“Promise yourself that one day you will wake up in Bali.”
Some people, like myself, only spend a few days in Bali before they take flight to explore mainland southeast Asia. And others end up spending weeks, even months, exploring the island. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, there are a few things to do in Bali that you cannot miss.
I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Benoba area of Bali in 2018, my first time in southeast Asia. I was so nervous about traveling to the other side of the world and learning a whole new culture.
Looking back on that trip, I now recommend it to every type of traveler looking to travel to Asia. Solo travelers, couples, and families will all fall in love with this island because there’s incredible adventures waiting for everyone.
About Bali and its Culture
Before we get into the best things to do in Bali, let’s talk about what makes this island such a treasure.
Bali is an island in Indonesia and is known as an island of a thousand temples. More than 90% of its people are Hindus making Hinduism it’s largest religion. The local language is Indonesian and English is not widely spoken.
Most importantly, the people of Bali are some of the kindest I have met while traveling. Expect to see plenty of smiles. I advise you to learn the proper etiquette and manners before arriving!
It’s also important to point out that in Indonesia, getting caught with drugs can result in a life sentence in prison or death. With that being said, just like any tourist areas in SE Asia, you can expect your fair share of scams (though not as bad as Thailand!).
Where to Stay in Bali
There are three main areas for tourists and travelers to stay on the island. All of which are located on a southern peninsular called Denpasar.
You could stay in one of these towns and easily visit the other two. I will note that Bali traffic is a nightmare, I’m not sure why but it usually takes upwards of 30-45 minutes to travel even just a few miles.
- Ubud: The cultural region located in heart of the island. Great for digital nomad, explorers, and backpackers.
- Benoba: Quiet resort area on the coast that’s popular with families and couples.
- Kuta: One of Bali’s most popular beaches, good for tourists and those looking for a fun night scene and beautiful beaches.
7 of the Best Things to do in Bali
From the beachfront parties in Kuta, to the monkey forest of Ubud, Bali is a beautiful island that pleases all types of travelers. Whether you want to chase down the best local food (satay and suckling pig) or you’d rather lay in the sand under a luxurious cabana, here’s all the best things to do in Bali.
1. White Water Rafting
You might not see Bali as an adventurous type of vacation at first, but the island has plenty of things to do for thrill seekers and water sports fans. One of the best things to do in Bali is a rafting tour.
And the best time to do it is between November and March during the wet season. However, keep in mind that the wet season can cause some rivers to rise and become quite dangerous.
There are three main white water rivers in Bali:
- Ayung River in Ubud (we did this one!) is a 10 kilometer route that takes 1.5-2 hours, with Class II rapids it’s perfect for beginners.
- Telaga Waja River in Karangasem has a length of 16 kilometers and you’ll need 2.5 hours to finish the route with Class II-IV rapids.
- Melangit River in Klungkung has Class III-IV rapids and rafting the 7.5 kilometers will take 1.5 hours from start to finish. This is the more advance route. Also, important to note that getting out here is a long drive from where most travelers stay in Bali.
2. Play with the Inhabitants of Monkey Forest of Sangeh
In Ubud, there is a forest filled with roughly 700 playful monkeys and the ruins of a 17th century temple. Getting to the forest is easy, and you won’t have to pay for entrance.
These monkeys are very mischievous and have known to be aggressive pickpockets, so stay alert. We were also warned not to look them in the eyes or pet them. We followed those rules and had an awesome time letting the monkeys jump on our shoulders and backs!
However, watch out for locals that’ll take your photo and sell them to you before you leave. Don’t be so quick to write them off. The photos can be a cheap and goofy trinket to bring back home to your family!
Additionally there is the largest collection of the endangered Dipterocarpus hasseltii trees, which can grow to 40 meters in height! They provide a nice and cool shade for forest visitors.
3. Visit a Rice Terrace and Fly High in a Instagram-Approved Swing
There are plenty of rice terraces in Bali, but the one recommended most is in Tegallalang in Ubud. If you book any type of tour in Bali, you can count on your guide taking you to a rice terrace.
Many of these terraces have roadside stands selling durian and other local goods, along with swings and nests that provide a setup for an incredible Instagram shot. Most of the prices can be talked down.
4. Drink Craft Beer at Stark Craft Beer Garden
If you’re looking for craft beer, or some beer other than Bintang, head to Stark Beer in Kuta. This is Indonesia’s first craft brewery, and the only one craft beer being brewed in Bali. Their beer garden, which is only a few blocks from the beach, is cozy and casual, and an excellent choice for late-night eats.
Most nights they have live music at their Bali beer garden. But no matter when you go, you can guarantee on having a good choice of both Stark beer and other delicious craft brews.
5. Drink a Cup of the World’s Most Expensive Coffee
Kopi Luwak is one of the world’s most expensive coffees. Which is strange considering it’s brewed with beans that have been pooped out by a cat-like creature known as the civet. The civet eats the best ripe coffee cherries, pooping out partially digested coffee beans. The result is a cup o’joe that tastes less bitter than a normal coffee.
You can visit a coffee plantation to get beans straight from the source, or you can pick up a bag at the airport or other shops around the island. Do your research before visiting a coffee plantation and ensure it’s an ethical operation!
6. Party on at Kuta Beach
Some say Kuta is the best place in Bali, others say it’s the worst, just depends on your type of vacation. Kuta is one of the most popular beaches in Bali and has a bumping nightlife scene.
Other than the typical nightlife venues, Kuta is a mix of hotels with local guest houses with plenty of cafes and upscale dining options. While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the famous Kuta Beach for breathing taking ocean views.
7. Enjoy an Authentic Balinese Dinner
One of the best parts of traveling is falling in love with the local cuisine. Bali is a foodie heaven if you know what to look for. There are endless dining options ranging from quality coffee at cafes, authentic and cheap street food, and upscale dining with fresh seafood.
One way of experiencing all of Bali’s best food is with a traditional dinner, at a place like the Pasar Malam restaurant at Rumah Bali Bed and Breakfast. I 100% recommend attending a dinner here during a night where the culture of Bali is demonstrated through dance and music while you dine on the best cuisine.
Some of Bali’s best dishes:
- Babi Guling (suckling pig) Just like Texas BBQ, you’ll need to show up early if you plan on getting some of the island’s most famous local dish.
- Satay (marinated, skewered, and grilled meats.) Tiny sticks of grilled meat, normally served with peanut sauce on the side, occasionally it’s served on top.
- Bebek Betutu (slow cooked duck) – A ceremonial dish that is cooked for so long, you’ll have to order it a day in advance.
- Dozens of fruits you’ve never seen before like mangosteen, durian, rambutan (hairy lychees), and jackfruit.