Bali Bucket List Guide - top things to do in Bali
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The Ultimate Bali Bucket List: Top Things to do in North, South & East Bali

This Bali Bucket List has the top things to do in Bali, where to stay, the best bars and restaurants, and top tips to make the most of your visit.

Kaitlin AKA @holidayhun_ on Instagram, spent a month in Bali last year and explored the whole island, so I asked her to help me write this Bali Bucket List guide. Kaitlin has listed the best areas to stay, restaurant recommendations, as well as the top things to do in Bali below.

The Bali Bucket List Introduction

In case you didn’t already know, Bali is an island in Indonesia that is highly popular for both holidaymakers and backpackers from all over the world. Bali is a great all-rounder. It packs a lot into one small island, well technically four islands – but more on that later!

Bali is packed with stunning temples, breath-taking rice terraces, white sandy beaches and amazing volcanoes and waterfalls. The Balinese people are some of the kindest in the world and you will quickly learn that on your visit to this beautiful island.

Whether you want to be adventurous and hike a volcano, enjoy solo travel and embark on a spiritual journey, or just kick back and relax on the beaches, Bali truly has it all.

1. Temple Run in Ubud

bali temple

Whether you want to be adventurous and hike a volcano, enjoy solo travel and embark on a spiritual journey, or just kick back and relax on the beaches, Bali truly has it all.

Ubud is truly a step back in time. It is filled with temples, even on the main street. There are around 20,000 temples across the island but Ubud hosts the best in my opinion.

I recommend booking a private tour to see as many as possible, but in particular, Tirta Empul, for a traditional spiritual experience to ‘wash away any evil’, and Goa Gajah, which translates to elephant cave. Goa Gajah was mind-blowing but super quiet too.

Top Tip: Don’t forget to dress respectfully, you need to wear long trousers and cover your shoulders as a mark of respect.

 


2. Hike or drive up Mt Batur for sunrise

Sunrise Mt Batur

Mt Batur is popular for sunrise, whether you want to hike the mountain or take an open-top jeep up – you decide. It’s easily one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen and deserves a place on this Bali bucket list.

I had no appropriate shoes so I opted for the open-top jeep, which not a lot of people know about. You need a good level of fitness for the hike up and you need to leave your accommodation at around 2am to make sunrise!

 


3. Go Chasing Waterfalls (One of the top things to do near Ubud)

Bali waterfalls

Renting a driver to go exploring the surrounding waterfalls is the perfect day trip from Ubud. Choose ones nearby as you don’t want to spend the whole day driving – the traffic can be chaotic.

I loved Tegenungan Waterfall. It is not difficult to get to and totally worth adding to your Bali bucket list. Others to consider are Layana, Nungnung, Tribumana and Suwat Waterfalls.

 


4. Visit the Monkey Forest

monkey forest, Bali

The Sacred Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and temple in central Ubud, Bali. It is also known as the Ubud Monkey Forest. It is the home to over 1200 monkeys, who are considered sacred by the local Balinese people.


5. Swim with Wild Dolphins (One of the top things to do in North Bali)

swimming with dolphins in Bali

Northern Bali is a really laidback authentic part of the island that not many tourists visit. It is home to the town of Lovina Beach, which is on the north coast of Bali, and is known for its famous wild dolphin swimming tours. It is a super quiet place to stay if you want a night or two away from the hustle and bustle of the south.


6. Spend a day at a Beach Club (Southern Bali)

Bali beach clubs

You can’t holiday in Bali and not visit one of the popular beach clubs. Some are more lively than others. Finns is a super popular one in Canggu, which is a really great day out.

Mrs Sippy in Seminyak is my personal favourite, with a diving board, a great happy hour and good bed prices. But do pre-book to avoid disappointment.

Cretya, which is not so much a beach club but a jungle one in Ubud, is super unusual but not to be missed on your Bali Itinerary. It is situated in the middle of the rice fields. Enjoy a morning here and soak up the amazing views.

 


7. Surfs up!

surfer

Bali is known for surfing, and Canggu and Uluwatu are the most popular places to try it. If you are a beginner, I definitely recommend taking a lesson in the Canggu area. If you are an intermediate surfer, you should go to Balangan, Bingin or Blue Point.


8. Pamper day at the Spa

spa days

Kick back and relax at one of the many spas dotted across the island. Pamper yourself with a massage, pedicure or facial. Bodyworks Spa in Seminyak is one of the most aesthetic spas in Bali, offering tonnes of treatments at superb prices.


9. Enjoy an epic sunset on the beach

bali sunset
This was easily one of my favourite things to do in the evenings in Bali. Grab a local bintang beer and a corn on the cob from the beach vendors, sit on a beanbag and enjoy the epic sunsets Bali has to offer. My favourites were Uluwatu and Canggu – these are some of the best places to watch the sunset in Bali.

