Bali has been a tourist destination for decades and there are so many reasons why it continues to be a hot destination in Southeast Asia for travelers all around the globe. Whether you’re looking to explore the jungle and rice paddies, sit on beautiful beaches, scuba dive or snorkel along breathtaking reefs, experience a unique culture and people or eat your way around the island, there are so many things to do in Bali for every traveler.
On top of the diversity of activities, the island offers a wide range of value to luxury travelers, budget travelers and everyone in between. There are one of a kind resorts that costs hundreds of dollars a night or you can easily spend less than $50 for your daily budget on the island. Having fit in a little of both, I’ll say some of my favorite things fit into both these categories. Find a little more on why I loved the island here.
When you’re planning your trip there are two approaches to consider. Some travelers pick one home base to stay at and launch day trips from there since it’s easy to hop on a tour or hire a driver for as little as $30 for the day you can see much of the island while staying in one hotel. It takes about 3 hours to get across the entire island (north to south). Or since you can easily be driven from place to place, you can move around the island easily. I stayed in three different locations on the island as well as hoping over to Gili Twaragan. There is so much to see across the island that it was too hard for me to stay put.
Take some time to get to know the island, explore what it’s nature has to offer, get to know the people and eat as much local food as you can. While there is so much more to do on the island here are the favorite places I came across during my two weeks on the island.
Note: Some stays, tours, passes, and meals were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article on things to do in Bali useful for you.
Where to Rest Your Head
Jalan Padma No. 1, Legian, Kuta, Badung, Bali, Indonesia
Not far from the airport but away enough that the property will make you ready to relax as soon as you step onto the resort. The property has a handful of different pools including a lagoon pool you can access directly from certain rooms, as well as an infinity pool at the S.K.A.I. Beach Club where you can relax all day overlooking the coast. On top of that, you’ll find a complimentary sauna and steam room and spa for even more pampering. With a few different restaurants, you can stay on the resort for days at a time if you want, just wandering directly out to the beach. Learn more and book your room here. Read my full write-up on my stay at Padma Resort Legian.
Jalan Pratama No. 95, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia
Along the southeastern part of the island, you’ll find the Nusa Dua Peninsula. It’s an active spot with access to water activities from scuba diving to riding banana boats. The property itself is a perfect way to relax on the island, with two pools, one right off the coast you can relax away. The rooms feel more like a luxury apartment than a hotel room and you can enjoy the restaurant’s full menu making it a great place to relax after a long flight or adventuring around the island. Find out more and book a room here. Read my full write-up on my stay at Mantra Sakala Resort & Beach Club.
Jl. Seririt – Gilimanuk, Ds. Pemuteran, Gerokgak, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia
Sneak away from the crowds in Southern Bali by heading to the North Coast. At Taman Sari Bali you will find beautiful rooms and suites. The resort rests right on the beach where you can hop in the water to swim or snorkel or just relax on the lounge chairs or hammocks they have set up. Their on-site restaurant provides delicious meals all day and you can enjoy your meal right on the sand. Their spa, just off the pool, has great treatment options and at great rates for being on the resort. On top of your standard resort amenities, you’ll find the Bali Dive Academy right on the property. You can take a fun dive, get your certification or advance your skills with their top notch staff. You’ll find rooms as low as $65 here but they do book up! Find a room here. Read more about the resort here.
Jalan Singaraja – Gilimanuk, Dusun Loka Segara, Desa Pemuteran, Kec. Gerokgak, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia
Another place to enjoy the North Coast from is the Amertha Bali Villas. Here you can enjoy your own villa or their private suites. If you’re on your own the suites are a perfect studio feel where you can relax by the pool right outside your room or stay in a family villa where your family will have its own private space. Relax by the beach or in the pool where you can watch a beautiful sunrise. Book their suites for as low as $80 a night and villas as $125. Find out more here. Read more about the resort here.
Banjar Penestanan Kaja, Ubud, Kec. Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia
For a perfect getaway in Ubud, I spent a week at the Santra Purtra Guesthouses. Located in Penestanan, an artist community just up the hill from central Ubud. These open-air suites make you feel tucked away in the jungle or you can explore the art around the property. Pop down every morning for a fresh breakfast each morning. It’s a quieter area than central Ubud and you can walk down the street for a yoga class or a massage. At the same time, it’s a 15-minute walk down to central Ubud where you can take in the shops, visit monkey forest and much more.
