Bali. The name alone sounds exotic, yet few will become intimately connected to the magic this island invokes. Google search Bali, and a much different portrait is painted than what you will see when you arrive. If it is purely magical beaches you seek, Bali may disappoint.
If you have adopted the term “conscious travel,” then you will fall in love with the undeniably breathtaking architectural treasures and the culture this destination provides.
Think of New York City or a Florida surf shop beach town and Mexico, with some magic sprinkled in. The Hindu-influenced island intrigues with the daily practice of offerings. The Balinese spiritual ritual is a small box filled with flowers, incense, leaves, and often a cracker presented on the steps of entrances to stores, temples, statues, and homes. Representing gratitude or welcoming abundance, the daily offering is a reflection of the culture and simplicity of the island.
Listed as the number one tourist destination on TripAdvisor, Bali is accepted by the Western world as the place for a yoga or meditation retreat, and to the Eastern world as a tropic holiday. The beaches near the southern half of the island are for surfing and the place the Aussie’s escape to catch the waves. Yet, in my experience, Bali is more culture than postcard bliss.
Many have seen the movie, Eat Pray Love, and associate Bali with finding love or peace, but the Bali portrayed in the movies is one you must seek in remote spots. This is not to say the island is not beautiful. Majestic palms and rice terraces are stunning, as is the active volcano Mount Kintamani. And I cannot forget to mention the hundreds of ornate Temples that stir you emotionally, from sheer elegance and energetic attraction.
Flying into its capital city, Denpasar will give you Bali’s urban perspective. With the island’s rapid tourism growth in the past ten to twenty years, getting around can take some time. Something you need to be aware of when traveling to Bali: keep your New York state of mind, and take it all in, as there is beauty everywhere you look.
WHERE TO STAY
Seminyak. This vibrant beach town reminds one of SoHo in New York or Brooklyn. From incredible food to boutique shopping and local discoveries it is the “now” hot spot in Bali.
Location and comfort is my philosophy, so here are two very different suggestions:
/ W Retreat and Spa. The pool/beach area is one-of-a-kind, and the restaurant menu selections are divine. Accommodations are top-notch and customer service and security are a level above any other place in this area.
Travel Tip: If you don’t stay at the W, visit the WooBar for drinks and food and you can use the loungers, pool, and beach access.
/ Tony’s Villas. There are many Balinese villas in the area. If you are traveling with a budget in mind, they offer private bungalows, pool, and 24-hour room service across the street from the W and the beach. If you want to step it up, stay in their private villa with private pool for an oasis retreat.
WHERE TO EAT
Coffee. Revolver - Known for their coffee, they do serve light sandwiches. They close at 6pm.
Breakfast. The Shelter - Fresh, organic, and hands down my favorite spot. Try the avocado toast.
Dine on the Beach. La Lucciola - Pasta, fresh fish, salads, good wine list. Try the duck salad.
Out on the Town. Ginger Moon - Asian-inspired, modern eatery. Try the babi guling (suckling pig) an authentic Balinese dish.
Rooftop Dining. Moonlite - The view is great and the fish is incredible.
All-Around Great Cuisine. W Resort (any of the restaurants) - From tapas to complete meals and an expansive drink selection, it is an easy go-to if yo u don’t want to travel far. Try the curry at Star Fish Bloo.
/ Ubud. A city about an hour north (traffic time) of Seminyak, Ubud is home to temples, silver and goldsmith shops, and nature. Plan at least a day to see the sights.
Batuan Temple - For a small donation of $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD), a traditional sarong is wrapped around you, allowing you to enter the elaborate Hindu temple.
Monkey Forest - A tropical monkey park in the middle of Ubud city center. Monkeys are literally walking, swinging, eating, playing right next to you. Entrance is $40,000 Rupiah (approximately $3 USD). It is worth seeing, however don’t look the monkeys in the eyes, and keep your belongings close, as it is not uncommon to see a monkey escaping up a tree with a new treasure.
Tegenungan Waterfall - Escape the busy streets to the sound of nature at Bali’s second largest waterfall. It does cost $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD) to visit the falls.
Bali Zoo - If you enjoy animals and want to see what Asia has to offer, a trip to the zoo may be in store. If you are looking for an exotic experience, it is a safe place to ride an elephant, approximately $50 - $80 USD to do so.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace - This is one of the most breathtaking scenes in Bali. Take a photo, walk the terrace, or enjoy lunch overlooking the green hills.
/ Mount Kintamani. One of two beautiful mountain peaks in the active volcano of Bali, this bicycle tour takes you 25 kilometers downhill through the real villages of Bali. Meet a family, see how they live, and enjoy the landscape of original Bali. Anyone can do it, as there is not much pedaling, but don’t forget it is downhill!
/ Hike Mount Batur. If you want to be active (2-4 hour hike) and don’t mind waking up early, do the sunrise hike at Mount Batur. The views are breathtaking.
/ Uluwatu and Padang-Padang Beach. Uluwatu is famous for its surf. Jump in the big waves and join the many Australian surfers or watch from terraces while sipping a cocktail or enjoying the local beer, Bintang. Accessing Uluwatu can be frightening with its many steps and mysterious scenes, but worth a view and some photos. If you are looking for something more low-key, down the road is the more relaxing Padang-Padang Beach.
/ Tannah Lot Temple. The Hindu temple is located in the water. Watch or receive a Hindu blessing or shop for a souvenir in the busy market. Sunday seems to be less crowded here.