It's hard to believe that I've been to Bali five times now. And it's even harder to believe I'm not tired of the place yet! Even with the influx of tourists the last couple of years, this island remains a special place to me. I have so many tried-and-true favorites on Bali, but I wanted this trip to be about new experiences and finally seeing places that had been on my list since my first visit five years ago. From the rice terraces of Sideman to the colorful cafes of Canggu, I used this week on Bali to see a side of the island that was new to me.
Soaking in the sunshine at Tirta Gangga, one of the prettiest water palaces on Bali.
Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali
For years I'd heard about the legendary sunsets of Uluwatu, and I decided this was the trip where I'd finally get to experience the magic first hand. I made plans to spend my first two nights on Bali down at the Banyan Tree Ungasan, and I loved that I was starting things off somewhere new. The sprawling resort was located on the southern tip of the island, 70 meters above the prettiest stretch of white sandy beach.
This was my first stay with a Banyan Tree property, and I was in awe as I zipped around the resort on a buggy at check-in. Every villa housed its own private pool, some of them with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. I accessed my gated villa through a private entrance where a water garden led me to my airy digs - a master bedroom, master bathroom, living room, dining area, guest bathroom, private courtyard, infinity pool, outdoor shower and jetpool. It was the perfect place to ease into this trip.
The resort offered a range of dining options, and I wanted to experience everything during my stay with Banyan Tree. From a floating breakfast in my infinity pool to fine dining under the full moon, every meal was delicious, beautiful and truly an experience. My favorite was a moonlight dinner at the Jumana where I watched the sky turn purple at sunset while feasting on an artful spread of dishes including amuse bouche, chestnut & parsnip soup, yuzu marine scallop w/tuna fennel & ginger, sorbet, peach trifle w/custard and sweet sable britton.
Special thanks to the Banyan Tree Ungasan for hosting my stay at their property.
When it comes to booking my transport in Bali, my go-to for years now has been Made Dana. With five trips under my belt, I've learned that private driver is the best way to see the island, and get from one place to another without the pressure of time. I met Made Dana, one of the kindest souls on Bali, four years ago, and he is an absolute rockstar of a driver. Together, we have visited temples, rice fields, beach clubs, markets, restaurants, airports - you name it. And if I asked him to do a 3 AM volcano hike with me, I know he would say yes. I've recommended him to dozens of people, and everyone leaves Bali with Made as a newfound friend. Drop him a note if you need to pre-arrange daytrips, tours or airport pick-ups. Here are his details: @madesuardana.dana on Instagram, firstname.lastname@example.org and +6281338248445 for WhatsApp.
Infinity pool dreams at the Banyan Tree Ungasan.
My favorite banana stand in Pecatu.
One of the dreamiest sunsets from the Jamana terrace, at the Banyan Tree Ungasan.
Feasting on the most artful cuisine and cocktails at the Jumana's special moonlight dinner.
Villa mornings overlooking my private infinity pool.
I think my bathroom was bigger than my bedroom - I loved it!
Ocean views from the resort.
Blue Karma Resort
Ubud is one of my favorite places in the world, so I'm pretty picky when it comes to deciding where to stay when I'm in town. This was my first experience with Blue Karma Nestling Escape (they have properties in Seminyak and Ubud), and I was completely smitten with the place from the moment I checked in. The airy lobby felt like a living, breathing Instagram frame - charming, hip and chill all at the same time.
I spent three nights in the resort's Premier Suite, a two-story haven that fused eco-friendly design elements with luxury and charm. Outfitted in teak, I spent most of my time upstairs where my plush king bed was surrounded by fairy pendant lights, bright paintings, animal print rugs, funky sculptures and whimsical poufs to sit in. Downstairs was my spacious bathroom with lava stone his & her sinks, a rainforest shower and walk-in closet. My zen oasis while in Ubud!
Blue Karma was perfectly located just 10-minutes from Monkey Forrest Road, tucked away in the rice fields. The resort felt a world away from Ubud's lovable chaos, but close enough to still feel connected to the city's vibrant energy. My days in Ubud were packed with hikes, temples and markets, but I always ended things at the Blue Karma infinity pool that overlooked the most serene rice terrace views. And with only 15 rooms/suites on the property, the pool was a quiet retreat - never crowded, and always peaceful.
