A Guide to The Perfect All-In-One Tropical Destination
(With Halal Alternatives!)
Updated May 24, 2023
by Alexander Kremer
Bali. Never would I have thought I'd be so captivated by a destination like Bali. After all, there are places like Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia with similar characteristics. You'd think a place like Bali wouldn't be anything special, but it was. Follow me as I break down why Bali is the perfect all-in-one tropical destination for anyone.
If you've never been to Bali, the first thing you'd probably think of is its beaches - as was what I thought before my first trip there. Undoubtedly, they are iconic but are just a small role in telling Bali's story. During my trips, I soon learned that there is so much more to this paradise island than just the sand and sea.
For starters, Bali is home to some of the richest cultures and food. There is a wealth of cultural attractions like water temples and fire shows coupled with some of the most flavourful food with the famous 'Babi Guling' (suckling pig) or for halal travelers - the Jimbaran seafood picks. Instagram-worthy villas with crystal-clear pools are the norm. The Balinese are huge believers in energy and spirit impacting the nature and environment around them - which aligns perfectly with their religions and traditions. I went to Bali expecting it to be like any other tropical destination in Southeast Asia, but I couldn't be more wrong. There was just something about Bali that felt different. When you're there, you'll just feel it.
Where is Bali?
Situated in the heart of over 17,000 islands, Bali is the fifth-largest island in Indonesia neighboring the island of Java. Surrounding it are countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia.
Being a popular travel destination, the accessibility and processes in Ngurah Rai - or Denpasar Airport are relatively smooth and quick. There are direct flights from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from the United States however, American travelers can transit through places like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore to reach Bali.
Being a tropical island, Bali is on the warmer and more humid side. The rainy season runs from December to March and the dry season runs from April to November. Depending on what you're looking for, the best time of the year varies. The dry season has nice sunny weather but gets very crowded at times, and the rainy season is much less crowded and the rain usually only comes in the late afternoon-evening.
Bali is very safe. Violent crimes and murders are almost unheard of. Drive-by snatchings happen from time to time so remember to keep your valuables in your pocket when walking along the side of the road. There are also a lot of tourist scams that happen in the main busy areas of Bali, going up to you and selling you things on the roadside. However, the largest safety risks in my opinion are motorbike accidents and natural threats. I would personally stay away from riding a motorbike unless you are experienced in riding motorbikes in Southeast Asia.
Regardless if you're on a budget or if you're there to spend, Bali is a great place for both. Hostels are easily available from $5-8/night and hotels from $12-18/night. Food is also relatively cheap with 'warungs' (family/street restaurants) ranging from $2-4/meal and regular restaurants from $6-9/meal. I would suggest staying away from warungs if you're not used to eating street food in Southeast Asia as the street food is not the most hygienic and may give you the infamous 'Bali belly' - or more simply known as food poisoning. Transportation in Bali is very cheap with apps like Grabs and Gojeks (the Indonesian version of Grab) ranging from $2-4 for a 20-minute ride. Hiring a driver for a few days for a group is preferable as it could be cheaper with little waiting time though for a solo traveler, it might be more costly as compared to using Grabs and Gojeks.
The locals in Bali speak mainly Bahasa Indonesia and Balinese, though many are also fluent in English. In my experience, as compared to countries like Thailand, the English proficiency in Bali is leagues better. I was able to communicate with locals in Bali much easier than in places like Phuket and Krabi, so no need to worry about learning Bahasa Indonesia or Balinese!
Areas of Bali
Bali can be split up into different popular tourist areas for ease of reference and finding what you're looking for. I will outline the different parts of Bali and what they're best known for below (from North to South of the island):
• Ubud - The heart of Balinese culture, full of interesting temples and waterfalls with great cafes, spas, and hotels.
• Canggu - The hangout place for the younger crowd and digital nomads. Known for surfing with hip cafes and beach clubs.
• Seminyak - One of the most expensive parts of Bali home to luxury villas, hotels, high-end shopping malls, and restaurants.
