canggu

Travel Guide: Bali, Indonesia

For every tanned, toned, bikini-clad influencer posing poolside at The Lawn on Instagram, there are about ten “Complete Bali Guides.” So, I’m glad you found your way through the noise and ended up here on mine! After spending more than six months in this heavenly oasis, I created my own straightforward, unbiased guide to Canggu, Ubud, Uluwatu, Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan, and the Gili islands – sans filters.

Canggu

A livable, edgy, adult playground with Venice Beach vibes, excellent surf, and a young, fun crowd.

Where to stay

If you want to be amongst the chaos and within proximity to the island’s best restaurants and surf, I’d recommend staying near Deus Ex Machina. (South of Jl. Raya Canggu, West of Jl. Raya Semat and East of Jl Padang Linjong.) The villas are incredible, and the homestays are cheap – here are my top picks:

  • Fella Villas
  • Villa Casa Luna
  • Villa Arunja
  • Jonsen Homestay – Nice, affordable, and centrally located.
Where to eat:
  • Breakfast: 

    • Nalu Bowls
    • Crate
    • Shady Shack
    • Quince Café
  • Lunch/Dinner: 

    • Peloton Supershop
    • Green Ginger
    • Gypsy
  • Dinner & Drinks:

    • Lacalita Bar Y Cocina (insane spicy marg)
    • The Lawn (sunset & live music)
    • La Brisa
    • Jl Restaurant Bale Sutra (most underrated dinner spot in Canggu, go up to the rooftop bar for cocktails and a view of the sunset)
    • The Slow (SQUID INK PASTA and a fab place for drinks at night.)
  • Cheap eats: 

    • Villa Warung
    • Oma Jamu (buffet style and like $2 for a full plate!)
  • Going out at night: 

    • Deus Ex Machina (Tuesdays if you buy a $2 taco you can get a free tattoo)
    • Pretty Poison
    • Old Man’s
    • Sand Bar
  • Day drink spots: 

    • La Brisa
    • La Laguna (same owner and designer, cocktails and décor are unbeatable)
    • Finns Beach Club
    • Mrs Sippy (in Seminyak)
What to do: 

Surf, party, the end. Take a surf lesson, have some corn on the cob on the beach, watch the sunset, listen to live music then enjoy a fab meal in town. This area has the BEST food and beginner surf.

*If you’re going to spend a month or so in Bali, then I’d recommend Canggu as your base for the lifestyle and livability. If you only have a week – I think there are more worthy places to visit on the island. 

Ubud

Hippies, yogis, Chinese tour buses and Eat, Pray, Love fans flock to Ubud for the peaceful jungle vibes and rumors that this is where you go to “find yourself.” Given its popularity – you can be sure to expect chaotic traffic, busy sidewalks, and tourist traps. I suggest exploring the surroundings and steering clear of the madness. 

Where to stay: 
  • The Udaya Resorts & Spa – Fancy
  • Hanging Gardens of Bali – Very Fancy
  • Alaya Resort Ubud – Moderately Fancy
  • Biyukukung Suites & Spa – a respectable $50 a night
  • Sarin Ubud Suite by Pramana – $70 a night and within walking distance
  • If you’re comfortable on a motorbike, want to relax by your villa pool, or don’t mind relying on taxis to get to town – I would highly recommend an Airbnb/Villa along the Campuhan Ridge. Some of these are ideally close, and within walking distance to town, without the madness.
Where to eat: 
  • Waroeng Bernadette (Jackfruit Rendang to die for)
  • Sari Organik
  • Sage (dry)
  • Clear Cafe (dry)
  • Alchemy
  • La Pacha Mama
  • Moksa
  • The Sayan House
  • Swept Away Restaurant Ubud
  • Warung Mina Ubud
  • Kismet
Going out: 
  • Jungle Fish (expensive by Bali standards but a great place to day drink and lounge)
  • No Mas Bar (Mexican, excellent cocktails.) 
  • There isn’t a huge “going out” scene here, but you can find things to do at night.
What to do: 

Ubud is all about yoga, but there’s so much more to do here.

