Storybook Vacation in Bali, Indonesia
Amongst all my travels, Bali still remains one of my favorite places on Earth. Feel truly transported as Bali provides a unique trifecta of beautiful cultural immersion, awe-inspiring design resorts and countless idyllic beaches with world class surf breaks. The locals are incredibly welcoming and pride in their beautiful Hindu rituals and ideals is present in everything they do. From the cliffs of Uluwatu to the jungles of Ubud, the indelible experiences to be had are countless. I typically recommend at least 3 days in each region or town you visit, working your way from south to north or east to west. If you are an avid surfer, the lineup at Ulu is not for the faint of heart, but Impossibles, Padang Padang and many others deliver phenomenal sets as well with calmer competition.
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Where to stay in Bali
Alila Villas Uluwatu
A cliffside stunner on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, with enormous pool villas and open-air public spaces designed to blend into the coastline.
Complimentary full breakfast for two guests per bedroom daily in hotel restaurant
$100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit utilized during stay
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Upscale sanctuary on Ubud’s Ayung River where spa time and relaxation top the to-do list.
Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Daily Full Breakfast for two guests per bedroom in the restaurant
$100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
Four Seasons Resort Bali At Jimbaran Bay
A beachfront Balinese village with unforgettable views and authentic arts offerings, sheltered in a calm bay along three miles of sand.
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Things to do in Bali
Bali is known for its beautiful temples, but the Uluwatu Temple provides incredible sunset backdrops to the cultural display on a steep cliff 70 meters above sea level. Arrive early to put on your sarong, get all the photos in and meet the resident monkeys. Fair warning, they are notorious for stealing sunglasses, shiny jewelry and anything loose and seemingly valuable as ransom for treats. Leave these things in your room or a well secured handbag and enjoy the show as they taunt the less prepared and look super cute while doing it. If you'd prefer to avoid crowds, go earlier in the day. Packing note: shoulders should be covered as a sign of respect when visiting the temple. If you're not staying in Uluwatu, this is an easy jaunt from Jimbaran or approximately 30 minutes from Seminyak — book dinner at one of the gorgeous Uluwatu restaurants after and make a night of it.
Learn to Surf
Bali is home to breaks that reside on many expert bucket-lists, but don't let that scare you. Beginners can find lessons and camps at both Padang Padang and Canggu. Just be sure you check in with a school or at least local rental shop to help you navigate the forecast and any known obstacles or rips. Rent a beach chair at Padang for resting after — just BYO if you like to apres surf with an adult beverage.
Uluwatu is the headliner here for sure, and what used to be a spot with one nice hotel and some little shack shops sprinkled down the cliff has grown into a full on destination with amenities galore. Think: vegan restaurants, luxe hotels and beachwear boutiques. The lineup can be fierce with a numbering system, so bring your A-game paddling and etiquette. Most important, touch base with one of the pro photographers for hire on your way down the cliffs. They will shoot any epic rides, but having them log your rash and board helps track down those new profile pics later!
Yoga and Wellness
From hatha and ashtanga to aqua yoga, the Samadi Bali wellness center in Canggu has a wide offering of classes, teacher training, breathwork, sound healing and more. If you're staying close by, be sure to check out one of their market days as well to stock your villa or beach bag — mangosteens are not to be missed! While in Ubud, The Yoga Barn will be your spiritual stop with Ayruvedic rejuvenation packages, meditation, capoeira and more. Looking to let your sound bath soak in a little longer? Book one of their retreat packages and go for the deep dive in rejuvenation.
Craft cocktail cravings can be taken to the next level at Akademi in Seminyak. This open-air bar, lab and training center will take you on a deep dive into classic concoctions as well as the local spirits, arak and jamu.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud showcases incredible Balinese stone carvings, ancient strangler figs and adorable resident monkeys that are not shy to say the least. Wear comfy shoes and bring a fully charged camera/phone and cash for monkey treats. Again ,it's advisable to leave anything loose and shiny at home or in a secure bag. The little comedians are known to take your Ray Bans or readers as ransom for their treat of choice. Hot tip - bananas are played out! Go for jackfruit or anything else they're selling if you can.
Bespoke Home Decor
Not far from Ubud is Gianyar Regency, a region historically known for stone and wood carving. If you're dying to take home a masterfully carved balinese daybed or custom console table, this is the place for you. Be sure to bring your driver, negotiating skills and desired measurements! The prices can be amazing, but don't forget to factor in freight and tariffs.
Feed your curiosity about Balinese cuisine by taking a cooking class at the Casa Luna Cooking School in Ubud. This experience will provide incredible insight into Balinese culture and daily life, delving into the food and culinary myths. Classes are part hands-on and part demonstration as you prepare a lavish Balinese feast to enjoy with homemade hibiscus tea.
Places to Eat & Drink in Bali
Mana Uluwatu: Panoramic views paired with a laid-back, but sophisticated setting, offering eclectic breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their onsite pool is open to outside guests, as the perfect spot for cold coconuts, cocktails and fresh fare.
Jimbaran Bay: Have fresh-as-can-be grilled lobster and seafood with your toes in the sand at this super casual spot on the beach. I'd recommend lunch unless you don't mind a little of the campfire fragrance (in exchange for beautiful lantern lighting) that comes with dinner hour bbq. Bring hand wipes as the bathrooms can be rustic. If you do go at night, walk down the beach to the Four Seasons for a proper cocktail by lantern light.
Sundara: If you still want grilled lobster, but beach bbq isn't your style, grab a daybed and soak up the view at this spot atop Jimbaran Bay. Parent Tip: If you've brought the littles along and need a break, you can send them to the FS kids club while you have a moment of zen!
Breeze at The Samaya: Gorgeous mainstay, an oasis in the thick of it all in Seminyak. I recommend candlelight dinner via reservation to ensure a beachfront table.
Revolver Espresso: Get your caffeine fix, try their elevated avocado smash and take a stroll around the legendary Oberoi afterward. Soak up the hip vibe and start your day off right.
Ku De Ta: This longstanding seaside lounge is a place to see and be seen in Seminyak while soaking up the sunset and spotlit sets rolling in. Stay for dinner if you like and checkout their radio streaming if you want to take the vibe home with you.
Waroeng Tugu: Be sure to make a reservation for this taste of old world Javanese and Balinese dining. This experience in Canggu offers a peek into daily living, steeped in flavor and tradition. Chef chooses the menu, so bring an adventurous palate.
Authentic Balinese Meal: If you were ever an Anthony Bourdain fan, you've no doubt heard of the beloved Ibu Oka. This longstanding institution continues to live up to the hype as one of the very best places on the island to have babi gulung, the famed Balinese style roast pig. A stones throw from the Royal Palace, this casual spot offers floor seating or picnic style tables to enjoy the delectable meat on paper plates.
Parq Space Ubud: Need to get in some ultra remote work or networking? This hip community space offers up not only a restaurant, but co-working desks, private offices, fitness center and events to boot.
Uma Cucina: If you're craving some contrast to local cuisine, this spot in Ubud has excellent Italian. Their brunch is exceptional, and pastas are handmade in house. Stay for a gelato!
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