Bali has so much to offer from waterfalls and epic beaches to rice terraces and amazing temples. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for rich culture, epic views, and a relaxing getaway. Whether you’re going for one week, two weeks, or three weeks, here’s the ultimate Bali bucket list travel guide.
You don’t have to spend exactly three weeks in Bali to follow our itinerary or experience what it has to offer. You could easily spend less time in each place or stay put longer, but this is what we did with our friends League Travels who have lived there for the last year, so I’d say it’s a pretty good itinerary. Also, it’s a looong flight from the U.S., so I’d definitely suggest having at least 10 days to spend there if you’re going to be flying from the states.
Arrive in Denpasar (Day 1-3):
Arrive at the Denpasar airport and head to Canggu to stay for a day or two. The long flight combined with jet lag is a lot to handle (especially if you’re coming from the United States), so you’ll want to take a day or two to relax. We spent our first two days surfing, hanging out on the beaches, and eating amazing food in Canggu.
Nusa Penida (Day 3-5):
We all agreed that our time in Nusa Penida was our favorite part of the trip. From hiking Kelingking (Dinosaur Head) to swimming with Manta Rays, we packed in just about everything we could do on the island into three days of epic adventures.
What to do:
It takes about 40 minutes to get over to Nusa Penida, and since we wanted to be able to explore as much of the island as possible, we opted to do a three-day tour and stay on the island for two nights. You can do day tours to the island, but most of the boats take you over around 7 a.m and then pick you up to bring you back to Bali around 4 p.m, which doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to explore and enjoy the island. Since we wanted to be able to visit certain places at sunrise and watch sunset on the island, a day tour wasn’t ideal for us. We did a three day tour with Yande (you can contact his team through Facebook) and it cost about $200 USD for both Ryan and I for all three days. That included the driver all day, lunch everyday, entrance fees to temples, beaches, swimming holes, swimming with Mantas, etc. We did the math and it would have cost about the same to do it all ourselves with a motorbike or rental car. The roads aren’t well developed and it’s still a very remote island with poor wifi and data connection, so we decided to go with a private driver to take some of the stress off of us, and we were so glad we did.
Be prepared for a lot of hiking on Nusa Penida, but also some of the most epic views of your life. It is a really hilly island, and our legs were so sore after three days there, but we all agreed that we would do it all again if we could, because every hike is so, so worth it.
Kelingking Beach is probably the most epic view we’ve ever seen in our lives. It’s truly one of those natural miracles that just takes your breath away. We’d seen it so many times on Instagram that we weren’t sure it’d live up to the hype, but it was truly breathtaking and seeing it with our own eyes was 100% worth the trek. If you’re up for an adventure, you can hike down to the beach. It takes about 45 minutes to hike down and another 45 minutes to hike back up. It’s very steep and very dangerous. I definitely would not suggest doing it with young children. Get there early to beat the crowds. We were there around 6 a.m. and had the entire hike down and beach to ourselves for about an hour!
To be totally honest, we didn’t do the hike all the way down to the waterfall, because it was really hot and our legs were so sore, but the blue stairs and the views of blue ocean and green cliffside are absolutely unreal. Bring a sarong, because it’s technically a temple, so your legs need to be covered in order to go down the stairs. They do have some you can borrow at the entrance if you don’t have your own.
This is seriously one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. There are a lot of stairs to get down, so be prepared for a hike, but it has perfectly white sand and a beautiful coast line. It’s a great spot to have a beach day.
Right on the other side of Diamond Beach is Atuh Beach. It’s another beautiful beach and definitely worth checking out if you’re over by Diamond Beach.
Angel’s Billabong is a natural infinity pool in the middle of these beautiful cliff edges. Be careful during high tide as the waves can be pretty aggressive when they come over the edge.
Right next to Angel’s Billabong is broken beach, a beach with an open arch in the middle of a cliff over the ocean. We went there for sunset, and it was absolutely stunning. We watched a pod of dolphins jumping through the waves, and it was honestly one of the most magical nights I can remember.
