Ah, Bali. It is without a doubt the most well-known destination in Indonesia — for very good reason too: there are a plethora of things to do in Bali; everything from beaches to shopping, culture to food, pampering to partying — and it was the destination I was least interested in.
Why? You see, I love spending time outdoors surrounded by nature. Partying and exploring crowded cities is less my thing, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I started loving Bali!
1. Wake up early and catch the sunrise
Not only can waking up early improve your overall productivity, the sunrises in Bali and just plain gorgeous. This is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Bali.
One of the best spots to catch a nice sunrise is at Sanur Beach. I woke up at 4:15 a.m. one morning and headed there with a few friends. We arrived almost an hour early — whoops. However, in the end, we were able to catch a beautiful, golden sunrise and it was the perfect start to the day in Bali.
As a side note, after a gorgeous sunrise I saw at Niagara Falls this past June, I had set a goal to watch more sunrises. While I haven’t been waking up early to watch the sunrise every day, or even once a week, I’ve definitely watched the most sunrises ever this summer — and they’ve been such amazing starts to the day! Wherever you are in the world right now, I definitely recommend you give it a try as well!
2. Have a beach day in Bali
From endless stretches of palm-fringed white sands to secluded shores guarded by towering cliffs, Bali has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
In the bustling beach town of Kuta, you can find dozens of shops along the side of the beaches selling inexpensive trinkets and souvenirs, fresh coconut water, foods of all kinds, and even manicures and pedicures. Bali beaches also some of the most fun — albeit sometimes strange — water activities you can do there. From parasailing to flying above the waters on a “fish” to riding a banana boat (you sit and hold onto an inflatable banana shaped contraption as a speedboat drags you along!), Bali beaches have just about the best water activities.
Oh, and did I mention surfing?
3. Catch a wave and learn how to surf
The waves around Bali are said to be one of the best places in the world to learn how to surf.
I had a two-hour surfing lesson at Kuta Beach and I was standing up and riding the waves within minutes. I highly recommend getting at least one lesson so that you learn proper form to stand up and surf. There are also shops along the beaches in Kuta where you can rent the boards to surf by yourself.
4. Visit the beautiful Uluwatu Temple
You can’t do Bali without going to at least one temple, preferably a couple. Even for me, as a nature lover, I would say this is one of the top things to do in Bali.
Uluwatu Temple is a beautiful Hindu sea temple that sits perched high atop a cliff over the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. It is also known for having amazing sunsets. Although this isn’t Monkey Forest, there are still many monkeys here and, boy, can they be mischievous! Make sure you don’t have any loose, flashy items like sunglasses or phones hanging off your body or bag.
Oh, and don’t have stuffed monkeys hanging off your bag either. Cheeky monkeys will steal them.
5. Watch the traditional Kecak Fire Dance at Uluwatu Temple
Oh, what a sight to behold.
As the sun sets over Uluwatu, the performance begins with over one hundred men coming into the amphitheatre percussively chanting “cak”, as if in a trance, and moving their hands and arms in unison. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the Kecak Fire Dance depicts a battle from the Ramayana, an ancient Indian poem traditionally ascribed to the Hindu sage, Valmiki. With wonderful storytelling, intricate costumes, and a drama and even humour filled performance, this dance is something not to be missed!
6. Visit other Balinese temples
Remember how I said you should visit a few temples while in Bali? Well, besides Uluwatu Temple, here are some other suggestions.
Besakih Temple is another key Balinese temple to visit. Although I didn’t go to this one personally, a local gave me this analogy. Using Paris as an example: if you visit Paris, what are the top tourist attractions to see? Of course, there’s the Eiffel Tower. Other big ones are the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, you get the idea. In terms of temples, Uluwatu would probably be the Arc de Triomphe or the Louvre, and Besakih Temple would be the Eiffel Tower. Also known as the Mother Temple of Bali, Besakih Temple is the most important temple for the whole of the island of Bali. It is quite unique as it actually consists of more than 80 individual temples. I may have I missed the Eiffel Tower of temples in Bali, but hopefully, I won’t miss the Eiffel Tower in Paris this fall as I make my way travelling around Europe. (Follow along my Eurotrip adventures in real-time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!)
And then there is the picturesque Ulun Danu Bratan Temple nestled in the mountains of Bali. Ulun Danu Bratan is a Hindu temple dedicated to the worship of the goddess of lakes and rivers. I highly recommend visiting this temple as it is such a beautiful and spiritual place to visit. This can easily be done as a day trip from Kuta or Ubud, or in transit between the two towns.
7.Eat Balinese food
Balinese, and Indonesian, cuisine is full of spice and flavour and is a definite must try. Because I love eating food, I must admit, this was one of my favourite things to do in Bali. You can experience them from the food carts lining the streets or in restaurants.