My Favorite Eats
Pemuteran, Gerokgak, Buleleng Regency, Bali 81155
While I enjoyed the resort restaurants in Pemuteran I also wanted a chance to enjoy more of the local spots. This warung is just up the street from Taman Sari and was a perfect short walk from the resort. Here you could find some delicious Balinese traditional dishes and Asian fusion to enjoy.
Pemuteran, Gerokgak, Buleleng Regency, Bali 81155
One of the best meals I had in Bali was a steamed seafood dish at Tirta Sari. It was a quick walk from either the Taman Sari or Amertha Bali Villas on the main road. You are tucked away just off the road and able to watch you meal cooked right in front of you on the grill.
Jl. Seririt – Gilimanuk, Ds. Pemuteran, Gerokgak, Kabupaten Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia
On the Taman Sari property, this restaurant provides a delicious meal with your toes in the sand.
Jalan Dewisita, Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
After a week and a half in Bali, I was still loving the Balinese food but had been craving something with a good Latin flavor. I had a lovely evening sitting on the porch at Cafe Havana. I started with a flavorful empanada and moved on to a delicious seafood special. On top of that, I got to enjoy salsa music and watch the dancers have a blast on the floor. A great place to stop in downtown Ubud when you’re ready for a bit of a break from Balinese food.
Jl. goutama 13 Padantegal Kaja, Ubud, Indonesia
When you’re wandering Ubud it can be hard to figure out which places to pop into to eat. Biahbiah is one of the ones where I took a shot and it turned out well. It was a cozy environment and I enjoyed their Nasi Goreng and a Bintang.
Jl. Raya Ubud No.8, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
Sate was one of my favorite things to eat in Bali. It’s also the recipe I’m most excited to try at home. While you can find a version on most Warung menus. ARANG is different as it takes this Balinese staple and elevates it with influences from a wide variety of cuisines. You can go into this tapa style restaurant for happy hour or order a variety of the different sate and make it a full meal.
l. Raya Campuhan, Ubud, Sayan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
This unique restaurant in Bali is one of the splurge meals I enjoyed. By splurge I mean paying closer to what I would for a normal meal in the U.S. You’ll notice this place as it hangs over on the ravines you find in Ubud. The food was good but nothing exceptional. At the same, it was the first place I had a decent selection of wine, which was something I’d been missing. The view and ambiance itself is something worth going to. I suggest going for lunch, or head down to the wine bar/lounge they have downstairs. It’s a little more relaxed with small plates and you still get the view and wine list.
JTaman Indrakila, Hotel Taman Indrakila, Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, Sayan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
This Asian fusion restaurant was the perfect place to grab a snack after wandering around Ubud. I enjoyed some delicious pot stickers all while enjoying a view of the Campuhan Ridge Trail. Grab a drink and sit back on some of the cozy seating they offer and relax with this view. The restaurant is vegetarian and focused on healthy and sustainable food, that didn’t stop it from being delicious.
l. Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80364
If you’re going to splurge on any meal in Bali you want it to be on the chef’s tasting menu at Cuca. The most expensive meal I had in Bali, running about $50 USD, was also one of the best. Plus, a meal like this in the states would normally run you at least $150. Get a reservation, and one at the tasting bar where you can watch the kitchen staff the entire time. You’ll then have eight different small plates brought to you that bring a twist on Balinese and so many different cuisines.
Activities and Adventures to Try
Get your hands dirty and learn more about where the food you’re eating around the island come from and how it is made. Learn more about the people behind it and a recipe or two that you can take home with you. I had a great experience when I took a cooking class with Cafe Wayan in Ubud. Just make sure to go hungry. More about why it was one of my favorite things for Bali.
On Bali, you will find dive sites from North to South and East to West. The water is warm and there are places of interest for beginner to advanced divers. You’ll find sharks, turtles, manta rays and countless types of tropical fish.
