These are the best places in Bali to get off the beaten track!
The ‘Island of the Gods’ isn’t all paradise and yoga, but there are still ways to get off the beaten track in Bali.
The streets of Kuta will suck you in like a black hole and spit you out again with no remorse, covered in broken bottles and motorcycle exhaust burns, while the beaches of Bali in the south are being taken over by package holiday makers who won’t even make it past the front gate of the resort except for a brief trip to the airport.
Even Ubud, the place to get away from it all, to live like that woman in Eat, Pray, Love did, is turning into a hole of reggae bars and hippies trying to find their purpose in life while slumming it in ‘paradise’.
But don’t fear, I’m here to show you that not all hope has been lost to the Australians getting pissed up every night in the clubs, or the masseurs trying to sell you an I love Bali t-shirt and a happy ending.
And as fun as the all you can eat and drink buffet at Sky Garden is, there’s a lot more that this island has to offer still.
Here’s the places to get you away from the crowds and the chaos of Bali’s tourist trail.
Here’s Bali off the beaten track.
Just for you.
Bali Off The Beaten Track
Taman Festival – An Abandoned Theme Park In Bali
Explore Bali’s abandoned theme park. But watch out for the crocodiles and bats if you’re brave enough to venture inside the decaying movie theatres and wildlife enclosures of Indonesia’s premier attraction. Taman Festival is right on the beach, along the golden sands of Sanur in the south of Bali, and what a place for a family day out!
Rumour has it that when this amusement/wildlife park closed a few years back, the crocs were left to fend for themselves in the swampy ruins. Wear boots if you don’t want a stray piece of broken glass to ruin your magical trip to the theme park and, oh, there’s a lot of bats too. Probably rabid bats.
Location of Taman Festival
The Abandoned Planes of Bali
No list is complete without a few abandoned planes. Once you’ve escaped the crocodiles in Bali’s abandoned theme park then it’s time to explore the aviation ruins of discarded aeroplanes on the island of the Gods.
There’s not one, but two abandoned planes! Bali surely is the island of the urban exploration Gods. Both are South of Kuta, and there’s no real explanation around as to why they are even there. I guess they just work well as giant, garden ornaments. There’s more speculation HERE.
Location of Abandoned Plane 1
Location of Abandoned Plane 2
The Black Sand Beaches of Amed – Off The Beaten Track In North Bali
The volcanic beaches of Amed are only just getting a taste for the tourism dollar. Unlike the beaches in the south of Bali, up in Amed it’s still rugged and wild, there’s no big resorts here, just a few home stays and small hotels. The black sand is incredible to see, more reminiscent of Iceland than a tropical island, and off the beaches there is some of the best snorkelling in Bali. At Tulamben there’s the sunken USS Liberty to explore underwater- you can dive or snorkel- and then there’s the Japanese shipwreck to see too, close enough to shore to snorkel from the beach side.
Location of Amed
The Dolphins of Lovina
Also in the North of Bali, Lovina is the laid back beach region to visit if you want dolphins, sunsets and a chilled out beer. A few guest houses back onto the black sand beaches, and boats take visitors out to spot the dolphins that congregate off shore.
There’s a great bar at the West end of the town- the town is just one long road- with live music and cheap Bintang beer and if you’re not too hungover you can pay 100,000 Rupiah to join a dolphin tour the next day. Lovina is also the very unofficial capital of cock fighting in Bali. This tradition is called a ‘ceremony’, as it’s supposedly carried out still for religious purposes. If you’re so inclined you can ask a local to take you to watch one.
Lovina is more the name of the area than any specific village, so head for Kalibukuk if you can’t find the name on a map!
West Bali National Park
In the far North-West of Bali, from where you can see Java across the straits, this is a great place to escape everything. There’s few visitors to the island’s only National Park, but abundant wildlife. You can hike, snorkel or simply motorcycle along the roads which pass the boundaries to enjoy this refuge of nature.
There’s ranger stations where you can organise hikes and guides. There’s one on the road into Gilimanuk and one at Labuan Lalang if you follow the road East otwards Menjangan.
Location of West Bali National Park
Menjanagan Island is just off the National Park, and it’s a deserted haven for marine life. This has to be explored by boat of course, which can be quite pricey. It’s at least 200,000 Rupiah just for the permits.
Another, cheaper option, is simply to explore the bay off of Menjanagan village itself, on the coast of Bali. There are a few guesthouses and homestays in the village- I stayed at The Hobbit House– and if you head down to the literally named White Sandy Beach you might find a fisherman willing to take you for a boat trip, or you can jump in and start snorkelling. There’s great coral across the bay from the beach.
Secret location of the secret Menjangan snorkelling spot!
The Lagoons and Beaches of Candidasa
Candidasa is a small region in the East of Bali, just along the road from the port of Padang Bai. There’s some scenic beaches nearby- try the Virgin Beach, 5 KM North– and immense snorkelling along the coral off shore. It’s easy to arrange trips with boat owners.
For a real, local activity though, head to the Lotus Lagoon at the centre of the village at sunset, and take a dip in the murky green waters. It might not look that appealing, but the local guys reckon it’s the best cleansing water that you’ll find in Bali. There’s a lot of fish that will nibble away at your feet too.
Location of Virgin Beach outside Candidasa
If snorkelling isn’t quite thrilling enough for your tastes, you can always try a spot of spear fishing. Down by the Lotus Lagoon in Candidasa you’ll find a small shack occupied by local fisherman Made Jon. He’s mad, but the best spear fisher in Bali. For 200,000 Rupiah he’ll take you out on his boat to the best spots, show you how to use a spear gun and cook up your catch afterwards.
I caught a few fish, but Jon caught some BEASTS which he barbecued up for everyone by the lagoon. The coral was excellent, and there’s some turtles swimming around too, just don’t spear them.
Location of Made Jon’s shack by the Lotus Lagoon
Just Drive And Get Really Off The Beaten Track!
The best way to really see Bali is to do as the locals do- grab a motorcycle, or bicycle, and get driving or cycling. You can rent motorbikes almost anywhere on the island. Barter hard. The cheapest will go for around 35,000 Rupiah a day depending on how long you are renting for, but vendors will start their haggling as high as 100,000 Rupiah, if not more. The roads are crazy, but that’s just part of the dangerous, dangerous fun. There’s no other way to REALLY get off the beaten track.
I’ve probably missed a lot of great spots. Have your say on the best off the beaten track places in Bali in the comments below!
Travelling to Bali? Sign up for Air BnB to book your accommodation using this link HERE and you’ll get £25 free credit towards your first booking!
If you’d rather stay in a hotel, then use this link, as an awesome gift to you, Booking.com will apply a 10% discount on your hotel booking!
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Hi Richard, great that you shared your tips! As Bali is becoming more popular these tips are very useful. I have also written an extensive blog post with all the hidden gems that I know of in Bali. If interested have a look at http://blog.i-likelocal.com/bali-off-the-beaten-track-itinerary-for-the-true-wanderer/. Have a lovely day! Sanne.