Close your eyes. Open your imagination. Prepare yourself to take in the heavy aroma of spice filling the air. Visualize ornate temples and jungles as far as the eye can see. Hear the occasional screech of a monkey. Then imagine the lush, fragrant scene surrounded by beautiful breezy beaches. In reality, you may be dreaming of Bali.
But… Bali with kids? No problem. With or without kids, making your way through a Balinese adventure will be easier with the help of someone who’s been there, done that. Lucky for us, guest blogger Laurie Borrett is back to share her travel experience with us.
Here are her unique trip “essentials”, perfect for a Military Family that loves to explore the world, excerpted from Laurie’s blog, The Paisley Olive:
Where to Stay
We personally wanted to stay as close to the city of Ubud as possible because we live on a tropical island with plenty of beaches, and our primary reason for visiting Bali was to see the culture. You, too, will want to consider your own interests, keeping in mind that there are several beach areas that are very popular for tourists, and offer resort-style accommodations.
Ubud is famous as the cultural center of Bali. It is roughly an hour drive from the airport in Denpasar (capital city of Bali). Ubud offered “villa”-like lodgings that would accommodate all four families and total of five children (all under the age of five) in our travel party. Family-style villa rentals are extremely popular in the Ubud area. We reserved our accommodations using online booking tools and stayed at Villa Santai, just outside of Ubud.
Getting Around Town
You will definitely want to hire a driver in advance of your arrival — there are no legit taxis in Bali. Many villas and resorts will have a driver on staff. There are also companies that you can arrange a driver with in advance. Our accommodations included a driver, and he was amazing!
Things to See and Do
Take a bike ride. There’s no better way to see Bali than by the open road, fresh air, and being immersed in local day-to-day life. I highly recommend the Jegeg bike tour company. They are family owned and go out of their way to tailor your tour to your unique group. We were picked up at our villa by the company and taken all over the Ubud area. We first travelled by van to the Satria Agrowisata coffee and spice plantation, followed by a breakfast at a cafe with views of Mount Batur, an active volcano. Then it was time to hop on the bikes. They had infant/child seats for our bikes as needed, and a van followed right behind us through villages and rice paddies. It was amazing! The tour concluded in the family compound of the tour company. We were welcomed into their home with a fantastic spread of local cuisine and were able to meet more of their family members. The guides ate with us, while sharing tidbits on Balinese culture, and asking questions about our life in the states.
Go for a walk. Another favorite experience while in Bali was just being able to wander the streets of Ubud. We loved stopping in the cafes, popping into the various shops, and people watching. So many beautiful structures and temples everywhere. Be warned however, the sidewalks are narrow and uneven stone… thus not very stroller friendly at all, and it was too hot to “baby carry.” We found going into Ubud in the morning was the best time. It was easier to navigate the stroller on much less crowded walkways, plus you beat the afternoon rainstorms.
Take a yoga class! Practice at the Bali famed Yoga Barn studio, located in Ubud. Go even if you are not a yogi. It is just a great cultural experience. There is a fresh juice and smoothie cafe located within the studio. Worth checking that out too.
Go off-the-grid. Take a tour at the Green School. See it here in this TED Talk. A fully sustainable school, it is set back in the jungles of Bali, and giving kids a holistic and green education.
Visit the zoo. There are actually two zoos in Bali. We visited the Bali Safari and Marine Park. There are several different ticket options… elephant rides, safari ride, and a night safari option. With a 17-month-old, we chose the minimal option of only the zoo and water park entrance. For the 3-4 hours we were there it was perfect. Olive had a blast at the water park, and she really enjoyed the petting zoo area as well.
Get a massage. You MUST get at least one massage while in Bali. The Balinese are known for their massage technique and spa treatments, and they do not disappoint. We were able to get a couples massage right at our villa. In the evenings, we would wait for Olive’s bedtime and have the villa staff arrange a massage for us on site while she slept.
Side Trip to Gili Islands
Feeling up for an adventure and want to get even further off the grid? Ferry out to the Gili Islands. Make sure that you purchase the “fast” ferry tickets, which is roughly a two-hour boat ride from the Ubud area. We stayed on Gili Trawangan (Gili T.) for a few nights. There are three Gili islands and Gili T. is the most popular of the three. It does have a party island reputation among the backpacker crowd, but there were also many families out and about. No motorized vehicles are permitted on the islands, transportation is via horse cart or bicycle. Here we stayed at Villa Sama Lama. It is more difficult to find the family-style villas on Gili T., but there are still many options for hotel and resort accommodations. Relaxing with a Bintang in hand is the best thing to do here. However, get out on the water for a snorkel or dive trip, swim with sea turtles, or take a beach/SUP yoga class. With less-than-ideal weather for any water activities and a “rashy” baby, we just laid low in the last few days of our trip. Even if you go to Gili T. and do nothing at all, it’s still absolutely worth it.
What to Eat
We loved the local cuisine in Bali. There was more variety than I had anticipated, and something for every palette. I LOVE, LOVE spicy food… and there was plenty of that.
As far as dining experiences, the two best were from recommendations of a friend. The Rock Bar (at Ayana Resort) was stunning. I only wish we had been able to spend more time there. With a dozing baby in her stroller, it felt kind of like a date night. The grounds of the resort and other various restaurants on the premise make this worth spending an evening, or even a night or two at this spot.
Scallywag Seafood Bar and Grill on Gili T. We went here twice actually, once for lunch and once for dinner. Of the two experiences, my favorite was lunch. They are very popular on island, so dinner gets a little crowded, and they may run low on some of their fish/seafood offerings. The Mahi Mahi at lunch was sublime. It is a toes in the sand kind of place, with a cocktail menu and delicious seafood not to be missed if you find yourself on Gili T.
Have an awesome family vacation you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or click “Tell Your Story“.
About Laurie Borrett:
Laurie is an ACE certified health coach, yoga instructor, avid runner, recipe creator, travel fanatic, and lover of all things fitness. She and her family currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. A Marine Corps wife and busy mama to daughter Olive Kate, when Laurie is not teaching yoga or blogging, you can find her running along the East China Sea, buying fresh local produce from Okinawan markets, exploring the local cafes, developing recipes, and just loving every second of being a mama.