  • Massages: 
    • Karsa Spa is out in the middle of the Campuhan Ridge, make reservations! 
    • If you’re getting a massage on a whim, Sang Spa 2 is lovely too.
  • Yoga
    • Yoga Barn: Mainstream
    • Yoga House: Alternative
  • Tegallalang Rice Terrace (touristy and out of the way but pretty.) I personally prefer Campuhan Ridge Walk.
  • Mountain Bike down the volcano! I highly recommend this if you’re looking for adventure. Our guide was great, and we saw all these fantastic hidden parts of Ubud, a coffee plantation, rice fields, etc.
  • Monkey Forest – Controversial
  • Cooking Class
    • Paon Bali – Entertaining, delicious food, the instructor is a joy, close to town, and only a couple hours long. Also one of the best meals I had in Bali and you meet a lot of people.
    • Balinese Farm Cooking – More of a full-day experience, you get picked up and driven out past Tegallalang Rice Terrace, learn about everything in the garden, pick your veggies. The class is one on one with three courses. There are vegetarian, vegan options.
  • Authentic experiences I really enjoyed while in Ubud: 
    • Wood carving class
    • Jewelry making class 
    • Batik class
    • I did these at WS studio and loved it because it’s in the middle of nowhere, and I was the only one, so I basically just spent the day with the Balinese family that owns it and talked and ate with them while doing arts and crafts.
  • Motorbike trip out to Pura Lempuyang: Only do this if you’re VERY comfortable on motorbikes because it is a HAUL! It’s a fantastic day trip, though, and I loved seeing the countryside and the festivities at the temple. Since it’s in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t many tourists here, which is nice. 

Uluwatu

This surfer’s paradise is rural, natural, and since everything is so spread out, it doesn’t feel too touristy. I’d recommend a motorbike here, or you can hire a car for an entire day to bring you everywhere you want to go. I wouldn’t recommend getting a one-way ride anywhere as it can be almost impossible to get a cab again (most destinations are pretty remote.) Or you can take time to chill at a resort and watch the surfers from the deck at Single Fin.

Where to stay: 
  • Biu Biu 2 on Airbnb – This place is pretty incredible, and if you stay here, you won’t want to leave the resort. Just know that their staff is useless and you’ll have a great time. 
  • Hidden Hills Villas
  • Blue Point Bay Villas – The two-story villas across the street from the main resort are the BEST and cheaper than the shitty rooms in front. Try to get these and decline when they try to “upgrade” you – it’s not an upgrade. 
  • Sal Secret Spot & The Temple Lodge – Neither of these will show up on any hotel booking sites, so go right to their websites to book. If you end up in this area, The Temple Lodge does fantastic food and a great massage (you don’t have to be a guest.) 
  • Mamo Hotel – Excellent if you’re on a budget. Close to the beaches and Single Fin.
What to do: 

Relax at the beaches or your resort, go down to Greenbowl, Dreamland Beach, and Bingin Beach to watch the surfers.

Where to Eat:
  • Food/Drinks: 

    • Rock Bar at Ayana Resort (expensive but a beautiful spot for sunset)
    • El Kabron Restaurant & Cliff Club
    • Single Fin on a Sunday (there’s a place next door that’s really cheap and a great spot to get a Bintang and watch the sunset from the roof. Be careful of the monkeys!) I could honestly spend a whole day here watching the surfers and drinking at Single Fin into the night.
  • Lunch: 

    • Cashew Tree
    • Outside Corner Organic Café
    • Suka Espresso
    • The Temple Lodge
    • The Poke Bowl place next to Single Fin is a great lunch spot.

Island Time!

Nusa Lembongan 

I imagine Nusa Lembongan being a smaller version of what Bali was like ten years ago. It’s rural and quiet with a small-town feel. The scuba diving right off the coast is excellent, just make sure you go with a good company. You can get here quickly enough from Bali by taking a boat from the port – it’s cheap, but not for those who get seasick easily.

