Rice paddies, monkeys, sandy beaches, volcanoes, temples: images of Bali, Indonesia beckoned us, calling to us on Instagram and inviting us to discover its beauty from, it seemed, everyone’s travel blog except for ours. Our curiosity was majorly piqued, but when we finally booked our plane tickets to spend 2 weeks in Bali, Indonesia this past July, we were filled with nervous anticipation. Would we actually like Bali?
After all, we weren’t seeking that Instagrammable luxury resort experience: that’s just not our travel style. We wanted affordable attractions and cultural experiences that, if not truly authentic, at least didn’t scream “tourist trap.” We were worried that the Bali you see on Instagram was all there was: just a wasteland of digital nomads, acai bowls, yoga, and girls on swings waving two fingers in the air. Was there more to Bali than all of that?
Well, we are happy to report that yes: Bali is much more than just what you see on the ‘gram! While you can certainly appreciate Bali for its picturesque beauty, there is so much more to discover under it’s shimmering, glittering surface – a deeper, richer cultural experience that we barely glimpsed during our 2 weeks. We left Bali wanting more and wishing we could spend more time exploring, discovering more corners of the giant island of Bali (we’re low-key ashamed to admit that we had no idea how large Bali was until we started planning our trip).
In this massive, giant, monster post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan the perfect Bali Itinerary. I’ve included the exact 2-week itinerary we followed, plus suggested changes we’d make – and everything you need to know to plan your trip to Bali!
Psst: To help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime, we also created a printable Bali packing list that you can download fo’ free! Get the guide here:
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We also have a Podcast episode all about Bali! Monkey thieves, temples, Jeremy crashing a motorbike into a tree, and coffee made from … er, poop. Lia and Jeremy are talking about the breathtaking island of Bali, including all of the must-dos and please-do-nots.
Listen above or just click here to launch your Podcast app! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.
Psst: Planning a trip to Bali? Check out some of our other posts:
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Backpacking Bali, Indonesia
- How to Visit Bali on a Budget: 8 Money-Saving Tips
- What to Pack for Bali: The Essential Bali Packing List for Him & Her
Bali Travel Tips
First and foremost, let’s talk about visiting Bali on a budget. Bali is a legit budget-friendly destination – once you arrive, that is! The plane ticket is the most expensive part of visiting Bali and if you book your accommodation in advance you can get some great deals. Plan on budgeting around $45-60 USD for a couple per day.
For detailed tips on how to visit Bali on a budget, we’ve got a whole blog post! Take a look here.
- Budget Travel Tip: We recommend using Kayak to price-compare flight and hotel deals & dates before you book to save money. Check out here for flight deals and here for hotel deals.
Next up: if you’re wondering “is Bali safe?” then this section is for you, my anxiety-ridden soul sister! The good news is that Bali is relatively safe: crime is unusual, save the typical risk of mild petty theft that you’ll encounter anywhere that tourists are common.
More nerve-wracking than potential thieves are the volcanos looming over Bali: just a few days before our trip, Mount Agung erupted …. again, just as it does pretty regularly. Although the smoke and ash delayed some flights and canceled others, we still managed to stay at the foot of the volcano just a few days later (and patted ourselves on the back for booking travel insurance, which would have come in handy in case of volcano-related plane delay).
Although there’s not much you can do about volcanoes or other natural events stemming from Bali’s location on the Ring of Fire, we’ve got plenty of tips to keep you safe in Bali.
- Buy Travel Insurance
As with all international trips, we highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to cover you in case of roughly a zillion incredibly likely misfortunes, from getting sick or injured during your vacation to flight delays to lost or stolen items and even trip cancellations.
We’ve filed several claims (for a variety of mishaps) with World Nomads and definitely recommend them! We also love SafetyWing for digital nomads and long-term travel. For more details, read our Travel Insurance guide.
- Scooter Safety
At some point you will likely find yourself speeding through a jungle somewhere on a scooter having the time of your life. This is all well and good, but there are some precautions we want you to be aware of. At the risk of channeling my mom: PLEASE wear a helmet. Do not rent a scooter without a helmet, and if someone tries to rent you one and doesn’t give you a helmet along with the keys, demand one and walk away if it doesn’t materialize.
We also saw a LOT of scooter injuries (on tourists, and tourists only) during our trip. If you can’t justify wearing jeans or a leather jacket because it’s a zillion degrees and you’re way too cool, then just drive really, really carefully. Follow the traffic laws you’d follow at home, and don’t zip through on the wrong side of the street just because you saw some other a**hole doing it. If you do get in a crash (which, full disclosure, we did … because we were driving at night, don’t do that either) see our original point about travel insurance.
Oh, and also: don’t leave valuables in your scooter. There will be storage that’s the perfect size for your helmet, but leaving much else in there isn’t a great idea, cuz you know, it’s not in any way shape or form lockable or secure.
- Traffic Safety
The traffic here is nuts. In addition to every-which-way scooter chaos, there will also be cars driving the wrong way, people hopping off curbs right in front of you, and so on. I would strongly recommend not driving yourself around Bali for this reason, because I am a wuss (we spent a lot of time in cars in Bali and I spent a lot of time death-gripping Jeremy’s hand, silently gasping and closing my eyes in terror. Hashtag adventure travel). But be aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly when you’re crossing the street (or driving a scooter. See previous point).
