Travel

THE BALI DIARIES: WHERE TO GO, WHERE TO EAT, WHAT TO DO

SEMINYAK

Where do I even begin with Seminyak.. it really is the hustle and bustle of Bali, and in my opinion, completely overrated. It’s definitely the most popular spot, but I personally feel like that’s only because people don’t do their research and think that this is the place to go in Bali. It’s NOT. Infact, I don’t recommend staying in Seminyak whatsoever!

Sure, it’s got the shops and restaurants, but to be honest Canggu does aswell, and if you spend majority of your time there (20 mins up the coast from Seminyak) you won’t be missing out on anything at all. Oh and while we’re discussing places that are overrated, let’s put Potato Head at the top of that list too. Uluwatu and Canggu have WAY cooler beach/day clubs than Potato Headbut we’ll get into those later.

Anyway, we were warned while planning this trip not to bother with Seminyak, however we did feel like we needed to figure this out for ourselves, so we booked our first two nights there, and thank GOD it was only two.

The reason we didn’t like Seminyak was mainly because of how over crowded, loud, busy and STRESSFUL the place is. The main roads are crazy with narrow roads with flying taxi’s and scooters and an even more narrow footpath, basically Liam and I had to walk around in single file the entire time we were here! Not our ideal of a relaxing, romantic trip away.

Yes it’s Bali, it’s a developing country but Seminyak stinks, it’s dirty and all of the buildings are basically crumbling away while being held up by bamboo scaffolding. Thankfully we spent our time in a 90 minute Spring Spa couples massage and in some fab cafes! We’re glad that we realised Seminyak wasn’t for us first hand, however we certainly won’t be returning during our next Bali trip.

WHERE WE STAYED

Villa Zak on Air BnB

Villa Zak on Air BnB is super cheap at $100 NZD per night, and in a great location if you love shopping! Tiny little pool but it’s enough for two and is surrounded by beautiful greenery which makes you really feel like you’re in Bali, verrrry Instagrammable. It’s a bit noisy as it’s right on a main road but it’s the perfect cheap spot to stay in on your first night while you settle into the Balinese culture.

WHERE WE ATE

BREAKFAST:

Coffee Cartel

Our first Bali Cafe experience and we absolutely LOVED it. They do insane smoothies (Liam got the protein one and loved it) and juices! The interiors are beautiful and the food was delicious, we had poached eggs with bacon/avo on toast. Soooo good all though the bacon in Bali is a little bit questionable – just a warning! Most of the cafes are super vegan/vege friendly too which is awesome.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

Sisterfields

KYND Community

Revolver Espresso

Strawberry Fields

LUNCH/DINNER/AFTERNOON DRINKS:

Sea Circus

We didn’t actually eat here, just stopped by for a smoothie (so good!) BUT the girls next to us ordered these epppppic looking burgers. Food looked awesome and it’s right next to a super cute shop!

Motel Mexicola

A MUST visit when you’re in Seminyak just to explore the place cause it’s huuuuge and decorated so so well. We weren’t soooo impressed with the food (the Mexican food at Mexico NZ is better) but the cocktails are yummy! We were also told this is the place to go for a night out in Seminyak.

Boss Man

If you’re keen for a delish gourmet/takeaway burger, this is where it’s at. It’s smack bang in Seminyak Square and so fab for a quick, cheap, YUM burger and fries. Comparable to Burger Burger but wayyyyy cheaper.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

Bikini

We didn’t have time to actually go inside but I’ve heard the best things! A good go-to for drinks, dinner or both. Very cool interiors.

BEACH CLUBS:

Potato Head

I find it amusing how many people rate this place. It is SO mediocre. Yes it’s on the beach, the food is fine and the pool is nice, but that’s pretty much it. The people who rate this place are the ones that don’t venture out of Seminyak, and there are places that are similar but WAY COOLER in Canggu/Uluwatu.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

Mrs Sippy

La Plancha

WHERE TO SHOP

The shopping in Bali is FAB, however most of the time it’s just so bloody hot that shopping is the last thing you feel like doing. If it’s your mission, you must head to..

