Spectacular beaches, azure ocean, and an intriguing culture are just a few of the highlights that attract visitors to Bali each year. In fact, the ‘Island of the Gods’ has established itself as a world-class resort destination, attracting millions of visitors per year. However, the most experienced travelers are always looking for ways to travel Bali like a local.
While the majority of people travel to the popular, bustling beaches on the south coast of the island, Bali offers up plenty of other gems for those that want to get off the beaten path and explore further. Plus, the island’s lush interior and northern coast provide a plethora of natural and cultural gems for visitors keen to escape the tourist hotspots to indulge in a few days – or even weeks – of tranquillity. From the awe-inspiring black sand beaches of the north, to the shimmering tiered rice paddies of the island interior, there are plenty of unusual things to do in Bali, from hidden destinations to enjoy a taste of authentic Balinese culture. To help you get off the beaten track and travel like a local, we’ve rounded up a selection of our favorites.
Once upon a time, idyllic isles like Nusa Lembongan and even the Gili Islands represented blissfully tranquil destinations perfect for getting away from the masses. While these islands still exude more than their fair share of natural charm, they are becoming increasingly busy – particularly during high season. For visitors that want to get off the beaten track and explore authentic Bali, the alternative island of Nusa Penida provides a charming solution.
It’s only in recent years that Nusa Penida has begun to cater for tourists, and it’s now emerging as one of the region’s most sought-after chill-out spots. Home to a large local population, Nusa Penida is also an ideal destination if you’re keen to rub shoulders with the locals by visiting markets, eat out at local restaurants etc. Situated on the east coast of the island, Atuh Beach is one of its true natural jewels. The crescent-shaped beach is encircled by craggy cliffs to the left and the island of Labuan Ampuak to the right. You couldn’t hope to find a more stunning stretch of coastline. In addition to its secluded beaches, Nusa Penida is also famous for its incredible diving scene. Some visitors even choose to get off the beaten track by renting a motorbike and exploring temples, waterfalls, and beaches themselves.
How to get there: Nusa Penida is a short boat ride from the main island of Bali. Head to Bali’s Sanur Beach and catch a boat to Nusa Penida – they leave several times per day.
Eat like a local
One of the most enticing things about traveling like a local in Bali is that you can still indulge in a fantastic array of delectable dishes – without a hefty price tag attached. Exploring the island via food is a sure way to experience authentic Bali. Like many other Southeast Asian destinations, Bali benefits from a top-notch street food scene. Plus, the countless family-run warungs that line the streets of the island – including touristy sports like Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud – mean you’ll never have to travel too far to get your hands on an authentic plate of Nasi goreng (fried rice with vegetables). If you’re on the hunt for a true local gem off the beaten track, our top tip is to keep your eyes peeled to see where the locals are going – if you see a long line of Balinese people queued up outside a warung, you can bet the food is going to be good.
If you’re based in Kuta, be sure to check out Sunda Kelapa – one of our favorite local restaurants in the area. The prices for main dishes range from approximately $2 – $6, and you can order anything from Nasi Tumpeng to the classic Nasi Goreng.
Tel: +62 361 233481
Address: Jalan Kediri No.41, Tuban Kuta, Bali
A different kind of wow factor
You can’t deny that silvery white sand, eye-searingly blue water, and exquisite sunsets make the beaches on Bali’s southern coast unmissable destinations. However, if you want to get off the beaten track and away from the crowds that make a beeline to these familiar stretches of coastline, heading to one of Bali’s northern seaside spots may be a promising alternative.
The volcanic beaches of Amed enjoy a scenic, rugged beauty that’s far from the polished tourist hubs of the south, and the area is relatively underdeveloped compared to Bali’s favorite resort destinations, thus a perfect way to explore authentic Bali. However, what it lacks in development it more than makes up for in raw, unspoiled beauty. Amed Beach spans a selection of quaint, local fishing villages, including Amed, Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Selang, Banyuning, and Aas. The region is already an off-the-radar favorite for scuba divers, who can explore the intriguing underwater shipwreck of USS Liberty. The black, volcanic sand is particularly Instagrammable, too. There are no public buses that run to Amed, so the best way to
reach this area is via a private shuttle bus – see the details below.
