Exploring Canggu & Uluwatu in Bali
Before you think about flying to Bali from the US, remember this – the jetlag never goes away. NEVER. Sure, it may be only a week and three days since I got back from Bali and sure, I may be traveling in Charleston and Savannah as I’m writing this, but still. The jetlag never goes away. It’s brutal.
But on a lighter note, Bali was lovely. Before I get into the many things we did in Bali and all the places we ate at, I want to preface something – Bali wasn’t my favorite. I know I know, I’m probably the only person on the planet to utter this and I’m going to get backlash because of it, but I’m speaking my truth (because that’s what Heather McMahan tells me to do). Bali is FAR from the United States. About 30 hours and 3 flights, to be (kind of) exact. I went to New Zealand about a year ago, which is about the same distance, and I was absolutely wowed by NZ. Every place we went to, every morsel of food I put in my mouth, and every person I met there, all were absolutely wonderful. And I expected Bali to be the same since everyone in the world has said exactly that. But I found Bali to be a little too busy for my taste. When I say that, I mean that it often felt like an instagram trap. Many places that were recommended were overrun with tourists, Canggu and it’s beaches were covered in trash, and it was pretty hard to get around if you weren’t riding a scooter. It’s also a place that has a ton of stray dogs so they are often dead in the street from being hit by cars, which is pretty upsetting to see, honestly. That being said, it’s still BEAUTIFUL there, the locals are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met traveling, and you get to experience a ton of different cultures while you’re there. So before you head to the bottom of this page to yell at me for not absolutely loving it, remember this is MY experience and MY opinion. That’s it. Bali is a lovely place that should be experienced and I honestly wish I would have seen a few more places while we were there. Ok, let’s move on.
Just FYI, this post is going to be LONG, mostly because of photos, but I also want to give you the full breakdown in case you’re looking to book a flight to Bali soon! Now let’s take it a few months back to when my friend Jess told me she was going to travel through Bali for six weeks. I obviously quickly asked if me and my husband could visit her. Duh. It’s been on my list for quite a while, but since it is so far from Denver, it was often forgotten about. Jess being there gave us the excuse to make it happen. And as soon as we decided to go, I quickly applied for an American Express Platinum Card. As someone who travels quite often, I was pretty disappointed in myself for not having a credit card that gave me a ton of benefits and points, just for flying. I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell I’m talking about a credit card in a travel post, but I wish I would have known about this card earlier, so hopefully this helps you out! Once I got my credit card, I booked my travel through Amex Travel and was able to get 5x the points on our Delta flights to Bali. That’s SO MANY extra points! I also now book my hotels through Amex Travel for extra points and benefits, along with my rental cars. It’s the best. I’m not going to go into all the reasons why they are the best, but I definitely wouldn’t be putting it in my blog post if I wasn’t obsessed.
I digress. On our way to Bali, we flew Delta from Denver-Seattle (2 1/2 hours) Seattle-Seoul (13 hours) Seoul-Denpasar (7 hours). I was pretty surprised at the price to get to Bali, I thought it would be way more. It was about $1100 per person and I’ve had to fly to Boston before for about $800. Pretty crazy that you can get around the entire world for only a $300 difference, right?! Because of that, I upgraded us to Delta Comfort on the way there for extra leg room, then went big and upgraded us a few weeks before our trip to Delta One for our flight back. HANDS DOWN THE BEST MONEY I’VE EVER SPENT. Ever. Especially since our first flight out of Bali was at 1am, which meant we were up the day before about 6am, up until the flight left, then pretty much awake until we got home. I couldn’t sleep much because I don’t really sleep on planes so I was awake for almost 48 hours. All that being said, Delta One kept me from trying to jump out of the plane on the way home. You are served delicious food and drink, you have a huge screen with a million shows to watch, and your seat lies flat with bedding and pillows. I was able to sit in a million different positions throughout the 2nd flight, which was 13 hours. It made all the difference in the world!