Bali Boat Shed

Boho clothing HEAVEN. If you love beautiful patterns, flowwy maxi skirts/dresses and are into that Spell Byron Bay style, you’ll absolutely love this store!

Kim Soo

Indie/boho HOMEWARE HEAVEN.

The Bali Tailor

If you’ve got budget for a bit of shopping, The Bali Tailor is a must do. Everything is custom made for you (you pick the style, colour and fabric) from shoes, to jackets, to bags. Everything is suede/leather and they even do some beautiful linen dresses! They just launched their online store so you can order online internationally too which is fab! The jackets are around 350 NZD which for a made to order leather/suede jacket, is a pretty good deal.

Gooseberry Intimates

Absolutely DIVINE lingere. A must visit, even just for a cheeky browse!

We also stayed on the road Jl. Kaya Aya which is pretty much the longest road in Seminyak with back to back shops and restaurants! It’s definitely worth a stroll up and down but beware it’s very overwhelming and exhausting.

NUSA LEMBONGAN

ABOUT THE ISLAND AND HOW WE GOT THERE

Nusa Lembongan is around a 45 minute Ferry from Sanur on mainland Bali, we really wanted to go out to an island at some point on our trip for a bit of quiet and to go snorkelling! We’d heard that the Gili Islands were overrated for how far away they are and that the Nusa Islands are just as good, just a lot closer to mainland Bali (which is fab cause that ferry ride made me SICK). If you don’t have time for the Gili Islands then definitely do Nusa Lembongan!

It’s such a beautiful spot to stay if you’re after some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of mainland Bali and I would highly, highly, HIGHLY, recommend you make some time for it in your Bali travel schedule.

WHERE WE STAYED

Bay Shore Huts

Our first choice was actually Hai Tidehowever we ended up LOVING staying at Bay Shore Huts. It’s around the corner from Hai Tide, so their restaurant (which is incredible) was only a minute scooter drive away. We noticed their pool was super busy and considering we were always the only people swimming in our pool over at Bay Shore Huts, we were pretty stoked that we ended up staying here! It’s gorgeous and so damn relaxing. We loved it.

WHAT WE DID + MUST DO’S

If you’ve nervous about hiring a scooter in Bali, Nusa Lembongan is the best place to do it because the island is so quiet and lowkey. Scootering around and discovering beautiful locations is so much fun to do for the afternoon, but the coolest spot that we found was definitely Dream Beach.

Not to mention the crystal clear green waters that look like a mermaid habitat, they have a super cool restaurant that does Japanese and western food and looks over the beach with a public infinity pool! It’s such a gorgeous spot to pop yourself for the afternoon for a few cocktails, a beach swim, a pool dip and to watch the sunset!

Mushroom Beach is worth a visit and is where Hai Tide is located. There’s far too many boats to be able to swim but it’s still beautiful and worth checking out! This is also where our favourite restaurant was, Hai Bar & Grill.

The number one MUST-DO activity while you’re in Nusa Lembongan is to go out on a snorkelling tour and swim with the Mantarays! We booked ours through Manta Snorkelling Tours.

On the tour they take you out to three snorkelling stops, with the first one being Manta Bay. It’s not always certain that you’ll see a Mantaray, but if you’re lucky your tour guide will look out for them and tell you to jump off the boat with the snorkel gear ready when he sees one! We were SO lucky to and it was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives!! They won’t hurt you and they’re so, so huge and beautiful.

Next up they take you to Crystal Bay which is literally PARADISE. The water is quite literally crystal clear and the beach you can swim out to is absolutely beautiful. The last spot on the tour is Mangrove Point which is basically a scene of Finding Nemo in real life. It’s a massive, bright coral reef that you swim over with zillions of colourful, interesting fishies. There are literally so many that you touch them all as you swim through them! It’s AMAZING.

