I thought deciding on Bali instead of another Indonesian Island was the hard part. But come to find out Bali is a big island with lots to offer and difficult decisions to make, what part to stay in for a month when you want reasonable internet connection, coffee shops, beaches close by and not too heavily traveled by those coming and going for a week at a time.
My favorite to live in so far has to be Seminyak. However I will point out some insights on the biggies and my opinions.
Kuta is super close to the airport and a beach town. If you have done any research on Kuta you know it has lots of mixed reviews, I have to side with the negative ones. Kuta is crowded, has tons of ugly cheap shops and is loaded with scams in my opinion. The vibe I got while we visited here was the Balinese are only there to make a buck and don’t really care about the visitors. Which is sad because so much of the rest of the island the Balinese are incredibly friendly and happy to see you. I do really enjoy the beachwalk Kuta has and when we need clothes or western goods this is where we go. Kuta also has some good surfing, but can get crowded so be sure to hangout where there are less people whether or not you are a beginner because TONS of those out there are beginners.
Seminyak like I said is my favorite and it is a bit north of Kuta. It can get meshed in with Legian and Pettinget simply because for the most part all 3 of these have very similar vibes. Tons of restaurants, great coffee (revolver is the best), beachside, more upmarket vibe and I like it the best because of the consistently amazing food, shopping and reliable internet. By far the best coffee and wifi scene in Bali.
Nusa Dua is on the southern side and the 5 star area. Worth checking out if you’re feeling flush. There’s quite a few nice beaches and restaurants. Pretty pricey to stay compared to the rest of Bali, but in the grand scheme of things, still cheap compared to Maldives, Caribbean etc, so could be worth looking online for whats available for a few days. The beach here’s cool anyway and easy to get to.
Uluwatu. Those pictures you see of the killer cliffsides and temples looking over the ocean are found in Uluwatu. The biggest and most famous wave in Indonesia is also here. Bingin Beach is a great spot with easy access to 3 great surf breaks. The impossibles (named because of the 1.5 K paddle you have to do to get to the breaks, aka its impossible to get there), Dreamland and Bingin. Bingin has a ton of cool spots built into the cliffside and some cheap warungs as well. You can get fresh seafood cooked beachfront any day of the week for dinner which is pretty amazing. There are surf competitions all over Uluwatu so if you are in the area check out the calendar, you might just overlap with a big one! Besides surfing the best sunset restaurants are in this area pretty epic to be sipping your cocktail on a cliff watching the sun go down, it doesn’t get any better. The only downside to this area is the lack of reliable internet and the fact that there are not many places to walk to. You should rent a motorbike to get around.
Ubud. This is not a beach town and is north of Denpasar and the airport. It was made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ book which is what put Bali on the map for us Americans. This is where all the traditional Balinese wood carving is done, stone sculptures, handicrafts etc and is considered the cultural centre of Bali. This area is also known for yoga and the spiritual hotbed of Bali. Rice fields, jungle, and nature is what you will find here, not beaches. If you stay in town you can walk most everywhere and there is a coworking space as well called Hubud that has good wifi. We stayed outside town and rented motor bikes which was a fun time.
Amed. This town is on the east coast – a nice, old school fishing village that has started to attract quite a few chilled people of late – it’s a big freediving and normal diving place. You can get to the big Liberty ship that everyone talks about diving in Bali from here.
Jimbaran Bay is a beach in between Kuta and the Bukit peninsula (South of the island) which has loads of restaurants serving fresh fish. Definitely worth checking out for an evening meal and there are some very nice hotels that you can stay at as well.
So, like I said Bali is bigger than I initially thought and there are loads of cool places. If you are in town for a bit and want to check out some close areas Gili Islands are worth a look and Lombok Island.
The Gili Islands are beautiful, there are 3, Gili Air, Meno and Trewangan, off the coast of Lombok. Trewangan (Gili T) is the party island out of the 3. Really tropical, no cars on the island, just loads of shacks for bars and restaurants. Takes about an hour to walk round. Can just rock up and find somewhere to stay – they have horse and cart to take you round the island, or can prebook. Gili Air has gotten loads of great press too for diving and just chilling out in a serene beautiful setting. You get the boat over to the Gili’s from Padang Bai – can just sort in Seminyak and they will give you a lift there / sort the boat.
Lombok is pretty great and about 20 years less developed than Bali so you get a taste of how Bali used to be. Can either fly over or get the ferry. If you hike Mt. Batur you can see this island from the top on a clear day.
Overall in our situation Seminyak is our best bet simply because of the beach scene which we both love, coffee access which again is important for us, amazing food because well a girls gotta eat and reliable internet. Honestly if Seminyak had nothing but a beach and reliable internet it would still be our choice. But a few days in each location are still a cool thing to see. If you have only a week I would recommend staying in Seminyak and day trips to Ubud and temples and a few sunset dinners in Uluwatu (Rock Bar, El Kabron, Temple Lounge). Or if you want total bliss and chilled out vibes with little interaction spend all your time in Uluwatu, my choice would be Bingin. You really can find it all in Bali from backpacker to established adult to blowing cash you can do it all.
Hope this guide helped you and didn’t overwhelm although I know Bali can feel overwhelming! It is my favorite island in southeast Asia and I hope you get to enjoy and love it the way I have!
Have Fun Do Everything,