Known as “Australia’s Cabo,” Bali is a hugely popular Southeast Asian destination known for its breathtaking beauty and fabulous resorts and beaches. To experience the “Island of Peace” the right way, consider these three lesser-known spots instead of tourist favorites like Kuta and Seminyak.
You may feel like you’re at Bondi Beach in Australia, but this city, located on the Southern tip of Bali has some of the world’s best surfing—not to mention stunning views. Not a pro-Aussie surfer? Test out your skills on the calmer waters in Padang Padang Beach before heading out to Blue Fin with the pros.
Where to Eat: Surf’s up at Single Fin. Head here for a Sunday night drinking and dancing session to cap off your weekend, or enjoy a refreshing acai bowl between surfs.
What to Do: To beat the crowds, check out Pura Luhur Uluwatu before you hit the beach. Beware of dozens of tour buses later in the day, as the cliff-side temple boasts an amazing sunset view.
Where to Stay: Alila Villas Uluwatu brings you right to the water’s edge with an incredible infinity pool, perfect for sunbathing.
Known as Bali’s cultural center, Ubud has a UNESCO World Heritage site, amazing restaurants, and a stunning temple. Be sure your first stop is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, and leave yourself plenty of time to explore the tiered windy rice paddies.
Where to Eat: CP Lounge offers an eclectic indoor/outdoor atmosphere with live music and delicious tapas.
What to Do: Arrange a sunrise hiking tour to Mt. Batur, which has panoramic views of the island from its peak. If you’re not feeling up to a strenuous hike—or an early wake-up—take a trail through the rice paddies to Bukit Cinta (Love Hill) instead. After a restorative nap, check out the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (yes, they bite) and Pura Tirta Empul (Water Temple).
Where to Stay: Bidadari Private Villas—Retreat offers the ideal romantic getaway, with private villas, massages, and daily breakfast and tea—much needed after a long day of touring.
While these tropical paradises are off the coast of a different island, Lombok, you can still get to them from Bali. Here you’ll find Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno—known as the Party, Romantic, and Honeymoon Island, respectively. No matter which one you pick, you’ll be living the island life.
Where to Eat: Most of the restaurants you’ll find in Gili T’s town are little beach shacks serving local dishes and plenty of seafood—these are great places to eat your meal with your feet in the sand. Just make sure you don’t accidentally order a mushroom shake! If you’re looking for some sophistication and fine dining, try MAHAMAYA on Gili Meno—although your feet will still be in the sand as you experience true island living.
What to Do: Snorkel, rent a bike, scuba dive, fish, and relax on any of the three islands. Make sure you take a day trip to the other islands —or book a night on all three. Transportation between islands is quick and easy—just hop on any of the longboats along the shore and ask to island-hop!
Where to Stay: Depending on the nature of your vacation, you can stay in anything from a remote yurt at Windy Bungalow to a luxury suite at Hotel Ombak Sunset or a party hostel in town at Gili Beach Bum.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Beguiling Bali: Unforgettable Experiences on the Island of Peace
- 8 Hard-to-Plan Dream Trips to Research at Home While You Have the Time
- How Education Can Curb Your Fear of Sharks
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ashley_stravel for more advice on travel hacks and destination ideas.