I rarely travel to the same place twice. This is likely in part because I’m often heading to places that are far enough away that a trip back is challenging to make happen on a recurring basis, but more so, I generally operate with the feeling that there are so many stunning places to visit in the world, that I always want to go somewhere new to see what it brings.
Right now though, I am SO happy I’ve come back to the beautiful way of life that is Bali. There’s something in the air here, like every breath brings with it a new level of peace and gratitude. This time around I’ve come to new places that I didn’t reach last time, and it has changed everything for me in relation to how much I love this country, and now all I want to do is to keep coming back for more.
Uluwatu, you have completely stolen my heart, and Canggu, it was a brief love affair that I’m going to have to revisit and let flourish at a later date.
Honestly, this was a fairly last minute, ill-planned trip if I’m being real about it. I booked, re-booked, made choices, cancellations and switch-overs for different accommodation/areas to explore so many times there came a certain point where I completely lost track of where I was ‘meant’ to be, and when. The two times I changed my flight to stay a little longer also made what was meant to be a very cheap pop-over trip slightly more expensive than I’d hoped, but you know what I’m going to say next right? Worth it.
In the (extended) two weeks I stayed, I was graced with rocky cliffs descending down to stunning beaches, built-in cliff-side beach bars, world-class surf, delicious coffee (since I can actually appreciate this now), met some lovely people, spoiled myself rotten with endless Bingtangs, seafood beach-front dinners and sun-filled lizard lounge afternoons that rolled into party-hardy nights.
The unexpected beauty of this coast was such an amazing discovery, and Suluban was at the top of my list of places I wanted to visit. The photos will never fully capture all there is to the magic here, but you can take my word that it’ll make your heart skip a beat.
- Single Fin is the place to be for a morning coffee while watching dozens of surfers ride the rolling white capped waves, or to get your feel-good on during a ‘Sunday Session’ at their cliff-top, beach-side patio. The party here is epic, to the backdrop of the setting sun, DJ on blast, Bintangs perfectly chilled and lucky for me, the best company which I can now newly appreciate the extent to which it can make (or break) these experiences!
- There are plenty of otherwise kitschy shops with the quintessential Bali buys of Bintang tanks, woven purses, beach towels, t-shirts…the list goes on, nestled into the shops teetering on what feels like the edge of the earth as the ocean crashes below.
- Add to the list above a plethora of Warungs dotted along the cliffs with some very precarious steps to climb to each, but with a front-row seat to ocean views, those world-class surfers showing off their skills and authentic Balinese cuisine you really can’t go wrong.
- Accommodations can be expensive, but I almost always use booking.com to settle into my stays so take your time to find the right fit for you. In Uluwatu, I stayed at G Villa which on arrival made me nervous that I’d been duped by an online profile that was not accurate in reality, but the minute we cruised past the run-down construction site up front, we found ourselves in a stunning, private oasis that I wish I could call home for ever and for always.
PADANG PADANG BEACH
Padang Padang for me, is basically the Kuta of the Bukit. The beach itself isn’t really much to write home about given the far superior and sistering Suluban and Bingin beaches which swept me completely off my feet.
That being said, I found myself here on a cloudy, grey day and it was so eerily beautiful with empty beach beds and a slow, low tide. Of course the moisture in the air kept everything looking so lush that there was a special beauty to being able to spend some time virtually alone here.
ULUWATU as a whole
This list could on foreverrrrrrr. But the idea is simple: rent a scooter, putt-putt around and every turn and bend will bring a new and amazing place to wine, dine, caffeinate or lounge. Personal faves as follows:
- The Mango Tree Cafe – okay this place holds a special place in my heart because it was the first stop on our first night, and there was a trio playing some of the most beautifully harmonized live music I’ve ever heard. I also went back here when my travel partner left and I was once again flying solo, and I met my most favourite people for the rest of the trip, once again to the tune of that same amazing band who played on Thursdays and Saturdays (I think…time is very fluid for me these days).
- The Loft – breakfast, lunch, dinner or just an iced coffee for that matter…The Loft is a local go-to and is best known for breakfast, but from my experience was fantastic at any time of day! Always busy with beautiful spaces to sit inside or out, it’s not a late-night destination, but definitely a dining experience to savour.
- Bukit Cafe – my only regret here was not going back for their Creme Brulee + Coffee special (two of my favourite things!). I came twice for breakfast and/or just coffee to hang out, people watch, read, write or FaceTime family back home. Most places here have solid wifi connections but it’s always great when you find one that you really enjoy spending time at as well to get caught up with the outside world.
- Nalu Bowls Bukit – I was drawn in by the sweet ambience with brightly coloured flowers, white umbrellas and a porch swing, but I stayed for the Maverick bowl! Smoothie Bowls are everything in Bali, so this place has dedicated themselves to providing some of the best of the best. A definite “must-try.”
- Bondi Grill’e – okay, wow. This is was hands-down the best meal I had my entire time here. A splurge, yes. But with steak this good, they can seriously take all my money. Once again with an acoustic set playing us through a delicious dinner and a few new fabulous faces we joined up with to continue the party into the late night – this was one of my favourite evenings of the whole trip.
- Suka Espresso – similar to Bukit Cafe, this one is ALWAYS packed. And rightfully so. An iced-latte and some variation of avo toast for me (obviously), it emulated ‘good vibes only’ and is a great spot to join forces with other travellers given the seats are always full and flipping with new faces and therefore new stories to share.
