For years, Bali was a backpacker’s dream, enticing free spirits with quiet villas and inexpensive yoga classes. Now, the Indonesian island is all grown up and offers a bit more sparkle to go along with its spiritual roots, so you can leave your backpack at home. From Ubud to Seminyak, we’ve got the inside scoop on the best yoga, beaches, surfing, spas, restaurants, and hotels—plus when to go and how to get here.
Yoga Retreats and Classes
Even before Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud served as the Hindu island’s heart for culture and yoga. For a structured program, retreats like upscale OneWorld at Kumara Sakti offer up to 3.5 hours of guided yoga daily, organic meals and excursions. For a la carte classes, choose from an extensive schedule at The Yoga Barn.
Beaches for Lounging and Surfing
Unlike the peaceful rice paddies of the interior, beach towns Seminyak and Legian in the south are both for hanging out and hanging ten. Double Six Beach is home to the Rip Curl School of Surf, where just about anyone can learn to surf—or stand up, at the very least. For an adventurous girl’s only holiday, Surf Goddess Retreat in Seminyak has yoga and surfing lessons on the daily menu.
Spa Treatments: Can’t-Miss Massages
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It’s not unusual to get a spa treatment every day while in Bali. Full-body, 60-minute massages run about $10-$20, while manicures and pedicures are a steal at $5-$10. Balinese massage, a mix of kneading, stretching and reflexology, is compulsory, but don’t miss the Hair Cream Bath, an indulgence for scalp and shoulders.
Where to Eat: Top Restaurants and Bars
Sexy and bright, the W Retreat & Spa opened in March 2011 in Seminyak and has three hot cocktail spots&,dash;Fire, ICE, and Starfish Bloo. Tip: Get there up to an hour before sunset to order a cocktail, snag a prime poolside chaise, and watch the dance show.
Beachfront Ku De Ta is more L.A. than Indonesia. Located in Seminyak, its beachfront daybeds are a popular place to be seen with a creative cocktail.
Where to Stay: Private Villas and Traditional Hotels
Accommodations in Bali run the gamut from simple to swanky. Tip: Hawkers wander the beaches selling jewelry, hats, and sunglasses both day and night, so book a hotel directly on the water for a beach view protected from sales tactics.
For beachfront luxury, The Oberoi, Bali, in Seminyak, has 74 elegant villas and cottages with private views of the famous Bali sunsets. Cultural dance performances run several times per week, wi-fi is included and the service is noticeably perfect. Rates start at $355/night.
The Haven Seminyak-Bali is a hip, modern property with suites, villas, and traditional hotel rooms set alongside a sleek pool area. Just a few blocks from Double Six Beach, The Haven has a restaurant and bar on-site, free WiFi and a shuttle to the beach, starting at around $110/night.
A few minutes from Ubud, Kumara Sakti has 10 intimate rooms terraced into a lush hillside. Two pools, delicious breakfast, complimentary town shuttle, and yoga equipment are available. Rates start at $120/night.
The Fine Print: When to Go & How to Get Here
Bali’s “dry season” is from April to October, with July and August being most popular, so expect to pay a premium for accommodations and be prepared for crowds. The rest of the year’s “wet season” isn’t usually all that rainy except for December and January, though some properties close during the quieter months. The beaches aren’t the most pristine during the wet season, but locals clean the beach every morning.
Direct flights to Bali are available from most Southeast Asia and Oceania hubs. Visitors can purchase visas ($25) on arrival at Denpasar Ngurah Rai airport (DPS), but bring US currency, as they don’t accept anything else. Taxis are readily available and cheap, though many hotels offer free pickup with prior arrangement.
Despite terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005, Bali continues to be one of the safer destinations in the Indonesian archipelago. Travelers should always take basic precautions, wherever they are.
Angie Orth is a location independent globe trekker. Born in Jacksonville, FL, and ultimately landing in Manhattan, she recently left a career in travel PR for adventures on the road. She’s passionate about the Florida Gators, trying everything at least once, and storytelling at www.angieaway.com.
Photo Credits: The Haven Seminyak-Bali Pool, Courtesy The Haven Seminyak-Bali; The Oberoi, Bali Pool and Beach, Courtesy The Oberoi, Bali; The Oberoi Spa, Courtesy The Oberoi, Bali