Deciding Where To Stay
Deciding where to stay in Bali can make the difference between a good holiday and a great holiday. There are many different areas of Bali to stay, each with a variety of accommodation to suit most desires, but each area offers different attractions, feeling and style of holiday.
If you have not been to Bali before it can be difficult to decide where to stay, but we hope this guide to the various areas helps you make your decision to suit you. Once you’ve decided on the area, then you can choose the hotel you like.
The main tourist resort areas of Bali are located in the south, close to the airport (south of Denpasar). This is the busy area of Bali, where probably 90% of tourists to Bali stay. Within this area there are a number of different areas again, each with a different style themselves. This area includes Kuta (made up of Tuban, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak), Jimbaran Bay, Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa, and Sanur.
Once you go north of Denpasar, you find the real Bali. In the middle of the island are steep volcanic mountains, terraced with rice padi, and small villages and a more traditional way of life. These upcountry areas offer a totally different holiday experience to the south and are well worth experiencing.
From north to south takes about 3 hours driving time as the road over the mountain winds sharply. The distance from east to west takes about 4 hours driving time. As a result, most places can be visited in a day on a sightseeing tour or by driving yourself,
The island of Bali is quite large – it takes about 3 hours to drive from bottom to top, and 4 hours from east to west.
The main tourist areas of Bali are not located far from the airport in southern Bali – Kuta / Legian (extending into Seminyak and Tuban), Sanur, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran Bay. The airport is located on the narrow neck of land in the middle of these areas, in southern Tuban. It’s only a short drive into Kuta and about 15 minutes to Seminyak (depending on traffic). Sanur is about 30 minutes drive away, as is Nusa Dua / Tanjung Benoa, or 10 minutes to Jimbaran Bay.
These areas are where most travelers stay and where you will find the majority of hotels, resorts and other accommodation such as guesthouses (losmens) and villas. It is also where you will find most of the entertainment and shopping, and many visitors to Bali spend their complete holiday in this area, perhaps doing day-trips into some of the upcountry regions.
North of these areas, the island of Bali changes somewhat. The central region of Bali is punctuated by steep volcanic mountains and it’s here you’ll find smaller villages, beautiful green rice terraces, and a generally slower pace – this is the “real” Bali.
The most popular and interesting upcountry area is Ubud, a delightful village with beautiful countryside, some fantastic resorts, and a township offering everything from great restaurants, good shopping, spas, art galleries and craftsmen, and traditional markets and temples. It really is worth visiting, especially to stay for a few nights or at least for a day trip.
Other popular tourist regions include Candi Dasa and Lovina, or for somewhere less developed and less touristy, you might like to look at Amed, Tulamben and Menjangan (Pemuteran), or Munduk.
Off the east coast of Bali is also the fabulous little island of Nusa Lembongan. While popular for day-trippers on cruises such as Bali Hai, Lembongan also has a variety of accommodation for those who really wish to enjoy the beautiful beaches, great diving and snorkeling, surfing or just the island life.
Kuta / Tuban / Legian / Seminyak
Running north from the airport is one long beach, stretching through Tuban, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and on to Canggu. This is basically one long strip of hotels, shops, restaurants and houses, with Kuta being the busiest point but each area with a slightly different style and feel.
From Tuban to Seminyak is roughly 3 km along the beach, or a 15 minute drive (depending on traffic. If you are staying in one of these areas, it’s easy to get to anywhere else in the area by taxi (which are cheap and plentiful at all hours), so it’s easy to take advantage of all the things on offer in any of these areas.
Kuta and Legian are the center of the action in Bali, but if you want to be close to the action but not right in it, try Seminyak and Tuban.
The center of action in Bali, Kuta is famous for its surf beach, shops, markets, restaurants and nightlife. This is the place to stay if you want fun and a lively holiday, and is most popular for younger travelers, those on a budget, and those who just love shopping.
The main street is called Jalan Legian (Legian St) and this is where many of the shops and bars are. A road runs right along main Kuta Beach, in front of the hotels such as the Hard Rock and Grand Istana Rama, and this stretch of beach is probably the busiest most days.
Hotels in Kuta Click here
This would have to be the number one choice of areas for people to stay in. Stretching north from Kuta, this area offers easy access to the shops and bars but a slightly more relaxed and less chaotic feeling. The northern area of Legian going towards Seminyak also offers a bit of an escape from the crowds and is also a popular surf beach.
