Best areas to stay in Bali
When it comes to the best areas to stay in Bali, I’m sure you’ve heard enough about Kuta, Ubud or Seminyak.
If you’re looking for some practical information to decide what suits better for your type of holiday, then you’ll love the map and the quick comparative table (jump to it) including all of the locations, based on your kind of trip.
As you can imagine, there are areas in Bali that work great for families and others for romantic couples, first-time visit and nightlife seekers.
The best part?
Everything here has just been updated from my last recent trip.
(In other words: you don’t need to worry about reading out of date stuff, hotels in real need of refurbishment – and there are many – or closed restaurants)
But let’s get started now.
Where to stay in Bali – Best areas
The best area to stay in Bali really depends on the kind of experience you have in mind.
My first trip to Bali was in the 90s. It was different. As it was most of the world. Things change.
However, I can assure you that in Bali you can still find villages that make you think you are back in the 60s and 70s (well, maybe with internet instead of TV).
At the same time, you can have the craziest nightlife till sunrise, amazing infinity pools on the cliff, lovely lagoons for families, ..really all you want is there. It’s not that tiny island as you may think.
The table below compares the major destinations based on average cost ($-$$$$$), distance to the airport (Km), the beach (1-5 with 1 being the lowest score) and how green is the area. I added also links to suggested hotels in the area.
Click on the area name to read much more information about it, with all the pros and cons of booking there, besides tips on hotels, cafes, restaurants etc.
For a second, or even third visit to Bali, you should check out also Nusa Lembongan Island, just a short boat away, in the south east of the region (see map below)
Here below a map (Check the interactive Google Version here) with all you need for your trip. A more detailed description of the areas of Bali follow in the post.
A very important tip here. Book your hotel as soon as you can, especially in high season, between April and October. Nowadays, most of the bookings can be canceled without charge anyway. You better book 2 or 3 places and later cancel the ones you don’t want than being left without any room because you waited too long, so annoying.
If you arrive to Bali late in the day, I suggest pre-ordering an airport transfer that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.
Moving around Bali is fairly simple and inexpensive. It can be done with buses, cars and scooter. Read more on the section below dedicated to transportation in the island
I have travelled as a single, as a couple and with little one. I choose different places every time.
Sometimes sleeping in many hotels, almost on a nightly basis, other times keeping a base and exploring during the day.
How is the weather? To put it simply, every day 25C to 33C (with 1-2 degrees of variation).
The difference is in the seasons. From May to October, you will be very unlikely to experience any rain. From December to February rain is almost a daily happening, usually in the late afternoon. In the shoulder seasons, you may experience a mix of rain (late afternoon) and mostly sunny days.
The biggest drawback of the rainy season, however, is the plastic that inundates the south west coast, from Kuta to Canggu and further away.
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for nightlife 🏩 Mercure Kuta Beach is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Best clubs, many budget accommodations, value for money for both hotels and food, good surfing (beginners)
- 👎 Cons – Very popular and busy, it can be really noisy, plastic in the sea and the beach between December and March (raining season)
Kuta is probably the most (in)famous destination of Bali.
It’s just 10-15 minutes north of the airport, therefore an easy place to set yourself in case you have an early flight the day after.
Kuta can be really busy, with traffic jam almost 24 hours a day. I personally visited Kuta 20 years ago and from there another 3 times.
It has undoubtedly changed a lot. I would personally not recommend it for a long stay, like a week or two. It can be overwhelming.
The sunset is so beautiful. The beach can be really crowded of course, with lots of people having a drink, playing football or just relaxing.
The nightlife is the main reason to be in Kuta. You will find all you are looking for, doesn’t matter what you are after, surely you will find it.
If you decide to stay in Kuta, stay away for any nightclub which could be next door to the hotel, maybe quiet in the day however very lively till late at night.
Alternatively find an hotel with good acoustic insulation (not that easy).
In Kuta you can still find plenty of warung, the local restaurants offering great Indonesian food at AU$5 or below (3 Euro/USD), the perfect option if you are on a budget or you just want to experience the local food.
Unfortunately Kuta has a real problem with plastic between December and March (rainy season), with plenty of it both on the beach and the water too.
It’s a common issue on the entire south west coast, unfortunately.
The last time I stayed at the Mercure Kuta Beach, just next door to the Hard Rock Cafe. What I liked the most was the location, right in front of the beach, the room insulation, for a quiet night sleeping, and the infinity pool overlooking the beach, the perfect place to be for a more romantic sunset
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for a bit of everything 🏩 Ossotel is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Value for money for both hotels and food, good surfing (beginners), close to Kuta night action, much quieter than Kuta
- 👎 Cons – One of the most popular and busy areas, plastic in the sea and the beach between December and March (raining season)
Restaurants and bars are a notch upper class, if compared to Kuta, but with a menu that hardly goes over $10 for a main.
