The perfect family holiday
Bali, one of over 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia, is in Southeast Asia, about 1740km north of Darwin.
Other than an even greater determination on the part of the Balinese to welcome and protect their visitors, Bali has not changed. Smiles are still prevalent in this paradise, which is famous for its friendly people, colourful culture and beautiful beaches. It's one of the friendliest destinations for families and there's probably no easier place to have a relaxing holiday with young ones.
The Balinese love kids and many hotels and resorts cater especially for children. There are free kids' club activity programs, large family rooms with toys, discounted interconnecting rooms and free or discounted children's meals. Babysitters are readily available and are excellent value, costing just a few dollars an hour.
Indonesia's capital is the sprawling and crowded city of Jakarta and is found on the island of Java, just west of Bali. The capital of Bali is Denpasar, a bustling, slightly cramped city on the southern tip of the island. As it's not often visited by tourists, who usually head straight for the beaches of Kuta or the green hills of Ubud, it's a good place to get a taste of some "real" Balinese culture and a taste of life in an busy Indonesian city.
How do I get there?
Being such a popular destination amongst Australians, there are plenty of airlines providing flights that operate between Denpasar and Australia's major cities. For more information go to the websites of carriers including Garuda Indonesia, Qantas, Air Asia, Virgin Australia, Jetstar or Scoot Airways (if departing from Sydney or the Gold Coast). With so many airways now flying this route, there is sure to be a price range and travel dates suited to all holiday planners.
When to go/Weather
With its warm, tropical climate, Bali can be enjoyed any time of year but the best time to hit the beaches is during the dry season, from April to October. The rest of the year is more humid, with more overcast days and a higher chance of rainstorms.
Where to stay
The majority of family resorts are located in Jimbaran Bay, Sanur and Nusa Dua, or near Kuta at Tuban, Seminyak and Legian. A popular alternative to hotel accommodation are one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments with a separate lounge room and kitchen, allowing families to stretch their dollar further by self-catering.
Ayana Resort & Spa
This blissful getaway, perched amidst lavish gardens overlooking Jimbaran Bay, is perfect for families looking to live the luxe-life. The resort has 290 hotel rooms as well as 79 private villas, so there is definitely no shortage of family-friendly options here! Children will love the special Children's Pool complete with water slides (one of four pools in the complex). Kids' Club runs daily between 9am and 5pm for a small fee and showcases an array of cultural activities from ceramics and crafts, to tree planting and Balinese dress-ups.
Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort
Found in West Bali in Tabanan, Pan Pacific is a hub of five-star leisure encounters. They boast four pools, a wading pool for tinier tots, and the first class Kokokan Kids' Club running 8am-6pm, with hourly or five-hour rates available. Kids will get active with swimming, dancing and yoga, and participate in an assortment of cultural arts and crafts and movie events. For everyone, there's a great range of tours that can be taken to get out and experience local customs, and don't miss out on a round at Pan Pacific's esteemed 18-hole golf course!
Discovery Kantika Plaza Hotel
With an enviable beachfront location in Kuta, Kantika has accommodation ranging from basic suites to waterfront luxury villas that make it a perfect holiday spot for all families. Walking distance from local shops, restaurants and activities, you'll be conveniently located for exploring the town or just relaxing under a palm tree. The hotel offers family-suitable action - whether you're into water sports, snorkelling, volleyball, excursions, table tennis, or even helicopter rides! Their complimentary Kido Ria Kids' Zone will keep 5-12 year olds busy from 9am-5pm each day.
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali
Westin's renowned reputation was sure to thrive in a holiday hotspot as beautiful as Nusa Dua, but to make it even sweeter they definitely know how to accommodate for families. Young guests will get a special gift on arrival, free drink refills all day long at Veranda Restaurant and a food menu of options they'll love. For those 4-12 there's the Westin Kids' Club, and for those older there is a quiet, Playstation and computer hideaway! Families can also enjoy a range of activities all together, like traditional story-telling, movie nights or star gazing!
Club Med, Bali
Club Med is a big player in the realm of family holidays, and their Bali destination delivers everything - sports and activities, classes and lessons, traditional discovery and specialised children's packages and entertainment. Their kids' programs are separated to suit different age groups - including teens! Located by the beach at Nusa Dua, its a perfect all inclusive holiday option. Don't miss their unique Flying Trapeze Academy with circus activities!
