Ubud Travel Guide: Four Magic Days
Welcome to Ubud
Ubud is why you travel to Bali. Trekking ice terraces, visiting ancient temples, hiking volcanos, exploring a jungle full of wild monkeys, walking streets lined with yoga studios and spas, and eating the most delicious and beautiful food imaginable. Right in the middle of the island, I consider Ubud Bali's beating heart. Ubud is relaxed, unpretentious, and chaotically beautiful. This is not a place to party - it’s a place to meditate, contemplate, grow, explore, and learn.
There’s something special about this region that you can’t articulate; you just need to experience it to understand its magic. Staying in the center of town you’ll be within walking distance to nearly everything you want to do. Or if you want to a more quiet holiday, retreats in the hills are at one with nature and offer pure serenity. I would actually recommend doing both, since I don’t think Ubud can be experienced from inside the walls of a resort.
Where to Stay
I traveled with my best friend, and we decided we wanted to stay in town during our stay. We knew we’d want to be out exploring, walking around, trying a different place for every meal.
If I had traveled with my husband, we would have different priorities. I would have booked us at one of the luxury retreats out by the rice fields - where you just stay put and enjoy time together and how gorgeous the setting is. Out there, we would have been much more alienated from the rest of town and would have needed a motorbike or taxi to get to restaurants and things.
After a lot of research, I chose the Alaya Jembawlan in Ubud. From our welcome drink to the surprise birthday cake they brought to me upon check-out, I had an excellent stay with exceptional service. This second location of the Alaya is newer, cheaper, and was basically empty - which meant we had the two pools to ourselves! We were in their standard room, which is about 500 sq ft large with a balcony overlooking the jungle. Location is a big perk here - everywhere we wanted to go, from the Monkey Forest to the start of the Ridge Trail, was no more than a twenty or thirty minute walk. The hotel has two beautiful infinity pools, a spa, and schedule of activities and offerings you can join in if you like. It’s also right next to one of top yoga studios in Bali. I would stay here again and recommend it to anyone!
Dive right in to the Ubud mentality! Wake up and head to Radiantly Alive for a vinyasa class. This studio is beautiful, the large room is open-air with a thatched roof covering, allowing you to feel like you’re in the jungle. Don’t worry about being eaten by mosquitoes; they provide natural bug spray along with everything else you’ll need for class.
Also don’t be afraid if you’re not a yogi - the number of classes I’ve taken in my lifetime I can count on one hand. You need to experience a yoga class in Bali no matter your skill level. I got lucky and happened to take a class with the studio founder - David Aaron. Should you get this opportunity, take it! If anyone could make you fall in love with yoga it’s this man. With his leathery-tan, soothing voice, quirky sense of humor, and amazing playlist - I wanted to approach him after class and beg, ‘teach me your ways.”
Smoothie Bowls reign supreme in Bali! It may take twenty minutes for yours to arrive because the man crafting it in the kitchen is perfectly placing the fruit, granola, and coconut shreds on top in a design.
Seeds of Life is a perfect place for post-namaste noshing. I hovered over the menu for far too long, craving absolutely everything and eventually decided on a SOL jar, and their famous green smoothie bowl. Grab a seat upstairs for beautiful views, and dig into your superfood!
Visit The Monkey Forest
The Monkey Forest is the most fun I had in Ubud for $3 (40,000 IDR). This is a true jungle, complete with moss-covered statues, ancient temples, and trees so tall you can’t see the tops. It’s the perfect first-day activity. Monkeys run wild here, and can be seen grooming each other, walking around with their babies, and cuddling together for a nap in the shade. They are very used to people being around and feeding them, so they are not shy! They jumped right onto my head when they saw I had bananas! You can see the whole forest in less than an hour, but watching these little guys get up to no good was endlessly entertaining, so you may want to stay longer.
Lunch at Art Kaffe
If you’ve worked up an appetite head to Art Kaffe for lunch. This place oozes charm and has superbfood . I had the veggie burger made of mostly pumpkin and some crispy potato wedges - I now salivate when I think about it. The interior is covered in shabby chic furniture and mosaic mirrors and will make you feel right at home. If you’re just craving a coffee pick-me-up, Folk Espresso across the street will do the trick!
Shop at The Ubud Market
The Ubud Market sells every kind of clothing, bags, jewelry, and trinket you can imagine. You don’t need anything there - but will want nearly everything.
I came just to stock up on some harem pants since my pairs from our India trip have acquired some holes. But after a short walk through, I was trying to figure out how I could also fit several metallic-painted wooden pineapples home with me. It’s a great place to pick up little souvenirs for people at home or get some Bali-themed clothes for the rest of your trip. Bargaining is definitely the way you make it through the market, expect to pay about 1/2 too 1/3 the initial asking price, but be reasonable and also be kind. What’s only a dollar or two to us can be a lot to the people selling.
R & R
Drop your goods off at your hotel, and take some time to enjoy the pool. It’s HOT in Ubud. Carve a little time out of every day to take a dip and sip on a fresh coconut with lime.
Cocktails with a View
For one of the loveliest views in Ubud, wander to Cafe du Moynet before sunset to enjoy a cocktail with a view of the rice paddies. Either stay here for dinner, or head to neighborhood favorite Kismet for a more laid-back and healthy menu with craft cocktails beautifully garnished.
