Bali Indonesia Overview
Are you planning your first trip to Indonesia, and wondering where to go in Bali?
You’ve come to the perfect place!
This is a comprehensive Bali travel guide, highlighting some of the BEST places to visit on the island with tons of recommendations on things to do in Bali, where to eat, and the best Bali accommodations.
This post is a perfect 2 week Bali itinerary for first timers in Bali looking to create an epic vacation!
There is something awe-inspiring about the island of Bali, from the colorful offerings and the smell of the incense that fill the streets; the lush green horizon of rice fields and palm trees; the turquoise blue ocean with the spectacular underwater world; the stunning temples and local architectures; and the never-ending smiles on local people’s faces.
Although Bali has developed exponentially since I first visited in 2010, this “Island of the Gods” remains an ideal vacation destination, guaranteed to fulfill a diverse range of interests and activities for just about everyone.
If you are keen on avoiding the massive tourism and crowds, you can get off the beaten path and explore some incredible hidden gems on the island as well!
But creating a Bali itinerary can be a bit overwhelming, as the island is large and offers so much to do and see. You can easily spend a month or more exploring this exotic island!
First, let’s discuss the island’s 6 main regions:
Due to the distance from the airport (about 5 hours) and other popular tourist areas, the northern region is much quieter, with visible local life (fishery, pearl farm) and vibrant marine life.
A great area to discover off the beaten track destinations of Bali!
Primarily known for beach resorts. Nusa Dua faces the east coast, offering white sand beaches and calm waters; Uluwatu faces west, with stunning cliff views overlooking the horizon of the ocean – perfect for sunsets and hidden beaches. Jimbaran is known for beachside seafood BBQs.
All along the west coast is a great surfing destination. Kuta/Legian offers active nightlife and beach clubs and popular among backpackers; Seminyak is known for boutique shops while Canggu has become a haven for digital nomads.
Denpasar is the “downtown capital” of Bali. Sanur/Ubud is a good base for temple-hopping day trips or volcano-trekking tours. Ubud is known for physical and spiritual health and wellbeing. Sanur beach offers a laid back atmosphere unlike that of Kuta beach or Legian.
Located about 30 minutes east of Sanur on a fast boat, the Nusa islands are made up of 3 sister islands.
Great beach getaway destination with impressive sunrise/sunsets. Also a must-visit for marine life lovers and water sports fans for world-class snorkeling and scuba diving.
When to Visit Bali
The best time to visit Bali is in the dry season, which is about June to September when the humidity is low, water is clear, and beaches are clean (relatively speaking). July and August are the “peak” season, however, so you can expect to pay higher prices for accommodations and services.
November to March is generally the wet (and low) season, although Bali does not get much torrential rain. Dark clouds come and go, heavy rains lasting a few hours. The rainy season still allows for some sunny days. But if you plan to snorkel or dive, the water can be murkier and choppier during this time of the year.
Before You Visit Bali
In addition to all-around travel apps (such as Agoda, Skyscanner, Tripadvisor, Google maps, etc), you should download a few more apps prior to your arrival in Bali (or Indonesia in general), as they will become extremely handy during your stay:
- Go Jek (for motorbike/delivery service)
- Grab Taxi (cheaper taxi fares than metered taxi)
- Nusa Trip (great for local flights if flying to remote islands within Indonesia
- Whatsapp (the most useful communication method for Indonesians/Balinese)
If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote specifically for women, giving helpful tips and guides for your first trip to Bali! Click below ⇓
How to Travel Around Bali
There are various ways you can get around the island during your stay in Bali. The Kura-Kura shuttle service has expanded its routes over the last few years, making stops at major tourist destinations including Ubud, Seminyak, Sanur, Jimbaran, and Nusa Dua.
Other modes of transportation include:
- private driver/car hire
- metered taxi
- motorbike rental
- Go Jek/Grab Taxi
To get more details on each of these transportation options, read my post on Bali Transportation Guide ⇓
Bali Airport Transfer
Unfortunately, the easiest and stress-free methods of getting out of the airport are the most expensive options. You will pay 3-4 times the usual rate for hiring airport taxis or arranging a private pick-up.
