is literally located on a rock, adjacent to the ocean. Expect some seawater splashes every now and then. Their cocktails are some of the best in Bali, and the views make every sip worth the money.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    Where are the best bars in Bali?

    The best bars in Bali can be found in Seminyak, centered around Petitenget Street. Ku De Ta has been serving up delicious food and cocktails for over a decade and attracts a well-dressed crowd. WooBar at the W Resort & Spa Bali also has great cocktails and weekly events, not to mention a number of international DJs that always seem to be popping by for a “Sunset Session” or to play a weekend gig. Mantra, owned by local surfer Tipi Jabrik, is just across the road from the W Bali and has a chilled out atmosphere great for drinks and conversation. However, on nights when a live band is playing, expect Mantra to turn into a “standing party” as the bar is sure to be packed. Hu’u, which is right down the road, also attracts the kind of crowd that is ready to dance and international DJs often make appearances here.

    Some other options in the Seminyak area that are not on Petitenget Street are Mama San and Motel Mexicola. Mama San is part of the Sarong Group and has delicious Asian food as well as an intriguing cocktail menu. The second floor is a great place to hang out and drink but can pick up quite a bit during “Kitchen Sessions,” an event where DJs come out to get guests on their feet. Motel Mexicola is a very recent addition to the Seminyak area, and although the drink menu isn’t quite as extensive as the places previously mentioned, it offers a laid-back atmosphere in a colorful, Day of the Dead inspired space and strong margaritas to enjoy while you chat away with your group.

    If you’re in the Jimbaran area, head to either Sundara at the Four Seasons Resort Bali Jimbaran or Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort & Spa. Sundara has an extensive menu of absolutely delicious cocktails, all crafted by mixologist Javier Des Las Muelas of DRY MARTINI in Barcelona. As for Rock Bar, you won’t find a view quite as breathtaking as the one offered there. If you are even further south in the Uluwatu area, try Finn’s Beach Club at Semara Resort & Spa. This is another place to enjoy stunning views of turquoise sea as you sip on cocktails and enjoy the tropical air.
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  • On June 26, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    What is nightlife like in Bali?

    The nightlife in Bali used to be centered around Kuta and Legian but nowadays the area that people flock to for dinner, drinks and dancing is Seminyak. Seminyak attracts quite a beautiful and trendy crowd, with cocktails that are carefully crafted by the island’s best mixologists, served up by skillful bartenders, and can go for up to $17 a glass. The bars in Seminyak are on the fancier side and some places even enforce dress codes (no beer branded clothing or flip-flops, for example). Most places have live music or DJs that take the stage from around 10 PM. As for those looking for a more laid-back experience and don’t mind a boozy, rowdier crowd, Kuta and Legian still have bars and clubs that tower up to five stories high where the drinks are cheap and the music blasts loudly. Bars in Bali generally close around 2 AM, but some clubs in Kuta stay open as late as 4 AM.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    What is the one must-do activity in Bali?

    The thing that makes Bali different from other island destinations in the world is definitely its culture. Balinese Hinduism has so much influence on the local culture, which is strong and enduring despite all the development and change happening around the island. It would be a shame not to witness a traditional ceremony while here – from full moon ceremonies to funerals, the intricate customs and the traditional garments worn during ceremonies are amazing and eye-opening and might even become some of the most memorable things about your trip.

    Depending on where your accommodations are located and how much time you have, it might be difficult to catch a special ceremony. If this is the case then definitely try to catch a Balinese dance performance because the costumes and dance movements are absolutely enchanting. Ubud has many daily dance performances, but another area to consider is Uluwatu for its electrifying Kecak dance at sunset. In an open-air amphitheater, about one hundred bare-chested men will gather in a circle to chant and shout with animated hand movements as dancers perform the famous story of Ramayana in the center of the circle. This is an experience not to be missed!
  • On June 26, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    What are the best kids activities in Bali?

    Bali is very kid-friendly, and you will find an abundance of fun activities to do with your children while you are here. Waterbom Bali in Kuta is a family favorite where you could easily spend an entire day. You will find pools, numerous water slides (some are gigantic), lounge chairs, shady areas and the newest addition called The Shack, where you can grab a cocktail or have a quick massage while your kids go up and down the slides squealing with delight. The Tanjung Benoa area in southern Bali is another good option for water activities. From glass-bottom boat rides to jet skiing to parasailing, there are plenty of ways to spend hours having fun in the sun.

