Where to Visit in Bali

If you’re planning on joining one of our Indonesia snorkeling safaris you will likely want to consider a stop in Bali. Many of our Indonesian snorkeling tours will start and or stop in Bali, so, as an addition to your tour with us, it’s never a bad idea to tack on a few extra days to recover from the jet lag or enjoy some of the culture, sites, food, and luxurious resorts and villas that Bali is well known for.

Now, if you are doing a bit of searching around on the interweb for where to go and what to see, you’ll no doubt see some locations and activities that are constantly mentioned. For example, “Sunset Excursions with Dolphins in Lovina”, “Escape the Crowds in Ubud”, or “Enjoy a romantic weekend in Kuta”. Unfortunately, algorithms and keywords control most of what we see online anymore so it’s really difficult to know how honest and reliable your search results are when you search fo the “Best places to go in Bali.” Some of the reviews and articles you’ll find will be great, but others might be a bit misleading and assembled solely to drive online traffic. You may be asking yourself, well, how do we know this blog is going to be any different? Well, I’ve lived and worked in Bali since 2013 and I’ve assembled this blog with the sole intent of offering honest advice about where to go and what to see in Bali for someone who’s of a retirement age and looking for a well-rounded trip through Bali. Also, as a Snorkel Venture trip leader who will no doubt meet some of you on tour at some point, I really want to make sure I give the most honest description of each place so I don’t have to bear the wrath of your furry because you’ve been told that “Kuta is a quiet and relaxing place that’s great for a romantic getaway” only to find out it’s a party town for young Australians.

A. Denpasar/Bali Airport (DPS)

D. Uluwatu

G. Ubud

J. Amed

M. Kintamani & Batur Voclano

P. Menjangan

B. Kuta & Kuta Beach

E. Nusa Dua

H. Sidemen

K. Tulamben

N. Munduk

Q. Tana Lot

C. Seminyak

F. Sanur

I. Padangbai

L. Agung Volcano

O. Lovina

 


Traffic in Bali

Traffic is something you should expect to encounter in Bali, especially around the tourist areas. Outside of these areas here is very little traffic, but it does tend to bottleneck around Kuta, Seminyak, Uluwatu, and Ubud. The driving style might also seem a bit crazy at first with the scooter swerving all over the place and your driver driving down the center line, but I promise you there is a method to this madness. Something else to note is that every now and then there will be a ceremony that involves hundreds of people marching down the street which will inevitably impact traffic. It’s just all part of the culture and adventure! You’ll have a private quiet air-conditioned car so all you need to do is look out the window and just take in the scenery.

Beaches in Bali:

There are some very beautiful beaches in Bali, especially around Uluwatu and Nusa Dua. There are a few white sand beaches, there are also some black sand beaches, and some that are mostly made of smooth lava rocks.  Most of the beaches you’ll see in Bali though will have the really beautiful local-style outrigger boats parked right on the shoreline, especially around Sanur and Amed/Tulamben. You can swim from most of them, but just be aware that the bottom is typically sea grass or rock. Please don’t expect the pristine white sand that stretches for miles and miles with nice sandy entrances to the water, it’s a very different kind of beach here.

Snorkeling in Bali:

Despite being in the middle of the coral triangle, Bali is not a great snorkeling destination. It does have some snorkeling around Amed, Tulamben, and Menjangan, but it’s not like anything you’d expect to encounter on any of our Indonesian snorkeling adventures.

Day Tours:

Day tours are a great thing to do when you are in Bali and they can be organized with just a day’s notice. They typically involve 2-4 different stops depending on how long you want them to be and can be tailor-made. There are a lot of different options for day trips depending on where you’re staying, so the best thing to do is get in touch with us to help figure out what the best option for you is.


Denpasar Airport

The Bali/Denpasar Airport is a great big new building that is quite well organized. If you are landing at the same time as a few other flights Immigration queues can be a bit long at times, but there’s free wi-fi in the terminal so it’s not too bad. There is a great airport hotel called the Novotel, which we use a lot for all of our tours starting in Bali or transiting through Bali.

Rooftop bar and restaurant at Novotel Bali Airport

Kuta: 10-20 minutes from the Airport depending on traffic

Kuta is arguably the most popular place in Bali, however, it’s not a place I’d personally recommend visiting. Its beach is great, and perfect for those wanting to learn to surf, however, the Snorkel Venture demographic isn’t—so far as I’ve encountered—the “surfs up” type. It’s very popular with younger Australians who flock here for the same reasons Americans flock to Cabo San Lucas and Cancun…beach, beers, and babes.

