Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was updated December 8, 2020.
While international travel is still out of reach for many, it’s never too soon to dream, and what better place to dream about than Bali. The Indonesian island is a spectacular addition to any bucket list, which is why we’ve partnered with travel expert Erin Bender of Explore With Erin, who has taken 14 trips to Bali in the last decade. Here, she shares her years of knowledge to make sure you don’t miss a thing once you finally get the chance to visit to this tropical paradise. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure each attraction has re-opened before you set out.
At times, Bali can feel like a tourist jungle, with fun and exciting attractions that are easy to get lost in. But the lesser known places are just as enthralling and even more worth while once you discover them! The following list is a collection of my 20 all-time favorite things you must do in Bali, from essential must-see spots to lesser known attractions.
1. Take a cooking class
Whether you are taking part of a hotel class or seeking out an individual lesson, cooking in Bali is delectable. From fried bananas to nasi goreng, there is not much that can go wrong with Balinese food.
2. Watch the sunset at Tanah Lot
This magical temple seemingly floats on the sea. It’s a beautiful photo opportunity, but don’t get too close… They say it’s filled with snakes!
3. Ride the Climax at Waterbom Park
This is one of the best waterparks in the world and my personal favorite. The property is a lush, tropical paradise which means climbing all those stairs is not as painful compared to the many concrete jungle water parks you typically see.
4. Stay in the perfect hotel
The ultimate vacation isn’t complete without the perfect hotel! Whether you’re traveling with or without the kiddos, you can find a huge range of fantastic hotels for your getaway in Bali. One property that is great for both families and couples alike is Meliá Bali, a five-star oceanfront property. Service is impeccable, the grounds are landscaped to make you feel like you’re smack in the middle of the jungle, and many guest rooms open right onto a twisty manmade lagoon which kids will love! (Learn more about this Roaming Gnome Top Pick!) The hotel offers numerous perks including multiple bars and restaurants, a sprawling pool and of course a fitness center and spa. Other great properties include Samabe, Sheraton Kuta, Holiday Inn or Bali Dream Resort in Ubud.
5. Attend an Ayurveda retreat
Interested to see what a doctor can do just by taking your pulse? Get your personalized spa treatments after seeing an Ayurveda doctor. At Sukhavati, you can stay for a day or spend a whole week working on your inner and outer well-being. This is a must-do in Bali!
6. Climb up to the Elephant Cave
You will have to climb a number of steps to find this gem, but Goa Gajan is home to an ancient temple and cave. (And afterwards, you can enjoy doing #17, but we’ll get to that later!)
7. Take a seat on the Bali Swing
Want an absolutely magical view you’ll never forget? Then make your way out to the Bali Swing for 20 minutes of adult fun overlooking the natural splendor or Bali.
8. Practice yoga in the ultimate yogi destination
If you haven’t watched Eat Pray Love, then you might not realize that Ubud is home to the ultimate yogi experience. Check out the Yoga Barn for experienced teachers in the most striking surroundings.
9. Try your hand at Quad biking
One of my favorite must-do activities in Bali is just outside of Ubud. You can jump on a four-wheel bike for a tour through local traditional villages, mud. patches, and thick jungle.
10. Don’t miss out on canyon tubing
The same tour operator as Bali Quad gives you a one-person inflatable tube and allows you to drift your way down the river. This is such a beautiful way to see Bali!
11. Go to the cinema
If the weather gets too much, consider watching a blockbuster at one of the new cinemas popping up around the island. My favorite is a raw vegan cinema in Ubud that has low couches to lounge on and shows children’s movies daily at 5pm.
12. Take a rice paddy walk
In Ubud, there are rice paddies as far as the eyes can see. A walk through them can be calming, energizing and a photographer’s dream.
13. Experience a volcano up close
Early riser? Well, it’s a bit of a climb, but if you can make it to the top for sunrise, you will be rewarded with amazing views.
14. Catch a Balinese dance
Whether you go for the full tourist performance by Devdan in Nusa Dua or if you opt for a local performance in Ubud, the beautiful art of Balinese dance is something you must see.
15. Get your hair braided
For roughly $15 you can have your hair fixed into hundreds of tiny braids. Not only does it help you avoid the humidity-induced frizz, it’s perfect for all-day swimming so you can spend less time worrying about what your hair looks like and more time enjoying your vacation in Bali!
16. Relax in a hot spring
Check out Lovina’s Banjar Hot Springs for a relaxing dip. Or if you are staying in Ubud, Hotel Tjampuhan has its own serene cave with hot springs.
17. Spoil yourself with a pedicure
You won’t have to walk far to find a $6 pedicure in Bali. And usually, you’ll find a foot massage thrown in to help those tired feet.
18. Enjoy a daily massage
Daily? At $8 and up, a daily massage is the perfect way to spend your vacation in Bali… and the most affordable! You’ll find anything from traditional Balinese to Thai to hair crème baths. Go ahead and indulge.
19. Dare to enter the Monkey Forest
If you are a monkey fan, then visit the famous Ubud monkey forest. But be aware that these monkeys are not shy. Keep backpacks sealed, avoid jewelry and stick near the staff.
20. Savor doing nothing
Finally, don’t forget to take some downtime just for you. There is so much to see and do that you will be tempted to run from one thing to the other, but don’t. Grab a Bintang, sit by the pool or beach, and let the soft call of the gecko lull you to sleep.
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