B for beautiful. A for art and adventure. L for love and legendary. I for inspiration. That’s Bali. All these descriptions are true and representative of this little island in the Indian ocean. But despite these positive adjectives I left with very mixed feelings about Bali. I’m still not sure whether I loved it or if I loved the idea of what it is supposed to represent. Bali caters to many different types of travelers; from backpackers to the really wealthy and everywhere in between. So, if you are looking for adventure or if you simply want to lay by the beach and indulge in daily massages this luxury one-week Bali itinerary for first time visitors offers both options.
Best Places To Stay In Bali
There are many areas to choose from and it all depends on what you are looking for. We wanted to relax and be away from the crowds. So, we opted for a resort in Tabanan which is about 1.5 hours away from Ngurah Rai International Airport and a secluded one in Ubud. The more popular Seminyak area really didn’t speak to me. It reminded me of the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and I just wasn’t feeling the authentic Bali vibe.
Bali Beach Hotel
There is nothing like staying at a beach front five-star hotel with your own private pool and butler service. Soori Bali is a luxury resort in the beautiful Tabanan region set between lush rice terraces and Mount Batukaru. We had direct access to the magnificent black sand beach where we got to enjoy the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The resort is designed to exude a feeling of peace and calmness where guests can truly unwind. Check out my full review of this hotel here.
It is important to note that Bali beach pollution is a real problem and the shores are covered in trash; diapers, bottles, broken glass etc. We saw the worst of it since December to March is known to be the worst due to the seasonal winds and heavy rainfall. It is heartbreaking that such a beautiful place is being destroyed. Turns out Indonesia is one of the world’s worst contributors of plastic pollution into the ocean, they account for 14.2% percent of the global total, according to a study published by Nature Communications.
Bali Jungle Hotel
If you are looking for seclusion and luxury the Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton reserve, is the hotel for you! The resort is only 15 minutes away from Ubud city center by car. It is set in lush vegetation and surrounded by the Ayung river, making it an oasis away from the hustle and bustle. The most notable features of this hotel are the food and the spa, both are top notch. Check out my full review of this hotel here.
Where To Go In Bali
Ubud Monkey Forest
I love monkeys so when I heard about the Ubud Monkey Forest I couldn’t miss out on these mischievous little animals. This is a very popular tourist attraction and where researchers from all over the world have come to study the Balinese long-tailed macaque’s behavior and social interactions. There are three temples within the Ubud Monkey Forest; Pura Dalem, Holy Water Temple and Cremation Temple. It is important to note that tourists cannot enter the temples as they are used as a place of worship by the locals.
You should set aside about 2 hours to fully enjoy the monkey forest. Having these little guys climb all over me and rest their bums on my shoulders or my head while they ate wasn’t an option. But if you are into that, find a member of the Monkey Forest Staff and they will give you bananas. Because for some “doing it for the insta” is more important than hygiene. No thanks.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
The Jatiluwih rice terraces are situated in the middle of Bali at 700 meters above sea level near Gunung Batukaru. The perfectly symmetrical terraces that are carved into the rolling green hills look like a painting. I knew absolutely nothing about where rice came from before our visit to Bali and it was really eye opening to learn how much work goes into making this tiny little grain. The Jatiluwih terraces are considered a cultural landscape on the UNESCO World Heritage list. When I asked if I could go down to get a better picture I was told no. So of course, as a respectful tourist, I obeyed and went on my merry way.
Visit Pura Luhur Batukaru Temple
There is no shortage of temples to visit in Bali and it was imperative that I visit at least one. Pura Luhur Batukaru Temple is a Hindu temple in the Tabanan region near Mount Batukaru. It is one of the nine directional temples on the island making it one of the most important places of worship for Balinese Hindus. The belief is that the nine directional temples protect the island and its people from evil spirits.
Despite being atheist, I respect the Balinese’s devotion to their religion and admire their spirituality. As we drove around I couldn’t help but notice the amount of people making offerings throughout the day. I asked Snoopi if the religious rituals were beginning to disappear with the younger generation and the answer was no.
