Steal My Vacation: 2 Weeks of Paradise in Bali
When people started coming to me for travel advice—and then asking outright for my itineraries, I thought it would be fun to start publishing them. I started with my two-week trip to Thailand and then my northern Italy escape.
I spend hours (and I mean HOURS) researching destinations, activities, reputable tour operators, authentic places to eat, and unique accommodations. I scour traveler blogs (the best place to go, in my opinion), verify my selections on travel review sites, and crowd source to make sure I have crafted the best itinerary possible.
Researching a trip is half the fun. When I was little, a teacher asked our class to share their favorite emotion. I said mine was “anticipation.” Drooling over travel photos is much more satisfying when you know you will be going there yourself.
Studies show that people visit hundreds of sites and spend almost as many hours planning a vacation. And this where I thrive. So here is my most recent vacation itinerary—let me know if you end up stealing it!
A Note on Travel Style
I always start with a caveat that everyone has a different travel style. So my itinerary may not be the perfect one for you. Here are some notes regarding how I travel.
I prefer to “go and do” rather than “go and see,” so you won’t see many museum or pure sight seeing tours on my itineraries. I also don’t love beaches for the most part. And lying around at a resort for a week bores me to tears.
Similarly, I enjoy active vacations and being outdoors. Most of my trips include some kind physical activity. Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, etc.
I am comfortable in rustic accommodations. But my husband prefers luxury stays. There is usually a mixture on our trips together—anywhere from a campervan to a luxury bungalow. I always notate in my detailed reviews the “adventure” level of our lodging.
My MO is go, go, go. My husband likes to relax. There is usually a balance in our trips.
Ethical travel is important. To the best of my knowledge and ability, I have vetted operators to ensure they are responsible—particularly when it comes to activities involving animals.
Ok, let’s get down to what you are really here for—to steal my vacation!
Indonesia spans one eighth of the earth’s circumference and is comprised of over 17,000 islands. The topography and wildlife are as diverse as the people. Over 300 languages are spoken across the sprawling country. And, it’s absolutely gorgeous!
With only two weeks, we didn’t have time to do as much island hopping as we would have liked. So we decided to focus on Bali (a popular tourist destination). But to satisfy my need to venture to less-touristy destinations, we included trips to Nusa Penida and Flores.
Canggu was our first stop and it was a great way to adjust to the Bali lifestyle (and the 12 hour time difference!). Canggu has a definite laid-back vibe and is great if you want to catch some of Bali’s infamous surf, but don’t feel ready for the more intense waves on the rest of the island. Suggestions for Canggu were provided by a contact from Desert to Sea Travel.
Our private driver, Wayan, picked us up from the airport and drove us for most of our vacation. He was amazing and we would definitely recommend him! (You can contact him through What’s App at 6281936021872.)
After a day of airport food, start your day at Café Organic for some smoothie bowls and delicious, wholesome food.
Visit Spring Spa for seriously ONE OF THE BEST MASSAGES YOU’LL EVER HAVE!
We went for the 90-minute option (because, y’all, massages here are SO CHEAP). Since you’ve probably just endured a very long flight, trust me, your body will thank you.
Check into the Zala Villa.
(See my Zala Villa TripAdvisor review here).
Enjoy drinks and dinner at The Lawn for sunset.
(See my review of The Lawn here).
If you’ve seen my other itineraries, you might notice I have a penchant for revisiting a restaurant I really love while on vacation. Some people might consider this a taboo, because there are so many new restaurants to discover, but I don’t care. If I fall in love with a place because it has the perfect mixture of great food and ambiance, I like to enjoy it a second time. (In case you couldn’t tell, The Lawn was that place for me.)
Surfing lessons with Baruna Surf Culture.
Vegetarians can rejoice in Bali because there are TONS of delicious options. Check out The Avocado Factory for some healthy food all including—avocado, the fruit of the Millennial.
Enjoy strolling Canggu and checking out the excellent shopping.
Ok, I know I just got finished telling you how active I like to be on vacation, but massages are also really nice (and did I mention cheap?). So get another one at Therapy Massage (though I did like Spring better).
We heard great things about Shady Shack, but gosh darn, we loved The Lawn so much, we went back. It’s ok, you can judge me.
Fun side story: one of the couples we had met during surfing showed up as we were paying our bill. So, we asked them to join us and we stayed for another round (or two) of drinks.