- Beware the Monkeys
Look: the monkeys in Bali are friggin’ adorable, and they know it. They’re also little a**holes who will take you for all you’re worth.
Monkeys are protected in Bali, which means the most discipline they ever get for their bad behavior is someone shaking a stick in their general direction and yelling a lot. Other than that, they can do whatever they please. And whatever they please usually includes stealing your sunglasses, camera, purse, and jewelry, and/or scratching the sh*t out of you.
Jeremy and I had to walk through the Monkey Sanctuary in Ubud to get to and from our accommodation and we were forever terrified of getting too close to an adorable baby monkey (the babies aren’t the issue – it’s their protective parents). Does that make us scaredy-cats? Yes, absolutely. But one day, while we were keeping a careful 20-foot radius from a particularly sweet-looking little group of monkey babies, we watched a couple of teenage monkeys jump on someone’s purse and steal the whole friggin’ thing. They were laughing up a tree before she could even do anything about it. The monkeys in Bali don’t play around!
Here are some tips to keep you and your adorable monkey friends on good terms:
- When you’re going to be around monkeys, we recommend keeping everything shiny tucked away safely in your backpack – which should be firmly buckled to your back.
- Avoid wearing anything easily grabbable, like a purse, hat, glasses, or sunglasses.
- If you lock eyes with a monkey, immediately look away. We learned that one in the Ubud Monkey Sanctuary, which left the tip ominously open-ended. WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU LOCK EYES WITH A MONKEY!?! Do we even WANT to know?!)
- If a monkey grabs your purse or bag, let go. It’s not worth getting in a fight with a monkey, because the monkey will ALWAYS win. They are adorable little sh*theads and they’re here to ruin your life.
- Try not to look too hard at their teeth – I never noticed how much they resemble razor-like fangs until I was a foot away from one grinning evilly at me.
So, to summarize: Monkeys: cute and evil. Got it?
For more travel safety tips, head over to our travel safety guide.
What to Pack for Bali
Bali is tropical and hot, but the good news is that you won’t have much trouble with mosquitos or with finding drinkable water. Here are a few essentials that we recommend taking on your trip to Bali (you can also read about all of our favorite hot weather essentials).
- Wool Clothing: Yes, seriously. Merino wool is a miracle fabric. It keeps you cool when it’s hot AND keeps you warm when it’s cold. When it gets wet, you’ll stay comfortable while your clothing dries. It naturally resists the growth of fungus and bacteria, so it never stinks – a must-have for backpacking! It’s even flame retardant. What more could you ask for? Performance wool isn’t like the itchy wool of the past – it’s thin, stretchy, and super soft to the touch, like cotton. Honestly, most of the clothing we bring on trips is wool, and we highly recommend wool clothing for backpacking. Here’s what we brought:
- Hemp Clothing: Much like merino wool, hemp is a fantastic travel textile. It’s also temperature regulating, meaning it’s cool to the touch and keeps you cool when it’s hot but insulates you when it’s cold out. It’s also naturally anti-bacterial, so you won’t get that stinky “I’ve been sweating in this for a week straight” smell. And as a huge bonus, hemp is more sustainable than most other textiles, requiring little water and almost no pesticides to thrive and grow. Hemp is even able to clean up polluted soil, making it a tool for actually fighting against climate change. Hell yeah. We’re still working on finding more amazing hemp clothing, but the pieces we’ve field-tested and loved are this comfy loose t-shirt for Lia and these lightweight pants for Jeremy.
- Quick Drying Shorts (His & Hers): Jeremy picked up a pair of these shorts to double as both his warm-weather daily clothing item and his swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1, which is super convenient for travel, and they work great! They dry quickly, making them perfect for hopping in and out of waterfalls, rivers, water temples, and the ocean and then resuming your normal travel activities. They never get dirty or wrinkly and always look fashionable. There’s also the women’s version, made out of the same stretchy quick-drying material as my hiking pants.
- Hiking & Adventure Travel Pants (His & Hers): You’re going to need a pair of pants that serve multiple purposes and are up for adventure anywhere: beach, jungle, river, mountains, and city. Luckily, these awesome quick-dry prAna hiking pants are designed with travel and hiking in mind and were up to every challenge we threw at them. Pick up a pair on Amazon or from REI.
- Leather Teva Sandals (his & hers). These are one of our favorite pairs of travel shoes. They’re super durable, lightweight, legit cute, and double as water shoes. We wear them for everything from hiking to white water rafting. We also each brought a pair of Allbirds Tree Skippers (his, hers), which are lightweight and breathable, and perfect for hot days with lots of walking. Plus, they’re eco-friendly! You can read more in our travel shoes reviews for men & for women.
- Mineral Sunscreen: This is least harmful type of sunscreen, according to science. Mineral sunscreens use two natural minerals—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as active ingredients. They basically simply sit on top of your skin and protect it by physically reflecting away UV rays, like tiny little mirrors. Meanwhile, regular chemical sunscreen soaks into your skin and ends up in your bloodstream (and breast milk, according to this study) which kinda squicks me out. Mineral sunscreens do not soak into your skin (according to this study). So even though mineral sunscreens can feel a bit heavier than chemical sunscreens, I prefer to use them anyway! I use this one for my body, and for my face I use this lightweight mineral face sunscreen.
