Bali may be small in size—you can drive along the coast in one long day—but as any luxury connoisseur can attest, good things often come in small turquoise packages (much like the color of the island’s pulsating surf). Bristling with breathtaking beaches, entrancing temples, lavish accommodations, and five-star amenities, the Indonesian province popularized by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love is truly a vacation for the mind, body, and soul. To help you make the most of your journey to the “island of peace,” Haute Living has rounded up the best sights—from sprawling rice fields in Tegalalang to designer shopping in Ubud—to keep you entertained all day and night.
GOOD TO KNOW
Though the temperature remains pretty steady all year round (the average is 79 degrees) and the water is always pleasantly warm, it is best to visit Bali between April and September during the dry season. Like any other tropical destination, visitors can still expect occasional rainfall, but it is usually intermittent and short lasting. During the rainy season, the sea becomes rougher and the beaches located on the southern tip of the island can become quite dirty due to washed-up debris. Insider tip: tourism skyrockets during July and August, so plan your trip for May, June, or September to score the best deals and avoid the crowds.
WHERE TO PLAY
After spending a leisurely day with your toes in the porcelain white sand and a pineapple cocktail in your hand, hire a driver and head to Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of Bali’s nine key directional temples. Standing atop a rocky cliff 200 feet above the Indian Ocean, this ancient and sacred sanctuary constructed from black coral rock is dedicated to the spirits of the sea and is widely believed to guard Bali from evil spirits in the southwest, namely, Bhatara Rudra, the God of the elements. For a truly awe-inspiring experience (and prime photo opportunities), arrive in the early evening and prepare to be blown away by the spectacular view—one of the best on the island—and the unforgettable sunset.
For those who want to watch the sky turn fuchsia while getting a taste of the local culture, purchase tickets to the nightly Kecak performance, a dramatic fusion of fire-dancing and repetitive chanting derived from a Balinese ritual called sanghyang, in which spiritual entities enter and possess the bodies of the performers. As you walk along the winding path to the entrance of the open-aired arena, be on the lookout for wild monkeys roaming the temple grounds. They will let you feed them bananas or cucumbers, but be sure to secure any valuables as they are known to steal sunglasses and cell phones! A word to the wise: visitors are advised to dress appropriately out of respect to Hindu tradition. Women wearing clothing above the knee will be provided a sarong to wear while wandering the grounds.
The following day, head to Ubud, a town in central Bali once frequented by backpackers and bohemians that is now celebrated for its numerous artist workshops and galleries. Pick up handmade souvenirs in the bustling Ubud Market or grab lunch at one of the area’s organic restaurants before stopping off at the revered Ubud Monkey Forest. Be sure to visit the Pura Desa/Pura Puseh temple in Batuan, located 15 minutes from Ubud by car. Marvel at the 11th century structure embellished with intricate stone carvings, and check out the inscription on the rear of the temple that testifies to the date of the town’s founding in 1022 AD. On the 1st and 15th of every month, an ancient form of Balinese dance-drama called gambuh is staged at the sacred site that is truly a spectacle worth seeing.
To view Bali’s famous rice terraces, head to the village of Tegalalang and gaze at the ribbons of green that gracefully curve amongst the hillsides flanked with coconut palms. Both artful and elegant, the rice fields are a testament to the Balinese farmers’ love and respect for the land. As such, cultivation of the rice is only performed according to ancient rituals, which are inextricably linked to religion and philosophy.
After an action packed week of exploration, soothe your tired muscles with a relaxing treatment at The Mulia Spa. For the ultimate indulgence, enroll in the full-day lifestyle wellness program—six hours of personalized facial and massage treatments coupled with sunrise yoga classes, afternoon aqua aerobics, and delicious 300-calorie-or-less meals prepared by the on-site chef.
In between treatments, guests are invited to make use of the spa’s different amenities including the Finnish wood sauna, aroma steam room, and Bali’s first—and only—ice fountain room. Set to a temperature of 30 degrees, the ice room uses chromatherapy chakra cleansing LED-lighting color systems to stimulate circulation, boost metabolism, soothe aching joints, and detox the immune system.
WHERE TO STAY
Nestled on the pristine coastline of Nusa Dua, the 111 all-suite property features stunning views of the Indian Ocean in a serene yet stylish setting. With round-the-clock butler service and lavish amenities, The Mulia is the epitome of luxury and a true haven for elegance, comfort, and service. Each artfully decorated suite includes separate living and sleeping areas, plus an expansive patio with an outdoor hot tub—the perfect place to relax and watch the sunrise, especially if pesky jet lag wakes you up at dawn. Sip a fruity cocktail by the tranquil infinity pool dotted with grand Balinese statues or challenge yourself with a boot camp class at the state-of-the-art fitness center.
Snack on tapas and take in the spectacular views at Sky Bar or feast on Mediterranean and Pan-Asian specialties at the signature restaurant, Soleil. For dessert, stop by the Mulia Deli to savor the mouthwatering macaroons, delectable French pastries, and decadent truffles, and do not leave without admiring the store’s edible designer Chanel and Hermès handbags—crafted completely from sugar!