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How to have fun in Bali on a budget

FUN FACT: Bali’s best coffee is made with wild cat poo!

The palm civet is a nocturnal, cat-like animal that eats the island’s best coffee berries then poos out the ‘stone’. Kopi luwak coffee plantations exist throughout Bali (particularly outside Ubud) and coffee produced with these partially-digested berries is one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

A cup of brewed kopi luwak can set you back more than $100!

From crazy-ass Kuta and laidback Amed to peace-lovin’ Ubud and Bali’s idyllic offshore islands, if diving, hiking, dolphin gazing, pampering (and yes, even partying) are on your holiday radar, then Bali’s the place to be. Here are our top 5 favourite spots for fun in Bali.

 #1 – Kuta

One of Bali’s original tourist hotspots, Kuta is often the first stop-off for many visitors to Bali due to its proximity to the airport. Travellers from all over the world come here to seek out its notorious party scene, however there’s much more to this spot than Bintang beer and tacky T-shirts!

The length and consistency of Kuta’s waves make it the ideal surfing spot, particularly if you’re a beginner, with plenty of outfitters offering surf lessons. Up the ante by booking a surfing safari and you’ll also get the chance to check out the best surfing spots on the island with the help of knowledgeable local guides.

For water thrills of a different kind, head to Waterbom waterpark and experience the appropriately named Climax ride, where you’ll drop vertically down from a trap door and be whipped into an inverted loop under 2.5G’s of force. Or opt for a white water rafting adventure on the Ayung River, where you can stop off for a splash in one of the freshwater pools or waterfalls along the way.

After a super-touristy Instagram shot for the folks back home? Take a visit to Tanah Lot Temple. One of Bali’s most iconic sites, this ancient Hindu shrine is perched on top of a rocky outcrop and it offers jealousy-inducing sunset photo ops.

#2 – Amed

For a quieter, budget-conscious stay head to the black sand beaches and laidback lifestyle of the island’s northeast coast. Both cheap digs and cheap eats abound here (try fresh fish cooked Bali-style at one of the local warungs), particularly in Amed, and it’s also the ideal spot for some amazing diving or snorkelling. The Liberty Wreck (the wreck of a US cargo ship that sunk during WWII) is a must-see, especially early in the morning when you can swim among the schools of curious bumphead parrot fish and the odd reef shark or turtle.

And of course a temple visit is mandatory regardless of where you are in Bali, and Goa Lawah certainly won’t disappoint. It’s not only one of Bali’s most important ‘directional’ temples, it’s also known as the Bat Cave because it’s chock-full of ‘em!

#3 – Lovina

If you find all the touristy locations just a tad too yawn-worthy, then head up to Lovina in northern Bali. A quaint little fishing village, there are way fewer visitors here so the mood is low-key and wonderfully chilled. Even the waves are calm! One of Lovina’s most famous drawcards you should definitely get a good night’s sleep for is a sunrise dolphin tour. An early morning start will have you up close and personal with pods of these gorgeous creatures from aboard a traditional outrigger canoe.

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For a zen-like highlight, visit the Buddhist monastery in the hills of Banjar, and follow it up with a soothing splash in the area’s famous hot springs. And if you’re keen to get out of the confines of the town, hire a motorbike and head inland. Here you’ll bypass wild countryside filled with crater lakes and picturesque villages, and you can take a detour to what is widely regarded as Bali’s most beautiful waterfall, Sekumpul.

#4 – Ubud

Set among rolling hillsides and verdant green rice paddies, Ubud has become a thriving tourism hotspot for those who love all things hippy-like. A centre for yoga, meditation and the holistic arts, here you can take a kundalini class, treat yourself to a pampering massage, or even undertake a bit of spiritual cleansing with one of the local shamans or ‘magic men’.

If you’re here in March/April, you’ll be just in time for the annual Bali Spirit Festival. Drawing thousands of musicians and yogis from across Asia, it’s a collaboration of music, yoga, dance, singing, meditation and holistic therapy workshops.

And if you need a bit of exploring to help you re-energise after all that relaxation, consider a hike up Campuhan Ridge for amazing valley views or hop on your hired electric bike and head north to Bali’s most famous rice terraces, Tegallalang.

#5 – Bali’s islands

As the second largest of the smaller islands off the southeast coast, Nusa Lembongan is wonderfully quiet with serene beaches and a colourful coral reef abundant with sea life.

Experienced surfers bored with the Kuta crowds should head to the ominously named breaks of Shipwreck, Lacerations or Playground, and snorkelers should check out Mangrove Point where a gentle current will drift you down the spectacular reef. Those keen for a dive should make tracks to Manta Point, where you can frolic among the local wildlife which includes octopuses, nurse sharks, pufferfish and of course manta rays!

The largest of the three islands lying off the southeast coast, Nusa Penida has a uniquely deserted vibe but offers heaps of stuff to explore including the spectacular limestone cliffs. You’ll also find blindingly white sandy beaches on its south coast, and the lush greenness of the Tembeling Forest in the centre of the island.