- Reef Safe Sunscreen. Going into the ocean? You need to wear reef-safe sunscreen. You know, unless you hate coral, fish, and also all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and not harm ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift death from climate change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, wear reef-safe sunscreen if you’re going into the ocean! Although reef-safe sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe – look for “Non-Nano Zinc Oxide” (more details here). This is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I use this lightweight sunscreen from Sephora on my face.
- Swim Leggings: My butt is always the first thing to burn when I’m snorkeling, and I’m getting up close and personal with marine life which means I need to be extra cautious about sunscreen. Swim leggings let you move underwater without restriction while providing sun protection, and like a bathing suit, they dry quickly and stay comfortable once you’re out of the water. I love my swim leggings (and matching top) made by Waterlust, an ethical and sustainable conservation-focused apparel company. Their marine-life themed leggings are 100% chlorine, sun, saltwater and sunscreen resistant and made from recycled materials, and they have POCKETS! Sizes go up to 3XL.
- Travel Towel: Towels are not typically provided on tours and a full-sized towel isn’t a given if you’re staying at a hotel or hostel, so we always bring our own full-sized travel towel. It’s perfect for sitting around on the beach or snorkeling tours.
- Dramamine: Dramamine was our lifeline on winding drives and bumpy ferry boat rides. Even if you’re not prone to motion sickness, it’s best to bring a few along just in case!
For more packing tips, check out our Bali packing guide:
The Perfect Bali Itinerary for 2 Weeks
When we were planning out our Bali itinerary, we wanted a balance of everything that Bali had to offer: lush green views, rice paddies, mountains, temples, cultural experiences, sandy beaches, snorkeling, and diving. We designed a 2-week itinerary that allowed us to travel relatively slowly so that we could base ourselves in one spot while exploring the nearby areas on day trips.
Other than day trips, we stayed in just 3 places: a more popular/touristy spot, an off-the-beaten-path spot, and an island that fell somewhere in the middle. This way we were able to get a taste of everything that Bali has to offer without tiring ourselves out and feeling exhausted by schlepping from place to place every few days, which is a mistake we tend to make on trips. We wanted to chill. We wanted to soak up those Bali ~vibes. And our Bali itinerary was just right!
Below is the itinerary we followed, plus details on each spot we visited. We’ve also included some alternative options: if we were to do this itinerary again, we might make some changes, so we’ve given you everything you need to make that decision for yourself.
Here was the 2-week Bali Itinerary we did this past July:
- 5 Days in Ubud
- 3 Days in Amed
- 5 Days in Nusa Lembongan
Below, we’ve included our highlights from each spot (we do plan to post complete guides for each soon) like our favorite can’t-miss things to do, the best places to eat delicious local food, and the best day trips to take during your stay.
As for where to stay, I have to be honest with you guys: we booked our Bali accommodations way too last minute. Everything was either totally sold out or way out of our price range, and most of the places we ended up staying at were just… not very good. Soooo I’m not recommending the places we stayed and didn’t like. Don’t be like us, guys! Bali is full of incredible and beautiful places to stay at insanely reasonable prices – if you book them online in advance! Like, how on earth did we end up staying in such crappy places when there are SO many inexpensive and gorgeous places to stay in Bali!?
OK, now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about visiting Bali, are you ready to dive into the details? Get it? Dive? Like scuba dive? …. Jeremy learned how to scuba dive while we were in Bali, I guess you probably needed that context in order to find that joke funny. Anyway.
5 Days in Ubud
Ancient temples surrounded by lush green jungle. Adorable monkeys. Rice paddies around every corner. Ubud is what most people imagine when they think of Bali, and for good reason – Ubud has been the tourist hub of Bali since the 1930’s.
But what many visitors don’t realize is that Ubud is not just one of the most beautiful destinations in Bali, but it’s actually its cultural epicenter: Ubud is the home of the royal family’s palace, Puri Saren Agung. The stunning palace is free to visit, and also hosts nightly traditional dances (not free, but SO worth the expense).
Another thing you may not know about Ubud is that it’s WAY pricier than the rest of Bali. These days, Ubud is full of digital nomads, fancy coffee shops, and westernized restaurants. If you’re not careful, you can drop as much money in Ubud as you would in Europe. To save money in Ubud, follow our Bali budget tips: book your accommodation in advance, eat at local warungs (although they, too are more expensive in Ubud than elsewhere in Bali), and rent your own scooter to get around.
We’ve included our favorite must-do activities for Ubud below. We tried to focus on more local experiences, so we’ve left off a lot of the westernized activities (our list doesn’t include like, yoga or acai bowls, although if that’s what you’re looking for in Ubud, you’ll have no trouble finding it).
How to Get to Ubud
From Denpasur Airport, Ubud is about 1.5-2 hours away by car, depending on traffic (Google Maps will tell you it’s less, and it should be …. but it’s not). Getting a taxi is easy: there’s a stand as you exit. The prices are supposed to be pre-set at about 300,000 IDR (around $21). But we paid 450,000 IDR ($31) because we are terrible at haggling, didn’t understand the conversion rate, and were exhausted from our 24 hour flight. To avoid that sort of complication, ask your accommodation if they’re able to send a driver for you – or just book this private car online in advance for literally half of what we paid.