Flores is home to a number of active volcanoes and Komodo National Park. It is more rugged and less developed than Bali (hence my attraction), but we didn’t get to explore it as much as I would have liked (plus, I had to consider my husband’s tolerance level for “adventure,” my code word for “discomfort”).
If you want to see Komodo Dragons, definitely head to Flores—one of the only places where you can see them in the wild. If rugged mountains and trekking are your thing (like me), I’ve heard Lombok is a great alternative and it doesn’t require a flight—just a speed boat from Bali. For beautiful beaches, you can go to the Gili Islands (right off Lombok).
Wayan picked us up early to transport us to the airport.
*A note on booking domestic air within Indonesia: Many Indonesian carriers will not accept foreign credit cards—and my credit card company was notified to block my card multiple times while I tried to book through C-Trip. I had my best luck with Garuda Airlines after calling my credit card company to inform them I was using my card to book the flight.
This is the first “adventurous” accommodation of this trip. Le Pirate is on an anchored ship in the harbor of Labuan Bajo. It is unique, charming, and fun. But it is definitely a hostel type situation.
(Check out my Le Pirate review here).
We spent this day on the boat. There were stand up paddle boards and kayaks. I read, we played games, we watched the sunset. This was my attempt to build in “down time,” but I can’t say I loved it. Marriage is about compromise, right?
The daily speed boat from Red Whale Dive Center picked us up right at our boat. This may have been one of the best things we did on our entire trip. Man eating komodo dragons? Check. Hiking to the top of a beautiful island? Check. Sitting on a pink sand beach? Check.
Notes: Bring cash for the Komodo Island entry fee. If you want to take photos on the pink sand beach, bring a waterproof camera because the boat doesn’t dock.
Walk around town and find a place to eat. We met up with a couple we met during our boat tour. And to be honest, they selected a delicious Italian restaurant that I failed to write down. It was great, we just got very lost looking for it.
Referred to as the cultural center of Bali, Ubud has lots to offer and is the stuff of Instagram dreams—rice terraces, temples, an amazing food scene, and great yoga.
Fly back to Ubud, Bali.
We stayed at an Airbnb just outside the city center. It was a little far for my taste, since the activities we did were on the other side of the city center and required a taxi. But there are plenty of restaurants and shops within walking distance of this beautiful villa.
Seriously, y’all. There are a ton of delicious options. We went to Café Bali, which came highly recommended, but we thought it was just ok.
You guessed it! Start your day off with another massage at Karsa Spa. Book this in advance—it’s incredible! This was my husband’s favorite massage location.
Right next to the Karsa Spa is the Karsa Café. Delicious, with an incredible view of the rice terraces.
The famous Campuhan Ridge Walk is just down the road from Karsa. The walk is easy and at less than 2 kilometers, shouldn’t take you that long (unless you take an obscene amount of photos, like I did). The trail will drop you off right back in Ubud proper by the Monkey Forest (another popular attraction that we decided to skip).
Not far from the end of the Campuhan Ridge Walk is the equally well-known Yoga Barn. We purchased a 3 class pass for our time in Ubud. The campus was beautiful (there is even a restaurant and rooms) and the classes were great!
Morning class at Yoga Barn!
A delightfully healthy breakfast at the vegetarian restaurant, Altman’s Nourish Café.
This was the day of many changes. We had originally intended to rent motorbikes and explore, like we did in Thailand, but the traffic was so hectic, I was pretty sure we would have been squashed.
Wayan picked us up to drive us to Mt. Batur for a four hour round-trip hike to the summit. The main attraction of a Mt. Batur hike is to see the sunrise—which requires waking up shortly after midnight. My husband isn’t into waking up early on vacation, and Wayan explained that without the sunrise, Mt. Batur is a rather uninteresting climb.
Instead, Wayan took us on the standard Ubud tourist tour. But the sights were so beautiful, I really didn’t mind!
Our tour included visiting Tegalalang Rice Terrace, a locally-owned Luwak coffee farm (research after returning home makes me wary of supporting Luwak coffee), and a view of Mt. Batur. We finished by shopping for hand-crafted souvenirs on Andong and Gadong streets.
*While we had a private driver for this tour, there are many options to book this tour upon arrival.
Clear Café is a local/expat/tourist favorite! Remove your shoes before stepping inside and enjoy!
