- Bali, Indonesia, is a brilliant travel destination that offers something for everyone. Here are five things to do in Ubud, Bali, that you don't want to miss.
I traveled to Bali for the first time in 2011, the second time in 2013, and then the third time in 2017. My first trip to Bali felt like a dream. We hopped over from Singapore, and I knew absolutely nothing about Balinese culture. Up until a month prior, I would not have been able to pinpoint Bali or much less Indonesia on a map if my life depended on it. But, this was the kind of trip you never forget.
My second trip to Bali was different. I went with a girlfriend, and despite staying at a nice property, I found myself underwhelmed for reasons I will write in a later article. I returned home, proclaiming, “Bali is the most overrated travel destination! I’m never going back!”
I think the Eat Pray Love hype partially irritated me, but nevertheless, it was my own fault for dismissing this great place by doing it all wrong.
Fast forward to 2017, for reasons I totally don’t understand, I felt lured back to this country. I traveled alone this time, and it was during this trip that I tapped into what makes Bali such an extraordinary place. It was epic, and I’m counting down the days that I can return.
With that said, here are five things to do in Ubud, coming from someone who’s finally “gets it.”
1. STAY IN A LOCAL VILLA
It’s hard to recommend traveling to Ubud without prioritizing your stay. Ubud is surrounded by nature, rainforest, and rice paddies, and I highly recommend building the cornerstone of your trip around the lodging.
The reason for this is that Balinese culture is extraordinary and beautiful, and there’s no better way to appreciate this than at a local property.
My second trip to Bali was a letdown because I stayed at a much larger property that, by all appearances, looked more “luxurious.” But it felt hollow and empty of culture. So on my last trip, I stayed at a local property for a fraction of the money.
2. GET SOME MAJOR POOL TIME
Bali is synonymous with infinity pool, and it’s impossible to recommend a trip to Ubud without prioritizing some chill time in front of the rainforest or rice paddies.
You can find an infinite number of pools to choose from but here’s a secret:
Stay at a property within budget and then book a spa day or a pool day at a 5 -star property such as The Hanging Gardens of Bali.
The best thing to do is to book a lovely local property with its own pool and then pool-crash at a Condé Nast style property if you aim to take it up a notch.
3. EAT BABI GULING AT IBU OKA
Years ago, on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, I watched an episode when he traveled to Ubud, and he ate at this place called Ibu Oka. At the time, it was an unknown and modest local place selling pig in the city center.
Anthony proclaimed this as “the best pork in the world.” Based on his ecstasy, I knew I needed to try this dish.
If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, stay away unless you’re prepared to make a legitimate exception.
Today, Iku Oka has expanded to multiple locations, but their signature dish of Babi Guling is still the same.
4. CHILL TIME AT YOGA BARN
If you’re a bit far down the spiritual rabbit hole like me, Ubud is the perfect retreat. You can find a lot of options for yoga, but I highly enjoyed Yoga Barn. The property is surrounded by nature, and the studios are gorgeous. I especially enjoyed my sunset experience. I cannot recommend this place enough. There are retreats, and of course, you can pre-book for individual classes.
5. CHILL WITH MONKEYS IN THE FOREST
This may be on everyone’s list of things to do in Ubud, but it’s for a good reason. If you’re not afraid of a little interaction with these mischievous creatures, this makes for a fun couple of hours.
If you grew up in the West, you might not be accustomed to monkeys in your backyard. You can purchase bananas at the entrance of the forest. Just make sure to hold on to your camera and cell phone because they will steal! The Monkey Forest is a must-see place in Ubud.
Bali is a destination that’s best enjoyed with the pace of its vibe – relaxed and slow. Don’t plan too much, and instead, leave your days open for adventure to unfold. But at the very least, do plan an extraordinary pool day.
You can find a ton of cheap hotels in Ubud Bali. In fact, this is one of the best things about this destination. You can stay at a phenomenal property for a fraction of the price elsewhere. Just book the hotel and go from there.