Centuries-old temples, jungle-shrouded retreats, sunset cocktails at every turn: after two years of Coronavirus closures, Bali’s unique mix of surf and spirituality remains as appealing as ever. From essential sights to up-and-coming hotspots and hidden gems, here’s how to spend a heavenly week on Indonesia’s Island of the Gods.
Head straight to Canggu, a coastal community 10 kilometres north of Kuta and a 60-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport. Once a sleepy surf spot, the stretch is now a magnet for trendy globetrotters, buzzing with clean-living cafés and cool boutiques.
Check in at COMO Uma Canggu, a high-gloss resort with 52 rooms and suites, 55 one- and two-bedroom residences and 12 three-bedroom penthouses, each with an extraordinary arched awning that frames a private infinity pool. The vibe here is laid-back luxury, all blond timber-and-beige décor, lush landscaping and gorgeous pools that attract families and honeymooners alike.
Spend the afternoon strolling nearby Batu Bolong Beach – the area’s busiest – or simply settle into a suspended daybed by the pool at COMO Beach Club. Once you’re ready for a bite, the surf shack-inspired restaurant serves up salads, curries and wood-fired seafood.
After breakfast at the Beach Club – try a tropical fruit smoothie bowl or the quinoa with mushrooms and poached eggs – it’s time to hit the waves. The hotel’s surf school, run by Tropicsurf, offers everything from beginner lessons to eight-hour guided ‘surfaris’ of the island’s world-famous breaks.
Stop for a well-earned snack at Glow (re-opening June 2022), the healthy café in the gleaming all-white lobby, and then set out to explore the shops in Canggu. Highlights include boho-chic dresses at Cove Island Essentials and Deus Bali, where you can peruse surfboards and motorcycles while sipping a coffee or craft beer. Stick around for dinner at Ulekan, a contemporary take on the traditional warung roadside café renowned for Indonesian classics like bakmi noodles topped with bok choy, bean sprouts and crispy duck.
Rise early for the hour-long drive to Uluwatu, on the island’s southern tip. Here you’ll find Uluwatu Temple, an 11th-century cultural treasure perched on a 70-metre-high cliff face, as well as hidden beaches such as Nyang Nyang – well worth the half-hour trek down to the white sand. There are also plenty of ultra-luxe stays in the area like Alila Villas, where visitors can enjoy a lobster brunch and afternoon by the spectacular 50-metre infinity pool.
Swing by Seminyak on your way back to Canggu. New age types will love Sanctuary, the new wellness hub from Potato Head that hosts sound-healing workshops, breathwork sessions and ice bath therapy. Cocktails more your style? Opened in 2021, Mania is accessed via a secret door and specialises in playful drinks like the Train to Bali – wasabi-orange vodka, yuzu and earl grey tea topped with ginger foam. Dinner is the ever-changing six-course set menu at FED by Made (open weekends only, run by a collective of young Bali-born chefs.
Make the most of your last morning at COMO Uma Canggu with a complimentary pilates class (there’s also a well-equipped gym and two yoga studios on-site) and a visit to the sea temples at Tanah Lot.
Check out and jump in a 50-minute taxi or Grab to Amandari, your ultra-exclusive home for the next three nights. About 10 minutes from the centre of Ubud, the resort’s open-air architecture blends seamlessly with the surrounding jungle. Choose between thatched-roof suites – even the most basic has a private garden courtyard and sunken marble bathtub – or splash out on the three-bedroom villa, a five-pavilion compound with a two-tier infinity pool. The afternoon is all about strolling the winding pebble pathways, designed to resemble a traditional Balinese village, and sipping a sundowner overlooking the Ayung River Valley. Nestled above the treetops, the farm-to-table restaurant dishes up excellent Indonesian and Western fare. Don’t skip the pisang goreng – fried banana, salted palm sugar caramel and coconut ice cream.
Begin at the bustling Tegallalang Market. Stroll the stalls packed with fresh produce, coffee and trinkets or book a guided tour with Bali Farm Cooking School. Run by a cooperative of local farmers, a half-day itinerary includes harvesting organic ingredients from the school’s fields and a hands-on lesson before tucking into the feast you’ve cooked up.
Spend the afternoon at the Puri Lukisan Museum, home to an extensive collection of traditional and modern Balinese art, as well as cultural workshops such as batik, wood carving and classical Indonesian painting. Dinner is the seasonal tasting menu at fine diner Locavore, named one of Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants in 2020.
There are plenty of bike tour providers in Ubud (Bali Go Bike is a standout), but it’s hard to beat Amandari’s offerings. Take the two-hour route to Monkey Forest or tackle the 13.5-kilometre ride starting at the base of Mt Batukaru (Bali’s second-highest mountain), passing the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jatiluwih rice terraces and culminating with a gourmet brunch.
Soothe your tired muscles back at the hotel – surrounded by lotus ponds, the spa, sauna and steam room are about as peaceful as it gets. Sign up for a traditional treatment like Mandi Lulur, a wedding day ritual practised by Javanese royalty that involves a massage, body wrap and a coconut milk and lavender bath.
Nab a dinner reservation at fêted Room 4 Dessert in Ubud (there’s both sweet and savoury on the menu) or book Amandari’s private dining balé, where a performance by traditional Panyembrama dancers and a Balinese feast awaits.
Head back to the hotel for a final blissful few hours by the pool before your 90-minute transfer to the airport.
SEE ALSO: The 15 Most Luxurious Resorts in Bali