Bali is very special to me as it's the first place I visited solo several years ago. I fell really hard for it. There are just certain places that will pull you in right away and Bali is one of those for me. The locals, with their warm smiles and accommodating attitude, welcomed me in a way that I have never experienced in some other places I visited. Here are my 8 hidden gems in Bali you should visit.
I decided to book a tour package online on my first day in Bali. For this tour, a friendly and knowledgeable local came to pick me up at the airport and drove me to some of Bali's most famous attractions. I had so much fun on my first day, but I decided that in the next few days, I don't want to be a tourist anymore. Although it's fun to frolic at the Kuta beach and party at some of the upscale bars of Seminyak, these places are just not for me.
So I asked my local guide if there are other less-touristy experiences to have in Bali and if there are any places I can explore and pretend like I'm the only person on the island. He did offer some suggestions and I was lucky enough to have visited these hidden gems during my solo trip to Bali. If you're someone like me who prefers to venture into the less trodden path, then here are some of Bali's hidden gems that are waiting for you to explore.
1. Thomas Beach
As one of the most popular beach destinations in Asia, I have high expectations for the beaches of Bali. Yet, I got a bit disappointed upon seeing the famous Kuta Beach. It's like the tourist mecca of the island, a place where the younger crowds would converge to party and mingle with like-minded travellers. So I looked for a much better and quieter alternative and that's how I found Thomas Beach.
Located in between Uluwatu and Padang, it requires a bit of effort to access this secluded place, as I have to walk hundreds of steps down before reaching the beach. Yet, my efforts have been rewarded upon seeing the glistening blue waters and powdery white sand with only a few people around. The place is very quiet and a truly relaxing place to sunbathe while soaking up the picturesque views!
Singaraja is a small port town in the northern part of Bali and I love the very laid-back vibe in this part of the island. I've heard that it used to be the island's capital during the Dutch occupation. Exploring the town on foot, I can still see traces of its colonial past as Dutch colonial buildings can still be seen at the old harbour. I also visited the Museum Buleleng known for its collection of books that are made from dried palm leaves. The museum also features interesting archaeological exhibits and old images of the local rajahs since the 1930s.
The highlight of my visit at Singaraja was the Pasar Anyar, a chaotic yet very colourful market of fresh produce, livestock, and everything else! I had so much fun watching the locals go about their daily life. I ended my day sampling some of the delicious Balinese delicacies being sold at the market.
The best dinner I had in Bali was at Jimbaran, a small fishing village in the southern part of Kuta. My guide recommended this place to me, and although I have to share the place with a huge crowd of tourists, the romantic sunset view in the background and the delicious seafood has made the experience all worthwhile.
I love the food so much that I went back on the following day for lunch and found the place pretty deserted because I was told that diners normally go there for a sunset dinner as part of a tour package.
After my lunch, I decided to explore the nearby fish market at the northern end of the beach. Although it's too crowded and a bit smelly, it's a great place to people-watch and observe how local vendors and fishing folk negotiate the price of the day's catch.
4. Pura Taman Ayun
Of all the tourist places I visited in Bali, I found the Pura Taman Ayun to be less crowded. Although this place is a famous stop on the many tours that go to the more popular Tanah Lot, this temple is free of hawkers and souvenir vendors that will annoyingly follow you anywhere you go.
I also love the peaceful garden surrounding the complex, which is such a relief after squeezing myself among a huge crowd of tourists at the other places my guide took me.
My guide told me that this place tends to get busy during pre-sunset, around 3 – 4 PM. We were thereafter lunch, which explains the fewer crowds. I love the fact that I get to wander almost alone along the riverside paths and get to sit at one of the pavilions scattered around the complex while my guide shared with me some interesting tidbits about Balinese culture and tradition.
5. Balian Beach
Balian beach is famous for surfers and although surfing is not my thing, I love the atmosphere in this less crowded coastal village. Its jet-black volcanic sand is not like any other beaches I've visited. Although Balian is only an hour's drive away from the bustling Kuta area, this place feels totally different. I'm surprised by its small village charm. It's a perfect place to “get off the grid” for those who are tired of the chaotic and busy crowd in the tourist places of Bali.
Aside from watching surfers going about their stuff, I spent long walks by the shore and grabbed a coconut juice at Pondok Pitaya, a trendy hotel for surfing enthusiasts that also doubles as a yoga studio. There are lots of affordable accommodations in the area and if I had known, I would have chosen to stay here instead.
6. Pasifika Museum
I love museums, which is why I always make it a point to check out some of the museums in every new place I would visit. The Pasifika Museum is one of the best museums I've visited in Bali and I can't understand why it's almost empty given its wide collection of interesting art pieces. Some of my favourites are the work of a local Balinese artist and those of Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin.
The Pasifika Museum also displays a fantastic collection of Pacific carvings, canoes, masks, and unique pieces of jewellery. There are also artefacts that were obtained from across the Pacific region. The entrance fee of $10 is a bit expensive by Balinese standards, which probably explains why it's empty, yet, for art lovers like me, the $10 fee is really worth it!
7. Sekumpul Waterfall
The Sekumpul waterfall is located in the northern part of Bali and I have to hire a taxi for several hours of the drive going to this hidden gem. Aside from the long drive, I had to walk down hundreds of steps and cross a river before arriving at the place, yet it's well worth it. After the long trek, I took the chance to soak beneath the falls and enjoyed the mesmerizing view.
Sekumpul means, “group” and it's said that during the rainy season, you'll see a chain of up to seven waterfalls in this place. I've only seen a few waterfalls while I was there, yet, they are pretty impressive since the falls are scattered across the cliffs and are cascading beautifully in the midst of the emerald green trees.
8. Tegal Wangi Beach
Tegal Wangi Beach is one of the few places I visited on my last day in Bali and the gorgeous scenery in this hidden gem took me by surprise. It's located in the south of Bali near the Uluwatu and takes about an hour's drive from Kuta. The place is famous for those amazing rock formations that formed little holes filled with seawater. Like the others, I soaked at one of these holes and it seemed like I'm bathing at an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the sea!
There's a small stairway nearby that leads down to a secret beach. I've seen some brave beachgoers jumping off a cliff towards the water and a few tourists trekking through the different caves and channels nearby. This place is certainly a gem and a must-visit on your trip to Bali.
So if you're visiting Bali soon and want to discover the real splendour of the island without the busy crowd, this list should get you covered!