Forget every stereotype you thought you knew about Bali. Full of Aussie bogans wearing Bintang t-shirts and drinking from stubbies at 10am? A scary place that’s home to shady terrorists and drug smugglers? A place where you will inevitably eat something dodgy and end up with a dose of Bali belly?
Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many counts (ok you can still find bogans in Kuta – avoid). We found Bali to be an amazing place for a family holiday with lots to do with the kids, an abundance of stylish but kid-friendly cafes and restaurants, trendy boutiques and great shopping, beautiful landscapes, great places to stay and SO affordable. The people are so friendly and nice and they treat children so wonderfully. The Balinese believe that the younger a child is, the closer it is to God therefore children are so well looked after there. We absolutely fell in love with it during our month long stay and didn’t want to leave.
We stayed in the Canggu area, which is an area north of trendy Seminyak. Ten years ago there was probably nothing here, but as the island has developed, growth has crept up to Canggu and there are now a lot of places to stay, cafes, restaurants and boutique little shops. It’s also very, very cool. Painfully cool in some places. It’s where a lot of young expats/hipsters are settling to become digital nomads – working remotely from all around the world and working from cafes and shared workspaces, paying dirt cheap rent and surfing and chilling out over great coffee and healthy smoothie bowls the rest of the time.
The beauty of Canggu however is that it is still home to local people who are going about their everyday lives, and there’s beautiful rice paddy fields around, it’s close to the beach and all the shops and highlights of Seminyak. So you get the best of both worlds really.
Here’s a rundown on some of the best things our family did in the month we stayed in Bali.
Splash Waterpark at Finns Recreation Club (formerly the Canggu Club)
The Canggu Club is a very nice country style club which has some great facilities for kids including a kids’ club, bowling alley, indoor trampolines and a water park. It’s also has some pretty swish looking pools, tennis courts and soccer fields along with restaurants. While memberships are aimed at the expat market who live in the area, you can also buy day passes as visitors.
We had such a fun day at the Splash Waterpark which is perfect for families. One section of the waterpark is set up for younger kids with a splash playground for the littlies to run around in.
There’s also some great waterslides – our kids were happy to go on the smaller one, but the bigger ones are a bit scary and best for older kids. Mike tried them out and declared them to be great fun.
There’s also a lazy river and rope swing.
Nusa Dua and Pirates Bay
Nusa Dua is the swanky part of Bali – it’s where a lot of the high-end 5 star resorts are, and is set on a lovely white sand calm beach (as opposed to the mostly surf beaches in Bali). We spent a great day having a swim at the beautiful beach and then for lunch visited Pirates Bay restaurant.
It’s a cool place where you can order food and eat either in a replica pirate ship or like we did in one of the many treehouses dotted around. The waiters bring your food right to you up the tree!
There’s also a great playground that our kids loved. They run programmes in the school holidays as well where you can learn to be a pirate, sounds like great fun!
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud
Ubud is about 1.5 hours (depending on traffic) north of Canggu but well worth a visit for its beautiful scenery, lush rice paddy fields and chilled out vibe. It’s also worth visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary which has around 600 macaque monkeys living amongst beautiful forest and temples dating back to the middle of the 14th century.
The monkeys are used to humans and can get very close, so it’s worth keeping little ones next to you. And whatever you do don’t take food or water in as they’ll snatch it straight out of your hands!
Tegalalang Rice Terrace near Ubud
Tegalalang Rice Terraces are a breathtaking series of rice paddies that use the traditional subak (traditional irrigation system) that’s been used since the 8th century.
It’s quite breathtaking and the kids really enjoyed seeing where rice comes from – not just a packet in the supermarket!
Horseriding at Bali Equestrian Centre
The Bali Equestrian Centre is an amazing complex that’s in Canggu and aimed at everyone from tiny tots who want to learn to ride, right through to competitive adult level. The horses and facilities are in immaculate condition and for her birthday Sophie decided she wanted to do a pony ride and grooming session.
She met her pony Asia who was gorgeous and set off with her guide for a stroll around the centre’s ground.
After 15 minutes (which was enough in the blistering heat), they headed back to the stable where she got to groom and feed Asia.
It’s a perfect introduction to horseriding for kids, and they also run school holiday pony camps – squeeee!
Sunday’s Beach Club (formerly Finn’s Beach Club)
It’s billed as ‘Bali’s best day out’ and they’re not far wrong in our opinion. We headed down to Sunday’s Beach Club in Uluwatu which is at the bottom tip of Bali island. Sunday’s is a private beach club situated on one of the most gorgeous beaches in Bali complete with white sand and crystal blue water.
Once you’ve paid your entrance fee (which is partly redeemable against food and drink) you climb into a cable car which lowers you down the steep cliff to the beach at the bottom. This in itself was a highlight for our kids!
There’s plenty of sun loungers, bean bags and tables to sit at in the restaurant.
The surf was quite rough when we first arrived as it was high tide, but it calmed down as the tide went out and revealed plenty of rockpools for the kids to explore and lots of room for sandcastles.
There’s also kayaks, stand up paddleboards and snorkelling equipment which you can use that’s included in the entrance price.
The highlight of the day however was when the sun started to set and a campfire was lit. We grabbed a couple of bean bags and watched the sunset (including a couple who will have the most amazing wedding photos in the world!)
