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Where to stay in Bali – the comprehensive guide

So you have decided that Bali is the place for you for all of the reasons we have listed in our guide, but where will you stay? A simple google search reveals thousands of hotels and resorts, all with hundreds of positive and negative reviews, each in a different part of the island. Where do you start?

In a tourism mecca like Bali with so many hotels for every budget, before choosing your hotel: you need to choose your location. After you pick which location is for you, it becomes easy to identify the perfect hotel for your stay.

The different towns or locations in Bali all have quite different characteristics and offer different experiences. You need to select the one that matches your personality and desires. Here, we present the ultimate guide on deciding where to stay on the island based on your preferences and needs. Instead of simply discussing the regions geographically, we will examine each location.

Nusa Dua

  • Positives: Beautiful beach, water sports & golfing. Perfect for families and luxurious honeymoons.
  • Negatives: Far from the rest of Bali.

Nusa Dua is a serene and well-maintained part of the island which is home to luxurious and self-contained hotels. It is ideal for those who wish for a planned, clean and compact holiday. Our recommended place for a family holiday, or for a luxurious honeymoon.

The location has good access to water sports and is one of the best places on the island for diving or snorkelling. It also is home to the extravagant Bali golf course. Day trips to Denpasar and Uluwatu are easy, whilst travelling farther than that can be tiresome.

Its main drawbacks revolve around its distance to a lot of the other things that Bali has to offer. Nightlife, busy markets and mixing with local customs is on short supply.

vacation, resort, beach
Nusa Dua – Elegant beach front hotels

Ubud

  • Positives: nature, culture, spirituality, trendy, the quintessential Eat Pray Love experience
  • Negatives: Far from the beach.

Ubud is an interesting town nestled amongst the rainforest on hilly terrain. It is a hub of boutiques, bars and restaurants. It has an active arts scene and home to several museums. It is renowned for its spas and centres for yoga and meditation which offer classes. It is very popular with expats and westerners as a whole.

Any traveller to Bali and Ubud must be aware of the 2010 movie Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts. Whilst its success as a film is debatable, it certainly has had a profound impact on the global fame of Ubud as a travel destination. Strangely, the movie is a somewhat fair representation of Ubud – and if that appeals to you then it certainly helps make it clear that Ubud should be where you choose to stay.

Another important thing to know about Ubud is that it is a great vantage point to explore Balinese nature. There are many waterfalls, rainforests and trails to be explored all within short driving distance from the town. The mountains of Agung and Batur are both accessible for climbing or sightseeing.

Whilst it is the spiritual and cultural hub of the island, it is far from the beach. It takes roughly about an hour drive to the nearest beaches. This is the one and main drawback of Ubud, as the beach and water activities are some of the most special things about the island for most people.

bali, landscape
Ubud – Central Bali

Kuta

  • Positives: Affordable, lively and cosmopolitan, nightlife, great place to learn surfing.
  • Negatives: Crowded

Kuta is close to the airport and one of the most densely populated areas on the island. There is a never ending supply of places to eat, drink and shop. It has everything, with a particular reputation for its nightlife. Although located to the south of the island it is a reasonable distance to most famous places of interest, making it a decent place to base yourself if you want to combine access to the beaches as well as day trips to central Bali.

The beach is long, lively and accessible from anywhere in Kuta. It might not be as pristine as Nusa Dua or Seminyak, but it is the perfect place to learn how to surf with cheap lessons and surf boards to hire at any point.

Whilst Kuta offers a lot, it does not offer peace and quiet. If solitude and tranquillity is what you are looking for then it is not the right place. Like much of Kuta, the beach can also be crowded.

Seminyak

  • Positives: sophisticated, aesthetic, great for families and couples.
  • Negatives: fewer affordable options

Seminyak is a refined tropical beachside experience. It offers a clean beach with upmarket restaurants, beachfront cafes and boutiques. The hotels offer high quality facilities and can be more upmarket.

The town and local amenities are more polished. The location is close to the wilderness of central Bali and experience of Ubud. The south of Bali is also accessible, although a little farther than Kuta or Jimbaran beach. 

If in doubt about where to choose and budget is not an issue – Seminyak is a safe bet.

What Seminyak offers in luxury and elegance, it lacks in affordability. It also does not have much local cultural connection and can feel a bit too polished and expat/tourist friendly like many other locations – although this can be accessed via a short journey.

Sophisticated Seminyak

Canggu

  • Positives: compact, quiet, contemporary and stylish, great place to surf.
  • Negatives: fewer local options for dining out, activities and shopping.

Canggu is an up and coming location for expats and tourists who wish to combine the digital nomad vibe of Ubud with the beachside feel of Seminyak. It is, for all intents and purposes, Seminyak without the crowds. It has trendy cafes, boutiques and a beautiful beach.

Predictably it offers less liveliness and options than Seminyak whilst still carrying a price tag. It is a perfect fit for those looking for a trendy, quiet(er) location – but outside of that it offers limited advantages.

villa, property, bedroom
Canggu – expat villa haven

Jimbaran

  • Positives: local fishing community, underrated, close to Airport.
  • Negatives: less fashionable

Jimbaran beach is an interesting fishing village and beach. It offers a unique mix of tourism and local life. Jimbaran is most famous for its beachfront seafood restaurants which most people visit at least once on a trip to Bali. However, it is rather underrated as a place to stay and less popular amongst the expat/travel community. This can be an opportunity to get a different experience.

Additionally it has a very accessible beach and is a good spot for surfing, along with the obvious seafood restaurants at night.

It is underrated and less popular mainly because it lacks the digital nomad cultivated vibe which so many people seek from a trip to Bali. The seafood restaurants can be pricey, and there isn’t as big a selection of shopping and dining as one would find in neighbouring Kuta or Seminyak.

Where to stay in Bali
Jimbaran beach

Where to stay in Bali – the conclusion

This was a list of the most popular locations, in descending order of popularity. Anywhere is likely to be a great holiday in Bali, but as discussed, the location can have a rather big impact so it is the best first step to deciding where to book your stay.

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