The first time I went to Bali, I was 21 and freshly graduated (literally… I flew the day after the rather hungover ceremony). Travelling with a group of 6 of my best friends we had an undoubtedly brilliant time… but I just didn’t get it. Having partied away on the beach every night in Thailand previously, I couldn’t really see the appeal of the ‘chill by the beach with a beer’ vibe that Bali had going on.
Fast forward 6 years (time is flying!), and I had the urge to go back. I’d changed, but so it seemed had Bali and this time we were totally on the same wavelength. I fell in love, promised to move there one day and had the best time.
A paradise of chilled out vibes, sunset cocktails, spiritual retreats, amazing food and yes parties if you want one, I just know you’ll fall in love with Bali just as much as I did….
Heads up- this is an extensive guide. I’ll be creating individual ones soon too… promise!
Getting there & getting around once you’re there
Fly into Kuta and then it’s cars (and boats) from then on. Uber does work, but it’s touch and go if they will pick you up. It was particularly bad around the airport and Ubud, as they have no pick up zones. It often ends up easier to barter with a local driver in all honesty.
Seminyak is a great place to start your trip. Close to the airport, it has a good mix of places to eat and drink, and will get your trip to Bali off to a flying start.
Hostel: stay at the Capsule Hotel Seminyak. With a sociable bar area and in a good location, you’ll soon be hanging with new friends by their pool.
Luxury: book in at the W. Right on the beach, it’s the perfect spot for day time tanning and evening cocktails.
Air BnB: If you’re heading to Bali on a romantic trip, this romantic luxury escape is a must. For lower budgets, check out this adorable B&B and if you fancy something a little more unusual, how about staying in a bubble? (I kid you not)
Seminyak has so much to offer when it comes to food! From fresh fish to vegan delights you won’t get bored…
Like a lot of Bali, Seminyak is a vegan/vegetarian paradise. Kynd Community is famous for its ‘Bali’ bowls but you seriously can’t order wrong in this place. It’s vegan food so good the meat eaters won’t even notice what’s missing.
Earth Cafe boasts one of the most wide ranging plant based menus I have ever seen. Whatever the craving, they got you covered. Cafe Organic- Garden Gangstas provides fresh and delicious food accompanied by equally fresh and delicious juices. And Nalu? THE. BEST. SMOOTHIE. BOWL. EVER. I have no more to say. Located just above Nalu, Shelter is a great option for meat and non meat eaters. It’s another one of those places where it is hard to order wrong, in a cool creative hangout. For the fish lovers, Sea Circus is a must. In a cool beachside hut style restaurant, the tacos are mega yummy (and there are pulled jackfruit ones for the vegan eaters too). For a bit of luxury, head for dinner at Ku De Ta. Start your evening there before sunset, for a few pre dinner drinks to take in the epic view.
Do & Drink
As a beach side town, a lot of enjoying Seminyak involves relaxing beach side with, if you’re anything like me, a book and a coconut. For a few day time cocktails however, Mrs Sippy is great fun, and the salt water pool means you can take a dip without risking the waves. It’s also a great spot for people watching as you can watch people attempt the diving board. Honestly- hours of amusement.
One of my favourite beach side bars however has to be Potato Head. It’s the perfect spot for some food and some cocktails and it’s right on the beach front. The beds are reserved, but there are some great spots on the bean bags which are free to relax on. Make sure to stay until sunset for an epic sundowner. If you fancy getting away from the crowds, walk down the beach and find one of the more secluded beach bars. We found a fab one with bean bags and fresh coconuts where we spent the day just reading and relaxing.
Also down the beach you can find a surf lesson at one of the many surf schools.For night time fun, Motel Mexicola is a fab spot for Mexican food and a dance. We went at halloween and the party can only be described as epic. Fancy marking your trip with a permanent reminder? Seminyak is also home to the incredible Artful Ink, with some amazingly talented artists on hand.
Hands down my favourite spot in Bali. This spot of paradise gets the perfect balance between laid back and fun, with its boho vibes and the coolest hangouts. When (not if) I move to Bali, this will be the place I stay.
Hostel: You can’t get better than The Farm hostel. Clean and stylish, it really does go one step further than the rest.