Special thanks to the Blue Karma Nestling Escape for hosting my stay at their property.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
Something happened to Tegalalang in the last year and a half. The charming rice terraces that I've adored and visited for so many years have become completely exploited. I think I counted 10 swings (at least), two bird's nests and a zipline - almost theme park status. Yes, Instagram and us influencers are partly to blame. One thing becomes popular, and then a dozen copycats appear. But these new "attractions" have sucked the charm from Tegalalang. The place is still worth a visit, but go early to enjoy the serenity of the terraces without the hollers from tourists in the swings above you.
Ubud Market & Surrounds
My favorite pastime in Ubud is wandering the area surrounding Ubud Market to shop the little boutiques, bargain at the market stalls and soak in the charm of the city. When in Ubud, I always set aside my evenings for a verbatim ritual of mine: gelato, shopping, massage and dinner, from 5 PM to 9 PM. My favorite evening shenanigans.
One of my favorites in Ubud. The dishes at Clear Cafe are as healthy as they are beautiful. The menu offers an array of items including infused water, tonics & elixirs, pitas, spring rolls, fresh salads, bowls, burritos, tofu creations, sushi, pasta and seafood.
My frequent visits to Gelato Secrets are a highlight every time I'm in Ubud. The gelateria is home to the tastiest passion fruit sorbet (my favorite!) - the perfect mix of sweet, sour and cold. Passion fruit isn't something I can get easily at home, so I grab a cup (or two! or nine!) every time I'm in town.
Warung Citta Ovest
I discovered this open air pizza joint earlier this year, and it's one of my new favorites in Ubud. The tiny restaurant's open air concept is cute, colorful and always overflowing with people. I'm always weary eating at pizza places in Asia (I've had so many bad experiences), but the pizzas here are fresh, and completely delicious.
Balinese cuisine isn't my favorite, so I love that Kebun Bistro serves up tasty Italian in the heart of Ubud. The restaurant is one of the cutest in town, and they offer a wide range of pastas and pizzas. My go to meal is always a board of fresh bruschetta and a bowl of hearty penne.
Charmed by the Blue Karma Nestling Escape lobby at check-in.
Always time for Tegalalang when in Ubud.
In the last year, Ubud has transformed into bag shopping heaven.
Just hanging out over the rice terraces.
The best remedy for the Bali heat? Pool time at the Blue Karma Nestling Escape
You know Tegalalang is a tourist hotspot when Bob Marley makes an appearance.
Obsessed with the vibes of my two-story suite at the Blue Karma Nestling Escape.
The resort pool overlooked the lushest palms and rice terraces - quintessential Ubud.
Strolling the streets of Ubud.
I bargained and bought my new favorite bag for just $10!
I was so sad to leave this pool behind - will definitely be staying at the Blue Karma Nestling Escape again!
Camaya Bali Bamboo House
This is the hottest new AirBnb on Instagram, but you'd never know it when visiting the remote property. Nestled away in East Bali, this Sideman haven feels completely removed from the bustle of Ubud. In fact, I don't think I saw another tourists while at the Bamboo House. With its open air design, twinkle lights, white poufs, rice field plunge pool and signature second-story hammock, this place has quickly made the Instagram feeds of all the big travel influencers that frequent Bali. Not even a year old, it's nearly impossible to book a stay here as they are almost sold out for the next 10 months.
The lower section of this Hindu temple is one of the prettiest on the island with a temple gate that has quickly become a popular tourist attraction. Go early to avoid the lines for photos, otherwise be prepared to wait more than an hour for 45 seconds inside the temple gate.
I've wanted to visit this water palace since my first trip five years ago. Its location in East Bali makes Tirta Gangga quite the drive for anyone staying in Ubud, Canguu or Seminyak; but it's an excellent little adventure from Sideman. Despite the remote location, the place does get busy, so I recommend arriving before 9 AM.
