There are many things to do in Bali, for any budget and any taste. It’s just a matter of knowing where to start.
A bucket list destination according to many, Bali has a lot to offer to those who decide to visit and you could spend months there taking in all the vistas and activities – from the most adventurous ones to the most relaxing ones. A hub for the surfing community, digital nomads and solo female travelers in search of yoga and wellness retreats, Bali is hardly what you may expect it to be.
On the one hand you’ll have gorgeous secluded beaches, peaceful villages, endless rice terraces and a lifestyle that is still very much traditional and slow paced. On the other hand, there are the parties, the incredible shopping opportunities, the massive crowds of tourists and the expat communities. It’s all part of the experience – and if you ask me, you should take in a bit of both during your trip.
One thing for sure, it is easy to fall in love with Balinese people: so kind, so warm, so friendly. It makes a solo trip to Bali so much better.
If you are curious to find it more about Bali, you are in the right place. Here, I will share what to do in Bali and a few tips that will help you make the most of the island, no matter how long you intend to stay.
36 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Bali
Confront the monkeys in Monkey Forest, Ubud
Whether you love monkeys or not, you really need to visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, in Ubud. There are actually three temples inside, but the main attraction is by far the long-tailed macaque monkeys.
Far from being friendly, these monkeys are hungry and quite naughty. They will steal anything from you – from bottles of water to sunglasses. In fact, they tried to steal mine right from my face and I had to trick them to get them back. Yet, I thought that seeing these little evils playing around, picking fleas off each other and blatantly posing for picture was by far among the most fun things to do in Bali.
You can totally explore Monkey Forest by yourself, but if you care for some guidance to learn about the significance of the place, the temples inside and even the monkey population, you may want to join a guided tour. These are a few good options:
- Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
- Best of Ubud: waterfall, rice terraces and monkey forest
- Bali sunset: Uluwatu and Kecak show
Hang out in Canggu
Canggu is one of the most popular places in Bali, yet it doesn’t feel crowded and it’s still somewhat rural compared to many other places on the island, so it will make a great addition to your itinerary. You will find a beautiful sandy beach dotted with plenty of bars to get a sunset drink, a laid-back vibe and an incredible array of restaurants serving a selection of local and fusion food – you truly can get anything from a big fat burger to a vegan bowl.
Canggu is also a favorite of solo travelers who will find a great selection of yoga classes (try The Yoga Barn, perfect for beginner yogis); and of surfers.
You can book your surfing lesson in Canggu here.
Relax at the beach
Chilling at the beach is by all means one of the best (and free) things to do in Bali, and you won’t have a hard time finding one that is to your liking. All beaches are accessible so the only thing you have to do is bringing a towel and smother yourself in sunblock, but if you want a more comfortable experience you can even rent a sun bed and an umbrella for a very reasonable price.
Not sure which beach to pick? Here is a where to find the best beaches in Bali:
JUNGUTBATU BEACH – To be fair, this beach isn’t exactly in Bali but in the tiny Nusa Lembongan, which is an easy boat ride away from Bali. Other beaches you may want to check out on the island are Dream Beach and Sandy Bay, which are a bit more hidden.
SANUR – An excellent, quieter place perfect for families with children who will find soft white sand beaches and a nice promenade with shops, cafés and bars. It can get very windy, so it’s one of the best spots in Bali for kite surfing. Look for Pantai Indah, one of the best beaches in the area.
CANGGU – The beaches in this part of the island aren’t exactly desert, but if you are looking for a place with a great party scene, it’s the place to go.
SULUBAN BEACH – At the bottom of the impressive Uluwatu cliffs, this is one of the best beaches in Bali and a perfect place to catch sunset, not to mention a great surfing spot.
BALANGAN BEACH – A fantastic beach of fine, clean sand at the bottom of beautiful cliffs, which you can reach via a set of steep steps. It’s at 40 km from Kuta.
KUTA BEACH – Hardly a gorgeous beach to be honest, but it’s one of the most famous places in Bali to learn how to surf and one of the best sunset spots. It’s crowded throughout the day, so perfect if you are looking for a party beach.
CANDI DASA – Also known as Candidasa, this part of the island sees a series of small villages significantly quieter than most and a nice long sandy beach.
