Out of the seven cities that we visited in Bali, Ubud was at the very top of the list. It’s the perfect little microcosm of what Bali has to offer and why people are so madly in love with the place. It’s an oasis of lush green vegetation and interesting animal life, yet filled with good food, adventures and mindfulness alike, and interesting people.
Kevin and I were able to spend three nights and roughly 2.5 days in this magical little town. We would strongly advise more for your stay.
Getting to Ubud
We traveled to Ubud from Seminyak by cab for a fixed rate of 300K rupiah. This seemed to be the standard price, and it took about 1.5 hours.
Total cost for getting to Ubud: $20
Where To Stay In Ubud
Our accommodation situation in Ubud includes both a hit and a miss. I was so excited about the place I’d picked for this part of the trip -- it was the only place we would be staying for 3 full days, so I chose what I thought was a cute and romantic, albeit minimalist, cabin experience via Airbnb.
And minimalist it was. Minimalist plus extremely loud construction next door, a thin, lumpy mattress, and mosquitos in the room. Kevin was not having it.
We immediately got online to look for a different place to book for the next two nights and found Green Field Hotel, which had been recommended by a friend (thanks Lauren!). At $80 a night, it would be our splurge of the trip, but boy was it worth it.
To move from the Airbnb to the hotel, we journeyed a mile on foot in the middle of the day carrying our massive backpacks, so we arrived tired and drenched in sweat. Fortunately, we were staying in a palace, so pretty much all strife was forgotten at that point.
When we were first taken to our room, which overlooked a private rice field, we thought we had entered another part of the lobby. The ceilings were so high, the decor so lavish, the space for two people so immense. We thought $80/night couldn't possibly buy this.
But it can in Ubud, and we lived it up for two days in that room. This was our favorite place to the point that we calculated how much it would be per month to live here, and could we both work remotely to move to Bali? Just kidding...kind of. It didn't not come up.
Total cost for three nights in Ubud: $190
Things To Do In Ubud
I'm breaking this section down into two parts: adventures and relaxations. I'm definitely more of a relaxation-seeker on vacations, whereas Kevin is an adventure-seeker. I think travel buddies often have to deal with this dichotomy and I think Ubud is a great place to satisfy both.
Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest: Kev had been looking forward to this part of the trip more than anything else, so excitement was high as we entered the park. I immediately became fearful as we walked in and saw at least three monkeys jump onto unsuspecting people who looked absolutely terrified. I was under the impression that if you didn't draw attention to yourself, the monkeys would leave you alone.
But no, they were seemingly non-discriminate, aggressive, and wanted whatever was in your bag. Preferably food, but cameras were interesting too -- which I found out when one of the little weasels pulled my camera out of Kevin’s backpack. It was perhaps one of the more terrifying moments of my life stealing it back from that monkey, because the look in his eyes was of pure evil and hatred. He started coming after me to get the camera back until a kind bystander scared him away.
I sort of had a full on panic attack after that, and felt that we needed to leave the Monkey Forest immediately. Poor Kev. At least he got to make some monkey friends while we were there -- and keep all of his stuff.
Rent a motorbike: The motorbike rides would become one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The wind blowing the humidity off your face, the freedom of mobility, and the amazing sightseeing to be had, especially as a passenger -- it’s just unparalleled. It costs about $8 USD a day to rent a motorbike and we had zero trouble with the whole experience (though to be fair, we both grew up riding motorcycles).
Happy Travel Favorites
Explore the streets: There are so many fun little shops and restaurants in Ubud. It’s a truly thriving economy, with a good mix of local and Western business owners. It’s a blast to just walk around -- you might even run into street monkeys!
Take a cooking class: We did ours through Peon Cooking Class and would highly recommend it. Not only was it a full cooking class, but we were picked up from our the Airbnb and given a tour of the local market tour and a working rice field. All this for just $26/person!
We made a massive amount of delicious food, and met some lovely people, including a woman who had quit her job at Microsoft in Brazil and was traveling the world for two years. She gave us the name of traditional healer in Ubud, who we tried to visit before leaving but never made it.
Visit the Tegalalang rice field terraces: We rode our motorbike out to the famous Tegalalang rice field terraces early in the morning, before it became overrun and chaotic with tourists. Upon arrival, we met a local named Wayan, who took us on an impromptu private tour and even lead us via motorbike to a coffee plantation afterwards.
Tegalalang (teg-ah-LAH-long) was lush, peaceful, and expansive. Wayan was goofy and talkative in his broken English. We passed by a mother washing clothing in a little stream as her two children splashed in the water and exchanged good morning’s. We stopped to chat with an incredibly frail-looking rice field worker carrying a huge load of rice up a 45 degree terrace slope. Kevin picked up the carrier himself and was shocked at how heavy it was.
Pro Tip: Most people you meet will be named Wayan, because that is the name of every first-born child in Bali, men and women. There are four total names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut, meaning first-, second-, third- and fourth-born. I think I read this in “Eat, Pray, Love,” and it was confirmed by the locals.
Visit a coffee plantation: The coffee plantation we visited was called Bali Pulina, and was just up the road from Tegalalang. You walk in and get to meet the animals responsible for producing the most expensive coffee in the world, called civets ("luwaks" in Balinese). They’re these furry little cat-pheasant looking things, that I wanted to pet but was told would bite.
The best part of the plantation is their cafe deck, which overlooks more lush green rice terraces. When you buy a cup of kopi luwak here, they also bring you eight other teas and coffees to taste beforehand, like ginger and ginseng coffee! Our thoughts on the world’s most expensive coffee: I don't understand. But you can't not try it.
Do yoga: I tried a vinyasa class at the world renowned Yoga Barn. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the experience, because the class was indoors, packed, and boiling hot. Also expensive for yoga at 100K IDR a pop. But again, it feels like something I needed to see once. I wish I’d had time to try some other studios.
Relax: We spent our afternoons at the hotel (infinity) pool, swimming and tanning and getting some much-need relaxation time. In the evenings, we shared a bottle of Balinese wine on our terrace overlooking the rice fields as the sun set and went to bed at a hard-fought 9:30 pm.
Now for the delicious part. Because what would a vacation be if you were mindfully devouring the local fare?
For breakfast at our first Ubud accommodation, we climbed up to the top floor of the Airbnb’s restaurant, watching the monkeys climb all over the construction site before the day’s work started. There, we were served coffee, OJ, eggs, toast, and fresh fruit. There is so much amazing fruit in Bali!
At our palace hotel, we also got a free breakfast. This time, it was a luxe buffet of classic Indonesian dishes.
Here’s a list of recommendations from the aforementioned Lauren, who actually lives in Ubud. We didn’t make it to most places on the list, but I definitely trust her judgement for mindful eats:
- Seniman: Best coffee
- Alchemy Cafe
- Kafe Ubud
- Bali Buddha
- Mama Mia
- Mudra: Trendy, healthy lunch spot
- Seeds of Life: Raw food
- Warung 9: Vegetarian buffet
- Clear Cafe: Microbiotic & raw food
- Sari Organic: Lunch out in rice fields
- Down to Earth: Cool nighttime theater
- Elephant: Evening dinner, good for sunsets
Pro Tip: Don’t get sushi here...you will not be impressed. Kev and I tried it so you don’t have to.
Ubud Is Happy Travel
Ubud might just be the happiest place in the world for how many mindful activities it has to offer. It’s not surprising that so many yoga and meditation retreats take place here. Both Kev and I really wish we’d had more time (and no accommodation drama). There is so dang much to do and see, I think you could spend a whole week here.
For the next part of our Balinese adventure, read about our sunrise hike at Mount Batur.