A mix of colourful, spiritual and unique culture, Bali is one of the most popular island destinations in the world. It offers something to suit almost every visitor from the backpacking youth to the most cashed up luxury traveller.
How do you choose the right Bali holiday? Do you lose yourself in the chaotic Kuta or relax into the pleasures of Seminyak? Maybe your style is to surf wild beaches in the south or just hang out in Legian. You can go family-friendly in Jimbaran Bay or savour a lavish getaway in Nusa Dua. Whatever your agenda, taste or mood, Bali has the answer.
Bali for Families
Away from the busier tourist spots, Jimbaran Bay is nestled away Bali’s southwestern coast. The bay area is part of the narrow strip connecting the Bali mainland and the Bukit Peninsula. Due to this, the beach and the bay offer small protected areas of peace and quiet, making it perfect for families.
It certainly doesn’t have masses of tourists lining the streets like some other areas of Bali. The pace is far more mellow and has an authentic local community. Relax on the beach where the evening opens to a haven of restaurants to feast on local seafood or visit the local markets during the day.
While you can feel far removed from the hustle bustle of Bali, you are still just a short distance to explore the rest of the island. Depending on traffic, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are about 30 minutes to 1-hour north. Uluwatu is just 15 mins – 30 minutes south. Nusa Dua is 15 minutes to 30 minutes away and Ubud is about 2 – 2.5 hrs away.
Possibly the best pick for a resort fit for any type of family is the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali. The resort was built with families in mind, catering from parents needing a small break to kids who know how to have fun. Their global Family Programme provides fun, value and happy moments for every member of the family.
At Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali you can immerse yourself in 5-star Balinese island living at an affordable price. Located just a short walk from Jimbaran Beach and with Samasta Lifestyle Village on your doorstep, there is plenty to do for the family in the area. It is what the resort offers however that makes this a hit with parents and kids.
Your family experience begins at check in, literally. I walked up to the check in desk and to my three-year-old niece’s delight, there were small steps up to the counter allowing her to also be part of the check in process. Ok, so she didn’t hand over passports and credit cards, but she had a colouring in page and pencils right there to keep her occupied while I completed the process.
Stepping into the room was just as rewarding. The spacious interconnecting rooms for families are a big plus as you can open the door and suddenly you have a small villa. The staff had anticipated our arrival with a 11-month baby and already set up a cot in the room. While the rooms in the resort were filled with all you could want, it was the rest of the resort that demanded immediate attention (determined by the children’s restlessness).
First stop, and many more stops over the course of the next few days, was the kids club. If you have a boisterous child, then the pirate themed Meera Kids Club is their dream come true. Open from 09.00 am to 08.00 pm daily, the kids club welcomes children aged four to 12 years old. You can still take in younger children, but they must be accompanied by an adult.
Shaped into a pirate ship, the kids club has an indoor and outdoor playground with a pool, slides and water features. My niece made fast work of checking out all that was on offer. There was arts and crafts, painting, jewellery making and even some cultural activities like Balinese cooking class and Balinese dress and dance lesson. Best of all, you can actually hire a babysitter to allow adult time to relax.
When I say relax, I mean really relax. Starting with a traditional one-hour massage at the Arkipela Spa & Wellness centre. From the moment you step through the door, the serene ambiance engulfed me and just moments after laying down on the massage table, I was drifting off into pure bliss. Desperate to hold only the floating feeling after the massage, it was time to relax by the pool.
Even being a family resort, there are spaces where the adults can get away for a bit and just relax. The resort pool stretched around the property and had areas for children and adults only. There are deck chairs to just relax in or if you feel like a bit of splurge, cabanas can be hired for a small fee which allow more space to spread out. I opted to lounge in a hammock over the water and sip on a cocktail.
Dining is just as experiential at Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali. Breakfast is enjoyed in the Anarasa Restaurant. There is a communal feel here like you are home at your own kitchen, with live cooking stations and an international à la carte menu for meals throughout the day. There is even a breakfast bar for the kids full of creative delights like bananas dipped in chocolate, sandwiches with smiley faces, fruit kebabs and more. The children revel in the delight of getting a plate of their own special food and sitting in the kids dining area.
Adults can sit close by to the children dining while still enjoying their own space. Lunches can be shared at Anarasa or around the pool areas in a relaxed environment. For a special treat one night, we head up to the rooftop at Above Eleven Bali Rooftop Bar & Restaurant.
With views over Jimbaran Bay and Indian Ocean, Above Eleven is the perfect spot to savour the sunset with live music at the rooftop sky bar. The cocktails were as spectacular as the sunset and the food has a Peruvian-Japanese flare. Best of all however, is the family zone on the roof. Setup with an open-air cinema, beanbags were filled with bums of children as they watch a kid’s movie, snacking on popcorn and making friends with neighbouring beanbag dwellers. The setup is fantastic to allow kids to have their time and parents to have a drink and eat nearby.
Where to Stay – Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali
How to get there – Approximately 15 minutes from Denpasar International Airport (DPS)
Bali for Couples
The beach resort area of Nusa Dua has an incredible collection of luxury hotels facing a pristine beachfront. These white sand beaches make Nusa Dua an idyllic place for couples and honeymooners.
Located 20 to 30 minutes by car from the international airport and within easy access to the Kuta area (20-30 minutes) and Jimbaran (15 minutes), everything is still relatively close by. The name Nusa Dua means two islands (nusa ‘island’, dua ‘two’), because there are two islands in the bay. On the southern side lies Peninsula Island, and on the northern side lies Nusa Dharma Island.
