Earlier this year I had the pleasure of travelling through Bali in Indonesia for 3 weeks. I spent the first week in Ubud at a yoga retreat, followed by a night in Kuta, a few nights in the Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan), a couple nights in Seminyak and then back to Ubud for the remainder of the trip. Without a doubt, Bali quickly became one of my favourite destinations.
This lush island offers something for everyone. There is an abundance of culture, spirituality and adventure. One can nestle in the quiet of the jungles, roam through rice paddies or frolic on the beach.
In my travel guide, I will share with you some suggestions for where to stay, what to do and places to eat, with special emphasis on a holistic fit approach.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”
WHERE TO STAY
Bali is known for inexpensive villas with private pools. Accommodations can be cheaper than transportation and food. With the exception of the yoga retreat, all of my accommodations were found using Airbnb.
One of my biggest travel rules, when feasible, is to do so during the off season. Accommodations will likely be cheaper and there is an increase chance of better selection.
- Blooming Lotus Yoga Retreat was hosted at Ubud Corner 88 in Ubud.
My friend and I booked the shared deluxe option but we ended up getting our own villa with a private pool (case in point about travelling during low season).
Each villa has a plunge pool, large living room and a fully equipped kitchen. The property sits above a holy river so one can wake up to the sound of it flowing, accompanied by birds chirping.
Bali provides the perfect setting for a yoga and meditation retreat. For more details, please see the next section “what to do” or refer to their website:
2. Villa Mahayoni in Ubud
This hidden gem was discovered on Airbnb. It is a family operated villa (only a few on the property) that provided a tranquil escape nestled between rice fields and the jungle, yet only 10 minutes from the Ubud market.
Villa Mahayoni is central to many attractions in Ubud (waterfalls, the Monkey forrest etc) but for me, the main purpose was to wind down after weeks of travelling and to practice some of the meditation tools that I learned from the retreat. I enjoyed daily journaling while looking out into the jungle and listening to the sounds of nature (plus bonus included visits from a few habitants of the forrest- but they were mostly harmless).
3. Les Villas Ottalia in Gili Trawangan
Another great find on Airbnb, Les Villas Ottalia is the perfect spot for an island escape. Sleeping in a bamboo bungalow was a #BaliBucketList for us. The property is approximately a 7 minute bike ride to the main street.
And again travelling in low season proved to be beneficial with yet another offer for an upgrade to a larger bungalow with a private pool.
For more details, refer to their website:
4. D’wina villas in Kuta
Although not my intended accommodation, D’wina villas was an upgrade provided by the same property management from my original booking. Without a doubt, this was the nicest place I have stayed at and certainly more space than 1 person needs.
The villa is two-stories with the upstairs comprising of a master bedroom with an ensuite jacuzzi and stand up shower, and overlooking a private pool. A living room, dining room and fully equipped kitchen make up the lower level.
For more information on this property, please refer to their website:
WHAT TO DO
1. Yoga Retreat
Bali is the largest retreat yoga site. And after I visited there, I can totally understand why many are drawn here to engage in this practice.
I chose Blooming Lotus for many reasons:
- Price- double occupancy in a super comfortable villa with daily yoga and meditation plus breakfast and dinner was less than $800USD per person
- Daily yoga and meditation – I don’t do nearly enough so I wanted an opportunity to emerge myself in it twice a day. And I also specifically wanted the meditation component so that I can learn tools to aid in my practice.
- Location – I wanted to be surrounded by lushness so chose Ubud. There are, however, options in other parts of the island if you prefer to be near the ocean.
- Time frame- I wanted a package that was 1 week long but you can always choose to do shorter or longer both here and other places.
Every day we practiced sunrise and sunset salutations as well as meditation. The retreat also included some workshops, which I found particularly useful for adopting into my holistic practice in Canada (such as Ayurveda).
As my focus was yoga and meditation, this was the style of retreat I was drawn to. Bali offers many types of fitness retreats including beach workouts, surfing, adventure etc. Be sure to do your research, talk to people who have been and contact the hosts. Don’t be afraid to find the perfect fit (pun intended)!