 


10. Nusa Penida Day trip

nusa penida day trip from Bali

I never knew it was even possible to visit Nusa Penida on a day trip. You don’t need to stay on the island of Nusa Penida to explore its famous sights!

There are plenty of tour companies offering a day trip to Nusa Penida from Bali which usually include exploring Kelingking Beach, also known as T-Rex beach pictured above. This is possibly the most photographed beach in all of Bali and for good reason; it’s absolutely mind-blowing.

Angel Billabong and broken beach are nearby and not to be missed either. The ferry takes around 30 minutes and you will need at least 3 or 4 hours to explore the island. Check out this full day all inclusive tour, it is top rated by guests and costs just €81.

 


11. Turtle spotting snorkelling trip (One of the top things to do in East Bali)

swimming with turtles in Gili islands should be on your Bali bucket list

You simply can’t visit Bali and not experience the Gili Islands located in Lombok. The trip was possibly one of the best snorkelling trips I’ve ever been on, especially for the bargain price of €7 for a half day tour, including snorkel gear! If you prefer to book in advance, I found this top-rated trip for just €20, but I booked locally.

The trip takes you to the ever so famous underwater statues on Gili Meno, as well as opportunities to swim with sea turtles. There is also a stop in Gili Air for lunch but not much time to explore. The tour visited a turtle sanctuary to see the baby turtles before they are released into the wild.

TOP TIP: I rented a go-pro from the tour company for €5 to catch all the amazing under water footage.

 


12. Jewellery making (Any location)

jewellery

Bali is popular for jewellery making and you have to make your own on your trip here. I did a ring making class in Ubud and it was really cute and sentimental to be able to take home a piece you made and designed yourself. Choose Ubud for a peaceful setting or Canggu if you have a free afternoon.


13. Cook up a storm at a Balinese Cooking class (Any location)

take cooking classes in Bali

A local cookery class is an amazing way to immerse yourself into the Balinese or Indonesian culinary scene. Learn to prepare mouth-watering dishes using the beautiful spices that give Balinese food its distinct flavour. Nasi goreng is a popular dish that I’m sure will be on the menu.

View Classes Here

 


Where to stay in bali

My Bali travel guide will hopefully help you decide where to stay in Bali. Bali is so diverse that choosing where to stay depends on what type of holiday are looking for. If you are planning a 10 -14 day holiday, I recommend visiting 3 or 4 different parts of the island, as the majority of places are easily accessible from each other.

where to stay in Bali

Canggu – This is the home to the digital nomads, and is a great place to start off your trip especially for foodies! The café scene here is next level; you’d never get through the long list of recommendations! The area itself is quite spread out, it is not walkable, so you will need to rent or book a scooter to get around. Personally I think 2 or 3 nights would be plenty to explore the area.

 

Seminyak – Seminyak is similar in style to Canggu and right beside it! It is very commercialised but close by the airport which makes it a handy location after a long flight. There is great shopping here and some great beach clubs. I’d recommend staying for 2 nights.

Ubud – Ubud is the beating heart of Bali. This inland jungle-like town has tonnes to do and see. You can’t miss Ubud on your trip to Bali. Think temples, waterfalls and market-lined streets. I loved Ubud. It’s exactly what I thought Bali would be like.

Ubud, Bali

I think 3 or 4 nights here to scratch the top things to do in Ubud is enough, however if you want to live out your Eat Pray Love fantasy, you may wish to stay longer!

Uluwatu– This is my favourite spot in Bali. It’s an up-and-coming surf town with probably the best beaches in south Bali. It is home to Uluwatu temple where daily Bali dance rituals happen. Enjoy a sunset drink at Single fin. I think 3 or 4 nights here is perfect.

 

Kuta – Kuta is located just 10 minutes drive from the airpot. It used to be the liveliest resort in Bali, although it doesn’t seem to have the appeal it once had.Kuta still has some amazing resort hotels, and the shopping centre is great. I enjoyed my last afternoon here browsing the high street retail shops.

Lombok

Lombok – While not classed as Bali, this nearby island is just a short ferry ride away and will feel world’s apart. It is quieter than some of the other islands but ideal for a peaceful escape or a few days relaxation, I would recommend 2-3 nights here.

Gili Islands – Technically part of the Lombok area, the Gili islands are the perfect island escape near Bali. Think super white sand and the clearest blue water you’ve ever seen!! There are 3 islands to visit: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno.

Gili Trawangan is where you can swim with amazing sea turtles right on the shore. It’s the biggest island of the 3 and also known as the party island. Note, you can only get around by horse and cart or bicycle. I’d recommend staying 3 or 4 nights here.

