This post was originally published in January 2019 and was updated in April 2020.
There are so many fun things to do in Bali that it can be tough to plan a trip there. Where are the best beaches, hikes, waterfalls, rice terraces and temples? I’ve been to Bali three times now, and while I certainly haven’t done everything this iconic island has to offer I, and some other travel bloggers I roped into helping me with this post, can give you plenty of Bali travel inspiration. This is a long post, so settle in with a coffee and enjoy the ride (let’s be honest though, you’ll probably just skip through it and look at the photos if you’re anything like me).
One of my favourite things about travelling in Bali is the abundance of waterfalls. I’ve visited quite a few of them — here are my favourites.
This is actually a couple of different waterfalls which have banded together to create an awesome short walk / waterfall destination in the north of Bali. It’s a tough walk back up the hill, and you’ll have to scramble over wet rocks and a dodgy bridge to get to the first waterfall, but it’s worth it to see two of Bali’s best waterfalls.
This large waterfall in the north is a short walk from the car park and is an easy little add-on to a day’s touring around northern / central Bali. I visited first thing in the morning and it was empty — that may not always be the case though.
Waterfalls in Munduk
Munduk, the small town in Central Bali, sits right next to a series of waterfalls. It’ll take you a couple of hours to walk between all the waterfalls in Munduk — it’s fairly easy (with some exhausting uphill sections) and there are some small places to eat and drink along the way. It really is the perfect short hike in Bali.
This waterfall in the south of Bali is close to the popular beach resorts, which obviously means it gets really packed. It is a cool place to visit but just don’t expect a unspoiled paradise. There are shops and restaurants along the way and you can get right down into the water (if you can find a spot). I imagine if you visit this place first thing in the morning it’d be a completely different experience.
They don’t call Bali the Island of the Gods for nothing. The strong Hindu presence in Bali has led to numerous interesting temples. They aren’t nearly as old as the temples in nearby Java but they are still cool to see.
This little cave temple just outside of Ubud is best known for the carvings at the entrance to the cave. It makes for a fun little stop if you’re exploring the area around Ubud.
Ulun Danu Bratan Temple
This wooden temple by Lake Bratan is probably Bali’s most popular temple and it has the crowds to prove it. I consider it to be a bit overrated, but I guess it’s worth a quick look (the surrounding scenery is nice and one part of the temple, surrounded by water, does look cool).
Temples in Ubud
There are several small temples in Ubud, my favourite being Saraswati Temple. There’s a small garden to relax in and it’s right next to a Starbucks (which is just an interesting fact, not a reason why I enjoyed it).
Contributed by Jackie from Life of Doing
Located in East Bali, Lempuyang Temple has a special aura once you step foot in the area. After getting splashed with holy water entering the first temple, you’ll see the stunning “Gateway to Heaven.” It’s the most popular spot to take photos due to the beautiful views of Mount Agung through the gates. If you have more time, explore the other six temples which will take 3+ hours to complete and has over 1440+ stairs to climb.
Tirta Empul Temple
If you need a blessing (or just like to have water run over you while wearing a robe and being watched by tourists) this is the place for you. Tourists and locals alike flock to this place to be blessed by the holy waters — of course you can just watch though. The temple itself is interesting enough. It’s often included in day tours of the interior from Ubud (or one of the beach towns).
Tanah Lot Temple
Contributed by Lori from Travlinmad.com
30 kilometers from Denpasar on the west coast of Bali sits Pura Tanah Lot, one of the most important temples in Bali. Tanah Lot temple was built to worship Bhatara Segara, or the God of the Sea. The temple sits in the sea, so the main temple can only be accessed at low tide, but several smaller temples can be reached at any time. For a special experience, try and visit during the Galungan and Kuningan festivities when families bring offerings to pray at the temple.
The beaches on mainland Bali aren’t quite as spectacular as the islands nearby, but you’re still spoiled for choice if you want to chill out on a beach for a few days.
One of my favourite things to do in Bali is walk along Seminyak Beach at sunset. There’s heaps going on but you can always find a quiet spot to lay out your towel and take in the colours. There are also heaps of bars lining the beach, from small operations to huge beach clubs like Potato Head.