Tembeling Natural Swimming Hole:
Tembeling Swimming Hole is definitely one of the less popular tourist destinations, but it was one of our favorites! It reminded us a lot of the cenotes in Mexico. Locals take you down to the spot on motorbikes, and it is a pretty dangerous and steep ride, so be prepared to hold on tight. Once you get down there, spend some time cooling off in the natural pools and then exploring around the area to see the stunning beaches.
Swim with Manta Rays:
Right below Broken Beach is home to dozens of Manta Rays. Wake up early and go snorkeling with these absolutely beautiful creatures. There are a lot of jelly fish in the water, so be prepared. They don’t hurt quite like the jelly fish in the Atlantic Ocean, but they do sting and it feels more like tiny pokes.
Awarta Nusa Dua (Day 5-7)
After adventuring around Nusa Penida for 3 days, you will definitely want to slow down and rest. Take a break at the most beautiful hotel, Awarta Nusa Dua, in the most prestigious and luxurious area in Bali. Awarta Resort just won The World’s Best Boutique Hotel in 2018 and World’s Best Culinary Experience, so not only do we highly suggest staying there, but so do some of the most established hotel critics in the world, so it’s definitely worth every penny. Spend a few days just relaxing in your villa, getting a massage, and enjoying the delicious food at Awarta Nusa Dua.
Book your stay at Awarta Nusa Dua here
Gili Islands (Day 7-11)
How to Get there:
It takes about four hours on a fast boat to get to the Gili islands, so if you’re going to make the trek over there, we definitely suggest staying for at least 2-3 nights. We took Patagonia Xpress to get to and from the Gilis. It’s the fastest and most comfortable way to get to the Gilis by far, and since the seas can be pretty rough getting over there, we’d definitely suggest using Patagonia Xpress and not one of the cheaper, smaller boats.
What to do:
We went to both Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T) and Gili Air. We spent two nights on each island. Gili T is known for being more of a “party island,” whereas Gili Air is definitely more quiet. Personally, we liked Gili Air better. It had a very relaxed and laid back feel to it. Plus it’s so small, we felt like we could explore the entire island in just a day. If we were to do it again, we would probably spend three days on Gili Air instead of going between the two islands.
From Gili Air, be sure to take a day trip to swim with sea turtles, go snorkeling, and visit the famous Gili Meno Statues. Also, on Gili Air, there is an outdoor cinema on the beach, so make sure to spend one of your nights there.
Where to Stay:
On Gili Trawangan, we stayed at Kelapa Villas. Rent some bikes from them so you can explore around the island.
We stayed at Captain Coconuts on Gili Air. It had more of a backpacker vibe to it, but it was still very cute and the staff was very friendly and welcoming. And the breakfast was really delicious.
Ubud (Day 11-17)
Ubud was probably our second favorite part of our trip. Ubud has a much more authentic Balinese feel to it than Canggu or Seminyak. It’s a beautiful place with rice terraces, breathtaking jungles, countless Balinese temples, and traditional Balinese culture. We saw several different traditional ceremonies happening through the streets every day that we were there, and it was such a beautiful thing to watch.
What to do:
Spend a Day Exploring Waterfalls:
You can not go to Bali and not explore the waterfalls. We suggest hiring a driver to take you around for the day and just spend one full day chasing waterfalls. We went to Sekumpul, Git Git, and Bayunmala Twin Waterfalls and they were all absolutely breathtaking. Sekumpul was the longest hike, but also our favorite. You might also want to visit Nungnung or Aling Aling Waterfall.
Visit the Handara Gate:
The famous Handara Gate is a great picture spot, so if you have time, be sure to stop there. It’s a little over an hour outside of Ubud closer to Munduk, so if you’re on your way from some of the waterfalls to Ubud, it’s a great place to stop. You do have to pay a little less than $1 USD to take your picture and they only allow each group to shoot for about 10 minutes.
