What to do in Bali: Our Selected Highlights

Even though Indonesia is home to dozens of islands, our visitors consistently rank Bali as the top destination in the country. For the best travel experiences in Bali, consider consulting an Indonesia travel guide.

If you need more time to fly throughout the archipelago, Bali is still the best way to see Indonesia.

No matter how many times I visit Bali, I always manage to discover something new, whether it is a hidden beach or a temple on a cliff where I can witness traditional dances. But it's also great for taking pleasure in the little things, as when a kind local offers you a taste of their specialty banana fritter.

Discover the beaches where you are the only one who knows

Pantai Suluban Beach on Bali's Bukit Peninsula, near Uluwatu

When it comes to long stretches of white sand, nothing beats Bali's southern coast. Surfers use this area because the waves are consistently sound from dawn to sunset despite the stretch's rougher waters and a constant sea temperature of roughly 30 degrees.

Despite being a popular resort near the airport, I prefer the southern beaches of Bali, particularly Seminyak, for its calmer atmosphere and fewer people.

However, the Bukit Peninsula, which protrudes from Bali's southernmost point, is still primarily undiscovered, so it's worth dropping south down the coast to check it out.

You can classify Bali's coastline as rocky surf beaches or black volcanic sand. However, if you know where to look, Bukit's coastline conceals secluded white-sand beaches lapped by turquoise seas.

An experienced local guide can show you the best locations, including secret breaks that only locals and surfers know about. The roads wind and descend to secluded bays, some of which are only reachable by swimming through a cave or two in the rocks.

Snorkel and enjoy Bali's black volcanic beaches

Lovina's traditional Indonesian boats

Bali's water behaves quite differently from one side to the other. The north is more protected and ideal for swimming and snorkeling, while the south is ideal for surfing.

The beaches with black volcanic sand on the north and east coasts are far more isolated and peaceful than those in the south. Traditional side-awning boats frequent the coasts, and little fishing villages dot the landscape. Temples watch over the water – which the Balinese dread and don't like to go into.

Since the sand is too coarse and jagged for sunbathing, hotels on the island have installed pools in strategic locations to take advantage of the spectacular scenery. In contrast, others, like the exclusive Damai Lovina Spa Resort, have sprung up to cater to spa-goers.

Explore the sea life off the Northwest coast

The colorful reef off of Menjangan Island

In the meantime, snorkeling off the northwest coast is an absolute must. In Bali Barat National Park, on Menjangan Island, you may see some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, wreck diving, and tropical fish, including manta rays.

Golden beaches and an increase in the park's animal population, especially nesting turtles, are the results of this relocation. I can't speak highly enough of my experience swimming with them.

Experience the culture and wildlife in the north of Bali

A macaque, a kind of monkey common to Bali

Northern Bali has a markedly different tempo of life and climate than southern Bali. It's more peaceful, colder, and cries out to be discovered by bicycle or foot. Along the way, you'll come across villages, and in most of them, you'll find some festival or community gathering in progress.

The constant presence of the public means that you may quickly get immersed in the flow of daily life in Bali. The kids will ask you to play football while the dad is up a tree gathering coconuts to make wine (not for the faint of heart).

The Bali Barat National Park is a grassland and coastal savannah combination in the island's interior. More than 160 birds call this area home, and it is also home to the Javan Rusa, a deer exclusive to three islands in Indonesia. And macaque monkeys may be found just about anywhere; they have even been seen stealing sunglasses off the faces of unwary tourists.

Visit Bali's quieter neighboring islands

Mount Rinjani, the top of which towers above the island of Lombok

The neighboring islands are content to relax out of the spotlight and stay relatively undisturbed despite Bali's popularity. The beaches are more pleasant, and the snorkeling is excellent. Whenever I plan a trip to Bali, I spend a week on Lombok as a home base for seeing the other islands.

Despite their proximity, Bali and Lombok have very distinct civilizations. Bali has adapted to its many visitors throughout the years. Westerners still need to be regular sights in Lombok's rural areas due to the island's cultural conservatism. You will be treated like a star, especially by the kids.

You'll almost certainly encounter turtles if you spend a day traveling around the Gili Islands, three specks of rainforest fringed with pearly white beach off Lombok's northwest coast.

Beach bungalows on Gili Meno (the center dot) are popular with honeymooners because of the serene atmosphere, despite not being very luxurious.

Explore the temples

Temple of Tenah Lot in Kerambitan

In addition to temples in each community, Bali has one in every home. While most Balinese dwellings are plain, the magnificent temples are often covered in gold leaf. On a banana leaf, the family will provide a morning gift of rice and maybe mango or something similar.

Bali's deep spiritual tradition makes its temples a must-see for every visitor. Their dramatic perches on cliffs and volcanoes further heighten the tension.

My personal favorite is the Tanah Lot temple, located on a rocky promontory on the southern coast close to Kerambitan. At high tide, you need to acquire a boat to see it, but at low tide, you can walk over a causeway from the mainland. You'll be given traditional garb to wear and allowed to bring a gift of your own upon arrival.

Mat's favorite three things to do in Bali:

Try the coffee:

Bali is noted for having excellent coffee because of its unique production technique. The native Asian palm civet cat's digestive tract is used to prepare Kopi Luwak coffee, and the island is a significant producer of this specialty. It's costly, extremely uncommon, and quite disgusting.

Surf watch in Uluwatu:

Uluwatu, located on the southern coast of Bali, is one of the world's premier surfing destinations, and as a result, I find myself pulled there often. I tried surfing here, but it was too challenging (and dangerous; a helmet is required due to the presence of a reef). Sit at one of the cliff bars and watch surfers drop into three-meter waves; it's a fantastic experience.

Macaque monkeys squat like gargoyles on the walls of a temple perched on the cliff's edge below. You may relax here while the sun sinks lower in the sky.

See the temple dances:

The Hindu culture of Bali is the source of its rich musical and dance heritage. The Chedi Club in Ubud, Bali's cultural epicenter, is where I've seen the most significant temple dances. You come at dusk, get a drink, and settle down when suddenly, around a hundred guys of varying ages enter, dressed in traditional garb, and begin a rhythmic, mesmerizing chant.

The dance culminates in a staged battle, complete with flame-throwing actors and music provided by traditional drums and whistles. In concert with the jungle's other sounds, it makes for a breathtaking sight.

When to visit Bali

May, June, and July are often considered to be the most pleasant months in which to go to Bali. However, the northern region, with its drier climate and protection from the volcanoes, might be an excellent choice in February.

Start planning your trip to Indonesia

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.