Where to Stay in Ubud
To be able to score the best deals and not scratch around last minute for budget-friendly accommodation get onto VRBO to find some really amazing villas. There is also this private, bright villa overlooking rice fields. It even has a private pool for cooling off and watching the sunset. This airy, beautiful villa is on the edge of the jungle and has some fabulous patio views.
We recommend booking directly through VRBO because it has fewer fees and more flexible cancellation policies than Airbnb – also, we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record and lax security.
The Best Things to Do in Ubud
Attend a traditional dance at the palace
This was one of the highlights of our entire Bali trip! Watching a traditional Balinese dance is an amazing way to spend an evening. After our performance, we took a scooter back to our accommodation and our driver was one of the royal musicians (because everyone in Bali is a driver). During our ride, he regaled us with tales of his tours all over the world with the royal dance company.
You have your pick of performances, as the palace hosts them every single night. You can also find dances in other venues around town – here’s a detailed schedule. Each unique dance tells its own story, but frankly, as a first-time visitor, you’re unlikely to know the difference anyway. When in doubt, just head to the palace: dances begin each night at 7:30 PM and cost 100,000 IDR per person (about $7). You can buy a ticket at the entrance.
Take a cooking class
Balinese food is amazing, and one of the best ways to appreciate is to learn how to cook it. Not only will it help you impress everyone you know back home when you show up with a bowl of Nasi Goreng for a potluck and tell Cheryl “I learned how to make this in ~~~Bali,” but it also serves a far more practical purpose of helping you actually identify foods on the warung menus and learn what, in fact, is in them (the ingredients, it turns out, are a lot less exotic than you’d think).
We took this cooking class, hosted at a private home in Ubud, and we highly recommend it.
Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest
Yes, I know we said the monkeys are scary. Yes, you should still visit the Ubud Monkey Forest! As long as you take the necessary precautions and tuck shiny, grabbable things out of sight – and avoid locking eyes with any particularly agro-lookin’ monkeys, or just generally keep a safe distance away from them – you should be fine. The monkey sanctuary is BEAUTIFUL and magical and one of those things you can only do in Ubud. It’s not to be missed! And, because this is very important: yes, we did our research in advance to make sure that this is an ethical animal tourism attraction!
That said, the monkey sanctuary is certainly not the only place you can see monkeys in Ubud – they are in no way restricted to the monkey sanctuary, they just like hanging out there because hello, they get free food. We stayed right behind the monkey sanctuary and found ourselves walking right next to it every day on our way to and from town, which meant we met LOTS and LOTS of monkeys.
Still, the entrance fee is only 50,000 IDR (about $3.50) and that money goes towards conservation, research, and maintaining the local community. You can read more about the Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary mission.
Take a Walk
Between the beautiful Balinese architecture and the temples (they’re everywhere, and everywhere looks like a temple) the man-made bits of Ubud are absolutely stunning. But Ubud is also a nature lover’s dream destination: a mountain town covered in towering palm trees, bright green jungle, and rice paddies. Exploring Ubud’s natural side on foot is a fantastic way to spend a morning. And we do recommend doing it in the morning before it gets too hot! Fuel up with rice porridge and Balinese coffee (or avocado toast and a cappuccino, whatever floats your boat – you’re in Ubud, after all) and hit the trail … er, these two very easy “trails.” Don’t worry: all you need are shoes that won’t give you blisters and some water, no hiking knowledge required.
- Even if you’re not much of a hiker – or not much of a hiker when it’s hot out, aka us – the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a totally doable 2-hour stroll atop a ridge – minimal athleticism required. Maybe that’s why they call it a “walk” instead of a “hike.” The brick trail begins next to a temple right in Ubud and continues along through rolling hills above rice paddies and lush green views. Here’s a great guide on what to expect!
- The Kajeng Rice Fields Walk is another beautiful 45-minute stroll that takes you past rice paddies and fields in a lesser-visited part of Ubud. There’s also a warung halfway through the route, which is all I ever want in a hike (I say hike, but …it’s a walk). Here’s a guide to the route.
Rice Terrace Day Trip
The most popular rice terraces in Bali – and the ones you see all over Instagram – is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, located just 20 minutes north of Ubud. They’re absolutely stunning, but you’ll want to arrive very early in the day to avoid crowds (and snag that sweet sunrise light). Here is a great guide to visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. We chose to avoid the crowds and instead visited the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, located about 1.5 hours away from Ubud.They’re a UNESCO World Heritage site and also insanely beautiful – check that looming volcano in the background! You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee to get into the rice terraces, but once you’re in, you can spend hours walking on the paved path through the fields, gawking and photographing and generally being in awe of Bali’s beauty. Bring plenty of water, good walking shoes, and a camera!
3 Days in Amed
Amed is a sleepy coastal strip of fishing villages at the foot of Mount Agung, Bali’s Tallest Volcano. It’s located on the Eastern coast of Bali, far from the bustling hubs of Ubud or Kuta. Amed is rustic, quiet, and small, with black sand beaches and little in the way of nightlife. But what Amed does offer is some of the best diving in all of Bali!
