Bali was a place I stumbled upon on Instagram. One of my favorite bloggers RAVED about how lush, relaxing and beautiful it was. I became interested, as Jack and I wanted to cross another continent off of our “To Visit” list and thus began my hours of research (some might say too much-oops).
We finally decided on Bali because it was very cheap, was a part of Asia, and was one of the number one tourist spots for Australia. In addition, every picture I saw was either rich with culture, or absolutely breathtaking. So, we booked our flights and Airbnb stays a few months before our departure date.
We chose to fly with Singapore Airlines (similar to a Delta for Asia) and would have a long haul flight. We would first fly to LAX (3 hrs), then to Seoul for a quick refuel (12.5 hrs), then directly to Singapore (6 hrs), and finally from Singapore to Bali (2.5). After 25 hours of just flight time, we finally arrived! While these flights were long and dreadful (we flew economy) we would HIGHLY recommend Singapore Airlines. They have comfortable seats, great meal choices (variety), good entertainment and are incredibly accommodating and helpful.
We decided on staying 9 days in order to make our ridiculously long flight feel worth it, and we wanted enough time to see the complete island. Our first 5 nights, we would be staying just outside of Central Ubud in a private villa (Click Here for the link to our Villa). Our hosts, Udi and his family were absolutely incredible- we absolutely loved our stay here! Our second half of the trip would be spent in a villa on a seaside resort in Candidasa (Click Here for the Link to Villa #2). While we loved our stay here, it was difficult to get to the tourist parts of the island we wanted to visit. We would recommend this area to travelers who are looking to just enjoy the ocean and quiet life.
We knew we wanted to make this a relatively cheap trip because directly following, we had another family vacation planned. Jack and I budgeted for 800$ each for the nine days also including 3 extra travel days. At the end of our trip, we had both spent a bit less than 800.00 USD. Our budget included all meals, drinks, transportation, hotel stay, souvenirs and excursions. Bali is very cheap if you are on a tight budget, but also has areas/places where prices are very similar to the US.
Despite that my travel journal was filled with exact dates and costs of places we would visit, we didn’t end up doing everything I had originally wanted just because of a lack of time. I came pre-prepared with the things that I wanted to do, their locations, and cost and would highly recommend that to anyone planning on going-especially if you are trying to stick to a budget.
Day 1: Hello, Bali!
After the longest flight of our life, we finally landed in Denpasar. The airport is a bit stuffy (no AC & its open to the outside), but is well organized. It only took us about 20 minutes to get through customs. Outside we collected our bags and went to find our airport transfer. Outside of baggage claim is where a lot of people feel a bit overwhelmed. There is hundreds of men trying to get you to take their taxi. Udi, our driver had a sign with my name printed on it. When we began walking with him, men that I thought might have been part of his staff began taking our bags (Which freaked me out), but I then realized that they were too trying to get us to take their transport services. It was hot upon arrival, so we were glad that his car had AC. In Bali, the drivers side is on the left-which is similar to the way it was in London.
Udi told us that Obama was also flying in from America that day & that he too would be staying in Ubud at a resort only 15 minutes from ours. He shared that he used to work for a cruise line, and had even been to Minnesota before! From the airport, it took us approximately 1 hour to get to Ubud. The driving in Bali is absolutely terrifying as their are little road signs, traffic lights and really just little rules it seems. The people drive like crazy and their are motorbikes everywhere.
Our villa was only about a mile outside of central Ubud, so the area we were staying in wasn’t as packed with tourists. It was a quiet little villa tucked back about 5 minutes off of the main road. The path that we had to take was really small and windy, so small that Jack and I couldn’t fit walking next to one another. Our villa had a fenced in yard, an infinity pool, manicured lawn & garden as well as a small patch of rice paddies. The villa itself was two stories, and we had the top portion. The bottom was reserved during our stay as well, but we rarely saw the other couple. We had a king sized bed with a canopy, tile floorand a balcony that overlooked the yard and rice terraces. Our bathroom had a HUGE stone bathtub with a rain-head shower and stone flooring. It was absolutely beautiful.
