A local's guide to the amazingly diverse regions of Bali
Okay, you’re going to Bali. That’s decided. And it’s a very, very good decision.
But now, where to stay? Where to visit on a day trip?
There are so many different versions of Bali to cater to whatever type of vacation you’re looking for. We, of course, recommend checking out as many areas as possible – but here are some guidelines to hopefully help you narrow it down.
Without further adieu, we present our neighbourhood guide to Bali. (Wait, before we start, can we come in your suitcase? No? Okay, cool, moving on…)
If you’re looking for a major tourist hotspot, Kuta is your jam. It’s bars on nightclubs on restaurants on shops (on bars, on nightclubs). Staying within walking distance of Sky Garden Bali is the definition of setting yourself up for success on a night out. Of course, there are hidden gems to be found, but just a heads up that this hood will present its fair share of tourist traps, souvenir shops, and locals trying to hustle you. You will find surfers on the beach but unfortunately also a lot of garbage – so make yourself useful and pick some up! This area is worth checking out, and then moving on.
The cultural heart of Bali. Arguably more than anywhere else in the world, Ubud is the spot to get your zen on, eat organic food, and jam out to some acoustic tunes. Namaste away at Yoga Barn, visit those terror monkeys at Monkey Forest (hold onto your sunglasses, that’s all I’m gonna say), and shop till you drop in the village. There are also a ton of amazing scenic day tours such as biking through the countryside, frolicking in the nearby waterfalls, or getting that perfect Insta at the rice terraces.
Seminyak is an upscale area of town with great shopping and restaurants. You’ll find lots of boho-chic decor and apparel. Treat yourself to a cocktail at Potato Head or Ku De Ta beach clubs overlooking the crashing waves. Stop by the beach at sunset and lounge in the colourful bean bag chairs, taking in the live music and epic sunset views. And then finish off the night by shamelessly dancing with your new international strangers-turned-best-friends-or-more at Motel Mexicola and La Favela. (Okay no seriously, can we come with you?)
Our pick for Bali’s trendiest area, Canggu is all about organic food, chill surfer vibes, and boutique shopping. In Canggu you will find rural rice fields interspersed between hipster cafes and poolside villas (for as low as $30 CAD a night, might I add). Visit pool bars The Lawn Beach Lounge and Finns Beach Club for sunset, or enjoy a drink at Old Man’s beachfront beer garden.
A surfers’ paradise, take the day and learn to surf or lay back and watch the pros. Many digital nomads and expats have made Canggu their home for its healthy and laid-back lifestyle.
If you’re after picture-perfect beaches and high-end resorts, head in the direction of Nusa Dua. This gated neighbourhood offers plenty of water sports, the Bali National Golf Club, a shopping center, and world-class dining restaurants. As the most developed area of Bali, Nusa Dua is a great family-friendly option. Traveller tip: You can usually enjoy these resort amenities like private beaches or pools by just ordering a drink or food.
This fishing village offers the best fresh seafood in Bali. Come for dinner, hand-pick your preferred marine creatures by weight, and dig into your freshly grilled meal with your toes in the sand. This beachy part of the island is relaxed, authentic and local, and your time here will leave you with a rejuvenated mind and a full belly. While you’re there, check out Rock Bar at Ayana Resort for epic cliffside views.
Visit Uluwatu for its laid-back surfer vibes, cliffside luxury resorts, and the Uluwatu Temple (but don’t say we didn’t warn you about the crafty monkey gang at the temple. Again, keep your sunglasses close, friends). Become enchanted by the Temple’s sunset fire “Kecak dance,” sip on a cliffside bevvy at Single Fin, or ride the waves at Padang Padang beach.
If you have googled Bali, there’s a good chance that this bay has caught your eye! This T-Rex shaped beach is a highlight for attracting tourists to the rural island of Nusa Penida, just 45 minutes off the coast of mainland Bali.
With amazing land formations like Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach, turtle-happy snorkel areas of Manta Point and Crystal Bay, and Indonesia’s largest cave temple, Girl Putri, this is where adventures get their fix!
A couple tips: Try to avoid these areas on weekends to skip the crowds. Also make sure to bring cash, as there are only two international ATMs and they can often go out of order. Finally, the roads are rough, friends, so scooter safe or rent a trusted driver.
Once you have seen everything on this rustic island, you can take a short boat ride over to Nusa Penida’s smaller sister islands, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan.
The Gili Islands
Okay so the Gili Islands are not technically a part of Bali, but don’t even think about excluding them from your travel plans – you’ll be sorry! About a two-hour ferry ride from mainland Bali (depending on the tides and boat speed), these three small pieces of paradise are world renowned. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are all part of Lombok, and are known for two main things: R&R during the day, and partying at night! Not to mention epic diving and snorkelling with your new turtle friends.
Gili T is where you want to be for party hostels and clubs, but if that’s not your scene, half the island has quieter luxury resorts great for couples and honeymooning. Gili Air and Gili Meno are also more relaxing.
There are no motorized vehicles so do as the locals do and rent a bike (or hop in one of the donkey-drawn carriages) and tour the island. Make sure to hit the west side of the island for the infamous water swings Insta pic. While you’re there, make sure to stay for the sunsets – they are epic!
Northern Bali is often overlooked, but if you want to get away from the bulk of touristy areas, head up to Lovina for a refreshing, low-key beach resort town.
The area is known for its black sand beaches, coral reefs and dolphins. You can do dolphin watching tours here on traditional fisherman outrigger boats not far from the shore. Sunrise or sunset will create the perfect ambience.
This sleepy town is rich with culture. Visit the largest Buddhist Temple in Bali, the Vihara Buddhist Temple, with such peaceful surroundings you can really channel your spirituality. You can also frolic in the 40-metre Git Git waterfall, soak in the natural Banjar Hot Springs, or find the Secret Garden of Sambagan.
The fishing village of Amed is becoming an increasingly popular destination for visitors as tourism and tradition coexist. With Mount Agung as a backdrop and the thriving marine life in this area, it’s easy to understand why.
Lipah Bay offers sea exploration for scuba divers, free drivers and snorkelers alike. Jemeluk beach is a protected area with hard coral slopes, drop-offs and marine life.
This small island is surrounded by hectares of coral reef gardens and an abundant ecosystem, making it an exciting destination for all you scuba enthusiasts. With tame currents and excellent visibility year-round visibility, it’s a playground for underwater exploration.
Menjangan Island translates to Deer Island, and you can spot Barking Deer (or Muntjac) bathing on the secluded beaches. This protected marine reserve is part of the Bali Barat National Park.
Bali is a magical land with so many different areas to explore, and the above suggestions are just scratching the surface – that’s what we love about it the most.
Where is your favourite place in Bali? Share with us using the hashtag #dailyhivemapped.