There are many things to do in Bali, for any budget and any taste. It’s just a matter of knowing where to start.
Indonesia has been the first country I have ever traveled to in Southeast Asia, and a great tourist destination. I was excited about visiting, because everyone spoke marvels about it, and my travel plans were such that I would also visit Bali, a bucket list destination according to many. I didn’t know much about Indonesia at all, and even less about Bali, actually. All I knew was that one of the things to do in Bali is surfing, since a bunch of my friends who surf and travel the world in search of the best waves kept raving about it, and that Bali solo travel is very much a trend.
It took me about a minute after I arriving in Indonesia and getting out of the airport to know that if anything, I would be in for a huge cultural shock, which would be a positive and a negative one at the same time.
I fell in love with Balinese people: so kind, so warm, so friendly. It makes a solo trip so much better. And I truly enjoyed some of the places I have visited, such as Komodo and Rinca islands, for they are beautifully wild, or the rice fields. I didn’t feel the same about some others such as Mount Bromo – I felt mass tourism has had a negative impact on them and that they were somewhat exploited.
Read more about Komodo and Rinca islands on my post “How to find heaven on earth.”
Of all the places I have visited in Indonesia, Bali gave me some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I found it terribly chaotic. On the other hand, I must say that the range of things to do in Bali is outstanding, and I found it to be an excellent destination for solo travel, even as a female traveler.
Read my post “Has Bali lost its magic?”
Without having the presumption of being a Bali expert, and despite having spent a limited time exploring the island, I still think I can point out what to do Bali to make the most of it, and suggest what the unmissable things to do in Bali are, and share a few travel tips.
Do you want to go to Bali but have little time to plan your trip? Why not join a Bali tour with reputable tour operators such as one of these and meet like-minded travelers:
- Wellness Bali – a 9 days G Adventures Bali tour focussed on health, wellness and relaxation;
- Classic Bali – an 8 days G Adventures Bali tour that takes you to all the most famous places on the island;
- Active Bali and Java – this 12 days G Adventures Bali tour is perfect for people who enjoy hiking and a bit of adrenaline;
- Bali beached and boat rides – the name says it all! This 9 days G Adventures Bali tour is all about staying close to water.
26 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Bali
Confront the monkeys in Monkey Forest, Ubud
It’s no secret that I love monkeys. I get giggly and excited any time I see them or even just hear them as they play, jumping from tree branch to tree branch in the jungle. That is why, if I have to give recommendations for what to do in Bali, the first thing that comes to my mind is to do a guided tour of 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.
These are some of the best tours in Bali to see the monkeys:
- 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 – and it is a great place for solo travel so you really have to include it in 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.
Since one of the things to do in Bali is trying local as well as fusion food, Canggu won’t disappoint – there is a great array of place where you can get anything from a big fat burger to a vegan bowl, to more traditional local food.
Finally, Canggu is also a perfect place to take yoga classes (very popular among solo travelers) and to learn how to surf.
GOOD TO KNOW: The Yoga Barn in Ubud is the best place to sign up for yoga classes, especially if you are a beginner.
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 cliffs that drop directly into the sea.
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. Having seen the amazing sunset from Uluwatu Temple, I have little doubt as to why visiting this temple is one of the things to do in Bali.
Ulu Watu is also home to a colony of naughty monkeys who never fail to entertain visitors with their tricks, which include stealing whatever they find amusing and entertaining, especially shiny objects. Although some find them quite annoying, to me it is a fun welcome bonus. As I said before, seeing the monkey is what to do in Bali for some good fun.
These are some of the best cultural tours:
- Bali sunset: Uluwatu and Kecak dance
- Uluwatu, Tanah Loh and Jimbaran tour
- Bali full day private tour of white sand beaches and sunset
GOOD TO KNOW: Mengwi Temple is another great one to visit.
Experience a Kecak show
If you are anything like me, you will like the idea of experiencing Balinese culture – whether this means walking around the streets and meeting the locals, learning about the traditional activities or even seeing traditional rituals and shows. Lots of people who visit Bali agree that seeing the Kecak show is what to do in Bali.