After we settled in, we took showers & headed down to the pool for a bit. Afterwards, we ate at a local restaurant located right off of the main road called Naughty Nuri’s. It is famous for its BBQ ribs. We both ordered burgers & onion rings because we were craving them. The restaurant is completely open to the outdoors and the women who own the restaurant cook the food right outside in front of passerby’s on a large grill. The onion rings were different from the ones at home-not as crispy, but more sweet. Our burgers were huge. The meat obviously tastes different from what it does at home, but it was still good. I couldn’t finish it all because it was so large. In total, our two drinks, appetizer and two burgers totaled to be around 14 USD- Yay for Cheap Eats. Our first bit of culture shock hit us though when we were at the restaurant and we saw about 5 geckos crawling around and even one rat- it takes a bit of getting used to & an open, optimistic mind!
We headed back to the Villa around 6 pm (their sunset time) and instantly fell asleep. We had JET LAG to thank for that.
Day 2: Markets, Monkeys, Royalty, & the Zoo
On our second day, we woke up at 5:30 to watch the sunrise at 6:30 from our villa balcony. Breakfast was served to us right onto our balcony. They made banana pancakes, a fresh vegetable omelette with fried potatoes and fresh fruit. Each day they served us a different homemade fruit drink. YUM. Afterwards, we walked down to central Ubud to explore the city for the first time. We wandered through the Ubud market which was full of vendors selling wooden figures, clothing, silver jewelry and more. We didn’t buy anything because we were a bit overwhelmed and we had to practice our bargaining first! Then we strolled through the Ubud Palace, where the royalty still lives today! Afterwards, we headed towards the Monkey Forest-one of Ubud’s biggest tourist attractions.
The monkey forest was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. The monkey’s just roam around freely and there are thousands of them! The forest has a lot of paths that you can walk along, but the monkeys are everywhere. A few minutes after we arrived, one jumped on Jack and reached into our bag and stole my mini deodorant-they are quick and sneaky! They are constantly looking to reach into pockets, take glasses etc. I tried to take a picture next to one & before I knew it I had two in my hair pulling it in opposite directions and digging for bugs. I was not a fan.
After the Monkey Forest, we headed to the Bali Zoo. The zoo was amazing, but much different than the zoo’s we are used to here. In our opinion, there is a lot less netting and distance between the animals & people watching them. You could practically reach your hands directly into the Tiger cage. It roared right into our camera and since he was so close we jumped like crazy! At the zoo we saw many exotic birds, monkeys and the Bali Bear cat the binturong! My favorite was the Bornean Orangutan… even though it threw mud right at my face. After all of this, we ate dinner at the zoo, headed home & fell asleep once again at six.
Day 3: Day trip to Kuta & Canggu
We actually slept in, enjoyed our breakfast & then took a bluebird about an hour and a half towards the South East part of the island. Our first stop was at the turtle conservation center where we saw a turtle hatchery, newly hatched turtles and turtles going through the rehabilitation process. They offered a sea turtle release program where you could adopt the baby turtles and release them into the ocean yourself. Jack and I decided we wanted to do it. We named our little dude Nelson and took a cab that brought us to the ocean to release him. He really struggled to make it there but finally did it.
Afterwards, we took another drive to La Laguna, in Canggu. La Laguna is an amazing restaurant lounge that is full of old fashion carts, wagons and “mini homes” that are all hand painted. It is outdoor and filled with lush greenery, lanterns, and string lights everywhere. Everything was hand painted-it was amazing! The restaurant also sat right on the ocean with a pier that led out to a sandbar. We ordered a drink each, Jack tried the local beer (Bintang) and I tried a Dragonfruit Berry drink called the “Purple Night”. We both ordered the Australian Ribeye with french fries and a whole grain mustard sauce. It was hands down the best meal and food experience that we had in Bali. If you are going to Bali, this place is a MUST.
Afterwards, despite being extremely stuffed, we headed to get a smoothie bowl. We went to Nalu Smoothie Bowls. I ordered the Uluwatu and Jack ordered the Maverick- their most popular. They were only about 6 USD and were huge. My bowl came with dragonfruit, strawberry, raspberry, apple juice, banana, coconut, grains, honey and more. Jack’s was a REAL Acai bowl with mango, honey, coconut & grains. They were so big I couldn’t even finish mine but I wish I could. I have been craving one ever since we got home, but making it at home just wouldn’t be the same. We then headed down to the beach which was only a few blocks away. Echo beach is absolutely beautiful. We were there around 5 pm and no one was there. It was almost like we had the whole beach to ourselves!