More Family Resorts
Bali Dynasty Resort Bali
Dynasty Resort is renowned as Bali's four-star family resort. It's located in Tuban, South Kuta, a short walk from beaches, shopping and nightlife. There are 313 rooms and suites including family rooms with attached "Kids Suites". There is also a separate kidsâ€™ pool and complimentary kidsâ€™ club that will introduce kids aged 4-12 to traditional Balinese games and crafts.
Intercontinental Resort Bali
The Intercontinental lies on the white, sandy shores of Jimbaran Beach, with 418 luxurious rooms and suites set among 14 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens. The VIK (Very Important Kids) club is open between 9am and 7pm and lets kids have a ball while also discovering a bit of Balinese culture with traditional dancing, dress-ups in local costumes and much more.
Bintan Lagoon Resort Bintan Lagoon Resort is located on the north coast of Bintan Island and is newly renovated to feature 416 rooms and 57 villas, all beautifully designed and spacious. Bintan also boasts abounding recreation options with two 18-hole golf courses, sea sports including banana boats, kayaks, cruises, snorkels and water skiing, not to mention their copious on-land leisure options and luscious spa treatments. For kids, there's the Nutty Bunch Club for 4-12 year olds with daily activities including mask making, pool games, origami, face-painting, cooking, bike rides and tennis.
Hotel Padma Bali
You'll find Hotel Padma Bali situated on Legian Beach, just outside of Kuta. Set amidst acres of landscaped, tropical gardens, the hotel offers a village-style hideaway with Balinese hospitality and world-standard facilities. The complimentary Wolly Kids Club(for 2-9 year olds) and Games Centre (for 10-17 year olds) offer age-appropriate games and activities, leaving parents plenty of free time to enjoy the romantic atmosphere of the island. Teens can also attend a special party on weekends. There's also a great kidsâ€™ menu, childrenâ€™s pool and affordable child-minding services.
Bali Hilton International
With its beautiful Balinese architecture and tropical garden setting, the Hilton is an elegant, luxurious resort situated on magnificent Nusa Dua Beach. The Hilton offers excellent childcare facilities; the Camp Ananda Kidsâ€™ program provides fun activities ranging from Balinese dancing to face painting to coconut leaf art. There's a great children's menu available and kidsâ€™ movies screened everyday at 12pm.
Hard Rock Hotel, Bali
Hard Rock Hotel Bali is built in the heart of Bali's entertainment and shopping district, nestled on the shores of Kuta's famous surf beach. What sets the Hard Rock apart is Centrestage â€“ which serves as a lobby, a bar, a rock museum and a live venue. There's no shortage of entertainment for the kids, with the supervised Li'l Rock Kids club offering fun activities and games including Lego building, Play Doh modelling, Balinese dancing and Treasure Hunts.
Holidaying in a villa is becoming an increasingly popular holiday option throughout Bali. The notion is one synonymous of seafront luxury and secluded bliss. Youâ€™ll find villa options connected to a number of popular resorts, as well as through other specialised accommodation providers. Itâ€™s a great option for families wanting quality time together amid some of the most beautiful scenery. Here is a list of some of our top picks:
For an ultimate, secluded villa experience, Sungai is a fantastic option just a short drive from both Legian and Seminyak. The whole family will receive holiday sarongs and sandals, and all child-requirements (highchairs, toys, bikes etc) are easily accessible. Their 24-hour service and dining facilities are also great for tailoring the holiday that suits you best.
Ayana Resort & Spa
With 78 separate luxury villas with amazing cliff top views, Ayana is a popular choice of villa accommodation. Youâ€™ll feel miles away from civilisation, while conveniently able to use all the facilities of the wider resort.
Right at the centre of Seminyak youâ€™ll find Serene â€“ and it's indeed serene by name and by nature. Their one-, two- or three-bedroom, open air villas, large gardens and pools, contemporary design and outstanding services and facilities will give families a true taste of the Balinese sweet life.
Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali
Alila's 64 pool villas use rustic, sleek and luxurious designs that merge with the ocean and green surrounds for an aesthetic like no other. With lots of natural light, private pools and stunning views, you'll be sharing paradise with your most-loved ones.
Located on Bali's Bukit Peninsula, Kandara is located on the most enviably, luxurious strip in Bali. With 54 two-, three- or four-bedroom options to choose from, each comes with private pool, natural materials and designs, a beach just a light stroll away, numerous dining options and high-end amenities for ultimate comfort, it's a choice the whole family will love.