How to get there: A shuttle bus runs from Amed’s Perama office to a selection of destinations, including the airport, Kuta and Ubud. It’s worth booking your ticket via a tour operator at least a day in advance so you can A. guarantee your seat and B. ensure the bus is actually running.
At one with nature
To savour a glimpse of Bali’s authentic treasures and to travel Bali like a local, exploring its scenic natural landscapes is a must. In fact, if you’re traveling in the northern part of the island, West Bali National Park – known locally as Taman Nasional Bali Barat – is simply unmissable. Covering an area of more than 1,900 hectares, this spectacular protected area boasts an eclectic array of ecosystems, including rich rainforests, coral reefs, and steamy mangrove swamps. Over 300 different species call the park home, and visitors from far and wide travel here to try and snatch a glimpse of the endangered Bali starling. You’ll need to get hold of a park permit in order to explore this stunning natural refuge. You’ll be able to do this at one of the ranger stations on the edge of the park, where you can also arrange guides
and hikes, as you must be accompanied by an official guide to enter the park’s protected areas.
Tel: +62 361 9177184
Address: The national park is situated in Buleleng Regecny, Bali. It can be accessed by roads from Gilimanuk and Singaraja.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/West-Bali- National-Park/109141269103952
There are plenty of spectacular hidden spots to enjoy in Bali on your quest to travel like a local. Many of these are tucked away in the deepest corners of Bali’s velvety green forests – including an array of secluded waterfalls. In some cases, the best rewards are earned by visitors who aren’t put off by the prospect of a physically-challenging trek that stands between them and their ultimate destination. However, many of Bali’s finest watery cascades are an easy hike away – and you’ll still be rewarded
with a magical outlook over silvery torrents and gleaming rockpools.
Nestled within the forest near Dusun Penida Kelod, the Tukad Cupung Waterfall is one of our favorite hidden treasures and one of the most unusual things to do in Bali. A hike to this concealed rocky torrent will yield some of the most Instagrammable scenes of your holiday, as rays of sunshine reach down through the emerald canopy and into this rocky hideaway. The waterfall is hidden behind an exotic cavern, so once you arrive, you’ll really feel as if you’ve discovered an idyllic, forgotten corner of the island. Learn more about the top hidden Bali natural attractions that will take your breath away in this article.
Getting from A to B
When it comes to traveling around and finding unusual things to do in Bali, there’s no doubt that motorbikes are the predominant form of transportation used by locals. That’s largely because journeys by scooter or motorbike are more affordable than those made by car. Plus, scooters are a lot more nimble when it comes to weaving in and out of the traffic that sometimes amasses on Bali’s busier thoroughfares.
So, if you truly want to travel Bali like a local, renting out your own motorcycle is the only way to go. They can be rented for no more than $5 per day, and rates will decrease the longer you rent the motorcycle for. There’s no need to obtain a local license – an international permit is all you need. However, for your own safety, you’ll only want to use this form of transportation if you’re a confident rider who is familiar with the rules of the road. Once you’ve got your motorbike, Bali’s endless array of hidden treasures are spread out before you – you can go where you want, when you want, and on all
the roads less-traveled by tourists.
When it comes to booking a scooter, it’s best to organize this through the hotel or villa where you’re staying. The staff will know about the best local firms and will be able to organise this for you at a good rate.
Delve into rural Bali
The allure of sun, sea and sand entices most visitors to Bali’s beaches – but there’s much more to the Island of the Gods than sub bathing and surfing. The island’s interior forms a stark contrast to the coast, and is blanketed with tea plantations, rice paddies and bamboo villages – much as it has been for centuries. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in authentic Balinese culture is to spend time with the locals – this is a sure way to see and do unusual things in Bali. Booking yourself into a homestay retreat is often a great way to get off the beaten track and experience a true taste of rural Bali.
