Kuta may be notoriously overrun by tourists but there are quite a few things to do in the area that no trip to Bali would be complete without experiencing. I recommend that you plan on spending 3-5 days in the area to explore South Kuta, Seminyak, and Canngu before heading out to the much more idyllic Nusa Islands, seek spiritual bliss in Ubud, or explore the fantastic nature in Munduk. If you have less time check out this 2 week Bali itinerary. Here’s where I recommend you explore, eat, and stay in south Bali!
Uber is pretty frowned upon in Bali so it’s best to book a private car to pick you up from the airport which can be done in advance online for as little as US$14.50 if your hotel is less than an hour away. Never leave home without travel insurance from World Nomads. Here’s why I recommend traveling with World Nomads: you can extend your policy online while you’re on the road, the insurance plans are available for nationals from 140+ countries, you can file claims and get assistance online 24/7, some plans are as little as US$5 a day.
WHERE TO EXPLORE IN KUTA
VISIT TANAH LOT
Rent a motorbike and helmet and hit the road leading north of Kuta. Along the way you’ll pass through bohemian neighborhoods in Canggu and endless picturesque rice fields. Personally, I loved the ride to Tanah Lot more than the temple itself. If you have a GoPro be sure to attach it to your helmet or the front of your bike for some epic footage. Tanah Lot is one of the most famous temples in Bali, widely due to its beautiful setting. The temple is situated atop of a rock formation that depending on the time of day appears to be floating out at sea. The high tide comes in around dusk making this a favorite spot for travelers to watch the sunset and capture some beautiful photos of the temple and those iconic Bali sunsets.
During my visit, I was blessed at a spring of holy water that spurts from beneath the temple and is only accessible during low tide. It was a special experience at it was our first blessing in Bali. However, there seem to be many ‘priests’ lingering around the area and they aren’t exactly dressed in all white, which is required of their position. They demanded cash after the ceremony which isn’t typical either so I cannot vouch and say it’s an absolutely authentic experience.
I thought I’d actually be able to enter the 16th-century temple so I visited Tanah Lot during low-tide. Spoiler alert: You cannot actually go inside the temple, or very far up the rock formation. Because of this, I didn’t absolutely love Tanah Lot as I was seeking a spiritual experience. I’m a thalassophile and wanted to pay respects to the Balinese sea god, Dewa Baruna, in which the temple was built to honor. However, if you have limited time in Bali and won’t be making it to many of the Hindu temples it is absolutely worth seeing.
BEACH HOP ALONG THE COAST
No holiday in southern Bali would be complete without at least one full day spent soaking up the sand, surf, and sun at the areas pristine beaches. We started our beach hopping day by zipping down to the south of the Bukit Peninsula and slowly making our way up the coast back to Seminyak for sunset.
Our first stop was the aptly named Dreamland Beach. While we found the beach to be far from dreamy and a bit overcrowded with mid-day party goers and surfers. We simply walked around the edge of the cliff to the left of the beach and found ourselves at our own idyllic strip of beach. From the sandy cove we were still able to watch surfers catch impressive waves but without all the chaos of the neighboring beach area.
The waves here are really rough so it isn’t an ideal place to swim. If you want to wade in the break you’d be wise to wear a pair of water shoes to save your soles from cuts from the jagged rocks that jut out of the sandy sea banks. When we needed to cool down we’d climb up the rock into a little natural bath.
There is a great viewpoint from the cliff above Dreamland Beach. Follow the dirt road to the top to get a birds-eye perspective of the coastline. From here you can see endless stretches of sand, hidden rocky coves, and tons of surfers. This would be an epic spot for sunset!
After spending a good twenty minutes looking for a public beach at Jimbaran Bay we snuck down to the coast through the Four Seasons Resort. We beelined straight to the beach and set up under the shade of the looming palm trees in the soft sand. The beach here is rather short so it was a quick sprint across the hot sand into the soothing cool ocean waters. Jimbaran Beach is a bay so the water was relatively flat which made it perfect for swimming and bodysurfing. There is a fishing village nearby so many tiny picturesque fishing boats floated past leisurely. The beach was relatively empty, likely because most of the coastline is connected to five-star luxury resorts hence the nickname, Beverly Hills of Bal. The sand and water were very clean and well maintained making it the ideal location for a lazy beach day. We loved it here so much we opted out of speeding off to any other beaches before sunset.
