Bali is an Indonesian island that is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world – and it’s easy to see why! Packed with gorgeous beaches, bustling nightlife and unique cultural attractions, there’s truly something for everyone on this tropical island.
For first time visitors, the sheer variety on offer in terms of things to do can be overwhelming! It’s important to get a good idea of the most rewarding activities before planning your itinerary.
That’s why we’ve created this guide! We’ve figured out the best activities across Bali, and also included some important advice to help you plan your trip.
So let’s dive right in!
Best Time To Visit Bali
Due to its location close to the equator and stunning beaches, the weather is a major factor for many people when deciding when to stay in Bali! The dry season is between April and October – making it the perfect time to check out the bustling nightlife and abundant water sports facilities. This is, however, the busiest time of year – especially during June and July when there are multiple festivals on offer and most visitors from Europe and North America arrive for their summer holidays.
November to March is not generally recommended – but if your top priority is avoiding tourists then this might be a good option. January should be avoided at all costs as it rains the majority of the time, with the last few weeks of March and first week of November being the best option. Be aware that it can be quite humid at this time of year with lots of mosquitos.
Where to Stay in Bali
Bali is a hugely popular tourist destination with a variety of different resorts across the island! Most of the best-known destinations are in South Bali – and this is where you will find many of the nightlife and cultural highlights as well as excellent beaches.
If you want a more unique experience, we recommend heading north! West Bali is easily the least touristy region and ideal for those looking for a sense of adventure. The East, on the other hand, is a great choice for getting to know how locals live.
In the centre, you will find Ubud – a popular destination for historical and spiritual attractions! This collection of villages is home to the best temples in the city as well as stunning natural sights. Though just as popular as the southern resorts, it has a more laid-back atmosphere.
For the itineraries in this guide, we will assume you are based in South Bali as this is the best option for first-time travellers! The island is small and easy to get around, but we recommend overnight stays for trips to the North. Another great option is to take a day trip with a local guide, and we’ve put some of our favourite trips further down in this guide.
Best Hostel in Bali – Warung Coco Hostel
Warung Coco Hostel is located right in the heart of the action! Rooms are arranged around the pool so you only have to take two steps out of your bed to enjoy a dip. Though it isn’t a party hostel, there are plenty of communal spaces where you can mingle with others.Check on Hostelworld
Best Budget Hotel in Bali – Green Garden Hotel
Though it is only a two star hotel, Green Garden comes with additional comforts that ensure you have a great stay! One of the best priced hotels in the main tourist strip, this is a great pick if you want to stay close to the nightlife. Rooms come with either a balcony or terrace, and there is a pool in the centre.Check on Booking.com Check on Hotelscombined
Best Luxury Hotel in Bali – Katamama Suites
Katamata Suites is a gorgeous five star hotel in the heart of Seminyak – often considered the most upmarket resort on the island! It is located right on the beach, meaning many of the rooms come with stunning coastal views. There is also a large outdoor pool and a well-equipped fitness centre.Check on Booking.com Check on Hotelscombined
As we’ve said, for first-time visitors to Bali it is best to base yourself in the South Bali region. This is where you will find most of the tourism infrastructure, and taking day trips is relatively simple in this area! For those who have visited previously, the quieter North and East Bali regions can be a rewarding experience – but be aware it will take much longer to travel between towns and villages in these areas.
Public transport is somewhat unreliable, but there are a few options favoured by visitors. If you want to travel between the main resorts in South Bali and Ubud, Kura Kura Bus is a good service with budget-friendly rates. Any further afield, we recommend arranging private transport with a tour company.
The following itineraries are best for those staying in South Bali! Kuta and Ubud are relatively easy to travel between, and make great options for those only spending two days in Bali. We have some more suggestions in South Bali for those spending a little bit longer on the island, with each town having something different to offer. If you want to head further north, we’ve also included some great day trip options.
Day 1 – Itinerary in Bali (Kuta)
- Why it’s awesome – a uniquely spiritual attraction in the heart of Kuta!
- Cost – free, though prior booking is recommended
- Food recommendation – sample local cuisine at Sunset Street Food
Kuta isn’t known for its spiritual attractions, but the Secret Garden of the Divine Mother is a great way to start your day off peacefully! This small inner-city garden limits how many guests can visit at any given time, so we recommend popping down the day before to book a spot to ensure you get in.
The Secret Garden of the Divine Mother was created in response to the climate crisis, and aims to show people ways to work with mother earth herself! It sounds very spiritual, and we definitely recommend visiting with an open mind, but if you are a willing participant this can be a very intense and informative experience allowing you to connect with local beliefs and culture.
