I remember arriving in Kuta at night several years ago and loving the activity on the streets. The hot humid night air, the smell of food from the street vendors and three-wheeled tricycles that were zooming around. It might not be authentic to some travelers but if you can let go of judgement for a moment and just enjoy being in a different place it can be fun. Steer clear of any ‘extra friendly’ local girls though!
A short 15 minute taxi ride from the airport, Kuta is where most travelers start their vacation. There are street vendors galore selling batik goods, local warungs (food stalls) offering Indonesian cuisine and a variety of foreign restaurants and fast food places.
Kuta is situated along the best beach in Bali and has a maze of tiny alleyways and streets.
The main backpacker area is along Poppies Gang I & II. It’s wall-to-wall guesthouses and you’ll have no problems getting to the food and party spots.
Denpasar, while not being a place most travelers like to spend time in, has the Abiankapas Arts Center, which offers of modern paintings and woodcarvings. Gamelan ochestras and traditional Balinese dancing are also featured.
You might wander over to the Bali Museum, which has examples of both palace and temple architecture as well as local arts and crafts.
Ulu Watu on the southern tip of the island is a famous surf break that Australians discovered years ago and takes advantage of the powerful rollers that come in off the Indian Ocean. Just north of there is Padang Padang, which is another surfing spot.
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Depending on how much money you want to spend on a place to stay you might choose any one of the nearby alternatives to Kuta on the south coast.
Sanur has a collection of up-market hotels but is located next to village so offers a more relaxed, down home feel than busy Kuta. Nusa Dua with its lovely lagoon is an up-market paradise and you won’t find too many backpackers spending their rupiah there.
Ubud is generally considered to be the cultural center of Bali. Located 13 miles north of Denpasar in the highlands, Ubud is a pleasant change from the madhouse of Kuta and the heat of the coast. You’ll notice a drop in temperature so bring a sweater.
Amed and Lipah on the east coast offer superb snorkeling and diving, this side of the island is much more sheltered from the rollers than the southern side. You’ll find a more relaxed place with locals who are still glad to see foreigners.
Lovina on the north shore offers a more budget scene than Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua. The dark volcanic beach differs from the southern part of the island.
Mt Batur and Mt Bratan are two volcanoes that are situated in the center of the range of hills going east- west. Mt Batur especially can offer great early morning views from the summit.
PadangBai is a sandy beach with decent snorkeling on the SE coast. The ferry to Lombok runs from here and it’s a chill place to hang out. You can rent all kinds of snorkeling gear and jet skis etc.
The Jalak Putih area is the area near Mt Agung and features uninhabited rainforest. A great place to get away from it all.