    The Bali Zoo, Bali Bird Park and Bali Elephant Safari Park are great places to go for animal lovers. The Bali Safari & Marine Park is also a nice option – it has a program called “Night Safari” where you can ride in specially designed vehicles and feed the wild beasts roaming around the park. A visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is another favorite. The forest is peaceful and beautiful and the monkeys roam freely. They generally won’t bother you unless you tempt them with bananas or wave around shiny objects, but always beware of your belongings!

    As for activities for teenagers, try rafting down the Ayung River or try a beginner’s surf class at Kuta Beach. Odesseys Surf School just had their 10th anniversary and they are a trusted place to go for surf classes. If it happens to rain during your visit to Bali, you can take part in indoor activities such as Balinese dance class or gamelan music class (traditional Indonesian percussion).

    As for parents who are craving some “me time” for a massage or some shopping without the little ones, you might consider dropping them off for a couple hours at your resort’s play center. Most hotels and resorts have very good kid’s programs, so rest assured that they will have plenty of supervised activities to take part in while you allow yourself a little bit of time to indulge in paradise.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    What are the best kids activities in Bali?

    Bali is very kid-friendly, and you will find an abundance of fun activities to do with your children while you are here. Waterbom Bali in Kuta is a family favorite where you could easily spend an entire day. You will find pools, numerous water slides (some are gigantic), lounge chairs, shady areas and the newest addition called The Shack, where you can grab a cocktail or have a quick massage while your kids go up and down the slides squealing with delight. The Tanjung Benoa area in southern Bali is another good option for water activities. From glass-bottom boat rides to jet skiing to parasailing, there are plenty of ways to spend hours having fun in the sun.

    The Bali Zoo, Bali Bird Park and Bali Elephant Safari Park are great places to go for animal lovers. The Bali Safari & Marine Park is also a nice option – it has a program called “Night Safari” where you can ride in specially designed vehicles and feed the wild beasts roaming around the park. A visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is another favorite. The forest is peaceful and beautiful and the monkeys roam freely. They generally won’t bother you unless you tempt them with bananas or wave around shiny objects, but always beware of your belongings!

    As for activities for teenagers, try rafting down the Ayung River or try a beginner’s surf class at Kuta Beach. Odesseys Surf School just had their 10th anniversary and they are a trusted place to go for surf classes. If it happens to rain during your visit to Bali, you can take part in indoor activities such as Balinese dance class or gamelan music class (traditional Indonesian percussion).

    As for parents who are craving some “me time” for a massage or some shopping without the little ones, you might consider dropping them off for a couple hours at your resort’s play center. Most hotels and resorts have very good kid’s programs, so rest assured that they will have plenty of supervised activities to take part in while you allow yourself a little bit of time to indulge in paradise.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Mutia Adisoma answered the question: Mutia Adisoma

    What are some things to know before visiting Bali?

    1. Research your areas before you travel to Bali. Don’t book a hotel in Kuta if you’re looking for a secluded hideaway (Kuta is generally where backpackers and budget travelers stay) and don’t expect to find rice fields or raw food cafes if you stay in Seminyak (this area is best for shopping and sunset cocktails by the beach). Bali is not as tiny as some people imagine it to be and it can take a good amount of time to get from one area to another, especially during the high season when the roads are packed. Have a general idea of the places you want to go to and the things you want to see while you’re here before arranging accommodation.

    2. ATM machines, grocery stores and pharmacies can be found in abundance in most tourist areas, so don’t worry too much when you’re packing. If you forget something essential, it shouldn’t be too hard to find in Bali. But if you’re staying somewhere a bit off the beaten path, it’s best to ask the hotel staff and they will surely do their best to get you what you need.

    3. If you’re looking for a subway or buses to hop on and off of, you won’t find them here. In Bali the best way to get around is by car, by motorbike or by taxi. Renting a car and finding a knowledgeable driver to take you around for the day is very easy to arrange. As for the adventurous traveler, renting a motorbike and weaving in and out of traffic like the locals is also an option. Taxis are abundant but make sure the driver turns on the meter, as some will try to negotiate their own price. Try to hail a Blue Bird cab when possible – they are more reliable than some of the other companies.

