There’s no place like Bali, Indonesia for a rejuvenating travel experience that combines nature, delicious food, adventure, and a carefree, beachside atmosphere. From the incredible jungle views to white sand beaches to luxury accommodations to the surf, Bali truly has something for everyone — no wonder it’s so insanely popular with young expats. To learn more about what the Indonesian island has to offer for both high-end vacationers and rugged explorers, we spoke with Bali-based travel blogger and photographer Alexandra Saper.
Known as “The Wayfaress,” Saper left her corporate job as a lawyer behind to buy a one-way ticket to Bali, where she’s lived since 2018. As a travel expert who’s spent the past few years learning the ins and outs of her new home, Saper is the perfect person to give us the inside scoop on all things Bali and she’s sharing her foolproof guide on the absolute best places to stay, play, eat, and drink in Bali below.
PART I — WHERE TO STAY
Ubud is home to one of only five Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotels in the entire world… and it seriously lives up to the hype. The Mandapa, which means “temple” in Sanskrit, is a sacred oasis of its own (and even has two Balinese temples located on the property). Bali’s longest river, the Ayung River, winds around the edge of the property to ensure that no matter where you go at Mandapa, you’ll be able to hear a constant soundtrack of rushing water in the background. The Riverfront Villas are breathtaking, each with a massive private infinity pool and a standalone library/study perched against the jungle cliff with, of course, the river right below you.
Mandapa’s main restaurants, Sawah Terrace and Kubu Restaurant, feature delicious Indonesian-inspired and fine-dining Mediterranean cuisine (respectively), and Ambar — the hotel’s iconic “hanging” jungle bar — serves up some of the best craft cocktails in the area. And added benefits like a sauna/steam room, luxurious spa, private butler service, and morning yoga will make it hard to ever want to leave — although if you do, you’re just a few minutes outside of Ubud center.
Up in the misty mountains of North Bali, you’ll find Munduk Cabins tucked away amongst the trees… sort of in the middle of nowhere. There are six luxury, modern minimalist cabins to choose from, all with balconies overlooking lush jungle views. There is also an infinity pool and jacuzzi, along with a fire pit surrounded by cozy seating… perfect for roasting marshmallows or sipping wine at the end of a day exploring the nearby waterfalls, temples, and hiking trails. The perfect place to unplug, unwind, and get away from the bustle without sacrificing an ounce of comfort and luxury.
This is one of the most unique places to stay in Bali. At Hideout in East Bali’s Sidemen Village, you can choose from seven different bamboo homes, each as Instagrammable as the next. They all have their own special features, like outdoor bathtubs, infinity pools, netted hammock beds, a river to swim in right outside the front door, and so on. No matter which you choose, you’ll be blown away by the bamboo architecture… not to mention the cute animals on-site that will keep you company during your stay.
PART II — WHERE TO PLAY
Hike Mount Batur at Sunrise
Hiking in the dark up one of Bali’s active volcanoes (don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted in over 20 years) to watch the vibrant sunrise over Mount Agung (Bali’s other, much more volatile active volcano) is an experience you can’t miss. Booking with a local guide who speaks English is an amazing way to learn about the local culture and what life is like living in this area. They’ll pick you up around 2 or 3 a.m., drive you to the base of the hike, and then you’ll make your way up the mountain for about an hour before reaching the top. The sunrises can be incredible, and you’ll be joined by a few dozen monkeys as well.
You can find more information on this hike on my blog here.
Bingin Beach in Uluwatu
The walk down the cliff is a bit of a workout (we call it the “Bingin Booty” for a reason) but it’s well worth it. The white sand beach sits against a cliffside dotted with little warungs (local cafes), coconut stands, and surf shacks, looking onto one of the best waves in Bali. The maze of white buildings dotting the cliffside gives it a “Santorini of Bali” feel. It’s such a beautiful spot to spend the day, grab a coconut and a bite at Kelly’s Warung or one of the fresh fish BBQs organized on the beach in the evenings, and watch the incredible Bingin sunset.
Of all Bali’s waterfalls, this is one of my favorites because it’s not too challenging a hike. It does take a bit of effort to get to, so wear good shoes, bring water, and plan for a 30 to 40-minute walk down. This waterfall is one of the biggest ones in Bali, called Banyumala Twin Falls — named for its two main streams of water pouring down and trickling into countless little streams against the lush wall of green.
There’s a spacious area in front to put out a blanket, lay in the sun, and have a picnic, and the waterfall’s pool is especially large — great for a swim.
PART III — WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Yuki is the new kid on the block but quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite. An open-air dining space serving Japanese dishes and cocktails with a twist — like crispy truffle tuna sushi rolls and wasabi-infused martinis. The decor is beautiful, without taking away from the beach and waves literally right across the street. It’s as casual or dressy as you want it to be, but expect an amazing, fine-dining-quality meal and fun vibes.
For a fine-dining experience, [Apéritif is a] gorgeous colonial Dutch-style restaurant and roaring 20s-inspired cocktail bar you can’t miss. Reserve a spot for their degustation menu, serving an eclectic selection of dishes incorporating both modern flavors and local Indonesian ingredients. Plus, it looks out on the lush Ubud jungle which is spectacular.
Be sure to stay for after-dinner cocktails in their speakeasy!
Il Solatto (Uluwatu)
[Il Solatto is] a bit of a lesser-known gem. This Italian resto is one of my favorite spots for dinner and drinks in the Bukit Peninsula. They have a cool urban-style cocktail bar with amazing drinks, and a pretty outdoor garden in the back with sofas, bistro lights, and a buzzing scene most nights.
The menu features a lot of delicious seafood options, but I definitely recommend the truffle tuna tartare pasta, the burger, and the vegan sandwich. They have a DJ some nights of the week, so plan accordingly depending on whether or not you want that party vibe!