• Kuta - The overcrowded center of tourism and noise. A contrast to Ubud, some of the best shops and nightclubs are here.
• Sanur - A beachside town - much more laid back and chill. Known for being family-friendly and quiet.
• Nusa Dua - A family-friendly area with fancy hotels and white, sandy beaches. Perfect for a family getaway.
• Uluwatu - A scenic, hilly area known for its perfect waves, sandy beaches, and impressive cliffs. It is a surfer's paradise.
• Nusa Penida - An island off of Bali known for its gorgeous, vastly-untouched scenery and cliffs. The water there is crystal clear and the beaches are white and sandy.
Things to Do in Bali
Everything. Just because there is so much to do in Bali! But I'll try my best to summarise it here. There is something in Bali for every kind of traveler. Adventure lovers have access to all kinds of scenery, waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, cliffs, and more. For the more laid-back travelers, Bali has an array of beach clubs, markets, temples, rice terraces, and an endless supply of good restaurants and massage places. And for nightlife lovers, Bali boasts some world-class nightclubs and bars around the island. I have broken down individual categories below for some places and ideas to visit based on what type of traveler you are.
Bali has a wide variety of both local, foreign, and fusion cuisines. The number one food to try in Bali would be the 'Babi Guling' which is a whole suckling pig turned and roasted above a fire. Next would definitely be the Jimbaran Seafood Cafes located along Jimbaran Beach for some fresh seafood by the ocean. Naughty Nuri's located in Seminyak is another popular place for western food lovers with delicious ribs and cocktails.
But not to worry for you halal travelers - there is still a wide range of popular food spots that are halal-certified. Some of the better ones I've found are:
• Jimbaran Seafood Cafes - located along Jimbaran Beach, right below Denpasar Airport, they are known for some of the best and freshest seafood in Bali.
• De'dapoer - located in Kuta is a great spot for halal travelers to try some of the local dishes.
• Bali Buda - located in both Ubud and Canggu, Bali Buda's signature dish is the Soto Ayam however, they also feature an assortment of fresh bread, sandwiches, and soups.
Bali has dozens of spectacular waterfalls though many are in the north of Bali which may take a bit of time to reach if you're staying in areas like Canggu, Seminyak, and Kuta. Not so much of a problem if you're staying in Ubud though! Here are some of the best waterfalls:
• Sekumpul Waterfall (My favorite!)
• Aling-Aling Waterfall
• Tegenugan Waterfall
• Banyumala Waterfall
Despite what some may say, the best beaches in Bali aren't exactly the ones with the most tourists. Many of the most beautiful beaches in Bali are found in Uluwatu and Nusa Penida - a small island off the coast of Bali. Both of these can easily be reached during a one-day trip. However, the really amazing ones are found on remote corners of the island or hiding at the bottom of cliffs and aren't widely known by tourists so you have to track them down and do some research! Here are some of the nicest beaches:
• Kelingking Beach
• Crystal Bay
• Diamond Beach
• Nusa Dua Beach
• Uluwatu Beach (For experienced surfers)
• Canggu Beach (For beginner surfers)
• Seminyak Beach (For beach clubs)
Bali has two main volcanoes - Mount Batur and Mount Aggung with the latter being significantly more challenging to hike up. Both are located up in the north of Bali and are easily reachable through guided tours found on websites like Klook.
Temples are an integral part of Bali's culture and are some of the most unique-looking structures. They're one of the main reasons people are attracted to visit Bali. Here are some of the coolest temples in Bali:
• Tanah Lot
• Lempuyang Temple
• Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
• Goa Gajah
• Pura Tirta Temple
The nightlife scene in Bali is happening and bustling with excitement with nightclubs and beach clubs running not just on Friday and weekend nights, but throughout the week! Here are some of the best spots for nightlife in Bali:
• Shishi (Nightclub)
• La Favela (Nightclub)
• VAULT Bali (Nightclub)
• LXXY Bali (Nightclub)
• Potatohead (Beachclub)
• FINNS (Beachclub)
• ATLAS Beach Fest (Beachclub)