Travelling to Bali for the first time elicits both excitement and hesitation: on one hand there’s a blossoming tropical paradise waiting and on the other, there’s a slight sense of doubt stemming from cautionary media reports.
With only five full days to spare, my partner and I set out on a journey that struck a balance between exploration and relaxation, with a good dose of top local cuisine. Now, to save you from dissecting countless TripAdvisor reviews, we’ve rounded up the top places for any first-timers to Bali.
The W Retreat and Spa, Seminyak
Located on Jalan Petitenget – the main street in the chic enclave that is Seminyak – the entrance to the W Bali is a discreet bamboo-encased tunnel leading to the central lobby area. Here the sophistication of a five-star hotel is manifested amongst an uber hip atmosphere and a rainbow of neon lights.
Offering both villas, ocean-facing rooms and some rather spectacular suites, staying here is an experience in itself. Furthermore, the hotel’s signature ‘whatever, whenever’ VIP service, 24/7 fitness centre complete with an on-site personal trainer and a state-of-the-art library adds to the style and soul of this fabulous retreat.
Bulgari Resort, Uluwatu
At the top of our Uluwatu hit list was the Bulgari Resort – a world-class retreat where Florence meets Indonesia. Uniquely positioned on a clifftop at the island’s southwestern tip, the resort offers panoramic views of the Indian Ocean amidst beautiful gardens and exotic artworks. It is truly one of the most picturesque scenes imaginable and an essential for any Bali itinerary.
Bulgari anything obviously comes with a price tag, but fear not, you don’t need to be a hotel guest in order to be welcome here – the restaurant and lounge bar is open to all and is only a 40-minute drive from the popular tourist hub of Kuta. Plan a day trip and enjoy the luxurious atmosphere, delicious tapas and tropical martinis.
Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak
Seminyak is renowned for its stylish beach clubs and Potato Head is arguably the coolest new kid on the block. Home to three different restaurants each serving up delicious cuisine and mixology, this lively haunt is the perfect place to enjoy Bali’s famed raspberry-tinged sunsets – mojito in-hand. The state-of the-art amphitheater, international DJ sets and excellent people watching are reason enough to think its Saturday everyday here.
Anika Balinese Cooking Class, Kuta
Taking home a newfound skill from a foreign country is always better than lugging back a souvenir that will get no use. And what better takeaway than a new cooking ability? Balinese cuisine is absolutely incredible and a trip to Anika Cooking Class in Kuta is the perfect way to master the art in a matter of hours. Here we learnt how to make a number of traditional recipes with almost all natural ingredients.
Balinese food is big on flavour, sharing dishes and health benefits, using turmeric, garlic and ginger in most recipes. This is a great rainy day activity or simply a good afternoon cultural pursuit.
Jalan Oberoi, Seminyak
Close to the centrally located Seminyak Square, Jalan Oberoi is Bali’s version of Ponsonby Road. Lined with boutique shopping, café gems, chic bars and day spas that don’t cost the earth, it’s a great place to set out for the day and enjoy some leisurely browsing. High-end brands such as Shakuhachi and Magali Pascal are situated here alongside local designers and tailors – it’s undoubtedly the best area for retail therapy.