Local's Guide to the Best Hotels & Experiences in Bali
Bali has been one of my home islands since my first internship there at the Green School in Bali in 2010. As a sustainable designer, Bali is an island that inspires me always, even from afar. After living in Bali full-time for three years, I can confidently say that if there's an experience you're after, you can find it in Bali. An island rich in contrasts rooted in an animistic culture where art and spirituality blend together, as the smells and tastes of the island tantalize your senses, Bali is a great place to explore with enough to do to keep you there for up to two months or more. I recommend spending at least one week if possible and planning your trip according to the key regions of Bali as each has distinctive geographies and cultural offerings. These areas are the main tourist areas of Canggu, Uluwatu and Ubud; from which meaningful day or overnight trips can be taken further away from the tourist centres. Bali is an island that has my heart, and I hope it touches yours too.
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Where to stay in Bali
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Bambu Indah Resort
Set in the Indonesian jungle, this bamboo oasis features teak wood houses, a natural pool and a restaurant serving locally-sourced ingredients.
You’ll find luxuries of a bygone age at this transporting riverside hideaway in the Keliki Valley jungle.
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Things to do in Bali
Surfing in Batu Bolong Beach
A great place for a long-boarding session on the right days when the waves are small; also a great spot for beginners with many surf instructors and boards available for rent on the beach. As a designer, surfing helps me think and get into flow. End your surf session with a drink and or tasty snack at the Times Beach Warung, my go-to beach bar/cafe.
An Off-The-Beaten-Path Water Temple Blessing Experience
I've been to Bali more than 10 times but I've actually never been to the largest water temple that 99% percent of tourists go to called 'Tirta Empul'. In Balinese, 'Tirta' means 'holy water'. Instead, I go to a water temple right next to Tirta Empul where my dear friend and local Balinese guide Ibu Tirto can arrange a proper water blessing for you led by a Balinese priest.
Immersing yourself in sustainable jewelry at John Hardy
One of my favourite places to visit when seeking inspiration and a sense of calm is visiting the John Hardy jewellery workshop in Mambal, just south of Ubud and just north of Canggu. Book a workshop tour with the friendly staff, and learn how each John Hardy piece is hand-made from recycled metals and responsibly sourced gemstones.
A Garden-to-Table Lunch and a Swim at Bambu Indah's Natural Spring Fed Pools
Bambu Indah is an enchanting ecological resort founded by John and Cynthia Hardy. Their creations have inspired me since my early days in Bali. One of my favourite experiences by far is relaxing and cooling off in their natural spring-fed pools; an idyllic setting, followed by a sumptuous lunch made of all ingredients from the resort's well-cared-for organic permaculture gardens.
A Night Out in Canggu
As someone in their late 20s with friends who are mostly in their late 30s and early 40s, I must say that some of the best nights out I've had are in Bali. If you're into electronic house music and disco, I have some great recommendations for you. Begin the night with dinner at one of my all-time favourite fresh-casual yet refined restaurants Shelter, then choose your adventure: Stay out until midnight, or 6am. Your choice! Depending on your choice and music interests I can suggest an array of venues to visit that night.
Visit the old jewellery making village, Celuk
Celuk has been one of Bali's main jewellery-making villages for generations and is one of the best places to get the best prices on silver and gold jewellery on the island. If you're looking for good jewellery on the island, I can recommend a few good stores such as Dewi's Gold and Silver.
Tour of one of the world's most sustainable schools
The Green School in Bali has one of the largest bamboo structures in the world, The Heart of School, which is essentially a bamboo cathedral. If you're interested in bamboo architecture and sustainable education, I highly recommend booking a tour.
Attend a Jungle Rave in Bedugul
Up in the mountains by a beautiful lake, there is a monthly party that goes on until sunrise in Bali. Wake up to the natural beauty of the island after dancing the night under the stars with your friends.
Afternoon Tea at Biku
I used to live in London for two years but let me tell you, some of the best scones I've ever had are to be found at Biku, Bali, a charming and cozy restaurant, bar, and cafe by Asri and her son, members of the Ubud Royal Family.
Places to eat & drink in Bali
Breakfast in Bali
Biku (Seminyak): My favourite place for a full English breakfast, as well as Nasi Campur (a Balinese dish). They have the greatest selection of natural teas on the island.
Baked (Pererenan): Probably one of the best chocolate croissants on the island. Great coffee, eggs and an avocado toast kind of place with fresh juices.
Acme (Pererenan): A great bakery down the road. Try their farmer's eggs.
Lunch in Bali
Shelter (Pererenan/Seminyak): Hands down one of my favourite restaurants in Bali at the moment. Great for lunch or dinner. The hummus and flatbread seems so simple, but it is a must.
Ulekan (Berawa): If you're looking for an exquisite Balinese dining experience, try Ulekan.
Sensorium (Berawa): If you're craving tasty comfort food, go here!
Dinner in Bali
Mauri's (Seminyak): One of my favourite restaurants in Bali that is casual yet fine dining (don't go here wearing shorts or flip flops please). Great ambiance and food by chef Maurizio. If it's your first time here go for one of the tasting menus. The tiramisu is a must.
Indigo (Berawa): The best sushi and Japanese restaurant in Bali. A good date spot or intimate family dining location.
Nusantara (Ubud): 'Nusantara' in Indonesian means 'Archipelago'. Taste the flavours from across the Indonesian islands. Nusantara is the Indonesian sister restaurant of Locavore.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out this guide to Ubud by Fora Advisor Oscar Alcantara: Relaxing Five-Day Itinerary to Discover Ubud, Bali.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Bali.