What’s your favorite place to travel to? It’s the question I get asked most often, and my answer is always Bali. From the glowing rice terraces of Tegalalang to the vibrant streets of Ubud, Indonesia’s island gem is the ultimate wanderlust fix – a wondrous fusion of culture, history and natural beauty. I have a laundry list of things I love about Bali, but thought I’d share just a few of my absolute favorites with you lovelies. Enjoy! ♥
1.) Favorite Town: Ubud
Ah, Ubud! They call it the heart of the island for good reason. A cultural haven nestled in central Bali; the place oozes with color, zen and a wonderful chaotic energy. It’s a land of rolling rice terraces, Hindu shrines and charming streets that truly casts a spell over its visitors. I fell in love with the place when I first visited three years ago, and on my most recent trip back, I found myself adoring it even more. I’m not one to repeat travel (there is so much of the world to see), but for Ubud I’d make an exception any day. ♥
2.) Favorite Pool: Ocean Beach Pool at AYANA Resort & Spa
If you’re on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen photos of the iconic cliffside pool at the AYANA Resort & Spa, in Jimbaran. I finally had a chance to visit … and yes, it’s as amazing as the photos. Typically, I’m not one to lounge around on holiday, but for the AYANA, I changed my ways. It truly is a pool for the bucket list – a curvaceous infinity wonder overlooking Rock Bar (another must-visit) with killer views of the Indian Ocean for sunbathers and swimmers.
3.) Favorite Rice Terraces: Tegalalang
I’ve traveled to rice terraces in The Philippines, Thailand, Java and Vietnam, and while Tegalalang isn’t the grandest, there’s something truly special about this iconic Bali wonder. It’s a must for anyone visiting Ubud and while I’d normally recommend a morning visit to avoid tourists, Tegalalang shows better later in the day when the greens are more brilliant and the morning shadows have disappeared. Grab a drink amongst the hilltop craft stalls to enjoy the views, and then hike down into the terraces for a bit of adventure.
4.) Favorite Hotel: W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak
I’ve stayed at more than a dozen properties on Bali – everything from sprawling resorts to tiny boutique villas. With the exception of a couple random duds, Bali is one of my favorite places in the world when it comes to hotel stays. The properties are beautiful; the spaces are unique; the hospitality is first-rate; and the value is generally very good. Tough to pick just one favorite, but I do love the W Retreat & Spa, in Seminyak. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for fun beach vibes, an amazing pool scene, ultra modern rooms and lots of color, nowhere does it better than this world class W property.
5.) Favorite Waterfall: Sekumpul Falls
It’s a full day’s adventure to reach Sekumpul from central Bali, but the waterfall’s lush Ferngully setting makes it worth the exhausting pilgrimage. I braved three grueling hours on the road to reach the trailhead, enduring one of the craziest mountainside routes on the island – the gnarly curves, blind turns and nail-biting narrows make the drive alone an adventure. For thrill seekers that survive the journey, it’s a steep (but gorgeous!) climb down into a tropical valley to reach the waterfalls. And because the off-the-beaten-path location scares tourists away, most visitors will have the jungle haven to themselves.
6.) Favorite Temple: Gunung Kawi Sebatu
For tourists looking to learn a bit about Hindu culture, Bali offers a wealth of temples and shrines that welcome visits from foreigners. With so many “puras” to choose from, I thought it worth mentioning my personal favorite – Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu. A short drive from Ubud and just north of Tegalalang, the tropical utopia is a cultural wonderland. Bring your Balinese sarong and explore the colorful blur of holy spring water pools that dot the complex … and even climb into thwe clear water to find yourself surrounded by koi fish, lotus and floating lily pads.
7.) Favorite Beach: Suluban Beach
Suluban is not your typical island beach. Forget the powder sand, turquoise swirls and swaying palms …. this mysterious natural wonder sits hidden in the rocks on the southern tip of the island, near Uluwatu. A surfer’s refuge, thrill seekers access the beach via a steep stone staircase that cuts into cliffs and leads to a pathway surrounded by massive rock formations that resemble a watery cave. Continue through the rocks where the path opens up to the beach and you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a secret gateway to the Indian Ocean privy only to surfers in the know.
8.) Favorite Weekend Getaway: Gili Air, Gili Islands
Most tourists arrive in Bali expecting calm turquoise waters (à la Bora Bora), only to be disappointed with the beaches of Seminyak, Kuta and Nusa Dua. Luckily, that tropical island fix is just a two-hour fast boat transfer away. The Gili Islands are a set of three idyllic gems off Bali’s east coast enroute to Lombok, and an easy weekend trip from Bali. There are no overwater bungalows (the islands are geared toward budget travelers), but The Gilis certainly offer a nice change for anyone looking for white sandy beaches, turquoise water and world class diving.
9.) Favorite Eats: Sari Organik, Uud
Nothing beats the good vibes and rice paddy setting of Sari Organik’s open-air restaurant, in Ubud. Nab one of the coveted tables right above the fields for the most dreamy lunchtime views and choose from a menu loaded with fresh goods. My go-to meal is hand-squeezed orange juice, a fruit smoothie and one of their fresh salads (produce picked right from their garden).
10.) Favorite Driver: Made Dana
With two visits under my belt, I’ve learned that a private driver is the best way to explore Bali, and move from one part of the island to another. In Europe and the Americas, a private driver is outside of most travel budgets, but in Bali it’s very affordable. For all my transport needs, I hire Made Dana, who I always recommend to anyone traveling to Bali. He knows the island like the back of his hand, and he is the kindest soul. And whether I stay in South Bali, Central Bali or want to visit somewhere up north like Jituluwih, Made will make it happen. Here are his details (just e-mail him before your trip to book him), firstname.lastname@example.org, +6281338248445.