Set in the Indian Ocean, Bali is just a short ferry ride from the neighbouring giant of Java. But this Hindu-majority island couldn’t be more different.
The Balinese aesthetic practically runs through the veins of this intriguing land. Its beautiful temples boast unique architecture, its restaurants attract millennials with their shareable interiors, and its wellness retreats induce relaxation as soon as you step through the door.
Famed for everything from its surfing and beaches, to its vibrant nightlife and impossibly chic design, there’s a lot on offer in Bali for any visitor. You can practice yoga in untouristed villages by the sea, catch waves in the bustling beachfront bastions of the southwest, or unwind in rice paddy paradise in its hilly interior.
Map of the best places to stay in Bali
Wherever you choose to stay, getting around isn’t too difficult – it’s just a matter of a reasonable taxi ride or renting your own wheels to get from one hotspot to another. Staying in Bali couldn’t be easier. Thanks to the world’s long-term love affair with the island which started as early as the 1930s, there are plenty of places to lay your head at night, from unfussy shacks to the utmost in sumptuous sleeping arrangements.
See also: Bali Hotel Deals
Already a famed backpacking-cum-hippie destination before Eat, Pray, Love turned it into a magnet for anybody on a soul-searching mission, Ubud lies in the center of Bali. There are no beaches here: it’s all mountain views, jungle escapes and the luminous green of rice paddies.
The upland town of Ubud itself, more a cluster of villages, offers up a whole lot of cafes, bars, craft shops and restaurants to choose from. Staying here is as good for backpackers, with its hostels and affordable homestays, as it is for those looking for a private paradise – think rainforest treehouses and villas in rice paddies.
And of course you’ll have the macaque-filled Ubud Monkey Temple to visit at your leisure if you stay nearby.
Stylish Seminyak is a little bit of an antidote to the party paradise of Legian and the city atmosphere of Kuta. This upscale town is home to upscale offerings in terms of eating, drinking and accommodation to match. Staying here means luxury villas and beautifully designed hotels.
Popular with expats, as well as tourists with a taste for the finer things, it’s in Seminyak where you’ll find Instagrammable cafes, restaurants with interiors to wow and spas for relaxing treatments from manicures to massages.
The stretch of coastline here is dominated by the popular Double Six Beach, where you can rent yourself an umbrella, pull up a beanbag, and relax in the ambiance of Balearic beats blaring from one of the many beachside restaurants and bars here.
For a simultaneously laid-back yet hectic city-by-the-sea feeling, stay in Kuta. This was one of the first places in Bali where the tourist scene first kicked off, and as such is filled with all the amenities you could ever want.
From high-end restaurants and local food, to private villas and decidedly budget accommodation, you’ll find it all in Kuta. There’s also great shopping to be had here if you feel like buying up your own slice of Balinese design.
It’s particularly popular for surfing, owing to the consistent waves at its beaches. Even if you’re not a pro and you want to try your hand at surfing, you’ll be able to have a go here thanks to the many places offering board rental and lessons.
For bustling nightlife, the nearby area of Legian is an easy walk from Kuta.
North of Seminyak is the more chilled but still quite cool area of Canggu. Wholefood cafes and hipster-friendly bars dot this area, as do multicolored beachside offerings that make spending a day at the beach almost too easy in this artsy, creative sliver of Bali.
As with many places in Bali, Canggu is a great spot to hit the surf. You can do so at one of its beaches, some of which are unusual in that they feature black sand. Along the coastline to the north is the magical Tanah Lot, a Balinese temple set on a rocky island out at sea.
Staying here won’t break the bank, thanks to a number of affordable but stylish hotels; more lavish options, for a little more money, are also part of the scenery here.
The balance that Sanur seems to have achieved between being a resort town, and yet remaining laid-back, beautiful and authentic, is the reason why it’s so popular. Set on the southeastern side of the island, past the capital of Denpasar, it feels decidedly different – more mature and less lively – than the west side of the isthmus.
There’s no shortage of big hotels in Sanur, making it a good option for a family trip. The relative proximity to the airport also helps in terms of convenience. There are laid-back, more mature amenities to enjoy here: a sandy stretch of beach lined with traditional fishing boats, a picturesque coastal cycling path, and tree-lined roads filled with shops and quality restaurants.
Here you’ll find the stunning Blanjong Temple, incredibly crafted from coral. It also features 10th-century inscriptions that are of historical importance to Bali, and picturesque lotus ponds.
