We’ve just returned from a trip to Bali, Indonesia, last week, and it already feels like ages ago. We recovered from jet lag last weekend, our tans are beginning to fade and we’ve settled back into our daily routine. Bali was always up there in the top three places we would discuss for our summer holidays, and while it was great to finally make it out there, what made this vacation especially memorable was experiencing the island through the eyes of nearly three year old Little T.
Bali offers so much for families, and the locals are truly warm and friendly, especially with children. From the days spent at the amazing pools at Padma Legian Resort, to meeting the monkeys of Ubud Monkey Forest, to bounding around the island of Nusa Lembongan on a golf buggy and so many adventures in between, there was a lot that made this an incredible family holiday.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat. Here’s an overview of what we did on our vacation, with more posts on our favorite places coming up on the blog.
At the time of booking our flights in early June, Garuda Indonesia and Singapore Airlines offered the least expensive flights and, also very important to us, the shortest trip durations, i.e. shortest layover at the first stop (Singapore or Jakarta) as there isn’t a direct flight to Bali from London. Landing in Bali in the late afternoon would have been ideal for us, but we had to give somewhere, so the flights we settled with was with Garuda Indonesia, leaving at 2110 from London Heathrow with a 1 1/2 hour layover in Jakarta and arriving at 2130 at Densapar Bali airport.
Tip: Double check all passports well ahead of travel. Passports should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from date of entry.
Our flight arrived over half an hour late into Jakarta, and the tight connection felt even shorter when we showed up to a long, slow moving queue at immigration that we had to pass through before boarding our next flight, but we made our connection and less than two hours after takeoff, we had finally arrived in Bali!
Overall, we were very pleased with our first experience flying with Garuda Indonesia. I can see why the airline has won World’s Best Airline Cabin Crew in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards three years in a row – the crews on each flight were always pleasant, courteous and helpful. Little T received a gift at the end of each flight, mostly little stuffed toys and on one flight a messenger bag with a finger puppet. Read more about our experience in our Flying Garuda Indonesia with Kids post.
Where We Stayed
Our stay at the Padma Resort Legian truly made for a wonderful holiday. The lush gardens of the Padma Resort were a pleasure to wander around and a lovely shelter from the hot sun. Little T would collect fallen flowers and leaves along the paths and we would often stop by the many ponds scattered around watching the koi fish and turtles swimming about.
The Kid’s Club and children’s pool came highly recommended and both exceeded our expectations. While the Kid’s Club is free for children aged 4 to 12 years old, Little T could play at the club supervised by us or a babysitter (65000 IDR [approx £3] per hour). The Kid’s Club is open every day from 9am to 8pm, features a small outdoor playground and indoor game room with plenty of toys and offers a great schedule of arts & crafts and outdoor activities that you can also join in on during your stay, like turtle feeding and a treasure hunt.
Whenever I ask Little T what he enjoyed most about Bali, the answer is always the “Kid’s Pool”. We spent hours at this pool that was divided into two parts: a shallow area with water jets and a small water slide, perfect for young tots – and a deeper pool with two tall water slides. Little T moved easily around the shallow area on his own and, with our help, would swim in the deeper area using his arm bands or inflatable ring. It was a kid’s paradise! Padma Resort also has a few other pools on-site to suit everyone, including a fantastic lagoon pool, an Olympic sized main pool, a lap pool and an ocean-view infinity pool.
As for booking the hotel, I booked directly through Padma Resort’s website. Although the cheapest price was a non-refundable rate on TripAdvisor’s website, the best value – and only about a £150 difference for 12 nights – was by booking directly with the hotel since the refundable room rate also included breakfast buffet and transportation to and from the airport, that were not available through TripAdvisor.
Tip: Search for accommodation options in Bali on HotelCombined.com which shows deals on a wide range of hotels, villas, resorts and apartments. Always double check the hotel’s website as you might find the best value option booking directly, with extras included in the room rate or special promotions.
Stay tuned for a more extensive review and plenty more photos of the hotel coming up on the blog.
Padma Resort Legian, Jalan Padma No. 1, Legian, Bali, Indonesia
What We Did
Day Trip to Nusa Lembongan
We took a fast boat cruise from Sanur on Bali’s southeast coast to the neighboring small island of Nusa Lembongan, with Rocky Fast Cruises which I’d highly recommend. The journey was only about 30 minutes, leaving Sanur at 10am and then returning from Nusa Lembongan at 4.30pm. There is no dock so you wade in the water a few feet from the shore to get onto the boat and the boat staff were very helpful with carrying Little T back and forth from the boat.
