Any beach vacation, I’m spending most of my time at the resort. If you read my review of the St. Regis Bali Resort, you’ll know there’s really no reason to ever leave. But, if you didn’t, that would be a huge mistake, because Bali has so much more to offer than just beaches & lagoon pools. See my recommendations below, but there was so much that I didn’t get to do. And of course, resorts that I didn’t get to stay at like this jungle paradise- Hanging Gardens of Bali. I guess I need to plan another trip to Bali…
🗝 Tip: Hiring a private driver is very inexpensive in Bali. It cost me $50/day (+tip) for 8 hours with a private driver in an air conditioned car. I’ve seen websites advertising pre-booked drivers for as little as $25/8 hrs. Your driver will drive you anywhere you request and wait for you until you’re ready to head to the next destination. Since I stayed at the St. Regis Bali, which is in the southern tip of Bali, it’s pretty far from popular spots which are mostly north by Ubud. I hired a driver for one full day & two half days to do everything below.
Learn to Cook Balinese Food
A friend of mine told me that she signs up for cooking classes whenever she travels internationally, and I thought that was such a fantastic idea. When looking for cooking classes, I generally found two different types. There was the cheaper, no-frills experience which was usually in someone’s home or the pricer option that’s usually at a 5-star resort. In addition to a fancier location, there is usually less prep involved and goodies to justify the higher prices like souvenir aprons and cookbooks. All class options will give you recipes sheets to take home.
I was deciding between:
The Four Seasons Bali Cooking Academy
Paon Bali Cooking Class
I chose Paon, because I wanted a homey experience for my first international cooking class. I highly recommend you opt for the early class so you can tour the Ubud market to shop for ingredients. The class is hosted at Puspa’s family home. Conveniently, Paon offers hotel pickup for an additional fee. The stations are set up in pairs, and the class was fairly large (20 ppl), but there was plenty of room. I loved the open air kitchen with views of the jungle. Everyone shared in the food preparation- chopping, dicing and grinding with a giant motar & pestle. We learned how to cook a mushroom soup, chicken in coconut curry, chicken satay, vegetables in peanut sauce, coconut & snake bean salad, steamed chicken in banana leaves, deep fried tempe in sweet soy sauce and banana with palm sugar syrup for dessert. The best part was eating all the food we made.
Eat Lunch at a Rice Terrace
One of the most picturesque scenes in Bali are the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. If you want to spend a lot of time there, I saw several walking tours but they lasted at least half a day, and I didn’t want to commit that much time there. There’s really nothing else there except a couple of restaurants and a few stalls selling colorful clothing & blankets. So, it’s perfect for a lunch stop. I ate lunch at one of the breezy, open-air restaurants with a gorgeous view of the terrace. The food was cheap, but don’t expect anything gourmet.
I decided to go to the Elephant Safari Park at the last minute. I really wanted to see elephants on my trip and originally planned on doing an elephant ride. After doing some research though, I learned how cruel they are and put any elephant experiences out of mind. My driver suggested the park since it was on our way home, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but I got to see some baby elephants so I was happy. You can feed, pet and take photos with many of the elephants. It’s a huge tropical park, but they close at 6pm so I suggest you plan accordingly.
Tour the John Hardy Compound
John Hardy jewelry is created in Bali, and they invite you to tour their design workshop & showroom and even join their designers for lunch. Although I am very familiar with the brand, I don’t normally shop their designs, but I still loved the experience and highly recommend it. Touring the beautiful tropical compound is a treat in itself. You also get to see every step of their jewelry making process, and it makes you really appreciate their craftsmanship. The showroom is absolutely stunning- it’s an intricate bamboo structure with multiple levels. The whole experience made me such a fan, that I ended up buying some jewelry. I don’t necessarily recommend that, especially since not only do you get absolutely no discount, it was actually slightly more expensive than if I would have just bought it in the US. (What?!) Make an appointment ahead of time to take part in their lunch since there is limited space. You get to sit amongst the designers, which is really cool.
Drink Poo Coffee
There are tall tales of a poo coffee, a delicacy, that costs $1000/lb; I read about it many years ago and always remembered the story. Well, the coffee exists, although it’s not quite $1000. It’s called Kopi Luwak in Indonesia, and they have many Luwak coffee plantations throughout Bali. Luwak coffee is made from partially digested coffee cherries that are eaten and defecated by a Luwak cat. Luwak’s have a fine sense to select the most ripe coffee cherries, and the enzymes in the Luwak’s belly supposedly improve the flavor profile of the beans. I went to Lumbung Sari House of Coffee. The tour and tasting is complementary (you have to pay for the Luwak coffee), and they have a gift shop to buy products. I personally did not like the taste of the Luwak coffee, but I enjoyed the other flavored teas (although they are very sugary). It was super tourisy, but still interesting to tour the plantation & try the legendary coffee. It was 50,000 IDR for a Luwak latte, and 250,000 IDR for a 100g bag of Luwak coffee. A good deal for the ‘most expensive coffee in the world’.
Luxury spas & designer boutiques are what you’ll find in Seminyak, the ritzier version of Kuta, the two most popular beach towns in Bali. I chose to spend my time in Seminyak, below are my reccs.
Hang out at Potato Head Beach Club
PHBC features a sprawling, beach-front lawn alongside an infinity pool surrounded by daybeds. The two restaurants & three bars surround the club in an open air, amphitheatre-like structure. The atmosphere is amazing, and there’s something for everyone. I had a great time relaxing with drinks in the pool, lounging on the lawn watching the sunset and people watching while eating dinner from the sofa encircling the club. I thought the food & drinks were surprisingly good. The price is high for Bali, but not even half of what I would pay at an upscale lounge in a large US city. PHBC definitely makes my list of most memorable bars/clubs. Just be sure to pack a bathing suit & towel 🙂
Shop Beach Chic Boutiques in Seminyak
I wouldn’t have thought of Bali as a shopping destination, but I was surprised by how many local boutiques there are, and they were all amazing. So much glamorous resort wear, bikinis in every color and boho chic jewelry. I loved the boutique at the Potato Head Beach Club, Escalier. They had a ton of great labels from around the globe, including local ones. I discovered Monsieur Blonde jewelry here and picked up the gold plated Queen Cleo bracelet. Souq, part boutique, gallery and cafe, focuses exclusively on local labels. I loved all the colorful resort wear at Paul Ropp, Bamboo Blonde, Thaikila, Sabia, 69 Slam and Magali Pascal. Suarti makes great silver jewelry that reminds me of John Hardy, but cheaper. I also found beautiful jewelry at Jemme Jewellery, where you can get fine dining with your fine jewelry. Rabia Jewellery had great tribal pieces, and Joy Jewellery was beautifully Bohemian. There were so many more boutiques that I can’t remember, but Seminyak is easy to walk around so I highly recommend you just go and wander.
Get the Cheapest Facial You’ve Ever Had
Bali is spa heaven. There are spas on every corner, and Seminyak has the best of them. I went to Bodyworks on a whim, because I was walking around shopping, and it was on my way to Potato Head. I didn’t really do much research about the place before going. It was cheap, but not the most luxurious facility. It ended up being one of the most effective facials I’ve had so I’d definitely go back. I got an hour long, deep cleansing facial with the most intense extractions for $17. I’ve never had my pores cleaned out so well. For the record- it hurt, but it was so worth it!