Watch Sunrise at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Water Temple:
The water temple is right down the street from Handara Gate. When we went, the temple wasn’t quite under water like it normally is, but it is still so beautiful and definitely worth a quick visit. It was a foggy day when we were there, but we suggest going at sunrise, because it rises just behind the temple.
Swing on a Bali Swing:
If you’re looking for that epic Bali swing pic, there are a lot of different places you can go. Along the side of the road as you’re driving from Munduk to Ubud, you’ll see various places with swings and “nests” to take pictures in. We went to a swing over the Tegalalang Rice Terraces and it was definitely a fun experience. One of the most famous swings is at Zen Hideaway. All of the swings are pretty expensive though.
Tagalalang Rice Terraces:
Wake up early and get to the rice terraces for sunrise. That way you’ll get to experience them all to yourself, it won’t be quite as hot, and you’ll have the best light for photos. Also, if you get there early enough, you won’t have to pay the entrance fee. The rice terraces are honestly breathtaking and are so unique to Bali that they’re definitely worth a visit.
Ubud Monkey Forest:
You can’t go to Bali without spending some time with the monkeys. The Ubud Monkey Forest is a great place to go if you want to let a monkey crawl on your head. Be careful though, because they’ve been known to steal phones, purses, and other valuable items.
Campuhan Ridge Walk:
Another sunrise adventure while you’re in Ubud should be the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It’s basically a park in the heart of Ubud with lush greenery all around. It’s perfect for an early morning run or stroll where you can relax in nature and get out of the bustle of Ubud.
Where to Stay:
We spent two nights staying at Capung Sebali, and loved it. It has a beautiful mix of contemporary design and Indonesian architecture throughout the property making it very unique. The views from this hotel are absolutely amazing. You wake up looking out into the lush green jungle and it really feels like you’re in your own hideaway. Capung has suites and villas, both of which are absolutely beautiful. The suites have stunning views looking over the infinity pool and the jungle, and the villas are perfect for private, romantic getaways. Be sure to eat at Jungle Fish Restaurant. We loved trying their traditional Balinese meals, but they also offer Asian and Mediterranean items. All of the food we had there was absolutely delicious. Capung Sebali also has a beautiful spa, outdoor gym, and a lounge bar.
Book your stay at Chapung Sebali here
We absolutely loved our time at Kamandalu Ubud. It’s right in the heart of Ubud and the landscape is truly beautiful. The property even has its very own rice terraces. The architecture and all of the villas and accommodations have a very traditional Balinese feel to them, which we loved experiencing. All of the staff is so kind and welcoming that we felt so comfortable and right at home as soon as we walked in. They offer daily morning yoga sessions, a complimentary shuttle to Ubud center, and there are two pools everyone has access to, one of which is an infinity pool. All of the food is absolutely delicious, and if you stay in one of the pool villas, you can experience a floating breakfast, which is absolutely something you should do at least once while you’re in Bali. You should definitely get a traditional Balinese massage in their outdoor spa, because it was by far one of the best massages we’ve ever had in our lives. And you can relax in their hanging swing bed, which is absolutely unreal. Kamandalu is truly a sanctuary in the middle of Ubud.
Book your stay at Kamandalu ubud here
If you’re looking for a quiet, luxurious, romantic getaway in the middle of the jungle, Samsara Ubud is definitely the place to stay. The owner has infused unique Balinese culture into every aspect of the hotel from the traditional tea ceremony to the outdoor movie under the stars. The heated infinity pool literally hangs over the jungle and you can swim right up to the edge and look over at the waterfall. Everyone at the hotel is so friendly and kind and willing to accommodate to your every need. When you check in, they offer a traditional Balinese foot washing along with some of the most delicious welcome treats we’ve ever eaten—ask for the oreo balls. All of the food at Samsara is truly some of the best food we’ve ever eaten. The chef is so talented and has a way with mixing flavors and presenting all of the meals in a way that they truly arrive at your table looking like a work of art. I honestly wish he could make our food for the rest of our life. Samsara Ubud is a breathtaking, peaceful escape in the middle of the jungle.
