My Ultimate Bali Guide: Ubud & Canggu
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the majestic land of Bali, I’ve been visiting for four years now—well before the days of floating breakfasts! Over that time I have tried and tested everything, especially when it comes to food!
Now that I am hosting my Bettina’s Kitchen retreats here, I wanted to share with you all of the tips I’ve gathered and my top recommendations for what makes Bali such a wonderful place to visit. Let’s start with my favourite parts of Bali; Ubud and Canggu.
To know before you go:
The official language in Bali is Indonesian but English is considered the ‘third’ language so you’ll get along fine if English is all you speak. The Balinese are great at speaking English and love using it with tourists so they can learn.
Currency: Indonesian rupiah - get used to adding and subtracting with multiple zeros and feeling rich!
I always make sure I have a small wad of in 10,000 to 100,000 notes in cash with me in a hidden bum bag. ATMs are all over Bali, so you won’t struggle to withdraw cash—make sure you cover your PIN as card copying isn’t unheard of—and most places will take card. Be sure to let your bank know you’re travelling, too, so you don’t arrive to a blocked card!
I love the Balinese people with all of my heart. They are genuinely the most friendly, helpful and gracious nation and everyone is full of spirit and gratitude. They are one of the main reasons I feel so at home in Indonesia.
Don’t drink the tap water! ‘Bali Belly’ (tummy aches and pains) is common and is usually inevitable, but minimise the risk by avoiding drinking from the taps.
Bring insect repellent with you—the mosquitoes are relentless, especially in Ubud!
Haggle! Never pay the price first offered to you at the markets, shoot for a third. The locals are always up for a game of bartering and its expected, so go for it!
GO-JEK app is Bali’s answer to Uber and Deliveroo all rolled into one. Use it to hail a car or a lift on a scooter and to order dinner delivered to your Air B and B.
My Bali Map
Just for you, here is a super handy map so you can easily find all of my favourite places while you're in Bali! All of my recommendations can be found pinned here, arranged by restaurants, coffee shops, shops, beaches and things to do and see.
My first stop when I arrive on the island is always Ubud. I discover something new every time I visit and I can’t get enough of the laid back, creative vibes. Anything goes here and you can be as out there and spiritual as you want! It’s pure magic. When I arrive, I feel like I’ve come home and I always leave filled with renewed inspiration and ideas.
I have sooo many favourite things to do, see, eat, and experience in Ubud, but here are my current top, top favourites:
For Dinner: Hujan Locale
Jl. Sri Wedari No.5, Ubud, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
I love this place because it is farm to table fine dining and the flavour combinations are phenomenal! Hujan’s Chef, Will Meyrick, has created a beautiful fusion of classic Indonesian cuisine with eclectic twists that inspire me every time I visit.
The menu is separated into vegan, vegetarian, fish, nut free and gluten free which is really cool that they recognise dietary needs and preferences. It’s such a novelty to be recognised so inclusively.
Niki from Rebel Recipes and I visited twice when I was in Ubud for my March Bali retreat and we stayed there for hours each time, ordering and trying everything between us—which is how I recommend you do it too! My favourite dish is the betal leaves—bunch each one up and pop the whole thing into your mouth in one go! The Green Papaya Salad is also a winner.
Jl. Raya Sayan 105, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia - 80571
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll likely recognise the designs of Gaya Ceramic—my feed is adorned with their recognisable, timeless plates, platters, bowls and mugs that make the perfect vessels for my dishes!
Gaya Ceramic is most inspiring den of tangible creativity nestled within the heart of Ubud. It is made up of a design studio; where their covetable pieces are designed, made and sold, and an arts centre; a ceramics school hosting workshops, internships and classes.
My Bali retreat includes a tour of the Gaya factory and an afternoon in the arts centre painting our own pottery and learning the techniques to create our own functional masterpieces. We then head for a little shopping trip to the showroom to stock up on beautifully unique pieces from the trove of designs on sale.
For Locally Sourced Dinner: Locavore
Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud 80571, Indonesia
Named as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, Locavore is a true gem and a total must visit.
As you can probably guess from its name, Locavore serves dishes from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, which is surprisingly an innovative concept in Indonesia, and also has a super cosy, local vibe.
Choose the ‘locavore’ or the ‘herbivore’ set menu dining option, each of which is comprised of five to seven dishes of European/Indonesian fusion food of either meats or vegetarian.
Perhaps my favourite part of the whole Locavore experience is the way the origins of the local ingredients are so charmingly and considerately listed on the menu; knowing your veg came from ‘Owen’s garden’ in Plaga, for example, makes the food extra delicious and I find I eat so much more mindfully when I know the food has been so personally and lovingly taken care of.