One of the dishes central to Balinese cuisine, and a favourite throughout Indonesia, is nasi goreng. Nasi goreng is simply stir-fried rice in its most basic form but can come in a number of variations served with different meats and vegetables.
Another very popular and versatile dish is satay. This consists of grilled skewers of meat flavoured with a variety of spices and served with accompaniments varying from spicy peanut sauce to slivers of cucumber and onion.
An additional dish I had in Bali was nasi campur. While I don’t think it’s as popular as the previous two, this was my favourite of them all. Nasi campur, literally meaning mixed rice, is a rice dish served with a number of different sides including meats, vegetables, peanuts, and eggs.
8. Eat non-Balinese food
If you’re craving a bit of food from home, or simply need a change from foreign food, Bali also has a great selection of amazing-tasting foods from around the world.
In addition to the traditional Indonesian eats, I tried Italian and Mexican food in Bali and they were delicious.
9. Get your party on
Partying and clubbing have never really been my scene so I didn’t think it was something I’d really enjoy. Man, was I wrong.
On one of my last nights in Bali, the group of people I’d befriended during my 2-week trip to Indonesia were going to this club in Kuta called Sky Garden.
What the hell, I thought. I want to say I’ve at least tried going to a Balinese club. And if I’m not enjoying it, I can always go home early.
Well, good thing I went because I had an absolute blast there! I guess, when you’re with the right people, clubbing can be quite fun too. This is a prime example of why stepping outside your comfort zone and doing things you don’t think you’ll enjoy is good. You never know what you may discover about yourself!
As for the club Sky Garden itself, I can’t comment on how it compares to other clubs as I don’t have much experience with them. It is, however, rated the number one club in Bali. We got one free drink with an entrance fee of 150k IDR and, while I didn’t buy additional drinks, some of my friends who did say it wasn’t that expensive.
10. Unwind by getting pampered
Traditional Balinese spa, Thai massages, stone massages, manicures, pedicures and more. You can get all of these for super cheap.
Look at my nails! I got my first ever manicure in a little shop in Kuta right beside my hotel and, of course, I had to choose a bright pink. Sometimes, you simply need to treat yourself.
11. Shop ’til you drop
Like massages and manicures, shopping in Bali is inexpensive as well.
Pictured above, I’m rocking a pair of super cute elephant pants at the top of a waterfall. I bought them for 80k IDR in Kuta but I’m sure you could haggle better than I did for an even lower price.
12. Dance in rice paddies
Doesn’t that sound so fun?
I passed these paddies on my way to Ubud so I didn’t get a chance to do that. However, doesn’t dancing in rice patties sound like the absolute dream? I have some friends who booked guided walking tours of rice paddies, and others who booked Balinese cooking lessons at them. You can cycle through rice paddies and little villages as well.
13. Take an authentic Balinese cooking lesson
Speaking of cooking lessons, this is another amazing cultural experience.
During these lessons, you can learn to work with water buffalos, harvest the ingredients straight from the fields, and cook your entire meal in a local house using traditional cooking techniques. It’s high on my list of things to do in Bali to get the complete authentic Balinese cooking experience. Next time I return!
14. Go waterfall chasing
What I do have experience in is getting up close and personal to this stunning waterfall!
Tegenungan Waterfall is a 35-meter high waterfall and is an absolute must-see. This is the only waterfall not located in the highlands or the mountains and so is an easy spot to go for a refreshing escape. Not only is the area surrounded by some of the most stunning and lush greenery, you can also take a dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall! Can it get any better than that?
Ahh, yes. The waterfall lover in me was satisfied. Visiting Tegenungan Waterfall probably tops the list as my favourite thing to do in Bali.
15. Reconnect with yourself
Nicknamed as The Island of the Gods, Bali is the perfect place to go on a spiritual journey.
As you hike deep in the jungles of Bali, or practice yoga on the white sand beaches, or meditate in the ancient mountains, you can reflect and get a better grasp of what you desire for your life.
Great Transportation in Bali
To get from town to town, I would recommend Putu as a driver. He is super kind, reliable, and a favorite for many other travelers. Send me a message and I can give you his contact email.
Great Accommodation in Bali
I stayed in Kuta most of my time in Bali. This area is considered one of the best places to learn to surf and I loved my time here. Keep in mind that it is pretty crowded with tourists so if you’d like a more relaxing place to escape to, I’d suggest staying in Ubud, just over an hour from Kuta.
I loved learning more about Balinese culture. I loved trying new water activities at the beaches. And I loved the variety of outdoor, nature-based activities I didn’t even know they had!
I now firmly believe Bali has something for everyone. Whether you are a nature lover at heart, prefer learning about the history and culture of a place, a hardcore partier or everything in between, there is something in Bali for you. Here are 10 things to do in Bali!