LOVINA – A dark sand beach on the north coast of the island where it’s easy to spot dolphins. Not far from the beach you will find the sacred Air Panas Banjar, beautiful hot springs.
Visit Uluwatu Temple
The Pura Luhur Uluwatu is only one of the various temples located on the South coast of Bali and one of the most impressive in Indonesia. While visiting this temple is a must-do in Bali, what you will love the most about it is the fact that it offers some breathtaking views of the coast and the ocean, as well as of the 70-meter cliffs (officially called Karan Boma Cliff) that drop directly into the sea.
Uluwatu is also home to a colony of naughty monkeys who never fail to entertain visitors with their tricks.
The best time to visit is just before sunset. You can admire the fishing boats sailing the ocean and passing through the light beams that the sun throws on the sea. It really is one of the things to see in Bali.
You can visit Uluwatu independently but for a more in depth experience you may want to join a guided tour. These are some good options:
Experience a Kecak show
If you want to experience Balinese culture and get an idea of the traditional rituals and shows, make sure to see a Kecak show. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, this is a performance where a group of 150 men, who wear a checked cloth around their waists, percussively chant “cak” and move their hands and arms. The show depicts a battle from the Ramayana Hindu poem.
It often is the highlight of a trip to Bali so try to include it in your itinerary! One of the best places to see a Kecak performance is actually Uluwatu open air theatre, at sunset time. The theatre is small and intimate, and the show a lot fun, as the performers regularly involve members of the public. It’s a bit on the touristy side, but nevertheless one of the most fun things to do in Bali.
You can get tickets for the Kecak show here.
If you want to experience something truly unique and are traveling to Bali at the right time (the exact date changes every year) you may want to experience the Hindu celebration called Nyepi, also known as “Day of Silence.” More dance shows can be seen in Ubud Palace, one of the most beautiful buildings in Ubud which dates back to the 19th century.
Visit Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot is one of the most famous temples in Bali. It’s a Hindu temple that sits on top of a rock formation that because of the erosion has been separated from the mainland, making the view of it from a distance an astonishing one. Needless to say, the experience of visiting Tanah Lot varies a lot depending on the time of day and on the tide – with high tide, it is completed surrounded by water.
Go to Tanah Lot for the sunset for an even better experience.
Immerse yourself in the pool of Tirta Empul Temple
Following the legacy of Eat Pray Love, one of the most popular things to do in Bali is bathing in the waters of Tirta Empul temple, in Tampaksiring. This is a less than solitary experience – keep in mind that people from all over the island come to cleanse themselves in its waters. And it’s a popular tourist spot considered to be Instagram-worthy, so chances are you will have to struggle for that photo!
Tirta Empul is located right outside of Ubud. You can visit it independently or on a guided tour such as this one.
Admire Ulun Danu Beratan
Another cool temple to visit is Ulun Danu Beratan (also known as Pura Bratan), which is located in the Bedugul area and right by a lake. Ulun Danu is dedicated to the goddess that protects the lake in which it is located – Lake Bratan, at almost 1100 meters above sea level.
You can get there on this guided tour.
Go to Tirta Gangga Palace
One of the coolest things to do in Bali is visiting this water palace that is located at about 5 km from Karangasem (and 2 hours drive from Ubud). It is a former royal palace whose name has a clear reference to the Ganga River in India.
There is a small entrance fee (a little over $3 USD) to visit Tirta Gangga Palace and depending on the time of day it can be quite crowded as it is very scenic, with the pretty stepping stones and an 11-tier fountain.
To take away the stress of having to arrange transportation to get there, you may want to book this very popular guided tour.
And to Pura Lempuyang
One of the most iconic images of Bali is that of Pura Lempuyang temple, known as the Gateway to Heaven and considered to be one of the holiest on the highland. Try to visit on a clear day for impressive views of Mount Agung.
Visit other Temples in Bali
If you are not templed out, there are many more temples you can visit in Bali. Besakih Temple, located in Besakih village, can be visited when going to Mount Agung. Lempuyang temple, located on the slope of Mount Lempuyang; and Mengwi Temple are other interesting landmarks.
