12 Must-Do’s for first-timers in Bali, IndonesiaKollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Kintamani

Some people say Bali is overrated and that it’s lost its magic over the years. I say those people must be on something 😛 The list of things to do in Bali for first-timers can go on forever, you’ll never run out of things to do! We spent a week in Bali and only scratched the surface of this paradise- there’s still so much left to be explored.

Bali’s one of those places that made us go “Okay, we’re definitely coming back”… and we are! We loved it so much that we just booked our flights to revisit this fall. There’s still so much we want to accomplish but first, here are 12 of many, many things to do in Bali for first-timers.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Kintamani

12 things to do in Bali for first-timers

1. DON’T try the Kopi Luwak, or cat poo coffee

Known to be the most expensive coffee in the world, it’s actually brewed from the feces of an Indonesian cat-like animal called the civet. They feed on coffee cherries, magic happens in their digestive system, and out comes these ridiculously priced coffee beans. However, most coffee plantations in Bali force feed these animals and cage them up in appalling conditions. Perhaps it’s not as intense as the making of foie gras but still pretty damn inhumane.

2. Visit rice terraces and rice fields

One of the main things to do in Bali for first-timers is to visit rice paddies, and Tegalalang is the obvious choice. If you want to avoid the crowds, head to Jatiluwih instead. But really, there are rice fields everywhere! We saw so many driving through the rural areas of Bali.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali for first-timers - Rice Fields

Tegalallang Rice Terraces

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali for first-timers - Rice Fields

rice fields outside Karsa Spa Ubud

3. Stay at a villa, live like a king

You can live like a king for the price of a 3-star hotel in metropolitan cities (i.e. Vancouver, New York). Ours at The Amala came with a private plunge pool, outdoor jacuzzi tub, and a steam room- all within our own suite! You can easily spend a day just relaxing, doing absolutely nothing.

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

breakfast at our private pool at The Amala

4. Make friends with monkeys

Or not, they might have rabies and most likely carry other diseases. Remembering what our travel doctor said, we tried our best to keep our distance. It was awesome seeing so many monkeys monkeying around because they’re so smart. A baby monkey tried to steal my clutch while another little dude tried to pickpocket AS!

We only visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, but our driver said that the ones at Uluwatu Temple are a lot more feisty. Regardless, keep your hands to yourself and your personal belongings close or hidden.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Monkey Forest

little thief

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Monkey Forest

5. Chill out at infinity pools

Do you like infinity pools overlooking the jungle or do you prefer listening to the ocean while you sip on a tropical drink? The choice is yours depending on where you stay. You can still find stunning infinity pools at reasonably priced resorts even if you don’t have a fat wallet to afford the Hanging Gardens. If your resort or villa doesn’t come with an infinity pool, you can simply spend a day at Jungle Fish.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

infinity pool at Puri Gangga Resort Bali

infinity pool at Bisma Eight Ubud

6. Go temple hopping

Visiting temples is one of the top things to do in Bali for first-timers. While Indonesia has a Muslim-majority population, the predominant religion in Bali is Balinese Hinduism, which is a fusion of Buddhism and Shivaism. Pura, or Balinese temples, integrate core beliefs of Hinduism and Indian spiritual ideas.

Uluwatu, Tanah Lot, Tirta Gangga, Goa Gajah, Ulun Danu Beratan, and Besakih are some of the most popular ones. Because these temples are scattered throughout Bali, you’ll have to group them by region and plan your itinerary accordingly so you’re not wasting the whole day on the road. 

Pura Lempuyang is by far our favourite one. It’s waaay out in the east but the scenery at the ‘Gateway to Heaven’ is second to none.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali for first-timers - Pura Lempuyang

Gateway to Heaven at Pura Lempuyang

7. Pig out on healthy delicious food

Using a variety of spices, fresh veggies, and meats, there’s a hint of Indonesian, Chinese, and Indian flair in Balinese food. Our favourite dish is probably the glass noodles at Bambu Restaurant in Seminyak.

Because it’s a tropical island, Bali is loaded with tons of fresh fruits and veggies. Lots of restaurants serve organic cuisine using only fresh local ingredients, making healthy eating very easy. Earth Cafe and Kafe Ubud are perfect examples!

8. Always chase waterfalls

Home to many stunning waterfalls, Bali is the place to prove those TLC girls wrong. Some waterfalls you can swim in, some you can slide down, and others you can only watch from afar. Just look at how many there are!

Our favourite is the Nungnung Waterfall. We had to descend down around 500 steps to reach this oasis, which means it was a strenuous hike back up. It was totally worth it though, because we had this all to ourselves!

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Nungnung Waterfall

9. Take a cooking class

Learn how to make local cuisines from scratch! We learned how to cook a 3-course Balinese meal at The Amala: lawar salad, tum ikan, and dadar gulung.