We had our sights set on watching the sunset at the travel blogger approved La Plancha seafront bar for sunset. When we arrived the beach stunk of vomit and the colorful bean bags were piled practically on top of each other. Over raging club music, at 4 PM, we hesitantly asked if there were any available seats. We were laughed at and told we’d have to arrive around 11 AM to get a seat here. Without further adieu, we booked it out of there in hopes of finding a more tranquil setting to enjoy the sunset. It’s worth noting that sometimes the places that travel bloggers promote as being amazing, aren’t. Perhaps they’re motivated by their more influential peers and eager to follow in their footsteps but I am at a loss how anyone could recommend this place as the ideal spot in Seminyak for a Balinese sunset experience.
We didn’t have to go far to find a beach bar that was more our speed. Coincidentally another bar with a Spanish name, Chiringuito, is just far enough away from La Plancha that the waves drown out the terrible music. In fact, they had live music, two local dudes serenading the relaxed crowd with acoustic guitars. We found two front row bean bags, in my favorite color lavender, and watched the sunset paint the sky with fresh mango juice in hand. Lesson learned: take advice (even mine) with a grain of salt and always find a place that suits your style. Suffering through a toxic environment just to say you’ve been someplace ‘cool’ isn’t worth it at all.
UPDATE YOUR HAIRSTYLE
After spending nearly a year in remote areas around Asia I knew my top priority in Bali was some TLC, especially for my hair! I’d been wearing my natural chocolate brown color for a few years as it is super low maintenance and has allowed my hair time to heal after years of hair modeling at Bumble and Bumble. My hair was dull and lacked dimension until The Shampoo Lounge invited me to come in for the color and cut of my choosing, something very unheard of for a former hair model! My stylist and colorist, Clayrine Clarissa, was rocking her own shades of fallyage, and I knew I had come to the right place. We went through a book of color samples and together chose three warm shades that would pair well with my natural color and update my limp locks. Clayrine listen to all of my hair dreams, desires, and anxieties. I wanted balyage but to focus on sun-kissed colors that would grow out naturally without an obvious line separating the highlights from my natural color.
With a glass of complimentary white wine in hand, we began the bleaching process of stripping the color from my hair. The entire process was really lovely, Clayrine is so sweet and I loved getting to know her journey into hair artistry and what it’s like to be a young local creative on the island of Bali (she’s originally from Java).
To cut and color my hair took almost five hours, I have long hair but the real time consumer was Clayrine’s dedication to her art of masterfully applying color in all the right places. That sort of talent is rare to find, especially in salons that want to turn over high clientele ratios daily in order earn the most profits. This is not the case at The Shampoo Lounge, each client is given special attention to make sure they’re comfortable throughout their salon experience, and happy with the results. Happy is an understatement for how thrilled I am with the color I received at The Shampoo Lounge. I went from drab and boring to a fabulous Bali bleach blonde that I absolutely love!
SCOPE OUT STREET ART
For those of you who’ve read Miss Filatelista before you know it’s no secret that I absolutely love modern art, especially in the form of street art. Kuta did not disappoint, especially in the area of Seminyak. From cheeky light fixtures, in-store installations, and wall-sized murals there were inspiring pieces around nearly every corner. The theme stayed true to the island with lots of beachy motifs, Hindu icons, and a healthy dosage of vibrant color.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL TIP
Responsible travel is the bread and butter of Miss Filatelista and I was thrilled to learn about the RefillMyBottle program in Bali. I was amazed by how little litter I saw throughout my month in Bali, even in more remote areas. The mindfulness towards recycling and less plastic consumption may stem from the foreigners that are expats on the island but their initiatives seem to be making a lasting impact. RefillMyBottle is a simple program that could be a blueprint for reducing plastic water bottle consumption globally. The community program has encouraged local businesses to keep healthy, filtered, drinking water available at their shops, cafes, galleries, hotels, and so on in the hopes of keeping Bali beautiful. There are over 200 RefillStations that have already joined in Bali and surrounding islands. Travelers can stop in to refill their reusable water bottles free of charge, or for a minimal price. Download the app to make it even easier to find a nearby RefillStation when your water supply is getting low. The weather is hot in Bali almost year round and staying hydrated is crucial. As travelers, it is our responsibility to not damage the places we visit, and one way to do that is limiting our plastic use.