Hotels: For the lower end of the budget, FRii is amazing. With rooms where you can literally step out into the pool, this hotel is also in the perfect location to explore Canggu.
For something a little more luxury, the beachside Haven Suites is the place to go- a spot of paradise but still close to the action.
Air BnB: For the most Instagram worthy stay, in the lower/mid range budget, book into this gorgeous beach front property. All the boho vibes.
Another mecca for insanely good food, Canggu won’t let you down.
I have to start with The Shady Shack. This vegetarian/vegan gaf is a MUST. I don’t know where to begin with how good the food is, but I kept going back and never managed to find a dish less than extraordinary. Just trust me on this one. For breakfast, it has to be Crate Cafe. Don’t let the stripped back decor fool you- the food is utterly brilliant.
If you’re missing your Nalu bowls, there is a Nalu here too, which also serves the most amazing lunch time dishes from next door (the pad thai and the vegetarian burger are a must). Slightly out of town, but worth the scooter ride, is Peloton Supershop – a vegan menu that will have you wondering why you ever needed to eat meat. If you do like your meat and fish however, Gypsy is a fab spot to eat, with its gorgeous boho vibes and delicious creations.
Do & Drink
Close to Seminyak, Canggu is a great place to hire a scooter so you can dip and dive between places and also have a good explore. Again, Canggu is a brilliant spot for a sundowner. Head to the famous Finns to soak up the party atmosphere from the early afternoon and stay until sunset. Alternatively, head for the gorgeous boho vibes at The Lawn. One of my favourite spots however is La Brisa. A place you can stay literally all day, looking out to the sea, sipping a coconut, reading a book and taking in the atmosphere.
If you’re looking for some real chill out, head to yoga at The Practice. An honestly beautiful space, I had some of the most incredible classes there, including a yin class with live singing. Much more than just a yoga class, this takes wellness to the next level. Finish your self love session with a manicure at Maria Curau– the most stylish nail art there is going, all done with a glass of kombucha. They even give you an adorable headband to take away with you after.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to get a spot of work done, head to Dojo, the co-working space with a pool. You will never see your office back home with the same eyes again. Canggu is also an amazing place for a spot of shopping. Don’t miss Les Basics, my favourite shop!
Seen as the spiritual centre of Bali, Ubud has so much more to offer than just temples and yoga. A centre of many activities, Ubud is a great place to break up beach relaxing, with some cultural excursions.
Hostel/ Hotel: Well, actually a homestay- Kubu Taman is the most wonderful place to stay, with private rooms. Never have I ever felt more welcome than here. We were constantly looked after, treated to ginger tea and cake and had the most wonderful breakfasts… (The nasi goreng is fab. Yes, rice for breakfast, I went there). It also feels like a more authentic experience, staying within the family compound.
On the more luxury side of things, you won’t see anything quite as breath taking as the Four Seasons in Ubud, with its magical walkway above the forest. The facilities are next level, even offering aerial yoga.
Air BnB: Ubud really knocks it out the park when it comes to Air BnB offerings. From open bamboo houses, to an artists residency. We booked via the great villa roulette and we totally lucked out. Multiple swimming pools, a space to do yoga and this epic bathtub view….
There’s a big focus on vegan food and wellness in general in Ubud, which means it has some excellent places to eat. We started a tradition when we were staying there to go to Seeds of Life for raw cake every evening after we finished work. It’s a lovely hippy cafe with plenty of offerings. A gorgeous spot for during the day is Clear Cafe. I like the places to eat on the floor, watching the coy carp whilst tucking into the tasty delights it has to offer (don’t worry, they do also offer chairs and tables). Continuing the Instagram worthy theme, Lazy Cats Cafe is a great place to not only eat, but hang out (and take a few photos). For a spot of fine dining (and for the meat eaters), Bridges matches its gorgeous setting with gorgeous food. Describing itself as ‘gourmet vegetarian cuisine’, Kismet is a brilliant place for day and night time feasting (and a spot of scrabble whilst you drink a spicy margarita of course).
Last but by no means last on the list is Alchemy– a wonderfully relaxing spot for delicious raw food.