WHERE WE ATE

Hai Bar & Grill Restaurant

One of the most magical places we dined at during our entire Bali trip, this is more than a restaurant, it’s a total experience. So insanely romantic and the food is DELICIOUS, and cheap! Perfect spot to watch the sunset and has such a beautiful atmosphere. We actually came here for dinner and lunch because we just loved it so, so much!

For lunch we had the Classic BLT Open Sandwich with hand cut fries which was SO GOOD.

For dinner you must start with the Bruschetta and the woodfire pizzas are amazing. Liam had the Gourmet Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian dish which he said was delicious!

CANGGU

For me, Canggu is now one of my favourite places in the ENTIRE world. I’ve done Europe, America & Mexico and I can tell you now, there is just nowhere quite like it. It’s honestly SO special!!!

When Liam and I first arrived we were praying that it was going to be just how everyone described it, ‘way more chilled and an up and coming, better version of Seminyak’. They were 100% right and Canggu completely blew our expectations out of the water. We fell in LOVE with it.

With much wider roads, wider footpaths, MUCH less traffic, less rubbish, more trees and greenery and overall a much more relaxed and cooler vibe, Canggu is 100% the place to be in Bali. The markets, shops, cafes, restaurants are all so boho-chic and it has absolutely everything you need. Next time we head over we plan to spend a good 5 or 6 nights here!

WHERE WE STAYED

Villa Kawung

Incredible decor, feels like luxury at such an affordable price plus it truly could not be in a better location in Canggu, a couple of doors away from the Love Anchor Market and across the road from Deus Luigi’s Pizza. This villa actually has two bedrooms but we stayed here because we loved the look of it and couldn’t find anywhere else that suited us! The only downside was that the pool wasn’t overly clean and we got DESTROYED by mosquitos, so bad we had to keep the mozzie relief ointment on us at all times throughout the day, they were so itchy and painful.

Other than that it’s a gorgeous villa and in such a perfect location! The staff looked after us so well, they even picked us up in the middle of nowhere when our scooter tyre went flat! Legends!

WHERE WE ATE

BREAKFAST:

Cafe Organic

Fab interiors but the food was suuuuper average. Nothing special at all so we were a little disappointed by that! We think that was the general consensus from everyone in Canggu as it was the quietest out of all the cafes we went to. We wouldn’t go back. It sure is decorated well though!

 

The Loft 

Our absolute FAVE. The food was incredible and we wanted to order absolutely everything on the menu! I went for the vegan waffles with peanut butter, açai & maple and Liam went for the BLAT sandwich which I was actually very jealous of. We shared an Acai bowl which was YUM! Highly recommend if you want some guaranteed delicious breakfast food.

Crate Cafe 

Another one of those highly recommended to us cafes that we were just really disappointed with. When all of the cafes in Bali are quite similar you start to compare them all down the littlest details! But the issue we had with Crate was that we had to wait 30 mins inline, then after ordering we had to wait 30 mins just to find a table, then we had to wait 30 mins for our food. Not ideal when you just want to get back to the pool! Our eggs on toast were ooooookkaaaayy, but nothing spesh.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

Nalu Bowls (Also in Uluwatu)

The Slow

Shady Shack

Gypsy (they also have a bar and do dinner)

The Mocca

LUNCH/DINNER & BEACH CLUBS:

Finn’s Beach Club

In our opinion, a better version of Potato Head. Such a cool spot to plonk yourself for the afternoon! Beautiful view of the beach, awesome pool and yummy food. Highly recommend the mini pizza sliders!

The Lawn

If you’re going to go ANYWHERE for dinner and drinks, or even just an afternoon swim, you must go to The Lawn. It’s gorgeous for obvious reasons (espesh at sunset) but the vibe is just so fab, everyones sat on the floor and the food and drink were so yum! Get the frose!!! (frozen rose)

La Brisa

Or what I like to call, the jungle book! This place literally makes your jaw drop as soon as you walk in. It’s just SUCH a fun, cool place, the food was a bit average but it’s definitely worth visiting for a few afternoon drinks, some photos and a dip in the pool. It’s so unlike anywhere else in Bali!