WHERE TO EAT IN KUTA
Kuta is an international hub and with travelers and expats from all over the world so we got to indulge in some of the international cuisines that we’ve been missing during our travels. Most afternoons we ate at local warungs to have delicious Indonesian food, like the above mie goreng from the cafe at Grandmas hotel. By night we treated ourselves to the flavors we’ve been missing. Stay tuned for a post soon dedicated to Bali’s best smoothie bowls! These are a few of our favorite spots in south Bali.
This place is an absolute must for healthy food nerds and burger lovers alike. The second story restaurant is located on the main drag in Padang Padang beach and boasts views of the zen beachy surroundings. Meat-eaters and vegans can find things on the menu at Om Burger which boasts an array of superfoods. The sweet-potato fries were to-die-for and I loved having a veggie burger served with a sticky rice bun, something I’d never seen before!
I had heard rumors that the Mexican food in Bali was fantastic–LACALACA Cantina didn’t disappoint! The portions are small so order a few plates to share. We loved the ceviche, tuna sashimi tacos, and the corn and black bean tostadas. The decor here is darling with cheeky Spanish phrases, such as amor a primer bocado, aka love at first bite. I paired our delicious dishes with my favorite Mexican cocktail, a paloma! The concoction is made of grapefruit juice and tequila and is the perfect summery drink. We also loved the tacos at Motel Mexicola which turns into a club at night so better to dine at lunchtime.
Sadly it appears that this wonderful macaroni and cheese restaurant may have closed, according to TripAdvisor. We hope this isn’t true! Swing by and let us know if it is true. If not stay and treat yourself to American-style macaroni and cheese. Endless options of cheese, mix-ins, and side’s make it almost impossible to select which dish to order. They offer gluten-free and vegan cheese for those with dietary restrictions. The best part is the breadcrumb topping which makes the mac n’ cheese crunchy and delightful.
WHERE TO STAY IN KUTA
If you’re only spending a few days in southern Bali the best place to base yourself is centrally in Kuta, ideally near the airport so you can head straight to your accommodation when you arrive to relax after your flight. Grandmas Plus Hotel Airport is a fantastic budget-friendly choice. Rooms start at just US$19 a night for a double room with complimentary breakfast on Booking.com. The entire hotel was warm and welcoming with greenery features throughout from the beautiful lobby to the pool area, it felt like we were living in a garden!
The rooms are cozy and modern with incredibly soft mattresses and showers with great water pressure. Each guest room at Grandmas Plus Hotel Airport has a unique mural which was painted by a local artist. These thoughtful details expand past the hotel room to the hallways where local ikat textiles are on display and bright orange carnations are sprinkled throughout. Our favorite experience while staying at Grandmas was receiving the traditional Tri Datu bracelet from the friendly receptionist. The red, white, and black colors are linked to key Hindu gods, Brahma the creator, Visnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Locals wear the bracelets for protection. We’ve had ours on for nearly three months!
During our stay, we were invited to try out the in-house spa where we were treated to our last Balinese massage on the island before flying off to our next destination. The local Bali therapists were incredibly kind and strong as they treated our muscles that were weary from a month of traveling around on a motorbike. I loved the all-natural spa products and opted for the pine rose oil. Grandmas also has properties in Seminyak and Legian.
Thank you, Grandmas and The Shampoo Lounge for hosting me in Kuta! This post contains affiliate links. All opinions and photos are my own. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Tracey6 Jan 2018
What a great guide! And thanks for your honesty about your sunset experience! Shame to hear about it, lovely photo though
James Smith6 Jan 2018
I love that you really immerse yourself in the area and meet the people.
AnyTexture6 Jan 2018
Looks like an awesome trip! Will keep this destination in mind 😉
miss filatelista6 Jan 2018
It was very beautiful! I hope you can go to Bali some day.
miss filatelista6 Jan 2018
Thanks, James! I usually do try to focus on community-based travels and immersion with locals but I do not think it is very well represented in this post as the area was just a tourist hub.
miss filatelista6 Jan 2018
In the end we loved the spot we found for sunset! It was a gorgeous one, wasn't it!