Idyllic Bali is both a physical paradise and a place of almost mystic spirituality. The Balinese have managed to preserve a native optimism and sense of sanctity about their rich culture -- despite the fact that this Indonesian island in the South Pacific is often overrun with travelers. But Bali is blessed with much more than a benevolent spirituality. Simply put, Bali is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It has breathtaking beaches and steep mountain slopes, terraces embroidered with green rice paddies and lush vegetation.
Bali attracts its share of surfers to the golden strands at Bingin Beach and Kuta Beach at 66, for waves that rip and swell. Lounging on Nusa Dua's beach means friendly people, five-star hotels providing spectacular service, and an offshore reef. Old-world, authentic Bali can be found on Sanur Beach, a kid-friendly spot; and Pantai Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach) is heavenly, a closely guarded secret just past Candidasa, with calm breezes and azure waters.
Things to Do
Traditional Balinese culture comes alive through the magical synchronicity of a gamelan orchestra, highly stylized traditional dance, and at Ubud's Museum Purl Lukisan. Seek out a Balian (spiritual healer): Every Balinese has one. The ancient site of Goa Gajah (Elephant Caves), a grotto of elaborate stone carvings from the 9th century, transfixes visitors. No visit is complete without paying homage, early in the morning, at the largest and holiest temple, Pura Besakih (Mother Temple).
Eating and Drinking
Roadside cafes, or warungs, serve up some of the best food, buffet-style, on the island. Try satay or curry at Made's Warung in Seminyak, or opt for babi guling (suckling pig) at Ibu Oka in Ubud. Tropical palms and dim lighting create romantic ambiance for a six-course tasting menu of French-Indonesian cuisine at Mozaic in Ubud. The beachside Raja's Bali Cuisine in Nusa Dua offers specials of the island such as palem sari ulam, steamed seafood in coconut curry pudding.
Bring a picnic lunch to Bedugul Botanical Garden in Candikunig, which showcases almost 2,000 different species of plants and 320 varieties of orchids. Some of the island's most endangered species, such as the Bali starling, Javan hawk and cassowary, find a home at Bali Bird Park, just east of Sanur. Strap on a harness and zip through nature, up close and personal, at the Bali Tree Top Adventure.