2. Crossfit (or any other gym establishment)
When I travel, I like to check out the local gyms and other fitness establishments especially Crossfit boxes. As luck would have it, I was in Bali during the time of the Crossfit Opens. I got in touch with the Owner of Crossfit Wanderlust (Dave Driskell, pictured below) who happily invited me to his box and judged me for the open. Unfortunately it was 2 hours from where I was staying so I couldn’t enjoy more time here, but everyone was super warm and friendly. If you are a crossfitter, be sure to add this to your #BaliBucketlist.
For more information please refer to their website below:
3. Swimming and Poolside WODs
I welcomed the break from my routine of indoor gym workouts and my body did too. My workouts while in Bali consisted of poolside WODs (workout of the day) and swimming laps. The WODs were any combination of push ups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, Turkish get ups with a full water bottle, mountain climbers and any other body weight exercises. On your smartphone, download the Tabata app and get creative with your exercise combinations.
4. Tegalalung Rice Paddies in Ubud
No trip to Bali would be complete without a trip to the infamous rice paddies. Entrance fees are in the form of donations. You can spend the day roaming the terraces, stopping for a beverage along the way and taking some really picturesque snapshots.
Bali has a wet and dry season. I happened to visit during the wet season but lady luck was in my favour as the day we chose to go, the sun came out. The ground was mushy in few areas but the experience would have been quite different if it was raining. I am not sure we would have been able to walk through the terraces or seen much. Be sure to keep this in mind as you may have to be flexible with your itinerary.
5. Tegenungun Waterfall in Ubud
Tegenungun waterfall is one of the more popular attractions in Ubud. There were literally hundreds of people so the only options of taking a photo sans people is either at the entrance (pictured below) and down by the falls at the side. If you go early in the morning, the odds are better.
To access the falls, you pay a small entrance fee then walk down some stairs (quite a few). Be sure to wear appropriate shoes as the stairs closer to the falls can be slippery. If you want to go for a swim, come prepared wearing your swimsuit as there is no place private to change. I strongly recommend getting into the water but be mindful that there can be a bit of a current. With the Bali heat, a dip can be refreshing!
6. Kanto Lampo Waterfall in Ubud
Kanto Lampo waterfall isn’t one of the more popular falls but in my opinion one of the best. It may take a while to find as it’s not well known amongst the locals but it is void of crowds so well worth the effort. Sitting under the cascading falls and feeling the warm water is one of the best sensations. This picturesque attraction costs a small donation and should be on the top of anyone’s #BaliBucketListt.
7. Pura Tirta Empul in Ubud
A major aspect of travelling is learning about and immersing yourself in the country’s culture. The Balinese are very spiritual and devout, with their beliefs stemming from Hinduism. It is often stated that Balinese people have reached self-contentment.
Interacting with the Balinese and respectfully visiting their temples is a great way to immerse in their culture. Pura Tirta Empul is one of their most important temples for blessings in holy water. The Balinese believe that they can go for ritual purification by immersing themselves in either of the two holy ponds. This spiritual cleansing allows them to let go of the past and make a wish for the future. As they are strong in their faith, being around them can make you feel like their beliefs can transcend to you onto a higher power. As I stood under the holy water (pictured below), I could feel the energy and truly believed that I was being blessed.
If you are planning on visiting this water temple, please be sure to bring with you a sarong to wear in the water and cover up your swimsuit to show respect. If you are planning on visiting the grounds of the temple, be sure to wear a shirt that covers your shoulders.
8. Biking around Gili Trawagan
Transportation on the Gili islands is in the form of either horse carts or biking. Our hotel (Les Villas Ottalia) provided bikes for us which was a great way to explore the island and keep active! The dirt roads can be a bit bumpy but for the most part manageable.
Near the stretch of sunset bars and restaurants is an outdoor mini gym set up (see photo below). For any weightlifter, this is an instant attraction of old school set up that can help you get your pump on while at the beach.
Of course, no trip to Gili T would be complete without climbing onto one of the many infamous water swings. At the time when we went, there were floods the week before so many of them were torn down but I understand from some folks who have gone recently that they have been repaired.
