My Bali Bible - A First Timer's Guide to Bali
Instagram has done an excellent job at conveying the laid back island vibes of Bali. From the moment we touched down after 24 hours of flying from LAX, I felt instantly at ease. My thick hair matted itself to my back and my leggings were certainly too hot for the humidity, but when our driver greeted us I knew we were in for an incredible vacation.
Throughout our trip, we stayed in Seminyak, Canggu, Nusa Penida Island, and Ubud. I’m sure my photos of yoga poses scream “Eat, Pray, Love,” and my experience was certainly inspiring, but the guide you’ll find below is for those that are looking for the ultimate relaxing, indulgent, and balanced vacation you can get in Bali.
Let’s start with things to do and places to eat in Seminyak.
I was warned that I should get out of Seminyak as quickly as I could, but we actually had a great time in this city. It is very busy, but the great food, our amazing villa, and the shopping made up for the rampage of motorbikes that skirted around each and every corner.
If you enjoy food and shopping as much as I do, aim to take a few days in Seminyak to get the full experience. We stayed for three nights and that was enough to be ready for the next adventure.
Here’s my favorite spots from our time in Seminyak:
Maha Villa Seminyak
This was our first and favorite villa that we booked for all of our time in Bali. It is stunning from the entrance to the outdoor shower. The pool, the bathrooms, and the extra large bedrooms with beds that, dare I say, were comfier than my own. The location is also prime for food and shopping. While we did have to take a 10 minute drive to the beach, everything else is in walking distance which I’ll detail below.
In addition to the villa itself, our host, Lisa, was so attentive and helpful throughout our entire time in Bali. She also owns a tour company with her husband and we arranged for all of our tours and transport through them at reasonable prices. I highly recommend staying here and using Lisa for everything!
If you’re new to Airbnb, you can use this link to book your first stay!
Bo & Bun Vietnamese Restaurant
Sorry veggies, but I LOVE a good Banh Mi sandwich. Bo & Bun was probably my favorite restaurant within walking distance of our Airbnb and the central shopping area of Seminyak. We also ordered the Pork Belly Bao buns which were mouth-watering.
Okay, this article is definitely going to show how much of a carnivore + foodie I really am. I can’t help it, my dad raised me on great food! Wahaha Ribs took the cake for my favorite piece of pork on this entire trip. They have a lemongrass pork chop that is out of this world and SO.DAMN.CHEAP. I have a huge lemongrass bush that I planted last year in the garden and I’m finally inspired to cook with it thanks to Wahaha.
La Plancha Beach Bar
La Plancha likely makes the list of any travel blogger that has made it to Seminyak. While we thought it was going to be overpriced drinks and a slew of drunks, we were pleasantly surprised to find the best ceviche in Bali and delicious chili corn on the cob. La Plancha plays great music with a live DJ, offers hookah, and a vast menu of options. We loved the vibe of this place as it’s located right on the beach and you can watch the sunset from the colorful beanbags and umbrellas.
Interrupting the food chatter with some shopping musts for women. Gooseberry Intimates has their flagship store and Seminyak and if you are looking for high quality lingerie and swimwear, you have to stop by this store. At prices that are much lower than their online prices, it is a steal to pick up a few items when you are in Seminyak.
Next up was Canggu!
Our next stop on the trip was Canggu and while I was under the impression Ubud would be my favorite area, Canggu stole my heart with it’s beachy vibes, good food, and ocean air. I completely understand how ex-pats can easily settle down here. With tons of trendy cafes and restaurants, the beach within walking distance, and a crowd of the young and beautiful, it had me checking out villa prices!
Here are my favorite spots and things to do in Canggu:
In an instant, you’ll recognize The Loft from their “You’ll see it when you believe it” wall that has made the pages of thousands of Instagrammers (myself and Corey included). The Loft is so much more than a pretty face, though. Their popular Rainbow Bowl was my first choice and, being the incredible orderer I am, almost died and went to heaven with the flavors. Between that and their options for lattes, avocado toast and more, it truly felt like a millennials heaven.