We walked along the beach for awhile, saw a few people surfing and then headed home for a nap! For dinner, we went to a restaurant called “Room 4 Desert”. It was a cute, little, open restaurant that specialized in deserts. Although we didn’t try their deserts, their food & drinks were really good! I ordered papas bravas & they reminded me of the tapas we had in Barcelona! We both also ordered some strong mojitos! They had mood lighting and candles on all of the tables. Jack loved that they were playing American music-mainly because Oasis and Ryan Adams played while we were there.
Day 4: Bali Safari & Marine Park and an Amazing Evening at the Spa
The Bali Safari and Marine park was also a different experience than a regular zoo. Instead of all of the animals being inside of small cages, the animals were in a habitat and we were traveling in a jeep to see all of them. We had a guide giving us a tour while the bus moved and we saw elephants, monkeys, deer, antelope and more. We rode an elephant, which is something I probably won’t do again. While I saw no maltreatment here, it was just something that felt wrong to me. We watched a tiger show which was actually crazy, people were running around with trained tigers but still TIGERS. We watched orangutans who LOVED holding hands, and they even trained guinea pigs to run across the stage- how does that even happen?! We also got to feed the elephants and take pictures with the orangutan.
Afterwards, we ate lunch at this yummy restaurant in the zoo. I had an Alfredo pasta and a mojito- my favorite! We spent about 4 hours at the Safari Park and bought the Elephant Back Package. I would recommend the package because it came with transportation to and from the park, the elephant ride, two animal encounter photos, a souvenir, and VIP treatment at all of the shows (we had reserved seating!). The package itself was pretty spendy 89 USD a person, but worth it in our opinion. It was a really great experience and you can honestly spend the whole day there. We headed home around 4 pm to make it to our spa appointment at 6! WOO.
Prior to heading to Bali, I did a bit of research on the best Spas and came across Bali Botanica Day Spa. When we got to Ubud, we found out it was RIGHT by our hotel. We made a booking for a 1 hour massage, oil and exfoliation scrub as well as a 25 minute flower bath. We got two hours of Spa treatment for around 18 USD each. The room was open with a window that led out into the jungle. During our session it was pouring rain and the sound was really relaxing. We chose the most soothing oil and a green tea scrub. The flowers were all fresh and during the bath we were served hot ginger tea. It was honestly just the most amazing and relaxing experience. I would do it again in a heart beat. All of the staff were so sweet and accommodating. This may have been one of my top 5 favorite parts of the trip! Bali is known for cheap spa!
Day 5: Rice Trekking, Pool Day, Gelato & Ridge Walk
Tuesday morning we woke up and decided because it was reasonably cool outside that it would be a good day to trek the rice fields! We headed to Tegalalang Rice Fields and found a secret way in to avoid a majority of the fees. Turns out it wasn’t a really cool day, it actually turned out to be really hot! We walked through the fields and enjoyed the lush green and the forest surrounding it. We saw Balinese farmers working in the fields and even climbed up to the top to see the handmade pirate ship that a local made himself! We saw a few people living amongst the rice terraces as well. The day before we went it had rained a Ton and our shoes got completely muddy. It was also a bit hard to trek when it was wet. After we had moved all along the fields, we went to a little coffee shop near the rice fields for a quick drink. We had a poop coffee oreo milkshake. It was delicious. Jack also tried an Indonesian soup and I had egg rolls.
After coffee, we headed home to grab some dinner and gelato. We were both really craving Mexican food so we googled “Mexican in Ubud” and found Kangen Tacos & Grill and decided that was it! This place was amazing! I got a giant coconut which had fresh coconut water inside of it. We ordered nachos supreme to share and both got tacos! The restaurant is downtown central Ubud near the palace and was extremely reasonably priced. The owner was so nice and we received their full attention because we were the only ones in the restaurant! After dinner, we headed towards the Campuhan Ridge walk. On the way we stopped to get gelato- I had a caramel delight and white chocolate raspberry! Its hard to believe that was the first time I had ice cream when I was in Bali! The ridge is a bit hidden back behind hotels, the street etc, you will probably miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for!
The walk can take up to 2 hours to walk the whole thing. We decided to do it during the evening because everyone suggested it was best to do it during dusk or dawn. It was amazing to watch the sunset from the ridge. It was cool, calm and overlooked various resorts, jungle, rivers etc. We only walked for about 40 minutes total because it started getting dark.