Visit A Compound – Balinese Traditional House
Part of visiting another country is learning the culture and what better way to do this than to visit a local’s home? Snoopi explained that several generations live inside the compound and when the children get married, the boys stay at the compound with their new wife. The compounds are broken into three quarters; living quarter, eating quarter and a temple to pray. Turns out the Balinese are also a matriarchal society and as Snoopi put it: “The woman is the boss and the man is the leader”. The women are usually the main breadwinners and Snoopi joked that the men have money too but spend it on drinking and cockfighting. *rolls eyes*
We had a choice between visiting the waterfall or Kehen Temple and the hubby chose Tegenungan Waterfall. This is another popular tourist attraction in Bali and worth visiting only if you are going to swim. Would I consider it one of the great things to do in Ubud? No. There were far too many steps to get to the bottom and we really didn’t feel like walking back up, so we admired it from above. I recommend going early to avoid the crowds.
Must Do In Bali
Jamu Making Workshop
Part of our couple’s retreat package at the Mandapa, a Ritz Carlton Reserve was a Jamu making workshop. Jamu is a traditional herbal medicine used to prevent disease and is said to help with health issues. Eri walked us through the entire process and we enjoyed a flavorful spicy hot tea made of all-natural ingredients. The ingredients are sea salt, palm sugar, tamarin paste, turmeric, galangal, ginger, lemon grass and lime.
Drink Kopi Luwak Coffee
Because drinking poop should be on everyone’s bucket list. Said no one, ever. It is said that it’s the most expensive coffee in the world and it undergoes a rather interesting process. The civet cat, a.k.a. Luwak, eats coffee cherries and passes the seeds without fully digesting them. Now, I had no problem with this until I was taken to see the cute little creature. I have a really hard time seeing animals in captivity and I am completely against it. They keep several Luwak’s in a small cage for people to look at after they drink and purchase the coffee. Luwak’s are nocturnal, solitary animals that live in the rain forest and there is absolutely no reason to keep them locked up.
White Water Rafting In Bali
The things we do for love… I have a love hate relationship with bodies of water and rivers aren’t particularly my favorite. The hubby had his heart set on this, so I went with it and ended up enjoying our little adventure! The Mandapa hotel arranged our transportation to Sobek Rafting, a reputable adventure company with very high ratings. We geared up and made our way down to the river, which felt like hundreds of steps, for our safety briefing. The length of the trip is approximately 6 km and lasts about 1 hour; short and sweet.
Spa Treatments Are A Must On Your Bali Itinerary
We indulged in several spa treatments during our stay in Bali, sometimes twice a day. A stand out treatment that I would recommend is the Balinese Padi Massage at the Mandapa Hotel. The treatment consists of hot rice pouches applied to the body along with a soothing massage. I would also recommend booking a Balinese Traditional Healing done by local healers. I am very disappointed that I missed out on this one of a kind experience and wish I had booked it in advance.
Where To Eat In Bali
Kubu Restaurant Bali At Mandapa
We had the best meals at Kubu restaurant in the Mandapa Hotel. I’m going to be honest, dining in Bali is nothing to rave about so if you are looking for quality delicious food, this is the place. We booked the private cocoon overlooking the Ayung River and tried both the à la carte menu and The Gourmet option on the dégustation menu. They also have a vegetarian menu which is quite noteworthy.
Asia's 50 Best Restaurants – No. 21 Locavore
We are on a mission to try all The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. So, why not also tackle Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list while we’re at it?! Locavore is ranked no. 21 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list but I wouldn’t recommend it. The dishes were underwhelming to say the least and the cocktail pairing was disappointing. I don’t know about you but the idea of having fruity drinks with my meal is not appealing. I skipped it as I prefer wine pairings with my meal but unfortunately hey don’t offer this option. Save your money and go to Kubu.
Gong Jatiluwih Restaurant Bali
Stop for a drink and skip the food! The views are spectacular, and the restaurant is charming, but the food was terrible. Gong Jatiluwih Restaurant is a wood fired pizza bar that overlooks the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces which also serves a lunch buffet and an à la carte menu.
I am hoping this Bali itinerary makes your first visit to this little Indonesian island a memorable one.
Have you been to Bali or is this a destination you hope to visit soon? Let me know in the comments!
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