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! The performance I saw took place in the beautiful setting of Ulu Watu open air theatre, at sunset time. The theatre small and intimate, and the show a lot fun, as the performers regularly involve members of the public. Sure, it is on the touristy side. But so much fun that it definitely is one of the things to do in Bali.
Tickets to the show are available online:
GOOD TO KNOW: 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.”
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.
TIP: Go to Tanah Lot for the sunset for an even better experience.
GOOD TO KNOW: There is a small entrance fee to visit the temple.
If you want to join a guided tour, these are some good options:
- Private tour of Ubud and its temples
- Bali: Tanah Lot Temple Guided Sunset Tour
- Private guided Ubud tour and Bali temples
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 (apologies if you are on a solo trip because you want to be solo!) – 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
Another cool temple to visit is Ulun Danu (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. You can get there on this guided tour.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you are planning to go to Mount Agung, you may also want to visit Besakih Temple, located in Besakih village. It’s the largest Hindu Temple in Bali. Finally, you may want to consider Lempuyang temple, located on the slope of Mount Lempuyang.
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) 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.
Go on a day-trip to Nusa Penida
Nusa is the perfect place for 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, where you will find a viewpoint overlooking beautiful limestone formations and a fantastic beach below, which is known as T-Rex beach.
GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that as this day-trip to Nusa is one of the most popular things to do in Bali, you won’t be the only visitor. If you want to get away from the crowd you can hike down to the beach but keep in mind this isn’t the easiest hike, as the path can be very steep in parts.
As the currents are very strong, swimming is not really recommended at this beach.
Full day tours are the best option to visit Nusa. These are two good ones:
And visit the other nearby islands
One of the things to do in Bali is to get away from the chaos of the island by going to the nearby quieter ones, so make sure to include at least one in your itinerary. There are many islands that can be explored on day trips from Bali other than Nusa Penida. Gili Islands may be the most famous ones, but Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and 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.
Go to Gili Islands
Gili Islands, off the coast of Lombok, 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Lombok is very similar to Bali, but slightly less exploited.
Ride the jungle swing
If you have browsed social media in search of photos of Bali you surely have come across the 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 activity to do 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
If you visit Bali you will be impressed by how delicious the food is there. I am not what people would call “a foodie”. In fact, while I do enjoy good food, I am actually quite picky. However, I must say that trying the local specialties and enjoying a nice meal are some of my favorite activities while I travel. And eating is what to do in Bali to learn more about its culture.
Bali 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).
There are even lots of vegan restaurants in Ubud. One of the things to do in Bali is hitting the fantastic restaurant scene and having a delicious meal.
GOOD TO KNOW: Babi Guling (a pig roasted on a spit over coconut husks) is an absolute must-try served in many warungs.
For a great food tour in Bali you may want to check out this authentic food tour.
Have dinner by the ocean
Among the things to do in Bali there’s hitting one of the many beautiful beaches. But there is more!
There are many restaurants on the beach – although oftentimes these buildings ruin the scenery, having dinner at the beach is quite a treat. All these restaurants place their tables on the sand and customers can get their feet sandy when they walk to their table.
One thing you should be aware of is that having dinner on the beach in Bali is less than an exclusive experience. Since it is one of the things to do in Bali, pretty much everybody does it – and what in another country with a more protected coast line could be an incredibly romantic date, places like Jimbaran Beach, in South Kuta, end up being really crowded.
Yet, I admit it is quite an enjoyable experience. Between the good food and the huge waves that break loudly on the shore, you are bound to have a good time. Hence, I do recommend having dinner by the ocean as one of the top things to do in Bali.
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 more. I should thus receive a round of applause for actually enrolling in a Balinese food cooking class, as this was truly an act of bravery from me.
Cooking classes in Bali are a great way to get in touch with a local family will show you a bit of their daily life and traditions and teach you how to prepare a Balinese meal. You can embark in a half-day one.
