Before going to Bali I had the impression that the island was small. I was very wrong. Bali has 5,780 km2 and a population of 4,225,000 million according to the 2014 census. Panama has 75,417 km2 and an estimated population of 4 million, so Bali has more inhabitants although it is smaller. And believe me, you can feel it. The narrow streets are full of thousands and thousands of motorcycles.
The traffic problem is quite severe in Bali and is due to poor road infrastructure. There is only a 12-kilometer highway that goes over the water that was built in 2013. Luckily it connects the capital Denpasar with the south of Kuta, Nusa Dua and the Ngurah Rai International Airport. Before this highway, the traffic to the airport was even worse.
Taking this into account, you should plan your vacation to Bali and decide where you want to stay. This decision really depends on how many days you have to visit the island and what activities you would like to do. For stays of 5 days or more, it is worth staying in several places to live the different styles of the island.
For me the perfect combination is Seminyak + Ubud
Look at the map of Bali to understand the distances and locations
Nusa Dua is the ideal place for resort lovers. The style reminded me a bit of Punta Cana where everything was perfectly created. Large boulevards with gardens full of rows of palm trees and other tropical flowers that take you to your five-star resort. Here you will find the big hotel chains with international recognition.
The beach of Nusa Dua is very beautiful with white sand, perfect for bathing. You can play golf at the Bali National Golf Club. If you want complete relaxation, go to the resort’s spa to be spoiled. Children can spend hours of entertainment in the kids club or bathe in the pool and beach.
This area is quite close to the airport but because of its own isolation, tourist will miss many of the autochthonous experiences of Bali.
Melia Bali Resort Nusa Dua: the renowned Spanish hotel chain has a beachfront resort. An started renovation shows signs of past styles with modern touches and comfortable rooms. A swimming pool passes right in front of a large part of the rooms while a larger one faces the beach.
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua Bali: we had lunch at this hotel and the food was delicious. They have a restaurant facing the sea that serves typical Indonesian food, as well as other options such as pasta, tapas and Japanese. The kids club is fully equipped to entertain while the parents relax.
Conrad Bali: is a luxurious beachfront resort with palapas for guests to relax. The main beachfront pool is busier, while you can go to a secondary pool surrounded by beds in a tropical environment. The rooms are spacious with all the amenities.
You must stay in Ubud if you are looking to relive the experience of the movie Eat Pray Love. Yoga lovers will feel comfortable here as it is a popular area for retreats. Ubud is known for “wellness.” Tourists can relax in a spa and escape the stress of modern life. Here are also the famous healers who are priests who deliver spiritual messages to those who visit them.
Ubud is in the mountains and is the cultural capital of Bali. You must drive 45 minutes to Sanur if you want to go to a beach. The greenery of the landscape is impressive and is known for its rice fields. The town center is full of shops and restaurants, apart from a flea market. You can have drinks here but don’t expect to find a party like in Seminyak. Visit the Goa Gajah temple that is near Ubud. You can also do river rafting, hiking, go for a ride on an elephant in Bali or watch the Kecak dance in the Uluwatu temple.
In this area there are options for all budgets. Backpackers can stay in hostels or family homes, while those seeking luxury can find the best hotels in the world including Viceroy Bali and Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan.
Alila Ubud: was voted the #17 hotel of the 20 best in the world by Condé Nast magazine in 2017. This hotel in Bali is truly an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the jungle. And it is the perfect place for a honeymoon. They have villas mounted on wooden stilts with huge balconies facing the jungle and others with their own private pools surrounded by a tropical garden.
Jannata Resort Ubud: has a great infinity pool with two floors that ends with a view of the jungle. This resort connects visitors with the nature of the area. It is located outside the center of Ubud but can easily be reach by taxi. The rooms are decorated in a Balinese style and use wooden elements made by local carpenters. If you want to pamper yourself, book one of the pool villas. The Jannata Resort spa is very complete and they gave us a yoga class.
Alaya Resort Ubud: was voted the Eco-Hotel Resort of the Year by AsiaSpa and the DaLa Spa won the World Luxury Spa Award, both in 2016. This hotel was carefully designed by Bali designers to create a truly spectacular property. Each room has its own terrace overlooking the pool, apart from a large bathroom with tub. To get to the main restaurant you must go through a rice field. When we went they had a typical Bali dance show.
If you want to be in the Bali hot spot, you must stay in Seminyak. The beaches are beautiful with warm blue waters perfect for watching the sunset or hanging out in a beach club. They are not beaches for surfing or diving, which means they are not as crowded as other beaches in Bali.
The streets are full of delicious restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world. Take the opportunity to indulge in the spas, you can even go to the spas within the hotels even if you are not staying. You can go shopping (at a good price!) in the boutiques that adorn the streets. You must go on foot since this area has a lot of traffic and going by car can be slow. The good thing is that it is the ideal place for “people watching”, there is even a bar on the main street with stands to see and be seen.
This is the party area of Bali, you can find fun bars and discos. My favorite was La Favela, which like Andrés Carne de Res in Colombia. It is full of random objects everywhere, including antiques. On the outdoor terrace you can find a huge replica of the Christ of Corcovado. Jalan Dhyana Pura, the gay area of Bali, is in Seminyak.
Villa Jerami: it is ideal for families or groups of friends, since there are 19 3-bedroom villas with private pools. The hotel has incredible honeymoon packages where you decorate the entire pool with flowers and have a romantic candlelight dinner. They also have a package where they dress you in the typical Balinese costumes and do a photo shoot.
Alila Seminyak: it is an eco-friendly resort, very luxurious in front of the beach. Contemporary architecture is complemented by a lot of greenery, including vertical gardens, green roofs and landscaping. This resort in Bali has 99 rooms, 140 suites and a penthouse distributed in four-story buildings.