Bali Barong Tours - Home

Click for larger view.Though it's a small island (approximately 2175 square miles), choosing where to stay in Bali isn't simply a matter of beach versus mountains. There's such an incredible diversity between the different areas of Bali, that even selecting a beach takes some consideration. There's no right or wrong; it just depends upon how you want to spend your time.

I always recommend that visitors to Bali divide their time between two, three or even four different areas of the island. Of course, it depends how much time you have to spend and where your interests lie. Money is also a factor, because hotels in some areas of the island cost more than in other areas. Here's a synopsis of Bali's main resort areas, as well as some
off-the-beaten-path options:

Ubud ~ This inland town (it can't be called a village anymore), is the art and cultural center of Bali. Though it can be visited as a day trip from the island's beach resorts, we recommend spending at least a couple nights in Ubud. There are lots of wonderful restaurants, the best shopping in Bali (in my opinion) and it's the most conveninet jump-off point for most sightseeing, cultural experiences and non-beach activities. Hotels in Ubud range from moderate to luxury class, though the area is somewhat lacking in four-star properties. Hotels in the Ubud area that we've featured in the past include Pita Maha and Komaneka Resort. We're currently featuring Amandari.

Kuta ~ The island's first major beach resort area, Kuta is packed with people (mainly young Australians) and the streets are often grid-locked with traffic. If you're looking for nightlife, inexpensive shops and budget hotels, you'll easily find them in Kuta. There's good surfing at Kuta Beach, though many surfers prefer the less crowded area off Ulu Watu, at the southernmost tip of Bali. Kuta is for young people who enjoy crowds, clubbing and finding each other. To me, this is as far from the "real" Bali as you can get. I try to avoid Kuta, but if I have to go there, I always get a headache.

Seminyak & Legian ~ These beaches border Kuta, so there's easy access to Kuta's clubs, restaurants and shops. However, Seminyak and Legian are less hectic and offer more upscale hotels - including Bali's first luxury resort, The Oberoi. Seminyak, in particular, has gained in popularity over the last few years. Seminyak and Legian are good choices if you want to be close to Kuta, while having the option of distancing yourself from its hustle and bustle.

Jimbaran Bay ~ Once a sleepy beach, Jimbaran has taken off in the last few years, with new hotels being built and word getting out that this is the place to stay. The beach is long and lovely, circling the bay. Seafood restaurants sit in the sand. Hotels are high-end (think Four Seasons) and/or convention-oriented (think Intercontinental), so don't plan on finding a bargain here. One of the new properties is Karma Resort, with accommodations in residences complete with kitchens and private pools. The only down side to Jimbaran is the periodic noise from airplanes; the airport is just across the bay.

Nusa Dua & Tanjung Benoa ~ Compared to the areas listed above, Nusa Dua is the least convenient location for almost all sightseeing attractions and cultural activities. For the most part, the hotels in Nusa Dua are large and somewhat generic. You'll find such name brands as Hilton and Sheraton. With the exception of the luxury-class Amanusa, our pick would be the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, which has more of a Balinese flavor than the major brands. However, the hotel beaches at Nusa Dua (again, with the exception of Amanusa), are narrow and usually crowded. One attraction of the area is the golf course, with it's ocean views. And, the hotels offer meeting facilities, making it a good choice for large groups. Tanjung Benoa borders Nusa Dua and is the island's main area for water sports, including the only place where you can find motorized water sports.

Sanur ~ Years ago the two beach areas for tourists were Kuta and Sanur. Period. Kuta got crazy and Sanur stayed about the same. The beach at Sanur isn't as good as, for example, Legian, Seminyak or Jimbaran. But, there hasn't been as much construction as in other parts of the island, so the town is a sort of throwback to ten or fifteen years ago. There's still a variety of shops and restaurants to keep you occupied and Sanur has a loyal following. Hotels range from moderate to deluxe.

Pemuteran & Lovina ~ Located in the north of Bali, these beach areas are much quieter and are off-the-radar of most visitors to the island. Hotels are in the moderate to first class range, with a couple of deluxe options. The narrow, black sand beaches are not the reason to visit this area. Come to the north if you want quiet and/or good snorkeling and diving. The best diving and snorkeling in Bali are at Menjangan Island, just off Pemuteran. From Lovina you can go out, in the early morning hours, to look for dolphins. One of our past featured hotels is Taman Sari, in Pemuteran.

Candidasa ~ This is one of the prettiest beach areas in Bali, because there's a lot of greenery. Some people think it must be similar to what Kuta and Sanur were like before tourists discovered the island. The beaches aren't very good at Candidasa, but if you want to be on the water, in a peaceful setting, it is a lovely area. Most of the hotels are in the moderate to first class range, with the exception of the fabulous, luxury-class Amankila, which has it's own private beach and is one of our very favorite hotels in Bali.

Tulamben & Amed ~ We're not fans of this area, which is dry and comparatively unattractive. In our opinion, the only reason to stay in this area is to dive. The USS Liberty, which was shipwrecked during World War II, is located off Tulamben. It's considered to be one of the easiest wreck dives in the world.

Miscellaneous Inland Areas ~ Many of Bali's best kept secrets are in out-of-the-way inland areas of the island. Most visitors to Bali are reluctant to spend too much time away from the beach. They'll stay in Ubud for awhile and at a beach resort for awhile, but they completely miss some of the island's small gems. Keep in mind that these areas not not for everyone. The one thing they have in common is that they're very quiet. Some of our favorites include..
- Munduk Village: Located is what is arguably the most beautiful part of Bali, this area is ideal for photographers, painters and anyone who enjoys spending a good part of the day just taking in the scenery. Hikers will be in heaven, with the best trekking on the island close at hand. Puri Lumbung, one of the hotels we've featured in the past, is in Munduk village.
- Mountains above Lovina: It's a drive to the beach, but you can see the water from your perch in the hills high above Lovina. The town of Singaraja, and the island's main Buddhist temple, are also a short drive away. Where to stay? There's a serene Balinese-style retreat called Damai, with organic food, spa and charming cottages done up in wood and antiques.
- Sidemen Village: Located in an area of farmlands and rice fields, this area in eastern Bali is second only to the Munduk countryside, in terms of spectacular scenery. The village has hand-woven crafts and the area is good for trekkers. Close to the village are two completely different places to stay. For those on a budget, Subak Tabola is a basic, but comfortable, inn with panoramic views of the local farms and within walking distance of the village. In a small valley below the village, right on a beautiful holy river, is Sacred Mountain Sanctuary with a huge swimming pool, individual villas built out of bamboo and an organic garden.

The above list doesn't cover everything! There are lots of other small mountain areas where those seeking solitude can stay; Karma Resorts is building another residence-style property at Ulu Watu, on a cliff overlooking Bali's southern tip; Canggu (about a half hour drive to Kuta) is where you'll find one of our favorite hotels, Tugu Bali; avid golfers should consider staying at Le Meridien in Tanah Lot, where the golf course hugs the shore. We could go on an on, but you get the idea. Though deciding where to stay in Bali can be confusing, we can guide you to the locales that are perfect for you.

Diane Embree
August 25, 2006

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