Our other favourite dinner spot was Deus, this place is actually a super cool concept. The Deus stores are planted all over Bali (a super trendy Aussie menswear brand) but the store in Canggu also features a suuuuper cool restaurant and Bar. Their aesthetic is badass sexy motorbikes so you can imagine the food was pretty delish. The pan fried snapper was divine and the desserts were EPIC.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

La Laguna

I am SO guttered we didn’t go here, but it’s basically a super gypsy style Spanish tapas restaurant on the beach and it looks amazing, number one on the list for next time!

Old Mans

Another cool food spot on the beach, we were also told it’s the place to go for a night out and they also have an awesome Sunday market! Sticky Fingers are also playing there soon so obv it’s quite a cool venue.

DESSERT:

Mad Pops

Vegan Ice Cream anyone? So many delicious flavours and you don’t have to feel guilty! Get the Peanut Butter & Mint Choc Chip! They also have a store in Seminyak but I recommend going in Canggu cause it’s less busy and crazy

UBUD

If I am going to be completely honest, which of course I always am, our favourite part about Ubud was our accomodation. Personally I feel like Ubud is a ‘just has to be done once’ location in Bali as we felt the town was very similar to Seminyak in terms of busyness. It’s cool to see the rice paddy fields and the monkeys once, but we expected It to be a lot more tranquil and relaxing (which it is when you’re inside your resort). Other than the resort we really didn’t enjoy our time there! I especially did not enjoy getting attacked and bitten by a monkey!!! YUP. I DID.

WHERE WE STAYED:

Goya Boutique Resort 

This. Place. Is. INSANE.

One of our favourite moments during this trip was actually just relaxing outside by the pool until sunset! Goya is by far one of the most special and incredible places I have ever stayed, everything from the rooms, to the service, to the people and of course the pool and outdoor area is absolutely dreamy! We would go back to Ubud just to stay at Goya and not leave the hotel, lol! Its insane and I highly, hiiiiiiiiiighly HIGHLY recommend staying here when you visit Ubud!

WHAT TO DO

Visit the Rice Paddy Fields! Warning.. it get uncomfortably hot and sweaty, there are Balinese people plotted throughout that try and making you donate money to get access to the views and are constantly screaming and yelling at you and there are about 10000 entrances into the fields, you just take the steps down in between all of the cafes plotted along the Rice Paddy main road. We were conned by a Balinese man who said he would take us to access in the fields because we couldnt find it, when actually he took us down to his Lewak Coffee Plantation to then try and get money off us and completely wasted our time (we weren’t interested in Lewak coffee, we just wanted to explore the fields!).

Once you’re there, the fields are absolutely beautiful and definitely worth checking out, but you definitely don’t need to dedicate toooo much of your day for them!

We wanted to do The Bali Swing but actually found this cute (free!) one at a cafe looking over the Rice Paddy Fields called Carik Terrace. If you get the right angle you can get a shot that is just as cool as paying 20 bucks for the original Bali Swing! It also has this cute little deck area with the ‘LOVE’ signage on it. I obviously made Liam take a pic with me!

The Monkey Forrest

If you’re afraid of the monkeys already, I do not recommend visiting. I wasn’t scared at first until 20 mins in and I got attacked and bitten by a super aggressive adult monkey. MY LORD team, it was scary!!!! I don’t want to put you off as this is such a cool experience but do be warned the odds of getting attacked are very high. Luckily it didn’t puncture my skin so I was okay, but you’ve got to make sure you never look them in the eye, don’t go near them or sit down ANYWHERE unless you have food (that’s why I got attacked) and try your best to be calm around them at all times. The babies are cute and worth seeing though!

ULUWATU

Ohh, the dreamy paradise that is Uluwatu. We absolutely adored staying here, and came to the conclusion that our next Bali trip would be 5 nights in Canggu, 3 nights in Lembongan and 5 nights in Uluwatu!

