When I travel, I like to experience the highs and the lows of a country. I know Bali has a ton of amazing resorts and beautiful hotels, but I also wanted to experience some of the local flavors and see the more off beaten path. (Be careful what you wish for because I was walking in the back roads and unless it's a main street, a lot of back roads don't have sidewalks so I was sharing the road with cars and motorbikes.)
But I'm really glad I ventured out because I saw so much of Bali that you don't typically see on Instagram.
When I travel, I like to experience the highs and the lows of a country.
Walking along the street on the first few days and from talking to locals, I realized that most of Bali is very poor. Outside of touristy areas, most buildings are run down, decrepit and super rural. There were tons of empty lots filled with greenery and trash. It can feel unsafe for a girl traveling alone, but after a few days I also realized that Balinese people are very kind and gentle.
The only Asian countries I've ever been to are Korea and Japan, so going to Bali was a culture shock. But I'm really glad I went because it humbled me and I got to experience a culture so different than Los Angeles.
Here is a guide of 10 things to do in Bali that encompasses true Balinese culture as well as getting the r&r that tourists come to Bali for.
1. Visit the Royal Taman Ayun
Jl. Ayodya No.10, Mengwi, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia
Bali is predominantly Hindu so their temples are a very popular place to visit for tourists. I'm Christian, but I love seeing other people's places of worship so I was super excited to experience Bali's Hindu temples. My advice: skip Tenah Lot and visit Taman Ayun instead. I repeat, skip Tenah Lot! Tenah lot was super crowded and congested with tourists. I actually enjoyed Taman Ayun a lot more because it had way less people and I could take my time looking at the architecture. It's also a better photo op!
It's pretty far north and into the mountains so I recommend hiring a driver for the day to take you here and coordinate with you to take you back.
2. Get a 24k Gold Facial at Goldust Beauty Lounge
Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.66, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia
When I was researching places to go in Bali, I found Goldust beauty lounge on Instagram and I knew I had to visit.
Goldust is the only spa in Bali where they offer a 24k gold facial. (Only place in the WORLD as far as I know.) They also sell an array of gold infused products like eye masks and serum. Unfortunately I didn't get to try their gold facial but I got a few of their products and I'm super excited to try the gold eye masks. I tried their back buster massage and it was much needed--I get shoulder pains from my camera and sitting too long while editing.
While you wait for your spa, you can also shop in their boutique. Goldust's selection of dresses and sarongs is actually the cutest on the block. Most stores on that block are surf wear targeted for men. I'm also obsessed with all the gold details in this spa! Definitely a must-try.
3. Order Chia Pudding at Crate Cafe
Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong No.64, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia
This is hands down THE BEST strawberry chia pudding I've ever had in my entire life. I had discovered Crate after going to Goldust Beauty lounge (they're right next to each other.)
Crate Cafe is very beach bum inspired. I really enjoyed eating here, it almost felt like California except the food was soooo much better.
4. Coffee taste at Taman Ayum Sari
Jl. Pulau Galang No.324, Pemogan, Denpasar Sel., Kota Denpasar, Bali 80221, Indonesia
I visited this coffee plantation right after I visited Taman Ayun temple. This coffee place was only a 10 minute car ride from the temple! Right when you walk in, a girl will give you a tour of how the coffee is made--from growing it in trees, to the mongoose that consumes it, to the poop they collect to make the coffee. Tasting the coffee & tea is free, but if you want to try the luwak (mongoose) coffee it's only a small fee of 50,000rp. It was definitely a highlight of my trip being able to experience this and I would highly recommend it!
5. Rent a Cabana at La Plancha
Jalan Mesari Beach, Seminyak, Kuta, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
I'm not really the type of traveler that likes to stay by the beach all day lounging. (Especially if it's a new country-- I'd want to explore and experience more of the culture.) But when I was laying out by the beach, it felt SO nice and I didn't want to leave. It was so relaxing to watch the tall waves and sip on a dragonfruit cocktail. I recommend doing this on the first day that you get to Bali to just preface the trip with a more relaxed you.
I came to La Plancha because the decor looked super cute online. It's decorated differently compared to other beachside cafes. You'd recognize La Plancha immediately because of it's lanterns and super colorful decor.
