The best places to stay in Bali – Our island area guide

Find the best places to stay in Bali with our ultimate destination and accommodation guide for this exotic island paradise. Bali is often considered an exotic and adventurous holiday destination. Honeymooners, families, couples and young travellers all have a place on the island, as there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

Being such a large island, it can be difficult picking a place or places to visit during your short 2-3 week holiday as friends and websites recommend different options and there’s mixed messages. The ideal place to stay will depend on both your interests and what you want from your holiday and we’re here to help you choose!

Seminyak

Best places to stay in Bali - Shows Seminyak beach resort

Seminyak is Bali’s hotspot for luxurious beach hotels, fancy restaurants and beach cocktail bars. It’s one of the more expensive places to stay (although still cheap in comparison with Europe) and attracts families, couples and older visitors alike. It has a traditional holiday resort vibe and a good nightlife, but targets a 25 year-old+ crowd away from the lively beach bars and clubs of nearby Kuta. Although luxury is at Seminyak’s heart, there’s still cheap and excellent accommodation available for those with a smaller budget. Seminyak is one of the best places to stay in Bali for luxury holidays!

Why you should stay here:

  • Excellent hotels and facilities for those that like a luxurious holiday. It suits families and couples of all ages.
  • A relaxed resort with a lively but sophisticated nightlife. The sunset cocktail bars on the beach are awesome.
  • A nice beach with surfing options and fewer crowds than nearby Legian Beach.

Our opinion:

Out of the southern beach areas, Seminyak is one of the better places to stay. We liked the quality of the hotels and restaurants, and the value for money versus similar hotels in the Europe. However, there was still a strong tourist vibe to the area and elsewhere in Bali offered a more authentic experience. We’d advise that Seminyak is well worth staying in, but combined with a trip to the cultural inland or east side of Bali. The expense of hotels in Seminyak should also be considered – it’s very pricey compared to elsewhere in Bali, but you will find one-of-a-kind luxury experiences!

Recommended hotels:

Luxury: The Oberoi Bali

Mid-range: Rama Residence Petitenget

Kuta/Legian

Best places to stay in Bali - Shows the main beach in Kuta, Bali

Located within a 20-minute drive of Denpasar Airport, the southern beach area of Kuta and Legian is the lively and touristic centre of the island. The resort has a long beach with waves ideal for beginner level surfing and an assortment of both local and international restaurants and bars. Kuta attracts a lot of Australian holiday seekers and has long been famous for its nightlife. Budget and higher-end accommodation options are plentiful and there are lots of attractions.

Top things to do include Water Bom water park, Beachwalk Shopping Mall, a Turtle release sanctuary and plenty of shopping and dining options. Legian Beach is closely linked to Kuta and hosts a number of more luxurious hotels, but they’re both very similar and within walking distance of the main attractions.

Why you should stay here:

  • If you like a typical beach resort with lots of tourist activities and international bars and restaurants a short walk away, Kuta is ideal.
  • Some of the best nightlife on the island for a younger crowd. SkyGarden Super Club is at the heart of the party strip and often welcomes top international DJ’s.
  • A decent beach with good waves for beginner surfers. The area is also very cheap and offers good hotels at budget prices.

Our opinion:

The things we liked about Kuta and Legian are the nice hotels and nightlife, however the heavy traffic and tourist nature of the area made us want to cut our trip short and move onto the next place. Kuta is great for young travellers wanting to party, however if that’s not your vibe, we’d recommend Seminyak, Canggu or the nearby Nusa island duo for a more relaxed beach experience.

Recommended hotels:

Luxury – Magani Hotel & Spa or HardRock Hotel (for good nightlife)

Budget: The Kana Kuta

Uluwatu

Where to stay in Bali - shows the impressive cliffs of Uluwatu

Uluwatu is the rugged terrain area east of Denpasar Airport, on the Bukit peninsula. It’s known for its towering limestone cliffs and cliff-top Hindu temple and is widely regarded as having some of the best viewpoints in Bali. Dine on a cliff-side looking out at the ocean, choose from some fabulous hotel options or descend to the beaches for powerful waves and advanced level surfing.

Uluwatu’s intriguing landscape and close proximity to the airport makes it an ideal destination for those looking for a nice beach holiday without the heavy tourism of Kuta and Legian. Although it has a cultural heart and some excellent temples, monuments and festivals to admire, Uluwatu has a distinct touch of luxury. Its cliffside hotels are some of the best in the world! It’s also home to the popular Omnia Dayclub, which regularly hosts top international DJ’s and celebrities. Visit Uluwatu for a mix of cultural activites, luxury and excellent views.

Why you should stay here:

  • The number one reason that makes Uluwatu one of the best places to stay in Bali is the stunning views overlooking the bay and out to Nusa Lembongan Island. The limestone cliffs are a must-see!
  • Top cultural attractions include the Uluwatu Temple, Kecak Fire Dance and Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument.
  • There are 5 very fine beaches to choose from, each with a different level of surfing wave difficulty and personalities. Relax with the locals on an undeveloped beach or sip cocktails at sunset in the main tourist beach area.

