Visiting Bali, one of Indonesia’s most famous islands, exceeds even the most beautiful photos you have come across. It has everything you could hope for on a vacation ranging from endless waterfalls to discover, temples to explore, world-class surfing, yoga retreats, snorkeling, diving, and so much more. With the abundance of things to see and do, one of the most challenging aspects of planning a trip to Bali is prioritizing where you will go! One of the easiest ways to maximize your vacation time to visit the highlights and substantially reduce the coordination for accommodations and transportation on the trip is to go on a tour that handles all of the details for you.
I did a tour with Wanderlands Travel for 8 days around Bali and the local islands. Jonny and Ursula were the expert guides that led our group of 16 international travelers (almost all ladies on this trip!) as we explored each city and took on adventures around Bali. The trip included morning yoga sessions, massive waterfalls, tiered rice terraces, a visit to a local school, hidden cave temples, surf lessons, beach bars, the monkey forest and some of the most incredible beaches I have ever visited! A tour group was a fantastic option for this trip as I was traveling solo and it provided a great group of new friends to explore and share memories with! Also, I didn’t have the time to make detailed plans for this trip so it was such a convenient way to make the most of my days in the country and discover so many of the best parts of Bali that have been on my dream list for years.
Check out the highlights from each day of the trip-
Day 1- Meeting the Group
The trip started in Canggu, one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads and surfers in Bali. We checked into our hotel and headed out for a group dinner to get to know our new group of friends for the next week. After sampling some local Indonesian cuisine at a cozy restaurant we headed in for a full night of rest before the adventure began.
Day 2- Surf Lessons & Beach Bars
The morning started with a rooftop group breakfast where we discussed the plan of the day and the upcoming trip itinerary. We loaded up on sunscreen and then headed out to Kuta beach for morning surf lessons. Our group leader led us in a stretch session to warm up before handing us over to the local instructors who taught us all the basics on land, running us through several drills of learning to quickly pop up on the board, before we were off to the waves with our boards. I had the chance to do some refresh surfing a few days prior which definitely helped at the beginning, but by the end of the hour lesson, everyone in the group was standing and riding the waves in!
We continued on to a rooftop bar at Ovolo Hotel for a lunch and some drinks with a beautiful view of the beach. After heading back to clean up at the hotel we continued on to the beach in Canggu for a brilliant sunset and to watch the real pros riding the waves (although I’m pretty convinced that we looked just as cool during our lessons earlier in the day). Once the sun set beyond the horizon we grabbed a tasty dinner before hitting some of the popular beach bars and enjoying the Canggu nightlife scene.
Day 3- Tanah Lot and the Sacred Monkey Forest
The first stop of day three was to Tanah Lot Temple on the western side of Bali. This sea temple is surrounded by Balinese mythology and remains a holy place for the inhabitants as well as a popular tourist destination. Tanah Lot is an ancient Hindu shrine that is partially carved out of rock and sits on top of a small outcrop just off the shore surrounded by crashing waves. Since the temple becomes its own small island during high tide, it is best to visit at low tide so it is possible to walk out to it.
Underneath the actual temple is a small cave where the priests sprinkled visitors with water as a purification ritual before putting a small pinch of rice on their foreheads between their eyebrows, which is considered one of the 'chakras' and the center of spirituality. The water and rice are applied together to gain positive energy, release negative energy, and increase mental focus. Although visitors are not allowed to go all the way inside the temple, we were still able to climb most of the way to the top of the carved stone staircase that wraps around the rock.
The next stop was the famous Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud where we each had the chance to get up close and personal with the long-tailed macaque monkeys and even take some selfies with them. While I am personally not a fan of monkeys and was a little uncertain about this stop, the Sacred Monkey Forest was a unique experience of getting to see families of monkeys going about their daily lives in an open area rather than behind glass at a zoo. The tiny babies scampered around completely uninhibited by our presence. The forest itself looks like a movie set with the larger-than-life statues, ornate bridges, and open temples that have Indiana Jones vibes.
There are over 600 monkeys living in this nature reserve which is considered to be a sacred space the forest also includes three temples or pura that were built in the 14th century. By the end of the visit I even had a monkey up on my shoulders and still walked out with all appendages fully intact- a great success!
The accommodations for the next few nights were at Arya Wellness Resort, a gorgeous little haven tucked in off the bustling streets of Ubud. They had 15-minute massages, manicures and pedicures, morning meditation and yoga sessions, HIIT workouts, and daily activities including movie nights by the pool all for free! I absolutely took advantage of all of the offerings each day and thoroughly enjoyed their all-vegan menu, especially for the family-style buffet dinner we had there one evening.
Day 4- Coffee Plantation, Giant Swings & Pool Jumping
This day was filled with so many of the adventures that fill your screen when searching for what to do in Bali- massive swings, rice terraces, layered infinity pools, and of course- the most famous coffee!
