Island Insiders: Bali
Tourism is now Bali’s principal industry and it’s true, some of its beachside areas are over-commercialised, hectic at night, rowdy, far from peaceful! But if you know where to base yourself, you’ll soon feel zenned-out. Here are a few of our favourite spots…
Seminyak and Canguu
Seminyak has long been favoured for cool, laidback fun in the sun – the beaches along this stretch of the south west coast are of black volcanic sand, so not the prettiest. But what they lack in looks, they make up for with lots of great people watching, the best bars with a view of the waves and ocean-front dining galore. The fact that the town’s swankiest restaurants and funkiest boutique hotels have potholes right out front (indeed, pavements are a bit of novelty in Bali) just adds to the rustic charm of the place. Head up the coast from busy Seminyak and things start to slow down a little more. Canggu and surrounding villages give a taste of local life with tranquil rice fields lining the narrow roads– but there’s also plenty of wonderful café culture (the best coconut latte ever at Peloton and lovely lunching options at Watercress or Milk & Madu). If you feel like a really good stretch of the legs, take a sunset walk from Petitgenet Beach in Seminyak, all the way up to Echo Beach in Canggu, and then reward yourself with a fish BBQ dinner at Echo Beach Club.
Head up to the hills for some cooler air and a taste of the artisan’s life. The town of Ubud is surrounded by deep-green tropical vegetation and breezy padi fields – it feels good for the soul and somewhat spiritual. Yoga retreats are a big pull for this area, as are the wonderfully secluded luxury hotels and an abundance of traditional Balinese architecture. Art studios, craft centres and a big central market are all great for a morning browse; the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets and the Tegenungan Waterfall make for enjoyable day trips.
It’s so easy to fall in love with the place…
When in Bali, eating well is easy. Every type of cuisine is up for the sampling from authentic Mexican to top-notch Italian, but local must-try dishes include BBQ pork – try Naughty Nuri’s or spicy satay at any of the local warungs (café-style restaurant). Grilled corn from beach vendors is also a great snack option. For fine dining, the ever-popular Seminyak institutions of Sarong and Mamasan are hard to beat for their Asian-fusion dishes. And in Ubud, we’ve heard that Locavore is currently ticking all the boxes for its innovative menu and exceptional service!
South of Seminyak at the tip of the Bukit Peninsula is Uluwatu with its steep rugged cliffs and an infamous surf break. It’s also home to the majestic Uluwatu Temple and quite a few wild monkeys! This is a relatively undeveloped area that’s renowned for its wonderful sunsets (settle in at Single Fin Bar with a beer), sandstone outcrops with sheltered coves and soft golden sands. Padang Padang beach is a great little spot for safe swimming and a day of sun lounging (although it can be crowded at peak season).
Where to stay
There are literally thousands of accommodation options across the tourist areas of Bali – from high-end villa rentals to international hotels, hostels and boutique residences. For mid-range villa accommodation, we love Saba in Canggu but Elite Havens manage properties all over the island and the standard is very good (we definitely recommend booking through an agency).