Complete Bali Travel Guide - Where to stay, eat, swim and shop!
This is my complete Bali Guide based on my recent travels there in November 2015! I've been to Bali four times now, it's not as many as some but I thought I'd share my favourite resorts/hotels, restaurants, cafes and places to explore! Hopefully, some of these places spark some wanderlust and encourage some exploring besides the typical tourist attractions. There are so many beautiful spots to see in Bali, here's my collection so far! (The order is Accommodation, Food and then Places to see)
Fairmont Resort, Sanur:
I stayed here for 4 days with my family, the resort was absolutely amazing. In relation to Kuta, it's the opposite side to the Island in Sanur. I've stayed in Sanur before and I love how it's so much quieter, I'm pretty much never hassled on the street, the beach is calm, the restaurants are amazing and they do good western food if you aren't into Indonesian food, plus you can see or catch a boat over to Nusa Lembongan on a good clear day. I haven't been there yet but I've heard it's great for snorkelling and scuba diving! While we stayed here we ate at Three Monkeys, super nice food and a good atmosphere - but when I was in Sanur last year for about a month, I ate at pretty much every restaurant and I think I can claim that they're all good! The resort had two restaurants, you can visit without staying there and sitting by the infinity pool looking over Sanur beach is perfect.
The resort also had a buggy car service so we didn't have to walk to our villa in the heat, even though we felt bad and walked anyway. Super nice stay, amazing rooms and really polite service 10/10 would stay here again.
Below: My room in the villa, also had a balcony overlooking our private pool!
Where to Stay in Bali: Akmani Hotel, Legian
We stayed at the Akmani Hotel on Legian Street for 10 nights and 11 days, it's central but a little quieter than we expected. I've stayed at The 101 Legian across the road and it was definitely a lot more relaxed at the Akmani. Every taxi driver knew where it was, the hotel offered us drivers too. The whole stay at the Akmani was so pleasant, we couldn't have picked a better place to stay (Except maybe a villa on the Gili Islands). We were central enough to walk for 5 seconds and have a choice of restaurants, a bunch of shops and it was only a 4 minute walk to Legian beach, so beautiful and alive with people (Both Balinese and tourists) at sunset. Our room looked over the lagoon pool in the centre of the hotel and we had access to the rooftop pool and swim up bar, along with buffet breakfast every morning. Room service was 24/7 and we made friends with a few of the staff because we stayed so long! It was so welcoming to spend our first overseas holiday at a hotel with friendly and helpful staff. Neither Reis or I knew all the ins and outs of Bali and they helped us out whenever they could. Plus it was nice having a whole bathroom separate from the bedroom, it was so spacious and roomier than I expected when I booked online. 9/10 would stay here again!
Below: Sunsets from the swim up bar
Below: View of the lagoon from our hotel balcony
It took us about 30-40 mins to get to Seminyak from Legian, not sure if it was because of traffic or not? We got here quite early at about 3 pm and found out they actually didn't serve meals until 6 pm, only small dishes. The small dishes were kinda expensive for what they were, and then the main meals at 6 pm were expensive anyway. They cost more than what we'd spend at a restaurant in Australia. We ordered quesadillas and a bunch of soft tacos until we filled up, the food was delicious there's no doubt about that. The drinks were pretty strong, especially the main drink 'Mexicola', so much tequila. The place was crazily decorated in the smallest pictures and the most vibrant paint, candles and artworks, so beautiful I could have stared at it all day. The atmosphere was good and it filled up pretty quickly around 7 pm, one of the waiters was nice enough to take our photo too!
La Plancha, Seminyak:
Loved this spot on the beach in Seminyak for dinner! It was one of the most northern 'beanbag on the beach' type of restaurant, we nearly got mixed up with the others as they all look so similar! Many of the other restaurants have live music performances but we just wanted to watch the sunset and drink strawberry daiquiri's. We were quite literally sitting on the sand in beanbags with a small wooden table and these beautiful umbrellas and lights over our heads. Theres a buzzer at your table and it called the waiters to you while you stay seated, sinking into your bean bag.
Sea Circus, Seminyak:
This was my favourite, I loved the menu and the fruit and the atmosphere, just everything. I did need to direct my driver here though so lucky I had a Balinese sim card to use the 3G network! I ordered two meals, the first one was a muesli bowl and the second was quesadilla! I didn't realise they would serve their lunch menu before midday but they did! We were there pretty early because this was our last day and we needed to check out and fly home in the afternoon. There was heaps of food to choose from and they were filling meals, I'm pretty sure the owners were sitting across from us doing business stuff but whatever they're doing, its right. It was super colourful and every table was unique, free wifi and comfy cushions everywhere too.
