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Seaside resorts and ancient Hindu culture exist side by side on this alluring island. While Bali has its share of pleasant beaches, even more arresting beauty lies in its interior landscape of emerald green terraced rice fields, waterfalls and volcanic mountains. It also abounds with places to experience a living, breathing ancient culture through its temples, ceremonies, dances, rituals and crafts linked to the Hindu faith.
Hindu temples and culture, local arts and crafts, beaches, volcanoes, lush scenery — there are lots of things for cruise visitors to see and do in Bali.
Ubud, an inland town, is Bali’s cultural center, made famous by the book Eat, Pray, Love. The Neka Museum is the place to appreciate art by local and international painters in a setting of pavilions and gardens. The Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is a sacred Hindu T-shaped cave with elaborate stone carvings and statuary.
Kuta is Bali’s major seaside resort town, jammed with souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and clubs. Its Bali Bomb Memorial is a poignant monument to the over 200 people killed in the 2002 terrorist bombing of two popular nightclubs. About 15 miles outside of Kuta, Uluwatu is an acclaimed surfing area and site of Pura Luhu Uluwatu, an ancient temple set among dramatic seaside cliffs.
Nusa Dua is a master-planned resort area on the southern tip of the island primarily made up of luxury hotels, but also offering Pasifika Museum, which exhibits paintings by Balinese and international artists, as well as artwork from around the Pacific.
North Bali, an area of volcanic mountains and pristine lakes, contains some of the island’s most spectacular scenery and is prime for hiking and horseback riding. Stellar views and agricultural heritage are combined at Munduk Moding Plantation, a 12-acre coffee plantation that offers walking tours and an on-site restaurant.
A quieter alternative to Kuta, Sanur is a seaside resort village on the southeast coast that still retains local Balinese character. Its Bali Safari and Marine Park features safari tours to view white tigers, rhinos and other animals, plus shows with a conservation theme. Museum Le Mayeur displays the works of Belgian painter Adrien Jean Le Mayeur in his former home.
The seaside enclave of Seminyak is filled with trendy boutiques and restaurants. It’s also home to one of Bali’s signature sights, Tanah Lot Temple, a 15th century Hindu temple perched atop a tidal islet. Nightly performances of traditional dance and chanting are presented at the adjacent Surya Mandala Cultural Park.
Kuta Beach is the island’s most popular and developed beach. Echo Beach on the south coast is a secluded place for walking along the black volcanic sands and watching the sunset. Sanur Beach offers lovely views of volcanic Mt. Agung and is a popular surfing spot.
Bali’s best area for snorkeling and diving is on the north side of the island at Talamben Bay, where a sunken ship draws pygmy seahorses and other exotic creatures. Outfitters such as Atlantis International Bali offer excursions.
Batik textiles, clothing, silk scarves, artwork, stone carvings, wooden puppets and silver jewelry are among the many local items for sale all over the island, particularly in towns such as Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud. The Ubud Art Market and Tegallalang, just north of Ubud and known as the “Handicrafts Village,” are especially fun places for browsing and bargaining.
Bali is the place to enjoy local dishes such as grilled seafood on skewers and chicken cooked in banana leaves, both of which are specialties at BumbuBali in Kuta. In Ubud, a popular spot for Balinese food is Murni’s Warung, which serves black rice pudding, smoked duck curry and other dishes in a hillside setting. For atmosphere, head to Biku in Seminyak, a restaurant serving Indonesian and international dishes in a 150-year-old teak house filled with antique furnishings.
Ubud’s Jalan Monkey Forest is home to dozens of Balinese macaques, long-tailed gray primates that cavort in the trees and dive into a pool. The site also offers paths winding past ancient temples and other historic spots.
Just outside Ubud, Setia House of Masks and Puppets showcases hundreds of the intricately carved and painted puppets that are an important part of religious ceremonies. The puppets are displayed in four traditional wooden houses in grounds with lotus ponds, banyan trees and performance areas.
Bali is one of the few places in the world that produces the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak. It’s made from berries eaten and defecated by civets and can cost $50 a cup.
Bali, which is close to the equator, has a hot, tropical climate the year round, with May-September bringing drier weather and lower humidity.
Summer and Christmas holidays draw crowds of tourists, especially from Australia. Winter is the rainy season in Bali, but there are still sunny periods.
Cruise ships typically drop anchor on the south coast of the island near Nusa Dua at Benoa Harbor, with passengers tendered ashore.
If you are not on a shore excursion, taxi and Bemar (private minivan) service is available from the port to Ubud, Nusa Dua, Kuta and other points on the island.
Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. You will also need a visa, available on arrival for about $25 and usually processed by the cruise ship and charged to your onboard account.
Language: Balinese; English is spoken among people in the hospitality industry.
Currency: The Indonesian rupiah.
Safety: While the Indonesian government has been very effective in preventing large-scale terror attacks by extremists, Bali, like Jakarta, has suffered bombings in the past. Crimes of opportunity, including pickpocketing and robbery, are also known to occur in Indonesia. Cruise passengers should take precautions such as traveling with tour operators vetted by the cruise line, staying in tourist areas, exploring in groups, using only official taxis (ask your cruise line how to get a taxi if you're going to want one) and leaving valuables on the ship. Bali is an incredibly beautiful place and well worth visiting, but precautions are warranted. See Cruiseable's safety tips for cruise passengers.
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“If you want to take a taxi to Ubud from South Bali, it is best to charter the vehicle for the return trip. Otherwise you’ll be hit with a 30% fee for going out of town.”
“We had lunch almost daily at the busy Café Batu Jimbar in Sanur. This insider's favorite serves Indonesian and Western food: You can have the most authentic and delicious mie goreng (stir-fried egg noodles with chicken and vegetables), a killer Caesar salad, and fresh juice (75 Jalan Danau Tamblingan).”
“Wakjaka, a master of Balinese dream mask carving, works his magic in this tiny shop (Sarasari in Ubud) almost daily. Stop by, watch him work, and learn about Bali's complex and rich traditions around masks."
“Steer clear of resident monkeys: remove glasses, earrings and everything else they might grab.”
“If you're interested in buying high-end jewelry in Bali, don't miss a trip to John Hardy jewelry's compound outside Ubud. Visitors can shop and even stay for a traditional Balinese lunch (with an advance reservation) in the shade of a banyan tree.”
“If you like animal encounters, use a day guide and travel to the Ubud Monkey Forest and Elephant Safari Park an hour from Bali. We fed the monkeys and rode an elephant.”
Come and Experience A traditional "kecak" Dance Performance at Uluwatu Temple, Perched on the Cliffs Above the Sea.
Experience Daily Life in Bali and Discover Extraordinary Culture on This Bali Barong Dance and Kintamani Private Tour.
Make Your Trip To Bali Extra Memorable With An Exciting Half-Day Tour To Denpasar City And It’s The Best Landmark. Visit The Iconic Bajra Sandhi Monument, I AM BALI Museum and Bali Museum.