10. Get pampered, treat yoself

Massages are dirt cheap here- without losing quality! Most resorts have an on-site spa. Many also offer a complimentary 30min massage when you book a stay with them.

Our favourite is Karsa Spa in Ubud. Surrounded by rice fields, its idyllic location is perfect for some R&R. The best part? A 60min massage is only 160,000IDR, which is around $15CAD! A flower bath can be added for an additional 160,000IDR.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali for first-timers - Spa

flower bath at Karsa Spa in Ubud

11. Go scuba diving

I legit thought I was going to drown when I went diving the first time in Oahu but I’m so glad I gave it another shot in Bali. We got PADI certified last spring with Bali Aqua and it was one of the most surreal experiences ever. I’d have to say that diving is one of the best things to do in Bali for first-timers.

We checked out the USS Liberty Shipwreck in Tulamben, swam with manta rays in Nusa Penida, and were carried by the currents through a giant aquarium while drift diving in Nusa Lembongan.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Manta Point

mantas in Nusa Penida

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Shipwreck

shipwreck dive in Tulamben

12. Catch the Mount Batur sunrise

If you can wake up at 2am for a hike, you’ll be rewarded with a majestic 360-degree view of the sunrise on the summit of Mount Batur. Or if you’re lazy like us, just ask a driver to take you to Kintamani. The sunrise seen from here is still gorgeous, no?

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Sunrise

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali - Sunrise

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Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Bali

 

Unforgettable jungle stay – Bisma Eight UbudKollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We had the pleasure of indulging in one of Bisma Eight’s 38 suites. This is a fairly new luxury boutique hotel (opened in early 2015) that’s very close to Ubud Centre. Surrounded by a lush jungle and rice fields, it only takes 10-15 minutes to walk to Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. The location is unbeatable!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

From the moment our cab pulled up to Bisma Eight we were treated like royalty. Staff with huge smiles rushed over to greet us and carry our bags. Welcome drinks were served promptly and we were each given canang sari to offer to Ganesha, the God of knowledge and wisdom, at a small shrine in the lobby.

Bisma Eight prides itself in being more than just a hotel- it is a community that embraces even the smallest act, ensuring a unique experience for both their guests and staff. We were immersed in a relaxing atmosphere right from the get-go. The property takes on a minimalist, yet classy design. This bamboo path leading from the lobby to our building blends in seamlessly with the gorgeous architecture and grounds.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We stayed one night at a Forest Suite, located at the west end of the property. All the Forest Suites offer a jungle view from a private balcony (from the bed too, actually!). Because our suite was on the ground floor, we could only see the base of the trees. Don’t get me wrong, it was still lush and beautiful. But I’d imagine the higher floors would offer a better sweeping panoramic view of the jungle from the treetops.

Our suite was MASSIVE; it came with all the essentials plus more. There were more than enough outlets (always a problem when we have so many electronics to charge) and the WiFi signal was very strong (wasn’t always the case in Bali). Not only did we get our own living room with tons of space for luggage storage and a huge bed with a forest view, but also a Japanese inspired soaking tub in our bathroom! I adored the interior design- the minimalist approach with a wooden touch was so chic and luxurious.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

After we settled in, we got a knock on our door with afternoon tea. Each individual treat was a burst of flavour, leaving us wanting more.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Copper Kitchen & Bar

Bisma Eight’s rooftop restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. We dined here for both lunch and dinner- it gave off a different vibe in the day vs. night. During the day, you can see the fields of greens and volcanoes in the distance while you enjoy your food. AS devoured his Focaccia Club while I munched on my healthy vegetarian Bisma Eight Bowl. Only fresh, local ingredients are used and they even have their own organic garden where they grow their own produce!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

After dark, the restaurant comes to life with romantic lights and candles. The ambience is perfect for a dinner date with beautifully presented fusion dishes. Both our entrees were delicious, but the star of the meal was this dragon fruit tart with milk rocks and meringue. It’s so pretty. And it was as yummy as it looks- tangy with just the right amount of sweetness.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We chose to have our breakfast served on our private balcony. With 11 options to choose from (western, Balinese, Japanese, and Korean), there’s something for everyone. The pastries were full of buttery goodness and both our mains were cooked to perfection. I love how the fruits were served with a piece of lime- the tiny bit of sourness makes them much sweeter.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

wellness

There are also yoga classes every morning that take place on the roof top. AS tried yoga for the first time and he loved it! Although there is no spa facility at Bisma Eight, there is a stunning infinity pool and a well-equipped gym. We were finally able to burn off some of the fat we’ve gained, hah. Nothing feels better than letting loose and relaxing after a workout. That was exactly what we did- we went back to our suite for a soak.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

