Most international visitors to Bali arrive by air from Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong directly or by Jakarta, although it’s easy to catch frequent ferries or flights from the neighboring islands of Java and Lombok.
Measuring 55 miles from north to south and 90 miles from east to west, Bali includes six volcanoes and white or black volcanic sand beaches in its landscape. The island also has lush tropical forests, pristine crater lakes, fast-flowing rivers, deep ravines, stunning rice terraces, and fertile vegetable and fruit gardens.
Roads in Bali are poorly marked and confusing. Renters are responsible for accidents regardless of who is at fault, so renting a vehicle is not advisable. Major hotels and upscale boutique villas offer airport pickups. If you choose to arrange your own ride, ignore the many tours and would-be guides at the airport and hail a metered cab from the roadway exit.
Regular ferries shuttle passengers between the western Balinese port of Gilimanuk and Ketapang in eastern Java and between the eastern Balinese port of Padangbai and Lembar on the west coast of Lombok.
Boat-bus combination tickets between Denpasar and Javanese cities are another option, as are bemos, the brown vans that hold up to 10 passengers. Stops are unmarked, and fares often depend on the driver’s mood. Don’t be surprised if your seatmate is a chicken or pig.
Main thoroughfares in the Kuta-Legian area teem with streetside stores offering art, summer apparel, ethnic arts and crafts, jewelry and bric-a-brac. Shoppers’ options increase at upscale department stores and Western-style markets. The Plaza Bali, the Legian Arcade and Kuta Center offer a respite from haggling.
To the north, Jalan Raya Seminyak offers Bintang Toserba, a one-stop convenience mall. Diponegoro Shopping Center and Denpasar’s Bali Mall are among other modern arcades.
Other diversions abound, including Bali Bird Park, Bali Butterfly Park, Bali Botanical Gardens and Rimba Reptile Park. These can serve as both educational and picnic sites. Waterborn Park & Spa offers children an array of slides, pools and other sport facilities.
Ubud Tourist Information and other travel centers offer information about excursions, including trips to Bali’s major temples, where saris, which visitors are required to wear, can be rented for a small fee.
Adventure travelers might opt for kayaking, river rafting and other white-water adventures on Bali’s rapids. The open sea offers virtually every kind of watersport, from surfing to coral watching. Local tour operators offer marine cruises, aerial adventures, hiking, cycling and mountain biking. The mountains at Bedugul offer golf courses.
Adventure seekers can kayak on white water down the Ayung River, go mountain cycling amid unforgettable scenery or trek through rice paddies and jungles.
For some lighter moments, be sure to stop by Ubud’s Monkey Forest, where the residents will climb atop your head and peruse your pockets for food. Hang onto your hat.
In recent years, Bali has transformed from a low-cost backpackers haven into one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan international destinations in the world. The choices of accommodations remain vast, from first-class resorts to secluded villas with private pools and low-end guesthouses. Even the smallest, cheapest facilities seem to maintain beautifully landscaped grounds.
The island offers a number of distinctive locations, from the sophisticated beachside night life of Seminyak to the tranquil art community of Ubud, where painters, woodcarvers and stonemasons work by hillside rice terraces and in the shadow of the Kintamani Volcano.
The Waka Experience has six Bali locations: Waka Gangga; Waka Nusa; Waka Maya; Waka Shorea (at Menjangan Island); and two in Ubud: Waka di Umi and Waka Namya. The firm offers sailing, fishing and dinner cruises.
The centerpiece is Waka di Umi, about a mile from Ubud’s main business district. It offers a two-tiered swimming pool, spa and massage room, a private gallery and complimentary daily afternoon tea and cakes, and a stunning restaurant view of an adjacent rice field. Many of the rooms have private swimming pools. The chain also can arrange various adventure trips, including boating, diving, fishing and a stay at its facilities in the Shorea National Forest.
The Viceroy, one of the newest and most splendorous villa hotels in Bali’s Ubud section, offers four types of upscale villas (the Viceroy Villa; the Regal 1 and 11, and the Garden Villa), all with jaw-dropping views and most with private swimming pools. The hotel operates its own upscale spa service.
A preserve of gracious Indonesian culture and history, the Pita Maha showcases craftsmanship befitting the finest Balinese palace. A private spa villa, individual garden plunge pools and alfresco pavilion dining enhance the majestic scenery. Guests can join Balinese dance, music, painting, cooking, fruit-carving and woodcarving classes. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has two resorts. The first, at Jimbaran Bay, is hidden among the lush tropical foliage of a terraced hillside. The newer resort, at Sayan near Ubud, is nestled on a hillside above a river and has a spectacular entrance over a bridge and down stairs that descend in the middle of a rooftop lily pool. Most of the Four Seasons accommodations have private plunge pools.
Villa Kubu, in Kubu, is a 10-minute walk from Seminyak Beach and offers a unique group of luxurious Bali villas, each different and off the beaten path but centrally located in secluded compounds with private swimming pools and kitchens. An array of international restaurants, bars and designer shops is nearby.