I have a rule that I live by: travel over seas at least once a year and this year, Bali was my destination. I have been to Bali a number of times before, but I was younger and I never took the time to travel the island, see the sights and take in the culture. This time I did the entire island, north, south, east and west.
Important note: We did not receive anything free/gifted or paid on this trip. We paid 100% of it out of our own pockets so this blog is to provide advice based on the things we liked. It is not a sponsored or paid blog in any respect.
Flights and Accommodation
Having just come back from Fiji we wanted to get a bit more value for money on our next trip. We booked our flights with Jetstar through the boxing day sale $350 return with luggage. We stayed at the Mecure Legian which cost about $100 per night including daily buffet breakfast. I had stayed at the Mecure before and really liked it because it central, safe, clean and good value.
Day 1 – Nusa Peninda
Nusa Peninda is a small island just off the east coast of Bali in the Lombok Strait. In the last couple of years Nusa Peninda has become a major tourist attraction. If you look for Bali photos on Instagram, it won’t be long until you’ll find one of Kelingking Beach on Nusa Peninda (see below)
If you are based in Kuta, Seminyak or Legian, you can easily do Nusa Peninda as a day trip (like we did). Alternatively, accommodation is available on Nusa Lembongan (an even smaller island just off the coast of Nusa Peninda). If we did it again we would take the 2 day option. Trying to do Nusa Peninda in 1 day felt a little rushed plus it was difficult to see everything as there were so many tourists!
We organised our tour through Bali Custom Tour for US$74 each (about AUD$100 each) which included hotel transfers, fast boat tickets, a private driver and air-conditioned car on the island, all entry fees on the island and lunch. You can do it for less by organising your own transfers and boat tickets and renting a scooter on the Island. But keep in mind that Nusa Peninda is hot and at least half the roads are dirt and rock. We saw more than a couple of tourist look pretty worried on their scooters (one girl stopped and was talking it down the road).
It was an early start for our first day of holidays. We got picked up at 6:30am which meant we missed out on our buffet breakfast at our hotel. The fast boats leave from Sanur at around 7:30am. There is no jetty at Sanur so you need to wade out thigh deep to get on to the boat. The ride over to Nusa Peninda is about 40min. If you tend to get travel sickness try to sit at the back of the boat.
Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach and Manta Bay
On the island, our first stop was Angel’s Billabong. This is a tide pool that you can swim in at low tide. If you have a local guide, they will let you know if it is safe to swim. Unfortunately, the waves were too big when were were there.
Broken beach is right next to Angel’s Billabong. It is a small, round bay connected to the sea by a natural bridge.
A short walk from Broken Beach is Manta Bay. The bay really lived up to its name when we were there. We saw about 10 huge manta rays.
Our next stop was Kelingking Beach. This was the main reason we traveled to Nusa Peninda and the views of the beach didn’t disappoint. However, it has become a very popular tourist attraction. Hundreds of tourists were there and there were lines for all the best photos spots. You can walk down to the beach but it does take about an hour and we did not have enough time.
The last stop of our tour was Crystal Bay. It wasn’t really the highlight of the trip, but the sun, surf and sand made it a great place to relax for a couple of hours before our fast boat picked us up and took us back to Bali.
Day 2 – Northern Bali
Bali has some amazing water falls in its north and naturally we wanted to spend a day chasing them. We couldn’t find a tour that went to all of the places we wanted to see, so we designed our own and organised a driver for the day. We used Bali Driver Recommendation. They will take you anywhere you want to go, in an air-conditioned car, for a competitive rate: 600,000IDR (AUD$60) for 12 hours, plus 50,000IDR (AUD$5) for each additional hour. The driver does not cover the entry fees to the places you visit, but we were given a heap of free bottled water.
Entry fees to most places are very minimal, but be aware that different areas are managed by different community groups so you may have to pay separately to access different parts of a waterfall.
Sekumpul Waterfall and Fiji Waterfall
Sekumpul Waterfall and Fiji Waterfall are located right next to each other about 2h 30min drive from Kuta. Sekumpul is definitely the tallest waterfall we saw in Bali, being about 80m tall.
It cost IDR20,000 (AUD$2) per person to access the bottom of the waterfall and another IDR20,000 per person to access the top of the waterfall. The $4 is definitely worth it. You can swim in the pool at the bottom, but you can also climb to the top and swim in the stream before it goes over the edge. Be prepared for some cardio though. From the car, we walked 40min down to the base of the waterfall. To access the top of the fall, we had to cross the stream and climb the path on the other side of the valley and then had to retrace our steps to get back to the car (definitely hit out 10,000 steps that day!). We actually loved this waterfall as due to the large distance and hiking involved, there weren’t that many tourists there (compared to other waterfalls we went to).
