There’s a reason why so many people return to Bali time and time again – it’s a charming destination that offers so much and caters to all types of travellers (read: The 5 Bali Travellers – which one are you?). With so many beautiful places and things to do – planning a trip for a first timer can be a little daunting.
To help with that process, we’ve decided to put together this little beginner’s guide to the main tourist areas in Bali so you can decide where you’d like to stay.
Love it or hate it, no stop to Bali is complete without spending at least a few days checking out notorious Kuta. The undeniable beating heart of Bali, Kuta is the main tourist hotspot that’s absolutely buzzing.
Here you’ll find bars, nightclubs, cheap massages, street side markets, hawkers, traffic galore, Western malls such as Discovery and Beachwalk, a waterpark for the kids, plenty of restaurants catering to all budgets, and backpacker hostels and hotels. It is also home to Bali’s busiest stretch of beach where you’ll find people from all over the world enjoying life and surfing/learning to surf.
Whilst fun to visit, staying in the heart of Kuta is only really recommended for the party animals who want to be amongst it all, or the backpackers on a budget.
Hotel Bounty Kuta – smack bang in the middle of the action, this hotel attracts a younger crowd ready to party!
Grand Barong Resort – another popular choice in the centre of Kuta, great vibe and pool bar.
The Sandi Phala Beach Resort – highly rated luxurious suites just outside of the hustle and bustle.
A few minutes away from Kuta sits the more upmarket Seminyak. Home to a number of expats, this is the place to go if you want something just a little bit quieter than Kuta. The shopping is more bohemian and boutique, the cafes and restaurants are more trendy, the bars and nightclubs more upscale and the spas more high-end. There are plenty of beachside resorts and villas as well as luxury hotels.
If you’re a couple or more mature traveller and still want to be amongst it all, staying in Seminyak would be better than staying in Kuta.
W Retreat & Spa – a funky, chic and indulgent hotel.
Dash Hotel Seminyak – another funky and highly rated hotel in the heart of Seminyak near the beach.
Just south of Kuta and the airport sits quiet little Jimbaran. This area is famous for its seafood, beautiful beaches and high-end luxury resorts and villas. Although there is little nightlife and the shopping isn’t as good, the beach is very calm making it a suitable escape for families.
If you’re looking to just hang out and do your own thing whilst relaxing in your all-inclusive hotel/villa and enjoying the sunset, then Jimbaran is where you should stay.
Ayana Resort and Spa – a spectacular huge estate and home to the famous Rock Bar.
Le Meridien – a funky, modern and fresh hotel with absolutely stunning swimming pools.
The Astari Villa and Residence – If you’re after something a little more affordable, we can recommend the Astari where we stayed in January 2016. Their private villas feature a comfortable outdoor lounge area and a nice plunge pool at reasonable prices. They also have cheaper hotel rooms with a shared pool.
On the eastern side of south Bali lies the high-end luxury tourist enclave of Nusa Dua. The beaches here are beautiful, and even if you’re not staying here, it’s still a place worthy of a visit.
There are plenty of water-sport activities, a golf course, outdoor shopping at Bali Collection, and some great restaurants in the luxury hotels. Our favourite is Soleil in the Mulia Resort – make sure you stop here for lunch for some truly fine dining at reasonable prices!
If you’re a luxury traveller, definitely stay in Nusa Dua for an indulgent experience. We’ve been through just about all the hotels here whilst scouting for venues for our Bali wedding.
The Laguna – set in a tropical garden landscape with plenty of lagoon style pools and direct access to the beach. Their private villas are absolutely indulgent if you can afford it.
St Regis Luxury Resort – another luxurious and impressive hotel on the beach with stunning private villas.
Mahogany Hotel – a much more reasonably priced hotel (from AU$40) in the Nusa Dua area. Although the location isn’t on the beach, they offer a free shuttle service and the hotel is very fresh and clean.
Ubud is the ‘cultural’ heart of Bali. Think arts and crafts, villages, rice terraces, temples, cheap but excellent food. The vibe here is very different to all the main beachside areas mentioned above. Situated about an hour north of the airport towards the centre of the island, Ubud continues to draw tourists and expats due to its charm and slower pace.
There’s plenty to do in Ubud such as yoga, spa treatments, cycling tours, ATV tours, rafting, and elephant safari. There’s also the famous monkey forest in the centre of town.
Even if you choose not to stay here, it’s worth coming here at least on a day trip. If you do choose to stay in Ubud, be aware there are plenty of homestay options, as well as budget to high end resort/villa options. Actually, some of the most luxurious resorts in Asia are in Ubud.
Transport options can be limited especially if your accommodation is located a little further out, so best to pick a place that offers complimentary transfers to the centre of town (most do).
Four Seasons Resort – One of Bali’s truly great hotels, over-looking the Sayan gorge.
Motama Villa – we stayed here in January 2016 and can recommend this mid-range place. It’s a small private complex with only four villas which are all beautiful and have a private pool, the staff are friendly and offer free transfers into town.
Which area in Bali suits you the most? Let us know in the comments section below!