This area basically stretches from Legian Beach Hotel up to Hotel Kumala Pantai or Double Six Road. Most of the popular hotels, such as Bali Mandira and Bali Padma, are on the beach along here. There is no proper road in front of the hotels, however there is a paved pathway between the hotels and the beach which is only open for authorized vehicles when there is a ceremony being held. This pathway acts like a boulevard and gives guests in this area the advantage of being able to stroll along this stretch to a number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs at the end of Double Six Road.
Hotels in Legian Click here
Seminyak has developed as Bali’s trendier and more upmarket region. If you are after a luxury resort with superb facilities, if you like to dine at the most elegant of restaurants, and if the shopping you prefer is the latest in home wares, fashion and style, Seminyak is the area for you.
Once considered a bit far away and a bit isolated, Seminyak now has some of the best restaurants, bars and stylish boutiques in Bali. The best shopping is along Jalan Seminyak and Jalan Oberoi, while Jalan Oberoi has also been nicknamed “Eat Street” due to the array of restaurants along here. Jalan Abimanyu in Seminyak is the nightclub street, usually quiet until after midnight but partying until sunrise most nights.
This area also has a large range of private villas and houses for holiday rental, plus there are also some cheaper hotels to cater for those who like the attractions of this area but do not want to spend a lot on their accommodation.
Hotels in Seminyak Click here
Continuing south from Kuta, Tuban has developed as a quality resort area with calm beach and pleasant atmosphere, most popular for couples on honeymoon, families, and those that just prefer a nice resort style hotel but still want to be close to everything.
With good hotels ideal for couples and families, Tuban gives easy access to Kuta but overall a more relaxed style. Many of the hotels are directly overlooking the beach, while the main street (Jalan Kartika Plaza) features numerous restaurants and shops in easy walk from most hotels.
Hotels in Tuban Click here
Things to do in and around Kuta:
- Surf at Kuta Beach (boards for rent), or try a surfing lesson at the Hard Rock Hotel surf shop or Cheyne Horan School of Surfing on the beach in Legian.
- Shop all day, party all night. There are heaps of bargains around, from t-shirts and surf gear, to DVDs and CDs from less than $1.00. Try bartering in the market stalls, or look for fantastic homewares in the shops around Seminyak.
- Visit Waterbom waterslide park in Tuban. It’s a great way to spend the day. Ask our Bali office for special discount entry passes.
- Have a leather jacket made at one of the many tailor shops. We recommend Dolphin Leather in Legian, but we’re sure you can find plenty of other good ones to make what you want. Good jackets for around AU$100.00.
- Get a massage on Kuta Beach, or visit one of the great spas for some special pampering. Our Bali office can give you special discounts for all treatments at some of Bali’s best spas, including Antique Spa, Prana Spa, and Chill Reflexology.
- Try the great range of food at some of the many cafes and restaurants. Visit our wining and dining page for some suggestions.
- Watch the famous Kuta sunsets, while sipping a cold beer or cocktail around the pool. For something a little different, visit Billy’s Bar, on the beach in front of Bali Mandira Hotel. Billy will give you a stool and a cold drink and even a magazine if you want while you relax as the sun goes down. Just look for the two big red eskies under an umbrella, or ask for Billy.
NUSA DUA & TANJUNG BENOA
Nusa Dua is the 5-star resort area of Bali – ideal for those looking for a relaxing holiday. In some ways this is the Noosa of Bali – a place where you can relax around the gorgeous hotel pool ordering drinks from the pool waiters, enjoying the facilities of a world-class resort overlooking the beach.
Nusa Dua offers a great variety of quality beachfront properties and relaxing peaceful atmosphere. If you are after a peaceful getaway and a touch of luxury and style, Nusa Dua may be just the place for you. There is some shopping and a few restaurants in the markets and streets entering Nusa Dua, or Kuta is only a 30 minute taxi ride away and will cost only about $10-15.
There’s also a top quality 18-hole golf course in Nusa Dua for those that feel like a bit of exercise.
Tandjung Benoa is just an extension of Nusa Dua but somewhat less developed and a bit quieter, though in some respects it is becoming more popular than Nusa Dua due to the increasing number of small shops and good restaurants popping up. This peninsula stretching out from Nusa Dua is a popular watersport area and developing into a good value 4 and 5-star region, with beachfront hotels at reasonable prices and a relaxed atmosphere.
Hotels in Nusa Dua Click here
Hotels in Tanjung Benoa Click here
Things to do in and around Nusa Dua:
- Relax and unwind around the pool.
- Indulge with a massage or body treatment at one of the spa centres.