How to get to Amed
You’ll need to get a driver to take you from Ubud to Amed. Our driver was the owner of the guesthouse where we stayed, so I’d start by asking your accommodation if they offer a pick-up service (again: everyone in Bali is a driver). You should also have no trouble finding someone willing to drive you – just ask one of the many drivers advertising their services in Ubud – you’ll find lots of them near the morning market. Our transportation fee was 500,000 IDR ($35), and the scenic drive took a few hours.
Where to Stay in Amed
There are a few villa and room options around Amed that are worth checking out, again get onto VRBO to book in advance to get the better deals. The Melasti Beach Bungalows are a great option for those wanting to feel part of the place they stay. The family lives next door and make you feel right at home! Another great option is these bungalows, they are made from recycled wood that has been collected over the years from old boats, houses, and driftwood on the beach.
The Best Things to Do in Amed
Go Diving (or Snorkelling)
The diving in Amed is excellent and the main reason why most visitors come to stay in this sleepy beach village! Amed is home to a few diving attractions, including a Japanese Shipwreck, and underwater post office where you can actually buy waterproof postcards and mail them from underwater (how rad is that?!), and marine life including pygmy seahorses, frogfish, and an eel garden.
You’ll find several dive shops and tour companies in town, but we recommend Adventure Divers Bali, centrally located directly across from the Three Brothers Cafe.
There are 3 spots to go snorkeling in Amed, but the major downside of snorkeling in Amed is that that it’s quite difficult to get into the water from land in your snorkeling gear. The black sand is mostly rocks and pebbles – more like gravel than sand – and it’s blazing hot during the day.
There’s also nowhere to safely leave your stuff on the beaches, so you’ll do this awkward thing where you flop across the beach in your flippers from wherever you left your belongings, trying not to touch the sand, and then flop backward into the water, trying not to fall over and get all cut up by the gravel until it’s deep enough to swim. Meanwhile, there are fishing boats navigating around you as you flail around.
It’s … er, not the *best* snorkeling experience. And honestly, I couldn’t tell you how good the actual snorkeling is: I got too frustrated with the hassle of trying to get into the water that I just gave up. Just imagine me throwing a hissy fit while wearing a snorkeling mask and attempting to stomp around in my fins and you’ve got a spitting image of me in my finest moments.
If you’re less graceless and more patient than I am, head to Jemeluk Beach, Lipah Bay, or Selang Beach to swim and snorkel.
If you’re looking for more places to go diving in Indonesia, check out this guide!
Take a Day Trip
Like the other spots on our list, Amed is a great spot to base yourself to discover some of northeastern Bali’s best attractions.
- Lempuyang Temple is home to the famous “Heaven’s Gate,” a stunning gate that perfectly frames Mount Agung in the background. You can find a driver to take you at one of the stalls in town – we paid 250,000 IDR ($17) plus 50,000 IDR ($3.50) to enter.
- Tirta Gangga Water Temple is probably the most beautiful water temple in all of Bali, and it’s located just 20 minutes away from Amed. You may have seen photos of its tiered fountains, blooming gardens, and stone sculptures spouting water into bathing pools (psst, bring a bathing suit!) – it’s well worth a visit! You can find a driver in town to take you through on the scenic trip through stunning terraced rice paddies, or book a tour like this one to visit both Lempuyang and Tirta Gangga in one day.
Watch the sunset at Sunset Point
Sunset is the primary nightly event in Amed, and Sunset Point is the best place to watch the show! This simple cafe is perfectly positioned to overlook all of Jemeluk Bay, with Mount Agung looming in the background. Show up early to grab a table and order a (slightly overpriced, tbh) drink, sit back, and enjoy.
If we were to go back and do our trip over again, we aren’t sure we would have picked Amed as our 2nd stop, mostly because we didn’t go diving (Jeremy decided he wanted to learn how to dive literally a day after we left Amed, because we’re idiots). We’ve listed a few alternate destinations down below that we would probably explore instead if we were to do our itinerary over again!
5 Days in Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is the most populated of the 3 Nusa Islands, which are technically located off the coast of Bali, not on Bali itself. But semantics aside, the Nusa Islands are an amazing place to visit for a few days in paradise! We stayed on Nusa Lembongan, the most populated of the 3 islands. Here you’ll find plenty of accommodations, restaurants, coffee shops, dive shops, tour operators, artistan shops and markets, and paved roads to explore on scooter.
While the island is from a bustling city, it’s much more populated than its neighbors, Nusa Cenigan and Nusa Penida, which feel truly remote. If you want to see more trees and beaches than people, base yourself on Nusa Cenigan or Nusa Penida instead. If you want to have WiFi and a coffee shop to work at, base yourself in Nusa Lembongan, where we spend around several hours each day working at Bali Eco Deli (hashtag digital nomad life, hashtag entrepreneur life, hashtag even when we’re on vacation in Bali we’re working 40+ hours a week, hashtag hustlin’ in Bali …).
How to get to Nusa Lembongan
To get to the islands, you’ll first need to get to Sanur. Your driver will drop you off at the entrance of a path that will lead you through market stalls and various boat companies and docks. It can be overwhelming to navigate this path as you’ll have boat companies shouting questions and prices at you. To cut down on the overwhelm, we highly recommend booking your boat ticket in advance using DirectFerries. No matter which company you take, the ride on the water will take about 45 minutes. Pop a dramamine if you’re prone to seasickness.
