The best of Bali: what it’s like to visit now

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(CNN) – Like most major tourist areas around the world, Bali has suffered great economic disruption during the Covid-19 pandemic. From more than 500,000 foreign visitors each month, arrivals dropped to double figures and tourism workers had no choice but to try to eke out a living in the island’s oaks and orchards.

But the inhabitants of this part of the Ring of Fire are well known for their resilience. The Island of the Gods is now rising from the ashes and recreating itself along lines dictated by the demands of a more conscious post-pandemic travel.

Here are some of the best experiences for travelers heading to Bali right now.

Best for wellness

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan is set in a landscape of tropical gardens and terraces.

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan is set in a landscape of tropical gardens and terraces.

Four Seasons Bali Sayan

Since the 1920s, Ubud has been promoted by pioneering expats as the artistic heart of Bali. A century later, it has become even more famous as one of the world’s centers for conscious and healthy living.

The yoga revolution of the early 2000s changed the game and today there are probably more yoga shalas, soul food restaurants, spas and “mindfulness retreats” per capita than anywhere else on the planet.

Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest (Bali’s most popular tourist sight) is once again drawing crowds. The charmingly messy old market has been demolished and will be closed for renovations for some time, but the loop of shopping streets is once again clogged with traffic.

As the city center flourishes again, a growing number of visitors are realizing that the properties along the unexpectedly pristine, jungle-clad canyons of the Ayung River are a better match for the island paradise they’ve so far traveled to see.

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan offers the best of both worlds. Set in a landscape of tropical gardens and terraced paddy (still a work in progress), this resort has been the preferred base in Ubud for VIPs including Julia Roberts and Barack Obama.

There’s everything you’d expect from a luxury resort, but also an Ubud-inspired offering of yoga, massages (including using hot stones from the sacred river), meditation, chakra ceremonies and even an irresistibly intriguing “activity” called Sacred Turnip.

When you’re ready to venture away from the resort, just hop aboard the free city shuttle (10 minutes) or choose from a wide range of activities or cultural tours.

Best for nightlife

Newcomer Tribu Bali is right in the middle of the Kuta action.

Newcomer Tribu Bali is right in the middle of the Kuta action.

TRIBE Bali Kuta Beach

Since the first surfers landed in Bali, the town of Kuta has been a party hub. This once sleepy fishing village has long since expanded westward to merge Legian and Seminyak into a single mix of low-key souvenir shops, bars, spas and tattoo parlors.

Largely due to Balinese religious sensibilities, the island’s tourist hotspot has avoided high-rise concrete jungle overdevelopment; Balinese Hindus traditionally believe that the world above the tops of the tallest palm trees is the domain of the gods, so (with only a few unfortunate exceptions caused by 1970s dollars) there are almost no tall buildings breaking the skyline anywhere on the island.

During the pandemic, it was Kuta that suffered the most. Very popular with Australian tourists, the fairly low-key hotel and bar area centered around Poppies I and Poppies II became a ghost town almost overnight.

Now less frenetic and less of a magnet for drunken stag nights, Kuta is regaining some of its lost appeal and is an affordable and centrally located base for family holidays and activities as well as nightlife.

Tribe Bali Kuta Beach is a stylish new contemporary beachfront hotel that is perfectly positioned for Kuta’s live music, cocktail bars and DJ venues. Best of all, the infinity pool on the roof (just fighting for space with the gods among the tallest palm trees) is the ideal place to admire the famous Kuta sunsets.

Apps like Grab and Gojek (the Asian versions of Uber) make it simple, quick and cost-effective to get to the nightlife spots further afield in Legian and Seminyak.

The Potato Head Beach Club was the talk of the island during the lockdown for their typically innovative and dedicated agricultural and food distribution programs.

Potato Head Desa (meaning the village) has several music venues and swimming pools and no less than five restaurants. The beautifully designed Potato Head Studios (which typically incorporate much of the brand’s recycling innovations) also opened during the pandemic.

Best for peace of mind

Nirjhara is a new secluded resort near Bali's famous Tanah Lot temple.

Nirjhara is a new secluded resort near Bali’s famous Tanah Lot temple.


From the moment you step into the newly opened Nirjhara retreat, you’ll never want to leave. For a truly blissful escape, this secluded resort (near the quiet western side of Tanah Lot temple) has everything you could want.

