Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has been traveling to Bali since the late 1990s – both with and without kids in tow. We asked him why he loves it, when to go, where to stay, and what to do.
How to Spend an Amazing Vacation in Bali!
Bali has always been a perfect vacation destination – an island with its own unique religion, Balinese Hinduism, where spirituality is constantly present and integrated with the island’s stunning interior and gorgeous beaches. It’s a destination for everyone. If you want adventure, it’s endless. Relaxation, absolutely. Personal growth and reflection? They’re what Bali is known for – even before a certain 2006 book significantly increased mindful tourism. And if you have kids, it’s remarkably family-friendly.
There are no direct flights from the US – which makes the island seem just a little more remote. But it’s easy to reach in one connection, via much of Asia (look at Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok), as well as a lot of Australia and even a few cities in Western Europe.
When to Go
Bali is warm year-round, but November through March is the rainy season. April, May, June and September are optimal – dry with fewer people and lower prices. July, August and the Christmas/New Year holidays see the most tourists. Tip: check the Australian school schedules. If Aussies are on holiday, Bali is busier.
Where to Stay
Most visitors split their time between Ubud, with its artsy vibe and rice fields, and the beach, spending a few days at each. I’ve been visiting for 20+ years and still do that every trip, virtually always starting in Ubud and ending at the ocean.
Nusa Dua, due south of Ubud, is a great beach option, and it’s not far from the airport when it’s finally time to leave. The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa, Dua, Bali – seen as a pit-stop prize on The Amazing Race – is the place to stay.
What to Do
Visit Ubud and the Monkey Forest
Ubud remains our favorite town on the island. We usually go into town for a few hours, eating lunch at one of the plentiful cafes, exploring the galleries and shops, and hitting a fish spa, where garra rufa fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. But the highlight is always the monkey forest. A few dollars gets you access to the forest with its wide paths, temples, and monkeys everywhere. Near each entrance you can buy bananas to feed to the monkeys. We always hide the bananas as soon as we get them, doling them out one at a time through the forest while making sure other monkeys don’t see the handouts. You don’t want monkeys coming after you!
Hike Around the Rice Fields
There are numerous places around Ubud to wander through terraced rice fields. Arrange for a driver through your hotel or jump in a taxi. Every driver knows where to go. It’s stunningly beautiful!
Visit the Temples
There are temples big and small throughout the island. More famous temples include spectacular Uluwatu, only 40 minutes west of The Laguna, and Tanah Lot, an hour north. They both have amazing sunset views. Be aware that shorts aren’t allowed. There are usually sarongs near the entrances for both men and women to borrow, but it doesn’t hurt to purchase your own batik sarong and keep it with you throughout your stay.
Relax at the Beach
You’re on a tropical island. Relax! Nusa Dua’s beaches are gorgeous, and the private white-golden sand beach at The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa is perfect. We always like to fly a kite! Or head to any of the hotel’s seven lagoon pools.
Get a Massage
Or relax even more with a massage! There are a couple of different options at the hotel. The Lagoon spa is surrounded by lagoon pools and water features, so you get the full spa experience. But you can also visit the beachfront spa gazebo and listen to the ocean. I prefer the beach!
Experience a Balinese Dance Performance
At any hotel, I want to know where I am in the world. In Hawaii, I want to be surrounded by Hawaiian culture. In Italy I want to feel the history. In Bali, I want to feel the island’s unique soul and spirituality. I love the Balinese Blessing Ceremony Dinner at The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, where guests are taken on a cultural journey to explore the indigenous artefacts and historic beginnings of the resort through local stories, a Fire Dance performance by expert Balinese dancers, and an authentic ceremonial evening in celebration of Bali’s preserved rituals. And it ends with a dinner of Indonesian and Balinese cuisine. One tip: put the camera down. The performance is far more magical when you’re fully immersed in it and not watching it via a small screen.
Have you been to Bali? What would you recommend?
Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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