Seminyak: 20-30 Minutes from the airport depending on traffic

Seminyak is just north of Kuta and just the northern section of Kuta Beach really. It’s very much the same as Kuta only it attracts a bit more of a mature crowd who are again there to eat, drink, and party. The kids go and party in Kuta and the parents party in Seminyak, basically.

Uluwatu: 30-45 minutes from the airport depending on traffic and your hotel’s location

Uluwatu is basically that whole southern bit of Bali, but most of the hotels and things to do are on the west/southwest side. This is where the famous Uluwatu Temple is and where the kecak dance (pronounced kechack) takes place. Uluwatu has become very popular with the surfers, as well as the influencers. It’s quite trendy and definitely caters to that demographic. Uluwatu is still pretty cool though, the clifftops are stunning as are the beaches. The only thing about the beaches is that they are at the base of the cliffs which require several hundred or so steps down. There are some very nice hotels and villas overlooking the cliffs and ocean with fantastic views of the sunset. The restaurants in the area are pretty amazing also. Depending on where you’re staying it can be walkable, you should expect to take taxis or drivers to most places you intend on going.

Nusa Dua: 30 minutes from the airport depending on traffic

Nusa Dua is where all the big hotels are. It’s very well made up and pretty with walking paths on and off the beach, but really doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of local culture or an authentic Bali feel. Don’t get me wrong, the hotels are amazing as is the white sand beach that pretty much runs the entire coastline which does have a great promenade that runs most of the way, but the experience there is very much about the resort and the beach. This would be a good option if you just want a place to relax before or after a trip for a couple of days. In many ways, it’s the quintessential beach resort holiday location.

Sanur: 30 minutes depending on traffic

Sanur is where I live which automatically makes it the best place in Bali! I kid, I kid. Sanur is a great place though and always one I recommend to guests. It’s not a big party spot and caters to people who still like to have a good time, but also want to be in bed by 10 pm. It’s where mature people come. It has a great beach that features a paved walking path that runs for miles in either direction. There are some fantastic hotels, from the big chains like the Hyatt to smaller boutique hotels that also run along the beach. If you want your own villa with a private pool you can also find that on Air BnB for a very reasonable price. Behind the hotels is the town of Sanur where there’s one main road with sidewalks on either side and is very walkable. Restaurants are plentiful and delicious.

Ubud: 1.5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Ubud is right up there with Kuta as being one of the most popular places in Bali thanks to the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love. It’s the “spiritual capital” of Bali and famous for its rice terraces, monkey forests, yoga and meditation, Balinese art, and at one point was a quiet little village. Ever since that movie though Ubud just grown exponentially and now is a ‘bustling’ town. In the town itself, the traffic can be relentless as there are only two main streets, which are tiny, and one-way. It can take thirty minutes to go a couple of kilometers in high season. Outside of town, it’s much better and you’ll get to enjoy the lush greenery and beautiful views. I don’t want to not recommend Ubud, I just want to make sure expectations are managed. You can easily walk around the town, there are lots of cool shops and restaurants serving great food, and some amazing resorts and hotels, but it’s not the quaint little artsy village it once was. Thanks Julia Roberts! The monkey forest is in the center of town and definitely worth a visit, as are the Tegalalang rice fields 30 minutes outside of town. If you want to do cooking courses or visit some batik shops or studios this is a great place for that.

Sidemen: 2 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Sidemen is one of my most favorite places in Bali. It’s a tiny little Balinese village set on these lush ridges with rice terraces and jungle on either side. Behind it is the mighty Agung volcano which towers over the town. It’s stunning. Fun fact, I got engaged here. There are only two boutique resorts here and a handful of villas for rent. If you want a quiet, authentic Bali vibe, this is the place to go. While there is not a ton of shopping or restaurants to choose from outside the resorts as it’s a real village and not one set up for large-scale tourism, there’s still a lot to do. For those who are keen for some physical activities, you can do a walking tour of the rice fields, climb the Batur Volcano for the sunrise, or go see some waterfalls. For those that just want something relaxing or cultural to do you can partake in a cooking course, enjoy hours of Balinese massages, or take a stroll through the village.

Padang Bai: 1.5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Padang Bai is not worth visiting, basically. It’s a small town with a little beach where all the fast boats depart from for the Gili Islands. It’s just a port town and not particularly pleasant. The only reason I mention it is it does tend to be one of the places listed as a “Place to Visit” on some travel sites, for some reason.