If you are budget conscious, want to save money and willing to DIY (do it yourself), click on the link below to access my tips on how to avoid the Bali Taxi Mafia!
Bali Travel Tips
» Currency = Rupiah. If you are taking cash, take crisp, USD bills printed after 2009. Earlier prints will not be accepted in most money exchange.
» There is a Balinese holiday called Nyepi every year around mid-March (the specific date fluctuates) when the entire island shuts down for business and honors the “silent day.” The airport closes for 24 hours on this day, so make sure you plan accordingly if you are traveling close to Nyepi!
» Tipping is not required, but appreciated. Just a dollar or two goes a long way for locals.
» You can barter for street shopping, but be gentle and generous. Remember that your saving of 50 cents is likely to buy their entire lunch.
» While nearly 90% of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali is predominantly Hindu. Bali observes a conservative culture and tradition, so unless you are on the beach, dress conservatively. Temples require shoulders and knees to be covered. Throw a sarong in your purse/backpack and you should be good to go.
» Don’t leave Bali without eating some authentic local food! You will find warungs (local eatery) throughout the island – make sure to try nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodle), gado gado (steamed vegetables) with peanut sauce! YUM!
If you are a foodie, you will LOVE spending a day exploring and tasting authentic local cuisine!
A 2-Week Bali Itinerary Summary
Day 1-3: Canggu
Day 4-5: Pemuteran
Day 6-9: Ubud
Day 10-12: Nusa Penida
Day 12-14: Nusa Lembongan
Map of Bali
Where to go in Bali
Day 1-3: Canggu
- Cozy cafes and a popular coworking space (DOJO) makes Canggu a hot spot among digital nomads
- Beautiful affordable villas with own pool
- Foodie heaven (great options for vegans/vegetarians)
Getting Around Canggu
Getting into Canggu with Grab Taxi or Go Jek is not a problem; however, the drivers are banned from picking up fares in this part of town.
You can either rent a motorbike or hire a private driver/taxi to get around. Otherwise, stay close to the beach in “downtown” areas where all the restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques are within walking distance.
FYI, renting a motorbike can set you back about Rp70,000/day (filling a tank of gas is about Rp 20,000)
Things to Do in Canggu
√ Watch the sunset with a beer or a fresh young coconut
√ Visit Tanah Lot Temple – yes, it’s very touristy but the view at sunset is amazing! Keep your eyes open for sneaky little monkeys that will try to steal your belongings!
√ Yoga @ Desa Seni or The Practice. They are both lovely settings that offer completely different ambience. The Practice is clean, modern and sophisticated – the classes I attended were packed full. Desa Seni, on the other hand, is surrounded in nature and felt more earthy and spiritual. The instructors were both great.
√ Surfing, of course! You can hire a private instructor between Rp400,000 – 600,000 for about 2 hours of instruction.
Where to go in Bali
Day 4-5: Pemuteran
- Some of the more untouched, pristine corals and marine life in Bali (don’t miss the Menjangan Island!)
- Get a glimpse of the “real Bali” and enjoy the view of local Balinese life, temples, and ceremonies
- Quieter, off the beaten path location (compared to busier resort area in the south)
Getting Around Pemuteran
Pemuteran is located about 4-5 hours north of the Denpasar Airport. You would need to hire a private driver to arrive at this quieter part of the island.
Arranging your own driver in Canggu will cost you about Rp400,000-600,000 to Pemuteran (depending on your negotiating skills).
You have access to a ton of warungs (local eateries) lined up on the main strip, Jalan Seriri-Gilimanuk. This is your chance to get your hands on some local eats! Try Soto Ayam, Nasi Campur, or Gado Gado!
If you are in a mood to splurge, visit the tower at The Menjangan Resort where you can enjoy a lunch/dinner with a view. Try their Wagyu Burger – it was to die for!
Things to Do in Pemuteran
√ The highlight of Pemuteran is to experience the underwater world of the Menjangan Island – it is some of the most colorful, abundant reef in all of Bali. Pemuteran is the best place in Bali to base yourself if you want to explore the West Bali National Park.