Go on a day-trip to Nusa Penida
Nusa is one of the most popular places to visit on day trips from Bali. Diamond Beach definitely is one of the best in the area, and while there you should also make it a point to go to Kelingking (a 40-minute boat ride from Sanur), where you will find a viewpoint overlooking beautiful limestone formations and a fantastic beach below, which is known as T-Rex beach.
Keep in mind that you won’t be the only visitor in Nusa. If you want to get away from the crowd you can hike down to the beach but the path can be very steep in parts. As the currents are very strong, swimming is not really recommended at this beach.
Go to Gili Islands
Gili Islands, off the coast of Lombok (similar to Bali, but a bit less exploited by tourism), deserve a special mention as they are a truly unique place in Indonesia. There are no cars there, making it a really cool place to spend a few days (rather than just going on day tours) to get away from the noise and traffic of Bali.
There are many sun-kissed beaches, all of them gorgeous, so you will know what to do as soon as you arrive! Thanks to its crystal-clear waters, Gili Air is also a great place to go if you want to snorkel with turtles. It’s also great for solo travel.
And visit the other nearby islands
There are many islands that can be explored on day trips from Bali other than Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands. Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are also worth visiting and they are a lovely getaway from the busy streets of Kuta and Seminyak. Nusa Lembongan just looks like what Bali used to look 20 years ago.
Ride the jungle swing
If you have browsed social media in search of photos of Bali you surely have come across one of the jungle swing. There actually are several swings around the island – so you can pick where to go. The best Bali swing is the one in Ubud, at about 20 minutes from the center in Bongkasa Pertiwi, Kapubaten Bandung, as it offers jaw-dropping views over the rice fields. You can pick from swings that take you from 10 to a whopping 78 meters from the ground – so this isn’t exactly for you if you are afraid of heights!
This isn’t the cheapest attraction in Bali if you go there directly, but this guided Ubud tour which costs around $40 USD is actually more budget friendly than you’d imagine, especially considering it can last up to 10 hours. You can book it here.
Eat some delicious food
The food is delicious in Bali, and a great way to connect with its culture. The island is packed with amazing restaurants. Whether you have a taste for western food (any western food), Asian, Indonesian or Balinese cuisine, you are bound to find some very good (and more than affordable) restaurants and even warungs (smaller cafés that serve local food). Vegan? Worry not, there are lots of vegan restaurants in Ubud such as Alchemy Café.
Here are some of the foods you should try when in Bali:
BABI GULING – A suckling pig roasted on a spit over coconut husks.
CHICKEN SATAY – Skewers of chicken smothered in peanut sauce.
BEBEK BETUTU – Duck which is first boiled then fried. Best eaten at Bebek Bengil, in Ubud.
For a great food tour in Bali you may want to check out this authentic food tour.
Have dinner by the ocean
Bali has many restaurants on the beach, with tables on the sand so that you can can get your feet sandy as you walk to your table. One thing you should be aware of is that having dinner on the beach in Bali is less than an exclusive experience. Beach restaurants in Jimbaran Beach and in South Kuta can get really crowded.
Learn how to cook a proper Balinese meal
Learning how to prepare some Balinese food from scratch is what to do in Bali to appreciate its culture, so I recommend joining a Balinese cooking class. It’s a great way to connect with a local family, learn about their daily life and traditions and to discover how to prepare a Balinese meal.
The first chore during a cooking class is usually a trip to the market to shop for fresh produce, and then you will prepare a meal everyone in the group will eat.
You can book this Balinese cooking class at an organic farm.
See the rice paddies
Seeing the paddy fields is one of the ultimate things to do in Bali – they simply are a must-visit and quintessentially Balinese. Rice terraces all over the island, and they are among the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is not hard to find rice terraces in Bali. They are all over! Some of them are currently no more than a beautiful (large) garden in a lovely restaurant. Others are still properly used and farmed, and those are the best to see as they are just surrounded by green hills. You may want to take a guided tour of the rice terraces or go there with a local guide – find out how here.
The most famous rice terraces in Bali are those of Tegallalang, which is just north of Ubud – they are best visited in the early morning. Jatiluwih terraces are also splendid.
