We had a great time for our month in Bali, and covered a lot of ground. After researching neighborhoods searching for the perfect family friendly trip to Bali, we decided to try a few places one week at a time rather than our usual strategy of sticking to one location for the full month. One post that was particularly helpful was this one on Velondo.com.
The Bali section of our trip was a little different from our other destinations so far because we were meeting my Dad and Step Mom there, so budget for accommodation was higher (around $120-150/night for all of us).
Here’s a quick summary of where we went and what we found at each place.
Sanur: Luxury Resort Life
We chose Sanur as a bit of a buffer between the airport and the main Bali trip. We stayed at the Swiss Belle resort, which definitely felt like a luxurious resort (according to our standards). We mainly stayed inside the resort, venturing out now and then to check out the beach and grab dinner. It was very relaxing, and reasonably close to the airport, which made it a perfect first destination.
Many people would opt for Kuta, as it’s also near the airport and probably the most well known and talked about area, but my sense was that Kuta was more of a destination for “Aussies gone wild” than a relaxing family destination, so we took a pass.
Nusa Lambongan: Friendly Island Village
We spent 5 days out on Nusa Lambongan, which was about a 30min boat ride south east. You can drive the island on a scooter in under an hour. It has lots of restaurants but not much else. We stayed in Dream Bungalows, which was right next to Dream Beach. There were 5 bungalows on the property, but we were the only ones there. The staff (usually just one young kid and a cook) were very friendly. The pool was small, and because it’s so hot outside, the pool was almost like a hot tub. Perfect for floating on your back looking at the stars in the evening!
The beaches on Nusa were very picturesque. There are rocky cliffs and sandy bays. Lots of colorful fish to look at when snorkeling too.
Gili Air: Hippie Island
This is an very tiny island (you can walk around it in about an hour). However, there are more facilities here than on Lambongan. There is a grocery store, for example. Rae had her birthday here, and miraculously we were able to find a good stash of toys for presents on the island and even got a birthday cake with a Ninja Turtle drawn on it as she requested.
Gili Air seems to be where the hippie backpackers go. Nearly every other restaurant is dedicated to Bob Marley, and some people look like they’ve been on the island for 100 years. There are no vehicles on the island; instead they have ponies pulling carts.
The island definitely fits the “tropical paradise” description, and I can see how a certain type of person may get lost there for years. I was happy with the 3 days there though, and the only reason I may want to go back one day is to try again to find some sea turtles (My Dad and I were out there regularly searching for them, but were unsuccessful).
We stayed at Ocean 5, which wasn’t bad but probably not our favorite accommodation.
Ubud: Jungle Movie Set
If we were to go back, we’d definitely go straight to Ubud and set up shop there for our entire stay. We fell so much in love with Ubud that the the only way we could bare leaving was by telling ourselves that we will return very soon.
For the first week in Ubud, when the accommodation budget was still at “parental levels,” we stayed at Kaku Villa. It was a little villa just outside Ubud that had two floors, two bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a full kitchen and living room. It was fairly new, and of course had a private swimming pool. A team of 3 people came and prepared breakfast for us every morning. It was definitely a life we could get used to.
After Kaku, we moved to more humble accommodations in the town at Swan Inn. It was still pretty nice though, and had an amazing garden/pool view from the balcony.
In Bali, everywhere you look seems like it could be a setting of a fantasy movie. Ubud would be Tarzan or something like that. There are waterfalls and old mossy stone statues, beautiful bridges crossing tropical canyons, and monkeys running around everywhere.
You also eat like a movie star. There are about 100 zillion restaurants all serving a variety of western, local, and international food, all with their own unique setting within nature, and all for about 5-10$/plate. That’s about the same as we’d normally pay in other countries in Southeast Asia, except in other countries we’d be sitting on plastic chairs and eating food that, while delicious, wouldn’t win any presentation awards. In Bali, and Ubud especially, we got the kind of meals we’d expect from a 50-100$/plate restaurant back home, and in settings that were sometimes mind blowing.
From Ubud we were able to venture off quite easily into other areas of the Island. We hired a car and driver 3 times for about 40$/day. In the north we visited mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. We went to a number of temples. And south to Kuta for a few hours. But my favorite was definitely the hot springs. We went to Tabanan hot springs, which I think is one of the lesser known ones, but very beautiful and very relaxing.
We’ll definitely return to Bali one day, hopefully soon. When we do, we’ll set up shop in Ubud and probably take day trips regularly to visit more hot springs and try to make it up to the North coast to see the dolphins and other attractions up there that we missed on this trip.