Trying to book a Bali holiday but lost in the Internet world of sublime villas, glistening swimming pools, swaying palm trees and hyper-green rice fields?Choosing where to stay can be so bewildering that even the most experienced Bali-hands suffer from option paralysis at times. Here are Seven Suitcases’s favourite locales, for making the most of the Island of the Gods.
Seminyak & Around
If you only have a couple of days in Bali and you want to make the most of its insanely great bar, dining and shopping scenes, it makes sense to base yourself in or close to Seminyak, which is about 20 minutes from the airport. It’s super busy and traffic-clogged, but the beach is surprisingly lovely and there are some nice little villa-style guesthouses hidden in the quiet back streets. Being in Seminyak also means easy access to kid-highlights, like the wildly popular Waterbom aquatic park.
A nearby alternative to Seminyak are Canggu and Echo Beach, popular surf areas that have a range of villa options and are both about a 20-minute drive away.
For a glamorous night out sans kids, we’ve had wonderful experience with local babysitters (booked through your accommodation or Bali Baby Hire), and staying in Seminyak is the best opportunity to head out solo for cocktails and a great meal. Our current faves are Mama San and Sarong, both owned by star Aussie chef, Will Meyrick. Be sure to book in advance.
- Sunset at chi-chi day clubs like Ku De Ta and Potato Head where children are always welcome
- Upscale boutiques for both you and the little ones
- Surf school at Kuta beach
- Mini-manis for little princesses
- Relaxed beachside eating at incredible cafés and restaurants (try Deus and La Lucciola)
- The beach can have a bit of a strong rip at times
Ubud & Around
It’s been several years since Bali’s cultural capital was thrust in to the spotlight after the film Eat, Pray, Love hit the big screen. Since Julia Roberts left the island, Ubud has transformed itself from a rustic, bohemian town known for its contemporary galleries and traditional crafts to a sophisticated, chilled-out alternative to the overrun beach strips. Think raw food cafés, international power yogis, juice bars, and a world of holistic therapies.
Whilst still charming, Ubud is moving at a rapid pace, eating into the surrounding forests and rice paddies at a rate of knots. But while the city centre is becoming increasingly hectic, the tiny villages outside Ubud still offer a taste of traditional cultural life and an array of good value, atmospheric accommodations, from home stays with Balinese artists to small hotels with beautiful pools, tropical gardens, temples and multiple rooms for families. In Nyuhkuning, a 10-minute walk through the Monkey Forest to town, you’ll find two intimate hotels we highly recommend: Alam Jiwa and Alam Shanti.
- Cheeky monkeys and baby elephants
- Galleries with gelato bars
- Busy markets
- White-water rafting adventures on the Ayung River
- Organic chocolate-making at Green Camp
- Leisurely bike tours
- Watching your little people learn to do Balinese dance
- Though only a 40km drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, the trip can take up to two hours in traffic. Not great if you’re straight off a long-haul flight.
Sanur and Nusa Lembongan
Slow-paced Sanur has jokingly been called ‘Kuta in a cardigan,’ but the vibe is a million miles from that brash beach strip. Pleasant but decidedly middle-of-the =-road hotels (though we love the charming La Taverna) face the calm, kiddie-friendly waters and there’s a great boardwalk, perfect for a scooter ride or pram stroll. The main drag features a number of fun restaurants and the inevitable tourist shops.
A couple of days in Sanur could easily be combined with a jaunt to nearby Nusa Lembongan, a relaxed beach paradise a short ferry ride (20 mins) away. In a world of mega-resorts and exclusive villas, it’s refreshing to see thatched cottages and bungalows still fringe some of the beaches here, and each day you’ll spot the locals harvesting seaweed. There are also plenty of snorkeling opportunities in the coral and mangroves at Mushroom Bay.
- Beachside eating
- Flying kites and playing among the orchids in Sanur
- Snorkelling or diving off Lembongan
- It’s not exactly Bali’s most exciting destination…
Along the dramatic coastline of Southern Bali, you’ll find incredible villas and boutique guesthouses hanging cliffside over a handful of gorgeous, sandy beaches from Balangan to Uluwatu. Massively popular with the surfing crowd, this hippie-chic playground is known for its fabled surf breaks and laid-back vibe.
- Super cool accommodation options (we dig the small, French-run Mu bungalows at Bingin Beach)
- Sunset dancing at the clifftop Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple with its resident grey monkeys
- Hip destination restaurants, like the contemporary Indonesian Warung at Alila Uluwatu, which welcome kids.
- The pounding surf and narrow, steep paths down to the beach mean that families will probably end up spending more time in the pool than in the sea
Life slows down as you head around the east coast of Bali up the coastal road from Sanur to the little fishing coves around Amed. There are enchanting rice fields, temples and volcanic, black-sand beaches along with good snorkelling and diving, especially at the large wreck at Tulamben. The classic little beach villages are very relaxed, and make for good places to escape the crowds. Accommodation is quite spread-out, so having your own set of wheels or a driver on hand can be helpful. Life in Amed cottages in the village of Lean are a great option for a couple of days on the east coast.
- Good hiking
- Getting a glimpse into the life of a Balinese fishing village
- Starting early and experiencing the underwater world of Tulamben before the hordes of day trippers land
- Getting up here can take up to three hours from the airport
- There aren’t many diversions for older kids beyond the hotel pool and a snorkeling trip