Bali’s Secret Spots
Bali is an island that has it all. White sand beaches, vibrant nightlife, a year round tropical climate, and a local culture that’s different from anywhere else in Southeast Asia. It’s the perfect holiday destination, and no matter if you are a budget backpacker, a luxury traveller or even if you’re looking for a family holiday, there’s so much diversity across the ‘Island of the Gods’ that even with the odd erupting volcano, Bali has for a long time now been a firm favourite on travel itineraries.
But at the same time, the island’s glories, its unique Hindu culture, its Indonesian infused food, its never-ending nightlife and, most of all, its natural beauty, have brought the island’s most popular destinations to the point of saturation. It’s no surprise then that Bali is struggling with mass tourism, as the iconic sights and beaches are overcrowded and people queue for that perfect Instagram shot at the very landmarks that gave the island its fame. Don’t fear though, because Bali is also an island that just doesn’t stop giving. While certain areas and beaches might be packed out and busy, there are long stretches of coastline that are still untouched by tourism. There are black sand beaches in the north, national parks that have somehow remained hidden and small villages and even large cities that have yet to become overrun by tourists.
These are Bali’s Secret Spots:
The temples and culture of Denpasar
Bali isn’t exactly known as a city break destination, but while you're on the island, it pays to take a break away from the beaches to visit Denpasar. This is the centre of urban life on the island but, let’s be honest, nobody really gives Denpasar a chance. No, there aren't any beaches, there are no palm trees, there aren’t too many bars and there’s a lot of traffic, but Denpasar, despite being Bali’s largest city, is possibly Bali’s best-kept secret too, because it’s quite literally bursting with culture. There are many, quiet, unknown, Hindu temples to see and the locals here are friendly and welcoming because no one really ever stops by. The island’s best museums are found here too, as are real local restaurants, serving real Balinese and Indonesian food. If you are looking to get away from the other tourists and to see modern Balinese culture and life as it really is today, then you have to visit Denpasar.
The trendy vibes of Canggu
The world’s long-lasting love affair with Bali began at Kuta Beach on the south coast. This was Bali’s original tourist destination, but now the name Kuta conjures images of plastic lined beaches and exuberant nightlife. In Bali, those in the know seem to move west along the coast every few years, getting further and further away from Kuta to find the newest stretch of sand. Right now, the trendiest place to stay is Canggu. There are beautiful beaches, plenty of bars and restaurants and yet it still manages to keep that homely Balinese vibe that Kuta lost a long time ago.
West Bali National Park and Menjangan Island
Hidden away in the far north west of the island, West Bali National Park is a huge area of protected land that is devoid of visitors at the best of times. Few people make the long journey to this far corner of the island, but those that do are rewarded with untouched jungle, empty, white sand beaches and an array of Balinese wildlife. The real attraction though, is Menjangan Island, a tropical, palm fringed island that’s just a short boat ride away and which could well be Bali’s most supreme snorkel and dive spot.
From West Bali National Park, if you continue travelling around the island’s long outer road to the north and east, then you will quickly find yourself enthralled by the old colonial capital of Singaraja. The town’s name translates as Lion King, and the Dutch used Singaraja as their administrative centre during the colonial days. Today, the town is quite unlike anywhere else on the island, as it’s seen such different influences from across the world merging on its streets, from Dutch and Japanese to Arab and Balinese. There are mosques and temples alongside old colonial buildings in Singaraja, and it makes for an unusual stop around Bali.
The black sand beaches and shipwrecks of Amed
Found in the shadow of the mighty Gunung Agung volcano, Amed is the most underrated and under visited destination in Bali. This small village on the far northern shore of the island is home to long swathes of black sand beach, formed over millennia by the eruptions of the volcano nearby. Life here is slow, but amongst the fishermen, you will find a few dedicated dive shops pioneering excursions out to the many shipwrecks that are found off the coast and that are full of colourful marine life.
The white beaches and colourful coral of Padangbai
Padangbai is well known amongst travellers who are looking to make the journey to the neighbouring island of Lombok, or to the Gili Islands. Found on the east coast, many tourists pass through to catch a ferry or a fast boat to their next destination, but few hang around long enough to appreciate the beautiful scenery. Padangbai is much more than just a port town, along the coast here can be found some of the best snorkelling and diving in Bali. Just up the road, at Candidasa, there are long white sand beaches that have so far kept a low profile, while inland there are many traditional Balinese villages and temples to be explored.
The rugged and wild island of Nusa Penida
The Nusa Islands were once the best kept secret in Bali. That’s not exactly the case anymore, as Nusa Lembongan has quickly become a huge tourist attraction in the last few years. It’s still a world away from the mainland though, and from Lembongan, it’s easy to reach Nusa Penida, which is still as wild and rugged as it always was, with little development and even fewer tourists. Life on Nusa Penida is quiet and relaxed, and the scenery is some of the most spectacular in all of Bali.
The Abandoned Ghost Palace Hotel
If you are still looking to uncover a really secret spot in Bali, then look no further than the Abandoned Ghost Palace Hotel. This might not be for everyone, but if you are searching for a bit of intrigue, history and overgrown ruins, then this is for you. This abandoned hotel has been engulfed by jungle and no one quite knows why it was left to the ravages of nature in the first place. It’s an example of tourism gone wrong in Bali, but with so many more visitors to the island than ever before, you might wonder if it might one day find itself brushing off the cobwebs and opening its doors.