The local theme continues right down to the silverware and ceramics, which all come from nearby artisans.
For Authentic Indonesian Culinary Celebration: Nusantara
Tengah, Jl. Dewisita No.09C, Ubud, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Locavore moves from Europe-inspired to an Indonesian menu with its sister restaurant, Nusantara, just across the street. Balinese chef, Putu, has created a diverse and experimental yet traditionally derived, ever changing menu .
For fine dining, Nusantara puts regional dishes in the spotlight, making them gloriously accessible to those of us who might never otherwise get to try such parochial fare. The menu highlights the geographical origins of each dish, so you really feel you are being taken on an adventure around Indonesia. Nusantara, is infact, Indonesian for ‘archipelago’ --- meaning a collection of islands, such as Indonesia, which is formed of multifarious islands, each with its own diverse recipes and flavours, which Nusantara celebrates beautifully.
As you’d expect from a sister restaurant of Locavore, all ingredients are locally sourced and wonderfully fresh.
For Pudding: Room4Dessert
Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Kedewatan, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia
R4D proclaims that with a visit to their restaurant you should ‘expect the unexpected’—and they’re right!
With a visit here you’re treated not only to a menu brimming with exceptional sweets, but an entire experience with a 9 course set menu of once-in-a-lifetime desserts and cocktails/mocktails as the centrepiece. It’s the high fashion equivalent of dining.
The staff take you on a journey through the courses, ingredients and tastes, making your experience a beautiful immersion in the practice of mindful eating by default.
The place is quirky, fun and full of character and the tastes are whimsical and unexpected, indeed.
You can’t call yourself a foodie if you come to Ubud and don’t dine here. That said, Room4Dessert remains largely a word of mouth secret; perhaps luckily, the Instagram crowds haven’t yet descended onto this little slice of happiness.
The whole place has such welcoming vibes and its people are lovely and have a real passion for what they do. All of their crockery is also made by Gaya Ceramics, which I love!
Prepare to leave in a hazy, dazy food coma of the most satisfying kind.
For Chocolate & Day Trips: Big Tree Farms
Piakan, Sibangkaja, Abiansemal, Sibang Kaja, Abiansemal, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80352, Indonesia
The place to visit for the chocolate obsessed!
For a unique activity, take a day trip out to the brilliant Big Tree Farms to learn everything there is to know about cacao and how chocolate is made. Sip on freshly made hot cacao and you wander around, and pluck cacao nibs and palm sugar straight from the trees to taste, Willy Wonka style!
If you’re into sustainability, fair trade production and supporting local community projects, Big Tree Farms is a mst visit for you, too: The farm is organic, fair trade, and constructed—wonderfully—entirely from bamboo.
For Coffee & Digital Nomad-ing: Seniman Coffee Studio
Jl. Sri Wedari No.5, Banjar Taman Kelod, Kec. Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia
I know you’re waiting for the coffee shop tip - well this is it!
I have just one coffee a day, and coming to Seniman for that coffee while I’m in Bali makes it an extra special treat--especially as it is delivered to you with a glass of water and a mini pastry!
The guys at Seniman take their coffee seriously - they even have their own roasters –Tetap Happy Coffee Roasters, across the street
With a name that in Bahasa Indonesia means artist, you can be sure that Seniman is a hub for Ubud’s most creative innovators. The place is filled with natural light and cozy chairs and the owners, Glick and Sullivan, are always around, making the vibes super friendly and local. The interior is so beautiful it’s like a giant piece of art, and so much attention is paid to every detail, from the decor to the presentation of your drinks—so it’s a super inspiring place to work from and ignite your creative juices!
I often come here to snuggle down for the day with my laptop and order a bite of anything from traditional English breakfast to authentic Indonesian dishes.
For Purification: Balinese Water Temple
A total highlight of the retreat is when we don traditional kamen sarongs and visit the water temple. Here, we are able to take part in ritual purification alongside the locals, which is a real honour. Just walking around the temple, which was built around 960 AD you get an overwhelming sense of the rich culture and history of Balinese Hinduism.
There are more than 20,000 water temples all over Bali, many of them for different purposes. We visited Tirta Empul, a Hindu Balinese water temple just outside the town of Tampaksiring. Tirta Empul is famous for its fresh holy spring water, which you can see bubbling up directly out of the earth.
To balance out the watery start to our day, we finish with a phenomenal fire ceremony at the retreat venue, led by local monks, to set our intentions and make wishes into the flames.
