So you are going to Bali and want to know where you should visit. Below is a list of places that I went to in the 5 months that I was in Bali in 2019 and what I observed about each one.
If you know anything about yourself, and how you want your vacation to be, these details should help you decide. This list is made up of places all over the island of Bali – Maybe someday I will add other islands in Indonesia – but I know the reason why I wanted to go all over was I wasn’t sure where I wanted to end up and settle down and “live” for a while so I went all over – leaving me no time to really settle down anywhere.. oh well!
If you want to be apart of the hustle and bustle, because maybe you don’t have a scooter and you want to be able to walk to western type restaurants, cafes, and the beach spots. But mainly, if you are an experienced surfer, crazy guy or girl that likes a big wave challenge, or just a fan of watching big waves. Uluwatu is for you. Huge surf crowd, Shops and trendy restaurants. Expensive. Ok fine, “expensive”. Tourist traps such a Single Fin live in Uluwatu, if you’re into that sort of thing. (great view, not great food and it’s expensive for what it is). I did like Uluwatu overall – had a friendly surfer dude chilled out vibe.
If you love the idea of all the above, not afraid to rent your own scooter, but want to step away from the tourist zone, stay in Ungasan. It’s in the middle of the Bukit, 15 min scooter ride to every beach there is, full of local warungs, markets, and all-around local life. This place is awesome. It’s crowded. If it’s your first day thinking about renting a scooter, maybe reconsider that or go to my post that gives tips on how to ride a scooter in Bali.
It’s cheaper to stay in Ungasan as well and it has everything you want if you like to stay away from the tourist crowds, as long as you don’t mind local crowds.
Canggu is also trendy and there is also plenty of a surf and foodie scene. Although the waves aren’t huge, you can find a wave for you if you are just starting out or experienced also.
The beaches are crowded and a bit dirty, with yes, trash, but hey that’s Bali for ya 😉 There is quite the western scene in Canggu, lots of shops and restaurants owned by ex-pats and plenty of places to play pool for free which I found as a fun thing to do while in Bali. Canggu is probably a top 3 for me.
Sorry to stereotype here but, it’s full of Aussies who like to “get pissed” and party. It’s full of tourists – so full that I went once and never returned. The beach is loaded with locals selling surfboards and surf lessons, manicures, massages, sarongs, bracelets. If you leave that beach without buying a single thing I’d be impressed. It’s annoying, frankly.
Although, I am sure that scattered within Kuta there has to be some good places to eat and accommodation – But I didn’t give it a chance because I could see right away it wasn’t “for me.”
There’s nothing “off the beaten path” about Kuta and it’s for young people to party. Did I say the word party enough? Ok, you get it. The only thing I found cool about Kuta was a custom helmet shop called custom 69 where I got my helmet made. I love my helmet, I get compliments all the time. It’s also the most expensive thing I’ve boughten in Bali to date lol protect the head if you are riding a scooter, people. You don’t have to get a custom made one but I would recommend buying your own helmet. They are $17-30 USD. ($100 if custom).
Seminyak is like a … more attractive Kuta. Still full of a party with some tasteful restaurants and hotels. Again, I didn’t spend much time in either Kuta or Seminyak but we drove into Seminyak a few times because it started to grow on us once we found the live music on the beach for sunset. Tourist pricing. Locals trying to sell you stuff on the beach. But on the contrary, nice hotels and restaurants to be stayed and eaten at here. If you like a little party, with a little “class”.
Medewi is so remote you will feel like you finally arrived in Bali if you went anywhere else first.
I like to call Medewi the real Bali. It has calm roads for scooter driving, the locals don’t even wear helmets a lot of the time, not that that is safe, but just to give you an idea the traffic is 1/16 of what it is in Kuta. If you are just learning to ride a scooter, this is a good place to practice!
It’s nice for a week. You can go budget hotel or to a 5-star hotel here and you will enjoy both very much. Check out my list of places to stay in Medewi for every budget type to get an idea of where you should stay.
Medewi is a good hub for going over to Java to hike Mount Ijen (treacherous but recommended) and Menjangan Island which is one of the best places to snorkel.
There are also non-crowded local restaurants that line the beach where you can get a meal for just over $1 as you watch the sunset.
It’s also a great place to go surfing. Medewi has the best “left” wave if that means anything to you. You can release baby turtles into the sea which is about 30 minutes away from Medewi.