The first chore usually is going to the market (going to the market is one of the things to do in Bali) and 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. If like me the picture that comes to mind when thinking of Bali is that of the green paddies where a few farmers can be seen working the land you won’t be disappointed. Rice terraces all over the island, and there is a good reason why visiting is one of the things to do in Bali and why they are among the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is not hard to find rice paddy fields 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. Without the shadow of a doubt, I think that a tour of the rice terraces is one of the top things to do in Bali. You can even ask a local to take you there – find out how here.
The most famous ones are Tegallalang, which is just north of Ubud. Tegallalang is best visited in the early morning.
Jatiluwih terraces are also splendid.
These are some of the best cultural day tours of Bali that include a visit to the terraces:
- Ubud rice terraces, temple and volcano
- Best of Bali customized tour
- Bali tour of the countryside by bike
- Bali tour all inclusive: Ubud rice terraces, temples and volcano
- Best of Ubud: waterfall, rice terraces and monkey forest
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, it is possible to 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.
Visiting Goa Gajah is what to do in Bali, especially if in search of some quiet time and nature as there is a beautiful forest right behind it.
Here are some tours that also 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 to Sekumpul, the view is quite stunning and you will be able to freshen up in the natural pools.
GOOD TO KNOW: You can find more beautiful waterfalls in Munduk, which is definitely more off-the-beaten-path compared to the rest of Bali. Munduk is also home to some lovely markets and a few good guest houses.
Another great waterfall is Aling Aling, in north Bali island.
Finally, a really special place is Tukad Cepung, which is actually located inside a cavern!
Have an adrenaline rush with some water sports
I love practicing sports and outdoor activities when traveling. Even more so, I enjoy adventures sports – hiking, rafting, diving: you name it. If adventure sports get to be anywhere near water, then I am in for the fun. Bali has some world-class surfing, given the consistently good quality of the waves, and – surprise! – also for rafting. Bali rafting is quite the thing, especially in Ayung!
Having an adrenaline rush by practicing some Bali water sports is one of the things to do in Bali.
One of the best places for water sports in Bali is Tanjung Benoa. The most fun activity in Tanjung Benoa is jetpacking. You can definitely have a try but I should warn you that standing up on those things is not easy at all (trust me, I tried).
Sanur is a world-famous place to surf and snorkel, together with Padang-Padang beach.
If you want to go scuba diving, one of the best places to do so is Menjangan National Marine Park, in Menjangan Island.
For rafting, the area of Ayung River is the best option.
Here are some of the best water sports tours in Bali:
- Ayung river white-water rafting – as good as it gets when it comes to Bali rafting.
- 2 hour surfing lesson – for one of the most famous water sports out there.
- Tulamben Bay beginners’ dive
- Full day snorkeling trip to Nusa Penida
GOOD TO KNOW: If you want something a bit more low key, Waterbom, in South Kuta, is a great place to spend a few hours. Waterbom is more of a family place, but still a lot of fun – you will find all sorts of pools and slides.
TIP: If you intend to practice adventure sports, make sure to have a good travel insurance!
See the sunset in Kuta Beach
Traveling around the island, you will get to Kuta at some point or another.
I did not like Kuta Beach, to be honest – even though it is considered to be one of the top solo travel destinations in Bali. It is a bit too commercial, too crowded, too congested and too dirty for my taste. Yet, I admit that 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Seminyak is another place to go for sunsets. Not to mention, Seminyak has a myriad of good restaurants and bars.
Most locals and even tourists traveling to Bali ride scooters or motorbikes. There even are motorbike taxis, called “ojek.” Traffic is insane, taxi drivers crazy, and the pollution gets worst by the minute. If like me you are in favor of protecting the environment, and enjoy biking, definitely opt for a bike tour, going to the most rural parts of the island and getting close to the rice patties is what to do in Bali to get away from traffic and noise.
These are some of the best biking tours of Bali:
GOOD TO KNOW: The coastal roads around Sanur are perfect for biking!
The island is a great destination for outdoor activities – one of the best in Indonesia. Among the things to do in Bali, there are some fantastic hikes. 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. 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 what to do in Bali for fantastic sights. The sunrise view of Mount Batur is a must-see (the hike departs from Kintamani), as well as the views from Kintamani. However, go knowing what to expect as the attraction is terribly mismanaged. Large numbers of visitors (perhaps more than it can take), harassing vendors and (unreliable) guides may make the trip less than worthy.
