Things to do in Bali

Things to do in Bali

Attempting to sum up the dreamy charm of Bali in only a few paragraphs feels like an effort in futility. This is the Island of the Gods, after all, a paradisiacal land of verdant rice terraces, mesmerizing temples, wild beaches, and smiling locals. Mornings begin with the heady smell of incense rising from thoughtfully placed flower-petal offerings (canang sari), an ancient ritual of gratitude and deep appreciation—and a tribute to Bali’s deep-rooted spirituality. Days continue in true ‘choose your own adventure’ style; soak in the beauty of the island’s natural wonders, take a deep dive into Bali’s rich cultural heritage, or enjoy the quiet seclusion of a luxury retreat hidden away in the jungle. Whether you’re after total mind-body-soul restoration or simply a blissed-out escape to the tropics, gay Bali promises a little something for everyone. Start finding inspiration for your ultimate gay vacation with these Mr Hudson approved things to do in Bali.

Things to see in Bali

It’s not hyperbole to say that fascinating Hindu temples are everywhere in Bali. While you’ll likely stumble open a handful of these captivating places of worship without even trying, there are a few temples that warrant seeking out. Start at Uluwatu Temple; its dramatic perch atop a craggy 70m-high cliff allows for uninterrupted Indian Ocean vistas. In addition to its unique locale, Uluwatu Temple is extraordinary in that it is one of Bali’s nine directional temples and a place of worship of Siva Rudra (a principal deity over all elements and life in the universe.) Keep an eye out for mischievous monkeys that live in the surrounding forest. They are believed to protect the temple from negative energy, but they have also been known to swipe belongings from unsuspecting tourists. Another must-visit Bali temple is Pura Lempuyang, also known as the “Gateway to Heaven.” On a clear day, the temple sides frame Mount Agung’s impressive peak, but even with clouds, the vistas are spectacular. More than Instagram fodder alone, Pura Lempuyang is considered one of Bali’s most holy and venerated temples. Arrive early to avoid serpentine queues in the unforgiving sun. Just outside of Ubud, Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave) is an archaeological site and temple complex. Enter through a mysterious entrance (that can only be described as resembling a demon mouth) to discover a peaceful meditation cave, ancient bathing pools, and a relic-filled courtyard. This tour explores the importance of the Elephant Cave as well as other central Bali attractions.

Pura Lempuyang Bali

Pura Lempuyang | Photo: Raj Eiamworakul

Mount Lempyang Bali

Mount Lempuyang | Photo: Marek Okon

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When you’re ready to swap the beaten path for a glimpse of traditional Balinese life, head to Sidemen Valley

Mount Agung Bali

Mount Agung | Photo: Geio Tischler

There’s no denying it—Bali’s exotic beauty and hospitable charm means you’ll be sharing paradise with a large number of other tourists. When you’re ready to swap the beaten path for a glimpse of traditional Balinese life, head to Sidemen Valley. Quiet rice terraces, sweeping farmland, majestic Mount Agung views, and relaxed vibes all characterize this East Bali area. Come to experience authentic Balinese life as it remains for many locals, far removed from trendy yoga studios and Bohemian coffee shops. While you’re traversing the island, leave time to visit at least one of Bali’s glittering waterfalls. The Sekumpul Waterfall is widely considered Bali’s most impressive; surrounded by verdant forest, twin falls cascade down 80 meters to the valley floor below.

Sekumpul Waterfall Bali

The Sekumpul Waterfall | Photo: Alexandra K.

Bali doesn’t want for sugar-fine beaches. When you’re ready to join other bronzed beauties for a sun-dappled day of sea and sand, head to Petitenget Beach. This is Bali’s most gay-popular beach, a long swath of grey sand with sun loungers and a handful of beach clubs and restaurants. Suluban Beach is unique in that it is hidden by natural limestone cliffs. Traverse down the concrete steps to access one of Bali’s top surf breaks, or visit at low tide when sandy spots are easier to come by. Another gorgeous Bali beach only accessible via a long trek down hundreds of steps is Green Bowl Beach. The scintillating turquoise water and powdery white sand are a reward well worth the effort required to arrive at this lovely spot.

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Legong Dance is graceful but fierce, characterized by captivatingly dramatic eye and finger movements accompanied by a traditional percussion orchestra

Indonesian dancer

Things to do in Bali

For a spellbinding evening of ancient Hindu stories told through music and movement, don’t miss an evening of traditional Balinese dance. Every night at the Ubud Palace, Balinese women dress in ceremonial attire to perform Legong Dance. Directly speaking, the show tells the story of two brothers turned to monkeys. The performance is graceful but fierce, characterized by captivatingly dramatic eye and finger movements accompanied by a traditional percussion orchestra. Barong (depicting the eternal battle between good and evil) and Kecak (inspired by the epic Ramayana epic) are two other popular Balinese dances to watch for. Continue your exploration into Bali’s riveting culture with a Bali Food Safari, an epicurean adventure to some of Bali’s most exciting restaurants and foodie neighborhoods. From traditional Indonesian street food to gourmet farm-to-table dining to refined craft cocktails, this high-end private tour showcases all the highlights of Bali’s current culinary landscape. Each tantalizing flavor promises a deeper appreciation of Bali’s unique sense of place.