Although Nusa Dua is Bali’s most developed resort area, you can still find cultural attractions here. These range from temples, a museum housing arts and artefacts from Indonesia and the Pacific, and unique natural landmarks around its scenic peninsula.
The Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort offers a beachfront retreat with French-inspired luxury, making it a gem for couples looking for romance in Bali. The 5-star resort is set on tropical gardens that intertwine around the massive pool, offering up plenty of secluded spaces to have a private getaway.
Arriving at the resort, you can be quite overwhelmed with its sheer size. From check in to check out, you are spoilt with those little touches that make you feel special. The dedicated check in lounge, a feast of sugary delights in your room at check in and the staff knowing your name after first meetings all adds to the service.
Possibly one of the most romantic resort rooms I have seen, the Luxury Rooms with Pool leads directly out to a pool that winds it way around the lush tropical gardens. It is like you have your own private oasis. Couples will relish in the romance of the secluded setting and luxurious room features including the oversized bed, large bathtub and rain shower.
Stepping out of the room and into the pool, it was time to first explore the resort via the waterways. The pools link up to the main pool which extends the length of the resort straight down the middle. Flowering frangipani trees give off a sweet floral scent and water fountains flow from stone sculptures into the pool, the sound of running water adding to the ambience. Couples relaxed on pool chairs around the water’s edge, lazily dangling their feet in the water while stealing kisses in between sips of cocktails.
As evening drew near and the sun dipped in the late afternoon sky, there was a buzz in the air coming from the beachfront. I wander down and discover the very hip and vibing Manarai Beach House. Encapsulating the cool new trend in Bali of the beach club, I am delighted to discover entry is free, not only for hotel guests but everyone.
This is one place where couples can enjoy the afternoon turn into evening within a social buzzing scene. The blend of Balinese tradition and modernity flows throughout the venue where two swimming pools are lined with day beds stretching down to the beach. Soaking up the last of the day’s sun, I cast my eyes over the menu of unique tastes of international and local Balinese cuisines and whimsical cocktail selections.
The following days at Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort were an indulgent blur of massages, cocktails, lazy afternoons on reading by the beach, romantic dinners and refreshing swims. Even if you do not leave the resort, there is so much variety to choose from. Breakfast is the epitome of variety at Kwee Zeen. The interactive boutique dining with authentic market feel makes breakfast an adventure around the world. The thematic cuisine at Cucina makes for a special night out for dinner. This white table option brings a unique Mediterranean wining and dining experience with Italian Al Fresco amidst the finest decadent Italian cuisine. For a more relaxed vibe, head beachside to Toya Beach Bar and Grill. Here the atmosphere is more leisurely, serving up light snacks, a seafood barbecue buffet and cocktails.
Where to Stay – Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach
Where to Play – Manarai Beach House
How to get there – Approximately 30 minutes from Denpasar International Airport (DPS)
Bali for solo travellers
Legian is a suburban and beach area on the west coast of Bali in Indonesia, just north of Kuta and south of Seminyak. It is close enough to the action of Kuta while being just far enough away to enjoy some quieter times too.
For first-timers to Bali and those travellers going it alone, Legian might feel just like another Kuta, however give it time and you will find it has its own appeal. Enjoy an evening walk along the famous Double Six Beach where there is plenty going on. For a more social evening, head out for a night in a cosy club and make some new friends.
Legian literally means ‘sweet’ in Balinese and, as its name suggests, it promises sweet memories for a solo traveller. The area serves up a vast range of activities for solo travellers and for all tastes: outdoor adventures, nearby hikes, surfing, festivals and many local cultural activities. No matter what – the atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming.
The airport is located south of Legian about 20 minutes’ drive away in good traffic. The whole of Legian is no bigger than a few blocks so walking around the area is the best way to explore. You can walk from Legian to Kuta and taking the beach path is actually quite scenic.
Going solo in Legian doesn’t mean sharing a room in a backpacker lodge with a bunch of Europeans. As a traveller in my thirties I sometimes like to holiday solo, where I can enjoy a bit of luxury but without the overdose of couples. The beach front resort, The Pullman Bali Legian Beach, delivers just that.
Walking into this urban chic style resort, I am impressed with the quick check in and my spacious ocean view room. Standing on the balcony I can see the beach and ocean in front of me, while the buzz of Bali on the streets below is fascinating to watch. It is the perfect balance of action and relaxation.
Location is key here at The Pullman Bali Legian Beach. I waltz across the road and enjoy a walk along the beach before collapsing into a bean bag under an umbrella. To further escape the heat, I am greeted by a Ketut (assuming that was not his real name as I later found everyone to be called Ketut) who brought me a welcomed drinks menu. I found I couldn’t sit long before the beach hawkers started to swoop, and I high tailed off the beach and went for a walk down the road.
Legian shops and restaurants are just 3 minutes-walk away. The market streets are a mix of designer shops and very friendly local vendors who are keen to sell: sarongs, t shirts, pants, Bintang singlets, wood carvings, towels, hats and more. There are also loads of small cafes and restaurants where you can find local Balinese cuisine or western dishes. After a few quick purchases, I return to the hotel.
I head to the roof top infinity pool and jump in for a swim. Resting against the pool’s edge overlooking Legian beach, I had to giggle at the beach hawkers who were still working the beach, moving in on each new victim. Lazing about in the pool for the afternoon people watching on the streets below while the bar tender from IP Bar brought my drinks, was the ideal ending to the day. Or so I thought. The sun began to set over the beach, the sky illuminated to a bright orange and the funky tunes from the DJ got louder. Now it was a perfect ending to a day in paradise, Bali.
Where to Stay – Pullman Legian Beach Hotel
How to get there – Approximately 20 minutes from Denpasar International Airport (DPS)