Tip: Bring cash for a day trip to Nusa Lembongan. There was only one cash machine with a very long queue and it’s been known to run out of cash during the day.
Most people get around Nusa Lembongan on scooters or, for larger groups, on covered pickup trucks with a tour guide. There aren’t taxis on the island and the hilly terrain is not ideal for leisure cycling. For the three of us, hiring a golf buggy was the best solution to explore the island on our own.
Tip: Book your buggy in advance for the best rate, 800,000 IDR. And strap your bags down very well to prepare for steep hill climbs and the occasionally bumpy ride on dirt roads.
We visited Dream Beach, Devil’s Tears and Mushroom Beach while on Nusa Lembongan and I have plenty of photos to share in a separate post. Dream Beach is a beautiful beach cove and renown surf spot and Devil’s Tears is a set of rocky, dramatic cliffs where huge waves splash against the sides, sending water spraying over the edges – Little T stayed in the golf buggy with Mr. G for that one (above photo).
We ended our day trip on Nusa Lembongan with lunch at Hai’s Beach Bar & Grill on Mushroom Beach, where the calm waters were perfect to take Little T out for some swimming. There’s really only a small area fit for swimming between one side of the beach with a very rocky floor and the other with boat traffic, but it’s the calmest beach in the area for swimming with young children.
Nusa Lembongan was a stunning place to visit and a great escape from Bali’s busy traffic and crowded beaches. It ended up being a fun family adventure exploring some of the island’s tucked away beaches and we would have loved to stay a couple of days to enjoy it all at a more leisurely pace and possibly go out to one of its famous dive sites!
You’ll find more photos and details on our visit on my post, Day Trip to Nusa Lembongan.
Day Trip to Ubud
It was about a 2 to 2 1/2 hour car trip (depending on traffic) from Legian to Ubud and we fit in a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, lunch at Luxe Barbecue & Grill in Ubud and a stop at Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
The main tips for visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary are to leave behind anything in the car the monkeys could snatch, i.e. hat or sunglasses, to not pack food into your bag as they will sniff it out and try to get into your bag and to overall keep your distance and not touch the monkeys; there are some that can be aggressive. There are plenty of staff members around to provide assistance with recovering a lost item.
Honestly, when I read online accounts of people being bitten or scratched by the monkeys, I was hesitant to bring Little T, but I’m glad we ended up going. He understood to keep his distance and really enjoyed observing the monkeys as they moved around the temple and trees and even fed a few. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
Next we went to the barbecue and grill restaurant at Luxe Villas Ubud for lunch. I found it while searching TripAdvisor and it has great reviews and is only 15 minutes away from the Monkey Forest. It’s off the main road and the last 800 meters or so to get there are inaccessible by car, but you can request scooters to pick you up. The restaurant was excellent – impeccable service, refreshing drinks and delicious food and such a beautiful view surrounded by rice paddies. The staff were truly wonderful and thoughtful, with one offering to look after Little T when he was done eating so Mr. G and I could finish our meals in peace.
As you can see in the photo above, a storm was approaching and the heavens opened up on our way to Tegalalang Rice Terrace, but we still made our way up there to take in the view of the rice terraces under the torrential rain. Little T was fast asleep at this point and napped the rest of the way to Legian. Again, we only scratched the surface of Ubud’s stunning countryside and hope to be back again to explore more of the area!
Day Trip to Uluwatu
We visited Uluwatu twice during our holiday – once on a day trip with Little T to see the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang Beach and then another time on a date night at the amazing Tirtha Dining restaurant and events venue, which I planned in advance. It was about an 1 1/2 hour drive to Uluwatu from Legian and the cliff views there are breathtaking.
After Uluwatu Temple, we went to the nearby Padang Padang Beach, which despite the Saturday crowds made the journey to Uluwatu very much worth it. We climbed down a set of steep stairs, at one point through a crevice just wide enough for two people to shimmy past each other, before making it to a tucked away beach cove at the foot of tall, dramatic cliffs. I was avoiding getting people in my shots so although it looks deserted, the place was heaving with people along the small stretch of sand, wading in the turquoise waters along the shore, further out in the water on paddle boards and surfboards and at the restaurant on the beach. That said, even with the crowds, we were blown away by the stunning landscape and we had a blast with Little T jumping the waves at the shore.
