aerial view of nusa dua beach

As you drive past Nusa Dua Beach, cool off with a dip in the sapphire waters. (Photo: Getty Images)

Road Trips

Feel the Joy (and Sun, Waves and Sand) on a Bali Road Trip

With vehicles for hire running from sexy custom bikes and Lamborghinis through tiny Scoopy scooters and well-traveled, open-top Suzukis, Bali can be road-trip heaven. Sure, traffic can be hectic, and left-side city driving is for the bold. But having your own wheels gives you a freedom tours just don’t deliver, perfect for that holiday spirit.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures when planning your trip. And plan ahead: Comprehensive travel insurance and the right license, including an Indonesian driving permit, are musts. Traveling on two wheels? Wear a helmet.

Start: Seminyak

What better place to start any holiday trip than Seminyak, Bali’s food and retail mecca? The Island of the Gods is gift-shopping heaven: homewares at Kim Soo, gold and silver jewelry at Tulola, hand-cut lace at Uluwatu Lace, floaty yet structured resortwear at Biasa, or Hawaiian shirts and fab bikinis at Bali Boat Shed.

Feast on high-end Indonesian fare at Kaum, Sangsaka, Merah Putih or Bambu. Or sample babi guling (sucking pig), the local festive favorite, at Babi Guling Pak Malen, a simple hole in the wall on bustling Sunset Road. Wrap up with one of Bali’s thermonuclear sunsets; soak ’em up at classic beachfront venues Potato Head or KU DE TA, or laid-back 707 Beach Berm on sweeping Batu Belig Beach.


Ride the highway down the center of the island, where Bali narrows to a slender sandy neck just half a mile wide, and out into the bulge of the Bukit Peninsula. The island’s criminals used to be exiled here: Today, staggering cliff-framed beaches draw global party animals.

cliffs and waves crashing at uluwatu
Catch views of the dramatic waves at Uluwatu. (Photo: Getty Images)

Already an experienced surfer? Then Uluwatu’s legendary swells are calling. Beginners can find lessons and less breakneck waves at Dreamland Beach — and luscious massages, too. Midafternoon, head to Uluwatu Temple for ocean views, ancient religion and a sunset dance performance. Wrap up the night with a fresh fish dinner on the golden sands of Bingin Beach.

Nusa Dua

The main drag from Uluwatu to Nusa Dua isn’t Bali’s most scenic route, but beach detours will fill your feed with joy. Hike down cliffs to unspoiled gems such as Nyang Nyang or Green Bowl beaches. Or splurge on a decadent day club. Clifftop OMNIA is centered on a spectacular floating cube, while Sundays boasts its own funicular railway to whisk you down to the ocean.

Craving culture? Museum Pasifika shows Asian art from around the world, as well as pieces by Gauguin and Matisse. Or simply slip into the Nusa Dua vibe and try your hand at water sports, from jet boots and kitesurfing to parasailing, banana boats and sea walking.


woman in red dress walking capuhan ridge path
Press pause on your drive to stroll Campuhan Ridge. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ride the scenic route along the coast, and then head inland to Ubud, Bali’s spiritual and artistic center, with pristine rice fields and rushing river gorges. The food here is some of the island’s best. Savor local flavors at Hujan Locale, Nusantara, Blanco par Mandif or Locavore, widely considered Indonesia’s top restaurant.

Time in nature is a must in Ubud. Join the Bali Bird Walk for a guided rice field hike, follow the classic Campuhan Ridge Walk, discover Hidden Canyon or raft the Ayung River. Snap epic selfies at a waterfall, perhaps towering Tegenungan, slender Tibumana or Tukad Cepung, known for the light that shines through the falls before 10 a.m.

Culture is another Ubud go-to. Discover the art of masks at Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets; enjoy classical Balinese paintings and more at Neka Art Museum, ARMA Museum or Museum Puri Lukisan; or shop modern art and tribal delights at Tony Raka Art Gallery.

End: East Bali

Lempuyang Temple and Gates of Heaven at sunset
Snap a ‘Gram-worthy photo at Lempuyang Temple, known for its Gates of Heaven. (Photo: Getty Images)

Make a final road trip out of Ubud along the spectacular mountain roads of rugged, less-visited east Bali. Soak up volcano views as you drive through scenic Sidemen to Taman Tirta Gangga, a water palace decked out with reflecting statues and stunning pools.

Head up into the mountains to Lempuyang Temple, known for its Gates of Heaven, which frame the Agung volcano when conditions are right. Drive back by way of Padangbai, with a stop to enjoy the golden sands and snorkel the clear waters of pretty Blue Lagoon. The next morning, it’s just an hours drive back to buzzing, vibey Seminyak.