I\’ve just gotten home after spending 13 days across the world and warning this post is super long, but I wanted to be sure and cover everything 🙂 My mom and I journeyed to Bali, Indonesia for my graduation trip! Neither of us had ever been to Indonesia, or on a flight as long as the 15 hour one from LAX to Hong Kong required to get to Bali. We did some research ahead of time to get a feel for what we wanted to do and booked our hotels in advance.
We flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Hong Kong (which actually ended up being detoured to Seoul, South Korea), and finally flew from Incheon/Seoul to Denpasar, Indonesia. It was a lot of flying and we were super tired once we arrived. There\’s a 16 hour time difference in Bali from Arizona so we ended up going to bed pretty early and waking up early for the majority of our time there. In Bali they use the Indonesia Rupiah. The exchange rate is a little confusing, but very good for the US dollar. We used the app Currency Plus to make converting simpler. Just be sure to add the currencies you want to be able to convert to while you have data access, then it\’ll work without any service!
We started out in Sanur, Bali, which is about 45 minutes from the airport in Denpasar. It was the cutest little beach area on the Southern peninsula of Bali. It\’s well-known for having beautiful sunrises, which we were able to catch between 6am-7am. It also features a good amount of roof-top gardens that were so beautiful! Our hotel had one we got to wander around one afternoon. We came to realize over our time there and in other areas that this area has more of the \”old Bali\” feel to it. By that I mean there was less traffic, less tourists, and less shopping, but not at all in a bad way, it just had a more relaxed feel. We spent a total of three days there. On our first day we walked the main street outside our hotel where there were a few boutiques and some street vendors selling clothing and souvenirs. There wasn\’t a lot I really felt the need to purchase but it was enjoyable to wander. I will say that even with it just being the two us of I felt very safe walking the street and beach areas, though we weren\’t out at night during our time there.
On especially clear days you can see across the water from Sanur to Nusa Penida Island. We couldn\’t resist the urge to go out and see the world famous Manta Point dive and snorkel site. Our hotel recommended Bali Diving Perdana for a half day boat trip to snorkel two sites on Nusa Penida for $80 each. We booked for the morning of our second day and it lasted from 8:20am to about 1pm. A taxi picked us up from our hotel and took us to the shop, where we filled out our waivers and walked straight across the sand to board the boat. There were four crew members (1 captain, 1 first mate, 1 snorkel guide, 1 dive guide) and two other passengers (1 snorkeler, 1 diver). From the beach it took about an hour to reach Manta Point, Nusa Penida.
While there were other boats around with snorkelers and divers, there was still space to look around without others being in your space. All equipment was provided, but we used our own masks and snorkels since we\’d brought them. Once in the water there were good sized waves, but it didn\’t matter because immediately I saw a manta ray. They are so huge and so gentle, it was surreal to actually be so close to them. I\’d say we saw one about every 5 minutes and they came up very close. I saw prior to going that the water at Manta Point was very polluted with trash and after snorkeling it I have to say I completely disagree. I really saw no trash in the area at all and there were tons of fish and deeper down the coral looked to be flourishing. At one point a manta turned around and saw face to face with me, which was definitely my favorite part of the whole snorkel. The water was comfortably warm, I just wore a bikini with a swim shirt over it. Though there were some jellies present, it was quite bearable to be able to see the mantas. We were served nice box lunches between site 1 and site 2 that consisted of egg sandwiches, an orange, a chocolate bar, and a soda or water. The second site was a reef about 15 minutes away (as Crystal Bay was too busy). It was blooming with life, from parrot fish to angel fish and a lot of very healthy corals. Overall, I would highly recommend a trip with Bali Diving Perdana, I felt safe and the equipment was nice, and if seeing the manta rays isn\’t on your list it definitely should be!
On the third day we moved from Sanur to Ubud. We chose to call the same taxi driver who had picked us up for the snorkeling trip since we enjoyed our ride with him. He picked us up from our hotel at checkout time and asked if we would like to stop anywhere between Sanur and Ubud. We didn\’t really know what there was between the two areas so he suggested we see the Batuan Temple, a luwak coffee plantation called Ubud Mesari Coffee, and the Tegenungan Waterfall. If you choose to take a taxi between areas I highly, highly suggest asking if they are willing to stop at some places along the way because it will save you money from having to go back later if you did want to see it. I also found this great site to check the prices of popular attractions so you can plan ahead!