On my recent visit, I loved my food at the Angkasa Food Court, set in a lovely yard with 10 local restaurants offering awesome local dishes at a bargain price.
Legian is also a great place to learn surfing with an easy sand break which is ideal to start this exciting sport.
It works also great for children that can catch the ending tail of the harmless waves.
Legian beach, similarly to all the destinations in the south west coast, experiences plenty of plastic during the rainy season in both the water and the beach.
In fact, between December and March I usually suggest staying instead in Sanur, on the south east coast or in the north of the island.
Ossotel is one of the best hotels around Legian, just a stone away from the beach and the restaurants and bars area.
It’s positioned in a very quiet location, with a pool that is just perfect for those lazy days.
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for a boutique experience 🏩 The Oberoi is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Boutique stay, stylish bars and restaurants, lovely beach, good surfing (beginners), perfect destination for fashionable couples
- 👎 Cons – Expensive (for Indonesia standards), plastic in the sea and the beach between December and March (raining season)
Seminyak was once “far away” from Kuta. Today is considered to be part of it, together with Legian. But only on a map.
These 3 towns have probably the highest concentration of tourists on the island. Kuta for nightlife and budget-conscious, Legian for a bit of everything, and Seminyak for a more relaxed boutique and pretentious experience
Why staying to Seminyak?
Because you are after a nice beach, great food options, beautiful villas or resorts, all in a higher class environment. Don’t think snobby, just more organised.
This is a great option for couples and honeymooner that want a mix of all the above.
Maybe staying in a nice villa with a private swimming pool. Just a few days of luxury.
It is indeed more expensive, but Indonesian expensive, far from the western prices (for what you get).
Here below three great examples of amazing bars/restaurants that you can find in Seminyak
- The Ku Dé Ta is probably the most stylish beach club in the area, right in front of the beach, that transforms into a restaurant/nightclub at night. Food has more of an international flavour. A great vibe (be club dressed for the night)
- The Chandi is another example of refined food, with world-class wines. The sampling menu will give a fusion taste of Indonesian food. It’s not as cheap, but amazing value once compared to great restaurants in the western world.
- The Mexicola is another good option if you are with a group of people. Mexican food till the DJ kicks in with some energetic music and once the dinner is finished why not dancing on the tables 🙂
The beach is so beautiful and long, with easy waves to learn surfing on just enjoy with a body board.
Once again, the beach has the same problem than any destination on the south west coast, plenty of plastic in the water and on the beach between December and March.
In these months I would suggest staying in Nusa Dua instead
The Oberoi, right in front of the beach is probably the most famous 5-star hotel in Bali and absolutely world-known for its service. Try to book at least one night to experience the extreme luxury.
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for the young crowd and digital nomads 🏩 Ecosfera Hotel, Yoga & Spa is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Young atmosphere, great beach clubs, cool cafes and restaurants, great beach, awesome surfing (intermediate and up), nightlife
- 👎 Cons – Far from the airport, traffic, it can be expensive, plastic in the sea and the beach between December and March (raining season)
Canggu is the best area to stay in Bali if you are with your partner or on a solo trip looking for cafes to spend the day reading your book, eating fabulous brunches, enjoy a few drinks with some chill-out music, or just spend the day at one of the famous beach clubs.
Canggu is today the digital nomad capital of the world, attracting an ever-expanding blogging community.
Canggu still preserves that relaxed and cool atmosphere you want to expect from Bali, although traffic is increasingly becoming an issue
It has everything but not taken to the extreme. With some chilled-out nightlife, but relaxed and not as crazy as Kuta.
It’s between one and two hours north of the airport (based on traffic and time of the day) and a nice spot to spend one week or even more.
Due to its increasing popularity, Canggu is becoming unfortunately more expensive that it used to be, however, you have also more accommodation choice than in the past.
Unfortunately, during the raining season (December to March), there is plenty of plastic both on the beach (cleaned sort of regularly) and in the sea. This is a common problem experienced by the entire west-south coast
Of course, yoga is offered widely. If you don’t do it here where should you?
Pay a visit to the Cafe The Daun. Nice and cute interior with good Australian style latte, creamy and at the right temperature. Good breakfast on offer including the awesome mashed avo on toast.
The Canteen Cafe is another good place for breakfast and more. It has a good selection of western as well as local food. A good value option, also considering the price.
