5 days in Bali: What to see and do

For first-timers to the Island of the Gods, our handy itinerary covers all the bases

Kuta Beach, Bali

It’s so easy to get lost in the magic of Bali — its warm hospitality, sublime beaches, spectacular sunsets and delicious food have made it a destination of choice for travelers eager to escape the concrete jungle. Here’s an essential itinerary for any Bali initiate.

Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest

Day 1

Kick off the first day of your trip with a satisfying lunch at Café Lotus (Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud; +62 361 975 660; www.cafelotusubud.com), which, as its name suggests, houses a large lotus pond framed by magnolia trees. I’d recommend ordering the makanan ringan, which is an assortment of Balinese snacks.

After refueling, walk to the nearby Ubud Art Market (Jalan Raya Ubud No.35, Ubud) to shop for clothes and trinkets. Alternatively, take a stroll in the Ubud Monkey Forest (Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud), a beautiful nature reserve with plenty of flora and fauna (monkeys too, duh!). Then, head to Gunung Kawi (Banjar Penaka, Tampak Siring; +62 878 6221 6435) an 11th-century temple and funerary complex with awe-inspiring ancient shrines carved into its rock face.

Bebek Bengil (Jalan Hanoman, Padangtegal, Ubud; +62 361 975 489; bebekbengil.com) is a good dinner option — the eatery is renowned for its delicious crispy duck. Then, round off the evening by strolling around Ubud and soaking up its nightlife scene.

Also read: 5 best new restaurants in Ubud, Bali

Traditional kecak fire dance at Uluwatu
Traditional kecak fire dance at Uluwatu

Day 2

One of the best things about Bali is that good food is available just about everywhere you turn. For a cheap, delicious and filling lunch, stop by any street stall for some nasi goreng (fried rice).

Spend an afternoon at Padang-Padang Beach (Jalan Labuan Sait No.73, Kuta) — its large waves draw surfing enthusiasts from all around the world. Or recline on the sand with a good book in hand if surfing isn’t your cup of tea.

When dusk falls, drive up to Uluwatu (Jalan Raya Uluwatu, Pecatu Village, Kuta), a beautiful sea temple perched at the edge of a cliff, with gorgeous views of the Indian Ocean. Stay to watch the traditional kecak fire dance, a visual spectacle you’ll never forget!

Children playing on Kuta Beach
Children playing on Kuta Beach

Day 3

No trip to Bali is complete without a pilgrimage to the famed Naughty Nuri’s (Jalan Batu Belig No.41; +62 361 847 6722). Feast on delicious pork ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, and wash them down with ice-cold martinis.

After the indulgent meal, consider working off some of the calories by boogie boarding at Seminyak Beach. You can rent a board from as little as US$2 per hour. Alternatively, hit up Kuta Beach, which is known for its easy beach breaks that are perfect for beginners.

Seminyak has a thriving nightlife scene — and one that’s a good deal more upmarket than that of neighboring Kuta. End your day in style by dancing till dawn at one of the area’s many hip nightclubs, such as Ku De Ta Bali (Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak; +62 361 736 969; www.kudeta.net).

Rock Bar at AYANA Resort and Spa
Rock Bar at AYANA Resort and Spa

Day 4

After a night of partying, take it slow with a leisurely lunch at Anthony Bourdain-recommended Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka (Jalan Tegal Sari No.2, Ubud; +62 361 976 345), which serves up the best suckling pig on the island.

Next, enjoy a tipple or two while drinking in the sunset views at Rock Bar (AYANA Resort and Spa, Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran; +62 361 702 222; ayanaresort.com/rockbarbali), a popular open-top watering hole overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Then, tuck into finger-licking lobsters and jumbo prawns at one of the many seafood restaurants in Jimbaran, before checking out some of the jazz bars in Sanur for a sophisticated night out.

Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot

Day 5

Grab a bite at Fair Warung Balé (Jalan Sriwedari No.6, Taman Kaja, Gianyar, Ubud; +62 361 975 370), a restaurant with a good cause — all profits go towards free healthcare for Indonesians in need. For desserts, head to Caramel Patisserie & Café (Jalan Hanoman No.4B, Ubud; +62 361 970 847; www.caramel-ubud.com), which serves up an array of toothsome cakes and macarons.

Spend the afternoon at Padang Bai, a little beach town with crystal-clear waters that are perfect for diving and snorkeling. You can reach the town in a little over an hour from Ubud by car.

On your last evening, check out Tanah Lot, a rock formation off the coast that’s home to the Hindu temple Pura Tanah Lot. It also boasts some of the best sunset views on the island — the perfect dénouement to your island vacation!

Written by

Mikka Wee

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