If you are a snorkeler or a scuba diver, spend time (at least a day or two) exploring the marine life. I dived with Komang at The Menjangan Resort, and he was a joy to spend a day with. I highly recommend Komang! The Menjangan Resort also has a designated snorkeling guide, so if you are a snorkeler you will be in great hands as well!
If you are a scuba diver who enjoys macro, ask to dive the Secret Bay or Putri Jati for critter hunting!
Located right on the beach, this resort has a pool overlooking the ocean as well as a beautiful lounge and a courtyard.
Enjoy a cocktail while lying on a beach chair with a view!
Starting at ~$100
This resort is a pure luxury, offering a shuttle to get around the property (yup, it’s that huge) and a wide range of resort activities including bird watching and horseback riding.
The resort offers an on-site dive center, two pools, and a tower with an endless view of the ocean and the jungle.
Where to go in Bali
Day 6-9: Ubud
No Bali itinerary is complete without a stop in Ubud.
- Jaw-dropping views of lush green rice fields at Jatiluwih UNESCO World Heritage Site (definitely a must see in Bali!)
- Unique historical architecture and temples
- Paintings, wood carvings, and other creative arts
- Mind, spiritual, and physical awakening
- A central hub for surrounding landmarks such as Tukad Cepung Waterfall
Getting Around Ubud
Ubud Bali is located about 1.5 hrs north of the Denpasar Airport. However, if you are coming from Pemuteran, the drive can take up to 4 hrs so you would need to hire a driver to arrive in Ubud.
Tip: The driver will likely take the route that passes by two iconic Balinese landmarks on the way down to Ubud: Pura Ulun Danu (“floating temple” on the lake) and the Handara Golf Resort Gate. Make these stops for an unforgettable shot for your Insta feed 😉
Or, sign up for a popular Bali Instagram Tour and spend a day becoming Insta-famous!
Where do I even begin….Ubud is full of fantastic restaurants! You can’t go wrong in Ubud.
If you are into ribs, check out Naughty Nuri’s. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but the ribs are some of the best you will ever have.
Try Cafe Wayan (one of the original restaurants in Ubud from 30 years ago!) for a local experience located on Monkey Forest Road. You can also sign up for a cooking class here.
Things to Do in Ubud
As Ubud is centrally located, there is not much you can’t do from Ubud. But since you are inland, why not enjoy the stunning views of the volcanoes, jungle & rice terraces that make Bali a worthy vacation destination even from the other side of the planet!
√ Sacred Monkey Forest
√ Yoga/Meditation/Spiritual healing
√ Spaaaaaa!! There are gazillion affordable spas to be found all over Ubud (or throughout Bali, for that matter). If you feel like spoiling yourself, head over to Maya Ubud for a treatment of a lifetime in the middle of the jungle, as you listen to the water flowing down the river just below. Years later, I still dream about my Balinese massage in this beautiful spa.
Starting at ~$100
These gorgeous villas are perfectly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Ubud Center, and is a perfect location to unwind from a full day of shopping, or playing with the monkeys.
From the clean, minimalist interior decor to the infinity pool overlooking the beautiful rice fields, this property will keep you coming back for more. Guaranteed.
Where to go in Bali
Day 10-11: Nusa Penida
- Every photographer’s dream for dramatic cliff views
- The least populated island of the Nusa trio
- Remote, off the beaten path island destination
- Nature lover’s heaven
- The main island of the 3 Nusa islands off Bali
Getting Around Nusa Penida
From Ubud, you can either 1) arrange your own car service to Sanur and ask the driver to drop you off at the Ferry Terminal in Sanur, or on Jalan Hang Tuah; 2) book a fast-boat ahead, that offers a pick-up service in Ubud.
There are several companies that offer a direct ride from Sanur to Penida:
Maruti leaves at 07:30; 08:30; 10:00 and 16:00
~about Rp300,000/one way.
Mola-Mola leaves at 07:30 and 16:30
~about Rp250,000/one way
Caspla leaves at 07:45 and 16:30
~about Rp300,000 one way
While Penida is the biggest of the Nusa islands, it is the most undeveloped. The roads are unpaved and narrow. Unless you an experienced driver, I do not recommend that you attempt your first motorbike experience on this island. There are day trips offered by private operators – check with your hotel for best options to get around and see this breathtaking island.