- One to watch out for – Guapa, obviously Mexican cuisine, was just undergoing it’s soft-opening while we were there but it looked fantastic! Close to G Villa if you’re staying in that area, I heard whispers throughout the city of locals recommending this new gem so I’m adding it here for that sole reason.
I didn’t really know where we were when we set out to find Bingin for the first time, but boy am I ever glad we found our way here (not without one accidental diversion and discovery of Impossible Beach, though).
THIS is where I completely fell in love with this trip. The beach is rocky, the waves are fierce (many people, myself included, got tossed and walked out torn up and bleeding at one point or another), but with the cliff-side bars and restaurants serving up refreshing bevies and the most delicious squid + BBQ seafood I’ve ever had – I couldn’t bring myself to leave…so I extended my stay and booked myself a beach-side villa for a few more days.
I admittedly went to the same places (literally) everyday (if not multiple times daily). But here’s the hit-list:
- Bingin Ombak Warung – this was our first find, and I think because of that quickly became my favourite (although Lucky Fish Lounge next door is a VERY close second AND they played country music…so massive bonus points for the playlist).
- Lucky Fish Lounge – my favourite part (besides the Bintang and seafood pairings) was what seemed to be a bit of a hidden gem on the third floor – a macrame hammock and two hammock swings that were always empty and calling out to me! Whenever I needed reprieve from the sun, this is where I could be found, swaying in the gentle breeze.
- The Sun + Surf Stay – it reminds me of both Greece and Positano, but set amongst the most beautiful Balinese back-drop. I didn’t stay here, but if you can afford it, I would recommend this place in a heartbeat based on their iced latte and location alone (apparently the pizza is also good, haha, bonus). I spent at least a few nights soaking up the sunset from their terrace, such peaceful moments were had here.
- The Cashew Tree – wow – their super food salad was everything I didn’t know I needed after two weeks of aggressive partying haha but with quinoa, pumpkin, tomato, avo, chickpeas, sprouts and everything-good-for-you more, I was one happy panda with my dinner here. An affogato to finish – this was the most delicious dessert I’ve had in a LONG while made with their home-made vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Yumm.
- Accommodation at Romeo Beachfront Bungalow was the perfect, quiet setting for me to seek some solitude, with a simple private villa, and nothing more than a short jaunt down the steps to get to the beach to all my fave places listed above (NB: there is one point of precarious crossing during high-tide so leave the valuables at home if you don’t want them to get wet). Truly, just walk the beach at Bingin – from Sally’s to Kelly’s, take your pick – you can’t go wrong!
This was a last minute addition for me, and I’m SO happy I picked this spot to finish off my unbelievably beautiful time here. If you’re looking to go shopping, or for a bit more of a party – Canggu is for you. I’ll be back because I definitely didn’t get enough time here.
*Update: I’ve since revisited and I’ve rounded a ton of hot-spots for you get acquainted with here.*
I stayed along the main road of Batu Bolong Beach which to me, is exactly where you’d want to be! I was about a 6 minute walk from the beach and all of the amazing bars, restaurants and cafes that go along with it.
The list of places to shop/dine around here could go on for days but given I had limited time, and I was meeting up with friends, I have mostly pool bars and party spots to share between here and Seminyak!
- The Lawn – my personal favourite due to the fact that a) it was right beside my home-stay and b) it was easily the most relaxed vibe of all the places we went to that day, which just suits my style best! Set against the black-sand beach and featuring a swim-up bar, the best choice was to grab a cabana and spend an afternoon lounging away with a few snacks and drinks to bide the time.
- Finns – from The Lawn we cranked up the intensity and went to one of the coolest beach bars I’ve ever been to (noting I don’t typically frequent, haha). BUT I’m pretty sure by any standard, Finns tops the charts. We were lucky to get an epic sunset to mark the end of another amazing day in paradise, enjoying a few more beers in the pool before moving on to Motel Mexicola and La Favela for a little drunken dance-floor debauchery to cap off the evening. Either of these places would also be a great spot to start the night with delicious food and amazing ambience!
- Potato Head – I didn’t actually go here although my friends did, so I feel as though on my list of epic beach bars it must hold a place. They described it as falling somewhere between The Lawn and Finns on the scale of chill to party-party places to be. Also – Old Man’s at Batu Bolong Beach is one I’ll be back for!
- Street Boi – I would also be remiss if I didn’t tell you to go to Seminyak for the bao buns here! Just trust me and go, okay? I had the fried chicken and although I burned my mouth because I couldn’t wait to try it, I will dream of that moment and long for it until next time.The next morning I was in dire need of coffee, nutrition and water, so I set out to find some places to nourish myself before sadly catching my flight back to Perth that afternoon.
- Cafe Organic Garden Gangstas – this was the solution to all of my earthly desires in that moment and I would fully endorse this place, hangover or no hangover.
- Fish Bone Local – since no trip is complete without lunch or dinner comprising of freshly-caught seafood, this was also a must-have before parting ways from my love affair with Canggu.My time was SO limited and I was overwhelmed with wanting to try all of the many places lining the streets to the beach, so I’ll leave you with this blog post of many more gems, and I’ll come back to knock them off myself one day too, care to join? 😉