Bali is a fascinating, layered destination with a rich, melodic culture and plenty of natural offerings, including beaches, rainforests and mountains. From a little-known stay in the highlands to ethical wildlife viewing, here’s how to go beyond the classics and experience Bali as if it’s your first time.
If you love laid-back luxury...1/11
Seek out a boutique stay in a lesser-known village. Not far from Mount Agung, Sidemen in east Bali is feathered with green rice paddies and sparsely scattered with temples, warungs and textile workshops, all of which can be explored from Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa (above). Head to the highlands of Munduk to experience the novelty of a cooler climate and swim in one of the island’s best infinity pools at the eco-friendly Munduk Moding Plantation Nature Resort & Spa.
Image credit: Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa
If you love wildlife...2/11
Set out on a guided nature walk to view native birds and deer in West Bali National Park. Roughly a three-hour drive from Denpasar, the protected park comprises rainforests, dry savannas, lowland forests, mangroves and an offshore reef, and is home to the near-extinct white Bali starling and endangered Javan Langur monkey. Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa offers eco-forward stays in traditional Joglo villas within the sanctuary.
Image credit: Blue Corner Dive
If you love island getaways...3/11
Travel to the Nusa islands off the south-eastern coast of Bali. Accessible by fast speedboat, these islands offer everything from surfing to snorkelling. Dive among gliding manta rays at Manta Point or see giant Mola Mola fish with conservation-focused Blue Corner Dive on Nusa Penida. Kayak mangroves or surf Playgrounds break at Nusa Lembongan, then watch the fiery sky sizzle into the sea at sunset from easygoing Sandy Bay Beach Club.
Image credit: Adrenaline Rush
If you love adventure...4/11
Canyon down waterfalls with Adrenaline Rush Bali. This excellent tour operator has a series of options for different levels, including the Springs Canyon for beginners. Abseil waterfalls, wander a towering bamboo forest, zip-line through rocky cliffs and jump into brisk natural springs on this half-day experience near the village of Gitgit in North Bali.
Image credit: Sundara at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay
If you love seafood...5/11
Join an ocean-to-table fishing and cooking adventure with Sundara at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. Hop in a traditional jukung-style boat with a local fisherman at sunrise and cruise along the Uluwatu peninsula to fish for your lunch. After a tour of the Jimbaran Fish Market with the head chef of Jala Cooking Academy at the resort, you’ll prepare your fish Balinese-style.
Image credit: Alam Caldera
If you love nature...6/11
Glamp in the mountains of Kintamani and wake up to views of Mount Batur and Lake Batur. Alam Caldera Camp has a series of comfy tents, including cozy A-frame styles and more luxury options with freestanding bathtubs. They also serve tasty Indonesian fare and smoothie bowls for breakfast, but opt for the DIY BBQ package for the full cook-up.
If you love design...7/11
Dabble in some retail therapy and attend a design and interiors retreat with Bali Interiors. Hosted by Australian expat Sheila Man, this new retreat is a refreshing departure from the norm in Bali and allows guests to discover the best manufacturers and factories, learn how to make traditional handicrafts and dine at some of the island’s best spots with like-minded design lovers.
Image credit: Candi Beach Resort & Spa
If you love beaches...8/11
Make a day of it and travel to east Bali to hang out in Karangasem Regency’s secret beaches. Bias Tugel is a small bay with a white sand beach lined with a handful of beach shacks and warungs. Likewise, Pasir Putih (AKA Virgin Beach) is like going back 30 years in Bali, with sun-loungers for rent on the beach and cheap Bintangs and massages. If you want to stay in the area, Candi Beach Resort & Spa has beautiful landscaped gardens and inexpensive villas.
Image credit: Robin Canfield/Unsplash
If you love marine life...9/11
Book a turtle conservation experience with Seek Sophie, an online tour agency connecting travellers with tried-and-tested local experiences. Bali’s coastline is a nesting habitat for sea turtles and this three-hour experience with Bali Conservation Adventures invites you to learn about the conservation efforts, gain hands-on experience working with the turtles and participate in a baby turtle release during nesting season.
Image credit: Lulu Bistrot
If you love dining local...10/11
Support the young Balinese chefs behind the island’s hottest new restaurants. Tasting menu concept FED by Made in Seminyak is owned by a trio of young Bali-born-and-bred restaurateurs who studied in Melbourne and are now consulting to some of the island’s top eateries. Likewise, Lombok-born chef Ryan Thejasukmana trained in Sydney and advocates for sustainable seafood while heading up Bartolo in Uluwatu and Lulu Bistrot in Canggu.