Amed: 3 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Amed is a great little village, or series of villages set along the northeastern coastline of Bali. It’s one of the only places in Bali that you can actually snorkel. The snorkeling isn’t mind-blowing, but there are some spots that have nice coral reefs. Please note that the beaches are mostly made of larger lava rocks and it can be a bit tedious getting in and out of the water. The villages are nice though, small, authentic, and safe. There are plenty of nice places to stay, from boutique resorts to private villas to homestays. There are also some great restaurants in the area as well. You can find anything from authentic local food to really good Italian pizza and pasta.

Tulamben: 3.5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Tulamben is just up the coast from Amed and basically the same. It’s popular for diving as the famous USAT Liberty Wreck is just off its shores. Snorkelers can enjoy the Liberty Wreck, but it can be a bit deep. The stern of the boat sits about fifteen feet deep, but the rest is around 30-60 feet deep. That being said, there are a few nice spots just down from the wreck which can be ok for snorkelers. Again, nothing like what we encounter on our tours, but if you just want to get wet and see some fish and corals this is also a good area. My suggestion would be to stay in Amed as the food and accommodation are better there and then do a day trip up to Tulamben if you are really keen to see the wreck. It’s only about 20 minutes or so up the road.

Agung Volcano

Agung Volcano is such a magical thing to have on this island. On a clear day you can see it from just about anywhere in Bali. You can climb it, but it’s an eight-hour hike one way. I’ve never done it, and will never do it because hiking is hard and I like to do things that are easier. If you are staying in Ubud, Sidemen, or in the Amed/Tulamben area you’ll have an amazing view of it around sunrise and sunset when the clouds are not around it. In the afternoon the clouds collect around its peak.

Kintamani & Batur Volcano: 2.5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Kintamani is a little village on the crest of a giant crater, at its base is a beautiful lake, and from this lake sprouts the Batur Volcano. This is not a place I would recommend staying really, but it can be worth a visit as part of a day trip if you feel like making the trip up there from Ubud or Sidemen, for example. If you do end up staying here I would recommend a place that’s on the ridge and not down by the lake. The area around the lake can be full of flies at certain times of the year and is very unpleasant. If you are a fan of uphill hikes in the wee hours of the morning you can climb the volcano for a view of the sunrise from its peak. It takes anywhere from an hour or two hours depending on your hiking speed. For an able-bodied person in good shape it’s not particularly strenuous, but it is uphill on a rugged path. The view is stunning. I actually did this one! Batur hikes can be organized from Ubud, Sidemen, and Amed and will always include a guide.

Munduk: 3 hours from the airport depending on traffic

This is a place I have yet to visit, but keep meaning to. Everything I’m about to say is from what I’ve gathered online and from what other people have told me who’ve been. I’ve had guests stay here and they loved it. From the sound of it, it’s a bit like Sidemen in that it’s a bit off the beaten track and surrounded by lush beauty. Some of the hotels in the area look stunning, offering panoramic views of the valley below. There are some big lakes in the area as well as waterfalls, and some iconic temples, one of which is the Ulun Danau Bratan temple (30 minutes from munduk) which is one of Bali’s most famous temples. I wouldn’t expect lots of shopping areas or dining excursions outside of the hotels. I believe Muduk is all about enjoying all the natural sites during the day and then relaxing in a comfortable boutique hotel in the afternoons and evenings.

Lovina: 3.5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

Lovina is still one of those places that always comes up in the “Top Ten Places to Visit,” but I’ve never had anyone say anything great about it. It’s far, there’s not a ton to do, and it’s far. The big thing they market with Lovina is the dolphin excursion at sunset, where tons of the local-style boats take guests eager to see a dolphin for the first time and then just chase them around until they bugger off. Basically, don’t go to Lovina.

Menjangan: 5 hours from the airport depending on traffic

This is another place I have yet to visit, but I have heard pretty good things about it. It is an area that does have snorkeling, but again, not anything like what we will experience on any of our Indonesian Snorkeling Safaris. It is far, so before going I would do some proper research into it. I’m not going to say too much about it for fear of misrepresenting the area. I do know there are some nice resorts with stunning views of the Merapi Volcano on Java, which is just across the channel.

Tana Lot: 2 hours from Sanur

Tana Lot is one of the most popular attractions in Bali. It is stunning, especially at sunset. It does get crowded, especially at sunset, but it’s a big area and there’s plenty of space to walk around and take in the sites. If you want to see it you’ll most likely end up doing it as part of a day tour which will stop at some of the other sites and attractions in Bali and this will be the final stop before the driver takes you home. You can make arrangements to see it from just about anywhere in Bali, and obviously, as you get further away from it the travel time to get there increases. I’d recommend doing it from either Sanur or Ubud. From Sanur, it’s about a two-hour drive, and from Ubud, it’s about one and a half hours.

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.