Bali may not be the first name on your lips when you’re thinking about a family holiday – but even way back in the 70’s when the first surfers started their love affair with the Island Of The Gods it became clear that the intoxicating mix of rainforest, mountain, culture and endlessly glorious beaches was going to be a lure for generations of travellers. Add in the amazing food and the incredibly friendly locals and you can see why it’s still at the top of so many Destination Bucket Lists.
It’s a luxury destination – without the luxury price tag.
Bali is known for its hospitality, and the quality shows in the restaurants, bars and hotels. It’s not difficult to find luxury Bali rentals with a glorious private pool for your family which will provide the ultimate retreat from the crowds on the south of the island in peak season.
Do be mindful of Bali’s rainy seasons (January to April and October to November) – accommodation deals are at their best, but do be prepared for a little… erm.. rain! Fortunately, the rains are usually in brief afternoon downpours, so your entire trip won’t be rained off! And do understand it’s not a lonely and untouched land – everyone loves Bali, and the tourism which has made it so accessible is also responsible for a lot of development. But with a little effort, there are many quiet corners which still feel relatively untouched by the masses; just head to the centre or towards the north and west coasts.
It’s a cliche for a reason. Oh those beaches.
The beaches are what sold Bali to the first intrepid tourists, and they’re still wooing us in our droves. And it’s not like, say, the Maldives, which are an endless display of the same white sand; Bali is so much more than that. Of course Kuta Beach is still the most famous with its wide golden stretches and party atmosphere. But at the quieter end of the island Suluban Beach is concealed by natural limestone formations and accessed via rocky steps and narrow log ramps. The soft sand of Geger beach is perfect for sunbathers who actually want to swim in the surf-swollen sea, and if you can find hidden little Bias Tugal your 500m trek down a rocky path will be rewarded by a paradise of turquoise ocean, gentle sand and palm trees – and probably not another person to share it with.
It’s Bali. There’s surfing. Dude.
If you’re taking teens, then it’s a given that they’ll leave Bali as lifelong surfers. Experienced surfers tend to head to Uluwatu for the waves off the south coast, but for novices the beaches in the northern half of the island are far more beginner-friendly. As always, check the credentials of your surfing instructor – there are lots of reputable surf schools that cater for absolute beginners.
And when they finally tire of battling the surf, the whole family can try snorkelling. Choose one of the calmer beaches, like Blue Lagoon, and you’ll find amazing reefs and coral gardens. Or just a short distance from shore you can find the remains of the sunken freighter at Tulamben.
The beach isn’t just for surf though.
The thing about Bali is that life happens actually ‘on’ the beach. It’s not a case of picking lunch or the beach – on Bali it’s all one thing. And frankly, when on Bali you’re expected to laze a day or two away at one of the island’s numerous beach clubs, where the views are amazing (naturally. It’s Bali. Everywhere looks amazing), and the food, drinks and music are great too. Some have beachside infinity pools (with underwater speaker systems and swim-up bars), and a family-friendly relaxed daytime vibe. Be prepared for your teen wanting to go back for the DJ-led party each night though.
But there’s more adventure than just the beach!
Yes, you’ll undoubtedly be by the ocean a lot on Bali. but don’t ignore the astonishing interior of the island – the emerald rice fields and volcanic mountain terrain all demand you come exploring. It’s endlessly photogenic, and your teen will be in Instagram heaven.
The ancient rice terraces of Jatiluwih are a timeless and endless sea of green, and you can hike or hire a bike to explore their lush landscape. In fact bike tours are a great way to explore Bali – from an easy street food tour to a more energetic Volcanic Trail it’s a great way to get to now more about the island. If biking’s not for you, then the hiking tours to the active volcano Mount Batur are a fascinating way to spend a day, and those with a taste for some extra excitement can try white-water rafting.
The Bali Botanic Garden houses the Bali Treetop Adventure Park, which has aerial routes through the tree canopies, with 72 challenge courses that include spider nets, Tarzan jumps, flying swings, and zip lines up to 160 meters in length.
Or you can stick to the water with Waterbom Bali, the ultimate water park with 13 different slides and rides from the scary vertical drops to tubing down the Lazy River.
The Food Is Fabulous
Bali used to be one of those places where Westerners avoided the ice, the tap water, the salads and the meat. But not for a long time now – hygiene standards meet international requirements across the island, and while we might suggest you avoid ‘arak’ the local spirit, we suggest you feel free to make a glutton of yourself over ‘babi guling’ the local delicacy of roast suckling pig.
Soak up the culture.
Wandering the crowds in Ubud, you might wonder what has happened when people begin to part before you. But regular temple procession are part of the colourful texture of life on Bali, and they’re frequently found stopping the traffic. Your taxi driver may stop to pay his respects at a temple, and you’ll certainly wish to visit a few of the ancient holy sites yourself. Don’t miss Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, one of Bali’s holiest temples – its spectacular setting on the clifftop will take your breath away, and watching a dance at sunset is an experience you’ll always remember.
NB – some of the more important annual Hindu ceremonies on the island include Galungan and Pagerwesi. Dates vary for Galungan, but in 2018 it is 30 May to 9 June, and from 26 December to 5 January (2019). Pagerwesi is 21 March and 17 October in 2018.
If you have younger children, you might want to take a look at Mini Traveller’s post on 10 things To Do In Bali With Kids.