There is so much to do in Ubud that you won’t be bored for a moment. No trip is complete without a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Get up close and personal with the monkeys but just remember not to wear anything that attracts them to grab and play with!
Spend a day learning how to cook all the delicious food you’ve been eating by taking a traditional cooking class. If you fancy getting active, the bike tour shows you the more traditional side of Balinese life. I took one 6 years ago which was brilliant and gave us a true insight into family life. Sadly the one I took this time round wasn’t quite as authentic, so shop around for a good one would be my tip. Regardless of if you take a bike tour, you have to go and see the rice paddies– the traditional image you see when you think of Ubud. One of the best ways to get here without a tour is just to hire a scooter and have a good drive around- it was one of the best things we did (also because there’s lots of incredible shops en route!). For some more Instagram worthy shots, head to the Bali swing. Just a heads up- it’s fairly expensive and not nearly as picturesque as the final photos would have you believe.
And if you need some down time after all this exploring, spend an afternoon at The Yoga Barn, taking a relaxing class before tucking into some delicious food in the gorgeous surroundings.
The Gili Islands
Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T) is the place to go if you like to party. Small and good for diving, explore the island by cycling around and even if you don’t dive, make sure to go snorkelling with the turtles. For food, head to the night market for cheap local tasty eats. If you’re looking for something good value, look to stay at Manta Dive. For something more unique, how about a stay in a treehouse?
Gili Meno is the smallest island with the most picture perfect white beaches. A total sanctuary, this is the place to go if you really want to switch off from the hustle of day to day life. For the most stylist stay, head to Pulau Cinta. For the ultimate beach experience, stay in this gorgeous little beach house. And if you’re planning on fully immersing yourself in the relaxation element, this yoga retreat is amazing value.
Gili Air is a mix of Gili T and Gili Meno and embodies the hippy island lifestyle you might imagine. Great if you want to chill out but get bored easily, with lots of activities on offer including paddle boarding and snorkelling. You can’t beat Captain Coconuts when it comes to value (whilst also being a gorgeous beach side place to stay). For yummy vegan food, eat at Pachamama.
Famous for its dolphins, Lovinia is a lovely little town which makes the perfect base for snorkelling, diving, waterfall treks or of course dolphin watching. For a stylish stay without breaking the bank, try this boutique hotel. If it’s more of a view you’re after, you can’t beat the Sing Sing resort. Restaurant wise, check out the Secret Garden for Indonesian (and international) food, and AKAR for Vegan eats.
A gorgeous secluded black beach, this is a lovely hideaway and makes a great stop off on your trip. Relatively speaking, there aren’t many places to stay, but the mid range priced Pondok is popular or alternatively head to the stylish Balian Villa. For food, head to Tekor or Tom’s Garden Cafe.
A beautiful beach, with a couple of very simple restaurants in huts lining it. Very popular with surfers, it’s also a great place to kick back for the day and watch the sunset. For cheap and simple (but the most epic view), pick this ocean view homestay. Or for somewhere more unique, try this delicious bungalow. If you fancy a somewhere a little more swanky than a hut for your sundowners, head to Rock Bar. With a dramatic cliff side view, you won’t be disappointed.
Okay, so now I’m the ripe old age of 27, my advice would be not to bother going to Kuta. It’s basically the Australian Magaluf (Aussies- I don’t need to explain this to you as I’m sure you know exactly what Kuta is like…). This would however be denying my 21 year old self of the wild nights out we had there. So here goes…
Hostel: If you want to be in the thick of the action, essentially you need to stay on one of the Poppies roads. For a social experience without risking bed bugs, stay in Pudak Sari Unizou Hostel.
Hotel: One of the great things about Kuta is that there are some great value hotels. Try the Royal Singosari Kuta or The Bene for a comfortable stay without breaking the bank. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, book into The Hard Rock hotel, for a pool with its own island and next level facilities, or the Sheraton for a dose of style (and calm).
When you’re not (attempting) to surf in the day, Kuta is all about the night life. Watch the sunset with drinks on the beach then head to two of the best spots- Bountyand the Sky Garden Rooftop Lounge. Let the debauchery begin.