Ever popular with its Aussie neighbors and devotees of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love, Bali’s crowded streets still give way to deserted beaches, awe-inspiring strolls, and private dining—you just need to know where to look. Beyond the hip boutiques, be-seen beach clubs, and monkey forests, we explored the Indonesian island’s otherworldly coordinates to bring you Bali off the beaten path. Happy trails.
The Pet Shop Boys must have visited Bali when they wrote: Go west, life is peaceful there, because miles from the well-trodden tourist hubs along Bali’s southeastern coast, the woodsy west side is home to world-class diving and snorkeling, untouched beaches, and a leisurely pace (cue donkeys pulling hay along the roadside). The main setback to reaching the island’s western shores is also its greatest strength – its remoteness. To reach the Jungle Book-like Bali Barat National Park and its thriving underwater playground, hire a driver (more on this below) to navigate the 100-mile journey past everyday Bali: rolling rice terraces, countryside homes, and dark-sand beaches.
Once you’ve reached the protected marine wonderland, hop on a boat to Menjangan Island, where multiple dive sites teem with parrotfish, turtles, sea fans and coral reefs. Bring your own Bintang – Indonesia’s national beer – to enjoy on dry land once you’ve finished your underwater explorations. Book your dive tour with the British- and Japanese-owned Blue Season Bali at the Menjangan, a five-star PADI dive center.
Sunrise at Mount Batur
Wake up before the roosters for a bird’s-eye view of Bali, bathed in a golden glow. The two-hour hike to the sunrise viewpoint at Mount Batur, in the north east of the island, begins on a flat trail, and quickly transitions to a narrow ascent atop volcanic soil. And yes it’s an active volcano (it’s most recent eruption was in the year 2000). At the overlook, you’ll watch the sun rise above the horizon and surrounding clouds to shroud the island in early-morning light as a troop of monkeys savor the spectacle alongside you. Bonus: You’ll be back on the beach before most people are taking their first sip of java from Java!
Bali has a bustling private transport sector due to its narrow and winding streets, enlivened with a motley crew of cars, trucks, taxis, scooters, and cow-drawn carriages. Leave the navigating to a hired driver, who does more than just offer a lift, but doubles as a highly knowledgeable tour guide capable of customizing passenger itineraries to places you wouldn’t see in a top-10 guide. Whether you’re seeking a local festival, a closer look at those iconic rice paddies, a trip to the offshore Tanah Lot Temple, or the peace of Brahmavihara-Arama buddhist monastery, hire a driver for the day (or over multiple days) to see Bali’s most spectacular stops off the beaten path. Locals like Gusti, are dependable well-informed, and love to share their knowledge of the island with visitors.
Private Cooking Class
One of the most immersive ways to experience a destination is through its food. Cuisine is one of the biggest windows into culture, and learning how a region cooks, and what ingredients drive each delicacy, hints at one of the main reasons we travel: curiosity. Whether you book a chef-led cooking class to impress your significant other or to expand your palate, an intimate culinary experience in a traditional Balinese kitchen combines a taste of local life and a new skill set (win-win). While your local concierge can suggest something nearby or at your villa, we like this private couples’ cooking class in Ubud, complete with a 7 a.m. market visit, chef instruction, and dining alongside the rice terraces. Bon appetit!
Where to stay in Bali