I was told to hold off on getting my mani/pedi until I got to Bali because the prices would be ridiculously cheaper, and while I probably picked a more expensive spot ($20 for gel manicure), the service and atmosphere made it worth it. Spring Spa is covered in vines and had incredible customer service from the moment we walked in. Everyone was so damn friendly and I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear while I attempted to sip my frosé mid-manicure. I didn’t get a massage while I was there, but the woman next to us that was getting a scalp massage while in the process of a pedicure looked very blissed out.
For less than $100, you and up to 6 other people can get a cabana poolside at The Lawn. And when I say poolside, I also mean beachside as their ultra-trendy restaurant and club is overlooking the beach from the infinity pool and bar. Besides giving me massive Vegas-aesthetic vibes (without being in Vegas or the masses of drunks) The Lawn had AMAZING food. Corey had the best steak sandwich he’s ever had in his life, I got the Thai Basil Steak Salad, and Michelle had shrimp tacos. We each spent about $30 and got two drinks each, two appetizers and our entrees. Yes, it is worth every penny.
Surfing Lessons in Canggu
The waves were the perfect size for me to learn after our debut at Wanderlust in Oahu, so if you are feeling like jumping in the water, Canggu is the perfect place to do it. For only 50,000 IDR (I think it’s like $3-4) you can rent a board for 2 hours and go out into the warm water to play. Or you can take surfing lessons if you don’t have a Corey in your life!
Okay, this is the first time that I’m mentioning yoga in this article - shocker I know. Honestly, this trip was much more about tuning in to what my body and mind needed, which was meditation and breathwork and not so much asana. Maybe that is linked to my recent announcement of dropping Kicking Asana...who knows!
I couldn’t, however, miss taking a class at The Practice after a friend recommended their space. I am so glad I made it there, because this studio and the teacher, Nikki, blew my mind. If you are in Canggu and want to take a yoga class, you can’t go anywhere else besides the Practice. Seriously, I’ll be very upset if you don’t check it out.
The combination of breath, mantras, bandhas, and asana made this experience an ethereal one. I have never felt so at peace in meditation or in my body. I only wish I stayed in Canggu longer to take more classes and experience more of their amazing teachers!
I was getting hungry writing about those other places, so back to food, it is! Crate Cafe was on a ton of our recommended lists so we had to check it out. An open-air space surrounded by rice paddies, Crate Cafe is super cute and had amazing food and drinks. It was definitely busy, though, so prepare yourself to be on the lookout for empty tables!
After Canggu, we made our way to the very rural Nusa Penida Island for a few days of adventure and solitude.
Nusa Penida Island is about 30 minutes off the coast of Bali and still relatively untouched. The roads are less developed and motorbikes or tour vans seem to be the main means of transportation which was fine by us. After spending time in Seminyak and Canggu, we were looking forward to decompressing at our villa.
We stayed at Bintang Bungalows which we booked through Airbnb. Our host, Komang, was super sweet and set up tours for us throughout our entire stay. The bungalows have open air bathrooms and all surround the refreshing infinity pool and restaurant. Chickens and roosters roam freely and it has retreat-style vibe in the air. They also have a restaurant on the property which offers a variety of food for cheap prices.
Angels Billabong/KelingKing Hike Day Trip
Hiking to beautiful secluded destinations is one thing that makes my heart fill with joy. We had heard about both Angels Billabong and KelingKing from the, again, hundreds of thousands of Instagram pictures showcasing it’s beauty, but we had no idea how breathtaking it would be until we got there.
First, we started our tour with Angels Billabong which I highly suggest to beat the crowds. We probably got there around 10 am and there were around 20 or so people there. On the way back, about 15-20 tour vans passed by meaning the crowds were coming. Try to get there earlier than 10 especially if you want some Instagram-worthy pictures. Angel’s Billabong is a natural infinity pool that opens up to the ocean - it’s truly stunning, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it if more people were there shoving GoPros in my face.
