A Local’s Guide to Bali: Beyond the Tourist Sites

Want to escape the crowded streets of Kuta and tourist hotspots to see a local’s side of the island? We asked our insider Kevin for his local insights.

Photo © Kevin Anda

A year ago I chose to settle in Bali because the island has potential for slow living and daring adventure. From chilling on the beach at sunset drinking a Bintang to chasing the sunrise from a mountain top the next day, here’s how to see Bali beyond the guidebooks.

Getting Around

First of all, there are many ways to roam around the Dewata Island – whether you choose to rent a car with a driver, self-drive a rented car or take a motorbike or scooter.

My method of choice is the scooter – if you choose do to so, be sure you’re covered before hopping on. To navigate, you can always use Google Maps (it's pretty accurate – just download the offline map if you’ve got no data overseas). If you’re not too shy, why not just ask the locals for directions? The Balinese are some of the kindest people on the planet.

Where to Surf

Most travelers come to Bali for the waves, and whether you’re a beginner or an expert, there are plenty of places to find the perfect wave - none more so than Uluwatu.

Uluwatu

Bali’s best surf can be found in an area called the Bukit, better known as Uluwatu, along Bali’s southern coast.

There are two great places for surfing down here, the first is Balangan Beach where you’ll find surfing schools and huts for the surfers. Balangan is a long stretch of white sand, with green seaweed covering the rocks around.

The second option is Suluban Beach, but it’s strictly for advanced surfers. To find the beach, search for its nickname, Blue Point. To get to the sand, follow a relatively narrow path, and swim out to wait for the perfect break.

What makes this area special, is that it’s a great place to enjoy the sunset and you’ve got plenty of cafes and restaurants up top.

Balangan Beach, Bali. Photo credit: Kevin Anda

Where to Go for Adventure

The small island of Bali is packed with adventure. After you’re done with surfing, head inland to find waterfalls, mountains, lakes, local villages and paddy fields.

Waterfalls: Banyumala

On your way to Buleleng regency in the north of Bali, you’ll pass beautiful highlands, many temples, and rural villages.

Banyumala waterfall may be just a short walk from the parking lot, but the sticky climate will leave you sweaty and ready for a dip in the jungle.

Tip: Arrive in the morning to beat the crowds and tourists before the heat of the day.

About 30 minutes from Banyumala, you’ll find Sekumpul waterfall. When you arrive at the stairs, you’ll see a majestic view of the waterfall from above. Before you can take a dip, you’ll have to descend one-hundred steps. Remember: Every step you take down, you’ve got to take back up.

Sekumpul Waterfall, Bali. Photo credit: iStock.com/Kapulya

Mountains: Mt. Batur

Hiking to the top of Mt. Batur in time to see the sunrise is an unforgettable experience. This active volcano sits at 5,633ft (1,717m) above sea level, and should only take you two–three hours to reach the summit.

From the top, you can see Mt. Abang, as well as the most sacred and highest mountain in Bali, 9,944ft (3,031m) Mt. Agung. Check local alerts to be sure there’s no volcanic activity occurring when you plan to walk.

On a clear day, you can also see the neighbor island of Lombok and its majestic mountain, Mt. Rinjani.  

Tip: Avoid hiking in the high season, as the summit can become seriously overcrowded.

Enjoying the views from the top of Mt. Batur. Photo credit: Kevin Anda

Cliffs: Uluwatu

Once you’ve explored Bali’s interior and you’re ready to see the ocean again, make your way to the south coast. Head to Uluwatu temple at sunset to see the famous cultural site, and then ditch the crowds for the lesser-known Karang Boma – a cliff that was once unknown by travelers, but is still less crowded than other spots.

If you go just beyond Uluwatu Temple, you’ll find another cliff that doesn’t even have an official name, yet.

Unnamed cliffs, just after Uluwatu. Photo credit: Kevin Anda

Where to Go for Culture

Bali is just one of the many thousands of islands in Indonesia, and over 80% of the population practices Hinduism. To get an insight into the religious beliefs and practices, here’s where to experience Bali’s culture first-hand.

Lempuyang Temple

If you’re staying in Seminyak, a trip to Lempuyang Temple will take approximately 2.5 hours. It’s best to come early in the morning to witness Mt. Agung perfectly lined up between the main gate of the temple, and watch as the sun lights up the mountain.

Explore the temple grounds by foot – there’s a short path and a long path depending on how much time you have to see the site.

Ubud and Gunung Kawi Temple

Ubud is not only a destination for adventure, but a prime spot for an insight into Balinese culture. From art galleries and traditional markets to the sacred monkey forest, Campuhan hill ridge walk and paddy fields at Tegalalang.

Visit the mesmerizing Gunung Kawi temple, just a 10-15-minute scooter ride from the center of Ubud. This temple is dedicated to the king, and the enormous rock carvings and beautiful gardens will keep you occupied for hours.

Pura Gunung Kawi temple, Ubud. Photo credit: iStock.com/Marius Ltu

Accommodation in Bali

Many travelers are now choosing to stay in the privacy of a bungalow or villa, over luxury hotels and resorts. But where should you start looking?

Hideout Ubud

Located beside the river of Campuhan in Ubud, this bamboo house is a perfect getaway from the busy center of town. Listen for the sounds of cows, frogs, and ducks as you settle into the village life.

Soobali: Atap Putih

Atap Putih is located in the heart of Seminyak, surrounded by eateries and nightlife hotspots. The best part is, this villa is located in a nearby alley, making it perfect to avoid the disturbances of the streets.

The Alchemist Bungalows 

If you’re basing yourself in the Bukit area to go surfing and find the perfect spot to watch the sunset, check out The Alchemist Bungalows. There are six eco-bungalows, complete with a healthy restaurant out the front.

Want to know more about Indonesia? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. With around 17,000 islands to choose from, where are the must visits, and if you have your surfboard, best surf breaks? Hear the tale of a man chased by headhunters, and tips for traveling the world solo.

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3 Comments

  • Tammy Kelts said

    Would be lovely to disappear here and drown in photography

  • Sam said

    Doesn't really seem like any of these suggestions are areas beyond the tourist sights as suggested in the title - the author just says to go early to avoid tourists. Doesn't seem like any part of Bali in untouristed anymore.

  • bill said

    Reads to me the same as Sam, comfy but crowded.

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