Day 6: The Climb & the Coffee
We later realized that we should’ve saved our spa day for after our 6 hour hiking trip in the hot Bali heat. Wednesday morning we woke up at 2 am to hike Mount Batur. We began our hike at 2:30 am in the complete darkness. It was about a half hour walk until we began our incline and the walk was amazing. The only thing you could see were the stars and everyone ahead of you’s flashlight. Other than the starlight and faint dim flashlights, it was complete darkness and quite quiet. The incline was hard-really hard. First of all, it was dark so we struggled to see. Jack and I started a tripping competition (surprisingly he lost). The incline was large loose rocks that would fall anytime you stepped on them. The hike took about 2 hours to get to the top and for two completely out of shape people, it was a bit of a struggle. When we reached one point of the peak, our group decided to trek up to the top. The last part of the incline towards the peak was more difficult than the rocks, because it was only sand. You really had to dig your feet into it in order to get up.
Finally we made it to the top after about 2 hours and 45 minutes. The sun was just starting to set when we reached the top. The view was beautiful! There was a giant lake surrounding the mountain, and many more mountains in the sight. The sun came up over another mountain and it was gorgeous. By the time we were ready to go back down, I was completely exhausted! The walk down was just as hard as the walk up! You basically had to slide down! I fell and almost fell a second time. It took us another 2.5 hours to get down, but by now it was hot, hot, hot!!! It was definitely worth it, but it was a complete challenge!
After the trek when we were DEAD tired, I made a joke to Jack saying that some crazy people visit a coffee plantation after they do the hike and we laughed because we thought that would suck with how tired we were! Sure enough, our tour included the coffee tour. We headed to Satria Plantation to see how they brew their coffee. We learned all about the famous Luwak “poop” coffee. Basically an animal, the Luwak, eats the bean, poops it out, and somehow the digestive process makes the bean delicious. They clean it, crack it open, clean it again and grind the bean into coffee! After our tour, and seeing their Luwak, we got to try 12 different kinds of coffee and tea- which was much needed after the hike! They were all natural, with natural flavorings and ingredients that grow in Bali. A few of my favorites were the flower tea, Lemon grass tea, and vanilla coffee. We purchased a few to take home with us!
When we got home from the tour it was only 12 pm and we were SO exhausted, but we had to transfer two hours to our second villa! Once we arrived in Candidasa, we immediately checked in, ate lunch and took a nap. The villa was located right on the ocean, had a pool, a bar and restaurant. We could see the ocean right outside of our front door. Our villa had a kitchen, living room, and even a jacuzzi! For lunch the first night, we ate at the restaurant in the resort. We both just ate something small so we could head right to bed (We love naps-even abroad). For dinner, we headed down the street to a restaurant and bar called the Krazy Kangaroo. Here, we watched a traditional balinese dance while eating amazing food & enjoying mojitos yet again!
Day 7: Nusa Penida- A daydream!
On Thursday am we woke up at 6 am and took a drive to Sanur harbor. We watched the sunrise from the harbor- a cotton candy sky- and then boarded the boat for Nusa Penida. The ride to the island took about 35 minutes and was CRAMPED full of people. Luckily, Jack and I got a seat but a few Australians we met later had to ride on the roof of the boat. Upon arrival, there are a zillion people at the shore waiting for the arrival of our & other boats. We booked our Nusa Penida tour through Penida Aqua Blue (I would highly recommend), and our guide was waiting for us upon arrival.
We began driving to Angel’s Billabong and Broken Bay. Our guide said that although these were the furthest away, he always went to them first before anyone else had arrived. The view throughout the drive was breathtaking- this island is a lot less developed than Bali. There are lush greens everywhere and it is very mountainous. The roads were not paved, but made from dirt and often there were holes-which made for a very bumpy ride. The view from Broken Bay was absolutely stunning. Everything was a rich green or blue. We were only the ones there for a few minutes until the cars of people started to come. After watching for a few minutes, we headed down to see Angel’s Billabong- a natural rock pool right off of the ocean.