The morning started with a yoga practice (optional for those who felt like getting up early) on the open-air patio as the rain poured down outside. After cleaning up and enjoying a fresh breakfast of some tasty vegan banana pancakes, we headed out to one of the nearby coffee plantations where the most expensive coffee in the world-Kopi Luwak- is made. Kopi Luwak was made famous in the movie ‘The Bucket List’ and is the super fancy and expensive coffee that has been eaten and processed by a small cat-like animal, the Luwak or civet, found in the trees of Indonesia.
Obviously one of the first questions is why anyone would want to drink a coffee that was sifted from animal droppings. The short version is that the native workers on the Dutch East Indies coffee plantation were not allowed to pick and consume the coffee fruits themselves. However, they were able to bypass the rule when they discovered that the Luwak ate the beans and passed them through undigested so they cleaned off the beans and used them to make their own coffee. Eventually, some of the plantation owners sampled some of this dung coffee and realized it was far more delicious than the original beans so they began marketing it.
During the digestive process, the Luwak adds enzymes to the coffee fruit resulting in the smooth, rich, and full-bodied coffee that people around the world are willing to pay premium prices for. Due to the limited production (and the effort to produce), Kopi luwak is extremely expensive and can cost up to about $700 a kilogram.
At the coffee plantation, we also had the chance to take a ride on the famous giant swings. We each got climbed into a harness and were fully clipped in before getting pushed out over the edge of the surrounding rice terraces. This was a lot more fun than I thought it would be and definitely worth a go for all travelers that are still just big kids at heart!
Our final stop of the day was to walk through some of the beautifully tiered rice paddies and take a dip in the Alas Harum Bali infinity pools. Frowned upon but not banned is jumping in between the overlapping infinity pools. The staff did give me a scolding after I lept off the ledge, but it is always easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission!
Day 5- Visiting a Local School and Chasing Waterfalls
One of my favorite parts of the trip was at the start of day five when we stopped by a local school to visit and play with the children. It was so much fun playing all of the old schoolyard games with the kids and they were eager to show off what they were learning. It is optional to donate some money to the school at the end of the visit, but it is amazing to see all the work they have done on improving the school over the last few years from the donations!
We continued on to visit the Tegenungan Waterfalls, some of the largest falls in Ubud. All of the recent rain had caused the river to swell making the waterfall especially large and impressive! Although we couldn’t cross the river in the normal spot due to the high volume of water, we had amazing views of it on the hike down and from our lunch stop at the top. Afterward, we headed back to Ubud for an afternoon spent exploring the local markets in Ubud and trying out the local HIIT class at Academy Fitness.
Day 6- Island Snorkeling
An early morning start took us by ferry to our final destination in Nusa Lembongan, one of the islands off the eastern coast of Bali. We enjoyed lunch at a cute cafe on the beach before crossing the island to meet up with our private boat. Our boat took us towards the harbor on Nusa Penida and dropped us off at several of the popular snorkel spots. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing in the warm clear water where we saw tons of fish and even spotted a turtle!
After heading back to our hotel in Nusa Lembongan we headed to a lovely beachfront restaurant for dinner. As the dinner ended, fireworks were being set off on the beach so we grabbed bean bags and some beers to enjoy the night show!
Day 7- Beaches in Paradise
The final day was one of the newest additions to Wanderlands itinerary and my favorite day of the trip as we explored some absolutely gorgeous beaches on Nusa Penida. We grabbed an early breakfast at the hotel before taking the private boat over to Nusa Penida. The first destination of the day was Goa Giri Putri Temple. The entrance to this hillside Hindu temple was rather unassuming at the top of a set of stairs before I realized that we were crawling down into a small hole in the rocks. After squeezing down a narrow set of stairs and crawling under a low-hanging rock ceiling, we emerged into a massive cavern that can hold over 3,000 people throughout the various temples inside!
We explored the entire inside of this hidden temple before loading back into our vans and heading on to the beaches. The first beach of the day was the iconic Diamond Beach, aptly named based on the shape of the rocks below. Steep stairs led down the side of the cliff to the narrow beach at the bottom, but we stuck to exploring the area at the top which offered sweeping views of the coastline below.
Next, we headed to another absolute gem, Kelingking Beach which is famously shaped like a T-Rex. Here we opted for the steep hour-long climb to the secluded beach at the bottom. We spent hours playing on the beach and soaking up the hot sunny day in paradise. The waves and currents were very strong making it difficult to swim, but the positive aspect is that no boats could enter the water which kept the beach access limited. Although the hike took a long time and the terrain going down makes the beach relatively inaccessible, it was absolutely worth the effort!
Eventually we had to head out, but the timing was perfect as we caught the sunset over the water on our boat ride back to Nusa Lembongan. The day ended with our final group dinner to celebrate the memories and new friends we all made over the last 8 adventure-filled days.
Day 8- Time to say goodbye!
After a busy week of seeing and doing so much, it was time to say goodbye to the group. The week was filled with so many good times but it was amazing how quickly it passed! Overall I had such a great time, not just exploring the island but having so much fun with the entire group. This was an excellent tour not only for the destinations on the itinerary but also for meeting like-minded adventurous travelers that were all about Wanderlands Travel motto of ‘Live, Love, Travel.’ If you are considering a trip to Bali- absolutely look them up!