Book your stay at samsara ubud here
Canggu/Seminyak/Uluwatu (Day 17-21)
What to do:
Go surfing at Old Man’s:
If you’re a beginner or even if you just want some nice easy waves, spend a morning surfing at Old Man’s. You can also hire a surf instructor right there if you don’t feel super comfortable surfing on your own. Bali is known for being one of the best surf spots in the world, so it’s definitely worth trying while you’re there. If you’re more advanced, head to Uluwatu!
Eat at all the delicious places:
The food in Canggu is absolutely delicious. Seriously, we’d go back to Bali just to spend a week eating at all of the delicious restaurants. Our favorites were Peloton Supershop, Kynd Community, and Mad Pops. Check out our What to Eat in Canggu, Bali blog post for a full list of all of our favorite spots in the area!
Watch sunset on the beach every night:
The sunsets in Bali are absolutely unreal. The sky seriously lights up in pink and purple and orange and it really feels like magic.
Rent a scooter:
It’s such a fun way to get around and get to see life in Bali as you drive. It also helps you beat the traffic, but be extra careful and make sure you’re always wearing a helmet, because the last thing you want is for a motorbike accident to ruin your trip.
We didn’t make it to Uluwatu, but we would definitely suggest taking a few days off of either the Gilis or Ubud, so you can spend a few days exploring Uluwatu. The epic cliffs and beaches are absolutely stunning and worth the visit. We’ll absolutely be heading there when we go back.
Bali is such a beautiful island with so much to offer. You could spend months there and still not see it all, but we definitely think spending two to three weeks there is the perfect way to get a taste at what life is like in Bali and really immerse yourself in Balinese culture. Have you been to Bali? Comment below your favorite thing you did in Bali or what you’re most looking forward to doing after reading this post!
What to Pack:
What to Expect:
Best Time of Year to Visit:
We went from the end of October to the middle of November, which meant it was low season, but it was also the beginning of rainy season and it was also still pretty hot. High season is in July and August and during the holidays, so December and beginning of January. Rainy season is from October to April and it can be really wet and rainy for days during this time of year. The best time of year to go is from April to September.
The Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is the local currency. Be sure to have cash on you as a lot of places don’t accept credit cards, especially when you’re hiring drivers. And be sure to let your bank know you’ll be in Indonesia, so your account doesn’t get frozen when you try to pull cash out of the ATM.
How to Get Around:
Rent a scooter or hire a private driver. Taxis are ridiculously expensive and services like Uber are banned in certain parts of Bali and the taxi drivers can be pretty aggressive, so we definitely suggest finding a driver ahead of time and keeping their contact information. The best way to stay in touch with drivers is through the app Whatsapp. We used Deni as our driver. He is so nice and made sure we went to all the best spots at all the right times, and we highly recommend him. You can contact him here: Joy Bali Tours or on Instagram.
The official language in Bali is Indonesian (generally referred to as Bahasa, which means language), but a lot of people speak traditional Balinese as well. Thanks to tourism, a large expat community, and the strong Australian influence, most people speak enough English to be able to communicate with you, especially in the tourism sector.
Bali is very inexpensive. You can get very clean, basic accommodations for about $30 a night. You can even get entire villas with your own pool for less than $100/night. A plate of nasi goreng (fried rice), the traditional local cusine, is only about $2. Even the trendier, health food restaurants are only about $5 to $7 a plate (the meals they offer would be anywhere from $12 to $20 in the U.S.). An hour long taxi ride from the airport costs about $10 and you can get an hour long massage for $6. So, if you’re looking for somewhere where you can experience luxury at a reasonable price, Bali is definitely a great place to experience that.
It is hot in Bali pretty much year round. In January, the coldest month of the year, the average temperature is 79°F, so you’ll mostly just want to pack bathing suits and lightweight summer clothes. It may get chilly when you’re up north in Ubud or if you decide to hike Mount Batur, but you’ll probably still only need a light jacket or sweater.