    4. Lastly, knowing a little bit of the local language has its benefits (as is the case when visiting any non-English speaking country). Try to learn some basic words in Balinese and/or Indonesian and don’t feel self-conscious about butchering the pronunciation. You’re sure to get a better bargain or at the very least an amused smile!
  • On June 2, 2013
    Stephanie Brookes answered the question: Stephanie Brookes

    What are the best things to do in Bali?

    1. Visit a temple -There are over 20,000 temples in Bali, which is why it is named “Island of the Gods”.  The most significant temple is Besakih – known as the Mother Temple, however if you want a more low-key experience, a beautiful temple to visit is Goa Gajah –or Elephant cave in Ubud.  The spacious grounds are beautiful and very peaceful.  The Elephant Cave is a 9th century sanctuary and you can see many relics of menacing creatures, which serve the purpose of warding off evil spirits.  Allow 2 hours.

    2. Shop till you drop – If you are looking for clothes, shoes and up-market fashions then head to Seminyak where you will find beautiful shops like Biasa, Uluwatu Lace, Animale, Paul Ropp and many international brands.  The cheaper prices are found at Kuta with a selection of shops on the main road and little markets set up down little laneways. In Ubud you will find more one-off individual boutiques and specialist yoga gear shops plus handicrafts, sterling silver jewellery, stone statues and woodcarving.

    3. Nature on the river - Rafting and kayaking adventures will give you a day out in nature, surrounded by jungle and beautiful terraced rice fields.  Take an inflatable kayak trip on the scenic Ayung River (no experience necessary).  For a faster ride, the white water rafting is exhilarating and action packed. You travel on the river right through the jungle, with exotic plants and wildlife at your side and the excursion includes a beautiful lunch in the rice fields.

    http://tourspackages.net/kayaking-ayung-river.html
    http://bali-river-rafting.com

    4. Walk in Ubud - Bali Bird Walks is a popular walk in the rice paddies seeking out ornithological treasures – birds, butterflies and more.  Victor Mason, a local character and writer started the program and it is fully guided and connects you to the beautiful rural scene in Ubud. 

    http://www.balibirdwalk.com

    5. Balinese Cuisine - From famous suckling pig to peanut sauce Gado Gado salad, there is something for everyone. The local dishes are packed with fresh spices, delicately flavoured and not too spicy. Favourite dishes include  sate sticks (skewered grilled meat), soto ayam (tasty chicken soup), lawar (spicy vegetable and meat) and the granddaddy of them all the famous Balinese specialty babi guling (suckling pig).  Be adventurous and try the local fare.
  • On June 2, 2013
    Stephanie Brookes answered the question: Stephanie Brookes

    What are the best attractions in Bali?

    Here is a list of top five attractions that will connect you with the culture, the beautiful landscapes and the people of Bali. 

    1. The Devdan Show is a music and dance spectacular showcasing Indonesian music and dance. It is a cultural expose and takes you on a journey through Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Papua entertaining you with a well polished, high-end dance show including theatrical human flying acts. Well worth it.
    http://www.devdanshow.com

    2. Temples celebrations and elaborate ceremonies are a part of daily life in Bali. The famous Uluwatu Temple is positioned on the high cliff tops with crashing waves and is a must see at sunset.  It is very busy with tourists, but don’t let this deter you – it is still a very peaceful place. Its one of the most beautiful spots in Bali. Take in the Kecak Fire and Trance Dance performed nightly at the temple.

    3. Beaches abound in Bali and many resorts and hotels hug the coast allowing you to surf and relax and take in the many spectacular dramatic ocean vistas. Seminyak is a great beach with lovely white sand and low-moderate waves plus there are good shops nearby. For big surf, head to Padang-Padang beach.  If you want to swim with dolphins then take a trip to the North of Bali and visit Lovina.

    4. Bali Bird Park is a retreat into nature set in beautiful, tropical gardens with over 2,000 tropical plants and home to the magnificent Indonesian hornbill and elaborate bird of paradise, many of which roam freely. Allow 2-3 hours here.
    http://www.bali-bird-park.com

    5. Ubud is a mountain town and attracts many artists and writers and now boasts over 250 excellent local and international restaurants. Spas and pampering plus shopping and visits to silversmiths and wood-carvers makes this a worthwhile day trip. Have lunch at The Hanging Gardens.
    http://www.ubudhanginggardens.com
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