Bali has been on the top of travelers list for years but it seems to have gained popularity in the last decade. We loved our first trip to South East Asia when we went to Cambodia and all over Thailand and I was dying to make it to Bali. Everyone said you had to visit Ubud and that it’s the expat capital of the world. We added a three night visit to Ubud to our honeymoon and headed on our journey across the world.
Arriving in Bali you are struck by so many incredible things. First off, it’s absolutely breathtaking. The rice terraces everywhere, shops with handicrafts and intricate furniture line every street, and palm trees sway in the wind. The beauty is matched only by the kind demeanor of their people. The culture is truly spectacular and while you can tell it is not the most advanced country by any stretch of the imagination, what it is- it has in abundance.
We arrived at the main airport in Denpasar and were picked up in a private car by a man who worked for our hotel in Ubud. He drove us through the jungle on the most direct route to our hotel and even though it took over two hours the conversation and scenery made the time fly by.
There is so much to do and with only 3 nights I wanted to make sure not to miss anything. Below I mapped out where to stay (and what to expect from these incredible resorts), and the top things to do when exploring Ubud! If you’re on the fence about the long flight or hard travel it takes to get there, I hope this blog helps give you the push you need to go for it. You won’t regret it!
Where to stay
- The Kayon Resort: We chose The Kayon Resort because it’s a resort perched overlooking the hills and a waterfall, only has 23 rooms, and had incredible reviews. We splurged on a villa with a private pool (the price was the equivalent of a standard room at the Marriott in NYC) and were BLOWN AWAY by our experience. The whole resort is filled with stone carvings and their restaurants is incredible. From their Balinese food to pesto pasta we loved eating almost every meal here!
- The Kayon Jungle Resort: This property is owned by the same people who own the Kayon Resort but it’s a much larger property with a more lively and less intimate vibe
- Alaya Resort: This is the only resort I’ll mention that’s in town as it’s one that we were debating but it has amazing reviews and is walking distance to everything!
What to expect from your resort
- Ubud itself is a small city that is very walkable. That being said, many of these resorts are nestled into the jungle, so make sure you pick one with a great restaurant! Every excursion will pick you up at your hotel and the hotel will often provide shuttles every day and private drivers upon request!
- Afternoon tea is a huge thing here! All the main resorts offer this either poolside, in your room, or in the restaurant for a delicious cup of coffee or tea and some snacks in the afternoon. We loved this amenity.
- The nicer hotels with private pools do floating breakfast (and it doesn’t cost anything extra in most cases from the standard breakfast). The experience is incredible and so unique!
- Ubud literally means medicine and the entire city / surrounding areas are known for their serene atmosphere and calming affect. Therefore most hotels offer morning guided walks and some of the best and most relaxing spas in the world.
- Baths with flowers are offered everywhere. If you’ve seen the instagram picture with someone in a bathtub filled with a pattern of flowers, it’s likely in Bali! The people of Bali are incredibly creative and talented artists and the art they make with flowers is breathtaking. Definitely take advantage of one of these baths if you can!
What to see & do
- Bali Swing- I know it sounds like a tourist trap, but truly these swings are exhilarating and give you the coolest view of the jungles. Some even offer fancy skirts so you can get the best Instagram pic
- Tea and coffee tasting- We tried Lumbung Sari Coffee & Swing and loved tasting tons of different types of teas and coffee. They give you free samples and you enjoy while sitting in paradise. Even try Luwak coffee (cat poop coffee that’s extremely rare) if you’re feeling up to it. Surprisingly enough, we loved the taste!
- Visit a waterfall (or 3)- Waterfalls are all over the region and so beautiful. We visited a few but our favorite was the Tegenungan Waterfall. You can hike down to it and swim in the water or just enjoy a beautiful panoramic view
- Explore a local market- the morning market was our favorite and offered an incredible amount of colors, fresh fruit and produce, and a bustling cultural experience! It’s open every day from 6am-9am so make sure to get there early.
- Visit the monkey forest sanctuary– Hundreds of monkeys are roaming this forest and snacking on fruits and interacting with each other right in front of you! We loved visiting and spent over an hour exploring!
- Walk through temples- There are temples everywhere you turn in Bali and the ornate beauty is mind-blowing. They have very strict rules about what you can wear when you enter but all the public ones have sarongs you can wear before you go in. Do also keep in mind that women can’t enter when it’s their time of the month. Don’t be shocked if your tour guide asks you, it’s their religion.
- Visit a wood carving factory- Our tour guide took us to Daging Wood Carving which is a massive factory, has extremely kind workers who show you the different techniques, and there’s even a space where you can watch the carvers in action. This was by far our favorite “souvenir” we purchased from the whole trip!
- Explore the rice terraces- I can’t talk about Bali without mentioning the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Arguably the most famous, this terrace is a panoramic wonder! Make sure to go with a guide or be prepared that some locals make you pay just to walk through even though it’s not regulated, but people are kind and if you’re with a guide you should be good to go. There are tons of rice terraces everywhere you turn so if you don’t make it to Tegallalang (or want more options) you’ll be able to find tons of options!
Best tours to do
Since there are tons of things to do, and renting a care in Bali is not only dangerous, it’s not recommended, hiring a private driver or doing a tour is the best route to go! These were our favorites but we also encourage you to look on TripAdvisor and read through reviews if you’re looking for other options.
- Joe’s Bali Tours: Joe is AMAZING. He has a modern car with amazing air conditioning and keeps it fully stocked with ice cold bottled waters all day. He stopped off at a few temples we spotted along the road and brought us to his favorite wood carver when we asked where to buy great carvings. His English is amazing, we felt so safe and comfortable, and we even hired him to drive us to the airport. He took us to everything above (except the cooking class) in ONE day and gave us insight into his culture and the surrounding areas throughout the drive.
- Jambangan Bali Cooking Class: A lot of the hotels offer cooking classes but we wanted to go to one with a local family in their home and stumbled upon Cookly. This class was a fraction of the cost our resort was charging and we made 7 courses, enjoyed an incredible experience with their whole family in their home, and even had a morning visit and walk through of the local market. We Were stuffed so make sure to skip breakfast if you’re doing the lunch class!