La Plancha is located south of Seminyak so beware that once you get that far south, you're headed to a not as nice area. Since this is on a public beach, there will be solicitors on the beach trying to sell you sunglasses, sarongs, scarves, massages, etc. There are also stray dogs roaming the beach but they're harmless. If this isn't your cup of tea, there are a ton of beach cafes along this street strip that you can go to.
Double Six is super nice and right down the block from La Plancha. It has a rooftop pool & restaurant that feels very elevated. If you're not a guest at the hotel, you'd need to spend a minimum of 300,000rp.
Potato Head, W Hotel, Ayana Resort also has really nice poolsides where you can get your tan and cabana on without the grunginess of the beach.
& If you're staying in Nusa Dua, you'd get your own private beach, which is much nicer.
6. Visit Uluwatu Temple & see the Kecak Fire Dance
Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
I had visited the Uluwatu Temple with my best friend and it was a night I'll never forget. The temple is set on a cliff above the waters. It was really nice escaping the noise and traffic congestion for a while to come here. There are also white monkeys that live in the trees and Balinese people call them "naughty monkeys" because they will come up to you and steal your things. I had to remove my big hoop earrings and luckily I did because I saw a monkey steal a girl's shoe and a baby's bottle! It was so frightening.
The Kecak dance starts at 6pm but I recommend arriving a little earlier so you can reserve a seat. It gets incredibly packed already by 6:30pm. The Kecak fire dance was incredible because not only do you get to learn about one of Hindu's most famed stories, but you also get a glimpse into their beautiful and rich culture.
7. Get a Pedicure at the Fish Spa
ITDC area, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80363, Indonesia
I randomly walked into this Fish Spa when I was killing time at Bali Collection before my flight. I was with my best friend and "Fish Spa" had caught my eye because I had never heard of it before. And before I knew it, we were walking in to get a 30 minute treatment.
They wash your feet first and then it's just 30 minutes of the fishes eating the dead skin off your feet. If you guys caught my Insta-story, I was screaming for the initial 5 minutes I had put my feet in. But after the initial terror, it actually became very relaxing. I would definitely do it again.
The one I went to was inside Bali Collection so this is a place you can check out if you also want to do some shopping. They also have a few sushi restaurants that are really good.
8. Try Suckling Pig at Babi Guling Pak Malen
Jl. Sunset Road No.554, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Like I said in my Beginner's Guide to Bali, most of Bali is Hindu, so they don't eat beef. But they do loooove pork. Babi Guling is suckling pork and this is a must try when you're in Bali. I like trying local flavors and experiencing the culture when I'm in a different country so I was really excited to try this place.
They only have one thing on the menu and it's this pork sampler plate that has different ways that they cooked pork with a side of soup and rice. Their portions are kind of small (or I'm just used to giant American portions) so you might need to order two!
9. Order a Dragonfruit Acai Bowl at Cafe Organic
Jl. Petitenget No.99 X, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Although I love Crate Cafe more, Cafe Organic is more accessible because it's in Seminyak and conveniently located next to Potato Head and W Hotel. This is definitely a must try if you're in the area!
10. Get a Massage at Prana Spa
Jl. Kunti I No.118 x, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Last but not least, you'll feel like you transported into another world at Prana Spa. I did the Shirodhara treatment where they poured medicinal oil over my "6th chakra, stimulating my third eye and window to the soul." It was definitely an experience I wouldn't forget. The service of their staff is impeccable. Not to mention the architecture and design of the spa is just breathtaking. I wish I could have stayed longer because the service was so good and the place was so beautiful.
I recommend getting a massage or another service as well just to get the most out of this amazing spa!
Looking back at this post, I'm realizing I did so much in Bali even though it felt like there's still so much more to do! I wanted to do a yoga retreat, visit Ubud's rice paddy fields and even try their jungle swings. (Next time.) I'm really grateful for the hospitality of Balinese people. I was able to experience so much and explore a new country on my own because everyone was very helpful and took care of me. If you're a new traveler thinking about going to Bali, I would highly recommend it!
I hope this guide was helpful and gave you an insight to a new culture. My favorite thing about traveling is learning and experiencing things outside of my reality. It's so easy to get caught in my own bubble.
Wishing you guys a week filled with inspiration and new perspectives. I'm back to in LA now but I learned so much during my 2 week travels and I can't wait to share more with you all! Happy Monday!