Mr. G and I returned to Uluwatu one evening for a sunset dinner at Tirtha Dining and it was an experience we’ll never forget, having a table on a glass stage perched on a cliff, with a view overlooking the ocean all to ourselves.
You can read more about our experience with Tirtha Dining in my Magical Dinner for Two at Tirtha Dining post.
Turtle Release with Bali Sea Turtle Society, Kuta Beach
The afternoon before we left we released a baby turtle to sea! The Bali Sea Turtle Society are a non-profit sea turtle rescue and education organisation that patrol Bali’s beaches for turtle eggs that they collect to be hatched safely at their centre, protecting them from poachers, dogs and beach traffic. Once the baby turtles have hatched, the organisation invites visitors to help release the hatchlings to sea the following afternoon. You need to keep a close eye on their social media (Instagram or Facebook) for the latest updates.
There was a long queue but we did receive a baby sea turtle to carry to the beach and set free scurrying towards the water, hopefully making its way safely into the wide open ocean. The Bali Sea Turtle Society are doing great work protecting local endangered sea turtles and increasing awareness of their plight and I’m very grateful that we could participate in a release during our visit!
You can read more about our experience in my post Turtle Release with the Bali Sea Turtle Society.
Sunday Family Dayze at KU DE TA, Seminyak
KU DE TA host a weekly family day at their beach club on Seminyak Beach every Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Great place for family fun with a bouncy castle, pool fun, crafts and activities. We had lunch there and Little T spent most of the time on the bouncy castle until he was beet red, then we went out on the beach and bought a pirate ship kite that, with help from the vendor, we spent some time flying along the shore.
Tip: Traffic is dreadful on Bali, give yourself plenty of time to get from one place to another. A drive from Legian to Seminyak, while only a short distance, could sometimes take up to 1 1/2 hours!
Many of our evenings were spent watching the sunset before dinner. La Plancha in Seminyak was one of our favorite places with a lively atmosphere and colorful umbrellas and bean bags along the beach.
Watching the sunset over drinks and appetizers at BREEZE at Samaya in Seminyak was another favorite.
Where We Ate
I’ll be sharing a separate post on Eating Out in Bali, but here’s a list of where we ate and a quick overview of what we thought of each restaurant. Bali is full of fantastic restaurants and we really did eat well on this trip!
Tip: Do reserve a table in advance either online or through your hotel concierge – tables at many of the top restaurants in Seminyak get booked out quickly especially going into the weekend.
Padma Resort, Legian: I very rarely eat mie goreng noodles and certainly made up for that on this trip, especially at the hotel for our poolside lunches (and the made to order ones at the Balinese buffet dinner were excellent!).
Barbacoa, Seminyak: Loved this restaurant – great ambience and delicious food. The patio overlooks rice paddies and would be a great spot for lunchtime. The pulled pork tacos were delicious and the 8 hour wood-fired local suckling pig is a must-try.
Breeze at The Samaya, Seminyak: Beautiful spot to watch the sunset and an excellent food and drinks menu. We were only here for appetizers before dinner next door at La Lucciola but hope to be back another time for a full meal. There were a few tables set up with an amazing view of the sunset, I can picture it being a great spot for date night.
KU DE TA Beach Club, Seminyak: We had lunch here during their Sunday Family Dayze and I love that they do a family friendly day with activities for the children. The food was outstanding, I had the pork belly ramen noodles and Mr. G and Little T had pan roasted barramundi filets. Highly recommended!
La Lucciola, Seminyak: Lovely beach-side location. Honestly I didn’t order well here and didn’t really enjoy my pumpkin risotto, which I thought was undercooked, but Mr. G liked the grilled fish he ordered.
La Plancha, Seminyak: Lively atmosphere and great spot right on the beach. The beach bar and grill serves up casual fare that was so-so. My chicken wrap with feta cheese was overwhelmingly salty and the grilled chicken skewers and patatas bravas were all right. We would, however, still come back for the fun ambience and tapas and drinks sitting on bean bags in front of the ocean.
