Last updated on September 20th, 2018 at 03:24 pm
When it comes to the best places 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 which part of Bali is best for you, then you’ll love the map below including all of the locations, based on your type of trip.
It’s a simple area list that will help you to really enjoy your trip.
The best part?
Everything here applies to where to stay in Bali in 2018, including all the transportation options.
(In other words: you don’t need to worry about reading out of date stuff)
Let’s get started
Before the trip have a look at the local newspaper Bali Times, you can find information on upcoming events
My first trip to Bali was in the 90s. It was different. As it was most of the world.
I am saying this not to scare you but just to let you know that Bali is still beautiful (I am going there again in a month).
Of course, there are parts that have lost the original soul, but surely they have gained a new character, that can be even better in some cases, or worst. It’s just based on what you are looking for.
Still, you can find all you are looking for on this island, even villages where the life is almost similar to the 70s, but with the Internet.
Click here for the interactive Google Map.
In the map above I tried to organise the best areas to stay in Bali, based on the type of trip you are planning:
Plenty of options. By the way, here below the beautiful short one minute trailer of “Eat Pray Love” I suggest to check out.
I have travelled as a single, as a couple and with my 4 years old kid. 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.
If you travel with small children 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 here in the 60s and since then, the fishing village has transformed itself in the best area to stay in Bali with family.
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 in that 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 however the sun will set inland. Try to organise a dinner at Jimbaran Bay (~40 minutes drive), with its famous seafood restaurants and a great sunset.
For some food and drinks, have a look at these options:
As expected, the nightlife in Sanur is a bit different from what you expect from Bali (read parties and beers). It is obviously conditioned by the numerous presence of families with kids.
The Casablanca is a great spot for live music, open till 1 am. Drinks are also at a good price, which is rare in touristy areas.
The Bukit Peninsula is probably the most spectacular area of Bali, with its amazing cliffs and the world known surfing.
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 above map, I have also added other beaches, like Bingin Beach or Balangan Beach, that you should add to your list.
Bukit can 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.
These 3 locations are all very close to the airport, however very different from each other. They have all the own character. They are mostly dedicated to mass tourism however you can still find some boutique resorts.
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, look out for any nightclub which could be next door to the hotel, maybe quiet in the day however very lively till late at night.
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
Seminyak was once “far away” from Kuta. Today is considered to be part of it. But only on a map.
Seminyak, just 25-30 minutes north of the airport, has a mix of residential and tourist area. Most of the expats live here which explains the higher cost of living (relatively expensive).
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).
The Ku Dé Ta is probably the chicest place in the area, right in front of the beach. It is a beach club during the day which 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 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.
Jimbaran is the 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?
Even if you do not stay in Jimbaran, try to visit the market either at sunrise or sunset when you will experience the real action.
Why should you stay here?
Because you are a seafood lover and you want to seat at night at the beach and experience the best fish on the island.
The Nelayan Restaurant is one of my favourites for position and quality, but honestly, there are so many around that you will be spoiled by the wide choice.
Nusa Dua is well known for its resorts, an area designated to tourism since the 70s.
It’s honestly the place on the island that will give you the least feeling of being in Bali.
I am not saying that you should not book your hotel there.
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, but once in Nusa Dua, you lose the Bali character. This is at least my feeling.
I think it’s a great spot to spend the honeymoon, have a relaxed time, enjoy the resort food and drinks at night in front of the beach. 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 experience Bali
I feel like Canggu is the best place to stay in Bali if you are after a cool setup, with lots of nice cafes, easy restaurants, a nice surfing beach (not as challenging as in the Bukit peninsula) and a great inland made of rice fields, just a stone away.
Canggu is the new kid in the block. I can’t say it is a hidden gem of the island because it has been well discovered by the tourism, especially the young generation, but still it preserves that relaxed and cool atmosphere you want to expect from Bali.
It’s one hour north of the airport and a nice spot to spend one week or even more.
It has also become one of the favourite areas of the bloggers and the nomadic tribe. The biggest reason is the wide availability of quick internet in bars and cafes.
Of course, yoga is offered widely. If you don’t do it here where should you?
Pay a visit to the Little Flinders Cafe (I may be too Melbournian here). Nice and cute interior with good Australian style latte, creamy and at the right temperature. Good breakfast on offer and happy hour before 10 am.
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.
Ubud is 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.
It has to be said that also this town has lost a bit of its character, being today a bit more commercial then it used to be. But I guess it’s the whole world that has changed.
The great thing about Ubud is that the local area 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 Ubud)
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 the 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.
I think that Ubud is a great place to stay for families that are not after a beach but more a cultural experience.
It can be also a great location for couples that want to have a bit of private time away from hustle and bustle of Kuta and other resorts areas.
A great place to stay 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.
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
Jatiluwih is probably the most beautiful area, followed very close by Tegallalang.
They could both be visited on a day trip from Ubud or even the Kuta area, although you need to budget an extra 1-2 hours for the long drive.
Should you actually stay in the rice fields, spend one or more nights there?
It’s a different experience. I included a stop in Jatiluwih on a drive around the island.
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 20 years.
And you know the best.
Today, after 20 years, both Jatiluwih and Tegallalang have actually improved with 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
If you ask me where to stay in Bali for diving I would not hesitate to say Amed Beach on the east coast or, in a minor scale, Pemuteran on the west-north coast.
Amed has some great diving sites nearby besides a 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.
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.
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.
This is probably not the place to stay for a first time trip, 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
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.
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)
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 from 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 $20 up to whatever you decide.
Another option is to rent a car with a driver, more expensive however so much easier.
In my last trip, I had also an old VW vehicle with a driver that was incredibly fun.
It’s probably the cheapest option however also the most dangerous.
I loved the freedom given by a motorbike, however, I have been driving them for a long time, even in cities like Athens (not as easy). I feel like I have a bit of experience 😉
Budget a 5-10$/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.
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry.
Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.