Island vacations are romantic, relaxing, and often luxurious. A trip to Bali can be this way, but it can be something a little different, too. This healthy, exotic Indonesian island offers hiking, ocean fun, and shopping. Here are 10 things you must experience on this incredible island.
Scuba or Snorkel
The Pacific waters are a clear and stunning blue. While beautiful to look at, what’s really incredible is looking at the life along the ocean floor. Bali has some of the best scuba and snorkeling around. Snorkels are best at the Gili Islands, and find your way to the north of the island for a scuba adventure.
Walk the Rice Paddies
In all likelihood, if you’re staying inland, like in Ubud, you’re staying among the verdant rice fields. But don’t settle for this, as serene as it may seem. It’s worth it to get out for a walk and admire them from afar. The famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces are truly awesome – the lime green terraces rise up as if a temple mountain made of grass. When you order coconut rice for dinner, you have a greater appreciation for your food, too.
Find your Ohm
Bali is infamous for its yoga, and you should take part. If your budget allows, book a couple days at a retreat. These centers are tranquil, often in the jungle, overlooking waterfalls, flowering trees, rice paddies, or the ocean, uniting you with nature, healthy food, and inner peace. You can have a cocktail at night, too, if you want to be a bit of a health heathen.
Padang Padang is world famous for it’s surfing, so if you’re looking to get on your board, head to the south of the island, and get out on the waves! If you’re not much of a surfer, you can still overlook the water from high above the rocky cliffs. Below, you can see all the board fiends catching waves. Or, head down to the beach (the steps are inside a cave!), and hang out on a small, idyllic classic Pacific beach.
Elephant Cave Temple
Take a scooter out to the Elephant Cave for a unique adventure. The best part of this attraction isn’t the actual Elephant Cave, which is small and while somewhat interesting, isn’t worth the ride so much as the rest of the grounds.
When you arrive, a stone blessing fountain sits in the center of the grounds, a quintessential Indonesian site that’s worth the look. Wander around, poke into the Elephant Cave, and check out the pockets of ritual centers, which make you feel a bit like an archeologist.
Then, wander past the temple into the jungle. What lies before you is natural wonder – tall, slim, wide leafed trees, rocks covered in ivy and flowers, waterfalls, ponds, and hidden temples where you can be blessed (for a fee – that surprise comes after the blessing, so be prepared). Wander out to see the Elephant River and go for a jungle hike.
This may seem a small indulgence compared with Bali’s other splendors, but rest assured, there is little as delicious as Bali’s morning fruit juices. These are a common element in a Balinese breakfast and you can find fresh juices all over the island. Orange is available, but the best are the watermelon and cucumber. Just be careful where you get your juice from – the water is tough on American tourists’ bellies, so stick to high end establishments or your hotel, where it’s probably included in morning breakfast anyway.
After your hike, and your yoga session, or your surf day, pamper yourself with a massage or facial. The spas in Bali are top notch and are plentiful throughout the island. Most are located in yoga retreats, but others are independent establishments. The best part? They aren’t expensive like they are in the U.S., so feel free to indulge, it’s a deal!
The Balinese are predominantly Hindu. Ceremonies are held throughout the island every day. These are enchanting experiences that open a door to the Bali culture. You do have to pay to attend the ceremonies, which in some ways are performed for tourists as much as for their own spirituality, but get past all that and spend the money. The best one is at Uluwatu Temple, where you pass (aggressive) monkeys on the hike to the top of a cliff, where you experience a sunset Balinese ritual dance.
The cultural center of Bali is the town of Ubud. You probably know about it from Eat, Pray, Love, and though that’s a good depiction of Ubud, you should go on your own to see the culture for yourself. Central Ubud is full of boutiques and cafes. Try not to get sucked into the touristy trinket shops, where you end up spending money on tourist items instead of something unique. There are countless shops, so take the time to look. Outside the town center, you can find artist stands in villages, with woodcarvings and paintings, which make for wonderful souvenirs.
Outside the town of Bali, there’s a small sign by the side of the road pointing to this trail. Go! The trail is short, about a mile and a half up a steep paved path, taking you to the top of Campuhan Ridge, below which a river gurgles along. You can turn around, but it’s better to keep going past the end of the trail. Artist villages, more rice paddy fiends, and locals work and live here, taking you out of the hustle and bustle of the tourist center and into the real meat of this stunning island.
Have you been to Bali? What are your favorite things to do?