Balinese Food

Photo: Guillaume Flandre

Adventure seekers won’t want to miss the opportunity to climb the sacred Mount Batur, one of two active volcanoes in Bali. Most hiking expeditions start in the middle of the night to ensure hikers summit in time to watch a kaleidoscope of colours sweep through the sky at sunrise. On a clear day, expect gobsmacking views of Gunung Agung and the surrounding valley. The trek is difficult but not strenuous and takes about three hours to complete. One of Bali’s best day trips is Nusa Penida, easily recognizable for its magnificent 200-meter high coastal cliffs and pockets of picture-perfect white-sand beaches. A short 30-minute ferry ride takes travellers to Nusa Penida’s shores; a visit to secluded Kelingking Beach, Peguyangan Waterfall, and Crystal Bay are the most popular day-trip attractions. A few extra days on Nusa Penida affords opportunities to snorkel with manta rays and further uncover the island’s hidden gems.

Mount Batur Bali

Mount Batur | Photo: Geio Tischler

Eating, Drinking and Shopping in Bali

When in Canggu, follow the disco beats that reverberate from Love Anchor Bazaar to discover one of Bali’s most vibrant daily markets. Here, some 100 vendors sell everything from handmade accessories to Balinese inspired homeware to organic skincare products. It’s an excellent spot for picking up souvenirs that are far removed from the typical kitschy products pedalled elsewhere. When you want to refresh your beach wardrobe, Franksland is the obvious choice. This luxury store specializes in chic beach essentials influenced by Bali’s tropical atmosphere. Sleek silhouettes and bold patterns combine to create eye-catching statement pieces—ideal for both Bali and your at-home wardrobe.

Bali Shopping

Photo: Bhaumik Kaji

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Seminyak is the beating heart of gay Bali and where you’ll find most of the island’s top gay bars

Seminyak is the beating heart of gay Bali and where you’ll find most of the island’s top gay bars. Start at Mixwell Bali, a perennial gay Bali favourite for its late-night drag shows and handsome dancers. Bali Joe is another iconic gay Seminyak bar, a small but lively spot sought out for its beauty pageants, dancers and live performances. You’ll want to book a table on the weekends when the party regularly spills out onto the street. Finally, no visit to Bali is complete without a stop at Finns Beach Club. Spend a day idling at this luxurious seafront setting, only getting up from your chaise lounger to cool off at the swim-up pool bar. When the sun goes down, hip-swaying parties beneath the starry night sky rev up.

Bali doesn’t want for decadent dining options. Those with a sweet tooth will swoon over Room4Dessert, an all-dessert concept restaurant tucked away in Ubud. There’s an a la carte menu, but the always changing nine-course tasting menu is the restaurant’s real piece de resistance. After all, who said adults couldn’t—or shouldn’t—indulge in dessert for dinner every now and again. Back in sophisticated Seminyak is Sangsaka, an intimate Balinese restaurant serving upscale takes on Indonesian cuisine. Each dish allows the vibrant, local ingredients to shine through; the Jimbaran BBQ scallops are a treasure. One of Bali’s sexiest restaurants is Bikini, easily recognizable for the flagship neon-pink sign that declares: “U Look Hot In A Bikini.” Come for the luxe yet playful ambience along with a creative food and drink menu.

Seminyak Beach Bali

Seminyak Beach | Photo: Felipe Palacio

Where to stay in Bali

Overlooking the Ayung River, the award-winning hotel The Hanging Gardens of Bali is an oasis of luxury nestled amidst lush jungle and tropical gardens. Private villas reflect the beauty of the island and feature traditional thatched roofs, contemporary Balinese decor, and ultra-luxe handcrafted furniture. Unwind with an ancient Balinese treatment at the onsite Spa Collection or relax over a long lunch while enjoying views of the Ayung River. That is if you can tear yourself away from the twin-tiered cascading pool and its spectacular valley views—rightfully named one of the best pools in the world. If its intimate seclusion you’re after, Capella Ubud is a luxury tented camp hidden away in the Keliki Valley. Designed by renowned architect Bill Bensley, these spectacular tents pay tribute to early European settlers and their spirit of adventure. Feel transported to the romance of the 19th century while enjoying all the modern-day luxuries you would expect from the Capella brand. Gay travellers who want an immersion into Bali’s fascinating art scene shouldn’t miss The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, a gorgeous retreat that also houses a remarkable private collection of Balinese paintings. Once the former estate of Hendra Hadiprana (one of Indonesia’s most esteemed art collectors), the sweeping grounds full of lotus ponds and tropical gardens have been reimagined into a lovely 20-villa hotel. The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah also offers Bali’s only hot air ballooning experience and promises dramatic views of Ubud and the surrounding rice terraces.

Capella Ubud Bali

Capella, Ubud

The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah Ubud Bali

The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, Ubud

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Overlooking the Ayung River, the award-winning hotel The Hanging Gardens of Bali is an oasis of luxury nestled amidst lush jungle and tropical gardens

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