Banyumala Twin Waterfalls
The Banyumala Twin Waterfalls has to be one of the best swimming spots in Bali. It is about 1 hour’s drive from Sekumpul Waterfall. Access to this waterfall cost IDR20,000 (AUD$2). The walk from the car park to the water fall is about 20min and has a couple of steep sections but is not as cardio intensive as Sekumpul. The main waterfall is a huge rock wall with water cascading down it. Two other small waterfalls converge on either side and the pool drains out through a central stream that a lovingly crafted wooding walk bridge. You can see the local community is lovingly taking care of Banyumala. When were there they were erecting grass roofed huts at the top of the path and at the base of the falls there are toilets, seating and gazebos for shade.
Candi bentar (Balinese Gate) – Handara Golf & Resort
In Bali you will see a lot of candi bentar: symmetrical, stepped, traditional gateways that commonly mark the entrance to religious compounds and palaces but also many other places such as hotels.
The candi bentar at the entrance of Handara Golf & Resort is particularly impressive due to its size and the picturesque scenery around it. If you have time, definitely stop for a photo. Entry costs IDR30,000 (AUD$3) per person. The gate is another place that has become famous from Instagram. When we were there there were about 20 other tourists. Most tourists are happy to wait their turn for a photo but some try to jump the queue. Don’t be afraid to ask them to wait their turn.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, Tabanan
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a large Shaivite water temple on the shores of Lake Bratan. The temple is nearly 400 years old. There are many things to see and do, but the most iconic feature is the 11-storey pelinggih meru (meru tower), dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi, and built on and island in the lake surrounded by water lilies. Entry to the temple ground costs IDR40,000 (AUD$4) per person.
Kopi luwak (civet coffee) at Subak Bali Agro
On the way back to Legian, we stopped at Subak Bali Agro, a local coffee, tea and chocolate manufacturer. Among other things, they make kopi luwak which I have occasionally heard is the world’s most expensive coffee retailing for up to US$700/kg. Even in Bali, a 200g bag will set you back IDR800,000 (AUD$80). The reason why the coffee is so expensive is that the beans are picked and eaten by the luwak (Asian palm civet). The luwak is said to only pick the sweetest beans and the digestion process is said to improve the flavour. The beans are collected from the luwak’s feces and are cleaned and roasted.
You can try kopi luwak at Subak Bali Agro for IDR60,000 (AUD$6) per cup. For that price you will also get to sample all of the other coffees (Bali, vanilla, coconut, cocoa) and teas (lemon grass, turmeric etc) Subak Bali Agro produces, tour the lush gardens and see the coffee being made.
Day 3 – Legian Markets
After 2 days of touring Bali, day 3 was our rest day. We slept in, took full advantage of the buffet breakfast and spent the rest of the day shopping in the Legian markets and trying some of the local restaurants.
Where we stayed, at the Mecure Legian, there are markets and shops pretty much in every direction. Most of the stalls sell clothing and souvenirs. There are also actual walk in stores that sell home wares. Vendors expect to barter and their initial price will be high (although some stores state they are “fixed price”). As a rule of thumb I never pay more than IDR50,000 (AUD$5) per item when buying clothes from the markets. You should get kids clothes for even less (IDR30,000 or AUD$3 per item). For home wares, the same item is usually sold in a few different stalls. Items usually don’t have price tags, You can work out what an item is worth by bartering with the vendor until they won’t go any lower. If you walk away and they don’t chase you down then you know that’s their best price.
Day 4 – Ubud
Ubud is about 1.5 hours drive east of Kuta and is home to many different natural and cultural attractions. We used Bali Driver Recommendation again for our custom tour of Ubud and driver cost us IDR600,000 (AUD$60) for the entire day.
Bali Swing, Ubud
There are swings in scenic locations all over Bali, but the Bali Swing in Ubud is one of the most popular and, we’re told, one of the safest. It was the first stop on our tour but unfortunately when we arrived it was raining and there was heavy fog. Access is expensive for Bali: US$35 (about AUD$50) per person. This gives you access to 12 swings and 6 nests among other things. We were hoping to keep costs low and David asked if he could simply take photos of me without using the swings or nests. We were told David could access the site for an entrance fee of US$10 (about AUD$14) but was not allowed to take photos of the most iconic swing and nest. This meant we would have had to pay US$70 (about AUD$100) for the photos we wanted and given the fog and the rain we couldn’t justify the price, especially since there are so many natural wonders in the immediate area that you can see for a couple of dollars.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are a 50min drive from the Bali Swing. By walking the winding path through the terraces you are completely immersed in Balinese culture. The terraces employ the traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system called subak and create the perfect scene for landscape and drone photography.