If you aren’t already certified Bali is the perfect place to give it a try. During my visit, I got certified with Bali Diving Academy in Pemeturan on the North side of the island. It was a great experience both during the trip and an investment in opportunities for future travels. If you’re looking into getting certified on your trip to Bali don’t miss out on my tips for getting certified abroad.
I never thought I’d wake up before 3 a.m. to hike my way up a volcano to watch the sunrise but I was told it was a can’t miss activity in Bali and they were right. After a two hour hike, that was not insignificant, I was able to watch the sunrise over Lake Batur and the rest of the island. It was a memorable experience, even with the physical effort involved. If you’re a regular hiker it’s probably a breeze.
Schedule your hike with a tour company. I used Bali Hai Tour where they picked me up from my hotel at 3 a.m., drove you to the base and had a guide to hike you up the volcano. The package also included a visit to the hot spring which is exactly what you need afterward and lunch with a beautiful view.
Relax overlooking Lake Batur and soak in these beautiful mineral pools. Perfect for after hiking the hot springs or a relaxing day in Bali. You can hang out, have a drink, get a massage and rest up. Schedule a trip with a driver from Ubud or hot on one of the tours that head out that way.
Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
A tourist spot in central Ubud where you walk into a large jungle area that is filled with monkeys and other animals running wide. It’s a fun experience that if it’s your first trip to the island you shouldn’t miss. Bring your camera and have one of the women selling bananas at the entrance help you get one of the classic shots. It’s a beautiful area to wander around as well. Explore the creek, the temples and the terrain of the area, all with monkeys running circles around you.
Get a Massage or Two or More
Enjoy the opportunity to get a relaxing massage at a much smaller cost than you’d find at home. Some resorts even have good rates on at their spas. I spent a relaxing hour at Taman Sari’s spa when I first arrive. I also had good luck popping into the neighborhood spot on my way walk home in Ubud. Balinese massages are a soothing relaxing style, different from some of the deep tissues you’ll find around the states but perfect for unwinding.
It was the perfect way to relax. In Ubud, I recommend Bali Botanica Spa. It was the full experience being picked up in the morning, a beautiful lunch offsite and a two and a half hour massage. Making it a perfect day. I found most hour massages ran about $10 (USD) at local places.
Beyond the beaches and mountains, one of the beautiful landscapes of Bali are the rice paddies. You’ll find them all around the island. As you drive from place to place you can stop and take them in but the best way to witness them is to take a walk through them.
I live is a major rice-growing region in the U.S., but unlike at home the traditional methods used by the Balinese create these breathtaking landscapes that bring color, layers, and so much more. Especially, if you haven’t spent time walking through them in different parts of Asia I recommend it as one of the top activities in Bali to try.
In Ubud, an easy way to see them is hiking the Campuhan Ridge Trail. Leaving from Central Ubud you can walk for either just 30 minutes or a few hours along this trail and find beautiful views, locals working in the rice paddies, and birds finding food. Don’t worry too much about walking far since there will be many people offering scooter rides back to Ubud.
Whether you go on a day trip or a few nights, hoping over to the Gili Islands is a great add-on to any trip to Bali. Still a part of Indonesia but within the borders of Lombok you will find three islands with breathtaking beauty including some of the best sunsets I’ve witnesses and the clearest beaches you’ll find. A two-hour ferry ride over you’ll find Gili Trawangan, the largest and most populated of the island where I spent two days diving, relaxing on the beaches, and eating delicious food from the street market.
Enjoying the best things to do in Bali
Along with all these amazing things to do in Bali. The thing you need to do more than anything is to lay back and relax. It’s so easy to get lost in the busy parts of the island. Slow down and enjoy just wandering through Ubud or laying on the beach with a good book.
Bali is an absolutely beautiful island where you’ll quick fall in love with the people, places, and, of course, cuisine. Find some more details on the activities you can’t miss in Bali as well as the reason you should go spend time on the island.
For more information about Bali check out these great books on Amazon including Bali: The Ultimate Guide: to the World’s Most Spectacular Tropical Island, The Rough Guide to Bali and Lombok, and Secrets of Bali: Fresh Light on the Morning of the World.
Have you visited the island before? If so what are your favorite things to do in Bali? Leave a comment below.