Visitors taking part in the Bali Homestay Program to delve into the island’s authentic way of life, experiencing village life, culture and cuisine in the same way as the locals. During your stay with a local family, you might pick up a few tips on how to prepare true local cuisine. Some guests will have the chance to learn how to make Balinese coffee, and may even have the opportunity to go out and pick the coffee beans. Plus, some people can learn from local artisans about how traditional Balinese handicrafts and jewellery are made. Visits to fruit orchards, rice paddies and sacred local forests are just a few of the other highlights.
Tel: +62 8510 4889 996
Address: Jl. Nakula Gg. Jepun 03, Ngis – Jegu, Penebel – Tabanan, 82152, Bali, Indonesia
While tourism has become one of Bali’s primary exports, pearl fishing is still big business in certain areas. South sea pearls from Indonesia are highly valuable, and are exported all over the world. Visiting a fishing village and watching the pearl farmers in action can be a fantastic experience of authentic Bali that’s slightly off the well-trodden tourist path.
If you’re interested in these gems of the ocean, Atlas Pearls operates three farms throughout Indonesia. Their establishment near the fishing village of Pemuteran is an excellent visit. Visitors can take part in a tour and learn more about the local oyster-breeding programme, as well as discovering more about pearl seeding and harvesting. Visitors can even learn how to tell the difference between real and fake pearls. There’s also a boutique for those who want to indulge in some souvenir shopping.
Tel: + 62 8123 877 012
Address: Jalan Nelayan, Penyabangan, Buleleng, Bali
Bali’s deeply spiritual culture dates back hundreds of years, and temples like Tanah Lot are
particularly popular with tourists keen to immerse themselves in local life and experience unusual things in Bali. However, with the more well-known sites attracting bus loads of tourists each day, it’s not rare for the peace and tranquillity of a sacred destination to be overcome by the masses. However, Bali is overflowing with hidden gems – including an array of lesser-known sacred treasures. In addition to temples and shrines, local Balinese communities often consider banyan trees to be sacred, too. It is believed that spirits and demons inhabit the tangled roots of these trees, and you’ll often see small shrines and offerings close to the dense knots of wood.
The town of Gesing in North Bali is home to a colossal banyan tree that measures a staggering 85 metres in height, that is believed to be 700 years old. The tree is said to have played an important part in Balinese resistance against the Dutch occupation in the 1940s, when local forces would hide inside the thick tangle of the tree’s roots. Today, locals – and some tourists – visit the tree to lose themselves in the tangled maze of its roots, and make a wish to the tree’s spirit.
Address: Munduk, Banjar, Buleleng, Bali
How to get there: From Munduk, head in the direction of Gesing, 5km away. Signs will lead you to the banyan tree.
Enjoy the view
Travelling like a local in Bali means getting off the beaten track and exploring the best of the island’s scenery – far away from the busy beaches of the south. However, to explore the lush, tropical scenery to your heart’s content, sometimes you need the help of a local who can act as your guide. Based in the village of Tegallalang to the northeast of Ubud, the Bali Eco Adventure initiative serves visitors who want to unveil the island’s authentic natural beauty. Guides lead trekkers through dense forest, local plantations, and even an 11th century maze. Tours of this dramatic landscape often take in streams, waterfalls and bamboo brides, too. One route winds past the Goa Maya cave, which plays an important part in a local legend dating back to the 11 th century. It is thought that this hidden rocky
crevice was the site of the battle between the Hindu God Indra and King Maya Denawa.
Tel: +62 851 0087 3603
Address: Banjar Bayad, Tegallalang, Bali, Indonesia
Stay in a Balinese villa in the heart of nature
The decision to stay in a private villa during your Bali vacation will be among the best ones, as you will get a chance to experience its unique atmosphere of calmness and relaxation, purifying the body and soul. The villa Majapahit Nataraja might become the right option – amazing outdoor area together with elegant interiors & high-level service will ensure an ideal Bali time for you and your beloved.
Check other Bali villas that you might like: Amazing Holiday Villas in Bali