Bali is a surprisingly large island and as such, it can be perplexing to decide where to stay. Opposite ends of the island are as different as could be. If you are trying to ascertain the best town in Bali for you/your family, it’s important to understand what makes each area great.
What are the best places to stay in Bali?
I personally believe the best part of Bali is located in Ubud (central Bali). However, I also understand the concept of ‘different strokes for different folks’. Other great communities in Bali include Kuta, Canggu, Uluwatu, Sanur, and Nusa Penida.
Where should you stay in Bali? If you’re a partier, Kuta and Canggu are your best bets. If you want to pursue a spiritual journey that is in line with ‘Eat Pray Love’, then Ubud is the best spot for you. Those who wish to dive should stay in Sanur. We will expand on each of these communities in detail in the paragraphs below.
Ubud is unlike any other place in the world. Bali is often regarded as the ‘Island of the Gods’ and Ubud is widely considered to be the most spiritual place in all of Bali. If yoga, meditation, and eating healthy food are essential parts of your dream vacation, then look no further.
Many of the best tourist attractions are located in Ubud, too. From the rice terraces to the Ubud monkey forest, there is no shortage of interesting and exciting things to do. The monkeys could best be described as little menaces, but it’s quite an adventure. Last time I visited, the monkeys opened my backpack and took out a blister pack of acetaminophen, then proceeded to eat a pill. Not a joke.
The scenery and landscape of Ubud are considered very rare. Imagine rice fields for as far as the eye can see. In the background, there are hundreds of palm trees that line the edges of these rice fields. I’ve seen palm trees and I’ve seen rice fields, but never together in a setting like this.
Ubud may very well be the health food capital of the world. Around every corner are vegan restaurants that specialize in tempeh and soy alternatives. I have never met a single person who gained weight while in Ubud. There are lots of vegetarian warungs, as well. Warung is the Balinese word for ‘small kitchen’.
As a spiritual tourist destination, one can find almost a hundred yoga studios. A tourist favorite named Pyramids of Chi hosts a weekly event called ‘sound baths’. The idea is that you lay down and various bells, chimes, and gongs will help you enter a trance. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s worth exploring if you’re interested.
There are quite a few spiritual hustlers that visit the area. Western travelers that describe themselves as ‘vision healers’ and ‘alternative medicine gurus’ try to make a living here. Some succeed, but if you’re into this sort of stuff, I recommend avoiding the white guy with dreads and advocate that you visit a local Balinese healer, instead. After all, you’re visiting their home.
Kuta is widely known for being the tourist area of Bali. Kuta beach is lined with resorts, luxury malls, and strip centers that are home to a variety of Western food establishments. If you want to relax at the beach and have someone serve you a Mai Tai, this is the place for you. If you’re in search of authenticity and culture, head elsewhere in Bali.
That’s not to knock on Kuta. The area has grown quite organically over the past 30 years. It’s a hotspot for those who like to surf. Unfortunately, the area has grown so popular that high-end resorts have priced out the locals who lived in the town. On the other hand, it’s brought a lot of business opportunities for the surrounding area.
Kuta is great for those who want a romantic and luxurious experience. It’s located in a spot that is equidistant from Uluwatu, Canggu, Sanur, and Ubud. If you want a charming home base that puts you in an accessible spot to all the best tourist attractions, Kuta is a great town. Families and retirees normally stay in Kuta.
Websites that cater to digital nomads frequently tout Canggu as the international capital for those who work remotely. As someone who has done this in Canggu, I concur. It’s a perfect balance between work and play. You can find coffee shops with fantastic wifi around every corner and you can find bars with fantastic drink deals around every corner, too. Sometimes they are the same establishment.
Canggu is an ideal destination for those who want to learn how to surf. The waves in Canggu are perfect for beginners. Board rental shops line the beach and offer cheap rentals ($3-4 per day) and affordable lessons ($20).
Old Man’s is the most famous bar in Canggu (maybe in all of Bali). This establishment is open late at night so when the other bars close, everyone heads to Old Man’s. They also have great food. I also recommend Pretty Poison – a skatepark that doubles as a hipster bar.
The most unique bar in Canggu is actually a speakeasy located in a mini-mart. I won’t tell you the location (in this article, at least) as unveiling the location of a speakeasy is a great way to ruin one’s karma. However, a helpful hint is that it’s the little cousin of ‘Black Panther’. When you enter the mini-mart, open the fridge in the back. It opens into a charming, hidden bar.
Canggu is perfect for 20-30-year-olds who are looking to party, eat great food and relax on the beach. The best restaurants in Canggu include Dapur Kitchen, Lifescrate, and Warung Dandelion.
Uluwatu is a great destination for those who want an isolated resort experience. The jaw-dropping cliffs of Uluwatu are an incredible sight. Surfers who brave these waves must know what they’re doing – otherwise, they risk serious injury. Uluwatu is a high-end part of Bali.
Popular attractions in this area include Waterblow, the Orchid Tea Lounge, Rock Bar, and Omnia Bali. Omnia Bali is a pool/concert venue/restaurant located on the edge of a cliff. It’s certainly not for those on a budget, but the sights are well worth the hefty price tag.
As Bali is such a large island, those who wish to dive or kitesurf should really stay in Sanur. Otherwise, you’ll be traveling an hour each way every day. Traffic around Sanur and Denpasar can get quite extreme during rush hour. Avoid the traffic jams by staying a hop and skip away from the diving departure points.
Bali is home to world-class diving. Many tourists choose to earn their PADI license while vacationing in Bali. Sanur is located in a spot that makes these diving locations easily accessible. After a long day of scuba diving, you can be back in your bed in just 15 minutes. What’s not to love?
Nusa Penida hasn’t built out a robust infrastructure to accommodate those who want a posh experience. Visit Nusa Penida if you want raw, beautiful, untouched natural beauty. From Broken Beach to a beachside cliff that closely resembles a T-Rex, Nusa Penida is one of the most gorgeous places in the entire world.
You can rent a scooter on the island and drive without worrying about the infamous Bali traffic. You can hop on a boat and dive alongside giant manta rays. You can relax at the beach all day. When one thinks of Bali’s beachside beauty, they are conjuring up images of Nusa Penida.
Accommodations aren’t abundant here. If you know where to look, you can find some great spots, though.
All in all, Bali is an incredible place. There are no bad choices regarding where to stay. Just make sure you leave the hotel room and experience the different towns for yourself!
Which is the best area to stay in Bali?
The best area to stay in Bali is Ubud. It represents the best balance between culture, food, tourist attractions, and natural beauty. However, those after a beach vacation should look into Kuta or Canggu. If you are a digital nomad, Canggu is the best part of Bali to call home.
Where do families stay in Bali?
Most families stay in Kuta as there is an abundance of resorts and family-friendly restaurants located there. If you visit Canggu, you’ll probably enter a party scene slight inappropriate for children. Other areas of Bali offer fewer Western restaurants that cater to picky eaters.