Skip to content →

Discovering Bali: a simple and quick guide to the Island of The Gods

On the western-most end of Lesser Sunda Islands, between Java to the west and Lombok to the east, lies the Indonesian island of Bali. It is mostly known for three things: wonderful beaches and dive sites, rich culture, and cheap massage.

While you can find all three in most, if not all, Asian countries lying in the Coral Triangle, Bali is a bit different. The mix of traditional culture and western influence makes it so.

The Coral Triangle Map
The Coral Triangle Map (http://wwf.panda.org/)

After spending about three weeks in The Philippines, I had the opportunity to spend 10 days in this beautiful island last June. Five days I spent with three gorgeous ladies exploring the island, and another five days spent scuba diving by myself.

L to R: Charlene Mae, Emme, Waqui
L to R: Charlene Mae, Emme, Waqui
Diving in Bali, w/ dive buddy Michael and instructor/guide Juli
Diving in Bali, w/ dive buddy Michael and instructor/guide Juli

Getting here

Booking a flight to Bali is not that hard. As it is a popular tourist destination in South East Asia, major airlines have direct flights to Denpasar almost on a daily basis, whether you’re coming from The Philippines or from Australia.

Upon arrival, you will be met with a horde of taxi drivers, offering the “most affordable” service. It would be wise though to book ahead for someone to pick you up at the airport and drive you to your hotel. I booked with Klook and I totally recommend you do, too.

Where to stay

Bali is filled with plentiful resorts and homestays, so much to the point that you’ll have a hard time which one to choose.

If you have the budget but don’t have the time, staying in those Instagrammable mountain resorts or private villas in Ubud could be worth your buck. At the same time, if you prefer the beach, staying in the rich district of Nusa Dua would be your choice.

Ubud mountain resort (c) Jay Seno

If you have the time but don’t have the budget, homestays and AirBnb’s in Seminyak or Kuta would be your best option. This allows you to stay in Bali the longest possible time without having to really empty your pocket.

Travel tip: Make sure to check the reviews of listings if you are going to book with AirBnb

Private villa in Bali (c) Jay Seno

Both Seminyak and Kuta are great places to stay but Kuta is where most of the party happens while Seminyak is the one that’s less noisy. It’s still near the beach, food, and some gigs though.

Going around

If you’re staying for a long time and you don’t necessarily have a strict itinerary to follow, I would suggest that you rent (or hire in Aussie slang) a scooter.

Going around Kuta and Seminyak and even checking out the popular destinations on a scooter is a lot easier as Bali streets are narrow. The usual fee would set you back around 50k IDR (approx 4.67 AUD or 183 PhP) per day. Although I reckon you can get cheaper rates if you rent for longer days.

Scooters in Bali
The best way of going around Seminyak and Kuta: scooters

If you’re staying for a very limited time, however, I suggest you book a tour guide that’s complete with a van (or car if there’s only two of you) and a driver. This gives you the opportunity of seeing the most places while at the same time takes away the stress of figuring out how to get there and what to do.

Travel tip: if you’re going to book a tour, make sure to book a tour WITH a tour guide and not just a tour with a driver. We ended up booking a tour with just a driver who spoke little to no English.

What to see, where to go

There’s an endless list of places to go to and see in Bali, from water temples to jaw-dropping beaches to man-made natural wonders, etc. etc. etc., the list goes on. So even if you stay in Bali for more than a month, you will never run out of destinations and things to do.

Unfortunately for most of us, we have limited time (and money) to explore the island. So here are some places that I think are worth checking out while you’re in Bali.

Potato Beach Head
Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak

About 30-45 minutes from Kuta or 20-25 minutes from Seminyak is this beach club that has an infinity pool with a bar, an open lawn where you can get your tan lines, very relaxing chill music, and an awesome sunset to boot with.

Dipping in the infinity pool after a long exhausting day

This place is called the Potato Head Beach Club and unless you’re an overly anti-social person, it should be on your go-to list when traveling to Bali. You better come early though if you want a spot (table, lounger, etc) as this place could get crowded really fast. Waiting time to get your own spot is around 45mins – 2hrs.

Tip: you don’t have to have a spot, although that’s convenient. You can just put your stuff on the sides and take a dip in the pool or the beach. That’s what we did.

Ideally, you should be there right after lunch time or early in the afternoon and just lounge around and wait for the sunset.

Seminyak beach sunset
Two Javanese ladies play by the shore as the beautiful summer sun is setting down.

Nature at its best

And speaking of sunset, if you’re the type of person who just loves watching the greatest show on Earth, then be sure to be at the West side of the island with a beer on one hand and your camera or phone on the other before 4pm.

Balinese sunset, La Plancha, Seminyak (c) Jay Seno

Balinese sunsets are crazy beautiful, thanks to the long shores of the beach and the sea coming in that creates awesome reflections. Perfect for silhouette shots.

Trivia: young Indonesians travel or move to Bali to enjoy a much more relaxed or liberated culture that’s not present in other parts of Indonesia.

Chasing Sunrise

While Balinese sunsets can be spectacular, the sunrises are not too bad either.

On our 2nd day of touring, our guide brought us to Wanagiri Hidden Hill. It is on the northern top side of the island and is a 2-hour drive from Seminyak. We had to depart at 4am in order to catch the sunrise. No rest for the wicked, right?

