From world-famous surf spots to tropical jungles and idyllic beaches, it’s easy to see why Bali is adored by so many. Nestled between hundreds of islands in the Indonesian Archipelago, it’s the only island in Indonesia that still follows Hindu traditions.
Known as ‘The Island of The Gods’, you’ll feel an undeniable spiritual energy flowing throughout the sacred island from the moment you arrive. On top of this, it's a true paradise for a summer break, with gorgeous scenery, beaches, volcanoes, jungles, and dramatic cliffs to explore. A well-established food, nightlife and culture scene perfectly complements these endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.
I won't lie, Bali is no secret paradise destination, and the small island sees hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year. Because of this, tourist traps are to be expected and neighbourhoods like Canggu and Kuta have been heavily influenced by foreign visitors with Instagrammable cafes, trendy bars, and vegan eateries.
However, other areas on the island's north and east coast are still remote, offering a more authentic Balinese vibe. Naturally, where you choose to stay in Bali can greatly impact your overall experience of the island.
No matter why you're visiting Bali, there is a somewhere that will perfectly suit your needs. In this article, you'll get the full low-down on the best areas to stay across Bali.
As the cultural and artistic centre of Bali, Ubud is one of the most developed areas on the island. Located just south of the island's centre, it is undoubtedly the heart and soul of Bali.
While it doesn't border on the ocean, Ubud is set in a dense jungle by the sacred Ayung River. For centuries, it has been recognised as the spiritual centre of Bali, and today features plenty of wellness retreats, yoga shalas and health-food eateries inspired by the spiritual Balinese way of life.
It's also only a short drive to Canggu, Kuta and the Bukit Peninsula, making Ubud the perfect base for taking day trips. Make sure to explore some of the rice terraces and waterfalls in this lush region. Some, like the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, are relatively popular with tourists. However, there are many lesser-known spots where you can enjoy similar vistas without the crowds.
Ubud is also home to the Ubud Palace, a historic structure first built in the early 1600s. Once you've had your dose of culture and history, don't miss out on the Sacred Monkey Forest, where you can walk with hundreds of long-tailed macaque monkeys between overgrown temples.
Stay at the Ubud Padi Villas is a sustainable property with gorgeous views.
Located on the eastern coastline of the island, Sanur is a peaceful beach town with a unique charm. While it has become popular with tourists, compared with other regions, Sanur still has an old Balinese feel to it with local markets and warungs (restaurants) to enjoy without the intense crowds.
You'll find charming cafes, restaurants and authentic boutiques and markets spilling into the streets. After wandering through the town, stroll along the famous beachfront promenade and settle on the beach overlooking the traditional fishing boats. With its gentle seas, Sanur is also a great spot to learn how to dive or enjoy a snorkel with young kids.
Sanur is home to many chain hotels and resorts, typically nestled away from the hustle and bustle on calm stretches of beach. With serene water protected from wind and large swells, these beaches are ideal for young kids and provide the perfect backdrop to a relaxing family escape. Sanur is also the gateway to the Nusa and Komodo Islands.
Stay in this three-bedroom villa at Sanur Residence for maximum privacy with beachfront access.
As Indonesia’s most desirable location, Bali can get overcrowded during high season. Best known for its high-end hotels and lavish resorts, Nusa Dua, is the place to be if you enjoy lounging on day beds, swimming in infinity pools and ordering room service.
With exclusive resorts dotted along the white-sand coastline, Nusa Dua is a hotspot for honeymooners and luxury tourists - with all the opulence but no pretense. It's a laid-back, beach town that offers activities from surfing to hiking to watersports. Spend a morning parasailing or check out the hidden treasures beneath the surface with a diving or snorkelling excursion.
Nusa Dua also offers some of the most picturesque scenery on the islands, with dramatic limestone cliffs dropping into crystal-clear waters. If you're an avid art fan, spend an afternoon at the Museum Pasifika, which is home to historical artifacts from across the world.
The top hotels here offer all-inclusive packages, many designed for honeymooners. Stay at the Apurva Kempinski Bali, a crowd favourite with a temple-inspired exterior. Otherwise, there are also some mid-range hotels or villas to rent, such as Alindra Villas.
