The internet is littered with “complete Bali guides” that can be overwhelming and filled with hyped-up/overrated #insta spam and ranting narrative. So after over six months of claiming Bali as my home, I created my own – straightforward, unbiased guide to Canggu, Ubud, Uluwatu, Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan and the Gili islands. See below:
Description: Livable, edgy, Venice Beach vibes, excellent surf, young, fun crowd.
Where to stay: Anywhere around Deus Ex Machina if you want to be in it. (South of Jl. Raya Canggu, West of Jl. Raya Semat and East of Jl Padang Linjong.) There are so many beautiful, inexpensive villas such as Fella Villas, Villa Casa Luna, Villa Arunja, etc. Jonsen Homestay is the best cheap place if you want to go that route.
Where to Eat:
- Breakfast: Nalu Bowls, Crate, 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. Also a fun 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 and La Laguna (same owner and designer, cocktails and décor are unbeatable), Finns Beach Club, Mrs Sippy (in Seminyak)
What to do: Surf & party. If you’re going to spend a month or so in Bali, then I’d recommend spending time in Canggu for the lifestyle. I wouldn’t recommend stopping here if you’re only going to be in Bali for a couple of weeks. If you do end up in Canggu be sure to 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.
Description: Hippie-yoga-town, tons of Chinese tour buses, way too much traffic in the center but there’s a lot to do and beautiful places to stay outside the madness
Where to stay: The Udaya Resorts & Spa, Hanging Gardens of Bali, Alaya Resort Ubud, An Airbnb/Villa outside of town if you’re comfortable on a motorbike otherwise there are a ton of really nice, cheap Airbnbs that are still in town and walkable but set back with a view of a rice field.
Where to Eat: Waroeng Bernadette (Jackfruit Rendang to die for), Sari Organik, Sage (no alcohol), Clear Cafe, 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 absolutely 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!
- 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. Class is one on one with three courses. There are vegetarian, vegan options. I don’t know if this one offers meat.)
- Authentic experiences I really enjoyed while in Ubud: Wood carving class, jewellery making class and a 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.
- Cait and I did a day trip on a motorbike out to Pura Lempuyang: Only do this if you’re 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. This is probably the only temple I would recommend.
Description: Surfer’s paradise, rural. Everything here is spread out so I’d recommend a motorbike 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 insane surfers.
Where to stay: Biu Biu 2 on Airbnb (OMG you won’t want to leave the resort, just know that their staff is useless), Hidden Hills Villas, Blue Point Bay Villas (the 2 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.) Sal Secret Spot and The Temple Lodge are both great spots (neither will show up on any hotel booking sites like Hotels.com 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.) I’ve also stayed at Mamo Hotel, which is a nice little cheap spot.
What To Do: Go down to Greenbowl to watch surfing, Dreamland Beach, Bingin Beach.
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, great spot to get a Bintang and watch the sunset from the roof, just 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.
Description: Great scuba diving off the coast here, rural but not to the extent of the Gilis. You can get a quick boat ride here from Bali for cheap.
What to do: Easy place to walk around and motorbike great diving and snorkelling, kayak, SUP, there’s a surf break off the coast here too if you’re up for it. Dream Beach. There are a few places that do movies at night, like Jungut Batu Theatre Restaurant. They post the movie they’re playing every morning.
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.
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 really 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 great 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.
Description: I would personally make this a priority. It’s a dream. Best Gili (I don’t recommend Gili T- was a bit too backpacker, priority partiers, dirty and the food was pretty terrible.) The Gilis are a full-on island experience. Amazing. It just depends on how you want to spend the trip (and if your stomach can handle rough seas for long periods. I’ve gone a few times and have had good experiences and a nauseating experience. If you do go here make sure you get on a BIG boat because they cram those little boats with backpackers and you spend the entire 3-hour trip wondering if you’re going to live.) This island requires at least a 3-4 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 at least a few watermelon margs every day.) Scallywags Beach Club, Gili Bliss Gili Air (great coffee) We didn’t bother going to too many other places because these 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)