The Ecosfera Hotel, Yoga & Spa is a lovely boutique resort with a nice pool and the possibility to join the yoga lessons and enjoy the sauna. The property follows the typical Balinese architecture guidelines (interior and exterior connect so well). Definitely, you feel in Bali here. Location is perfect, next to the beach and the cafes.
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for couples and romance 🏩 Kupu Kupu Barong Villas by L’Occitane is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Chilled-out, very green, beautiful boutique accommodations, genuine area
- 👎 Cons – Far from the beach, very limited nightlife
Ubud became world-famous thanks to the “Eat Pray Love” movie with Julia Roberts. This is a beautiful arty area of the island surrounded by the green hills of rice fields and palm trees. It’s one of the most romantic places to spend a few nights or more
Ubud is also said to be the cultural capital of Bali. In some respects, I do agree with it. There are so many art museums and private galleries that can keep you busy for a week.
The great thing about Ubud is that the local population is still designing and producing most of the artworks you can find in the shops. There is almost a total absence of Made in China manufactures (something becoming more common in Bali)
The most famous attraction around is probably the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary where you can visit both the beautiful local temple as well as the monkey forest.
Do not wear anything shiny on your head or outside the bag, like sunglasses, it will be most probably “confiscated” by the local monkeys when jumping from one tree to the next.
I was said by a local guide that monkeys are supervised as they should not suffer from any interaction with humans.
I, however, experienced with my eyes tourists providing food to them, which should not be done.
Try to respect the environment around you. I know it can be fun, but the monkeys are losing their own habit to hunt the food.
Other interesting temples in the area are the Tirta Empul and the Gunung Kawi Sebatu. You will need a car or a taxi ride to visit both of them. You may be able to organise a day trip including the Tegallalang Rice Terrace as well.
Ubud is a great place to stay in Bali for couples looking for a more romantic getaway with some cultural experience too.
Life in Ubud is not that frantic, in fact, it is very relaxed, nothing like you may have experienced on your arrival to Kuta or any destination close to the airport.
A great place to stay in Ubud is the Kupu Kupu Barong Villas by L’Occitane with its beautiful view of the Ayung River. Located in a small valley, this hotel has all you need for a memorable experience, with villas and private pools. The high tea is just magnificent.
A good alternative, a stone away from the town center but still in a very quiet location is the Batu Empug Cottages.
Beautiful pool and super clean at a great price too. They offer scooter rentals as well, which is perfect for a no hassle experience.
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for honeymoon 🏩 Kayumanis Nusa Dua Private Villa & Spa is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Quiet, very green, lovely beach, boutique resorts, easy surfing
- 👎 Cons – So clean and perfect that you may not feel in Bali, limited nightlife
Probably the best area to stay in Bali for a honeymoon. Think luxurious resorts and beautiful lagoons, a never ending beach, and no waves.
Nusa Dua is the perfect spot to spend a few nights with your love in an idyllic surround.
The beach, almost a lagoon of calm water, is beautiful. The resorts are some of the most organised on the island or even the world
Once in Nusa Dua, you will feel like in a parallel world, in a new paradise.
Nusa Dua is a great spot to spend the honeymoon or have a romantic stay at the beach, a relaxed time enjoying the resort food and drinks, right on the sand. Have a swim in the lagoon. Have just an easy time without traffic or noise around.
It’s like getting out of the world, disconnected. And once your batteries are recharged you are ready to go back to the busy world.
The Kayumanis Nusa Dua Private Villa & Spa is a lovely place to stay for a honeymoon or a romantic time.
The villa with the private pool and the gigantic bed is just amazing. Privacy and quiet time.
The Tanadewa Luxury Villas & Spa is a great alternative at a fraction of the Kayumanis price.
It is not facing the beach but transportation is provided. Everything else is there to enjoy one of the most memorable time of the life
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for families 🏩 Prama Sanur Beach is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Very quiet, lovely shallow flat beach, wide range of accommodations
- 👎 Cons – No nightlife
If you travel with small children and toddlers I suggest staying in Sanur or around. Easy beach, a nice lagoon and, if you are in a resort, plenty of kids activities.
From the hotel, you can organise day tours to cover most of the Bali attractions.
Sanur is based on an 8km long beach, with mostly white and brownish sand with beautiful calm shallow water, basically a swimming pool.
One of the first resorts in the island was actually built there in the 60s and since then, the fishing village has transformed itself in the best area to stay in Bali with family and kids.
But honestly, it is not all about kids. In fact, I highly suggest this area to everyone looking for a quiet time.