What to do: 

It’s easy to walk around and motorbike here – I recommend doing both if you’re comfortable. If you’re not keen on diving, you can snorkel instead. There are mangroves for kayaking and SUP and a surf break off the coast. Dream Beach lives up to its name. There are a few places that do outdoor movies at night, like Jungut Batu Theatre Restaurant.

Where to eat: 
  • The Deck Café & Bar
  • Sandy Bay Beach Club
  • Maria’s Boemboe Bali Warung (a hole in the wall, dirty looking shack but the food was excellent and cheap) 
  • Bay Shore Huts is lovely for a sunset and a nice meal
Where to stay: 
  • Anywhere behind the Deck Café is a great spot. Batu Karang, Lembongan Island Beach Villas. 
  • The first time I went here, we stayed at Linda Beach Resort, which was honestly perfect. Very simple, nothing fancy, cheap, but it had an infinity pool, bike rentals and was walking distance to everything.
  • Dream Beach Huts are also lovely with a beautiful infinity pool but a bit out of it.

From Nusa Lembongan, you can also get to Nusa Ceningan via the Yellow Bridge. This island is SO cute and small.

Nusa Ceningan

Where to stay
  • Le Pirate Beach Club (an Instagrammer’s heaven) it’s not all that luxurious, the cabins are basic, but the grounds are beautiful. 
  • Le Pirate also has a boating experience on another island I’ve wanted to do that looks pretty fun. 
  • The Kubu221 Ceningan is right down the road and is pretty similar to Le Pirate. There’s less going on here, and it’s not as picture-worthy, but it’s a quarter of the price of Le Pirate, and the owner is the sweetest man ever, and it includes breakfast. 
  • Secret Point Huts are also lovely, but you don’t get that cerulean blue waterfront.
Where to eat: 
  • Sea Breeze Ceningan (went here like every day: great food, drinks, and you can rent SUP boards here)
  • Next Level
  • The Dungki Bendega Resto (it’s a trek to get here but so worth the trip.)
  • If you don’t end up staying at Le Pirate, then at least go for an espresso martini at sunset!
What to do: 
  • Surf, SUP, drink in infinity pools, zip line. 
  • Mahana Point is a must. There’s a little cliff there where you can enjoy a Bintang and watch the surfers. 
  • Driftwood Bar is a beautiful spot to hang and watch the waves break in a pool with a cocktail too. You can walk out to the point there for a beautiful view. 
  • Secret Beach at Nusa Ceningan is a lovely spot, as well. From here, you can also make a day trip over to Nusa Penida. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s a beautiful natural island.

Gili Air

Gili Air is by far the best island within boating proximity to Bali. It’s a dream! I found Gili T to be too backpackery, and filled with priority partiers. It was dirty, and the food was awful, so I do not recommend it. Regardless of the Gili you choose, make sure you get on a BIG boat because they cram those little boats with backpackers, and you spend the entire three-hour trip wondering if you’re going to live. This island requires at least a three to four-day stay. There aren’t any cars or motorbikes here, just bicycles and horse carriages on dirt roads. It’s tropical, dusty, dirty, and magnificent.

Where to stay: 

Mola2 Resort is a beauty. Great pool, centrally located but not TOO central. Breakfast buffet. It’s a short walk from where you get the ferry and the best restaurants.

Where to eat: 
  • Mowies
  • The Mexican Kitchen – You’ll need to sample at least a few watermelon margs here (every day.) 
  • Scallywags Beach Club
  • Gili Bliss Gili Air (great coffee) 
  • We didn’t bother going to too many other places because these few recommendations were SO good.
What to do: 
  • Swing in all the water swings and hammocks, drink, music on the beach, a bike ride around the island, dive/snorkel, take a boat tour, and get a massage at Harmony Spa (not the best massage I’ve ever had but decent and cheap.

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