We booked our boat with Sunrise Cruises on the way there, and Scoot Fast Cruises on the way back. Both were fine, but Sunrise Cruises was MUCH more comfortable. Our return trip with Scoot was faster and more efficient, but less comfortable (way less legroom, more people, etc). Sunrise Cruises took a full hour longer than we expected because they parked offshore and shuttled passengers onto the islands using a small ferry, but the actual boat ride was much more comfortable.
Where to Stay in Nusa Lembongan
The island is pretty compact but has some really great VRBO options to stay in. The main island Lembongan has the Pondok Frangipani resort with 8 bungalows around a private pool each with their own terrace per bungalow. These Balinese Wooden Huts are right on the beach so you get the ocean breeze from your window. You can also stay just by the bridge over to Nusapenida in The Bridge Beach Huts with a pool right next to a great snorkeling spot.
Things to Do in Nusa Lembongan
Even though you can visit Nusa Lembongan on a day trip from Sanur, we recommend spending several days here. The 3 Nusa islands are where you’ll find that relaxed Bali beach life! Here are the best things to do in Nusa Lembongan.
Go Snorkelling or Diving
In the warm, crystal clear waters of the Nusa islands, you’ll be able to see manta rays and massive mola-molas, as well as colorful coral and other marine critters.
Jeremy booked a snorkeling trip with Two Fish Divers in Nusa Lemonbgan, and I was able to tag along and snorkel during his trip! The snorkeling was great and the water was clear, although I was quite far above some of the spots that Jeremy and the other divers were able to explore. If you’re not a diver, we recommend booking a snorkeling-specific tour like this one.
- Snorkeling Travel Tip: You can rent gear on the island, but we were glad that we brought along this snorkel mask, which is ridiculously amazing (even if it looks a little ridiculous) – and you won’t get that style of mask on any tour! If I had to pick one item to bring rather than rent, that mask would be it. That said, even if you don’t bring your own gear, it’s still helpful to bring along a little bottle of anti-fog spray in your suitcase to treat a provided mask – I always seem to need it.
Explore Nusa Cenigan
Across a bright yellow suspension bridge on one end of Nusa Lembongan you’ll find Nusa Cenigan, a much quieter, smaller island than Nusa Lembongan. We spent a day exploring the quiet island on our scooter and absolutely loved it – we wish we could have spent a few days staying here! We recommend booking a scooter in Nusa Lembongan and driving right over the yellow bridge to spend the day exploring.
- Relax on Secret Beach. I know it sounds secret, but actually it’s just a private beach attached to a resort, Villa Trevally. To use the beach, you’ll need to spend 35,000 IDR ($2.50) per person or 100,000 IDR ($7) per person to use the pool, which you can do in the form of drinks and food at the resort bar and restaurant (yass). It’s a great place to spend a day relaxing!
- Hang out at Sea Breeze Cenigan. You’ll drive right past this seaside restaurant shortly after crossing the yellow bridge, and you can’t miss it! The brightly colored decorations beckoned us inside (and yes, it’s totally ‘grammable). We recommend stopping for lunch or dinner and a swing or drink at the swim-up bar while enjoying the view.
- Zipline at Driftwood Bar: Take a short ride a brilliant blue bay for only 80,000 IDR. After your adventure, take a swim in the infinity pool and enjoy the view.
- Cliff Jump at Mahana Point or the Blue Lagoon: Feeling adventurous? There are multiple spots to go cliff-jumping on Nusa Cenigan, including Blue Lagoon and Mahana Point. At Mahana Point, you’ll find a restaurant where you can sit and watch the surfers (this is also a fantastic surf spot) as well as
crazypeople taking a turn on the high dive straight into the churning waters below.
For more details, here’s a short guide to some of the best things to do in Nusa Cenigan.
Explore Nusa Penida
Past Nusa Cenigan is a much larger, much less inhabited island: Nusa Penida. It’s by far the most beautiful of the 3 Nusa islands, but also by far the least accessible.
It’s possible to get to the island via ferry – you’ll pick up the ferry at the yellow bridge where you cross to get to Nusa Cenigan – and then immediately rent a scooter once you arrive on Nusa Penida, and then explore the island via scooter, but we don’t recommend going this route if you’re not confident in your scootering skills – the road is quite treacherous. We opted to skip Nusa Penida because we were nervous about exploring via scooter and couldn’t book a tour in time, and we have all the regrets about it.
Don’t be us! We recommend you hire a guide to take you around the island for a full day of exploring. Most tours visit some combination of 4 of the below Nusa Penida highlights and cost around 500,000 IDR (about $35). You’ll find plenty of tours to book located at the yellow bridge, but you’ll need to book a day or so in advance. To avoid the hassle (or risk missing out, like we did), you can also book a tour like this online in advance.
- Kelingking Beach: You know that one picture you always see of Bali? It’s a picture of paradise: a peninsula of sandy beach covered with bright green jungle, jutting out into a bright turquoise sea. If you squint, the island kinda looks like a T-Rex, which is why this beach is also called the T-Rex beach (yes really).