Wake up and experience Bali’s best breakfast at Watercress. I recommend coming here early in your trip, because chances are you will want to come back. They have coffee by local roaster Revolver, lots of healthy choices like crispy kale and poached eggs! Or if you're feeling naughty the fluffiest, prettiest, pancakes in the world. You don't want to pass these up...
Campuhan Ridge Walk
Right after breakfast, to beat the crowds and the heat, head to The Campuhan Ridge Walk.
Grass taller than you lines each side of the trail, and an endless sea of lush green stretches as far as you can see. It’s peaceful, and beautiful and really allows you to appreciate the scenery of where you are. From the starting point (by the hotel entrance sign) it takes about 20 -30 minutes to walk the trail.
Jungle Fish Bali
At the end of the trial, you’ll see a sign a for Jungle Fish. I walked there from that point, which took another thirty minutes or so and was a lovely walk. But you could also grab a taxi. When you arrive at this magic hideaway, it’s like finding an oasis in the jungle! It’s a spa, restaurant, and huge infinity pool, nestled deep in the trees. You can grab a day bed here for the afternoon with no charge, and stay as long as you like. They have a menu of drinks and food, and a wonderful and affordable spa! (I went back here with my hubby when he came at the end of my trip and we can an amazing couples massage for $20 total!)
I had many spa experiences in Bali - all of them fantastic! Other great places to check in Ubud are the famous Karsa Spa (nearby jungle fish) and Tamarind Spa at Murni’s House. I recommend going for it, I for one, could never afford an entire day at the spa in America! But here in Ubud, not only is it something they are famous for, but it’s so affordable. Get whatever treatment you like, but we sure to end with a signature Balinese flower bath.
Back in town, we headed to Clear Cafe for another heavenly health food dinner! This restaurant looks a bit out of place since it’s one of the few that actually has four walls and a roof, but don’t let that deter you. Their menu had so many options for all types of diets, and you can order wine bottles of kombacha. Sold!
My Indian platter came with rice shaped into a heart and was one of the tastiest things I ate in Bali. We ate dinner early, since we had big plans for the morning!
Sunrise Hike Mt. Batur
As soon as we heard there was a volcano to hike for sunrise views of Bali, we were in. I love doing something physically challenging on a trip. Mount Batur sits almost 6,000 ft high and hiking to it’s summit to enjoy the sunrise is something you must do. I booked a Mount Batur hike that offered pickup, a guide, breakfast at the top, and return transfer back. There are people selling this in town, or you can go with several companies online.
You need to leave around 2AM for this, drive an hour to the mountain’s base and that’s where you meet your guide. We laughed as he handed us hiking polls and head-flashlights, thinking we wouldn’t need either. Cut to twenty-minutes later, when the that poll was the only thing keeping me from meeting an untimely death, and I’m wondering why I’ve never owned a head-light before. Be warned, this hike is challenging! It’s a steep and rocky hike uphill with no real path, and you’re doing it in complete darkness. But it’s all worth it when the sun starts to rise! The views are simply stunning, and once the sky is light the two hour hike down is enjoyable. Breakfast of hard boiled eggs, banana sandwiches, fruit, and coffee is provided.
Visit The Rice Terraces
On the way back to Ubud, you’ll pass the famous Tegalalang rice terraces so have the driver pull over! We were planing to come back here, but the weather in that moment was perfect and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see them in the sun. The driver was happy to wait while we explored a bit and took some photos. If you’ve worked up an appetite, there are several places overlooking the terraces that serve food and drinks to grab a bite.
Once you’ve finished exploring and had lunch, head back to the hotel for some time at the pool or a nap in the shade. You woke up at 2am, remember?
Ever heard of butterfish? It’s about to change your life! Head to dinner at Arang Sate Bar where you can order several types of skewers prepared different ways. This is a great place to try a lot of dishes with a friend or two.
If Skewer's aren't your thing, and you want a more upscale dinner, head to Copper Kitchen at the Bisma Eight Hotel. There's a beautiful outdoor patio and the food is exceptional, though a little pricey for Bali. If you want something super casual and don’t mind repeating a restaurant - Seeds of Life also does diner, and their Mexican lasagna has a cult following.
An eco cycling tour will take you a bit deeper into Bali, into the rice fields and to the cultural villages. This is your chance to really learn about the place you're in. You’ll see how people live their day to day and get an experience a little closer to nature - plus some nice exercise to start off the morning!
Namaste One Last Time
Take an afternoon yoga class Bali's most popular spot, at The Yoga Barn, or head for another Spa Treatment or massage - you’ve earned it! Make one last swing by the shops or Ubud Market to pick up any last souvenirs. The prices are better here than anywhere else in Bali.
Finale Dinner at Locavore
This is a dining experience you won’t want to miss! Locavore is Ubud’s finest restaurant, featuring five or seven course tasting menus for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Book this well in advance since this cozy place only has a few tables and does not accept walk-ins. The unique flavors and presentation of each amuse bouche will wow you! They even do a thing called "pre-dessert!" Come hungry with an open mind. It’s the perfect finale to your time in Ubud.
Other cool things not mentioned that I loved...
Tuki's for coconut ice cream
Alchemy Kitchen for healthy eats
Cooper Kitchen at Bisma Eight