And the best is that Sanur offer a wide range of accommodation that cater to any budget, starting from just $10/night to much more for a boutique stay.
Once in Sanur, you should not miss visiting the SeaWalker, you can take the whole family underwater with a specially designed helmet to see the adorable clownfish, besides other tropical fish.
You will be also very close to the Turtle Conservation And Education Center (perfect destination on those rainy days). Entrance is free. You can make a donation and sponsor a small turtle, releasing it in the sea.
You can experience in Sanur beautiful sunrises. For sunset organise a dinner at Jimbaran Bay (~40 minutes drive), with its famous seafood restaurants.
For some food and drinks, have a look at these options:
- Mermaid Bay Restaurant: fantastic location, straight at the beach. Fresh honest local food at a very affordable price
- Warung Odah Oning: another option with Indonesia food, right at the beach (you don’t need to wear shoes) at local prices. Check out the tuna steak
- TOSCA bar & grill: more upscale, again great food and service
There is no real nightlife (clubs or crazy bars) in Sanur which is a great bonus if you are after a quiet time.
The Prama Sanur Beach is one of my favorite resort for families. It’s beachfront with plenty of space to play with kids. Moreover, it includes a pool for kids with water slides for all ages and a kinder room with plenty of toys for those hot days. So easy going. I may also add that is a fantastic value for money.
A more economical alternative is the Villa Shanti. It may have not the slides and the children room but everything else is there and at a cheaper price too.
Breakfast is absolutely fantastic and overall a great bargain accommodation
Jatiluwih and Tegallalang
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for nature and rice fields 🏩 Prana Dewi Mountain Resort is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Amazing rice fields, plenty of nature, very quiet and relaxed area, unique experience
- 👎 Cons – No nightlife, far from the airport
The rice fields of Bali are world-famous. They are actually one of the top attractions of the island and a must-see if visiting this part of Indonesia.
Staying there, however, is a unique experience that should not be missed.
Jatiluwih is probably the most beautiful rice fields area, followed very close by Tegallalang.
Should you actually stay in the rice fields, spend one or more nights there, is it really a unique place to stay in Bali?
It’s definitely unlike anything else. I included a night stay in Jatiluwih on a drive around the island on one of my trips and it’s still one of my most memorable travel experiences.
I still remember waking up in the early morning with that thick mist covering part of the landscape, a memory that I still carry with me after so many years.
And you know the best.
Today both Jatiluwih and Tegallalang offer some amazing boutique hotels where you can book a room and spend the incredible experience of your life.
The Prana Dewi Mountain Resort has some beautiful rooms on stilt houses facing the rice fields that can be really magical. Something to remember for a long time
Bukit Peninsula and Uluwatu
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for challenging surfing and villa stays 🏩 AirShipBali is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Best spots for experienced surfers, amazing villas, spectacular nature
- 👎 Cons – Far from the airport, limited bars, restaurants and nightlife or none at all (base on where you stay)
The Bukit Peninsula is probably the most spectacular area of Bali, with its amazing cliffs and some of the most world-famous and challenging surfing.
And even if surfing is not your thing, there are some amazing spots that should be at least visited on a day trip.
Uluwatu is a well-known place to be however there are so many other parts of Bukit that should be visited, especially if you after some challenging waves
Here you will find also some of the most beautiful villas on the island and, in my opinion, also the best weather. It tends to rain less than in other parts of Bali.
The Uluwatu temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is the number one attraction in the Bukit peninsula, and absolutely a must-see with its amazing temple on the top of a huge cliff.
Another destination to add to your bucket list is the Padang Padang Beach. A secluded cove that you may not even notice when you drive along the coast. A beautiful small temple overlooks from the top this relatively safe small beach with some of the most attractive surfing of Bukit
In the map at the beginning of the post, I have also added other beaches, like Bingin Beach or Balangan Beach, that you should be in your bucket list.
Bukit can also be a great destination for families or honeymoon. Just rent a villa for a week and get a car to explore the many beaches, coves and temples.
The AirShipBali is a superb example of an amazing stay in Bali, far from the crowd, with your own pool, a daily served breakfast.
The design of the property in so unique, in a shape, of course, of an Air Ship. You probably need to rent a scooter or catch a taxi to move around (so inexpensive).
If you are travelling with a group of friends or with a big family, you may check out the Elmina Villa Bali, with its big bedrooms and a nice balcony immersed in the beautiful tropical garden.
The design of the house is stunning and the view to die for.