These tours all include a visit of the rice terraces:
Visit the Elephant Cave
Among the things to do in Bali there is visiting the famous site of Goa Gajah, known as the Elephant Cave and located in the surroundings of Bedulu (about 20 minutes drive from Ubud). According to legend, this sanctuary was created by the nails of a giant called Kebo Iwa. It likely dates to the 11th century.
It is carved in a rock wall and it is accessed through the huge mouth of a demon. In the inside of the cave, you can spot some of the phallic symbols of Hindu god Shiva and of his feminine counterpart, as well as a statue of Ganesha, the god with the elephant head. The beautiful forest behind the cave adds to the experience.
These guided tours go to the Elephant Cave:
If you feel in need to escape from the heat and hustle and bustle of Bali, go find Sekumpul waterfall. This sacred spot is located in a beautiful valley and will take a bit of an effort to reach as you have to hike. But once you actually get there, the view is quite stunning and you will be able to freshen up in the natural pools.
You can hike to Sekumpul waterfall independently so don’t fall for the checkpoint scam where you will be told you need to hire a guide!
Other beautiful waterfalls are those of Munduk, a bit more off-the-beaten-path and home to some lovely markets and a few good guest houses; Aling Aling, in north Bali; Gitgit, which measures 35 meters in height and has a beautiful swimming hole (it is located between Denpasar and Singaraja); and Tukad Cepung, which is actually located inside a cavern!
Go on a hot air balloon ride over Ubud
One of the most romantic things to do when in Bali is a hot air balloon ride – it’s not cheap (the cheapest option is $75 USD) but worth it. Peacefully floating in the sky you can get impressive views of Mount Agung, the rice terraces, the beaches and the incredibly lush vegetation.
You really can’t say you’ve been to Bali if you didn’t at least tried to surf once – it’s one of the things to do in Bali! The island is world famous for its surf and no matter where you go, you will find people trying to ride the waves – some more successful than others.
If you are a pro, it won’t take you long to find a good beach where you can surf: waves in places such as Dreamland Beach or Balangan Beach will pose a good challenge, though not nearly as much as those you will find at Padang Padang and Uluwatu.
If you are a first timer, you will be happy to know that surf classes are offered pretty much anywhere – though Kuta Beach is probably your best bet to learn. You can sign up for this 2 hour surfing lesson.
If you’ve always wanted to try parasailing, you may do that in Bali as it comes very budget friendly. A couple of things you should keep in mind:
- Parasailing involves getting out on a boat and waiting for a good ten minutes while the sail is unfolded and you can start your flights – if you are prone to sea sickness, you probably want to take something before that.
- It’s honestly quite scary. I am not afraid of heights at all but let me tell you, you literally freak out when you see the boat below you so so tiny.
- Bring your gopro with you and if you are nearly as shortsighted as I am remember to wear contact lenses as you won’t be able to wear glasses or sunglasses.
Fill up on adrenaline
If you need to get an adrenaline fix, you may want to try more water sports. If you are keen on jetpacking, head to Tanjung Benoa. Scuba diving is best enjoyed in Menjangan National Marine Park, in Menjangan Island, and in Padang Bai – though for wrecks you should go to Tulamben. If you want to snorkel, the area of Amed is one of the best.
For rafting, the area of Ayung River is the best option.
If you intend to practice adventure sports, make sure to have a good travel insurance!
Chill at Waterbom
If you want something a bit more low key, Waterbom, in South Kuta, is a great place to spend a few hours. It is more of a family place, but still a lot of fun – you will find all sorts of pools and slides.
See the sunset in Kuta Beach
Traveling around the island, you will get to Kuta at some point or another. Hardly a nice beach – despite being considered one of the top solo travel destinations in Bali – Kuta is very commercial, crowded, congested and dirty. Yet, walking down the beach in Kuta at sunset time is a real treat. The light is truly gorgeous, so beautiful that you will forget about the rest of the world. You won’t be able to resist posing for some incredible sunset pictures. There is no denying that seeing the sunset in Kuta Beach is one of the things to do in Bali.
Seminyak is another place to go for sunsets.
And the sunrise in Munduk
Located in North Bali, Munduk is the perfect spot to admire sunrise and you should honestly make the effort to wake up for that. As the area gets more rain than the rest of the island, it’s also greener and truly lush.
Explore Bali on scooter
Most locals and even tourists traveling to Bali ride scooters or motorbikes. There even are motorbike taxis, called “ojek.” This is a great way to explore the island – however, take care to notice that traffic in Bali is insane and accidents caused by taxi drivers’ crazy driving, or even by poor stray dogs randomly crossing the street are not uncommon. Make sure to always wear a helmet and drive as safely as possible!
The average price of a scooter rental in Bali varies a lot depending on what scooter you get. Expect to pay a minimum of 30000 to a maximum of 70000 Indonesia Rupiahs per day (between $2 and $5 USD).
Or bike around instead
If you are environmentally conscious, a bike tour to the most rural parts of the island which also goes to the rice patties is what to do in Bali to get away from traffic and noise.
You can book a guided bike tour here.
The coastal roads around Sanur are perfect for biking!
There are some excellent hikes in Bali. The trek to the Gunung Agung volcano (Mount Agung), the highest peak of Bali at over 3100 meters, is a challenging yet amazing one which offers spectacular views but it’s unfortunately closed at the moment, due to frequent eruptions. Batukaru is the second highest volcano on the island and on its slopes you will find Pura Luhur Batukaru temple.
Hiking Gunung Batur volcano (which you will probably know as Mount Batur) is by far one of the best things to do in Bali. The hike departs from Kintamani, and the sunrise view from there is a real must-see. If you are keen on the experience, go prepared and know that there will be lots of other visitors, harassing vendors and less than qualified guides offering their services.
Are you a female traveler? Beware! One of the things to do in Bali is shopping and I am sure you will enjoy local markets where you will discover some curious finds, local crafts and low-price souvenirs and bargains. Make sure to practice your haggling skills before going!
Things to look for are nice masks to bring home – Bali has a long tradition in mask-making; art pieces – for those go to Sukawati market; silver souvenirs – the best place for that is Celuk, a village in Sukawati at about 30 minutes drive from Ubud; stone carvings – if you are keen on this heavy souvenir, the best place to go is Batubulan, 2 km outside of Denpasar; wood carvings – search them out in Mas, 6 km from Ubud.
Party at a fantastic beach club
Partying at a beach club is definitely one of the things to do in Bali and the best place to do that is Kuta. There are many good clubs – but for the best ones head straight to the beach. Potato Head Beach Club has an infinity pool and is perfect to enjoy a wonderful sunset while dancing away and sipping a delicious cocktail.
Get a massage
Getting a relaxing massage is definitely what to do in Bali, especially if this is the last leg of your trip across Indonesia and you feel exhausted. The good news is that there are many places where you can literally walk in and get a Balinese massage, a foot rub, or a head rub for a real steal.
Relax in a fabulous resort
Most people opt to stay in Ubud or Seminyak and they are both excellent choices.
The number of hotels and resorts is just incredible, and there is something for all budgets. The best places are well hidden gems, far away from traffic and noise. If you are have the budget to splurge, head straight to Nusa Dua, where you will find some incredible luxury resorts tucked away in the nature. The St. Regis Bali Resort is by far the best one. For a more budget friendly option opt for Amnaya Resort Benoa.
For more budget friendly options, stay in Kuta or Canggu.
Stay in a gorgeous villa
If you are planning to stay a little longer on the island, you may want to rent a villa. Seminyak and Canggu will be your best bet for mansions overlooking the sea, the jungle or the rice terraces. The best part of it is that renting these properties is not nearly as expensive as you may think.
Or opt for a homestay
Much like a cooking class is the best way to learn about local culinary traditions, a homestay is a great idea to get to know Balinese culture a bit better, and to befriend the locals. Look for places where you can truly contribute to the daily life of the family, rather than just pay for a room!
Further Readings About Bali And Indonesia
Are you planning a trip to Indonesia? Make sure to check out my posts
- A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Bali
- The 23 Best Spa In Bali
- Has Bali Lost Its Magic?
- 25 Fantastic, Fun And Unique Things To Do In Indonesia
- Everything You Need To Know To Visit Mount Bromo, Indonesia
- The Best Things To Do In Komodo, Flores