- Atuh Beach: A quintessential hidden beach, Atuh Beach is around an hour away from the port by motorbike. You’ll find sparkling blue water, bright sand, small shops and cafes, and few other tourists.
- Peguyangan Waterfall: For beautiful ocean views and a cliffside waterfall that spills into the ocean, head to Peguyangan Waterfall. The journey to the Peguyangan Waterfall is just as (if not more) spectacular as the landmark itself.
- Angel’s Billabong: A super Instagrammable natural attraction, the Angel’s Billabong is a natural pool located on the side of a cliff, in between two large rock formations. During low tide, you can go for a wade or a swim in its warm waters.
- Broken Beach: Located on the west side of the island, this beautiful cove features deep blue and turquoise water and a naturally-formed bridge that connects the two shores.
- Crystal Bay: This stunning secluded bay is an excellent spot to snorkel and swim.
We actually didn’t realize this until researching for this post, but you can actually stay on Nusa Penida in some of the most stunning accommodations we’ve ever seen. Consider us fully in regret mode. Be My Travel Muse has the details on where to stay and all the secret spots that we totally didn’t get to see ourselves – time to go back!
Alternate Stops for a Bali Itinerary
Although we were happy with our Bali itinerary, if we were to go back and do it again we would consider switching out Amed for one of the below stops. Amed was sleepy and quiet, which was nice – but it verged on a little TOO quiet for us, especially since we didn’t go diving, which is Amed’s main claim to fame. Plus, it was a bit far from our final destination, Nusa Lembongan.
These alternate stops offer a little something different, while still staying far away from the resorts-shopping-and-luxury side of Bali that just isn’t our preferred travel style, and fit perfectly in between Ubud and Nusa Lembongan on a 2-week Bali itinerary.
- Note: The below options are all within the island of Bali, but if you’re looking to take a trip outside of Bali, we hear the Gilli Islands, Komodo National Park, and Borobudur at sunrise are well worth it!
If you prefer to spend more time in the mountains than on the beach, head to Munduk for fresh air and beautiful views. Located in the northern highlands of Bali, Munduk is a gorgeous region that’s less frequented by travelers. Surrounded by mountains and filled with waterfalls, orchid fields, breathtaking viewpoints, and vibrant markets, this enchanting area is definitely worth considering working into your Bali itinerary.
Things to Do in Munduk
Here are some of the best things to do in Munduk, based on our research!
Visit Munduk’s waterfalls
Munduk is the perfect place to chase waterfalls (don’t let TLC tell you otherwise), as they are arguably the most beautiful in all of Bali. There are several gorgeous waterfalls that dot the area surrounding Munduk that you can visit within an hour of the town center. Note: most of the area’s waterfalls require an entrance fee and a parking fee upon arrival.
Here are 5 of the best Munduk waterfalls:
- Banyumala Waterfall: Also known as “Twin Waterfalls,” this is a gorgeous waterfall with multiple cascades located off of the crater rim road. Entrance fee is 20,000 IDR per adult.
- Munduk and Melanting Waterfalls: These two stunning waterfalls surrounded by lush rainforest are located within a short trek each other. Getting to each of the falls requires a short hike from the main road. Entrance fee is 10,000 to 20,000 IDR per adult.
- Gitgit Waterfall: This is a powerful waterfall that’s great for swimming or enjoying the surrounding jungle area. Entrance fee is 20,000 IDR per adult.
- Aling-Aling Waterfall: This is a stunning waterfall and swimming hole located in the mountains near Munduk. Entrance to view only is 10,000 IDR. If you want to swim, you have to hire a private guide, which costs an extra 175,000-375,000 IDR, depending on the activities you’d like to do.
- Sekumpul Waterfall: This is a towering waterfall and swimming area located near the Bedugul region of Bali. Not for the faint of heart: you have to walk a bit from the parking lot and cross a river to arrive at the falls. Entrance fee is 20,000 IDR.
Visit a Water Temple
You’ve probably seen pictures of Ulun Danu Beratan Temple: it’s a gorgeous temple complex, one of the 9 most important Balinese Hindu temples, and is the home of the Lingga Petak Temple, located in the middle of Lake Beratan. Built in 1633, the temple is one of the most beautiful historic landmarks on the island – surrounded on all sides by green forests, the lake, and the mountains – and is the site of sacred rituals for the goddess, Dewi Danu.
The temple is beautiful, but crowded. We visited it on a day trip along with the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces and Tanah Lot, which you can book in advance with this tour on Viator. Entrance to the temple is 50,000 IDR.
Stay in a Mountain View Tent
To get really close to nature and get the full feel for tropical mountain life the best way to do it is by staying in the Ekommunity Mountain Tents. Each tent is on a raised platform built onto the side of the mountain. They have proper beds and you wake up to incredible views, you are LITERALLY on the side of a mountain! Well worth braving any fear of heights.
Taste Munduk Coffee
Indonesia is famous for its coffee, and Munduk is one of the best places to try it. Munduk’s cool, mountainous climate is perfect for growing coffee beans. You can visit Munduk Moding Plantation, an organic coffee plantation in Munduk, and sip your cuppa Joe right from the source!