Bias Tugel Beach, Padangbai
Bias Tugel Beach in Padangbai is easily one of the best beaches in mainland Bali. The white sand, clear blue water and lack of plastic rubbish belies the fact it’s only a short distance from a busy port. If you’re heading to or from the Gili Islands you may pass through Padangbai — it’s easily worth staying for a couple of hours and heading out to Bias Tugel Beach.
Contributed by Cat from Walk My World — check out her post about the most Instagrammable places in Bali
Bali is blessed with so many gorgeous beaches to choose from, but Balangan is one you shouldn’t miss. To get there you have to go to the very south of the island and pass through friendly rural communities before arriving at a huge stretch of golden sand backed by a photogenic cliff face. The sea is relatively calm so it’s a great place to go for a dip, especially atmospheric if you time your visit for sunset.
Contributed by Sharon from Dive Into Malaysia
Lovina Beach is located on the north coast of Bali and is a great choice if you want less tourists and a great value destination compared to the more touristy areas. The beach is nice but it is a black sand beach with some trash (although much lower volumes than the southern beaches). Diving, snorkelling and dolphin trips are popular. The evenings are the best time to hang out on the beach when the locals come out.
Bali Rice Terraces
One of my favourite things to do in Bali is explore the island’s exotic rice terraces. There are a few to choose from and they offer up different experiences.
Located a short distance from Ubud, Tegalalang Rice Terraces attract a steady stream of tourists. It is, however, large enough that you can easily round a corner and feel like you’re in some exotic, far-flung rice growing village. You’ll also notice lots of swings in the Tegalalang Rice Terraces — it’s a popular photo-op in these parts. Above the rice terraces you’ll find lots of shops and small restaurants which take advantage of the awesome views.
This much larger set of rice terraces is located a bit further from the tourist action, meaning it’s a lot quieter than Tegalalang. You could spend hours hiking around these rice terraces and the views are much more expansive. There are also places to eat and drink above (and within) the terraces. Choose Jatiluwih over Tegalalang if you want a bit more of an adventure and or you’d just like to escape the crowds.
Islands near Bali
Whether you’re visiting on a day trip or you want to escape Bali for a few days, I highly recommend exploring some of the islands near Bali.
Nusa Penida is most commonly visited as a day trip from Bali and is only growing in popularity. It’s obvious why when you see photos of Kelingking Beach from above. It has to be the best coastal viewpoint anywhere near Bali — you’d have to go to Komodo National Park to see better. There are also some other beaches / coastal rock formations to see and I’m sure new hot spots will continue to emerge. The best way to get around Nusa Penida is to hire a car / driver, or you could rent a scooter (although the roads are rough so take care).
I stayed on Nusa Lembongan for a couple of days and it’s a cool thing to do in Bali. The beaches aren’t amazing (go straight to the Gili Islands for screensaver worthy beaches) but there are some interesting things to see, including the Devil’s Tear and Dream Beach.
Nusa Ceningan is joined to Nusa Lembongan by a bridge, so it’s easy to cycle over there for a couple of hours to check out the sights. The best place on Nusa Ceningan is the Blue Lagoon — such a nice shade of blue water!
The Gili Islands
If you’re a beach aficionado, you’ll want to jump on a boat headed for the Gili Islands as soon as possible. This is what tropical beaches are supposed to look like. It’s almost like a budget version of the Maldives with way more options for eating and drinking. I just wrote a post about the Gili Islands, so I won’t go into too much detail — just know that if you love beaches you need to make time in your Bali schedule for the Gili Islands!
READ MORE: Which Is the Best Gili Island for You?
Other things to do in Bali
Explore The Monkey Forest
One of the most fun things to do in Bali is a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. You’d have to be pretty grumpy not to laugh at the antics of the monkeys, from scrapping between themselves to climbing over tourists in order to steal their stuff. We even saw one rip out a woman’s earring (pretty sure it was a clip-on though).
READ MORE: Check out my post about things to do in Ubud!