The Karma Villas brand also has an established presence in the popular Jimbaran region. It features 40 luxurious options beside the secluded Karma Beach with access to spa facilities and premium kids' club, pool, recreation and dining amenities.
Food and Drink
A highlight of any holiday in Bali is dining out – whether you go for sumptuous 5-star restaurants or are drawn in by the sweet, smoky smells of spicy meats being barbecued at a street stall. The typical fare in hotels and resorts is Indonesian- and Chinese-style food, like the perennial favourites of satay chicken and nasi goreng (Indonesian-style fried rice). You may have to inspect the menus of several restaurants before you find some genuine Balinese cuisine. You may be treated to a buffet feast of Babi Guling (roast suckling pig) and Bebek Betutu (duck smoked in an earthen oven and wrapped in banana leaves), accompanied by a host of colourful tropical fruits like banana, mango, rambutan, lychee, mangosteen, jack fruit and durian.
As Bali is a major tourist centre, International cuisine is easily found, with an assortment of fast food outlets, takeaways and Western-style eateries available.
Bali is a treasure trove of interesting souvenirs, beautiful gifts and terrific bargains. Open-air markets, open day and night, offer the best opportunities to shop for crafts and antiques, clothing and home wares at amazingly low prices. Some of the biggest and best markets can be found in Denpasar and Sanur, but shops and stalls can be found all over the island, especially near the main tourist hangouts. Unique souvenirs include handcrafted items like woodcarvings, stone carvings and iron and bronze works and Indonesian batik. You can get great bargains on fabrics, furniture, clothing and jewellery. Supermarkets, speciality stores and shopping centres are usually open 7 days a week between 9am and 9pm, with shorter hours on Sundays.
Ngurah Rai Airport, also referred to as Denpasar Airport is a busy international and domestic airport close to the tourist centres of Kuta, Ubud and the Balinese capital of Denpasar. There is a good variety of duty-free shops and places to eat, and a number of banks and money-exchange counters located at both terminals.
Transfers from airport
Ngurah Rai International Airport is about 2.5km south of Kuta. Most resorts have a meet and greet airport service but if you havenâ€™t arranged this, getting out of the airport is simple and quick. You may rent a car from one of several car hire companies at the airport, or you can catch a taxi. In the arrivals hall youâ€™ll see official taxi counters â€“ to ensure youâ€™re happy with the cost of the trip, ensure you confirm the price of your journey before driving off.
Getting around for families
Bali has plenty of transport options available, so itâ€™s not difficult to get around, day or night. The main forms of public transport for the Balinese are buses and mini-buses. These are cheap, plentiful and can take you every corner of the island, but they do tend to be fairly slow, stopping for every waving hand by the side of the road. Taxis can be hailed anywhere on the street in Bali. There are several taxi companies around â€“ some are metered and some will require you to negotiate a fare before you head for your intended destination.
Self-driving is a great way for families to get around Bali, but exercise caution! Although the roads are fairly well maintained, they can be heavily congested during peak periods. Ceremonial precessions can sometimes overtake the whole road, so if you get stuck behind one, just sit back and enjoy the experience!
Bali has a high population density with around 4.2 million people.
Unlike most of Indonesia, Bali has resisted the advance of Islam that is now prevalent throughout most of the country, and has preserved its Hindu beliefs and customs, a fact which the Balinese people are extremely proud of. Hindu Bali is a unique branch of Hinduism, and its many rituals are highly dramatised and animated performances of music and dance and colourful processions. Theatre and dance are an integral part of Balinese culture. Performed to the unique sound of the gamelan orchestra, Balinese dance is dynamic and exciting, full of sharp turns and twirls and intricate co-ordination of finger, neck, shoulder and eye movements.
As always, take care to observe local customs and treat places and objects of religious significance with respect. Never receive or give something to someone with your left hand â€“ this is offensive to the local people. Don't talk to local people with your hands on your hips or touch a person's head. Dress conservatively when visiting temples â€“ women are expected to put on a sarong before entering temple grounds. These can often be rented or borrowed outside the temple.
The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, a language based on Malay with very simple grammar. Bahasa Bali and its dialects represent a far more complex and difficult language. In tourist areas, you'll have no difficulty communicating with the locals in English.
