Insider's guide to Bali


So many people come here to escape the stresses of city life. You may be one of millions planning a trip to Bali, and you’ll probably want to lay on the beach, soak up the sun and sip on coconut water. Yes… you should try fresh coconut water if you’ve never had it.

But Bali is more than just a place to hit the beach. It’s an island shaped by history, spicy seafood and peaceful people. If you’re looking to expand your itinerary, I may be able to help! Having been fortunate enough to have made several trips to my mother’s home growing up, I’ve seen Bali from both touristic and local perspectives, and I love sharing my suggestions.

For people planning a short weekend getaway, consider my top 5 recommendations for making the most out of your time in Bali:

1. Go crazy at Waterbom

Photo By:   Glassdoor

Photo By: Glassdoor

Let your inner child shine at the best waterpark in the world — Waterbom Bali in Kuta! This place is packed with all kinds of water slides, ranging from kid wading pools to panic-worthy drops. With onsite locker rooms, restaurants and pool bars, Waterbom is a place for everyone, from families with young toddlers to couples on a romantic getaway. I remember my first time like it was yesterday — I was twelve and I had just gotten blond highlights for the first time… I felt too cool… Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to go back nearly every time I’ve returned to Bali.

2. Street shop in Kuta

Photo By:  Johan Mouchet via Unsplash

Photo By: Johan Mouchet via Unsplash

Kuta is pretty much Bali’s tourist center. Many beach resort hotels have profited off of the endless crowds, setting up shop along the stretch that is Kuta Beach. Staying in this part of Bali makes it easy to fill your day with several different big-name attractions, including spa sessions and bar hopping. One thing not to miss when you’re in Kuta, however, is a walk through Jalan Legian (Legian Street), where the local small businesses are. Here, you’ll pass through endless street shops and local dining options. If you’re attentive, you may even end up walking away with your own “Bintang Beer” tank top — something you’re bound to see sunburnt Aussies walking around in.

3. Hop on a boat to Lembongan

Photo By:  David Henrichs  via Unsplash

Photo By: David Henrichs via Unsplash

Whether you’re a sucker for water sports or you’re looking to try something new, the off-shore island of Lembongan is worth the boat trip. Head up to Sanur to catch a 30-minute boat ride. Once you alight, choose between several adventures awaiting you, including snorkeling with turtles and manta rays, soaring through the skies on a parasail or diving off of cliffs. One of my favorite experiences at Lembongan was when I did something called the “ocean walk” — essentially where they put a protective but heavy clear-glass helmet on you as you sinking to the bottom of the ocean — it ain’t that deep. The helmet weighs you down so that you can walk, breathe and see underwater as if you were on land. I highly recommend walking alongside marine life at least once!

4. Have dinner at Jimbaran Beach

After a day of bonding with sea creatures, head back to the mainland and have dinner on Jimbaran Beach towards the south. This popular stretch is home to many seafood restaurants — fresh seafood — and you’re bound to find some of the best crabs, lobsters and fish that Southeast Asia has to offer. Have your dinner overlooking the great Indian Ocean. You’re likely to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see as the gentle beachy breeze blows through your slightly sandy toes.

5. Don’t forget to grab a beer

Photo By:  Bhaumik Kaji  via Unsplash

Photo By: Bhaumik Kaji via Unsplash

Last but most definitely not least, do not forget to order Bali’s own beer, Bintang. With a malty-hoppy flavor, this local Pilsner is perfect for keeping you company by the beach, in the pool, or even in your own hotel room. It’s pretty much non-negotiable.

There is always more to see, do and learn…

While this list sums up my ideal three-day Bali vacation, it certainly does not even begin to encompass the island’s magic. Some of my other favorite experiences have been visiting Tanah Lot Temple, watching a traditional Balinese-Hindu Kecak dance, and — something I already touched on but didn’t elaborate on — surfing.

I’d highly recommend staying here for at least a good, slow week. With an abundance of affordable accommodation, food and drinks, Bali welcomes travelers of all pocket sizes on its shores.

Do you have some must-do activities in Bali that you don’t see on this list? Let me know! I’d love to feature your ideas.