Nirjhara’s Canopy Suites — whimsical “treehouses” that are a wonderful combination of industrial chic and recycled tropical charm — have become design icons of the island’s contemporary architecture.

The resort is only 30 minutes from hipster hotspot Canggu and yet feels like a hidden tropical paradise. The babbling river, shady trees and tempting infinity pool invite you to simply relax. To take this relaxation to an even deeper level, book a massage and ‘blessing treatment’ at the resort’s Retreat Spa.

Nirjhara means waterfall in Sanskrit and the property is named after the waterfall that passes by the beautiful yoga shala. A popular hike includes some of the spectacular waterfalls that Bali is known for — especially the 500-step descent into Nungnung Waterfall Canyon (one of Bali’s highest).

If you’ve got some energy left, borrow one of the resort’s bikes for a ride through the paddies, or book a surf lesson at the beginner-friendly Kedungu Beach… where three more waterfalls cascade from the cliffs directly onto the beach.

If all this gives you the urge to explore more widely, Nirjhara’s recently launched Vela traditional superyacht is now available for charter in some of Indonesia’s most remote islands.

Best for beaches

Luxury surf company Tropicsurf offers lessons in Jimbaran Bay.

Luxury surf company Tropicsurf offers lessons in Jimbaran Bay.

Ever since American surfer Robert Coke opened his hotel in 1936, tourists have been drawn to “shoot the curls” on the warm, tropical waves of southern Bali.

Just four kilometers from the coast of what was once Coke’s residence, you find the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. With 147 secluded bungalows and apartments, this complex is more reminiscent of a traditional Balinese village with its maze of cobbled lanes and temple-style architecture.

Jimbaran Bay’s curving arc of white sand, free of the crowds of nearby Kuta, lures you away from private pools and resort pools.

Tropicsurf has built a reputation as one of the most respected luxury surf guide operations in the business, and their Coconut Grove headquarters on Jimbaran Beach is the perfect starting point for your first waves in Bali.

Resident Australian surf guide Blake McKinnon has many years of experience in southern Bali, and — with over a dozen good surf spots just a short boat (or car) ride away — he analyzes the conditions to find the best wave suitable for everything. experience level.

Jimbaran is famous for its early morning fish market and the seafood restaurants that line the beach around sunset.

If you’re in the market, be sure to stop for breakfast on the beach at the new Beekini Bowl, but for truly unforgettable cocktails at sunset or enjoy a (seriously) upgraded version of Jimbaran BBQ from the seafront, be sure to reserve a table. to Sundara.

Best for getting off the beaten path

Anyone who has been to Bali and yet disputes the (admittedly rather derided) title of “the most beautiful island in the world” has almost certainly never laid eyes on the vast expanses of palm forests, deserted beaches and jungle heartland to the west Bali.

After a four-hour drive through timeless villages and rice terraces, your heart may sink momentarily as you park in front of a three-meter high, neon-lit security wall emblazoned with bright slogans: Amusement Park, Dance, Vacation quick… It’s an inexplicably raucous introduction to Lost Lindenberg, one of the island’s most elegant and idyllic retreats.

The property opened in July 2022, and its eight rooms, set in beautifully designed 20-meter-tall wooden towers (palms grow exceptionally tall in West Bali), overlook what may be the most spectacular Bali beach.

Walking on the 14 kilometers of deserted volcanic sands, you can hardly believe that people complain about overcrowded surf spots. The low-key surf town of Medewi is just a few minutes further west, but the sandy beach in front of the resort is more appealing to beginners than the jagged cliffs of Medewi Point.

This area is an alluring place to relax, but you’ll miss out on some amazing experiences if you don’t take the time to explore. West Bali is home to some truly unexpected sites, many of which are virtually unknown to tourists: the world’s most colorful traditional fishing fleet at Perancak; Bali’s own bird of paradise and the herds of Menjangan deer that see in the lagoons of West Bali National Park; and unforgettable diving and snorkeling on Menjangan Island.

For an alternative to the rather brutal buffalo cart races, you can join a fascinating paddy tour with a small herd of pink buffalo – almost extinct and rarely seen beyond this little patch of rural Balinese paradise. West Bali remains one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets.

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