Bali is beautiful to be sure, but we'll always remember the incredibly gracious people and the delicious food!
- More about your oliver guide: Morgan Wood
- Trip type: Adult, Beach, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: At least a week
to & from
Business class to get there is a must if you’re coming from the US. Ours included a 15 hour flight from LA. We’re Delta flyers, so took their Sky Partner, China Airlines via Taiwan (and Jakarta, for business).
Where to Stay
This was our first trip to Asia, let alone Indonesia, so while we wanted to experience the culture, we also wanted to ensure a comfortable stay; so we chose the Four Seasons for their familiarity and level of service. They also have a package where you can split your stay between their beach (Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay) and jungle (Four Seasons Sayan) properties. We also researched and considered staying at Amankila and/or Amandari. The Aman brand also has both a beach and jungle property and they are outstanding, as well as Capella Ubud.
Where to Eat and Drink
The highlight of our trip to Bali – besides the amazingly kind and beautiful people, was the FOOD! I typically don’t rave about hotel food, but our options and choices at both Four Seasons were all fabulous. At Jimbaran Bay, the breakfast at Taman Wantilan was terrific. For drinks and snacks, and live music, Sundara was great. We did venture out in Ubud, just minutes from the FS Sayan, and it was probably one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had.
Room4Dessert – If you are headed to Bali, watch the Netflix episode of Chef’s Table with Will Goldfarb before you go. Then book an evening here. I don’t eat much dessert, but this experience is unbeatable. It consisted of 21 tastings – starting with 7 savory bites, then 7 somewhat sweet and the final 7 very sweet. Many matched with a perfectly paired cocktail sample. I was afraid we’d have to be rolled out of there, but the portions were perfect. Awesome evening!
What to Do
Get a driver! The hotel provided one for our transfer from the beach to the jungle and he was very helpful about what to do/buy and avoid. On the way, we stopped at a batik making spot, a place that sells the (in)famous Luwak Coffee, and a store that sells delicious local chocolates. Our only regret about our quick trip to Bali was that we didn’t get to hike in the mountains or visit one of the cacao fields and chocolate factories. Normally, I do everything I can AWAY from the hotel, but thankfully we signed up for an awesome cooking class at FS Jimbaran Bay (link below) that I highly recommend. In the jungle, we had heard so much about Ubud that we couldn’t wait to wonder the streets in this “village.” We did so, after visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest (right in town) but honestly, it’s very touristy and overrated. And crowded!
Get a driver/guide! The hotel provided one for our transfer from the beach to the jungle and he was so knowledgeable about the history of Bali. (While Indonesia as a whole is almost 90% Muslim, Bali is mostly Hindu). The history is very rich. Our driver also took us to a batik making spot (beautiful gifts!), a place that sells the (in)famous Luwak Coffee (Google it!), and a store that sells delicious local chocolates.
Jala Cooking Academy – Truly a highlight of the trip. Chef Kristya took a group of 6 of us to the fish market, then on a tour of the gardens at the Four Season. We had no idea walking around the property how much of the food we were eating was being grown right there! Our hands on class was a blast, we learned a lot about Balinese food – and it was all delicious!
Primo Chocolate Factory – If you have the time, visit the cacao plantation AND the factory. You’ll love learning about where chocolate comes from, and even make some absolutely fresh bars and treats to take home. Packaged chocolate back home just doesn’t measure up!
There are not a lot of deals to be had in Bali, but there are several things they are known for – if you’re looking for mementos or gifts: batik, silver, spices, chocolate… and that luwak coffee!
Try new foods! I’d never eaten snake fruit or jack fruit – delicious! The influence of so many different cultures means you’ll have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of things you’ve probably never heard of. (My new favorites: Bubur Ayam and Indian Dosa)
Sacred Monkey Forest – If you go with kids, they’ll probably want to visit here. There are monkeys EVERYWHERE. Personally, I didn’t need to stay all that long, since I feel about monkeys like some people feel about clowns. But they were very entertaining. Just hold on to your purse, and don’t wear shiny jewelry!
There are a LOT of touristy spots on Bali. Also, quite a few brand imposters. Make sure you have a knowledgeable guide that steers you clear of these spots.
Tegenungan Waterfall – it’s crowded, dirty and very touristy. You can see better waterfalls by exploring the mountains and jungles in the more northern and western parts of the island.
Ayung River Rafting / transfer between Jimbaran Bay and Sayan Hotel – we almost did this. The Four Seasons has an option when transferring from their beach property to the jungle where you can arrive by river raft. It’s a little misleading. You still have to drive the hour+ to Ubud before getting in the raft. And the “river” is brown and not all that appealing. We’re glad we had a driver and could make some shopping stops on the way.
What to Pack
It’s hot and HUMID so plan accordingly! Light, breathable fabrics and loose shirts/dresses are a must. Bali is pretty casual. I packed very similarly to how I pack for Mexico. However, like many cultures for which their religion is central to their lives, you’ll want to dress modestly if visiting any temples (covered shoulders and knees).