Not every traveler in Bali wants to stay in a manicured resort. For those ambitious adventurous tips, we offer this guide to exploring Bali less seen side. Let’s get lost in Ubud’s beautiful rice terraces, encounter hidden white sand beaches, soak in a private hot spring, or soak in an infinity pool hidden in Bali’s hinterland.
Hopefully this guide will help experience something unique while you are in Bali. Here we go!
Exploring Bali’s Alluring Ubud
Although Ubud has become increasingly touristy in recent years, there are still hidden treasures to be found. The upside to tourism is there is an abundance of little boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bohemian wellness centers, etc. in Ubud’s center. While in town a visit to Monkey forest is a must! Officially ‘The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary’ is a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex. It resides on a plot of approximately 10 hectares or 27 acres, and is home to 115 different species of trees and of course, the infamous inquisitive macaque monkeys of ‘Monkey forest’. These hairy bandits are locally known as Balinese long-tailed monkeys. They can be rather mischievous if they think you have some food with you. I recommend you store all your valuables before entering. If not, one of the many tailed inhabitants will surely steal your stuff and hold if for ransom. Usually a piece of fruit is enough of a bribe to have your belongings returned to you. The natural beauty of the forest, coupled with the cultural/architectural interest of the Hindu temple complex (built in 1350) within ‘Monkey forest’ are well worth an hour of your time.
Less than 15 minutes from Ubud’s center, you will find emerald rice paddies, meandering rivers dotted with giant boulders, and quaint artsy villages. Take the time to explore by foot or on a bicycle. The 2 hour Campuan ridge walk is a great way to explore Ubud’s natural surrounding. I recommend early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. Be sure to bring some drinking water on your trek. Aside from Ubud’s natural beauty, there are dozens of world class fine art galleries. If you take the time to explore Ubud, you will find something new and unique around every corner. Enjoy!
The three Nusa island: Hidden beaches, secret surf and cliff diving
Just east of Bali are three small islands, Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida. All three fall administratively under the Klungkung regency of Bali. Lembongan is the most visited of the three islands, but it is still relatively untouched compared to Bali proper. This is a great starting point to organize a dive to see the disc-shaped Mola Mola (Giant Ocean Sunfish), or to make your open water dive certification with one of many reputable dive companies. The next island to the east Ceningan is less touristy, but you can still find a café latte if in a bind. The two islands are connected by a photogenic yellow suspension bridge. Ceningan highlights include secluded beaches, a somewhat secret surf break and an adrenaline pumping cliff dive. Nusa Penida the largest of the three island offers unspoilt nature to explore, and houses the Nusa Penida Bird Sanctuary. While here, be sure to visit the Goa Giri Putri temple. This unique underground temple is located inside a limestone cave, which is entered by navigating through a small opening at the mouth of the cave. Once inside, the cave opens up into an expansive natural auditorium said to hold up to 5000 people. Aside from being an important Hindu temple, you will also find an altar dedicated to the Buddhist deity Dewi Kwan Eem. All three island offer excellent diving and snorkeling, secluded beaches and a more laid back environment than that of south Bali. Enjoy your trip!
Explore secret beach & pre-Majahapit Balinese village in Candidasa
Candidasa is a seaside town in eastern Bali that rests on the edge of a fresh water lagoon. In the 1970’s and 80’s the area received a large amount of investment in tourism, subsequently a construction boom. The reefs were mined for construction materials which resulted in the erosion of part of Candidasa’s beach. Both a positive and negative affect on tourism. You will find great restaurants with live music, a range of quality accommodations and a strip of assorted boutiques on the main road. What you won’t find is traffic jams and hordes of obnoxious tourists. There is less beach than there was in the 70’s, but there is still great snorkeling and diving. Candidasa is truly a hidden treasure, and most expats in the area are reluctant to tell tourists how great it is, fearing it will loose its charm.
Aside from Candidasa being a base camp for exploring East Bali and Mt. Agung, it also has a pre-Majapahit Balinese culture. The ‘Bali Aga’ or ‘Bali Mula’ are the the indigenous people of Bali living prior to the invasion of the Hindu Majapahit empire from Java. The Bali Aga people of Tenganan village are Hindu like most other Balinese, but they practice it in a unique way. Their customs and traditions are also particular to this village. At the end of the month long Usaba Sambah festival (usually June or July), the men of the village test their strength by battling one on one using a thorny Pandan cane to scratch their opponents back and shoulders. This battle is ceremonial and it is conducted with strict rules, no hard feeling are held after the battle. Tourists are welcome to join in a Pandan dual, as long as the traditional attire ‘udeng’ and ‘sarong’ are worn. Tenganan is also well known for its handicrafts, which make for one of a kind souvenirs.
Candidasa’s best kept secret lies on the northeast coast, just a few kilometers away, you will find Pasir Putih beach (meaning white sand). This hidden beach offers spectacular turquoise and pristine white sand. While you are here relaxing on the beach, be sure to try some of the freshly caught seafood at one of the local beach cafes. If you are looking for a laid back mature seaside town with many nearby places of interest, Candidasa is a must on your vacation itinerary.