9. Massages and flower baths
Bali is also well known for their holistic practices. Massages and other spa treatments can be fairly inexpensive. I enjoyed quite a few while I was there including a hot stone massage, which was a fraction of the cost than what I would have paid for in Toronto. From the places I went to, 1-1.5 hour long massages in Ubud ranged from $10-$25USD.
On my last day in Bali and prior to over 30 hours of travelling, the host at Villa Mahayoni kindly organized a massage therapist to come to the property. As a bonus, they organized this beautiful flower bath in the outdoor bathroom of my villa. It was a perfect way to end an amazing experience in Bali.
WHERE TO EAT
One of the main attractions for me in Bali was the food. Everything was so fresh and as a holistic nutritionist and someone who is very conscientious of what I consume, I loved that many places focused on organic healthy meals. Even other travelers I interacted with who were foodies and not particularly keen on the health kick would also comment on how amazing some of the cuisine was at the places I have highlighted below.
1. Yoga Barn in Ubud
While this place is well known amongst yogis world wide for their classes and yoga teacher training, their restaurant offers some of the best vegan dishes I have ever had. I do not particularly gravitate towards vegan dishes so for me it was huge to be wowed by the menu. I wanted everything and had to order extra items to take away.
Pictured above is garden pad thai (left), raw garden coconut curry (right) and the beverages are the blackcurrant smoothie and watermelon hydrate. To access their menu, please refer to their website below:
2. Clear café in Ubud
Clear cafe’s motto aligns perfectly with mine- why should healthy food be boring? Already they have drawn me in as a customer but the décor and layout of the café belongs on Pinterest.
Clear café is located downtown Ubud near most of the major attractions (Ubud Marketplace, Monkey Forest, Puri Saraswati Temple.
Please refer to their website for more details:
3. Mr Wayan Balinese Cuisine in Ubud
This restaurant came highly recommended prior to my trip to Bali so we made sure to hire a driver to take us there. And it did not disappoint. In fact, I dare say it was my best meal in Bali.
The restaurant is rated as one of the best in Bali by Trip Advisor and the service is impeccable. It sits above green rice paddies so the view is an added bonus.
Please refer to their website for more details on the restaurant and menu:
The restaurant is located at Wapa di Ume Hotel. As it was low season, we got the fortune of having a private tour of the property. It certainly makes for the perfect honeymoon location. And they have a luxury spa which many companies site as one of the best in Bali.
Please refer to their website for more details:
4. Casa Vintage in Gili Trawangan
We were literally biking around the island when this romantic set up caught our eyes. We got off to explore and discovered it was a beachfront restaurant called Casa Vintage. It had a beach bohemian theme decorated with colourful throws, pillows, flowers and lights embedded in the trees.
The week we were visiting the islands, the Indonesian government apparently ordered all beach front properties to vacate from the shorelines in an effort to preserve marine life. The owner of Case Vintage told me they would be moving across the street, as were all the other businesses. I’m not sure it will have the same feel without having the sand in your toes and hearing the ocean crash, but I don’t doubt it will still have the romantic atmosphere.
5. La Plancha Beach Bar in Seminyak
This infamous beach bar is known for grabbing a colourful pod, having a drink, listening to music and watching the sun set. And that’s exactly what we did. We had a couple fruit smoothies which were super healthy and refreshing, but there are alcoholic beverages if that is more your style as well as a mix of Indonesian and Western food.
La Plancha is a typical cliche tourist spot but I still recommend the experience.
6. Revolver Espresso in Seminyak
Coffee shops and cafes are notorious for being Instagram worthy and Revolver is no exception. Tucked in a side street in central Seminyak, this pink theme cafe is worth the visit. I don’t drink coffee (I’m more of a tea lover) but Bali is known for their superb quality and taste in coffee so I don’t doubt one would enjoy their drinks.
Please refer to the website for more details:
7. Nalu Bowls in Seminyak
For the love of smoothie, this place serves a variety of possibilities. If not here, your trip to Bali wouldn’t be complete without trying a smoothie bowl. It’s like a meal meets ice cream wrapped into one.
Please refer to the website for more details: