Where to stay in Bali? Where should I stay in Bali!?
The guide for the Bali newcomer on how to land on your feet, and your find your “flock”, on the island that has everything.
If ‘birds of a feather flock together’ this article is on how to find your nest. On how to find the places you imagined when you first decided “I’m going to Bali”. Whether it’s a vacation with the family, a spiritual journey, fitness, adventure, shopping, a full blown party or utter relaxation the Island of Love is aptly named. There is a lot of places that will steal your heart. Here are a few…
Kuta – Where the show never stops!
Kuta was the first part of Bali to be developed as a spot for tourists. Pioneered as a surfing destination in the 1930s, though it wasn’t until the ‘60s that things began to really take off. Since then Kuta has been in a constant state of evolution. Nowadays, touts sell their merchandise in the street, relaxing massage parlors are open next to all night clubs. Families shop while new surfers tame the waves.
There are many reasons why people choose to visit Kuta. It is a great place to land and see what Bali has to offer. From here the whole island is just a taxi, shuttle bus or motorbike away. Kuta beach has some of the best beginner waves for new surfers and the nightlife is second to none.
If wild nights out aren’t your thing then don’t worry. The cliffs of Uluwatu are a short ride away, yoga courses and cooking classes are available in abundance. Pick up a bargain at the many shops, although, practice your haggling skills – the locals are experts.
- Eat: at Bamboo corner (Jl. Poppies 1) & Dog Dragon Grill (Jl. Benesari)
- Drink: Have a quiet one at The Hard Rock Hotel (Jl. Pantai Kuta) & a big night out at Sky Garden (Jl. Legian)
- Relax: Jamu Traditional Spa (Jl. Pantai Kuta) relax like never before.
- Surfing: Odysseys Surf School (Jl. Pantai Kuta) great rentals and lessons.
Ultimately, much of what Bali is famed for is represented by Kuta and, love it or hate it, it should be experienced.
Sanur – the beach you dream about
As unpredictable and ever changing as Kuta is, Sanur is the opposite. It was very much planned and you can tell. Holidaying is made easy here. The quiet, picture perfect beach lagoon is prefect for a paddle as the waves all break on a reef a few hundred metres from the shore. Restaurants and hotels are classy but not over the top. Being on the eastern side of the peninsula it’s separated from the hustle and bustle but not distant.
Many people find Sanur to be a happy medium. A place to relax knowing that anything you want is just a phone call away. If you want to swim, there are calm waters. If you want to surf, take a boat across the reef. Live music is popular in Sanur and the parties of Kuta not too far, if you can spare an 80,000r ($8AUD) taxi fare. There are all levels of accommodation and restaurants.
While it does have a bit of everything (and is especially great for families of all ages) you can sometimes feel like your living in a bubble in Sanur. Surrounded by the busy Jl. Ngurah Rai leaves the whole town to focus mostly on the beach. It has almost a cruise ship like feel to it. If Sanur seems like your type of place then you will love it. A little piece of paradise for surfers, scuba divers and families. If this isn’t your thing you may find you get bored quickly.
- Eat: For breakfast and lunch go to the Three Table Spoons (Jl. Danau Tamblingan) Delicious!
- Drink: Have a drink and enjoy the live music at The Cat and The Fiddle (Jl. Cemara)
- Try: Talk to one of the many Padi Scuba Diving shops and see what it like to breath under water. If you can already dive then go on a fun dive. Atlantis International (Jl. Ngurah Rai) comes highly recommended.
Ultimately, Sanur is for you if relaxation is the priority. No pressures, just ease of life. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise from the beach. Then rest… everyone has earned a break in Sanur.
Seminyak – for a touch of class
If cocktails, high end shopping and luxury spa’s sound more like your cup of… martini… then Seminyak will likely be the place for you. Like a sophisticated little sibling of nearby Kuta, Seminyak has only really developed over the last 5-10 years. The expats moved in and so did the life style. Striking a balance between Indonesian life and upmarket culture. It’s much quieter than Kuta but still very central.
Seminyak is often overlooked by holiday makers on their first visit to Bali but that’s fast changing. People come here because they want to experience Bali while also indulging in a few luxuries, after all it is a holiday. Surfing, massage, yoga and fine dining are all possible in Seminyak. You pay more for the shopping but you see the results in the quality.
If boutique arts and flashy bars aren’t your thing then Seminyak might not be the place for you. For some it can feel a little too similar to the places they’re holidaying away from. Budget accommodation is still available and it is a nice place to stay to escape the Kuta chaos while being close to the same beach.
- Eat: La Plancha – along the beach north of Jl. Double six. Especially with a good sunset & Italian Corner Bali (Jl. Nakula) does great Italian food and is very child friendly.
- Drink: Enjoy a cocktail at Seminyak’s famous Potato Head (Jl. Petitenget) or the view from the Double Six rooftop bar (Jl. Double Six)
- Enjoy: The art galleries are great. Check out – Nyaman (Jl. Basangkasa) or the Museum Trick Art 3D (Jl. Sunset) is a great place to take the kids.
Ultimately, you’ll find Seminyak really fit’s you or isn’t quite fulfilling the Bali you expected. Definitely worth treating yourself to a nice cocktail and relaxing on the beach regardless of which camp you’re in.
Canggu – where the beach is close and the pace is right
Canggu is a place for those who are a little more at ease in Bali than the average tourist. While the name comes from one village, “Canggu” is used to refer to an area spanning from just south of Tanah Lot through to just north of Seminyak. It’s more expat than traveler here and it’s not uncommon to hear foreigners conversing in Bahasa. The ‘local’ type vibe in Canggu is refreshing. It feels like a familiar beach town you can’t quite remember. Villas, cafes and businesses have popped up out of nowhere over the last few years and you have to wonder – How long will the chilled out pace of life remain?
If you’re into surfing then Canggu is probably one of a handful of places to consider. Consistent swells, good board prices and a community which revolves around the waves all make it a desirable spot to catch some waves. The comforts are still on your door step. Canggu is also a great spot to consider if you’re with the family. Villa hire is very reasonable and there’s plenty to keep everyone busy.
If you’re into the flash of Seminyak then Canggu probably isn’t your place. It has many of the same comforts but not on the same scale and you have to be relatively self-reliant in Canggu. Not everything is walking distance and taxis, at times, can be scarce. Hiring a motorbike or scooter is your best bet. Party animals should look past this place as well. While there are some watering holes most places shut by midnight or 1am at the latest.
- Eat: Balifornia Republic (Jl. Pentai Berawa) does incredible Californian/Mexican inspired food and is a must try.
- Drink: Have a drink at Old Man’s by Batu Bolong Beach and watch the surfers in the waves.
- Markets: Check out the local and pop up markets in Canggu – Deus (Wed 6-9pm), Old Man’s (1 sunny Saturday a month), Samadi (Sunday 9am – 2pm)
- Check out: The Canggu Club (Jl. Pentai Berawa) is a place that everyone can enjoy. Kids club, splash park, bowling, spa and bars are just some of the many things they offer. Day passes available.
- Visit: Tanah Lot, a temple on that’s not quite on land or in the sea. One of the world’s greatest sunsets.
Ultimately, Canggu is more of a community than a holiday location. So if you do decide to visit get involved with that community. Like anywhere, the more involved you get the more rewarding the experience it will be.
Ubud – the spiritual and cultural home for Bali’s visitors
If you’re more eat, pray, love and less eat, drink, party then Ubud will feel like the home you never knew. Nestled inland, there is a big scene of spirituality, arts, yoga and culture that together create an atmosphere of calm – even if the roads are just as crazy as the rest of Bali. A series of villages that have morphed into each other, spiritual Ubud is the sort of place that’ll test your skepticism.
Ubud is where you come to find some perspective. Maybe you’re looking to awaken your spiritual self. You may be wanting to master a school of yoga. Perhaps you want to see the impressive rice paddy fields or the enchanting temples. Whatever is it (apart from crazy parties) you’re going to find what you’re looking for here.
Ubud absolutely has something for everyone – if you’re a party animal come for a detox. It’s a brilliant place for trying things that you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. Climb Mount Batur and witness one of the greatest sunrises you’ll ever see. Go to the Sacred Monkey Forest and watch the long tailed macaques at play.
- Eat: Nomad (on the Ubud main road) good food, well priced.
- Enjoy: The many art galleries and the Sacred Monkey Forest
- Try: Yoga! Yoga Barn, Intuitive Flow and Radiantly Alive each have different styles but are great.
- Adventure: Ayung White Water Rafting (Jl. Kedewatan) or one of the many bike tours are awesome.
Ultimately, there are an abundance of things in Ubud that you expect to find in Bali and many other things that you don’t. Even if you’ve come to Bali for the surf, diving or Seminyak shopping Ubud needs to be seen.
Bali is a truly incredible place. There is a reason people return and settle here. It continues to grow and diversify. Some live here for many years and will only scratch the surface of the stories, people and places of this beautiful island. Birds of a feather flock together. First figure out what you’re looking for when you come to Bali and then come find your flock, your nest, the place that best suits you. It may not be the place you expect but you will find more than you imagined before you left. Enjoy.