Gili Air – a quiet tranquil island perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

Gili Meno – A cute tropical paradise where you can visit the baby turtles in the conservation area before they get released into the wild.

sunset in Bali

Nusa Islands: Penida, Lembongan and Cennigan – These 3 islands off the coast of Bali are best known for famous beaches, viewpoints and snorkelling. They are quieter than the mainland but are still worth a visit if you have lots of time. Fancy swimming with Manta rays? Check out this top rated trip.

Nusa Dua – This is a chilled out part of the island with luxury resorts if you totally want to switch off. This is the perfect place for a honeymoon in Bali.

Lovina – Located in Northern Bali and famous for swimming with dolphins, this is a very authentic Balinese town that is not as built up as the rest of the island. I suggest 1 or 2 nights here.

 

Bali Travel Guide: Some Key Information

How many days do I need in Bali?

Ubud should be on your Bali bucket list

It depends on what type of holiday you are after! Personally, I would stay a minimum of 10 days but preferably longer if you want to explore some of the nearby islands. I spent a whole month in Bali and there are endless things to do and see. 14 nights would probably be the perfect mix of relaxation and activities.

 

How to get to Bali

Qatar-Airways

From Ireland and the UK there are one stop flights available to Bali Denpasar airport with Qatar Airways, Etihad and Turkish Airlines as well as many options via UK and Europe.  

Do I need a visa for Bali?

For Irish passport holders, you can avail of an easy visa on arrival which costs roughly €35. You pay for this in the airport when you land. The queue can be long but moves quickly. Just have your passport and card ready to pay. Always check the Department of Foreign Affairs for up to date travel information for Indonesia.

 

Top 10 Bali Travel Tips 

1. The best time to visit Bali is May to October, the same as the European summer. The rainy season is at its peak in January with monsoon season running from November to April.

the best time to visit Bali

2. Do not drink the water – fresh bottled water is needed for brushing your teeth, etc.

3. SIM cards are expensive at the airport on arrival. I paid roughly €35 for 70GB. Its best to opt for an eSim.

4. The local beer is call Bintang and it’s a really nice light beer. One beer will set you back roughly €2, depending on the area.

 

5. Grab ( taxi app ) is cheaper than Go Jek. You will be using Grab to get around the island for taxis.

6. Bali is not your typical Asian country. It is commercialised and westernised. You can get all types of cuisine here, so it is the perfect place for fussy eaters!

7. Book your ferries in advance and choose a reputable company such as eka Jaya boat. They are very respected on the island and super reliable.

 

8. Bali is more expensive than the other countries I’ve been to in Asia but you should still find it excellent value for money compared to Western Europe.

9. There is a cool brunch & café culture here with endless options to choose from everyday.

10. Book accommodation in advance if you can. It’s a popular destination for holiday makers and travellers all over the world, so book accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment. Top Tip: Near the beach doesn’t necessarily mean central. Always research the locations of the hotels.

 

Best places to eat in Bali – My personal favourite food spots!

1. Penny lane: Canggu

Great atmosphere and amazing food located in central Canggu area. I think I ate here three times in total and loved it. The menu offers Balinese classics as well as Mediterranean specials. The venue is stunning so definitely put it on your list.

Penny Lane Restaurant Bali

2. Ours: Uluwatu

The most delicious pasta in a stunning setting along with tasty cocktails. It is the perfect laidback dinner in Uluwatu. The desserts were also fantastic.

3. Milk & Madu: Ubud & Canggu

The perfect lunch spot serving traditional breakfast items, pastries and also yummy burgers and toasties. I visited both sites in Canggu & Ubud and really enjoyed the food.

 

4. Twist: Ubud

5/5 on TripAdvisor, this place cannot be missed. As the name states, it’s the perfect mix of Balinese cuisine and western food. It’s an open kitchen with top notch service.

5. Lola’s: Canggu

Fancy some Mexican favourites alongside some spicy margaritas? Lola’s in Canggu is such a vibe with really cool music and great atmosphere. They also have another restaurant located in Uluwatu that I also ate in, but didn’t enjoy it as much. Book a table to avoid disappointment.

 

6. Santorini: Canggu, Seminyak and Kuta.

A slice of Greece in Bali! Think Gyros, Souvlaki and even Moussaka at the ever so traditional Greek taverns. The décor here makes you feel like you have been transported to a tiny beach town in Greece. Definitely worth a visit.

I hope this Bali Bucket List Guide will help you find the best things to do on the island and let you plan the perfect holiday to this beautiful place.

Kaitlin x

Kaitlin Murphy is a former Irish travel agent currently living in Australia. She travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, and spent a month exploring Bali. 

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