Take THAT picture at the Golf Gate
If you don’t take a selfie of it, were you ever in Munduk? One of the most iconic and picturesque landmarks in the Munduk area is the Golf Gate, located at the entrance of the Handara Golf Course. Yep, that’s the one you always see on the ‘Gram. Nope, it’s not a temple: it’s a golf course! The dramatic gate is the perfect spot for a photo op without having to worry about interrupting religious ceremonies or donning the correct Balinese religious attire.
Canggu is a charming seaside village on the south side of Bali, near Denpasar. It’s close to the tourist hotspots of Seminyak and Kuta, but quieter. Surfers flock to this part of the island in pursuit of the best waves, while digital nomads click away at their computers under the shade nearby. If you aren’t either of those things, there are a ton of activities you can do in the Canggu area, including markets, beach clubs, and historic temples.
Hang out on a Black Sand Beach
Canggu’s three most popular beaches are Berawa, Batu Bolong, and Echo Beach, and they all sport volcanic black sand. Lay out your travel towel on the beach and soak up the rays (because if we’re being honest, black sand is not the coziest to lay on without a towel) or hang out at a local beach club, where you’ll find a pool, bar, and lounge area that you can use all day long. Many travelers recommend Finn’s Beach Club, which is located on Berawa Beach.
Surf the waves
Canggu is a popular surfing destination whose beaches attract surfers from all over the world. You can hire a local instructor to take surfing lessons, or rent a board and hit the waves on your own. The two most well-known surf spots in Canggu are in Berawa Beach and Batu Bolong. If you want to avoid the surfer crowds, though, be sure to hit the waves early in the morning! This surfstay in Canggu is a great place to stay with other surfers and have your lessons together.
Take a Day (or Sunset) Trip
- Uluwatu Temple: Just an hour from Canggu, perched on a cliff overlooking one of Bali’s best beaches for surfing (and caving) you’ll find Uluwatu Temple, one of the nine most important temples in Bali. The temple is stunning and the beaches are stunning-er, but there are also adorable monkeys hangin’ out here, so beware and guard your belongings. Visit Uluwatu Temple at sunset to catch a traditional Kecak dance performance, daily at 6pm.
- Tanah Lot is also a spectacular temple located on top of a rock right on the seaside (they’re like, a thing in Bali). Not only is it incredibly picturesque, but it’s also a super unique place to watch one of those spectacular Bali sunsets (or sunrises, if you can get there early enough). You can DIY your day trip by hiring a driver, or visit with a group tour like this one, which also includes a visit to Uluwatu.
Explore the local markets
If you’re in the area during a weekend, pay a visit to Canggu’s local markets, where you can buy fresh foods, artisan goods, and souvenirs for all of your friends back home. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Love Anchor Market: Known informally as the “hipster market,” Love Anchor is a daily market with unique clothing, delicious coffee, and healthy snacks for sale. Open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 10 pm and Saturday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.
- Samadi Market: Head to Samadi Market for delicious organic treats, vintage clothing, and beautiful artisan goods. This is consistently named one of the best markets in Bali, so if you’re in Canggu on a Sunday, be sure to stop by! Open every Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm.
As one of the oldest resort areas in Bali, Sanur boasts golden beaches, laid-back walking paths, and a night market unlike any other. Located southeast from Denpasar, this little beach paradise is the perfect place to stay for a bit before heading onward to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida. While this city is the gateway to the islands, it’s worth spending a night or two here to hang out at the beach or visit the night market.
Sanur is a gateway to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida, and you can take a day trip to the islands using a fast boat to travel. However, we really recommend spending several days exploring them!
Things to do in Sanur
The Pasar Sindu Night Market
Visit Sanur’s night market to catch a glimpse of local life in a unique, colorful setting. Once the sun sets, head to the Pasar Sindu market to enjoy the street eats and immerse yourself in Bali’s local culture. It’s a foodie’s paradise, with steaming local dishes like bakso, satay, and gorengan, as well as freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices.
Spend a day on the beach
The beach in Sanur is the perfect place to lay back and catch that tan you’ve been dreaming of. Unlike Canggu’s black sand beaches, the beaches in Sanur boast sand that’s a more common light gold color.
For adventurous travelers who want to get in the water, there are tons of water sports you can try on Sanur’s beaches as well, including jet skiing and stand up paddleboarding. Or, if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds completely, head to the beach to watch the sun rising over the ocean.
Wander down the Sanur boardwalk
Sanur’s waterfront has a paved boardwalk to stroll down. Much of it is shaded, so stroll along the boardwalk to take a break from the heat of the afternoon.
Day trip to Nusa Penida
Although we recommend staying in Nusa Penida longer than a day, you can easily go and come back without spending the night. From Sanur, it’s a quick 45-minute ride to Nusa Penida on a fast boat to explore the island’s pristine beaches, turquoise coves, and sparkling waterfalls. You can do a DIY trip by taking the ferry and hiring a driver or scooter (be careful!) once you arrive, or take the easy way out and book a day trip like this one.
Which destination in Bali are you most eager to visit? Drop us a comment below!
Planning a trip to Bali? We’ve got several posts to help you out! Check out these other posts about Bali:
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Backpacking Bali, Indonesia
- How to Visit Bali on a Budget: 8 Money-Saving Tips
- What to Pack for Bali: The Essential Bali Packing List for Him & Her
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