Entry to the terraces cost IDR15,000 (AUD$1.5) per person. They are positioned next to a village with plenty of shops and kiosks. The terraces also have several swings that are extremely cheap. However, our driver advised that these swings may be unsafe and accidents have happened in the past.
Tudak Cepung Waterfall
After the Rice Terraces we went waterfall chasing. The first on our list was Tudak Cepung. This waterfall is simply amazing, well worth the IRD10,000 (AUD$1) entrance fee. I haven’t come across anything like it in Australia or during my travels. The waterfall is located in an open roof cave. To get to it you follow a local irrigation system through lush rain forest down into a deeply eroded stream bed. The arching walls of the stream direct you to the waterfall. The pool under the waterfall is only knee deep. It is literally a natural, freshwater shower and offers an amazing photography opportunity. The low light and running water make it perfect for long exposures so bring your tripod.
Kanto Lampo Waterfall
Kanto Lampo was the 2nd waterfall we visited in the Ubud region. This was probably my favourite waterfall of the entire trip. The entry fee was IDR5,000 (AUD$5) per person. From the car park you simply walk down a set of traditionally carved stares to the stream and waterfall. Kanto Lampo cascades down a slope of boulders into the waste deep stream that flows past it. You can climb part way up the waterfall for some truly amazing photos, but the wall of water is relentless and the rocks are slippery so, if you do it, be careful and do it barefoot. To get the best photographs of the waterfall you need to be waste deep in the stream so whatever you use should probably be waterproof. When we were there a lot of tourists didn’t want to get into the stream and were taking photos of the edge of the waterfall from the stairs. They missed out on an amazing experience. If you take the time to drive out there you should really take the plunge for the full experience. We wanted some couple shots so we tipped a guide to take photographs of us. He was very handy with the iPhone and took some amazing photos and slow motion videos.
Tegenungan Waterfall is the biggest waterfall in Bali in terms of shear volume. It was only 30min drive from Kanto Lampo and is another waterfall where different areas are managed by different community groups. This means it will cost you IRD15,000 (AUD$1.5) to access the bottom of the waterfall and IDR15,000 (AUD$1.5) to access the top of the waterfall and the ledge in between. Tegenungan does not require much walking and its power is amazing, but it is well known among tourists and tour operators (where as our guide had never been to some of the other waterfalls we visted). Hundreds of other tourists were there when we arrived and the site is peppered with touristy love hearts, angel wings and ‘I love Bali’ signs so the experience was the least authentic of the waterfalls we visited. Also, this was the only waterfall we visited that we didn’t swim at because the water was brown. Definitely visit Tegenungan if you have plenty of time, but if you’re pressed for time make sure you get to Kanto Lampo or Tudak Cepung before Tegenungan.
Day 5 – South Bali
Oneeighty° Day Club, Uluwatu
By day 5 we were completely exhausted and needed some RnR. David surprised me with reservations at Oneeighty° Day Club in Uluwatu. Oneeighty° is perched on the cliffs 150m above the ocean. It has a glass bottom skypool that actually extends out over the cliffs. A reservation at Oneeighty° will set you back IRD400,000 (AUD$40) per person, but IDR350,000 (AUD$35) counts as food and drink credit. We paid for a VIP pass (IDR600,000 or AUD$60) and were seated on the VIP Deck which is built out over the cliffs.
Rock Bar, Ayana Resort & Spa, Jimbaran
We ended up spending the entire day at Oneeighty°. On the way back to Kuta we stopped at Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort & Spa at Jimbaran. Rock Bar is huge bar and restaurant that is built into the base of the cliffs above the waves. It looks west over the Indian Ocean and is the perfect place to take in a Balinese sunset. If you are not staying at Ayana, get there at least 2 hours before sunset. Rock Bar only takes reservations from Ayana guests and Rock Bar fills up quickly.
Day 6 – Legian Food
For our last full day in Bali we enjoyed a well deserved day of sun an cocktails by the pool at the Mecure. Food and drink in Bali is usually pretty cheap. Cocktails will set you back about IDR120,000 (AUD$12) but most bars will run extended happy hours in the afternoon where you can pick up cocktails for IRD40,000 (AUD$4) or IDR50,000 (AUD$5) each. In terms of food in Legian, we didn’t venture too far from the Mecure.
Lemongrass Thai Restaurant, just down the road from the Mecure does a range of Asian cuisines including traditional Indonesian dishes.
You can pick up a great pizza for IDR100,000 (AUD$10) from Bella Italia, located just across the road from the Mecure.
For desert give Sour Sally a try. They do charcoal frozen yogurt and will top it with things like Oreo biscuits and cooks and cream sauce.