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

 

8 Reasons to convince you to visit Cebu in the PhilippinesKollecting Koordinates - Things to do in Cebu - Sunset

Ahhh, the Philippines… Where the sun’s so hot that it hurts and the water’s so clear it looks like the pool. The first choice that comes to mind when people are picking a destination in the Philippines is usually Boracay or Palawan. While Cebu doesn’t have the white sandy beaches of Boracay nor the limestone cliffs and islands of Palawan, there are still plenty of reasons to visit this amazing island. With so many things to do in Cebu, you’ll never want to leave once you get there.

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Chasing waterfalls at Kravice FallsKravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

I’m a sucker for waterfalls. When I saw Kravice Falls in pictures I knew I had to go, but that was of course, easier said than done. Planning this road trip down Croatia was no easy feat. Well, it was, until I added Bosnia & Herzegovina to our itinerary.

Driving in Croatia - Kollecting Koordinates

Driving in Croatia was a piece of cake because 1) I wasn’t the driver (hehe) and 2) we bought a data sim and relied on good ol’ Google maps to take us everywhere. We lost data once we crossed the border, which was fine because Google maps are useless in Bosnia anyway. So we’ll just follow the signs, right?

Wrong. There aren’t many signs to Kravice Falls.

I had printed out a map in advance but that was useless because it didn”t show the smaller roads. Half an hour into the drive we were on a winding road on a hill that seemed to be a residential area in the middle of nowhere; it didn’t look like a place for waterfalls.

We were lost.

There were no street names to refer to and no other cars in sight. Panic mode was on full blast when we came to a few crossings where we had to decide which paths to take. There was a lot of ‘which way?!’, ‘this map is a piece of s***’, ‘WTF is going on’, ‘omg where the f*** are we going’, ‘why aren’t there f***ing street names or signs’, ‘*where the f*** are we?!’.

AS doesn’t have the best sense of direction but thankfully, I inherited my mom’s awesome spidey senses. I answered each of one of our outbursts with ‘I don’t know but let’s go this way’ and ‘I don’t know but I think it’s that way’. A few  ‘ I don’t know’s later, we miraculously emerged on a small road next to a highway. 5 minutes after driving down this flat road, we saw a sign that read ‘Kravica’. A few minutes later, we were at the parking lot. I don’t know how we managed to navigate there in the end, but we were ecstatic!

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

It was a hot, humid day and Mother Nature graced me with her monthly gift to make things even more unbearable. Luckily, I had popped a Midol before we began the drive. While my cramps weren’t monstrous like they usually are, the flow was matching the waterfalls theme. Excuse me for the TMI. Because of this, I couldn’t go into the water with AS.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

AS had a blast swimming and exploring all the hidden passages. I chilled in the shade and watched our belongings, along with all the other moms who were waiting for their kids.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Freaking gorgeous! Plitvice Lakes were unreal, but Kravica was magical in a different way. AS said this was, by far, his favourite destination on our Balkans trip. It was ridiculously frustrating to get to, but was it worth it? Hell yea! 

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

tips

  • If you plan on driving, make sure you get an International Driving Permit (if you’re not European) before leaving your country. The officers at the Croatian/Bosnian border asked for ours; good thing we had one.
  • If you don’t plan on driving, you can hire a car to take you down to Kravice Falls from Mostar. The rate ranges from 50-70€.
  • Bring some snacks and lots of water with you to save money. Even if you don’t, there are 2-3 food stands on site if you get hungry or thirsty.
  • Bring a change of clothes, flip flops/sandals, and a towel with you. The restroom is surprisingly clean!
  • The entrance fee is around 2€ (price as of Aug 2015)- you can also pay in Kuna or Mark if you have the currency on hand.
  • Hang onto the rail (or grab someone’s arm) on the way down; some parts on the path down can be quite slippery!

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Kravice Falls

 

Plitvice Lakes National ParkKollecting Koordinates - Plitvice Lakes

Croatia’s largest national park is also one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe. Whenever I see photography of Plitvice Lakes, I think to myself: “Okay this has GOT to be photoshopped. There’s no way a place can actually look like that in real life.” Boy, was I wrong!

Our original plan was to enter the park as soon as it opens the following morning to beat the rush. When we checked the weather forecast after checking in at our Airbnb in Plitvice, it wasn’t looking pretty for the next day. It was supposed to rain! Our other option was to go right away. We looked at the time- 4pm. The sun was going to set in just over 2 hours, but the trail we wanted to do requires 3-4 hours to complete. That meant we had to somehow complete the circuit double-time. Feeling ambitious (and dreading the rain), we quickly changed and ran to the ticketing office at entrance 1.

Plitvice Lakes

View from entrance 1

It actually turned out to be a really good time to visit the lakes as tour busses and day trippers were just about to leave. Even though we visited in August (high season), we didn’t experience any over crowdedness that we’ve read about in other people’s blogs. This was a huge relief because some parts of the trail are pretty narrow. I can’t imagine how claustrophobic I’d feel if they were packed with people!

Plitvice Lakes National Park is truly a magical place- straight from a fairytale. We picked Route B, which starts at Entrance 1, through the lower lakes, and across lake Kozjak on a ferry. A shuttle then took us back to Entrance 1.

DSC09969

DSC09967

Plitvice Lakes

You can see the moon!

The sun had just set when we exited the park and we were starving. We stopped by Licka Kuca on the way back to our Airbnb for dinner. The service was subpar with mediocre food, but they had live music which was a nice touch. (It was also the only restaurant on our walk back so it’s not like we had other options)

Even though our afternoon was a bit rushed, it was still an amazing experience. We’ve never seen anything this beautiful before; it was a little hard to believe that the park is real. Do stay the night when you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. The little residential areas around here are very lovely. There is no light pollution and you can see stars shining brightly on a clear night!

Plitvice Lakes

Beautiful waterfalls at dusk

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Kollecting Koordinates - Plitvice Lakes