Nusa Penida, Bali
“Like Bali 20 years ago, before all the tourists came,” was the way Nusa Penida was described to me. The recommendation also came with a clear warning that this island is not for everyone.
The “Nusas” are islands just off the coast of Bali—Penida being the least trafficked of the three. However, that is changing as tourists are drawn to the natural, rugged beauty of the island.
The roads are something to consider. Nusa Penida is much larger than Bali, and the hotspots are spread far apart. There is only one main road and it is VERY bumpy. For this reason, motorbikes aren’t generally recommended—though there are many tourists who brave them. I admired those bruised and knee-scraped road warriors.
As the tourism outpaces the infrastructure, there are also dozens of black and white vans carting tourists across the island. This led to clogged roads and traffic as the vans tried to pass each other on the narrow roads.
This island is great if you want serenity and awesome views. There are few swimmable beaches, since the tide is very rough. Accommodations and food are basic on this island, but we saw evidence that businesses are preparing for an influx in tourists thanks to Instagram. While we were there, we saw tons of construction happening all over the island—well appointed bungalows with ocean views. In fact, our bungalow had only been open for a month.
Head to Sanur (by the airport) to grab a fast boat to Nusa Penida. We went with Maruti. They don’t have the best reviews, but most people use them as a day trip. For us, we just used them as transportation. Most of the boats required wading through the ocean to board.
After a very bumpy ride, we checked in to the beautiful Bambu Green.
(Check out my TripAdvisor review here.)
After we ordered our lunch, we requested a driver through the resort. We spent the next six hours exploring the island.
Giri Putri: Located at the top of what felt like a hundred stairs, locate the entrance to this Hindu cave temple. It’s a bit of a squeeze to get through the hole in the ground (yes, it’s underground), but once you enter the cavern you will be amazed! There was nobody there while we visited, which was kind of cool, but you may also witness an actual service in progress if you’re lucky.
Peguyangan Waterfall: Not actually a waterfall, but a pretty spectacular view. We didn’t even hike all the way to the bottom, since we heard it was underwhelming.
Rumah Pohon: These little treehouses are actually for rent through Airbnb, though I hear they are pretty rustic. (I would like to note that I would have loved to stay in one, but I wasn’t going to do that to Andrew.)
This house in particular is all over Instagram—but a (paper) sign (written in sharpie) has been placed at the steps asking travelers to respect the privacy of those actually staying.
We stopped at a little place called Beach Corner we saw along the road. The food was better than we expected, but what we really loved were the unfettered views of the ocean. Ask for Table #1 for the best view!
A full day to explore more of the sights. Places to consider: Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, or Crystal Bay.
The highlight for us was Kelingking—another Instagram darling. Tourists have definitely infiltrated this no-longer secret location and jostle for their photo op. If you are brave and sure-footed, you can hike down to the beach to get away from the crowd.
We hiked down half-way and I will warn you—it is probably one of the most dangerous hikes I’ve done. Narrow, with plunging cliffs on both sides, very slippery loose gravel, and nothing but a questionable barricade made out of sticks.
Take the boat back to Ubud!
Now for the luxurious part of our stay—the part that keeps my husband for leaving me.
We never left the property during our time at The Kayon Jungle Resort.
(Check out my review of The Kayon Jungle Resort here).
Yes, we got another massage while we waited for check in. It really is the best way to pass the time.
Our stay came with included happy hour drinks—pick a spot by any of the pools and indulge!
Sunrise yoga was included in our stay. The yoga location has incredible views of the jungle valley.
Have a floating breakfast delivered to your room. Was the water freezing? Yes. Was it worth it? I think so.
Take advantage of all of the pools and hot tubs, stake out a cabana for the day, order appetizers and drinks, read, and marvel at the beautiful surroundings.
Get another massage. Because you can.
Imbibe and enjoy watching all the Instagrammers conduct their personal photo shoots all over the place.
For an additional cost, you can have a romantic, multi-course candlelit dinner in one of two beautiful locations on property.
Make it count
Squeeze in every last ounce of enjoyment possible. We had breakfast on our terrace, lounged by the pool, had dinner, got another (yes, another) massage, and showered at the spa before Wayan came to pick us up.
Head home and wish you were back in Bali!
Check out my Thailand itinerary here.
Check out my northern Italy itinerary here.
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