Made’s Warung, Seminyak: The food is OK but I would recommend coming for the entertainment – book a table here by the stage to watch a Balinese dance performance over dinner. Little T was mesmerized by the Balinese dance and plays we watched during our trip and really enjoyed this evening out. Stick to the Indonesian plates here – the beef rendang and beef satay were good, but the pad thai (I felt like something different) was awful.
Nalu Bowls, Seminyak: Excellent spot for healthy smoothie bowls made with fresh ingredients and delicious combinations! Little T loved this one made with dragonfruit, banana and papaya and topped with fresh fruit and homemade granola. The Seminyak location is a bit tucked away but definitely worth seeking out for a scrumptious breakfast or snack.
Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak: We liked this spot for drinks overlooking the beach so much that while we tried to visit as many different places as we could, we ended up here twice. We managed to snag a day bed on our first visit during the week but on our second, which was a Saturday, the waiting list was “hours” long. We didn’t come back for dinner the second time around as we were disappointed with our meal there – Mr. G’s roast chicken dish was average and my falafel wraps were half empty. But I would highly recommend this place for great drinks and an excellent location for watching the sunset.
Sarong Restaurant, Seminyak: We ate very well at the Sarong Restaurant and it was one of our favorite restaurants in Bali. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated and the menu is exceptional, featuring dishes inspired by street food vendors across Asia. The restaurant is only for adults and children over the age of 12, so definitely one for date night. Book way in advance as tables fill up quickly at this place.
Smithfield’s Café, Seminyak: A great scrumptious range of treats at this café – brownies, macarons, cakes and plenty more. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menus look good too so definitely worth stopping by.
Starfish Bloo at the W, Seminyak: Another one of our favorite restaurants in Bali. The service was great – our waiter was very friendly and accommodating – and everything we had was outstanding. The menu is a mix of Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian cuisines and many plates are to share. I ordered the caramelised Wagyu brisket with rendang sauce and steam buns which set my mouth on fire but was extremely tasty.
Luxe Barbecue & Grill, Ubud: A stunning view overlooking rice paddies, fantastic service and lovely staff and great food. We started off with a refreshing green juice that we all, including Little T, enjoyed. Mr. G and Little T had the chicken satay skewers while I went with a burger in a lettuce wrap, heaped with toppings and full of flavor. It feels a bit off the beaten path and the villas look like a gorgeous place for a relaxing retreat. Definitely worth checking out!
Tirtha Dining, Uluwatu: I booked our dinner at Tirtha weeks in advance and it was definitely worth it. We had a 6 course dinner at a table for two overlooking the ocean on a glass stage. There was only one other couple on the other side of the venue and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The service was outstanding and everything was arranged wonderfully, from the table with a rose bouquet and individual roses for us, to candles and rose petals strewn about the glass stage, to the beautifully presented food. While the food itself was good, what really blew us away was the whole experience. I would highly recommend it, especially for a special occasion.
Where We Shopped
Carrefour, Sunset Road, Kuta – There are plenty of small pharmacies along the main streets of Legian and Seminyak, but the selection for baby and toddler essentials is limited, so if you’re staying in the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area, I’d recommend stocking up at Carrefour on Sunset Road. The place is gigantic and has everything you could possibly need for your stay including a huge selection of groceries, nappies, toiletries, baby food and formula, pool and beach gear.
Periplus Bookstore, Seminyak Square, Seminyak – I buy a children’s book from each place we visit and found a great selection of Indonesian children stories translated into English here. I didn’t have much time to browse but the bookstore seemed to have a good selection of novels, nonfiction and magazines.
Mister Zimi, Seminyak – I discovered Mister Zimi, an Australian fashion brand, before we went to Bali and I’ve become obsessed with their collection of tops and dresses with gorgeous prints. There’s a shop across the Samaya hotel, I highly recommend checking them out.
Indigo & Rose, Seminyak – I bought a cover up here which I absolutely love and I also bought a T-shirt and swim trunks for Little T – I wish I had more time to shop around here as they have a great collection for children.
Stay tuned for a few more posts on our trip to Bali with our tips and recommendations, including a list of our Top Activities with Kids in Bali, a review on the Padma Resort Legian, a review of Garuda Indonesia airline, more on Eating Out in Bali and a look at our day trip to Nusa Lembongan. Thanks for reading!
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