For those interested in yoga, there are some spots where you can practice so bring a mat along with you! Whilst there aren’t any classes, you will find plenty of others trying it out around the garden. After your visit to the garden, we recommend popping over to Sunset Street Food. It’s only a two minute walk away, and they specialise in Balinese cuisine giving you some excellent options – especially for breakfast.
- Why it’s awesome – party atmosphere throughout the day and great facilities!
- Cost – free to visit, with activities varying anywhere from $5-150
- Food recommendation – escape the chains and relax with some local cuisine at Fat Chow
Kuta Beach is the main hub of Kuta, and where you will likely spend most of your day! The most popular activity, and entirely free, is sunbathing and admiring the gorgeous views along the coastline. If you’re more active, however, there are plenty of sports facilities available across the beach.
Scuba Diving is a particularly popular activity, with prices ranging from $100-150 for two dives! These are available to a variety of skill levels, and are a great way to check out the gorgeous marine life surrounding the island. There are also some popular surfing schools in the area, varying from $5 for equipment hire up to $150 for lessons (though you usually need at least three days in Kuta for these).
One of the most popular spots on the beach is the area next to the temple. This is where you will witness locals throwing trinkets into the ocean looking for good luck! It’s also where you will find a small cluster of cultural highlights including art galleries, live performers and locally-owned restaurants and bars.
Jalan Pantai Kuta is the main shopping street in the city, and lines along the beach! The street is packed with international chains offering food, clothing and souvenirs. If you want something more local in terms of offerings, walk a few minutes inland to Jalan Poppies II.
- Why it’s awesome – the main nightlife hub on the entire island, with a good range of clubs and bars!
- Cost – around $1.5-2 for a beer, up to $9 for a fancy cocktail
- Food recommendation – Havana Club Bali doubles as a bar and a restaurant, offering cheap food right into the early hours!
Jalan Legian is the main nightlife spot in Bali and has a great assortment of bars and clubs to cater to all tastes. If you are staying in Kuta, this is the perfect activity to finish up your day. Even if you are staying elsewhere on the island, we recommend booking a night of accommodation nearby so you can stay out late. Hotels are pretty cheap around here!
The Skygarden Complex is one of the most popular nightlife destinations on the street! They offer free shots and nibbles from 9-11pm, making it a good place to start off your night. Prices can get higher later into the evening, but they have some good clubs on the top floor – some of which even have roof terraces.
Speaking of roof terraces, 61 Legian has a great one and is incredibly popular with tourists! Drinks here are reasonably priced, and free cocktails are given out between 9-10pm. They have a strong security presence to ensure everyone feels safe, and regular performers inside ranging from pyrotechnics to exotic dancers.
If you want something a little more laid back, Jalan Poppies I and Jalan Poppies II lie at either end of the street and offer some calmer bars! These are open just as late, but have quieter music so you can chat with friends and others in the bar. They are, however, a little bit pricier.
Day 2 – Itinerary in Bali (Ubud)
- Why it’s awesome – no trip to Bali is complete without visiting the stunning rice fields surrounding Ubud!
- Cost – around $1.10 for entry, $0.60 for parking, and up to $35 for a private driver to the terraces
- Food recommendation – Tegalalang Terrace Restaurant might be on the pricey side, but it’s worth it for the views!
Tegalalang is one of the most visited attractions in Bali and it’s easy to see why! The gorgeous rice fields attract thousands of visitors every year thanks to the unique landscapes and stunning scenery. They are also an important cultural attraction where you can learn about local rice farming and the importance to the Balinese economy.
If you want to avoid the massive crowds, we recommend getting up early and arriving first thing in the morning! It’ll still be busy, but you’ll have more space to admire the panoramic views and take those all-important Instagram shots. This also gives you plenty of time to check out Tegalalang village itself for a more enriching cultural experience.
Within the rice paddies area is Tegalalang Terrace Restaurant. There’s no denying it – the prices here reflect the high tourism numbers. Nevertheless, there is no better breakfast spot on the island than overlooking the gorgeous rice fields from their large terrace!
Heading into the village you can find some less expensive options! Tourists tend to skip this area and just visit the fields, so the restaurants in the centre of the village are locally owned and offer excellent prices on food. This also gives you a chance to observe how locals go about their day to day lives.
- Why it’s awesome – this huge swing not only provides an adrenaline rush, but is also a great photo opportunity!