Anjungan Tukad Melangit Viewpoint
An off-the-beaten path gem, and my favorite discovery of the trip. This spectacular viewpoint is located in the tiny village of Anjungan Tukad Melangit. I spent an hour soaking in the views over the lush green valley, and not one tourist showed up while I was there. It's a great place to stop in between Ubud and East Bali.
The epic temple gates of Pura Lempuyang.
Sideman is home to the cutest AirBnb.
A visit to Pura Lempuyang is a must for anyone staying in Sideman.
I found one of the prettiest views in Bali at the untouristed Anjungan Tukad Melangit Viewpoint.
Gorgeous open air villa at the Camaya Bali Bamboo House.
The views at the villa were breathtaking.
Happiness in Sideman.
Oh, just a random rice field stop on the drive to Sideman.
SEMINYAK & CANGGU
I didn't stay in Seminyak or Canguu, but I spent a lot of time visiting these areas from Uluwatu and Jimbran. This part of Bali is home to some of the most color spots on the island, and I adore the bright cafes, funky beach bars and good energy here. I visited a few old favorites, as well as some new spots including Sea Circus (Seminyak), Da Maria (Seminyak), Panama Kitchen & Pool (Kuta), Motel Mexicola (Seminyak), La Plancha (Seminyak), Old Man's (Canguu) and Jet Black Ginger (Canguu, for hair!).
Sea Circus, one of the most delicious (and colorful!) dining destinations in Seminyak.
Happy to get my Italian fix, in Bali of all places.
Delicious pizza at Da Maria.
How cute is this place?
Pamper time at Jet Black Ginger.
We both got the memo to wear blue today.
Pool fun at Panama Kitchen & Pool.
When you match the restaurant ...
Waiting for sunset at La Plancha.
Jamahal Resort & Spa
The grand finale of this trip to Bali, and what a way to end things! Hidden away off the main beach strip in Jimbaran, the Jamahal Resort & Spa was a luxurious little gem. Located just 400m from the beach, the resort was made up of 12 private villas, all completely luxurious. I stayed in a Pool Suite Villa, and what a treat it was! The airy space was completely spacious, made up of a four poster bed, sitting area, desk, oversized outdoor bathroom, rain shower and private plunge pool. I loved my digs!
The resort's gated villas all surrounded a beautiful lagoon shaped swimming pool - the most peaceful place to relax! Meals were all made-to-order by the resident chef, and my go-to every morning was fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs, pastries, tea and juice at the pool. One evening, I dined in my villa, watching as the butler transformed my sitting area into the most elegant dinner table filled with most artful (and delicious) Balinese feast!
I ended this trip to Bali with a late morning treatment at the Jamahal's on-site spa. The elegant treatment room was an oasis of aromatic zen; a place I would have been perfectly happy to spend an entire afternoon. My two hour treatment included a relaxing floral bath with a layer of the prettiest fresh pink flowers, followed by an amazing 90-minute massage from the resort's rockstar masseuse.
Special thanks to the Jamahal Private Resort & Spa for hosting my stay at their property.
This has to be one of the prettiest restaurants in Bali, but because it's so new, it's not on anyone's radar yet. I spent my last sunset on Bali with Opia, perched over Jimbaran with a seasonal feast comprised of the most beautiful dishes. Highlights included crispy soft shell crab, squid ink pasta with prawns & shitake mushrooms, barramundi, passion mango tart w/lemongrass sorbet and a deconstructed chocolate desert.
The prettiest flower bath inside the spa at Jamahal Private Resort & Spa.
Mornings in my villa's private pool.
My amazing last feast in Bali was at Opia.
Ready for dinner at Opia.
Soaking in the Jimbaran sunshine at the Jamahal Private Resort & Spa's exclusive beach club.
Always looking for the cutest banana stands.
Breakfast poolside at the resort.
I loved all the windows in my private villa.
Spending my last days in Bali poolside.
Beach club vibes.
Breakfast in the comfort of my villa. Thank you for the most amazing stay Jamahal Private Resort & Spa. Farewell, Bali!