Updated 2019: Bali fulfills different dreams for different people – from wild parties in Kuta to upscale beachclubs in Seminyak. From family beach vacations in Nusa Dua to honeymoons at luxurious villas. And from surfing on remote beaches to finding your personal zen moment in Ubud. If you want to make sure your vacation is just what you expect it to be, make sure you pick the best area to stay in Bali – because where you stay on Bali determines what holiday experience you will find!
Bali has a lot to offer and caters to many different budgets. I will describe the different areas to stay on Bali and the experience you will find and suggest some hotels in different price categories. The nice thing is that you can have similar experiences on very different budgets, giving you a chance to experience Bali at any budget!
And keep in mind that Bali is not that big. If you want to combine different experiences in one trip, you can get from the Southern Beaches to Ubud in under 2 hours, so you can mix & match for your perfect getaway!
So, I will go ahead and identify the experience you will find close-by for each of the major hotel areas:
1. Beach Time: Eat, Tan, Party – Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Petitenget
In the South of Bali, you’ll find a seemingly endless, wide beach stretching along the islands Western coast: From the airport in the South past Kuta and Legian to Seminyak and Petitenget in the North and beyond, you have one of the most perfect city beaches with plenty of white sand to stick your toes in, sun to bake in and ocean water to cool down in! The beach has all the amenities, with beach loungers for rent, drink and food stands – and lots of vendors offering anything a person can carry along! Right behind the beach you’ll find one town right to the next, a maze of little alleys, with countless hotels, restaurants, bars and shops! It provides a great mix of relaxing beach time during the day, the best sunsets on the island and lots of entertainment by night.
Where along this stretch you rest your head will depend on your budget and the evening entertainment you seek: Kuta is the oldest and cheapest area. You’ll find great value hotels at bargain rates – like the Holiday Inn Express Bali Baruna – and lots of entertainment at night. There are plenty of drinking places and clubs in the area, so if you want to party hard at night and sleep on the beach, Kuta is your best bet. The neighborhood shows its age, a lot of the buildings and shops are well worn and the crowd can be a bit more rowdy than in other parts.
Legian is the neighbor to the North, a little newer, a little nicer hotels and restaurants – and a little more expensive! It’s still very good value, with upscale hotels like the pullman Legian Nirvana for under $100 or the ibis Legian Street for under $30!
Even further North you will find Seminyak, home to many luxury hotels, lounges and restaurants. You’ll also find many private villas for rent, with your own staff, if you so desire. The Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach offers luxurious rooms and suites as well as fantastic villas. They have their own beach club and you can reach lots of bars and restaurants in the area. The popular Double Six beach with beach bars and live music at sunset is also in walking distance. Seminyak offers the best value – at prices not much higher than in Kuta or Legian, you get much nicer hotels, restaurants and a generally more upscale environment.
Further North, towards Petinget, it gets more luxurious and expensive still. The W Retreat, the Oberoi, the KuDeTa and Potato Head beach club and lots of private villas are here. While you can still find less expensive hotels like the ibis styles Petitenget, keep in mind that most restaurants and bars are more upscale, too, so expect the total bill of your vacation to go up! If having the nicest restaurants, spas and bars nearby is more important than a few hundred bucks more for your vacation, Petitenget is your best bet!
So, if you want mostly beach time, good food and some choices for evening entertainment, as well as a nice massage now and then and access to shopping, this is your area. Depending on your budget and how rowdy or sophisticated you want your evenings to be, you can pick the town of your choice! These are some of my favorite hotels along this strip, at all budgets:
|W Retreat Bali||5*||Petinget||Marriott||Luxury, Beach, Style, Rewards|
|Indigo Bali Seminyak||5*||Seminyak||IHG||Luxury, Beach, Style, Rewards|
|Pullman Bali Legian||4*||Legian||Accor||Beach, Comfort, Value|
|Ibis Styles Bali Petitenget||3*||Petitenget||Accor||Value, Pool, Kids|
|Ibis Legian Street||3*||Legian||Accor||Value|
|Holiday Inn Express Baruna Bali||3*||Kuta||IHG||Location, Value|
2. Eat, Pray, Yoga, Love: Ubud
Most people who come to Bali, seeking relaxation, head to the beaches. Yet my favorite place and one of the most relaxing places you can find anywhere in the world, lies in the forests and rice paddies in the heart of the island: Ubud. While most people experience it on a day trip from South Bali, and never get past the shops and shows along the main streets, the true beauty is just a few steps away, down a narrow alley: quiet walks through the forest and rice fields, yoga retreats and massage centers and hotels with views of nothing but nature and no sound to intrude!