Make sure to research it properly if you care to go, and don’t go alone. Solo travelers should by all means join a group tour.
Here are some of the best guided hikes and multi-day tours in Bali:
- Sekumpul waterfall trek
- Mount Batur sunrise hike from Kintamani
- 2-day sunset and sunrise trek at Mount Batur
Are you a female traveler? Beware! One of the things to do in Bali is shopping. Even if you are not what Sophie Kinsella would call “a shopaholic” 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.
From high street shops to shopping malls, from the big famous brand stores found in Denpasar and Kuta to the lovely small boutiques of Ubud and the local markets, there is something for everyone in Bali. There is little doubt that shopping is what to do in Bali.
GOOD TO KNOW: Mask-making has a long tradition in Bali, so you may want to look for a good one to bring home!
GOOD TO KNOW: The best art market in Bali is Sukawati. It is not as crowded as the one in Ubud. The added bonus is also that Sukawati is cheaper!
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. The number of clubs to go to in Kuta is enormous. The best ones are all by the beach, like the exclusive Potato Head Beach Club, which has access to 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 both Ubud and Kuta Beach are packed with places where it is possible to walk in and get a Balinese massage, a foot rub, or a head rub for a real steal.
To discover more about the best spa in Bali check my post “The 23 Best Spa In Bali.”
Relax in a fabulous resort
Most people opt to stay in Ubud or Seminyak (one of the best places for solo travel in Bali), and they are both excellent choices.
The number of beautiful hotels and resorts available in Bali is just incredible, and staying in one of them is what to do in Bali. There is something for all budgets. The best places are well hidden gems, far away from the traffic and the noise that plague the island. My choice is Ubud Dedari Villas, a gorgeous boutique resort in Bedulu, at about 20 minutes drive from Ubud and really close to the Elephant Cave, one of the places to visit in Bali. It’s perfect for romantic couples but also for solo travelers.
You will know from the minute you walk in that you are in for a real treat. The personnel immediately welcomes guests and shows them to their beautiful room. In order to get there you have to walk through a lush garden where other villas are also located, right next to the infinity pool.
All of the villas have their own veranda and a stunning view over the forest and the hills. Rooms are plush: a huge bed, a beautiful balcony with sun beds where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast every morning, and an enormous bathroom with a lovely shower and a jacuzzi too – because relaxing in a jacuzzi is what to do in Bali.
Ubud Dedari Villas is very quiet, something that should never be taken for granted in Bali – the only noise that can be heard is that of the creek that runs below and of cicadas living in the trees. There is a free shuttle service that takes you to Ubud any time you need and arranges round-trip transfers to the airport.
Staying in a fabulous resort is one of the top things to do in Bali, and Ubud Dedari Villas is definitely one a great one.
GOOD TO KNOW: 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 in Nusa Dua. For a more budget friendly option in Nusa Dua opt for Amnaya Resort Benoa.
These are some of the best hotels in Ubud:
- Komaneka at Tanggayuda Ubud has gorgeous rooms and fabulous service. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The Legian – this luxury hotel is easily one of the best on the island. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Komaneka at Monkey Forest Ubud has the ultimate location in Ubud. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Purana Boutique Resort has the some of the best service on the island and serves a scrumptious breakfast. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Ubud Dedari Villas, a lovely boutique hotel with fabulous views and comfortable rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Sri Ratih Cottages, in Ubud, has a fantastic pool to relax in. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Gajah Biru Bungalows, a set of beautiful cottages around a lush garden. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
GOOD TO KNOW: Backpackers usually opt to stay in Kuta or Canggu, where there is more of a choice of budget accommodation with pool, swim-up bars, and social spaces.
Check out my post A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Bali for more ideas on places to stay.
Have you been to Bali? What were your favorite things to do in Bali?
Read more about Indonesia on my post “Fantastic things to do in Indonesia.”
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