What to Do in Bali

Home to ancient temples and palaces, stunning beaches that range from white powdery sands to black sand stretches all framed by turquoise waters. Dense jungle inhabited by monkeys and mountains terrain with more waterfalls than you can count. Bali stands out among Indonesia’s more than 17,500 islands. While you’re here, these are some of the top things to put on your must-do list.

Bukit Bali, Indonesia
Black sand beach Bali, Indonesia

Discover the Hidden Beaches

Along Bali’s southern coast you’ll find its most alluring long stretches of pristine white sands, which draw surfers from across the globe to ride the waves from sunrise to sunset. Seminyak is particularly ideal with its laid-back feel and fewer crowds while still being close to the airport, but there are many hidden beaches where you might find a stretch all to yourself. The Bukit Peninsula along the southernmost tip of the island is unspoiled and largely unexplored. By heading out with a local guide you can discover some of the best spots, generally frequented only by surfers and the locals.

Black Sand Beaches and Snorkeling

The black sand beaches along the east and north coasts are incredibly remote and quiet in a sharp contrast to the south, while magnificent temples watch over the sea. Lovina is the main tourist town in Bali’s north, famous for its black sand beaches and dolphin spotting. Lipah Beach in Amed along the east coast is ideal for snorkelling with healthy coral reefs just offshore boasting an abundance of marine life, including sea turtles.

While the coarse, sharp black sands aren’t ideal for sunbathing, with the water more protected in the north, this is where you’ll find some of the most outstanding swimming and snorkelling, particularly around the northwestern coast. This is where the region’s best coral reefs are, along with lots of tropical fish and opportunities for shipwreck diving. Menjangan Island in West Bali National Park is widely considered to be the top destination for snorkelling and diving.

Bali forest, Indonesia
Bali Temple, Indonesia

North Bali: West Bali National Park and the Abundant Wildlife

The north of Bali enjoys a much slower pace of life and a noticeably cooler climate. This is where you’ll want to go to experience a more authentic side of the island, immersed in the locals’ daily life. It’s also an ideal region for outdoor adventurers and wildlife lovers. West Bali National Park boasts diverse habitats that vary from lowland forests, dry savanna and acacia scrub to rain-forest and pockets of dense mangrove forest. It’s popular for hiking, biking, birding and watching for impressive wildlife. There are some 160 bird species here, including the nearly extinct Bali Starling, along with Javan Rusa and Indian Muntjac deer, while macaque monkeys can be seen roaming freely everywhere. You might also spot the Banteng, a type of wild cattle from which the Bali cows are descended. Leopard cats and wild boar are common here too although rarely encountered.

The Balinese Temples

One of the highlights of visiting Bali is visiting the temples, with their surroundings, sometimes perched atop cliffs or volcanoes, creates an even more awe-inspiring scene. There may be even more temples than houses, with some estimates as high as 50,000 – you’ll see them everywhere. Many serve as the islands top attractions, like Uluwatu, Taman Ayun and Tanah Lot, the latter of which sits on an outcrop along the south coast, accessed by walking across a causeway from the mainland at low tide, or by boat at high tide. But there are also countless smaller ones in sleepy rural villages and in every family compound. While Balinese homes tend to be simple, their tables are elaborate, adorned with gold leaf.

Nusa Bali, Indonesia
Gili Island, Indonesia

The Tranquil Neighboring Islands

Bali’s neighbouring islands are ideal for escaping the tourist crowds. Unspoiled and largely untouched, they include Nusa Penida, the largest of the Nusa Islands, accessed by ferry or private speedboat. Most come for the island’s beautiful secluded beaches with pristine sands and crystal-clear water for snorkelling and diving.

While Lombok is just a short boat ride east of Bali, it has a distinct culture of its own, a place where Westerners are still relatively uncommon. Surfers gather in the beach town of Kuta on the south of the island, known for its breathtaking stretches and relaxed atmosphere, a world’s away from the town with the same name in Bali. The north side of the island is especially quiet, a place where you can hike to the summit of Mount Rinjani and view some of the island’s most magnificent waterfalls. From here, you can hop on a ferry to the Gili Islands, three tiny isles with dense jungle and strikingly white sand beaches surrounded by clear turquoise water. Gili Air enjoys the most laid-back atmosphere, a mecca for outdoor activities, including snorkelling and diving among gorgeous coral reefs and all sorts of marine life, including sea turtles.