It’s definitely the surfing go-to of mainland Bali with the most stunning, tropical surf beaches. The cliff top views all around the region are amazing and the accomodation, food & day/beach clubs are by far the most impressive out of everywhere else in Bali. We adored staying here and already cannot wait to go back!

WHERE WE STAYED

Gravity Hotel 

If you’re staying in Uluwatu and you’re on a reasonable budget, seriously look no further than Gravity. As soon as we walked into this place our jaws dropped, it truly is the most picture perfect accommodation I’ve ever stayed in! The white almost makes you feel like you’re staying in Greece!

We stayed in the bigger bungalow, they’re two stories with open roof showers and so much fun to stay in! For $150 per night (so cheap split between two) you seriously cannot go wrong. It’s a dream!

The food is pretty average but the bar is great, this doesn’t matter too much because Uluwatu has so many fabulous cafes and restaurants. We also had a massage at the spa and it was INCRED.

Sal Secret Spot 

This view from our room was pretty much the only positive thing I have to say about this place, it’s completely overrated. I would not recommend staying here.

We couldn’t decide whether we wanted to stay at Gravity or Sal Secret Spot so we decided to do Gravity for one night and Sal for two.. BIG mistake. We had booked the ocean view room but it wasn’t advertised that it was a 20 minute hike down a cliff to get there, which if we had known that we wouldnt have booked it. I hate to sound like I’m complaining about an ocean view room cause it was GORGEOUS, but this was our final stay after a pretty full on, exhausting trip (we stayed in a total of six different accomodations) and the last thing we wanted was an absolute hike to get down and up our room every time we wanted to go inside it.

The main hotel area with the ever so gramable lily pads (Actually so dirty and gross) was super small and very underwhelming compared to how amazing Gravity hotel was!

So if you’re tossing up the two, you NEED to stay at Gravity! It’s amazing and location doesn’t matter in Uluwatu cause everything is all over the place and the roads are quiet enough for you to feel comfortable on a scooter.

WHERE WE ATE

BREAKFAST:

Suka Espresso

Big call I know, but the BEST breakfast spot we went to on the entire trip. The food is absolutely delicious, so good that we actually went twice for breakfast! We love, love LOVED it.

Liam got the Piggy Bennedict which he claimed was the best eggs benny he had ever had in his life (can confirm this is a huge call) and I got the avo on toast during our first experience and the dark chocolate pancakes during our second visit, both were amazing!!!! Sooooooooo yummy. They also do 10/10 iced choccys!

Bukit 

A lot of people recommended Bukit to us but we would rather go to Suka three mornings in a row than do another breakfast at Bukit. The atmosphere in the cafe was just average the so was the food! We got the Acai bowls because there wasn’t anything else interesting on the menu but they weren’t anything spectacular, a bit warm actually. Go to Suka!!

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

The Cashew Tree

LUNCH/DINNER/BEACH & DAY CLUBS:

Ulu Cliffhouse 

My personal favourite!!!! It’s pricey, but I absolutely adored this place for sunset drinks and dinner. You feel like you’re hanging out in someones cliff top mansion but the atmosphere is awesome! Gorgeous decor, you relax to eat and drink on day beds and the pool is huge. They play amazing music and it’s just all round a super cool place to hang out. Already cannot wait to go back!

The food and cocktails were amazing, we ordered the teriyaki chicken lollipop & guacamole as a starter, Liam got the burger for main and I got the best beer battered snapper and chips I have EVER had.. and this is coming from a Kiwi girl!!!! It was so lightly battered and crunchy and deeeelish. We finished off with the brownie but they did have a fab choice of desserts. Loved it there and it’s got to be at the top of your list.

 

Omnia Day Club

If you’re into that house music European style day club then you will love Omnia! It’s super modern with the DJ playing alongside the huge cliffside infinity pool and it’s a fun place to hang out and drink for the afternoon. We spent out final afternoon here in Bali and had so much fun!