Once we arrived in Bali, we headed to Canggu where my friend Jess was already staying at our oceanside surf villa. We decided to rent houses in Bali instead of staying in a hotel so we could have a shared common space together as well as a kitchen in case we decided to cook while we were there. We definitely never did that, but we loved having the living room and pool all to ourselves. What I loved about this house the most was that the staff cooked us breakfast every morning! I didn’t know that was part of the deal, but my friend Jess had the same experience at most of the places she stayed. They would ask us every day when we wanted breakfast, which was 7am since we all wake up damn early, and they would cook us eggs, gluten free toast, and make us coffee. It was awesome! This house was in walking distance to Echo Beach where we spent most of our time at while in Canggu.
Whenever you see photos of Bali, it’s almost beautiful cliff sides and beaches, but I wanted to share this shot below of what part of Echo Beach looks like. This beach has amazing surfing with waves that crash super close to shore and then a ton of little surf shops on the beach where you can take lessons, grab some food, or just hang out. It’s a really cool beach with a fun vibe and you can walk forever down the beaches to all sorts of restaurants and beach clubs. The only thing you need to watch out for is the dog poop. Since there are stray dogs everywhere, where do you think they are going to poop? Wherever they damn well please! While we were sitting in our bean bags on the beach one day, I looked over to find a dog literally pooping on top of a bean bag. Then another time a dog peed on a lawn chair right by a women’s head while she was relaxing. And you know what happens when one dog pees…they all have to pee on it. It was dog peeing frenzy on this poor women’s lawn chair.
How crazy is it that these two pictures are the same beach, just a half mile or so apart?!
While we were in Canggu, we spent most of our mornings at La Brisa because they had the most delicious coconut milk iced cappuccino. After breakfast we would walk the short walk to La Brisa and sit out on their amazing patio, sipping on our drinks while we watched the waves crash and the surfers crush. The surfing is seriously amazing there and watching what the surfers can do is pretty insane. As simple as it was, it was one of my favorites parts of Canggu.
Now if you’re more fun than me and like being around humans, head to Finn’s. This spot is like Vegas, which I hate. But it was still a really cool spot with some awesome beach views. We went for cocktails one day, but it would be an amazing spot for sunset since the sunsets are out of this world in Bali. But if you have a face tattoo, be prepared to get turned away. They don’t allow those in there. So weird.
Another spot not far from Finn’s is The Lawn. I loved this spot! It has delicious food, great drinks, and it has a literal law where you can in bean bags or on the ground to watch the sunset or hang out during an event, like a concert! We wish we would have gone back to this spot more than once because it was really rad!
While we were in Canggu, we wanted to stay active and that definitely wasn’t hard. Canggu is filled with some of the most in shape, beautiful people you have ever seen. I feel like people move to Canggu to find themselves, work out, and eat healthy. And the CrossFit presence is HUGE there. Go check out CrossFit Wanderlust and be prepared to be in shock when you walk in. I’ve been to quite a lot of CrossFit gyms in my day, but I’ve never experienced one like this. It looks like 4 separate warehouses, all for one gym. They have an open gym area, CrossFit classes, metcon classes, olympic lifting, movement, and open gym. Plus they have a cafe with a full menu, so people are eating and hanging out for hours. It’s crazy. The open gym section looked like the CrossFit Games. It was so intense.
Another day in Canggu, we headed to the Nungnung Waterfall. This waterfall was AMAZING! You have to hike a bunch of stairs to get there, but it’s not too bad at all. I loved the extra exercise, especially after sitting for 30+ hours a couple days before. There is also a cool swing near the start of the hike down to the waterfall, but it was closed by the time we got there sadly. Highly recommend heading to this waterfall if you are ever there!
How cute is this guy.
Another outdoor activity we got into was Mount Batur. Here’s the thing, I don’t hike. I live in a state that has some of the best hiking in the US and I refuse to go. I did one 14er in my life and that was all I needed to help me understand that hiking is literally walking uphill. I don’t know who named it hiking instead of hill walking, but that’s all it is! I would much prefer to get in a 30 minute workout and call it good, but that’s just me. BUT when I’m traveling, I’m down to do some things I don’t normally do. And this was one of them. Because here’s the thing about hiking Mount Batur – you may have to wake up at 1:30am to catch your 2 hour cab ride over to Mount Batur so you can start hiking at 3:30am and watch the sunrise at the top. The problem is, if you’re in decent shape and can walk uphill at a semi-quick pace, you’ll make it up the mountain pretty fast and you’ll still have an hour until sunrise. It’s cold up there man! Come prepared.