Snorkel or Dive in Pemuteran & the majestic Menjangan Island
Pemutaran is located just to the east of Bali National Park. It’s dog-bone shaped bay sporting relaxed beach culture with kids play soccer until after dark. Pemuteran’s laid back culture. Nestled at the footstep of the National Park “Taman Nasional Bali Barat », Pemuteran is a charming and tiny seaside village located in the tip northwest of Bali.
The place is known for offering a laid back atmosphere and its long stretch of black sand beach provides high quality snorkeling on restored reef by the local diving community. Diving around Pemuteran & the Menjangan Island is among the best diving you can find in Bali, with an incredibly colourful marine life.
Get aboard a fisherman’s boat or diving boat from one of the diving school in the area and be greeted by the sumptuous Menjangan island, and its majestic Balinese temple. Menjangan island boasts spectacular diving sites, although one of the hidden gem you’ll find in the area are the underwater temple garden next to Pemuteran.
Surf in less known spots Balian & Medewi
Drive up north on the west coast from Kuta or Seminyak and encounter those little fishermen villages that boast some of the most uncrowded waves you will find in Bali, a dream for the surfers!
After one and half hour drive, you will feel captivated while finding those sea resorts in the relaxed village of Balian. Balian offers an ideal getaway from crowded surf spots in the South of Bali while a yoga studio welcomes yoga retreats in an enchanting atmosphere.
One more hour further north, Medewi is well known from surfers to be one of the longest left handed wave in the world. This tiny fishermen village will give you a glimpse of how Bali used to look like before mass tourism. Bring your surfboard, your yoga mat, some sunscreen and chill by the beach, the best way to enjoy Bali.
Take a bath into hidden natural hot springs
Besides Bali’s exotically beautiful beaches, many people are perhaps unaware that this magical island offers yet another natural wonder where people can soak themselves in – that is Bali’s stunning natural hot baths. With mountains scattered around the island that are surrounded by lakes and/ padi fields, these natural hot baths are blessed with picturesque view, serenity and comfort.
Treat yourself to an unforgettable bath experience at Toya Bungkah, where you will spoil with the unparalleled view of Batur lake and the endless stretch of greeneries that envelope its hills. Located in Kintamani, this is the perfect place to relax your muscles following a trek of the Mount Agung.
However, if you are dreaming for a private bath, then Angseri Hot Springs will be the answer to your prayer. Bordered by the lush paddy fields and flowing streams, you can be sure of not meeting many tourists there. These baths are also home to beautiful waterfalls that also function as natural massager!
Lastly, do not miss the sacred healing sulfuric hotspring of Banjar, and its healing benefits, located a short drive away from Lovina!
Enjoy a wonderful sunrise and dolphin watching around Lovina
Up north in Bali, Lovina is a quiet area made up of several fishermen villages, this is the ideal place to visit with your family and enjoy life at a quiet pace.
Although beaches are not as beautiful as in the south, the black sandy beaches of Lovina will charm you for their quietness and authenticity. Not far from Lovina are the Banjar hot spring, a very popular among tourists and Balinese for its sacred benefits. Lovina is also the only region in Bali where you can witness dolphins in their natural environment, best time is to go for a sunrise with a tour that takes you on a charming fisherman boat.
Free Dive your way into the deep blue with a single breath in Amed
This is surely the right time to visit this picturesque fishermen villages area, painted of black sand beaches and the sacred mount Agung on the background offering stunning sights for the sunrise.
Life is easy and cheap as is the real Indonesia. You will feel being at home and why not give yourself a chance to learn diving with an introductory diving session in paradise. We love Amed for the kind of unique freedive yoga retreat it offers, a two days course where you can combine your newly taught breathing skills on the yoga mat to the beauty of the ocean. This has been for us an amazing experience to see what our body was capable of while feeling in total immersion with the ocean, and also a great way to refill yourself of energy.
Jungle activities away from the crowds, in Payangan’ jungle
Nestled in the north of Ubud, Payangan is an area that offers splendid green lush jungle, fruits and coffee plantation as well as an amazing bamboo forest.
Less known from tourists this area offers unique adventure experiences, rafting and canyoning off the beaten path that will make you avoid the big tourists groups and reward you with unspoilt nature. It will also satisfies your family trips in Bali away from the crowd, as you can enjoy a wide range of activities in a single day from buggy and ATV in the jungle, river tubing, or rafting.
Payangan is also coveted from jet setters wanting to feel on the top of the world while enjoying a view from one of the most stunning infinity pool in Asia, bordering lush green jungle at the Ubud Hanging Gardens.
Enjoy a nature retreat in Munduk’s mountainous village
If you are in search of a break from Bali’s beautiful beaches, Munduk’s mountainous landscape will fill your expectations. Hidden 800 meters above the sea level, this Balinese village offers stunning sights of the rice paddies, coffee plantations and lush green jungle.
Most guesthouses and hotels in the area offer trekking that will bring you to rain-forests where lie plantation of cacao, cloves and other exotic fruits. Off the beaten path, those trek will also bring you to the spectacular Bonansa waterfall, which is still less known from tourists in Bali.
Munduk can also be the ideal place for a romantic getaway staying at the Munduk Moding Plantation where an infinity pool borders the sights of the jungle, spa and fine dining are also on the menu!
Historically used by the Dutch as a nature retreat, Munduk’s cool weather will satisfy nature lovers and adventurers alike.