- Cost – $35-40 depending on what transport options you want, up to $50 if you are arriving from South Bali
- Food recommendation – Bahama Restaurant has some basic options, but is great if you just need a quick lunch option
Another must visit attraction close to Ubud, the Bali Swing lets you soar above the forests and rice fields of Central Bali from the safety of a swing! They offer multiple packages, with the most basic allowing you to to try all seven of the swings (including an adrenaline swing, swing beds and couples swings). Throw your fears away and bring a buddy along to get those perfect photos.
Alongside the swing, they also offer plenty of other great activities! They offer Volkswagen trips, excursions to nearby waterfalls and quad biking activities. They have also recently introduced a rafting package where you can double the adrenaline and brave the rough waters of Ubud’s river system. What’s more, whilst kids under five cannot go on the swings, they can enter the grounds for free and go on the Volkswagen trips.
In terms of dining, there are plenty of options in the area although these are mostly casual dining. We recommend Bahama Restaurant because of the cheap prices and laid back atmosphere! It is also perfect for families visiting the area.
Insider tip: the cheapest transport package includes pick-ups from anywhere in Ubud, so arrange for them to collect you from the rice field
- Why it’s awesome – take in a live dance performance in a beautiful building!
- Cost – between $7-10 depending on the performance
- Food recommendation – White Orchid Ubud are a bit more on the upmarket side, but you get to sample contemporary Balinese cuisine for a reasonable price
Formerly the official residence of the Bali royal family, Ubud Palace is a gorgeous historic building that is now used for events! They are home to multiple festivals and daytime performances throughout the year, but by far their most popular attraction are the evening shows.
Most of these shows take the form of traditional dance, set to gamelan music – a percussive music style that is unique to Indonesia! With colourful costumes, mythical creatures and interesting storytelling, there is plenty to see whilst visiting the palace.
It is also only a short trip from Bali Swing! Though we don’t recommend walking, transport from the park only takes around 20 minutes. There are also plenty of art galleries and restaurants worth checking out before the show.
Day 3 and Beyond in Bali
- Bustling capital of the island
- Full of historical and cultural attractions
- Check out the festival calendar
As the only major city on the island, Denpasar is a multicultural hub of action in Bali. Most tourists leave it out of their itinerary, but if you’re spending four days in Bali or more we recommend checking it out!
Denpasar is great for those that want to discover authentic Balinese culture and spirituality! There are plenty of excellent temples across the city, offering something a bit less touristy than what you will find in the main resort towns. There are also some great museums detailing the history of Bali, as well as galleries and theatres showcasing local creativity – both traditional and contemporary.
As the cultural heart of the city, Denpasar hosts multiple festivals throughout the year! Bali Art Festival is the best known, with some great exhibitions of local talent as well as food and drink stalls. Sanur Village Festival and Denpasar Festival are also great options, though these are a little bit smaller.
Finally, no trip to Denpasar is complete without checking out the retail and culinary scenes! Badung Central Market is right in the heart of the city and offers everything from fresh food, local street snacks and handicrafts. As a multicultural city, the cuisine on offer is varied.
- Upmarket shopping and dining
- Laid back beach with great facilities
- Spa capital of Bali
Seminyak is one of the more upmarket towns on the island – but given Bali’s famously low prices, even budget travellers can enjoy a trip to the area! The town is known for its shopping boutiques and high-class restaurants, many of which can be found along Jalan Laksmana.
The culinary scene here is amongst the most expensive on the island – but by European and North American standards the prices are more than reasonable! If you are going to splurge anywhere in Bali, you should do it here. The area around Petitenget Beach is home to the classiest restaurants with some great views.
Speaking of beaches – Seminyak comes with two of them! Petitenget and Seminyak Beach are connected but offer two different experiences. Whilst both are quieter than the beaches in Kuta, Seminyak is by far the most peaceful. This is where you will find white sands, gorgeous sunsets and secluded surfing spots.
As a popular destination with couples, Seminyak also comes with some great spa facilities! Most of the spas in the town centre are fairly upmarket in scope, but still somewhat affordable to those on a budget. They offer a wide range of holistic therapies, from massages and yoga to hypnotherapy and acupuncture.
- Family friendly beaches
- Great surfing and fishing spots
- Popular with expats
Just a little further north than Seminyak, Canggu doesn’t come with the upmarket reputation but it does have a similar laid-back atmosphere! This is the town most popular with immigrants from Europe and North America who have chosen to make Bali their home, meaning there are plenty of excellent tourist facilities to cater to all types of visitor.