Our opinion:

Uluwatu has the unusual combination of class and sophistication alongside traditional Balinese culture. You’ll find fire-dancers parading next to fine dining restaurants and the hilltop temples have retained a lot of their heritage. Uluwatu has a rich soul and we highly recommend it, especially considering it’s so close to the airport. Although you can find cheap accommodation, some of the hotels here are more upmarket and designed for luxury living, perfect for a honeymoon!

Recommended hotels:

Luxury: Suarga Padang Padang

Mid-range: Sal Secret Spot

Ubud

Bali destination guide - Shows the terraces of Ubud in Bali

Ubud is one of the most Instagrammed areas on earth! It’s located in the eastern centre of Bali, deep into the jungle and rice fields. The centre of this small town has a long road with many shops, restaurants, bars and cafes and the outer edges offer an authentic step into Balinese culture.

Visit a local school, take a trek amongst luscious green valleys, explore a rice field or coffee plantation or visit the market. The area has an endless amount of adventurous things to do and has an audience of all ages and interests. Due to the popularity of the destination, Ubud can be fairly touristic, although unusually, this didn’t add a negative experience to our time in the town as it still had a lot of character and culture.

Why you should stay here:

  • If you like cultural experiences, adventure activities and day trips, Ubud is the place to be. Unique experiences such as outdoor Yoga and treetop dining are only a small sample of the cool things to do here.
  • The nature of Ubud is beautiful. Luscious green valleys, forests, plantations and rice fields surround the main town. It’s a peaceful place to stay, day and night.
  • In addition to the quirky things to do, Ubud has a number of blissful accommodation options. Relax in an infinity pool over the rice fields, sleep in a hammock with romantic views or rent your very own treehouse.

Our opinion:

We loved the peaceful nature and greenery of Ubud. It was everything we expected Bali to be and one of the highlights of our trip. Days are long and adventurous as there’s so much to do and you’ll meet people from all walks of life. It’s ideal for all budgets and holiday experiences and you can choose to relax in a nice hotel or explore your surroundings. Make this place a must-see on your holiday itinerary!

Recommended hotels:

Luxury: The Kayon Resort or Komaneka at Tanggayuda

Budget: Puri Garden Hotel & Hostel

Canggu

Shows an iconic Balinese temple on a rock stack - Where to stay in Bali

Canggu is the up and coming beach resort area of Bali’s southern shoreline, located slightly west of Seminyak. To the north you’ll find rice paddies and temples, the east has the more popular and established resorts and the beaches to the south are more remote and have powerful waves, perfect for experienced surfers. Canggu is the current hotspot for backpackers looking for a trendy and relatively undiscovered place to stay on Bali’s beaches. Kuta and Legian were originally the beach hot-spots near the airport, but Canggu is the new king of popularity for young travellers.

Canggu is great for those want to visit the beautiful Bali beaches but without the high tourist population of the east. There isn’t as much to do as surrounding resorts but what you will find are nice beaches idea for surfing, lots of pop-up trendy restaurants and cafes and a decent nightlife. The accommodation options are also good, with an assortment of villas and smaller hotels and hostels. However, you won’t find the luxury of Seminyak.

Why you should stay here:

  • A less touristic and busy beach resort, ideal for those that want a good atmosphere and nightlife, but a less intense version than Kuta. Great for young people of all ages and cheaper than surrounding areas.
  • The rice fields, local villages and some excellent temples are very close to Canggu, giving you a sample of both traditional Balinese mainland culture and the relaxing beaches of the island.
  • Similar to Ubud, Canggu has lots of trendy vegan restaurants, healthy snack bars, Yoga classes and quirky travel experiences.

Our opinion:

After previously being in Ubud, our first impression of Canggu was that it had a very similar crowd to the inland Ubud area and a hippie/alternative vibe. In comparison with the further eastern beaches of Kuta and Seminyak, Canggu seemed a lot more traditional and less touristic in nature. Although it didn’t have the mass variety of shops, restaurants, bars and attractions as those resorts, the peaceful nature of the beach resort was refreshing and ideal for relaxation. If you prefer a more ‘off-the-beaten-track beach resort with a trendy vibe, Canggu is one of the best places to stay in Bali.

Recommended hotels:

Luxury: Hotel Tugu

Budget: KTS Balinese Villas

North/north-east Bali

Bali culture, temples and art

The north of Bali is where you’ll find deep jungle terrain and a plethora of rice fields. It’s more mountainous the further north you move and is the location of the island’s mighty Mount Agung volcano. Embark on a challenging early morning trek to the base of the volcano and capture amazing sunsets, explore rice fields and some of the best temples Bali has to offer or enjoy the quieter beaches of the north coastline.

Amlapura is the main place to stay to see the impressive Tirta Gangga, Para Lempuyang and Taman Soekasada temples and to be within a short drive of Mount Agung. This area is very cultural and you won’t find many tourists outside of the temples. That being said, it’s not all temples and jungle – nearby are the fantastic beaches of Candi and Blue Lagoon, which are fairly unknown to the majority of visitors who tend to flock to the south. This beach bay duo has a number of nice hotels, beach activities and scuba diving excursions.