South of Bali’s airport and the city atmosphere of Kuta head to Jimbaran on the Bukit Peninsula if you want a more laid-back beach destination. Still retaining some of its fishing village feel, Jimbaran is home to several beaches, dramatic cliffs and great seafood restaurants.
Despite the almost quaint village feel, there are quite a few luxury hotel offerings to choose from in Jimbaran, which makes sense given the proximity to the airport, and the way it’s neatly set away from Bali’s southeastern action in Kuta and Legian.
Surfing is the order of the day here. The long crescent of white sand boasts a decent surf that’s great for grabbing a board and giving it a go yourself. Otherwise, relaxing on the sand and enjoying the paradise vibes of the place is all you need to do in Jimbaran.
Well away from the lively and touristed districts of Bali further north, Uluwatu is a refreshing breath of fresh air on the island’s Bukit Peninsula.
Hotels in Uluwatu match the atmosphere. They range from a few casual offerings to more upscale cliffside retreats, with luxury touches like infinity pools, all wrapped up with a bow of Balinese aesthetics.
Staying here means being conveniently close to the airport, though still far away enough from it (and the busier areas of the island) that it feels like an actual getaway.
On the extreme southwest of the peninsula there’s the stunning Uluwatu Temple, a serene and dramatic clifftop religious site where you can watch the enigmatic kecak dance and be mesmerised by incredible sunsets.
A stone’s throw north from the tourist centre of Kuta, Legian is the place to go if you want to party. You’ll find a lot of bars and clubs on the busy Jalan Legian itself, but there’s plenty of opportunity to chill out after a late night, thanks to its beachfront location.
Staying in Legian is a great idea if you want to be close to all the action. A lot of places to stay here are situated right on the beach itself, but there are plenty of inland apartments and villas. If you fancy a more deluxe option, there are some high-end offerings in this area, too.
Shopping is great here, and opportunities abound to pick up a bargain. And then when the sun sets, head to the beach for a famous Bali sundowner before you barhop around Legian’s lively drinking holes.
Situated off the coast of the larger Nusa Penida, and close to the neighboring (and smaller) Nusa Ceningan, the renowned Nusa Lembongan feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Balinese mainland.
Previously only the domain of unfussy surfers, this island is gradually becoming one of Bali’s go-to retreats. With that in mind you’ll be spoilt for choice for cheap accommodation, great news for anyone on a shoestring budget. But there are more than a few deluxe offerings, too.
Exploring the island with the power of your own feet is the thing to do here, as easy paths edge and crisscross this island. It boasts beautiful beaches and turquoise seas, charming glimpses of local life, otherworldly coastal views. And all just 30 minutes from Bali by boat.
On the eastern side of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula is Nusa Dua, an enclave of lavish 5-star resorts, an 18-hole golf course and a whole lot of beautiful beach to luxuriate on. The seas are calm here so it’s less about surfing and more about paddling and swimming.
Away from Geger beach itself is Geger Temple, perfect if you’re interested in Balinese culture. The intricate carvings of the stone on the forested outcrop into the sea gives it a timeworn, almost mystical feeling.
To the north is the peninsula of Tanjung Benoa, where you’ll find cheaper accommodation as well as the village of Benoa itself. This has been developed significantly and comes with activity options to match the influx of visitors, with watersports being but one way to spend your time.
Looking for an area of Bali that still feels properly authentic? Look no further than Amed. Actually a collection of fishing villages in East Bali spread along the northern coast, this place oozes traditional, out-of-the-way charm.
Staying here is cheap and backpacker-friendly since the tourist crowds have yet to make a significant impact on this area. The roads were only tarmacked here as recently as 2000, although you will find development and hotels in the scenic area of Candidasa. But what they’re missing out on is some incredible scuba diving, as well as chances to centre yourself with a spot of yoga.
Before it becomes a world of boutiques and juice cafes, visit Amed and enjoy its secluded feeling, and marvel at the views of Mount Agung in the distance.
A small island off the southeastern shores of Bali, Nusa Penida is a getaway from a getaway. The unspoiled nature on this beautiful gem of an island might give you an idea of what Bali might have been like a long time ago before the tourists arrived en masse. It’s a veritable paradise.
Hiking is particularly good in the hilly landscape. Great trails and some amazing cliffsides reward intrepid walkers with panoramic sea views. The coast itself, featuring stunning hidden coves and glowing turquoise lagoons, is something you really need to explore here. The neighboring islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are easy to discover, too.
Staying on Nusa Penida is easy, with tons of affordable options, mainly in the north. These come in the form of hotels, homestays and bungalows, some of which incorporate that beautiful Balinese style.