As the cold, damp winter months start to weigh on us, it’s no surprise if you find a trip to Bali creeping up a bit higher on your bucket list. Dreams of tropical paradise full of waterfalls, jungle hikes, and plenty of beaches for relaxing on make Bali a dream destination for sure.
But if you don’t know many people—or anyone!—who’s been to Bali before, you might feel overwhelmed by where to even begin with planning your bucket-list trip. If you’re heading to Bali, or even just considering if it’s possible, we’ve got the guide for you. Keep scrolling to read our ultimate guide to planning your dream trip to Bali. We’ve got tips on all the best places to stay, eat, explore and more.
Where is Bali, exactly?
Although you’ve probably seen a thousand pictures of Bali on Instagram, finding it on a map might be a bit trickier. Bali is a part of Indonesia, the chain of islands north of Australia. Bali itself is located just north of Western Australia, a bit south of the equator. This, of course, contributes to its tropical climate and beach-worthy weather year-round!
If you’re already planning a trip to the South Pacific or Southeast Asia, Bali is an amazing stop to add to your itinerary.
Best time to visit Bali
So, the first step to making your Bali dream trip a reality is figuring out when you want to go. Bali can be pretty great almost any time of year, but the best time to visit Bali is between April-May or September-October. These four months are what’s considered “shoulder-season,” the period between peak, where you’ll find lots of tourists, and off-season, where you’ll typically find worse weather. Shoulder season in Bali offers a good balance of sunny weather, lower prices and more manageable crowds.
November through March is the rainy season in Bali, so don’t count this time out (especially if you want to save a bit more on travel costs), but you’ll need to be a bit more flexible with your plans as it can rain a lot during these months. That being said, you’ll still find plenty of swimsuit-weather, even in the rainy season.
Where to stay in Bali
There’s several main cities to stay in Bali, although there’s accommodation to be found all over the island. Here’s our breakdown of the most popular places:
Ubud: Ubud is a must for trips to Bali, even if you just stay here for a day or two. It’s the “cultural capital” of Bali, home to yoga studios, the Monkey Forest, tons of local and cultural activities, shopping, restaurants and cooking classes and more. You’ll be tucked away in Bali’s tropical forests, perfect for a few days of unplugging from the outside world and relaxing. If nothing else, you’ll want to stop in here to visit the Tegallalang rice terraces.
Kuta: Kuta is known for being the party town on the island. If that’s your scene, you’ll definitely want to make a stop here. Besides the nightlife, Kuta is also great for surfing and shopping. If you’re looking for something similar to Kuta, but a bit more chill, try Seminyak or Sanur.
Singaraja: While many tourists stick to the southern half of the island, between Kuta and Ubud (and there’s plenty to do there!), if you want to venture to the northern half, Singaraja is a great place to stay. This port town has some great restaurants and beaches, and is an ideal home base from which to explore local temples, waterfalls and more.
Best Food in Bali
Bali is FULL of amazing foods and dishes. You’ll find traditional Balinese as well as tons of internationally packed with local flavors and spices, so make sure you leave plenty of time for trying local cuisine. If you’re not sure what to try first, ask a local! Or start with one of these classic Balinese dishes:
- Nasi goreng: fried rice served with vegetables and sometimes pork, chicken or a fried egg. The noodle version is mie goreng.
- Bebek betutu: this smoked duck is a super unique dish in Bali. Rubbed and stuffed with spices, it’s a delicious and special dish to eat while you’re visiting!
- Babi guling: Bali’s most iconic dish—it’s a suckling pig served with rice, sausage and more, slow-cooked for hours before serving. YUM. You’ll find it anywhere, but ask a local for a recommendation!
- Acai bowls: it’s certainly not a native-to-Bali dish, but the tropical climate lends itself to amazing acai and smoothie bowls. Find a local cafe and lounge on the beach with a delicious breakfast.
Wondering where exactly to go? Here are some of our favorite places:
Sisterfields Cafe: This awesome brunch spot in Seminyak has plenty of healthy and local options, from classic pancakes to avocado toast and acai bowls.
Potato Head Beach Club: A must-visit if you’re around Kuta—this place has a super cool vibe, right on the beach with amazing sunset views, plus several infinity pools and plenty of beachside relaxing areas to enjoy a drink and kick back.
Ayam Betutu Pak Sanur: This is the perfect spot for breakfast and lunch in Ubud. Show up early (the best dishes sell out fast!) and enjoy Balinese culture with local breakfast dishes.
Things to Do in Bali
Bali has an endless amount of things to do and see, but if you’re wanting to narrow it down to just the must-sees in Bali, these are some of our faves.
Swing on the famous Bali swing. Yup, you know the one. Is it worth the $35+ entry fee? Up to you, but it does offer some amazing views (and insta pics). There’s several different swings and a few other activities you can do as well.
Visit Ulun Danu Temple. One of Bali’s most picturesque temples, located on Lake Bratan, this is a definite must-see. It’s 50,000 IDR to enter ($3.70 USD) and then you can explore the grounds and enjoy the scenery. Of course, there’s lots of temples to see in Bali, so don’t make this your only stop!
Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This monkey sanctuary in Ubud is home to lots of monkeys, so it’s a must-visit for all animal lovers! Be sure to read the guidelines about what not to wear and bring ahead of time so you’re prepared. Otherwise, the monkeys will not be shy about jumping down to steal your sunglasses, water bottles, snacks, and so on.
Learn to surf in Kuta. If you’ve never tried surfing before, this is the place to give it a shot! Kuta has gentle waves and a safe floor (i.e. no sharp corals), so it’s a great place to learn. Rent a board and try it out for yourself or take a lesson from a local.
Soak in the sunset at Tanah Lot Temple. This is one of Bali’s most iconic landmarks, and it’s definitely worth a trip out, especially at sunrise or sunset. The temple is perched on a rock just off-shore—close enough to walk out to it at low tide. Pay attention to the temple’s dress code if you’re interested in going inside.
Explore the rice terraces in Ubud. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces are some of the most famous in Bali, and even offer zip lines, swings and other cool ways to enjoy the scenery, but they’re not the only ways to explore the area. Visit Tegallalang first and then explore Ubud or ask a local for an off-the-beaten-path recommendation.
Go hiking or check out some of Bali’s waterfalls. Or both. Gitgit Waterfall is one of Bali’s most famous (and isn’t too hard to get to). Take a quick hike and then enjoy a dip in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Just be careful—local legend says that couples shouldn’t swim together here, as it’s unlucky for their relationship.
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