If you're here for the food, Canggu is home to some of the Bali’s trendiest restaurants and cafes. You won't have to wander too far along the main road, Batu Bolong, before you stumble across a palm-tree-shaded cafe. With a considerable expat population, Canggu is particularly famous for its plant-based eateries.
Home to a vibrant community of digital nomads, surfers and yogis, you'll also find great bars, nightclubs and beach clubs in Canggu. The beaches here are unique yet charming, with dark sand and wild waves. If local cuisine is more your style, there are plenty of authentic warungs lining the famous Echo Beach.
Once a sleepy surfer town surrounded by rice terraces, you can still get a sense of old Bali when you venture a bit inland. Order an overflowing smoothie bowl at Crate Cafe overlooking the rice fields before spending an afternoon lounging at The Lawn, a trendy bar that serves tasty snacks and picture-perfect cocktails on the beach.
Once you're well-relaxed, head to Finns Beach Club to continue the festivities. La Brisa Bali is another beach bar located right on the main surf point at Echo Beach for those interested in watching the surf.
Bali is a known surfing haven, with world-class waves made even more spectacular by warm tropical water and exquisite views. Uluwatu is a left-hand reef that offers consistent waves under a veil of a dramatic cliff.
That being said, the crowds can be ruthless in these parts, and Ulu’s, Bingin and Padang Padang are typically reserved for advanced surfers. If you're new to the sport, you can take a leisurely drive to Dreamland to rent a board for the day.
Uluwatu isn't just great for surfers; it's also the top destination for gorgeous sea views. Perched atop a dramatic cliff at the bottom of the Bukit Peninsula, this is the best place on the island to catch the sunset over the sea.
Make sure you schedule a visit to Pura Uluwatu, an ancient Hindu temple perched on the edge of the cliffs. Venture down the steep stairs to one of the small beaches to catch some sun before enjoying a sunset drink at Single Fin bar overlooking the surfers. There are also several casual warungs and bars along the famous Uluwatu cliff, making up a near vertical ‘street’ strung together by bridges.
Stay at Sannyas Boutique Hotel just a five-minute walk from the beach.
Kuta and Legian are two areas located adjacent to one another on the west coast of Bali. They're a quick drive from the international airport in Denpasar and are centrally located between Uluwatu and Canggu.
Affordable areas usually come with a catch, and the catch here is that Kuta and Legian are Bali’s most touristic destinations (especially during Australian vacations). Kuta was actually the first part of Bali to become popular with tourists, so it's as developed as it gets here.
Aside from a wild nightlife scene, many young travellers stay here to be close to the shopping centres, beaches and a wide range of restaurants.
Alternatively, experience a more traditional side of Bali in the up-and-coming area of Legian. Here, you can enjoy a classy brunch at a cafe before exploring the local markets and family-run warungs. Legian is slightly higher priced than Kuta and has more luxury hotels and boutique villas on the rental market.
Stay at the Amnaya Resort Kuta if you want to be in the hub of it all.
For a bit of peace and quiet, head to the idyllic fishing village of Pemuteran on the north coast of Bali. Few tourists venture to this part of the island, leaving the town uncrowded and buzzing with tradition and culture.
This coastal paradise offers some of the best diving and snorkelling on the island. Since there is no public transport, a drive from Denpasar to Pemuteran will take about four hours.
Pemuteran still feels like an authentic Balinese village and is one of the best places to enjoy the Island of the Gods like a local. Most of the restaurants in the area are family-run warungs with outdoor seating, serving locally caught seafood and traditional Indonesian food.
Most people visit for the clear waters and perfect diving conditions, so don't miss out on a diving course while in town. There are plenty of places to get certified here. Once you've perfected your diving, make sure you pay a visit to the West Bali National Park, where you can find hundreds of different species of wildlife.
Stay at the Sun Suko Boutique Retreat for a revitalising Balinese experience.
Planning a trip to Bali? Read our overview of travel costs in Bali.
Last Updated 23 August 2022