Our tour guide gave us blankets and hot chocolate when we were at the top and luckily the wait was totally worth!
From what I understand, Mount Batur is an active volcano. Steam comes up from the sides of the mountain and they cook you eggs in it for breakfast at the top, which is pretty cool to witness. In those photos above, those are all little people on top of the mountain, if you couldn’t tell. We really had no idea that there was a chance that it could be totally foggy and we wouldn’t see the sunrise. Thank GOD that wasn’t the case because I probably would have lost my sh*t. A friend sent me her photo and she could barely see 10 feet in front of her and definitely could not see the sunrise. That would have been a bummer. We had a fantastic sunrise above the clouds. And our tour guide took us to a less busy spot, which I really appreciated since I had crowds. Was it worth it? Yes. Will I ever hike again? Probably not.
The tour guides are quite the little photographers up there! They were really awesome guides!
The only thing that was just a bit too real for me was when we came back down the mountainside. When you hike back down in the light, you notice that you’re walking through someone’s farm. And on this day on the farm, they were slaughtering pigs. Meaning slitting their throats. I will never get those screams and sights out of my head. It was pretty brutal, but real life.
One of my absolute favorite experiences while in Canggu was meeting with an astrologer named Sarah. This was my first reading ever and it was SO incredibly eyeopening. I recorded a podcast about it recently, but the audio was a little off so I’m just trying to sort that all out and hopefully I will have it up soon. Both my husband and I did a reading and we absolutely loved it! Everything she said was spot on from my past and what she had to say about our futures was pretty crazy. She does skype readings and I can’t recommend her enough! I was never into astrology before and now I’m obsessed! It was a really cool experience!
After spending 7 or 8 days in Canggu mostly on Echo Beach, we made our way to Uluwatu. Canggu was a spot that was pretty busy with tons of shopping, great restaurants, and fun surfing. Uluwatu is a little quieter with beautiful cliffs, great surfing, and some really good restaurants. It’s just a little slower pace than Canggu and I loved that! It’s also not quite as littered with trash throughout the streets. We stayed in an AWESOME house. I cannot recommend this house enough! The only downside is the neighbor has roosters, but we didn’t notice it that much. This house had an outdoor kitchen, 3 separate rooms, a huge dining and shared space, and a really great pool. If my husband wasn’t a person who wanted to be by the ocean at all times, I would have asked to just stay at that house by the pool. I loved it. And it’s in walking distance to a really great restaurant called The Cashew Tree along with a gym called Bali Training Centre, where we worked out once and LOVED it. The house doesn’t cook you breakfast in the morning but it didn’t matter since we could walk to breakfast and have delicious food right away!
We spent our days on Bingin Beach, which we found a little too rocky, so we headed over to Dreamland Beach instead. We also tried Padang Padang Beach and Pandawa Beach, but we didn’t like either so we always headed back to Dreamland. The waves are CRAZY and pretty much crush you the second you get in, which my husband loved. I tanned on the beach instead.
Something that was recommend by people on instagram was the Uluwatu Temple so we decided to give it a whirl. Yes, the cliffs were beautiful, but I found it pretty overwhelming from all the crowds. The second you get there, you put on a sarong for respect, but a guide noticed I didn’t know what I was doing and he didn’t it for me then led us into the temple and told us to take pictures of everything. As soon as it ended, he rudely demanded $10. We didn’t know what the hell was going on and we definitely didn’t need something to tell us to take a picture of a beautiful cliff, so lesson learned. Yes, this spot was beautiful, but it was quite the tourist trap that none of us really loved.