Day trips can cost Rp650,000-900,000/car depending on where you are going – so if you can find fellow travelers to split the cost with you, that would be ideal. Otherwise a motorbike rentals can cost about Rp70,000/day with a full tank of gas.
As Penida is still relatively undeveloped, there are no fancy restaurants or western options (at least not good ones). The warungs are sparse and are mostly scattered across the northern strip of the island.
Considering the poor infrastructure of this island and how long it takes to get around, you will likely eat most of your meals at your hotel. I would also suggest that you pack snacks on your way into Penida 😉
Things to Do in Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida Accomodations
~$8 (dorm with breakfast)
~$30 (private room with breakfast)
There are only a few dormitories on this remote island, and Apit is probably the best, with comfortable single beds spread across the floor (no bunks!) and a nice refreshing pool.
Great opportunities to meet fellow travelers 🙂
Starting ~$35 with breakfast
The 6 newly constructed cottages are clean, spacious and modern. You can get a beautiful view of the neighboring islands and the ocean from the property.
Conveniently located close to the port as well as popular spots like Kelingking or Angels Billabong.
Starting ~$75 with breakfast
This gorgeous resort has an infinity pool that faces directly at Mount Agung, which is breathtaking on a clear day!
Don’t forget to take advantage of their happy hour at sunset too 🙂
Where to go in Bali
Day 12-14: Nusa Lembongan
- Cliffside villas with panoramic views of the ocean and Mount Agung; affordable beachfront hotels
- Water activities (jet ski, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, SUP)
- A dreamy beach getaway
- Fresh catch-of-the-day
- Epic sunset
- Access to Nusa Ceningan
Getting Around Nusa Lembongan
At the Penida port, you can either take a public boat (~Rp50,000) or charter a boat (~Rp300,000) to Nusa Lembongan. Note that the public boat leaves when the boat is full – it does not run a schedule.
Once on the island, the easiest and best way to explore Lembongan and Ceningan is to hire a scooter for about Rp70,000/day. The roads in Lembongan are much better than Penida, but some roads in Ceningan can still be narrow and unpaved – so use caution!
If you are uncomfortable driving a scooter, stay close to Jungutbatu area where popular restaurants, bars, and dive shops are lined up along the beach and accessible by foot.
Located on the northern coastline, Bambu has an extensive menu of local cuisine, with amazingly fresh seafood! Try one of their grilled fish with “sambal matah.” You will drool at the thought of it for days to come.
For fresh smoothies, breakfast bowls or a little caffeine kick in the afternoon, head over to Bali Eco Deli! Everything on their menu is fresh and delish. If that isn’t enough to get you there, the cafe also offers water refills for a small fee. So take your reusable water bottle and contribute to their conservation efforts!
Things to Do on Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan Accommodations
For less than ~$15/night, you can get a clean, comfortable, private bungalow with an ensuite bathroom, including breakfast! And it comes a resort pool….can we say a steal!
I haven’t found a better value for the money than Nyoman’s.
Starting ~$50 with breakfast
These cute little huts are not only spacious and clean but just a walking distance from the Dream Beach and Devil’s Tear. There are only 5 huts, so you can enjoy a peaceful time relaxing by the pool.
Did I mention their awesome outdoor shower!?
Starting at ~$150 with breakfast
Situated on the cliffs overlooking the coastline, this stunning resort offers everything in-house from restaurant/bar to a fitness center. With an infinity pool facing the magnificent Mt. Agung, you will find it very hard to leave this resort.
Don’t have enough time?
You can tour the Nusa highlights in this one-day tour starting from the mainland, and squeeze in some time to snorkel too!
Wrapping up the Island of the Gods
I hope this post gave you some inspirations for where to go in Bali and offered helpful tips and resources for planning your 2-week Bali itinerary.
Whether you are traveling to Bali for the first time or revisiting the Island of the Gods, there are so many places to go in Bali that it’s unlikely you will run out of things to do or see.
As an expat who has been living in Bali for several years, I do not recommend destinations like Kuta, Legian or Seminyak. These towns are main tourist traps and will likely ruin your time in Bali.
But if you have enjoyed your time in Bali, I would love to hear your comments below!
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