Hike a Volcano
Sunrise hikes don’t get much better than the trip up Mount Batur. It’s a (slightly challenging) uphill hike under starlight before reaching the top and seeing the sun slowly light up this beautiful area. The lake, the surrounding volcanoes, the monkeys at the top — there’s so much to see! There are some other volcanoes to hike in Bali, such as Mount Agung and Mount Catur, but Mount Batur is by far the most popular (for a reason it seems).
Get a massage
You can get a massage pretty much anywhere in Bali, from fancy day spas to more rustic operations. I went to an upmarket one a few years ago and it was a relaxing experience. I was also propositioned by plenty of women on the street in Kuta — I’m pretty sure that would have been a far different kind of massage though.
Watch a sunrise or sunset
There are lots of options for watching sunrises and sunsets. You’ll see amazing sunsets at beaches like Kuta and Seminyak and watching the sunrise after climbing Mount Batur is a special experience. I also saw a great sunrise just outside of Ubud.
Walk around the outskirts of Ubud
You can walk from the bustle of Ubud to the tranquil surrounds of rice fields in a few minutes. There are restaurants in this area and lots of wide open green spaces. You can also cycle or ride a scooter around the outskirts of Ubud.
Stay in a hotel surrounded by rice fields
Just outside of Ubud (and other parts of Bali I’m sure) you can stay in a hotel surrounded by rice fields. The one we stayed at — Solo Villas Resort and Retreat — is a short walk from Ubud (or a motorbike ride — no cars can reach this area) but feels like a world away. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in Bali I highly recommend it.
Rafting the Telaga Waja River
Contributed by Warren from Sling Adventures
Rafting is one of many outdoor pursuits available in Bali. Rafting the Telaga Waja River is an amazing journey through farmlands, waterfalls and rainforests on grade 3-4 rapids. It ends with a hair-raising 5-metre drop over a waterfall before disembarking for a well-earned lunch. No experience is necessary, just ensure you go with a reputable outfit who have experienced guides.
Street art in Canggu
Contributed by Angie from Feet Do Travel
Confession: I am a Street Art lover so when we visited Bali, I made it my mission to find the best street art in Canggu. We hired a scooter to navigate back streets and beach locations and I was sincerely surprised at the quantity and quality of some of the pieces. The most famous mural is at Old Man’s restaurant at Batu Balong Beach, a popular surf and sunset spot. My vote for the best piece of street art? Batu Balong beach boardwalk; the vibrant colours and amazing talent of the artist left me speechless, I hope you agree!
Shopping in Bali
Shopping is one of the top things to do in Bali (for a certain demographic at least) and there are so many things to buy. From carvings and statues to designer handbags and clothes, there really is something for everybody. Small clothes shops in places like Kuta sell knock-off gear, boutiques in Seminyak and Ubud sell fancy clothes and accessories and there are also some malls if you’re interested in the big brands.
Eating and Drinking
Whether you’re eating in small local restaurants (warungs) or high-end eateries by the beach, you’re bound to consume some memorable meals in Bali. I preferred the small local places as they are cheap, and the food is generally good, but I also ate at a few fancier places in Ubud and Seminyak. Dishes to try include nasi campur, rendang and satay (and obviously burgers — can’t beat a good burger!). Cheap beer and cocktails are found in abundance in Bali, but be a little careful about what you drink. People have died after drinking cocktails made with dodgy local spirits. Stick to beer / drink at reputable places to be safe.
Trunyan cemetery, reached by a boat ride across Lake Batur, is a slightly creepy place to visit. People aren’t really buried at this cemetery — they seem to be just left there. There are stacks of skulls and other bones — definitely a weird place to visit in Bali!
Chill out in Munduk
Munduk is located on a ridge which features great views on either side. There’s nothing better than having a quiet drink / bite to eat while the sun sets over nearby hills. There are also some nice walks in Munduk, including the waterfall track I mentioned earlier.
Have you been to Bali? What are your favourite things to do in Bali? Let me know in the comments below!
Latest posts by Jon Algie (see all)
- Hospital Hill Lookout, Rarotonga - January 24, 2023
- What’s a Trip to Rarotonga Really Like? - January 11, 2023
- Cross Island Track + the Needle: Walking Across Rarotonga - December 19, 2022