Afterwards we headed back out on the road to head to Kelingking Point. Here it was much more crowded, so we only stayed for a few minutes, but the view was beautiful. Below there was a beach that only two or three people were playing in the sand. I would have loved to stop but we didn’t have enough time to make the trek down. Afterwards, we stopped for a lunch at a local warung and then headed to crystal bay where we enjoyed the rest of our day trip. The water at Crystal bay was amazing. It was completely transparent. Standing with the water at hip length and you could still see your feet. Jack spent a majority of the afternoon looking for Coral he could take home with us, while I enjoyed being in ocean water that was WARM.
We took the boat back to Sanur around 3 pm, and arrived back at our hotel by 4:30. We decided to head to Virgin Beach (the famous white sand beach). We rented a scooter and had our very first run in with Bali driving. It was absolutely terrifying but we eventually made it. There were signs that led us in the right direction and we only had to pay a small fee to enter and purchase a few chairs. The water here was just as clear and as warm as in Crystal Bay. The waves here were HUGE and definitely wiped me out- more than once.
Day 8: Our Snorkeling Adventure
Friday morning we were able to book a snorkeling trip to the Blue Lagoon. Since we booked it through our hotel for CHEAP (only 25 $ per person), we weren’t expecting all that much from it. Boy were we wrong. It was absolutely amazing!!!!! The boat ride to the lagoon was super fun and relaxing. The breeze and slight water that were hitting us few amazing because it was a pretty hot morning.
I had never snorkeled prior to this and was a bit afraid to do it because of my slight fear of water. It took me a bit to get used to the idea of sticking my face in the water and breathing while doing it. Once I got used to it, it was amazing. We saw so many kinds of beautiful fish including clownfish! Jack even dove down to touch the anemone! We saw fish of all colors and sizes, weird water snakes and lots of coral. We ended up staying for two whole hours and later had to deal with the fact that our backs had been completely sunburnt from laying face down in the water for two hours.
Day 9: A Day With a Local
On our last full day in Bali we had the opportunity to spend the day with a local. On a business trip, one of Jack’s coworkers suggested we meet with a friend of hers from Bali. She has been to the island many times and gave us his name & contact info. Komang met us in Ubud and drove us to his village on the Western coast of Bali. He first took us to visit a water temple, where he and many others come to perform ceremonies and rituals every 6 months. The drive to the temple was long. We drove up the mountains that overlooked fields of rice & marigolds. The temple itself was on a lake surrounded by water. We stayed for a half hour admiring the temple, the animals, and those who were worshiping during our time of visit. For lunch this day we tried our very first indonesian food which was delicious, but would come back to haunt us.
Afterwards, he took us to his high priests home. Here he explained a bit more about the Hindu religion and his practice. He shared that he visits once a week to learn from the high priest. During our visit, he was not there but we were able to see his beautiful, traditional Bali home. Finally, we headed back to his village. Komang is a farmer and is one of two people on the island of Bali who grow mulberries. He therefore distributes to all of the restaurants and hotels on the island. He welcomed us into his home where we met his wife, daughter and father. They all live in the same village area right near each other. We played with his dog’s puppies and drank his mulberry juice (which was delicious). Overall, it was a really special day-one we will never forget. It was really amazing to have a truly authentic Bali experience and to see the culture and way of life through the eyes of a local, instead of as a tourist.
At night Jack and I sat at the bar and took turns ordering fancy cocktails while eating popcorn and playing checkers. We could hear the ocean and feel the breeze coming from it. We talked for hours & laughed with the bartenders. It was just the exact way I wanted to spend our last night.
Day 10: Goodbye, Bali
Our flight didn’t depart from Denpasar until 9 pm, so during the day we went swimming at our hotel, checked out and headed to Ubud to do some last minute shopping at the market prior to our departure. We are SO bad about buying souvenirs during the course of our trip and always save it for last minute (maybe we will learn next year?) Walking through the market is another not to miss Bali attraction. So many locals have so many goods to share- we purchased quite a few things and Jack really enjoyed bargaining. Typically, you can get the item you want 50-75% lower than the price the locals originally offer to you. After our shopping we headed to the airport and enjoyed our last Bali meal at Hard Rock Cafe – and boy was it delicious. We drank our last mojitos and said goodbye to the island of dreams. If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking this out. We had the most amazing vacation to Bali. I would recommend it to anyone who loves adventure, true culture, beaches and beautiful scenery. We hope to head back someday!