Amed Beach and Pemuteran
- 🌎 Best area to stay in Bali for scuba diving 🏩 Narayana Homestay is the recommended accommodation in this area
- 👍 Pros – Best spot for scuba diving, remote and genuine area, value for money
- 👎 Cons – Very far from the airport, no nightlife, not the best beach
If you ask me where to stay in Bali for diving I would not hesitate to say Amed Beach on the east coast or, on a minor scale, Pemuteran on the west-north coast.
Amed has some great diving sites nearby, besides the famous cargo shipwreck, the USAT Liberty, which is one of the top diving experiences of Bali.
I would not personally suggest it for the beachside, a long strand of dark blackish sand, nothing to write home about. It’s really more about diving and snorkelling.
The village is on the small size and it’s starting offering some interesting restaurants and bars.
Warung Pantai is a good local restaurant with very affordable prices just in front of the beach, perfect for both lunch and dinner.
The Narayana Homestay is a great value for money choice in Amed. Lovely place with a great breakfast to start the day on a high note.
Baliand and more Off the beaten track
I still remember my first visit to Balian Beach in the late 90s. Not much there besides an incredible swell.
Still today the area is quite rural. It’s a place dedicated mostly to surfers that spend the day in the water.
It’s off the radar, still, and this means you will not to have to share the waves with lots of people.
Check out Istana, a great accommodation at a very affordable price, perfect for a week of full-on surfing.
Pekutatan is a new beach area which is developing in the south-west part of the island, quite close to Java.
The trip to the airport takes 2:30-3 hours ($40 for a private car lift, +62 878-6266-2886) which makes this location still quite authentic.
It’s a great place for couples that want to live the Bali lifestyle, away from the crowd.
Munduk is a village high up in the mountain (800m) with a beautiful traditional feeling.
There are not many guesthouses up there, just enough to feel part of a local experience, and not vice-versa.
It’s a great spot for couples looking for tranquillity and some trekking, looking for the best waterfalls in the area.
Jimbaran, restaurants and seafood
Jimbaran is on a bay south of the airport (15 minutes), famous for its seafood restaurants, all facing the long beach.
At the very end of the seashore, you will find also the local fish market which I suggest for a visit, although quite dark. It has still a nice local feeling.
You can find also a few eateries along the main road where they provide the drinks however you have to buy your own fish from the local market, and they cook it for you on the barbeque. Can it be fresher than that?
I wouldn’t particularly suggest Jimbaran for a stay, but most definitely a day or night out there should be on your bucket list.
The Nelayan Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants for position and quality, but honestly, there are so many around that you will be spoiled by the wide choice.
The alternative to Bali – Nusa Lembongan Island
This is probably not the place to stay for a first time in Bali, however, you should consider it on a repeated trip.
Nusa Lembongan, together with Nusa Penida, offers a more tranquil environment with a couple of pristine beaches, great snorkelling and unique cliffs.
It could be visited also as a day trip from Bali however it would be a bit of a touch and go.
Spend at least 2 nights to experience it in the right way
Politically wise, Nusa Lembongan Island is considered part of the Bali province.
How to move around Bali
The first thing to say is that transportation is very cheap, especially if compared to prices in Europe or Australia.
These are the small van that you will see in the street. As a foreigner you will be asked to pay more than the locals, which I think it is acceptable, especially considering the difference will be just a few cents.
They go everywhere on the island. You just need to ask around for the options.
The driving can be, well, more of a racing experience. And you know what I mean.
Private transportation – Buses
They tend to connect the most known places in Bali.
If you want to go to a remote location, as Munduk, you will need to get a combination of private and public transportation
I have only used Perama in the past and I never had any problem, even to go to Lombok and the Gili Islands.
The Kura-Kura buses are another option, however, I have never used them.
It’s a great and cheap way to go around. They are mostly available in the southern part of the island.
In other locations just ask your hotel or a tourist agency and they may be able to organise a trip for you (agree on the price before driving)
Rent a car
Driving can be complicated in the island, however, I find it a safer option considering the way the private buses drive.
The complicated part is getting out of the Kuta area, which has always an incredible level of traffic.
You need an international driving license (although I drove without one, it seems a bit of a soft rule)
The cost can go from $20 up to whatever you decide.
Another option is to rent a car with a driver, more expensive however so much easier.
In my last trip, I had also an old VW vehicle with a driver that was incredibly fun.
Rent a scooter
It’s probably the cheapest option however also the most dangerous.
I loved the freedom given by a motorbike, however, I have been driving them for a long time, even in cities like Athens (not as easy). I feel like I have a bit of experience 😉
Budget a 5-10$/day rent. Check the breaks and be safe.
Do not rent a bike or a car if you feel intimidated by “aggressive” drivers or too much traffic.