Bali is an amazing place and we were lucky enough to spend 10 nights on this tropical island paradise in 2007. This is one destination that we definitely plan on returning to on our round-the-world trip for many reasons, particularly because of its relaxed atmosphere and the lovely nature of the locals.
Based on our past experience, here are 7 of the best things to experience whilst in Bali. There are plenty more, but if you plan on visiting Bali soon this list will get you started.
1. Hire a driver
For $50 USD, you can hire a knowledgeable driver and car in Bali for an entire day. This is an extremely cheap and efficient way to see the various sites that the island has to offer (and riding around in a clean, air-conditioned vehicle is quite nice as well!). It’s much cheaper than an organized tour and the best part is that you are flexible to go and see whatever you want!
Some of the places we recommend you check out with a driver include:
- Art in Ubud.
- Mount Batur.
- Mother Temple of Besakih.
- Jatiluwih Rice Terrace.
- Tanah Lot Temple.
Our recommendation: There are plenty of transport touts on the side of the road who will offer to take you around Bali, but we highly recommend doing your research and organizing a driver beforehand. Check out the tours offered by Dewa Parwita at Bali Explore Tours.
2. Elephant Safari Park
The Elephant Safari Park & Lodge in Taro is acclaimed as the world’s best elephant park and is a must for any visitor to Bali.
The park is a fantastic day trip away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta where you can get up close with these majestic creatures. Not only can you ride the elephants through the cool jungles of Taro (an experience that you’ll never forget!), you can also hand feed the elephants, touch them, take photos with them and enjoy the educational elephant shows.
There is also a fantastic museum at the park, a buffet restaurant overlooking the lake and a luxury safari style lodge if you want to extend your time there.
Our recommendation: Book online and save up to 15% off. For $73 per person, you can get the full day Elephant Safari Park/Ride Tour, lunch and hotel transfers.
3. Waterbom Park
What better way to cool off from the Bali heat than hitting the waterslides at Waterbom Park? Conveniently located in Kuta across from the Discovery Shopping Mall is this excellent water park suitable for all ages.
For the adults, Waterbom offers massages, spa treatments and a swim-up bar, which many people seem to just sit by all day. But the real fun of Waterbom Park is in the many adventure slides they have on offer as well as the tranquil Lazy River.
Our recommendation: Get there early if you want to rent a private Gazebo, and spend plenty of time on the Lazy River.
4. Bali shopping
Regardless of your reasons for coming to Bali, you’re going to end up shopping – you just can’t escape it. In fact, many tourists (including ourselves) come to Bali with empty suitcases just to fill them up for the return trip home.
From the designer brand names to art and local handicrafts, no matter what you’re looking for you will be able to find it in this shopper’s paradise.
Our recommendation: If bargaining is not your thing, visit Jenny Shop opposite Waterbom Park. She is one of the friendliest people we’ve met on our travels and the slogan of her shop is simple – “No bullshit and set price”.
5. Experience the nightlife
There is something to cater for everyone’s tastes in nightlife from restaurants with live music to bars and nightclubs such as Huu-Bar, Double Six and The Bounty. Considering how cheap the beer is in Bali (you can’t go past the local Bintang!), there’s no reason not to enjoy at least one night out on the town while you’re here. The nightlife in Bali doesn’t start to get busy until late but once it does, it really is quite the experience!
Our recommendation: Beware of people offering you illegal drugs outside popular nightspots. We were offered both ecstasy and marijuana near the beaches of Kuta – apparently these people are often police informants trying to catch out naïve tourists. Unless you want to try to make the international news, ignore their offers!
6. Spend time on the beaches
The prime tourist destinations in Bali – Kuta, Legian and Seminyak – are all built on the beach and with world-class diving and surfing, it’s a fantastic way to spend some time here. Stay at these beaches for any period of time and you’ll quickly be approached by the beach hawkers offering massages, manicures/pedicures, food/drinks or whatever products they sell for a living. If you want any of these products or services, be sure to bargain and bargain hard!
For the adventurers who aren’t content on relaxing on the white sandy beaches, the Bali Water Sport Center in Tanjung Benoa (near Nusa Dua) is a fantastic place to visit. They offer a variety of activities including parasailing, snorkeling, jet skiing, water skiing, banana boat rides and more.
Our recommendation: If you want to relax, stick to the hotel pool. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the beach hawkers in Bali.
7. Enjoy the food
Dining in Bali is definitely a highlight, from traditional Balinese cuisine to the countless other options you have to choose from. There are flashy beachside restaurants but plenty of budget eats where we have enjoyed some of the best food we’ve ever tasted. There are also some quite unique food experiences to be had, such as the pictured Volcano Pizza from Papa’s Cafe. They actually light it on fire before you eat it!
Our recommendation: Always ask for no ice when ordering drinks. It’s better to be safe than catch the dreaded Bali belly – eventually you just get used to drinking warm soda!