Bali Bound: A Beginner's Guide

Best of Bali

Bali is one of those destinations you can’t miss. The island paradise is fairly small – but has something for everyone. If you’re looking for your Eat, Pray, Love spotlight, head to Ubud. You’ll be sure to get your ZEN on while nurturing the mind, body, and soul. How about soaking up the sun and getting unrivaled views of the Indian Ocean? Uluwatu is the place for you… Don’t worry, you can still find sunrise yoga practices. For the hipsters and Bob Marley fans, hop on a fairy to Gili Air, with views of Lombok’s mountainous northern coast. Gili Air is for the chill out crowd, where partying is not the priority, but feeling like a local on a small, authentic island (a.k.a my heaven!). 

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Ubud: Spiritual Gangster's Heaven

Accommodation

If you are on a backpacker’s budget (like I was), I highly recommend In Da Lodge Hostel. In Da Lodge has both dormitory and private room options, a cozy bar/lounge area, and a pool. It has the perfect hangout for socializing! Not only is it extremely affordable (as little as $3.70 USD/ night), it is in walking distance to most of Ubud’s attractions.  

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Food + Drink 

When I arrived in Ubud, I was happy to learn that there were several trendy and healthy food stops. As much as I love tum yum soup and green curry in Thailand, I was excited to have avocado toast and smoothies! 

  • Alchemy : The ideal spot to get your #greensfix - it's vegan!
  • Juice Ja Café  : Asian fusion café, it's definitely worth the stop.  
  • Seeds of Life  : Another café happily feeding the mind, body, and soul!

Activities 

  • Campuhan Ridge Walk : It’s the perfect hidden walking trail away from the touristy streets of town… don’t forget your sunscreen!

  • The Monkey Forest : Although I didn’t have time to visit the monkey jungle while I was in Ubud, I heard that as long as you have a banana in hand, you’re guaranteed to get some monkey love. 

  • Tegenguan Waterfall : This gorgeous waterfall is the perfect spot to cool down on a hot day. TIP: arrive early, it gets crowded! 

  • Mt. Batur Volcano : Don’t be discouraged by the 2:30 A.M. wake up call required for this excursion… Climbing the volcano for sunrise was a bucket list activity, and the checkmark was worth the hike. I booked this experience through my hostel!

  • Tegalalong Rice Fields : It wouldn’t be an exploration without a trip to the rice fields – check out the panoramic views! Absolutely breathtaking! 

  • Tirta Empul Water Temple : An ancient temple where Balinese Hindus go to bathe in holy water. 

  • The Yoga Barn : Another activity I wasn’t able to check off my list! Friends continue to recommend this yoga retreat center and resort that is surrounded by flowers, lotus filled ponds, and green spaces. They have up to 15 meditation and yoga classes a day! 

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Uluwatu: Surfer's Club

Accommodation 

Unfortunately, I would not recommend where I stayed in Uluwatu. I arrived in Uluwatu thinking that I could walk into any hostel and get a bed… I was wrong. Uluwatu is ALWAYS busy! It is important to plan accommodation ahead of time. I learned the hard way!! 

Friends have recommended… 

  • Karma Backpackers House : A little bit farther from the beach, this hostel excels at making sure you have a good night life – they provide a shuttle to restaurants, bars, and clubs! Rent scooters and book surf lessons through the hostel!
  • Bingin Bienvenu Guest House : A lot of accommodations in Bali are called villas/guesthouses – they are similar to the American style bed and breakfast. In this case, everyone has their own mini, private villa! This property is located in the Bingin Beach neighborhood and is a short 12-minute walk from the waves. My friends loved their stay because of the heartwarming family who runs the place and the DELICIOUS brekkie served. 

Food + Drink 

Uluwatu's food scene is Australian cafe goals!! It's trendy just like Ubud's. 

  • Bukit Café Bali : They serve up photo worthy cappuccinos and acai bowls!
  • Buddha Soul : It's just how it sounds, a Zen loving café serving up organic, raw, vegan, and gluten free eats. 

Activities 

With the chilled-out scene in Uluwatu, it only makes sense that the ocean is the main attraction. There are several beaches in the Uluwatu area, all uniquely beautiful. I spent my days in Uluwatu beach hopping! 

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  • Padang Padang Beach : The locals call it “Pantai Labuan Sait,” this little lagoon is most famous for its appearance in Julia Robert’s Eat Pray Love. Padang Padang Beach is a world-famous surfing spot. They offer surfboards for rent! If you’re like me, feel free to soak up the sun, relax, and watch the surfers! 
  • Karma Beach: This beach is best for those who want to lay out with a cocktail in hand. Karma beach is conveniently located near the delicious Mediterranean eatery, Karma Beach Club. 
  • Green Bowl Beach : The ultimate cliff beach in Uluwatu! It takes 250 steps to get to the sand! Be sure to snap a few photos from the top before you make your journey down… it won’t disappoint! Definitely a more intimate feel and less touristy beach! Perfect for an escape! 
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Gili Air: Hippy's Paradise (best for last!)

Accommodation

Gili Air is so small that you can easily cycle/walk around the island! We chose to pick our accommodation when we arrived. This time, it worked out (unlike in Uluwatu). There are bungalows all along the beach. All you need to do is walk up to a property and ask to see a room. NOTE: check for bed bugs and see if rooms have air conditioning. A lot of places offer both rooms with and without air – you’ll survive either way! (I had no air conditioning).  

  • Mowie’s Gili Air, Bar, and Bungalows : With a home away from home feel, these villas are located on the west coast beach of Gili Air and is THE place to watch the sunset. Accommodations are simple, but the good vibe culture is all that matters. I loved Mowie’s so much I ate most of my meals at their bar and restaurant. 

  • Scallywags Smugglers Resort : I heard great reviews about Scallywags but unfortunately, they had no rooms available! #POPULAR At Smugglers, all guests receive a complimentary bike to ride around the island! Scallywags also has a dive shop where anyone can sign up for scuba diving lessons or rent snorkeling gear. 

  • Hotel Ombak Paradise : This resort is the place to be if you want to feel like a million bucks on a $70/night budget. Although the room fares were not backpacker friendly, my friends and I took advantage of the incredible swimming pool and Bintang (the local beer) special! 

Food + Drink

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  • Mowie's Grill and Bar : Not just a hotel property, Mowie’s has a killer menu serving up delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to arrive early for dinner as it gets packed for sunset. The eggs benedict, happy salmon sandwich, and chicken katsu burger are my favorites!
  • Gili Bliss : Following on the healthy trend of a lot of Bali foodie stops, Bliss is a health bar serving up instagrammable acai bowls and smoothies. The chicken, feta, and avocado quesadillas are my personal fave! 

Activities 

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  • Glass bottom boat + snorkel : I highly recommend taking advantage of going on a glass boat. Snorkeling around Gili Air was hands down the best snorkeling experience I have ever had. Corals, millions of fish, and even sea turtles! It is also a great opportunity to socialize with other guests staying on Gili Air. 
  • Bike around the island : Since Gili Air is so tiny, it is easy to bike around the island and find deserted beaches! There is not a formal path, so be prepared to bike on sand – it’s more of a workout than it may seem! 
  • Boutique shopping : My favorite boutique, Kartini, is the spot for any boho chic fashionista looking to bring home a piece of Gili Air in their suitcase. Kinda pricey, but worth it for memories! I bought a gold wishbone ring that I wear everyday.
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