Lake Bratan sunrise
Lake Bratan sunrise

When we arrived, there was literally no one else on site other than us and the sun hasn’t even come up yet. The wind was howling and it was really cold. As the light from the rising sun illuminated the area, I could see the view deck, a swing, some tables and chairs, and of course, Lake Bratan below.

Sunrise in Wanagiri Hidden Hill
Sunrise in Wanagiri Hidden Hill

The beaches of Nusa Penida Island

Meanwhile, going back to the topic of beaches, Bali’s beaches are some of the finest you will ever see and the turquoise waters are guaranteed irresistible.

Kelingking Beach
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida Island

Unfortunately though, the best beaches are also the hardest to reach.

Ever heard the saying, “If it’s worth it, it’s not going to be easy; If it’s easy, it’s not going to be worth it”? Well, that would summarize the experience of going to Kelingking Beach.

This beach is found on the island of Nusa Penida and is one of the most, if not THE most, popular beaches in Bali. The white sandy beach and the crystal-clear cool waters would surely take all of your stress and exhaustion away.

Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida Island
Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida Island

Sadly, we were not able to go down as we had limited time. They say trekking down takes half an hour to 45 minutes while going up takes longer. So keep that in mind if you want to experience taking a dip or sun bathing on this beach.

Waqui and I in Nusa Penida
Waqui and I ended up just taking selfies instead of going down to Kelingking Beach

While in Nusa Penida, your tour guide (if you booked one) will most likely definitely include Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach in your itinerary. These two are the other two beaches that you should not miss as they make for awesome Instagram photos…I mean, if that’s what you’re after.

Angel's Billabong
Angel’s Billabong (c) Frangky Pasuhuk

Angel’s Billabong is a natural rock pool formation that gets flooded with sea water as the waves come in. Given the right conditions, you can go down there and go for a quick dip. Be very careful though, the rocks are razor sharp and the swells can sometimes be unpredictable.

Broken Beach, Nusa Penida Island
Broken Beach, Nusa Penida Island

Just a few minutes walk from Angel’s Billabong is the Broken Beach. I’m not sure why they called it that. Maybe because of the “broken” arch? I don’t know.

It’s like what’s left of a cave by the sea that collapsed a long time ago, exposing an underground beach. As time went by, rain and wind slowly eroded the part that did not cave in, forming an arch.

Sunset in Broken Beach, Nusa Penida (c) Zacho

You can walk around the edge overlooking the beach and take photos. However, you cannot go down and swim. So yeah, this beach is purely for your eyes, camera, and Instagram only.

The best time to go there would be in the morning, just before noon, as the shadow of the cliff won’t be covering the beach itself. Of course unless you’re staying in Nusa Penida Island.

Travel info: Nusa Penida island is an island across the main island of Bali. Getting there takes around 2hrs by boat. Most fast crafts depart early in the morning from Sanur. The return trip departs from Nusa Penida at round 2:30-3pm.

The temples in Uluwatu, Bedugul, and Ubud

Bali is riddled with temples. There’s a temple in almost every corner of the island. From water temples near the center of the city to monkey temples up high in the mountains, they’re everywhere.

One temple that stood out the most for me was the Pura Tirta Empul in Gianyar, Bali.

The name translates to “Holy Water Temple” and according to Balinese Hindu worshippers, the sacred springs of this temple were created by the god Indra and is said to possess curative properties.

Pura Tirta Empul, Gianyar Bali
Pura Tirta Empul, Gianyar Bali

Tourists bathe in the refreshing blessed waters of the temple which, for over a thousand years, worshippers have been drawn into. Today, it has become a major tourist destination.

Pura Tirta Empul, Gianyar Bali
Pura Tirta Empul, Gianyar Bali

As I mentioned earlier, our tour guide spoke little to no English. This was unfortunate as I was very keen on learning more about Balinese Hinduism and the Balinese culture in general.

Trivia: while Indonesia is a Muslim country, majority of Balinese people follow / practice Hinduism. Balinese Hinduism to be specific.

Other famous spots

There are many more places to see and go to in Bali such as the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Tanah Lot Temple, and Padang-Padang beach among others. I cannot include them all here though, otherwise this is going to be a ridiculously lengthy post.

Bonus guide: 180 Bali, The Edge

Perched on the edge of a cliff in the southern tip of Bali is this fancy resort / restaurant with two infinity pools, one of which has a glass flooring where you can see straight down the waves that are crashing against the rocky cliffs.

The Edge Bali
The Edge Bali

The view alone is breathtaking and dipping in the refreshing cool waters of the pool will surely take all your stress away.

Travel time to / from the airport is around 30mins. Entrance is per reservation only and starts at 400k IDR (1,4k PHP) inclusive of consumable drinks and food. Book your reservation HERE.

The best way to enjoy Bali

There’s actually no rule book or “definite guide” to enjoying Bali. Just like most island destinations, it is best to immerse yourself with the culture of the island. Feel the vibe, taste the local food, try new things, learn some history, ride a bike, and just let loose.

At the same time, don’t forget to disconnect from the world that you are trying to escape from when you’re traveling: the real world. So put away that phone, down some Bintang’s, and enjoy the sun.

Lake Bratan, Bali
Waqui, barefoot on the edge of a makeshift jetty as morning clouds loom over the horizon in Lake Bratan, Bali

What about you? Have you been to or planning to go to Bali? I hope this post was helpful. Leave your thoughts and any questions on the comments below.

Cheers mate!

P.S. Travel itinerary and expenses HERE.

Published in Adventures Travel tips