Next, we made our way to KelingKing. With dozens of tourists at the top, we were lucky enough to have a driver that urged us to hike down. I didn’t even know that was a thing! The hike down separated the tourists from the adventurers and we loved every minute of it. Under the hot sun, we got closer and closer to the beach where Bintang Beers and white sands awaited us. This is a challenging hike, but if you go slow and bring water, you can definitely conquer it and jump in the water at the end.
Snorkeling at Cristal Bay
We took a snorkeling trip by boat on the first day to see manta rays and the underwater Buddhist temple. While the temple, in theory, was very cool, the water clarity was lackluster so it didn’t give me the full wow-effect I was expecting.
Instead of paying for the full tour, opt for Cristal Bay. The highlight of our snorkeling, we saw tons of fish and colorful coral lining the ocean floor. Plus, on land you can enjoy beer, the view of the sunset and even some piglets!
Trash and Water Pollution
While all of these recommendations are great experiences for your trip to Bali, I have to address a key element of our trip to Nusa Penida and Bali in general. The trash, the pollution, and it’s effect on our ocean and land. On Instagram, you don’t see the piles and piles of trash lining the street and floating in the water, but it is there. You can’t ignore it and it begs the question, how can I help?
I did research and found the R.O.L.E Foundation located on Nusa Dua. I have made a donation and it would mean the world to me if you supported them as well. We can’t sit back any longer and watch our precious earth be harmed by waste, it’s time to act now.
After leaving Nusa Penida, it was time to go to the long anticipated Ubud.
Ubud screams culture. It also screams tourism, which is fine by me as they’ve done an excellent job at maintaining authentic Balinese culture, food, and art. Ubud was my second favorite stop on the trip and we spent a majority of our time there moving from a resort to a villa and finally, Bambu Indah.
Every yogi who has been to Bali has been to Yoga Barn and I understand why. Their lush property and cafe is serene and their yoga studio is big and beautiful. While the class wasn’t as special as my time at The Practice in Canggu, I definitely recommend checking out a class at Yoga Barn.
Cafe Du Monyet
This place was our favorite spot to work at when we were in Ubud. With 1930’s French-decor, coffee and french toast, we enjoyed using their Wifi and dropping into the creative zone to get some work done.
Be willing to wait for awhile, but it is well-worth the wait! Clear cafe is two-stories and filled with yummy healthy food. I ordered the Jamu and kitchari and Corey ordered the tiger shrimp burrito which was so good. They also have “mylkshakes” which makes me very happy as I can’t have dairy.
Cafe Lotus was my favorite when it comes to food in Ubud. Refreshing, local ingredients and a scenery of the palace makes for your lunch or dinner there enjoyable and good. Try the salmon avocado terrine if you’re in the mood for something light!
If you need to tap out and get rubbed down for an hour or more, Sang Spa is the spot to go to for cheap massages and spa treatments. I got the Good Karma Massage which had two massage therapists and was absolutely heavenly on my sore traveling body.
It's hard to put into words our experience at Bambu Indah, but I'll try - with the use of photos as well! Bambu Indah is a sustainable luxury boutique hotel about 15 minutes outside of central Ubud and the perfect way to end our time in Bali. In fact, I wish we had an extra 2-3 days on their lush natural grounds. We spent two nights at Bambu Indah in the Copper House which is completely open-air and made of bamboo. It is stunning.
Bambu Indah also has a number of natural pools throughout the property that are adorned with plants and, my favorite, Tarzan swings. We spent our days at Bambu Indah eating the incredible food that was grown on the property, swimming and meditating on the sunset deck. I fell in love with the property and the staff and plan on hosting a retreat there in the future to nourish the mind, body, and belly with high-quality food, yoga and mindfulness.
This isn't my last time seeing Bali!
Overall, our time in Bali was one of the most memorable trips I've ever taken. From the food to the people, I fell in love and I can't wait to go back. Were there any spots I missed in my post above? Leave a comment and let me know what to add for my next visit to Bali, Indonesia!