It takes around 45 minutes to fill up the tub but trust me, it’s worth the wait!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

There are both daybeds and cabanas by the infinity pool, along with a rooftop pool bar with an equally gorgeous jungle view. The pool is even heated at night. Daybeds get filled up quickly but we never had an issue with finding a spot. This was the perfect place to unwind and get your tan on.

tips:

  • Rates start at 330CAD a night (before taxes), breakfast inclusive.
  • It’s just a little over an hour from the airport by car, which costs around 300-350K IDR (~$30-35).
  • Stay in a Forest Suite and request a room on the 3rd floor.
  • All the suites are equipped with a Japanese onsen tub, regardless of room type.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Bisma Eight. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Home away from home: Puri Gangga Resort UbudKollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Puri Gangga Resort Ubud was our last home in Bali- we call it home because it really did feel like home, even if it was just for a brief 2 nights. This luxury boutique resort is not really in Ubud- it’s actually in a lovely village called Sebatu (about a 20-30min drive away from Ubud Centre), further up from Tegalallang rice fields. It’s one of those places where it may look unassuming online, but it’ll take your breath away when you’re actually there.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Nestled up on a hill in the forest, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of Ubud but still has easy access to many attractions. It’s just a 5-10min walk from Gunung Kawi temple, and only a 30min drive to see the Mount Batur sunrise from Kintamani! The location is hard to beat, especially when they offer daily complimentary shuttle services to Ubud Centre that run every 3 hours.

After a warm welcome and swift check-in we were taken to our room. The grounds are beautifully kept with endless greens and bamboo paths. With only 20 rooms, we felt like we had the whole resort to ourselves. Other than at the pool and restaurant, we never saw other guests!

We were in the Deluxe Room for 2 nights. Even at the most basic tier, our room came with a private balcony overlooking a small pond and garden. Imagine what the other rooms are like! Ours had all the essential amenities, with a mosquito net that came in handy (we lost count of how many bites we got in Bali). The washroom utilizes an open concept with a rainfall shower and humongous bathtub. Unfortunately, the blinds by the tub were broken in our room. It would’ve been awesome to take a bubble or flower bath with a view of the lush garden.

Puri Gangga prides itself in being “A Home in Living Culture”- and rightfully so. There are paid activities you can take part in, such as the Holy Water Spring purification, candlelit dinners, spa treatments, and Balinese cooking classes. If you don’t want to pay extra, there are TONS of other free activities you can take advantage of. These include guided morning walks, yoga classes, free bike rental, Balinese music during dinner, 15min foot massage, temple visit to Gunung Kawi, and handicraft lessons! They’ll teach you how to wrap coconut leaves and make Canang Sari- the daily offerings in little baskets that you see everywhere in Bali.

Complimentary afternoon tea (Balinese treats!) can be enjoyed daily from 3-5pm at Kailasha Restaurant. We also had lunch and dinner here a few times; AS loved the Rendang Curry. The tables by the railing have such an amazing view!

We had breakfast (complimentary for resort guests) served on our balcony. The staff were super punctual- we asked for a 7:30am breakfast and we got a knock on our door at 7:29am. (Yes, I kept track because because I’m obsessed with breakfasts- I want it when I ask for it!) We had 4-5 selections to choose from (American, Balinese, Continental, etc.) with freshly squeezed juice. I loved their pain au chocolat!

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

The BEST part of Puri Gangga is their infinity pool. It can get pretty packed with all the day beds occupied in the afternoon but the view is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think pictures do it justice! The best time to take a dip is at dawn and dusk- it’s less busy (or empty in the morning), and the colours in the sky against the still pool water will make you speechless.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Something special about this resort is how close we were to wildlife and animals. I got a little addicted to the sound of the Tokay gecko during our stay. They come out at night and they make the funniest little sounds! I had a giggle fit every time and got quite good at imitating them. There were also little frogs bouncing around throughout the resort as well as a cow right next door (fenced off). We even saw chickens running around in our garden one morning!

It was difficult leaving Puri Gangga- it made the end of our Bali trip so bittersweet. What I miss the most about this place is one of the front desk agents: Nara! She was so sweet, courteous, and helpful- nothing seemed too much to ask of her. She helped us book a driver, super last minute, when ours failed to respond on time. Thank you Nara, Mr. Adita, Mr. Mudatra, and all the staff for making our stay so enjoyable. We can’t wait to return!

tips:

  • Early bird specials start at 150CAD a night (before taxes). They always have a bunch of promos and special packages you can take advantage of.
  • It’s a 90min drive from the airport, which costs about 400K IDR (~$40).
  • Stay longer! Our 2-night stay was way too short.
  • For more information, check out their official website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Puri Gangga Resort. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga