14 Unmissable Things To Do in Bali on Your First Visit

Heading to the Island of the Gods in the near future? Wondering how to spend your time there? Here are 14 of the best things to do in Bali.

The Indonesian Archipelago has over 17,000 islands. Bali, AKA the Island of the Gods, is one of the most popular. Apparently, that nickname is an ode to the island’s many religious sites and strong connection with Hinduism/animism.

But it suits it in other ways, too. This tropical gem has paradise vibes. It’s chilled out, sun-kissed, and colorful – a perfect escape from the stresses of everyday life. A dreamy trifecta of natural beauty, culture, and adventurous pursuits also means there are countless things to do in Bali.

Read on to discover 14 of its most unmissable sights, activities, and attractions.

1. Gawp at Waterfalls

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One of the best things to do in Bali is to see, swim, and take the obligatory Instagram photo at a waterfall. Thankfully, they’re not hard to find (although they may require a sweaty bushwalk). There are dozens scattered around the island, each more beautiful than the last.

A few of these natural waterspouts are so impressive they’ve become popular Instagram destinations and can get crowded as a result. Thankfully, anyone off the beaten path is likely to stumble upon some less touristy ones. Here are a few noteworthy waterfalls in Bali:

  • Sekumpul Waterfall
  • Banyumala Twin Waterfall
  • Leke Leke Waterfall
  • GitGit Waterfall
  • Tibumana Waterfall

2. Be a Beach Bum

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You could, will, and probably should spend many happy hours simply sunbathing and surfing at beautiful Balinese beaches.

The island has dozens of them – expanses of pristine white sand that stretch for miles, usually accompanied by lively bars serving ice-cold drinks, but with just as many secluded covers.

A day at a Bali beach sounds idyllic, and it is. But prepare to see lots of rubbish washing ashore. Some beaches were worse than others on my trip, and people (mainly locals) did gather it up. However, it was definitely an unpleasant and unexpected feature of some beaches and not something you see in the Instagram photos people take of them…

Some of the best beaches in Bali include:

  • Blue Point Beach
  • Geger Beach
  • Seminyak Beach
  • Balangan Beach
  • Bias Tugel Beach

          3. Learn to Surf

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          Speaking of beaches, learning to surf is another popular thing to do in Bali. You’ll find surf schools all over the island, where you can simply rock up, book your lesson(s), and get started.

          There are great waves for beginners, and an instructor will show you the ropes in a one-to-one or group class. Obviously, if you’re already a surfer, you can rent a board and hit the waves.

          Surfing is part of life here, so you’re never far from an appropriate beach for your ability. A word of warning, though: popular surf spots get busy in Bali. At peak times, expect to fight with locals and tourists alike for every wave.

          4. Explore Its Temples

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          Bali is as famous for its religious side as its surf. It’s a big part of the culture, a fact reflected in the mass of shrines and temples here – not to mention its nickname, the Island of the Gods.

          One of the most famous temples in Bali is Tanah Lot (pictured above). Built on a rocky outcrop on the coast in Tabanan, it looks like something from a fairytale. It’s surrounded by water, with waves lapping on its foundations.

          Its striking location and mystique have attracted people for centuries as a pilgrimage site. These days, it attracts tourists for similar reasons. Yet Tanah Lot is far from the only Balinese temple worth visiting. Other notable ones include:

          • Lempuyang Temple, Karangasem
          • Luhur Batukau Temple, Tabanan
          • Luhur Uluwatu Temple, Uluwatu
          • Besakih Temple, Uluwatu
          • Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Lake Beratan

                  5. Hike Mount Batur

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                  One of Bali’s most iconic destinations is the 5,600-foot Mount Batur. It’s easy to see why people flock here. It’s a UNESCO heritage site and active volcano with a giant crater lake and lush, verdant forests. It’s stunning from every vantage point, but the views from the top are awe-inspiring.

                  The sunrise hike up Mount Batur is one of the most popular things to do in Bali. Anyone with reasonable fitness should manage it with little trouble – a big reason so many visitors do it. The walk takes roughly 2 to 4 hours, and paying for a tour sorts transport to and from the volcano, too.

                  6. See the Wildlife

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                  From monkeys, sharks, and sea turtles to elephants and birdlife, Bali is home to a beautiful array of wildlife, as well as animal experiences that let you get up close and personal with it.

                  However, be conscious of what you do, where you go, and which organizations you support. Some animal tourism options here don’t have a great reputation for protecting animal rights.

                  The good news is Bali offers many ethical encounters, too. According to Claire’s Footsteps, some of the best include:

                  • Seeing the monkeys at Uluwatu Temple
                  • Visiting the Bird Village of Petula, near Ubud
                  • Exploring Bali Barat National Park
                  • Doing a marine tour with Bali Sharks 

                        7. Explore the Rice Fields

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                        One of my favorite things to do in Bali was also one of the simplest: walking around its rice fields. While visiting Ubud, I happened to pick a guest house surrounded by them. These bright green paddies just have a unique atmosphere that I highly recommend checking out.

                        Tegalalang Rice Terrace, a short drive north of Ubud, is the go-to place for this particular Bali attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, farmers have whittled the hills over millennia into striking terraces perfect for growing rice.

                        It’s the definition of photogenic, and you’re free to stroll through it. If you come to Tegalalang, there’s also the “Love Bali” swing that calls for an obligatory Insta pic. Just be prepared for crowds.

                        8. Chill Out in Canggu

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                        Canggu (pronounced “chan-goo”) is another of Bali’s hotspots. It’s part surf town and part digital nomad paradise, with plenty of appeal for yogis, foodies, and partygoers, too.

                        You’ll find it on the south coast, where waves crash on sandy beaches, and bars stay open into the early hours. Incredible restaurants are everywhere, markets and shops offer retail therapy, yoga studios are around every corner, and a general buzz draws a diverse bunch of people.

                        If you’re not a fan of crowds, then spending too long in Canggu is less advisable. But if you want to meet people and connect with like-minded travelers? It’s perfect. Either way, it’s worth going.

                        9. Hire a Scooter to Explore

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                        A practical and fun thing to do in Bali is rent a scooter. Masses of travelers do this because it’s such a convenient and cost-effective way to get around. Having a scooter gives you complete control of your schedule and means you can get off the tourist trail more easily.

                        They’re available to rent from most built-up parts of the island. However, having experience riding scooters/motorbikes will definitely help. The roads can be wild here, and accidents happen – I wouldn’t rent one without having travel insurance, just in case.

                        Likewise, if you get a scooter in Bali, do some practice rides in calmer areas to build your confidence before venturing further afield.

                        10. Visit Beji Guwang Hidden Canyon

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                        Feeling adventurous? Head to Bali’s Beji Guwang Hidden Canyon in Sukawati, to the southeast. Once there (and after paying the entrance fee), a guide will help you walk, wade, climb, and swim up a gorgeous stretch of the Oos River.

                        Steep and slippery rock walls rise on either side, pockmarked and indented by erosion. It seems like a unique and exciting afternoon activity, so give it a go if you’re in the area.

                        11. Visit Menjangan Island

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                        Wild deer going for ocean swims might not be what you’d expect to find in Bali. But it’s a thing. Head to teensy weensy Menjangan Island, meaning Deer Island, off the northwest coast. You can see it happening for yourself.

                        The cute Javan rusa deer that call this place home aren’t the only draw. Menjangan Island is more secluded and off-the-beaten-path than other Bali hotspots. Crystal-clear water and coral reefs have also turned it into a renowned snorkeling and diving destination. Ultimately, it’s a stunning, unique, and less-visited part of Bali that’s well worth visiting.

                        12. Go to Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida

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                        A quick disclaimer: Kelingking Beach isn’t actually in Bali. It’s on a small island called Nusa Penida, located off its southeast coast. It’s an epic place, and countless people take the roughly hour-long boat journey here from Bali, so I thought it deserved a place on this list.

                        What’s so special about it? Mainly the views and terrain – all of which are breathtaking. Tall rocky cliffs drop sharply to white sandy shores and vibrant turquoise waters below. It’s a striking place you can enjoy from a high viewpoint that’s popular among Instagrammers.

                        A word of caution: the beach is stunning but dangerous. Following a few recent fatalities, I’ve read that you’re no longer allowed to swim here.

                        13. Go Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

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                        Warm, calm, clear waters with reefs packed with marine life make Bali a top spot for snorkeling. Grab some gear from a dive shop, and you can see tropical fish, turtles, sharks, string rays, and more.

                        Heading to Nusa Penida and Kelingking beach? Try snorkeling at Manta Point and Manta Bay while you’re on the island. As the names suggest, you can spot majestic Manta Rays there year-round.

                        Divers will be in their element in Bali, as well. There are dives suitable for all abilities (many visitors also learn to dive here) and, according to Padi.com, the north coast, in particular, will “leave even the most seasoned of divers spellbound.” The best time to dive is between May and November, which corresponds roughly with the dry season.

                        14. Visit Penglipuran Village

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                        Worlds collide in Bali. There’s the intensely touristic side with all of life’s modern conveniences. Then there’s its profoundly spiritual side and traditional local culture.

                        While these different elements are always present and often intertwine, it’s easy to get caught up in Bali’s tourist scene. You miss the “authentic Bali” in the process.

                        That’s why visiting Penglipuran Village is worthwhile. A preserved village in Bangli, in the east, this picturesque place shows the Bali of old. No infinity pools or beach bars here. Get ready for bamboo homes and only the most basic amenities. If nothing else, Penglipuran provides a fascinating glimpse into how the province has changed over time.

                        Tick These Things To Do in Bali off Your Bucket List

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                        Bali is Indonesia’s most popular island for a reason – not least for the vast number of sights, activities, and attractions there. The beaches, temples, rice paddies, mountains, and modern creature comforts mean there’s a heady mix of things to do in Bali. 

                        I hope the suggestions in this article will help you decide how to spend your time there! Include any or all of them on your Bali itinerary for an unforgettable trip.

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                        Author: Danny Newman

                        Title: Writer and Content Creator

                        Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

                        Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.