You pay 1 million IDR (100 NZD) on entry which covers your day bed and is used to buy all of your food and drink. A lot of these sorts of places has a minimum spend policy like this but it’s quite good because you can then just go nuts on alcohol and keep ordering food throughout the afternoon and night.

The food is amaze and they do a mix of Mexican and Japanese style dishes. Yuuuuuummm.

Sunday’s Beach Club

If you’re sick of pools and want some beach time, an afternoon at Sundays is perfect. It’s a minute drive away from Omnia so it’s good to do both in one afternoon! The beach is private and gorgeous plus they offer free paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling! The food is also pretty good, we just had a quick pizza. #holidaybod.

Recommendations from others that we didn’t have time for:

Single Fin

THINGS TO REMEMBER IN BALI

  • It’s a developing country, the reality of it is very different to what you see on Instagram. A lot of Balinese will try to rip you off whether it’s in a taxi or in a market, so just be aware of this
  • When booking flights, never pay more than a grand and always look for flights that don’t stop over in Aus. We got direct Air NZ flights for $950! You can also get them cheaper!
  • I highly recommend getting a Bali simcard with heaps of data. They’re around 200,000 IDR (20 NZD ish) and you can top it up with heaps of cheap data. It’s obviously great for checking and posting to social media on the go but it’s especially good incase you get lost or if you need to find an address/use maps to get around! You can get them from the supermarkets and convenience stores.
  • Know what things are worth. Typically a scooter hire should be no more than 100,000 IDR (Around 10 NZD) per day. A taxi ride from Canggu/Seminyak to Ubud no more than 350,000 IDR and market goods should range from 50,000-400,000, unless you’re feeling generous! Obviously depends whether it’s a leather or crochet good etc, you can generally decide for yourself what you think something is worth at the markets but you can ALWAYS get a cheaper price than what they’re offering. Be stauch cause they’re incredibly pushy!
  • Only drink and brush your teeth with bottled water. This is how we didn’t get sick!
  • Don’t use the dodgy looking money exchange places. ALWAYS just find an ATM and withdraw money, it’s much safer and easier! There are even Commonwealth Bank ATM’s around which is an Aussie bank so you know you’ll be safe.
  • If you’re too scared to hire a scooter, use Go-Jek on the App Store to get around! It’s crazy cheap and the Balinese version of Uber. Apparently Uber is corrupt in Bali so don’t even go there!
  • All accomodation spots whether it’s a private villa, Air BnB or resort all have their own drivers, so you don’t need to stress about getting between towns. You can basically just let them know the night before you check out that you need a ride to wherever and they’ll sort it for like 250,000 IDR (25 NZD)
  • Stay away from the dogs, they’re hungry, tired, defensive and scared of you
  • The mosquitos are SAVAGE. Always keep repellant on you
  • Traffic is horrendous so always add on an extra 45 minutes to what google maps says unless you’re on a scooter
  • Only have ice and spirits from the decent cafes/restaurants. We always had ice and never had any issues with “Bali Belly” but we only ever went to what is considered the ‘expensive, nice, western’ cafes, bars and restaurants. I wouldn’t be drinking ice or vodka in a shitty bar in Kuta or something haha, just avoid Kuta in general actually.
  • Food and drink is VERY cheap but it’s always slightly more expensive than what it says on the menu, they always add on a service fee and tax, so in places like Ulu Cliffhouse the food and drinks can really start to add up
  • Finally, make sure you have travel insurance because Bali is super corrupt and you never know what might go wrong with your money or belongings! I always get my travel insurance from 1Cover

Being a 12 day trip visiting five locations with 6 accomodations we were so pleased that we got to visit everywhere we were interested in and now know exactly where we do and don’t want to go back to on our next trip! We adored Bali and absolutely cannot wait go back. It’s a must do travel location for everyone!

As always, please let me know if you have any questions down below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you 🙂

Love, Ash xx