We really enjoyed these three stops. The Batuan Temple had a lot of tourists around, but it was very inexpensive (about $2 in donation each) and they provided a sarong for you to wear. The temple was incredibly detailed and there were even women making offering baskets in one of the areas. Ubud Mesari Coffee was interesting because they show you the whole process of how luwak coffee is produced. In case you aren\’t familiar; coffee cherries are fed to luwaks, then they are collected once the luwak has processed them, cleaned, and ground into coffee powder. The luwak\’s partially ferment the coffee in their intestines, which gives it it\’s unique flavor. We were able to sample 13 different teas and coffees, the best part was everything was free unless you opted to buy a full size of one of the products sampled! There is also a super trendy Bali swing on the grounds that you can get on for five minutes for about $10.
The last stop we made was at the Tegenungan waterfall. It\’s one of the few waterfalls that isn\’t located in the mountainous areas of Bali. It is a huge tourist attraction and was very busy when we went. There are stairs with various viewing platforms to stop at all the way down to the waterfall, with a swimming area just in front of the falls. We opted to only go down two levels of stairs since it was super hot out and we were getting tired, but there were plenty of people trekking down to swim. The entrance to the waterfall area, which also features some souvenir and food shops, was only about $1 each.
We arrived to Ubud in the afternoon and it was instantly so different from Sanur. There were big, gray, puffy clouds out and our hotel faced out to a jungle gorge split by a river. It looked like a monkey\’s paradise. To start the day we went to see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. We forgot to think about when the rice was harvested, since the terraces would be brown rather than green then, but fortunately our driver had scouted a field that hadn\’t been cut yet for us! It was incredible to see how intricate the terraces were, they\’re all cut into the ground by hand, yet they all look perfectly even!
We ventured into Ubud center during the afternoon and it poured rain pretty much the whole time. We brought raincoats and had umbrellas, but mistakenly left them in our hotel room that day. Even so, we explored the shops all the way down Ubud\’s main street, Ubud Market, and had yummy fruit smoothies with lunch at Oops Restaurant right across from the market. The Ubud market was larger than I expected, it was about two blocks in length and a full block in width, with two levels. It is mostly filled with jewelry, straw bags, clothing, and trinket souvenirs, though we did buy a suitcase to take our souvenirs home in there as well. Haggling was definitely prevalent at the market, so don\’t be shy!
Our second day in Ubud was much sunnier. We opted for spa treatments at our hotel in the morning, then went back to Ubud center for the afternoon. We first stopped for a snack (smoothie bowls of course) at Binar Health Food. Then onto the market, which was much more open since they didn\’t need to cover their items from rain. I decided to buy a headband and it was life changing. The humidity wasn\’t unbearable anywhere in Bali, but my hair still hated it and I didn\’t feel like fully doing it every day so using a headband was a great option I hadn\’t thought of. If you\’re planning on going soon, check out these cute options: 1, 2, and 3.
We then moved from Ubud to Seminyak. This is another beachy area, but it is a much more popular area and has a lot more tourists than Sanur did. This area is known for its beach clubs, so that gives you an idea of the atmosphere. We had dinner at The Elysian Hotel by their pool (super yummy!), then wandered to Seminyak Square at sunset. The sunset was beautiful, though the buildings hid some of it, it is on the opposite coast from Sanur, which is why sunsets are visible. The square had many boutiques and restaurants, along with a vendor area that had already closed up for the evening. We somehow stumbled upon MadPops Ice Cream shop just passed the main square (I\’d been following them on Insta forever and had no idea they had a shop in Seminyak!). I tried a coconut blueberry cone, and even though it was non-dairy it was still as good as any other ice cream I\’ve had! Not to mention they have the cutest neon sign to take pictures with.
The following morning we walked from Seminyak Beach all the way to The W Hotel. There were lots of joggers, dogs and some surfers out on the beach with us. After about 2 hours we ventured off the beach for breakfast and found the cutest restaurant on our path back to Seminyak Square called Strawberry Fields. It is a John Lennon/The Beatles themed restaurant with beautiful chandeliers, hanging plants, velvet couches, and neon lights. We had the most delicious acai bowls and they even served water with bamboo straws, great for the turtles!! It\’s just as chic and trendy as their Instagram makes it seem. In the daytime Seminyak Square is still very lively, and the vendors market in the middle has lots of fun stuff. That\’s where I picked up my new fav purse!
Seminyak is only about 45 minutes from the airport, but there was some traffic the morning we left so it was more like an hour. I wish we could\’ve stayed longer there since the vibe was so trendy! I loved the three areas we saw because they gave us a good view on the different aspects of Bali; quiet beach, bustling town, and trendy beach. If I were to go back I would also add a stop in Canggu since it is really up and coming and seems to be similar to Seminyak.