Bali with kids!
To celebrate our ten year anniversary this year and milk the free flights for our soon to be 2-year-old toddlers, we took a family vacation to Bali. We actually flew home the day before our kids second birthday :). We had a great time despite the fact that I had bronchitis for the entire duration of the trip. I think our kids had the most fun. They even had the honor of an impromptu gamelan lesson by a professional musician!
Best things to do in Bali with kids
- Goa Gajah is a must do! I’ve never seen anything like it. Built as a place for spiritual meditation, the menacing figures guard the entrance of the cave. The interior is small, damp and the incenses burning added thin white trails of smoke to the air. As with most of the island, Hindu architecture is prominent. Bonus: You can also count it as your workout for the day after walking up and down the long stairway required to reach – at least I did. You can hire a local tour guide in the courtyard to give your kids a hands-on history lesson of the site. Sorry, this spot is NOT accessible or wheelchair friendly.
- Visit Nusa Lembongan – a neighboring island for great snorkeling. Boats sail over several times a day from Bali. There’s even the chance to ride over in a submarine. Kids will love seeing the views from below!
- Spend a day at the Bali Zoo. Have you ever had breakfast with an orangutan? Well, you can at the Bali Zoo! You can also feed lions, ride a pony, and get up close and personal with elephants! There’s also a waterpark inside so you can take a break from walking during the hot mid-day hours. The zoo plays an important role in Bali conservation by breeding endangered species and releasing them into the wild. It’s completely wheelchair and stroller friendly! To learn more about the Bali zoo, check out “We Tried it, The Bali Zoo.”
- Explore Ubud’s, Monkey Forest. Monkeys roam free and mostly unbothered by the presence of humans on their turf so its great way to see a few up close.
- Tips: Never eat a snack in front of a monkey, you even need to guard your water… really you need to guard all your belongings. Monkeys are usually pretty chill but they can be aggressive especially when food is involved. Keep your toddlers close because sometimes they like to pick on people their own size.
- Walk along the Tegallalang Rice Terrance. The terrace has stunning one of kind views that the whole family will enjoy.
- Take a boat tour and watch the dolphins on Balis North shore
- Visit Tanah Lot, a rock formation with an ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple.
- Have massage or spa treatment – foot massages are a great way for the whole family to stick together. Just tell them to stick to very light pressure for younger kids.
- Tibumana Waterfall is a bit of a trek from the south but worth it if you have the time.
- Music Lessons
- Bali Safari is more of an open zoo with a safari theme so if you haven’t had your fill of zoo’s you can spend some time here.
- Visit local temples. There are SO MANY local temples in Bali, and they’re all beautiful. Get away from the tourist crowds and explore a few close to you.
- Take a Balinese cooking class. A great cultural learning experience not to mention important life skill.
- The beach/Pool – duh.
What not to do in Bali
A friend of ours had recently visited Bali and told us we just had to visit the Coffee farm and try authentic Kopi Luwak. Our driver also told us it should be at the top of our list. For those of you who don’t know (I had no idea) Kopi Luwak (aka Civet Coffee) is the most expensive coffee in the world. Asian palm civet cats eat coffee beans, but only the best ones. After the coffee beans have worked their way ALL the way through the digestive tract, workers collect the beans, wash and roast them. They say because the cats picked the best beans and because they “marinate” inside of the cat, this makes for the best coffee in the world. The price is also high because obviously there are only so many coffee beans a cat can eat in a day, so the supply is low.
For some reason, in my idealized mind, I envisioned the nocturnal civet cats roaming free, doing their thing and workers looking for the poo in the daytime where the cats would be unbothered by the process. Nope. We found the cats in small cages, where tourists could annoy them during their sleep. They gave us samples of a bunch of herbal teas (which were, to be fair, excellent) and coffee. After the samples, we quickly realized the whole place was set up as a tourist trap. A maze took us from sampling the teas into a store to buy them and then through a literal maze where more animals were shamelessly mistreated for tourists amusement. Chickens were in teeny tiny cages that were set up as decorative statues, while nocturnal bats were flung around by tourists for photos. It was bad and we wasted a lot of time there. Skip it.
Best time to visit Bali
There isn’t really a bad time to visit Bali since the tropical temperatures stay pretty consistent throughout the year. The rainy season is supposedly from October – April. I say supposedly because we went at the beginning of March and locals all said we picked a great time to visit because the rainy season was over. It only rained 2ce while we were there and it was only for short bursts. It was however very humid. Maybe we just got lucky. The dry season is then May – September. The most popular (and crowded) times to visit are in July and August.
Tip: during the non-rainy season, the forecast often calls for rain most days but it usually only rains for a short time before the sun is back shining again! For example, during our trip to the zoo, it rained for 40 minutes in the middle of the day. We camped out in a cabana at the waterpark and when the rain stopped, we had the whole place to ourselves!
Beaches in Bali
- The best beach for a beautiful sunset is Jimbaran Beach.
- Surfers have several great options. Padang Padang frequently hosts major surfing championships. Uluwatu is secluded with a great break. For beginners and kids, stick to the right of Padang Padang or check out Kuta Beach.
- Other great beaches in Bali include: Nusa Dua, Lovina, and Balangan Beach
Ok, first a disclaimer: I used to live in Hawaii which obviously has some of the best beaches in the world.
I wasn’t impressed with some the beaches in Bali which surprised me. We stayed in Nusa Dua, which is known for having great beaches and yet no one was on the beach. It looked picturesque with white sand for miles but the water was rough with a lot of debris. The hotel’s shoreline was maintained by the hotel but some (definitely not all) public beaches were littered with plastic and trash. I guess that’s why pools are so popular in Bali….
Where to Stay in Bali
There are so many options when choosing where to stay in Bali. I will go over just a few of the most popular spots in the south since it’s closest to the major tourist sites.
Sanur: Walkable beach town
Sanur Beach has 7km of boardwalk with restaurants, shops and spas all along the shoreline. The kite festival held each July is sure to please the kids!
Ubud: Central and Affordable
Ubud can be a great option because it’s right in the middle of everything. It’s not oceanfront but that means better rates. You can always drive to a nearby beach – but you would need to drive.
Seminyak: Party Central
Seminyak used to be THE premier spot to stay in Bali. For many it still is. In recent years it has become very commercialized and crowded making it a less desirable escape for those wanting tranquility. Our driver told us that it is the best place to stay for party goers. I know many families who have stayed here though and enjoyed their time.
Canggu: Semi-rural beach town
If you want to stay somewhere off the beaten path but that still has easy access to Bali’s top sites, Canggu is a great option.
Nusa Dua: Quiet Luxury, Resort City
Nusa Dua is quiet, has some of the best beaches in Bali and lined with 5-star luxury resorts. That means it’s also one of the most expensive areas and a less authentic experience. This area is popular with honeymooners and families looking to stay away from the crowds and on clean beaches. It’s 30 minutes from the Bali airport and about an hour to Ubud.
Tourism in Bali is booming. You’ll find plenty of accommodation options with even more popping up every day. The island is quite large so picking the right place to stay is important. Most of the tourist stops are in Ubud so don’t want to be too far away if it’s your first visit. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton Bali (In Nusa Dua). You can read my full hotel review for more details, but I’ll tell you right now, it’s a GREAT place to stay in Bali with kids!
Boutique hotels and Villas in Bali
Private Vacation Home Rentals (villas) and boutique hotels are great options. You can usually get a better rate than you would find at big hotel chains. Some Villas even come with a cook or driver. Villas almost always come with private pools – if you are traveling with kids you can rent pool gates. They will even deliver and install them for you. If you have the need for other baby rental gear – baby gates, monitors, etc, Bali baby hire has you covered. If you need to childproof a villa or hotel room during your stay, check out our on-the-go childproofing guide!
Getting around Bali
There are many ways to get around Bali. Mopeds are very popular with locals and tourists alike. Plenty of companies offer moped rentals. With kids in tow, or for those traveling in a group, that might not make sense. Hiring a private car is a great way to travel in comfort and get a local’s take on the island. Convertible car seats can be included (free of charge) upon request. Finally, you can always hire a cab (choose Bluebird taxis because they always run the meter) or take transportation arranged by tourism agencies. I don’t recommend car rentals because parking is often difficult to find parking at tourist sites.
Note: Be wary of driver recommendations. They usually have arrangements to receive a commission for bringing tourists to different sites and restaurants. You’ll end up not only over-paying but may find yourself wasting precious vacation time somewhere that doesn’t fit your interests. Just be sure to look places up online before agreeing to go somewhere.
The Bali airport is modern and has all the necessities – including free luggage carts. It is located towards the southern tip of Bali so take that into consideration when booking accommodations. For short trips, you may want to stay in the south and avoid 6+ hours of driving to and from the airport.
Shopping in Bali
We didn’t spend enough time shopping in Bali. On the way out of Goa Gajah, I saw a dress I
wanted to wear for a dinner date that night which I bought for about 6 dollars. I bought my daughter an ADORABLE dress for about a $1.50. Then the shopkeeper insisted on gifting both of my kids a few magnets they had been eyeing which are now on proud display on our fridge.
You can haggle of course, but if the price is fair I prefer to simply pay up. Who cares if you got “scammed” out of a dollar or two? Extra profit for locals is a beautiful thing, besides not all goods have inflated prices for tourists – although let’s be honest, most do. So, when haggling, I generally I get prices from a few different shops and then go back to the shop with the lowest prices and negotiate there. I simple “that’s more than I want to spend” or “too much” is usually enough to get the ball rolling.
The Indonesian Rupiah is is used in Bali. Currently the exchange rates are: 1USD = 13,939 IDR — 1 EUR = 16,442 IDR.
Nasi Goreng is one of the most popular meals you’ve got to try while in Bali. It’s a simple and flavourful stir-fried rice dish and you should be able to find it just about everywhere. Satay is another staple of Balinese cuisine (sometimes spelled sate). It’s popular throughout South East Asia but it originated in Indonesia so be sure to try the authentic version. To avoid Bali Belly, read up on How NOT to get Food Poisoning.
*Always check travel advisories before booking and taking your trip.
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