To Get Around: Rent a Bike
But how do you get around Ubud to reach all of these awesome places?! You bike!
You simply cannot visit Bali and explore everything Ubud has on offer without jumping on a scooter! Hands down the best, and sometimes only, way to get around. Scooters and gas are really cheap and as long as you stay present and aware, the roads aren’t as scary as they first seem.
Ask your hotel or Air B and B host for their bike rental recommendations, and always wear a helmet!
For European Chic Surroundings: BitterSweet
Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud 80571, Indonesia
This place is a little treasure! BitterSweet triples up as a restaurant, coffee shop and art gallery and in comparison with Ubud’s many laid back, barefoot style places to hang out, is surprisingly elegant with sophisticated yet quirky, decor. BitterSweet wouldn’t be out of place in Milan or Paris.
It’s a great coffee (the coffee here is highly recommended!) and cake pit stop after a visit to the Monkey Forest or to sit in for the day and work—there is air conditioning, the WiFi is good and there are lots of power sockets!
The menu is vegetarian friendly with lots of good vegan options.
After filling up on my favourite parts of Ubud, I always try to head down to the little but vibrant town of Canggu for some sea and sand... and more food....
Canggu is a laid back haven that attracts backpackers, yogis, surfers and digital nomads with its boho style café culture.
It’s up-and-coming, cool and fun, and is an awesome place to meet people. After the dense green jungle and new age vibes of Ubud, arriving into the breezy sea air of Canggu feels almost like you’ve flown to a different country altogether.
Here is a run down of my must-dos in Canggu:
For Sunset: The Lawn
Jl. Pura Dalem, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
My favourite place on the whole of the island to celebrate the beauty of another day of Bali magic and take in the magnificence that is the Balinese sunset. Make sure you have a cocktail in hand to really get the full experience.
Kick back on a the grass for the perfect place to watch the surfers tackle the Canggu waves right in front of you while you tan.
I advise getting here by 4pm to secure the best sundown vantage spot! As the sun descends, order yourself some nibbles from the sharing menu of local cuisine, which includes a vegetarian and vegan section.
A night at The Lawn is a lazy, cool, hedonic alternative to Bali’s hectic club scene.
For Breakfast: Crate Cafe
Jl. Canggu Padang Linjong No.49, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia
By far my most recommended stop for people visiting Canggu. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the throngs of creative 20/30 somethings and salty haired surfers spilling out of the open walled space which overlooks the rice fields.
The owners of Crate Cafe proclaim that it isn’t just a cafe, it’s a lifestyle. And I see what they mean, the community vibes are strong! Get there before 8:30am to grab a table (which will be constructed from crates!) and beat the inevitable daily queue.
A V-Gato is a must order—an exquisite espresso served with a hunk of chocolate covered cinder toffee and, wait for it... a portion of vegan ice cream to pour your coffee onto before drinking! If you’re a real ice cream fan, make that an iced latte for a giant glass overflowing with vegan ice cream doused in coffee.
The food menu is simple, locally sourced, and filled with not-unexpected dishes—yet each is not only so giant it towers off the plate, every dish also has a unique twist that makes Crate such a hot spot. Order Peas Please, my most favourite breakfast dish; a plate of toasty sourdough slabs laden with pesto garden peas and obligatory mashed avocado. There are also tonnes of gluten free and vegan options.
Pop next door after you’re fed and watered for a browse around their concept store.
For Lunch and Dinner: Shady Shack
Jl. Tanah Barak No.57, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia
Shady shack is a super chill restaurant. Dine outside on sofas or cute, candlelit wooden tables on the palm fringed patios. There are plants everywhere and lots of hidden corners to nestle into.
The menu is fully vegetarian and vegan and comprised of adapted versions of classic dishes including burgers, nachos, cauliflower nasi goreng, and jackfruit tacos. Whatever you order, be sure to get a fresh coconut to go with it.
Shady Shack does a fantastic job of making veggies the star of the show—exactly what I do, too!
For Vibes: The Beach
If you’re in Canggu, it’s likely that, like everyone else, you’re there for the beach.
Canggu is a buzzing vibrant hotspot. If you want secluded paradise, you’re in the wrong part of Bali! What the Canggu coastline does have, though, is 8 kilometres of sandy beach accompanied by dramatic surf—making it a favourite destination for wave catchers and Aussie expats.
Batu Balong and Echo Beach are arguably the most popular. Treat yourself to some surf lessons at Berawa or take yourself and your board to Old Mans or Batu Bolong if you’re already a surfing pro.