On one of our last days, we decided to make our way to Nusa Penida island since it was highly recommended people’s photos from it were beautiful. But the problem with us three is that none of us are big planners. And that was fine most of the time…until this day. We first took a cab to the marina, which was an hour or so, then we were packed into this tiny boat which took us to the island where the guy next to me was eating BOILED EGGS (I wanted to slap him), then we were a little shocked when the island was much bigger than we thought. Poor planning on our part. After we had breakfast, it was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to go to some of the cliff sides that were so well known since it would be an hour cab ride to those spots. So we headed to Crystal Bay Beach, which quickly became SUPER touristy in no time flat. Jess noticed that there were stairs going up the island so we both walked up and over to find the most stunning beach, but sadly I forgot my camera. And I have no idea what it is called, which is why it’s probably not busy. It’s a little hidden gem. It was the best beach I had been to the entire trip!! I didn’t find Nusa Penida as beautiful as everyone else had said online and that could be due to the fact that we didn’t experience the other side. I just found it super busy and overwhelming, which isn’t my happy place.
If you are like most people flying out of Bali at midnight and don’t know how to spend your last day, I HIGHLY recommend Karma Kandara. It was my favorite experience of the entire trip, honestly! I’m a bit high maintenance as you can probably tell from this blog post and this resort is fantastic! We booked a driver for the day who kept our luggage in his van then we got a day pass for their beach and just hung out for the day! The drinks are awesome, the food was amazing, and the beach was super nice! Plus they have a gym there that we worked out at before we left. It felt awesome to get in some movement before the long flight home. They also have a stunning spa that you could book an appointment at that day! I loved this resort. I would honestly go back to Bali just to stay there! And we were able to stay there until 10pm before we headed to the airport.
Now let’s get into the important stuff – the food. The food was really tasty over there in Bali. Most places are vegan and vegetarian or they have those options. Normally when I come back from a vacation, I’m bloated and puffy. It was the total opposite after Bali, I actually came back thinner. All because everything is so healthy and they have normal portion sizes, unlike America.
La Brisa – This spot is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is HUGE, it has a pool, and you can get all kinds of different food here while watching the surfers in the water. We had lattes, poke bowls, sushi, veggie breakfasts, and a ton of other things while we were there!
Barbacoa – I don’t have a photo for this Seminyak Spanish restaurant sadly (it was pitch black outside where we ate), but this restaurant is a MUST! It was one of the best restaurants we ate at the entire time while in Bali! By far the best steak and sides ever!! Get the chimichurri steak when you’re there!
Shady Shack – This vegetarian restaurant had a really cool vibe overlooking the rice paddies in Canggu. We had smoothie bowls and veggies dishes while we were there. The smoothies were AWESOME!
Milk & Madu – I really loved this restaurant. It’s just beautiful inside and it had a ton of different types of food. The pizzas look amazing, I had a burger that was decent, and Jess had an AWESOME salad.
Nude – This restaurant was highly recommended by people. I really dug the vibe and saw it as a place I would want to work at if I lived there, but the food was only ok, in my opinion.
Motion Cafe – This spot is A MUST. This was my husbands favorite meal of the entire trip. When we were in Bali, we used GoJek a lot to get our food delivered to our house. After flying then hiking, there were a couple days where we didn’t want to leave the house and GoJek had it delivered for hardly any money at all. This restaurant has a ton of gluten free and paleo options. The waffles were PHENOMENAL! I actually have a protein waffle recipes coming to the blog tomorrow that was inspired by this recipe!
Cassava – This is where we met Sarah for our astrology reading, and this is a spot I would work from if I lived in Bali. It was really cool quiet hang out spaces, including a small pool. So you can work, tan, and swim, all in the same hour. Then grab some delicious food and drink at the same time!
Mad Pops – Last but not least in Canggu, we had coconut milk based ice cream for lunch! This ice cream was insaaaaane. It was so damn good. I love every single bite of my sea salt caramel!
El Kabron – Once we made it to Uluwatu, we went to this cliff side beach club for sunset. The food was really amazing! It had a bit of a Vegas vibe there, but it was still quiet and it had stunning views!
Mana – This is another place that I didn’t take photos of the food since it was so dark. But the main photo of this blog post is taken at Mana. We were lucky enough to have the most insane sunset of all time when we ate there. And the food was pretty good! But it’s worth going for the views alone.
The Cashew Tree – This restaurant was in walking distance from our Uluwatu home and it’s where we spent most of our time and money. You can get food all days, including a raw dessert bar that we indulged in daily. Homemade Twix bars were constantly in our fridge!
