Any time people ask me about my trip to Bali or for recommendation in Indonesia a huge smile spreads across my face. I had an absolutely terrific time on my solo trip there this Spring and while I have written more than dozen posts about it I have not consolidated all of my recommendations into one place, until now.
Before we dig into my consolidated Bali recommendations one big flag, as a general rule of thumb besides hotels and nice restaurants everything I did I had to pay in cash and the largest bill, 100,000 IDR, is less than $7 so expect to go through a lot of cash and expect a lot of bills. Oh, and my trip had many days of scuba diving which I did not include here but if you are interested, feel free to message me separately about that! To make it more digestible, I broke my two week trip into four sections:
(1) Gili Islands
These were absolutely amazing islands with no cars and a great way of life. You can take a fast boat from mainland Bali to the Gilis which takes about two hours and that you need to book ahead. Of the three islands I would stay on Gili Trawangan, locals just call it Gili T, it is the biggest and two nights should be good (I did one and wish I stayed longer).
- BlueWater Express is definitely the most organized company to get there (and hotel pick up is included in the price). When you arrive in the Gilis though be prepared, you will be climbing down a ladder onto sand and wheeling your luggage through sand as well.
- The top activity is a snorkel trip – no need to book ahead, you can buy a ticket day of for about $10 US for a three hour trip to all the hot spots including the underwater statues (here)
- Make it to the west side of the island for the sunset! (example: The Hotel Ombak Sunset has awesome swings)
- For more details, check out my blog post on Gilis
(2) Mainland Bali – Ubud
Ubud is the best area of Bali, so much nature, away from most of the Aussie tourists, and just absolutely gorgeous. I paid about $35 USD for a private driver to take me around for a day (a friend of a friend) and would be happy to connect you with him (he only uses Facebook) and then you can craft your perfect day or two!
- Loved the monkey sanctuary, and getting there early in the morning was a pro-tip.
- There are some absolutely incredible waterfalls around Ubud and the Kanto Lampo Waterfall was my favorite (here)
- Loved the temples, especially the water temple (Tirta Empul) and Elephant Temple (Goa Gajah)
- Loved the rice terraces, I visited a few rice terraces as the Tegallalang Rice Terrace extends for miles but Alas Harum was definitely the best and had the most epic swing (here) though know the swings are one of the biggest tourist traps in all of Bali (the “Super Extreme Swing” where you are 75 feet off the ground for 10 minutes cost me $14), just be prepared!
- I used some reward points and stayed at this villa (with a private pool for $100 / night) and would highly recommend it, while you can not wall to anything their food was quite good, the spa was very reasonable, and drivers had no trouble with pick up or drop off.
(3) Nusa Penida
I visited the Island of Nusa Penida twice (it is about an hour via fast boat from Bali), once for scuba diving and once to explore the island. If you do not dive and want to explore the islands you can go on a very long day tour to see many of the famous beaches (but you don’t really lay on them) – including this famous one.
- I did this tour : Nusa Penida Speedboat Tour which took us to Angel’s billabong, Broken Beach and Kelingking Beach and also included the roundtrip boat, the driver and guide around the island, and a traditional Indonesian lunch.
- If I was to do it again, I would actually stay on Nusa Penida and visit the beaches outside of the normal tourist hours, especially getting the chance to walk all the way down to the sand at Kelingking Beach.
(4) Mainland Bali – Legain
This is definitely a more populated and run down part of the island full of Australians who are mainly there for the cheap Bintang (cheap beer). I am glad I spoke to friends and did not stay in Kuta directly but in the neighbourhood just North.
- The best thing by far was the Elephant Mud Fun at the Bali Zoo (photos here and website here). It was one of the more expensive things I did while in Bali, $120 est. round trip but well worth it and I would do it again in a heart beat.
- I spent a few days scuba diving and after a lot of research chose the company Bali Scuba to dive with and the4y were great. Of the different sites I went to the Tulabem wreck was the best of all the dives I did.
- Kuta Beach is worth a visit but I would not stay around there – really fun for a surf less though (and VERY reasonable
- In terms of food I would suggest:
- Bali Beach Shack Drag Show: It’s kinda quirky and very different but I had a great time at Bali Beach Shack for their drag show (with actual lady boys) – they have shows have shows 7 nights a week at 9.30pm and I got there at 9pm, post dinner and had no problem getting a good seat. (details here)
To those who got all the way to the bottom of this post, so glad you kept on reading and hope you found it helpful! If I had to sum it up (especially if you have less than two weeks) overall, the the top three things I did:
- Snorkelling in the Gilis
- Private day tour in Ubud with the waterfalls, rice terraces, and swings
- Elephant Mud Fun on the mainland
Have the most fun and let me know if you want any other suggestions!