We also ordered some s’mores to roast over the campfire. Such a great day out.
Manicure and pedicure at Think Pink nails
If you have little girls, they will love this. Big girls as well for that matter! Think Pink nails is a New York style nail salon where you can get a manicure and pedicure for a fraction of the price at home.
Little ladies are literally treated like princesses, with their own throne to sit in while they have their beauty treatments. Bigger ladies can also order a cocktail or a wine if their heart desires.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the W Retreat and Spa
To celebrate mothers day and 2 birthdays in one week, we treated ourselves to high tea at the W Retreat and Spa in Seminyak. This fun afternoon tea is designed by Adriano Zumbo (Australian patisserie chef extraordinaire) and includes such delights as tomato and raspberry ganache macarons, lamingtons on a stick, foie gras samosa, smoked salmon vol au vents and a delicious yummy cocktail each for Mum and Dad.
It was a very reasonable $58 NZD / $39 USD for the high tea, cocktails and 2 soft drinks for the kids. It was also a chance to wander around the swanky hotel and pretend we were staying there for a wee moment in time!
Mike and I were so taken with the resort that we booked a babysitter for a couple of days later and headed down there for lunch. The food is great and you can go for a swim in the beautiful pool – perfect for a little bit of time out from the kids 🙂
Baby turtle release with the Bali Sea Turtle Society
We ventured once down to the Kuta area (you’ll probably have gathered from above that we’re not fans of it!) to take part in a baby turtle release.
The Bali Sea Turtle Society run a wonderful conservation programme for endangered sea turtles, where they relocate sea turtle eggs from the busy Kuta beach to a hatchery to protect the eggs and increase hatching rates.
Once they’re hatched the baby turtles are released back to the sea the next day. Our kids loved taking part in the experience and it was amazing to watch around 80 turtles all waddling down to the sea. The kids name their two Tiddles and Rambo! Unfortunately only around 1 in 1,000 baby turtles only ever make it to adulthood so fingers crossed it will be either Tiddles or Rambo (we didn’t tell the kids this bit!)
The releases are only really announced a few hours before they happen, and the Bali Sea Turtle Society Facebook page is the best place to find out when they’re taking place.
Tanah Lot temple complex
Hands up honesty – after 4 months in Asia we were getting a little templed out. So the only temple complex that we visited was the most famous one in Bali at Tanah Lot. It’s just north of Canggu and is a series of beautiful temples all located on the cliff tops overlooking the sea.
It gets *very* busy though with tourists who visit from all over Bali, particularly at sunset.
What we ate
The food in Bali is fantastic – from cheap simple warungs (restaurants) that serve delicious noodles, rice and satay sauce, to funky cafes with brilliant coffee and trendy restaurants serving tapas and swish cocktails, it’s all wonderful. You can read all about it in our guide of ‘Where to Eat in Bali‘.
Where we stayed
Our home in Bali was the wonderful Roemah Perenakan complex in Canggu, which was 4 original 200 year old wooden Chinese style houses that have been relocated around a gorgeous pool and lush tropical gardens.
We stayed in the Legend Lasem house, which was the biggest of the group with 2 bedrooms (with air-conditioning), a spacious living/dining area complete with cable TV, well equipped kitchen and gorgeous outdoor bathroom. The decor was amazing – retro style and with beautiful touches like vintage Dutch style tile flooring and antique art on the walls.
The house came complete with a lovely housekeeper who visited most days and most of the time we had the pool to ourselves. At the end of the driveway were local shops and warungs where we could feed the family for $6NZD / $4USD.
And how much did we pay for this paradise? You will be amazed to know that it only cost us $67 NZD / $45 USD per night! We got a good discount because we stayed for a month, but the regular nightly charge is extremely reasonable compared to other places in Bali. We can’t wait to go back one day.
Want a $20 USD AirBNB credit? Click on this link when you’re booking and we both get a credit thanks to AirBNB
How we got around
We decided to take the plunge and rent a car in Bali, given that we were there for a month and wanted to have our own independence rather than rely on taxis and private drivers that soon add up.
We ended up renting a Toyota Avanza which are everywhere on Bali, for a reasonable $26 NZD / US$17 per day.
Driving in Bali isn’t for the faint-hearted to be honest – the roads are narrow and not in great condition, there are scooters everywhere passing you on both sides of the car and basically no road rules. Flashing your headlights means ‘give way I’m coming through’ and putting on your hazard lights at an intersection means you’re going straight ahead! We figured it out eventually with thankfully no scrapes and once we got used to the madness it was all part of the experience.
A note though that the traffic is terrible and it takes a long time to get anywhere – for example it was around 28km from Canggu to Ubud and it took us around 2 hours! So don’t plan on going anywhere in a hurry. The roads to the south of the island are better and there’s a newish toll road out to Nusa Dua which makes it a breeze. It’s just the rest of the island that needs sorting out!
After 24/7 with the kids for nearly 4 months, we decided we needed a little bit of Mum and Dad time, so on recommendation from some other people we found our wonderful babysitter Lufti. The kids loved spending time with her and they got up to all sorts of arts, crafts and poor Lufti also got subjected to Sophie’s ongoing UNO marathon and Jack’s superhero obsession.
If you’re heading to Bali and looking for a babysitter, we would highly recommend her (contact us for details).
Next up: Our guide on where to eat in Bali – my mouth is watering already……!
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