As you can see, I have some mixed feelings about Bali. But in the end when I look back at it, I feel so lucky to have experienced it and know what it’s like on the other side of the world!
Before I let you go, here’s a few random things to think about before you go –
- Sickness – When you’re flying that far, it’s pretty easy to get sick. I did. I caught a cold that held me back for the first few days. I was blowing my nose like crazy, even on our hike up Mount Batur. Super fun. Someone on instagram reached out and told me to get Tolakangin, which is this herbal liquid you drink. Highly recommend it. It brought me back to life! But I also recommend bringing some medicine with you in case this happens to you on the flight!
- Bali Belly – I started hearing about Bali Belly a few days before we left and it made me super nervous. I have a sensitive stomach and get sick almost every trip I go on, so this time I brought activated charcoal and took some almost every single day before I went to bed. I also know people take papaya enzymes with them to help combat that as well. Just don’t drink the water and you should be good! I still had all my drinks with ice in them and never had an issue, luckily.
- Scooters are a way of life there and the easiest way to get around. Most houses will have scooters to rent or you can just pick one up while you’re walking around town. But you’ll quickly notice that many tourists have wrapped up knees and elbows. Sure, this could be from hitting coral while surfing, but I’m guessing it was from wrecking a scooter. We wrecked and luckily no one was majorly hurt, but it still sucked. Maybe practice driving a scooter before you leave so you’re not THAT tourist.
- Money – Many places take credit cards there, but cash is just easier. We used the ATM a ton while we were over there to take out Rupiah or they have these sketch little money exchanger shacks on the side of the road that we also used. Just beware – don’t use a sketchy look ATM. Jess did and she lost a card to the machine.
- Planning – Just do a little planning before you go, especially if you want to do excursions. Having a driver that you trust can be incredibly helpful, especially on the days where you have to drive all over the place or store your luggage for the day.
There it is! My full Bali experience! The good and the bad! If I were closer to Bali, I would definitely go back and experience other places throughout that cool country. But since we are so far, I don’t know if I’ll make it back again. But if you are thinking about going, I would make it happen. From what I hear, it continues to get busier and busier, so you might as well experience it sooner rather than later! Hopefully this experience gave you the full picture and answered some of your questions about Bali, but if I missed anything, let me know in the comments below! And I’ll be sharing a podcast about my astrology reading soon!!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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19 thoughts on “Exploring Canggu & Uluwatu in Bali”
Thanks for the honest opinion about Bali! I appreciate that. And now I know I’ll go back to Wanaka instead of Bali. Wahoo! 🙂 That was easy. NZ is the best. My skin cleared up there. As soon as I got back to San Diego, I broke out again….. I want to move there.
Love your blog and Instagram.
love it there so much!
I felt the same way about Bali. I just went there for a yoga retreat in April this year. It’s beautiful and locals are so nice but it’s busy and parts are kind of dirty (especially on the beaches). I stayed in Kuta and Ubud. I ended up getting a stomach bacteria and was sick the whole week and a half after I got back. So I had that on top of the jet lag (which is no joke!) Given now far away it is, I probably won’t make it back there anytime soon.
i heard from a ton of other people about that same experience, so i was so so nervous about that the entire time i was there. even when i got back i was still nervous. every time i would eat or drink, i was wondering if it was going to be the meal that did me in. which isn’t a great feeling to have while on vacation for 2 weeks
Thank you for sharing this. I follow you on instagram and read the blog. I also work for animal rescue and was really curious about what the dog situation would be there..now I know. I would not have been able to relax with the strays everywhere and seeing dead dogs. I was in Belize on a bus when a stray dog walked out in front of it and the driver never even slowed down. He fully intended to just mow the poor dog down and go on… Thankfully, the dog moved, but not until the last split second, and all of us on the bus were screaming. Your post tells me Bali is somewhere I would never enjoy…really happy to cross that off my list! I’ll go to New Zealand instead. 🙂
i honestly had mixed feelings about the stray dog situation. i really only saw one or two dogs that looked like they were in a bad place (sick, losing hair, thin), the others seemed to be ok, well fed, and honestly happy. they can get food pretty easily there since there is so much trash and food left out and they don’t need a ton of shelter since the weather is beautiful. for us in the US, we put stray dogs into a rescue or shelter right away, but many never find a home and will be euthanized because of it, we just don’t see it ourselves. at least in Bali they have a fighting chance to survive, you know? it was devastating seeing a dog hit by a car, but the other dogs seemed pretty happy. it was just another way to look at it and help me move past some of those negative feelings about the stray dogs.
