Although hordes of Australian tourists visit Bali every year, most never make it beyond the stretch between the southern beaches and Ubud. While this crescent of the island is a great place to start, there’s plenty more to see both inland and around the coast. Here are some of our top places to stay, whether you want to go with the flow or strike out slightly off the tourist trail.
On arrival, guests at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri are invited to strike a wooden bell three times for good fortune. And it works like a charm – although the voice in your head asking “how did I get so lucky?” may just have something to do with the serene beachside setting with palm trees swaying overhead, pink and white frangipani blooms punctuating the blue sky and lush lawn underfoot. Unlike the well-trodden tourist tracks along Bali’s southern coast, Jimbaran is fairly quiet, so once you’ve checked in, all you have to do is chill out. With no shopping strips or glitzy cafes to lure you out, your biggest decision of the day is probably whether to park yourself by the L-shaped pool or lie back on the sun lounges that line the sand and listen to the waves. Of course all that relaxing means you’ll need to refuel at some stage – not that you need to leave your daybed, as the Puri Bar offers poolside meals and drinks. But for something more substantial, wander a few steps away from the water and take a seat overlooking the beach at the Nelayan Restaurant, where the menu includes the fresh fish and seafood for which Jimbaran is renowned, along with plenty of other mouthwatering options (foodies can book a morning tour to the fish market and find out how to cook the catch of the day – just one of the activities available at the Belmond). Also offering ocean views is the hotel’s beach spa, where treatments are given under traditional open-air terraces known as bales. If you weren’t already in holiday mode, an afternoon massage or spa treatment will soon melt your cares away, just in time for a stroll along the sand or to enjoy a cocktail as you watch the spectacular sunset.
Stay at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri if: you need to recharge your batteries in a soothing beachside setting. Couples and those seeking solitude (with a concierge on call) will love the Deluxe Pool Villas which include a private pool in a lush garden setting with bales and daybeds – plus high-tech comforts in the separate bedroom and living areas.
With new bars, cafes, restaurants and boutiques opening what seems to be every five minutes in Seminyak, does anyone even have time to go to the beach? There’s far too much happening to just lie on the sand, and for those who want to be in the middle of the action, IZE is in pole position. Styled as an urban pad for young jetsetters, the hotel is conveniently located just steps from boutiques including Maidenlove and Shakuhachi, making it easy to shop up a storm, come back to your Seminyak home-away-from-home to drop off your haul, catch your breath (and check your credit card rating!) and head out to do it all over again. Get your second wind as you explore eateries such as modern Asian favourite Ginger Moon, or Earth Café, where wellness fans can get their fix of vegetarian and vegan fare, stock up on healthy snacks and local skincare brands and find out about yoga classes and courses. While it’s easy to be on the go all day in such a buzzing location, the hotel also caters for those who want to wind down on-site, whether via a dip in the rooftop pool or while admiring the views with a drink from the bar just a few steps away (if getting dressed to go back out to eat seems like too much hard work, you can even order food to be sent up from the Meja restaurant downstairs and enjoy your meal on the pool terrace). And if you’re a whisky fan, this is definitely the hotel for you, with the unique Single Malt bar on the first floor offering a classy venue to sample the wares from famous distilleries worldwide.
Stay at IZE Seminyak if: you’re ready to shop ’til you drop, sample Seminyak’s renowned international cuisine and kick back after all your adventures in slick urban style.
Dreaming of lying by the pool but itching to climb a mountain too? Wishing you could swim with sea creatures underwater but don’t want to miss out on the sights at ground level either? For those travellers who crave choice on their holidays, Villa Sasoon may just be the answer. Conveniently located between the main road and the beach, the villas are a great base for exploring Candidasa and beyond. The days here start with breakfast cooked in your own villa kitchen, and enjoyed alfresco on the terrace. What to do next? Well, water activities are practically on your doorstep, with snorkelling and diving tours to see marine life, shipwrecks and coral reefs on offer as well as outrigger canoe trips with local fishermen to see what’s biting. Not far away, the scenic Tirta Gangga Water Palace is small but delightful and presents a chance to swim in former royal pleasure gardens, while further afield but within easy reach by car are the peaks of volcanoes (mounts Agung and Batur) and shimmering stretches of lakes. Bali’s cultural heart, Ubud, is about an hour’s drive inland, but if it’s handicrafts and souvenirs you’re after, the nearby village of Tenganan has everything from textiles such as the complex double ikat pieces to engraved wooden articles and more. Candidasa itself is home to reasonably priced souvenir shops along with a variety of restaurants (seafood’s a specialty) but you may prefer to relax by the pool at your villa with dinner cooked by your chef on call. And it would be a shame not to make use of the vast living area – with its big flat screen TV, it’s the ideal place to indulge in binge watching your favourite series.
(West Bali National Park)
Within a few hours’ drive and yet a world away from the heavily touristed southern beaches of Kuta and Legian, Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park) is a must for nature lovers. At around 190 square kilometres and with landscapes ranging from mangrove swamps to tropical savannah and arid plains reminiscent of Africa, there are endless possibilities for exploring and catching glimpses of wildlife such as deer, monkeys, woodpeckers and squirrels – and that’s just on land. The conservation area includes Menjangan Island which is surrounded by a coral reef, making it the perfect diving and snorkelling daytrip. But just because you’re a wildlife fan doesn’t mean you want to rough it, and that’s where The Menjangan comes in. The 382-hectare resort within the national park offers luxury accommodation with spectacular and varied views – from the beachside restaurant and villas guests can look out over the water and the mangroves, while those staying in the Monsoon Lodge get a private pool in a tropical setting and diners at the Bali Tower Resto in the reception area enjoy treetop and mountain vistas akin to those seen on an African safari. It’s an ideal place to stay a few days for a different Bali experience – or drop in during a day trip for a long lunch amid the stunning scenery.
Stay at The Menjangan if: you’re up for an active holiday with hiking, horseriding and water activities – or just want to enjoy the beauty of nature away from the crowds in a luxury setting. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy san diego whale watching season. Don’t end up in the wrong spot when it’s time to go. Be aware that while many of them depart from the waterfront downtown, others do not.