10 things to do in Bali – with bonus saving tips

I was avoiding visiting Bali for decades, because chasing the crowds is just not my cup of tea. However, the island is known for its beautiful nature and is conveniently located near Java, which had been on my bucket list for a while. So, in September 2022 we combined a trip to Bali with the highlights of Java and thanks to the post-pandemic period we got quite lucky. In this post I will share top 10 things to do in Bali with tips and alternatives that will help you save money*. I’ll also write a few travel hacks to help you avoid crowds in popular places.

*I am not saying Bali is expensive, but it is quite annoying that they charge for everything. Amongst other annoying things.

To see the most popular things to do in Bali, check out these Bali tour packages.

1. Visit rice terraces in Ubud

I’ve already seen wonderful green rice fields in Lombok, but Bali edition is quite different. Ubud rice fields are bigger and much more commercial. It seems as if they are there for the tourists, rather than the rice itself. For most of the famous rice fields in Ubud, like Tegalalang rice terrace, you pay a small entrance fee (add 10$ for a swing photo). Ubud rice fields are worth the visit but get there early to avoid the crowds and sunburn. If you want to see them green, visit in March, August or September, before the harvest.

Crowd-free alternative: Turn off the main road and get lost with your scooter – there are many small rice fields in Ubud where you might end up being completely alone. Or get a drink at Carik Terrace Warung and enjoy a fantastic view with a free swing for that Instagram shot.

2. Chasing waterfalls

Like with rice fields, the most famous waterfalls in Bali are usually crowded and again, you need to pay a small entrance fee. People are literally waiting in lines for photos. To avoid the organized “bus crowds” wake up early or try the late afternoon hours when masses leave.

Crowd-free alternative: We visited a very nice waterfall that I accidentally caught on Instagram and wasn’t on each “best waterfalls in Bali” list. We came there just before noon and ended up being completely alone. However, there was a lot of trash at the entrance, so it was apparently more about perfect timing rather than a “hidden gem”.

3. Beach hopping in Uluwatu

I have seen my share of beautiful beaches, but the ones in Bali are amongst them. On the other hand, if you are up for a steep and humid 20–30-minute hike, you can find a very nice beach under the cliffs of Uluwatu. Pantai Nunggalan is mostly known to local surfers, and due to a rather annoying access I bet it never gets crowded. As a free bonus for your hiking effort, you’ll find a very photogenic Nungggalan shipwreck, nestled in the fine yellow-ish sand.

4. Eat local food

I don’t care how this sounds, but if anything, I’ll remember Bali for the delicious food. I fell in love with Indonesian cuisine in Lombok, and luckily Bali was no exception. Street food is very cheap, but you can also eat in the restaurants for a reasonable price, still lower than per European standards. While local Bintang beer is cheap and very good, other alcohol drinks are quite expensive, so don’t count on getting drunk (often) if you are on a budget.

Not-a-cheap alternative: If you want to taste real Balinese dishes in a fancy ambient, try the Kunyit restaurant in Kuta. I cried a little when the plates were empty.

5. Drink world’s most exclusive coffee

World’s most expensive coffee, called Luwak, originates from Indonesia. If you want the real “tourist” experience, you can visit one of the well-known Balinese coffee plantations. We didn’t go there (see alternative below), because we were very happy with Bali cappuccino – it was fantastic, no matter where we had ordered it. I especially liked the one from Nourish Cafe, on the way to Uluwatu.

Cheaper Luwak experience: We bought 200 grams of Luwak coffee in one of the stores as a souvenir for around 15 $. We tried it at home and were not 15 $ impressed.

6. Soak in a Natural Pool

There are many natural pools and springs in Bali, but if you want to avoid the crowds, it will take some hiking again. Pantai Tembeling is a nice and quiet beach full of surprises. It has a natural pool, a natural arch, and lots of picturesque diamond rocks in the sea. The hike can be very long, if you are not confident driving a scooter on a narrow and steep path. But if you are, you’ll park just in front of the stone stairs and you’ll be down in 10 minutes. Wearing flipflops is ok. Bring water, there was no store there at the time of our visit.

7. Visit Ubud Monkey Forest

Being one of the most visited locations in Bali, Ubud Monkey Forest is (surprise!) quite crowded, thus the monkeys are accustomed to people. If you like watching these funny little mammals, you shouldn’t miss a visit to this designated place. The forest is home to over 1000 monkeys, and I do recommend reading the FAQ before you enter.

Free alternative: Stop your scooter near the forest and observe the monkeys wandering the street for free. It’s not that photogenic, but it’s still an experience.

8. Hike Mt. Batur (for sunrise)

If you are wondering why hiking Mt Batur isn’t on top of my 10 things to do in Bali list, here is the dark truth. You cannot hike Mt Batur alone, without a local guide. For experienced hikers like us this is annoying AF for several reasons. First, you pay at least 15 $ PER PERSON to hike Batur, which is beyond ridiculous. Second, you don’t get to hike alone, your shadow guide is always with (or, in our case behind) you. Pain aside, Mt Batur is a very nice and decent hill popular mostly for its sunrise views.

No alternative: There is NONE unless you’re willing to drive around the hill, use GPS, and risk to get lost. Trust me, the place is run by local community that you don’t want to mess with.

9. Visit Nusa Dua

From what I’ve seen Nusa Dua is some kind of Beverly Hills (or more like Venice Beach) of Bali. It’s a very posh area packed (but not overpacked) of hotels, shops, golf courses, and a really nice sandy beach. I wouldn’t stay there because it is located south from Kuta, but it’s worth a visit if you have a day to spare. By the way, staying in Kuta is quite convenient for visiting most of Bali’s famous sights (Tanah Lot temple included), apart from Ubud and Mt Batur, of course.

10. Hop to Nusa Penida

This small island southeast of Bali attracts more and more tourists each year. However, most of them are just visiting for a day, so the trick to avoid the crowds in Nusa Penida is to stay there overnight.  Its top attractions are Kelingking and Diamond beach, which you’ll want to see early in the morning to get the most of your visit. Hence, staying in Nusa Penida for 2 days is a must.

Is Nusa Penida wort the visit? Well, that’s another story, coming up soon. In short, yes, if you have 2-3 days to spare. But if you are limited in time, I’d skip it because it takes too much effort and time to get there.

This sums up my top 10 things to do in Bali list. Visit my Instagram account and check other photos and tips in my Bali highlights. (I’d appreciate a follow if you liked this post). Of course, it doesn’t end there. Bali is full of temples and many other interesting sights, but you’ll find them in any blog or TripAdvisor. I just wanted to show you my favourites and share some crowd-free alternatives. How did I do? Let me know in the comment bellow.



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