Not much of a nightlife and only a few restaurants to choose from here but it was one of my favorite times in Bali to escape the crowds and go someplace no one had even heard of.
If you want a cultural experience, join the gym – there’s only one in Medewi so you won’t miss it. (it costs less than $1USD for a day) Yoman is the owner and will explain anything you want to know about the Balinese culture. If you are lucky he might even take you to a cultural experience. While I was there he took me to a cremation ceremony and offered to take me to a birthing ceremony but I missed that one. He’s a well-traveled Balinese man who is super cool. Medewi hits my top 3 list.
Good ol’ Ubud. Food is all I have to say. It’s like I forgot warungs existed for three weeks and just ate western food because it was just so good. Lots of food, shopping, and yoga.
More vegan and vegetarian restaurants than you can imagine and they are damn good. I ate at an all raw restaurant, yes, raw and dang I was so impressed I went back another two times. You can read my list of favorite places I ate in Ubud here.
It’s quite the hippy dippy, yoga, vegan vibe and that’s cool. Its harder to see sunsets since you are in the middle of Bali, but it’s a good escape from the surfer beach vibe. I got a bit bored in Ubud after about a month though. Maybe I felt trapped “inside” I’m not quite sure. However, rice terraces, swings and waterfalls are all very accessible from Ubud.
Amed & Kubu, Bali
I love these two small towns. Amed especially. If mount Agung wasn’t right there being all active all the time, I would buy property there.
I guarantee Amed is the next up and coming place in Bali but for you, maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of it (and you are welcome). Kubu is darn tiny you probably won’t even know you drove through it, but I’m into that sort of thing and maybe you are too.
They are quieter, and an actual pleasure to ride your scooter around these places, unlike the busier and more popular places.
Amed is known to have great diving, fresh fish, super cool vibe, quiet, and there’s a great HWY 1 type scooter drive. If you’ve driven on or heard of HWY 1 in California, you catch my drift here. To get to it you basically go up towards “sunset point” and then just keep driving – you’ll find it as there aren’t many roads in Amed.
Beautiful sunsets here as well with phenomenal hightop views. Close to volcanos for sunrise trekking, diving, pleasant scooter rides, really good and cheap fish dinners (I always chose the butter/garlic sauce) and… yeah. I love Amed, definitely didn’t spend enough time there but it still makes my top 3 list.
Oh Sanur, the young people don’t understand you as you are kind of an old person heaven – but also a young person heaven! There are just more old people than young and it makes you kind of want to leave after a few days, but trust me, these old people are here because in their younger days, they used to party in Kuta and have just outgrown that and have taken over Sanur.
I love it because well, it’s coastal, has great beach walks, it’s the only place in Bali you can have a nice walk along the beach on a boardwalk. There’s a great food market that opens up at night, and it’s also a great hub to Nusa Penida, Ubud, the airport, not too far from Uluwatu, a short bike ride to Seminyak if you want a fancier massage or dinner, all over really.
I’ve found one of the nicest gyms I have joined to date… in life, not just in Bali and the accommodation here is cheap.
There’s also this amazing road off the main street that I have discovered that is full-on local, but happening, and good food, and I love driving through it and eating at places on it. If you put in MS Fit into google map(also my fav gym), you are on the road I am talking about – and if you just keep going straight, it will take you to the beach. Love love love Sanur. But I do wish other younger people were here too. Sanur is also in my final top 3.
Blue Lagoon, Bali.
About an hour east of Ubud, when you need to see the sea again, is a really beautiful little beach called Blue Lagoon (but SHH don’t tell everyone because it’s not that big).
Small beach town with crystal blue water, great snorkeling, great food and drink vibe also known for diving. Also a hub for the fast boats to take you to places like Nusa Pineda and Lombok. I went a few times on day trips from Ubud, I just love this little place. It’s quiet and good for the soul.
There’s also one of the best temples I have ever been to. It’s small and simple but on the cliff of a beach with some wild big waves hitting the rocks. A lovely place to go and visit. Top 3!
The only spot I missed is the north – Lovina area. Which I hear is also quiet and mellow and a nice place to see dolphins apparently. I will go there someday to complete my little round off of seeing all of Bali that I can as I love this little island.
I hope the list helps you to find out what you are looking for in Bali and where you want to visit. If you have a few weeks, I would suggest going to a popular place like Canggu, or Uluwatu and also mixing it up with something like Medewi or Amed (but if you don’t like quiet places, Medewi is not for you).
This place definitely has something great for everyone.