- Try the watersports at Tandjung Benoa.
- Visit the Nusa Dua markets to hunt for bargains
- Play a round of golf – 18 holes.
- Spend a day learning to cook Balinese food at the acclaimed Bumbu Bali Restaurant in Tandjung Benoa, or if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, book in for a special dining experience.
Jimbaran Bay is in our view Bali’s best beach area offering a tranquil atmosphere and magnificent sunsets, and calm waters. There are only a few hotels along this strip ranging from 3-star to deluxe and it’s ideal for guests looking for high quality accommodation and a romantic escape.
There are few shops and only a few main restaurants, but the seafood restaurants on the beach are very popular and serve fresh seafood in simple surroundings right on the sand (there are hundreds to choose from but we recommend Sharkies as offering good quality at fair price).
Hotels in Jimbaran Click here
Hotels in Uluwatu Click here
Things to do in and around Jimbaran Bay:
- Enjoy a cocktail on the beach watching the sun set over the water.
- Wander along the beach for a great and very cheap seafood dinner at one of the small market restaurants.
- Relax on the beach or indulge in a massage.
- Take a 10 minute drive into Kuta for some bargain hunting.
For first time travellers to Bali and those looking for a more tranquil, Balinese setting than Kuta, Sanur is great alternative. With most hotels located along the calm Sanur Beach lagoon and with good shopping and excellent restaurants, this is also a very good choice for families.
There are far fewer hawkers on the street and the shopping is nearly as good as Kuta (in some cases better), and Sanur has a much more Balinese feel to it. The main street of Sanur (Jalan Tamblingan) is fairly quiet and tree-lined and strolling along shopping is quite relaxed.
Sanur also has a unique attraction – local bemos. These are small green mini-vans that run up and down the street all day and night. They are always going past, sometimes 3 or 4 in a row, and are mainly for locals but they are also great for tourists. A trip from one end of Sanur to the other will costs about 2000Rp (about 0.30c) and you can get on and off wherever you like along the street. It’s a fun way to travel and a good way to get to meet the locals.
Watersports such as windsurfing, parasailing, kayaking and sailing are all available in Sanur, and most hotels have a watersport counter.
Hotels in Sanur Click here
Things to do in and around Sanur Bay:
- Catch a bemo with the locals
- Relax on a sun-bed overlooking the ocean – maybe with a drink, a book, a snack or lay back and have a massage.
- Wander the small shops along Sanur’s main street
- enjoy at night out at one of Sanur’s many restaurants
- Be a daredevil and try parasailing or one of the other watersport activities available.
- Visit the Sanur art markets – open every night
Ubud is the cultural and artistic centre of Bali and one of the most popular upcountry areas for travellers. Only 1.5 hours drive from the southern resort areas, Ubud is a wonderful place to stay with a variety of hotels from budget to the best in Bali. Beyond Ubud you’ll find many fantastic little places to visit to experience the real Bali, see beautiful countryside or snorkel and dive, so if you would like to see more than just the main resort areas, we suggest you split your holiday and try some nights upcountry. We think you’ll love it.
Only an hours drive from the airport, Ubud is a great escape from the crowds and a delightful little village with a much more traditional Balinese atmosphere, interesting cultural attractions, great cafés and beautiful scenery. Ubud is becoming increasingly popular for holidaymakers choosing to spend some time on the coast and a few nights here. The friendliness of Ubud and interesting things to do make this little town quite special, and accommodation is available from budget to deluxe, including some of the best boutique hotels in Bali, if not the world. For honeymooners, we strongly recommend Ubud for a couple of nights at least.
Besides shops and markets, cafes and restaurants, Ubud is also popular for whitewater rafting, hiking, elephant rides (Taro Village), bird watching, massage and meditation, or for some indulgence spend a day at one of the spas for some great body treatments.
Hotels in UbudClick here
Canggu / Tanah Lot
North of Legian and Seminyak the beach stretches into Canggu. The drive to Canggu from Kuta takes around 30 – 45 minutes and meanders through small villages and rice fields before reaching a few hotels that have developed in this peaceful region along the coast. The sandy beach is pounded by quite rough surf so is not safe for swimming, but this is a lovely area if you want ocean views and an escape from the Kuta crowds.
Hotels in Tanah Lot Click here
Nusa Lembongan Island
This idyllic little tropical island offers the perfect escape from the crowds, great surf, diving and snorkelling, and beautiful white-sand beaches. Popular for day trips, it’s even better for a few nights or more.