This is an excellent day trip for families visiting the island! The beaches here have plenty of family-friendly activities – including snorkelling, calm paddling areas and cheap restaurants. For the more adventurous, there are also a few beaches that have great waves for surfing, and this former fishing village has plenty of fish still in its waters.
Despite tourism being the main industry and the high level of expats, Canggu has managed to retain its easy-going Balinese way of life – giving you a good balance between prolific tourist facilities and local culture! Many of the surf shops and restaurants are locally owned, and the friendly staff will be more than happy to share their experiences with you.
There are a few decent temples in the area, but Canggu is mostly considered a place to relax. This makes it a perfect pick for your last few days in Bali!
Staying Safe in Bali
Bali is a relatively safe destination for tourists these days, but as with anywhere in the world common sense precautions are advised. Try to avoid overt displays of wealth such as expensive jewellery and designer logos – though you are more likely to have possessions stolen from monkeys than people! Female travellers should exercise extra precaution, and be careful of handbags.
There were some terrorist attacks in the major tourist areas in the 00s, however, these have mostly calmed down and were condemned by locals. Most of the larger clubs and attractions have a large security presence now. If you are still worried, consider staying off-the-beaten-path – but the odds of any attacks happening these days are no higher than they are in Europe or North America!
There is some risk of rabies in Bali, so avoid direct contact with animals. If you are bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you need medical treatment, Siloam Hospitals are highly recommended by previous visitors. Though most places are covered by travel insurance, there’s a fair chance you will have to pay upfront and then reclaim the costs from your provider when you get home – so double-check their policy allows this.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
Day Trips in Bali
Instagram Highlights Tour
As the title suggests, this is an excellent tour if you want to hit all of the most photogenic attractions in one tour whilst visiting Bali! It is also a great option if you have less than three days in Bali and want a good overview of the sights.
Taking around ten hours, this tour heads to the Gate of Heaven, Jungle Swing and Mount Agung – as well as many other attractions in Central and East Bali. They offer pick up from almost any location on the island, so it doesn’t matter where you’re based. It is also an award-winning tour, winning GetYourGuide’s Best Tour Guides in 2019!
Uluwatu and Jimbaran
Bukit Peninsula is the small chunk of land that sticks out of South Bali and is home to some unique cultural and historical attractions! It is one of the least touristy parts of the south, so hiring a guide is a great way to explore this unique region.
This is more of an evening tour than a day trip – especially if you are already based in nearby Kuta! It starts with sunset views across Uluwatu Temple, before continuing to a traditional kerak fire dance. The tour ends with a beachside restaurant in Jimbaran Bay. The whole experience takes around six hours.
North Bali Sunrise Tour
If you’re more of a morning person, this tour is an excellent way to check out the north of the island! This half day tour starts at 3am so you need to be prepared to rise early – but the gorgeous sunrise views across the north coast are well worth setting an alarm for.
A boat trip to go dolphin spotting is also included, providing the perfect start to the day. After the boat trip, your guide will continue on to Gitgit Waterfall where you can marvel at the natural beauty of Bali, before soaking up the spirituality of Ulundanu Bratan Temple!
The Mount Batur area is an excellent excursion for anyone interested in natural history and scenic views! This tour takes you on a guided hike of the island’s most famous volcano, making sure you reach the top by sunrise. This really is only a trip you should take with a guide, making this experience a truly unique opportunity.
After your hike up the mountain, you will visit a local coffee plantation where you can learn about the local way of life and sample some of their best beverages! The trip ends with a visit to Lake Batur where you can take a dip in the natural hot springs that surround the area.
This is the perfect excursion for anyone that wants to discover Balinese traditions and see how the locals live! Penglipuran is a small village located in Central Bali that has managed to maintain an authentic atmosphere away from the main tourist strips of Ubud and the south. With this tour, you will be shown the village through the eyes of a local guide.
You will have the chance to try on authentic Balinese dress, as well as learn how to cook some local dishes! Transport from your hotel is included, and the experience lasts around 8 hours depending on transit time.
Bali is a hugely popular destination for a reason – it offers a great range of activities to suit a variety of tastes! If this is your first visit to the island, we recommend checking out both Kuta and Ubud to discover the most popular attractions. If you have at least five days in Bali, you should also consider checking out the north of the island, as well as the natural scenery in the east.
That being said, if you already have a rough idea of what kind of things you like you can pick out the options that best suit your tastes! This itinerary is only a guide, and we hope you can at least use it to nail your own perfect itinerary on the Island of Gods.
Are you planning a trip to Bali soon? Let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments – or if you’ve been before, tell us where your favourite spot is!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.