Stay in the far north on the beach strip of Kubu for relaxing beaches, intermediate level surfing and some nice but cheap hotels and beach bungalows. Kubu is also a great place to catch a speed boat to the Gili Islands, which are less than one hour away.

Why you should stay here:

  • The temples of Bali’s North-east are both impressive, interesting and are arguably the best you’ll see on the island. Both historians and those with a casual interest will be impressed.
  • The beaches of the north-east coast and far north are secluded and have less people than the southern beaches. Accommodation is cheap and it’s a great place to relax.
  • Whether you stay inland or on a beach cove or Cliffside, the scenery in the north is superb and all of your photos will feature the towering backdrop of Mount Agung Volcano. This area is perfect for adventurers.

Our opinion:

The northeast is less touristic, with a good mix of cultural temples and secluded beaches! You won’t find the eclectic nightlife of the south; however you will find cute accommodation options, rich local culture and plenty of historic places to visit. The northeast can be quite a drive from the airport (3 – 4 hours) so plan on staying here for a little longer. If you prefer somewhere less rural, stay in Ubud and take a day trip to the north-east temples and Mount Agung.

Recommended hotels:

Luxury: Candi Beach Resort & Spa

Budget: Dive Inn Bali (Kubu)

West Bali (Negara, Gilimanuk, Medewi Beach, Pemuteran)

The best places to stay in Bali - Shows Menjangan Island

West Bali is often overlooked due to its distance from Denpasar Airport and the main tourist areas and is regarded as the gateway to Java. It’s one of the most secluded and least touristic places to stay in Bali, featuring quiet beaches, idyllic diving spots to a rich and colourful National Park. Although you won’t find the buzzing atmosphere and many attractions of the east, western Bali offers a more ‘off-the-beaten-track’ holiday experience and sense of adventure.

The best places to stay in West Bali include Negara, Gilimanuk and Medewi Beach for a quiet and cheaper holiday. Pemuteran in the northwest is also excellent, with a more luxurious beach resort vibe and higher accommodation prices. Wherever you pick, you’ll have access to the beautiful beaches, cheap accommodation and ferry options for visiting Java. The must-see national park is also within a short drive.

Why you should stay here:

  • A peaceful atmosphere with less tourists and lots of places for relaxation. The surfing and diving spots are just as good, if not better, than elsewhere on the island.
  • A great base for exploring East Java and the West Bali National Park, both providing adventurous nature trails and impressive scenery.
  • Prices are generally cheaper than the more popular south-east. You can find some excellent luxury accommodation deals in Pemuteran, although it is a ~4 hour drive from the airport.

Our opinion:

West Bali is one of the only places on the island where you won’t see a heavy tourist population and the many activities associated with it. It’s ideal if you prefer a more authentic Bali experience and aren’t so bothered about having a vast choice of attractions and luxury hotels. It suits those looking for quiet beaches, local culture and access to the less visited areas of Bali.

Recommended West Bali hotels:

Mid-range: Medewi Bay Retreat

Budget: Taruna Homestay

Southeast islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan

Shows Nusa Penida island and a turquoise lagoon
Nusa Penida Bay – courtesy of Georgi Kovachev

If you don’t fancy the tourist centres of Bali’s mainland or want to split your holiday and spend half of it in a more untouched and relaxing area, the trio islands of Nusa Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan are just a short boat ride from Bali’s east coast and perfect for those who like impressive beach coves, boat trips and scuba diving.

In contrast to the lively beaches of Bali, the Nusa islands are a touch of the quiet life. Just you, nature, beautiful beaches and the locals! Nusa Penida is the largest of the islands so we’d recommend staying there, however you should definitely book a boat trip to explore the smaller islands.

Why you should stay here:

  • Nusa Penida is ideal for those wanting a quiet experience, natural beauty and less touristic beaches.
  • The tall cliff-sides, hidden caves and pristine beaches all introduce you to the natural beauty of these islands.
  • You’ll capture plenty cool pictures, particularly at sunset.
  • The main things to do here include beach relaxation, boat tours and excursions of the island, fishing and scuba diving/snorkelling.

Our opinion:

For us, Nusa Penida and the surrounding islands are a must-see, whether you’re staying on the islands for a few days or visiting on a boat trip from mainland Bali. The beaches and coves are better than any you’ll see on the mainland and the less touristic atmosphere is refreshing. We anticipate the area to become a lot more popular in the future so visit now before it changes! Although you won’t find the luxury hotels of Bali, there are plenty of perfectly nice homestays, bungalows and a few resorts. We’d recommend staying to the north of Nusa Penida for a tranquil, remote experience or western Lembongan for a livelier atmosphere.

Recommended hotels:

Luxury – Indiana Kenanga Villas

Budget – Hotel Arsa Santhi Nusa Penida

We may not have included every single destination but the above are the main areas, regarded as the best places to stay in Bali for a varied holiday experience. You can easily travel between destinations in an expensive taxi and all areas of the island are reachable by car.

We recommend picking 2 or 3 places for your trip so you get to see different areas and cultures on the island. If you need more help deciding on a place or have a question, get in touch!


Flying toucan image - World Travel Toucan
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