If you really want to get away from it all, Ubud is the place you should stay! There is a reason it made the list of “Top 10 places to stay longer than planned” and it might happen to you, too! You can go on quiet walks, learn to cook, have cheap massages every day, meditate or do yoga, or just read a book and look forward to one of the many great restaurants in town.
All of that is available at any budget: You can stay at a small hotel with a pool for $30/night, like the cozy Padma Ubud Retreat at comfortable mid-range hotels for under $100/night, like the Ubud Wana, or splurge on a luxury hotel with your private infinity pool, like The Lokha, starting at $200/night! Here are my favorites:
|Four Seasons Sayan||5*||out of town||Luxury, Pool, Family, Romance|
|Bisma Eight||5*||edge of town||Style, Luxury, Pool|
|The Lokha Ubud||5*||edge of town||Luxury, Nature, Romance|
|Ubud Wana ResortUbud Wana Resort||4*||edge of town||Upscale, Pool|
|Best Western AgungBest Western Agung||4*||edge of town||Rewards, Pool|
|evitel Ubudevitel Ubud||3*||in town||Modern, pool, value|
|Padma Ubud RetreatPadma Ubud Retreat||2*||in town||Local style, pool, value|
3. Beach Time: hassle free Eat, Tan, Eat: Nusa Dua
If your idea of a beach vacation includes the feel of a remote island, without the traffic and vendors you’ll inevitably find along the city beac of Kuta to Seminyak, all enjoyed in a luxurious resort bubble, you should check out Nusa Dua! It’s a master planned resort community in the South East of Bali, separate from the rest of the island with gated access and little traffic. It’s a great family destination and you’ll have everything you need within your resort at your call.
Along the beachfront, you’ll find all the big luxury and upscale hotels here, like the Ritz Carlton, the St. Regis, the Laguna or the excellent Sofitel Nusa Dua. You will also find all the big American chains here, so if you plan to stay on points, there are plenty of choices here! Despite the luxury, prices are very competitive and much lower than what you’d find on Hawaii!
If you are willing to stay in hotels in “the second row”, utilizing a shuttle to the beach, you stay here for under $50/night at the very good Mercure Nusa Dua!
If this is your first trip to a beach in Asia, this might be a good start – you can venture out to the “real” Bali on a day trip from here and get to learn more about it a step at the time, without the risk of being overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. If you want to get a real feel of Bali, you might want to try some of the other areas!
|St Regis Bali||5*||Nusa Dua||Marriott||Luxury, Beach, Rewards|
|The Laguna Nusa Dua||5*||Nusa Dua||Marriott||Luxury, Beach, Rewards|
|Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua||5*||Nusa Dua||Accor||Luxury, Beach, Style|
|Mercure Bali Nusa Dua||4*||Nusa Dua||Accor||Value|
|Ibis Styles Bali Benoa||3*||Benoa||Accor||Location, Value|
4. Discover, Swim, Hike: Away from the crowds
While those areas host the vast majority of visitors to Bali, that is by far not all there is! If you have been a few times on Bali and are looking for a change, you can venture further a field: You can take a speedboat to Lombok (and stay at the Sheraton Senggigi). I also enjoyed the Gili Islands (and stay at the Vamana Resort): you can find a more Robinson Crusoe’sque beach experience there. A little closer to Bali and much less developed is Nusa Lembongan, only 30 minutes by speedboat away, and with inexpensive guesthouses like D’Licks Lembongan.
Or head to the Northern Shore and stay on Lovina Beach – I stayed at the excellent Hotel Melamun and shared the beach with less than 10 people each day, a very different experience from busy Kuta.
|Fairmont Sanur||5*||Sanur||Accor||Luxury, Beach, Service|
|Sheraton Senggigi||4*||Lombok||Marriott||Beach, Rewards|
|Vamana Resort||3*||Gili Trawangan||Beach, Value|
|The Lovina||4*||Lovina Beach||Beach|
|Hotel Melamun||3*||Lovina Beach||Value|
|Lembongan D'Licks Villa||2*||Nusa Lembongan||Value, Pool|
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