Single Fin Beach, Uluwatu:
We ate here after swimming at Suluban beach! We chose a seat on the closest bar overlooking the ocean and ordered tacos and pizzas because we were starving. Later after stuffing our faces and admiring the view we checked out the whole place and it's pretty huge! Sitting on the edge of the cliff it had a larger area a level down with booth-like seating and cushions, more bars across the front facing the water and another seating area underneath us. They were doing work on a level above us too so maybe that'll be open next time I'm there! I met some Aussies there and a lovely vegetarian woman who was there with her kids that are my age. super nice atmosphere, good food and I could never ever ever get sick of this view. I had to hold myself back from sprinting down the cliff track and jumping in the sea.
When hiring a driver you normally have to discuss a price, they won't really do a meter unless you're persistent! If you have a driver from the hotel they'll always start with an expensive price around $80, I payed around $50-$60 for a driver to take us to a few places over the course of the day. It's probably too much but I felt guilty as they sit in their cars or make friends while you enjoy your day. Originally we were looking at calling up a service we picked up a pamphlet for at the airport, their tours were $70 per person! It's definitely better value grabbing these pamphlets, choosing the things you want to see then asking a hotel driver to take you. It's also probably safer using a hotel driver as they're registered with the hotel you're staying at.
Places to explore:
This is right down the bottom of the island in the Uluwatu region I'm pretty sure? We had a taxi take us and he stayed the whole day, it would've been impossible to hail a taxi there as it wasn't super touristy. Most other cars in the carpark looked like hotel-hired vans so most people would have organised a driver, been on a tour or rode a scooter down to this beach - the same with Single Fin! The water was warm and there were boards to hire, stand up paddle boards are pretty fun and it's an easy place to try it. There were caves, reef and rocks everywhere, greenery all around us and some cheeky looking monkeys sitting on some rocks. We loved this beach but it's a little hard to explore the caves and watch your bags so make sure someone stays with them or take them with you! Also probably pack food, unless you like street food and coconuts! North along the beach theres mostly cliff and then it opens up to sand, I'm not sure what this beach was but it looked less busy than Suluban.
Jungle Fish, Ubud:
A reader suggested I visit this place, it's fairly new and completely out in the middle of nowhere in Ubud. We had to get a driver to take us here too, our first driver had no idea so he changed us over into his mates taxi, and I still needed to give some directions with Google Maps. It's definitely handy to get a sim card set up if you can, most of the tour guide stalls sell them on the street, they can set them up and you can top up your data in the Circle K, I bought 4GB for $4 AUD I'm pretty sure!
When we arrived we had to pay 150,000 rupiah each (around $15 AUD), though it was all redeemable on food! I thought this was pretty fair considering we weren't staying in the resort, we were just there for the pool and the food. On the way down to the pool we passed a restaurant with a balcony serving full sized meals, and the area below contained the pool, bar and they served small snacks. It wasn't busy at all while we were there, probably because it wasn't a very sunny day, but it was still humid and the sky was mostly overcast. We swam for ages and admired the view of the jungle in the valley below with a river at the very bottom. Squirrels were jumping around and we swear we saw a monkey but the staff said it was too far up for them. We met a Canadian lady here and we could hear other Canadians at the tables around us. After our swim we headed back up to the restaurant and ate delicious pasta meals made to order, the staff here were super friendly too!
Mount Batur, Kintamani:
Mount Batur is around a 2.5 hour drive from Legian, we hired a hotel driver to take us there and it rained almost the entire drive. The view is supposed to be amazing and the lake in front of the mountain was made by a crater. We got to see a lot of the villages during our drive and it was interesting and crazy to see how differently the Balinese live to us in Australia.
We arrived at a (horrible) buffet with a viewing balcony of the "mountain and crater lake view", except there was absolutely no mountain and no lake in sight. I nearly cried, I was so exhausted by this day and frustrated that I picked such a crappy day to see the mountain! The pictures below are all we could see, it looked like a huge white piece of paper had been put in front of my eyes. The mountain we were viewing Mount Batur from was 700 meters high itself, so we were inside of a cloud! Don't go to Mount Batur on a rainy day!
Tegenungan Waterfall, Ubud:
After Mount Batur we headed to Tegenungan waterfall back in Ubud we had to pay something like $2 each to pay for our driver to park and to go into the waterfall area. The waterfall was going absolutely insane after the rain and there were quite a few people there. Our driver waited again for us and we walked down the falls. The water was freezing and fresh, but almost like an adrenaline rush swimming under the waterfall. It felt like a bad strong massage but it was somehow fun? Reis and I swam around and under the falls until we were freezing cold. Afterwards we wandered up to the higher part of the falls and felt like super tourists. This was one of the best things we did.