Loved your honesty! I’ve traveled a lot overseas and you validated my feelings about all the things. It’s almost always a mixed bag, but I’m grateful for the opportunities and it makes you appreciate home.
I feel the exact same way about Bali. We were in Seminyak, Ubud and Gili Air in March. There are areas that are breathtaking but hard to see past the extreme poverty and waste. The people are amazing and their traditions are fascinating. We were in NZ & Sydney leading up to Bali so it was startling!
yeah it’s definitely tough
My husband and I spent 6 months traveling around SE Asia. Bali was our first stop for 19 days. We loved it! The food from the night markets and little local warungs are some of the best we’ve had. We enjoyed spending the equivalent of $1 on a full meal! And $1 on fresh fruit shakes. Yum.
The trash problem is unfortunately a widespread problem around Asia. It’s lack of infrastructure, lack of education and so on.
If you decide to go back to Asia, I highly recommend Langkawi and Georgetown, Malaysia; El Nido, Philippines; Vietnam (loved Hoi An the most); Japan (everywhere! I want to live in Japan, so we may go teach English there); Singapore (loved everything about Singapore, except for the hefty price tag on hotels; food is about $5 per meal per person from the hawker stalls); and I’d also recommend Shanghai, China (we really loved the culture and wealth of Shanghai; it’s a stunning city). If you want more nature and less people, check out Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, Laos. Lots of waterfalls. You can go tubing down the river in Vang Vieng. There a handful of blue lagoons for swimming around Vang Vieng. It’s more the backpacker route.
Oh, also recommend Chiang Mai, Thailand. We absolutely loved it up there. Just don’t go during the burn season. And get a motorcycle license in the US so you can legally rent a scooter over there. I’d you don’t have a motorcycle license, then you’re driving illegally and insurance won’t cover any injuries from an accident. Just an FYI.
Last thing, Bali is one of thousands of islands of Indonesia. It’s just one of the most well known of their islands. It’s not a country in and of itself though.
I 100 percent agree with you . I went Oct 2017. I was looking for Eat Pray Love…..didn’t find it! It was amazing however I just expected the beaches to be way better than they were. I cant wait to go to NZ! Definitely on my bucket list! Thanks for all of your posts!
NZ is seriously so amazing!
Thanks for giving your honest review of Bali! I live in Australia so Bali is only a 3.5 hr flight away so I’ve been a few times and am so surprised by the media that gives it a serene peaceful vibe. Bali is still developing to get the basics we take for granted in the western world- like trash collection, road infrastructure and clean tap water. For me though, travelling is often about learning about how everyone else in our world live so I keep going back!
i would definitely go there regularly if i lived in Australia! so many cool spots to explore!
Thank you for your honest post about Bali. I’ve been waiting for this post since you first announced you were going to Bali a while back on your IG stories! I’m going to Bali for 2 weeks in November and for me, Bali has always been a bucket list destination so I feel like I need to go at least once. I am very glad to see that gluten free food was easy to find. I always get nervous traveling to new places because of my gluten intolerance. You mentioned your friend Jess was traveling there for 6 weeks… I am curious if she had a favorite part of Bali besides the two you visited with her. If you know, I’d love to hear because we are still figuring out our full itinerary. Thanks!
she definitely loved Ubud. it’s super chill and more on the spiritual side. people love it there and the landscape is super different since it’s more inland. you definitely won’t have a hard time finding GF food there. it was so easy!
Thanks for the good and the bad. I go to reviews about things and most of the time people leave out the bad. I guess it’s vacation brain so everything seems great and they forget about the little things that were inconvenient or unpleasant. So thank you for your post.
thanks for the love, Danelle!