Indonesia is 2 hours behind Eastern Standard Time. For time zone information, click here.
The Indonesian currency is the Indonesian Rupiah. $1AU is equivalent to roughly 9000 rupiah. For the most up to date currency conversion, click here. Major credit cards are accepted in supermarkets, department stores and tourist centres.
Tipping is not widespread in Indonesia. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service fee to the bill so don't feel obliged to tip. With taxis, it is usual to give the driver around 10% of the fare.
220 volts, 50 hertz AC using round, twin-prong slim plugs.
See your doctor at least six weeks before your trip to check which shots you should have, and whether you need to take precautions against malaria. We would not recommend that you rely on fresh milk in Bali. Depending on where you are staying, some of the five-star properties may have milk supplies that you can trust, but it may be safest to avoid it. Long life is not necessarily the answer either as this may not be appropriate for infants. We suggest you use full cream powdered milk (brought from home) with bottled water. This also has the advantage of being readily accessible to you at all times and you can begin using it prior to your holiday so your baby can become accustomed to the taste. If you are still concerned, have a chat to your doctor and see what alternative to fresh milk he recommends.
It is advised that you don't drink the water in Bali - don't even brush your teeth with it. Always have bottled water with you and make sure the seal is unbroken.
Passport and Visa Information
Australians will need to purchase a 30 day holiday Visa on arrival in Bali. It requires that you have at least 6 months validity left on your passport from your date of entry, a round-trip/exit airplane ticket and a minimum of 2 blank pages in your passport. The cost is US$25.
HWK Family Travel Tips
Bargaining is a skill worth learning and practising if you plan to do any shopping in Bali, and kids can try their hand and it too. Friendly bargaining is expected at market stalls and makes the shopping experience fun for both the buyer and the seller. When you want to negotiate a price with a seller, have the absolute maximum you're willing to pay in your mind then ask the seller what the lowest price he's willing to offer is. Offer considerably less than this (between about two-thirds and half the price is OK!) then keep haggling until you reach a happy medium..
Best Things to See and Do in Bali
The heart of the tourist region, Kuta offers gorgeous beaches, great shopping, a huge choice of accommodation and dining, fabulous sunsets and frenetic nightlife.
Waterbom Park and Spa Waterbom has undergone extensive upgrades in recent years making it more fun and family-friendly than ever. Kidsâ€™ of all ages (and yes that includes the grown up kids) are bound to enjoy the range of water rides from extreme slides and race tracks, to lazy rivers and rafts. On top of that youâ€™ll find plenty of extra facilities â€“ like the pleasure pool, lockers, cabanas, swim up bar and the slightly surreal Fish Spa experience. Mumâ€™s can take some time out and escape to the spa, while those still in need of some extra action can try out the Euro Bungy. Itâ€™s got all the makings of a perfect family outing!
In Balinese, Legian means "sweet and pleasant". This beach is popular with sun-worshippers and water sport lovers who come for its excellent surfing, water-skiing, windsurfing and kayaking.
Ubud is the art and culture centre of Bali, perched among rolling hills and rice paddies 450 metres above sea level. Far from the crowds of Kuta and Denpasar, peaceful Ubud is home to grand old royal palaces, temples, art galleries and museums. There are a number of family-friendly attractions close to the main town.
Monkey Forest Road
At the end of Monkey Forest Road, on the southern outskirts of town is a small nature reserve where a beautiful old temple now taken over as a sanctuary for cheeky Balinese macaques. The monkeys are very tolerant of people, but are notorious for stealing everything from food to sunglasses and cameras from tourists â€“ so watch your belongings and don't tease or attempt to pat the animals as they can inflict a nasty bite.
Bali Bird Park
Hundreds of beautiful and exotic birds fly through the tropical gardens at Bali Bird Park in Taman Burung. You'll get the rare opportunity to get close to colourful Indonesian parrots, handsome Birds of Paradise, magnificent Hornbills, the imposing giant cassowary and many other tropical bird species.
Bali Reptile Park
Adjacent to the bird park is the fascinating Bali Reptile Park, home to the most complete collection of reptiles in Southeast Asia. The park boasts the largest reticulated python in captivity, and an amazing komodo dragon exhibit. There's an open-air reptilarium where guests get the chance to handle iguanas, monitor lizards, tortoises and pythons.
The Elephant Safari park is about 1 hour from Ubud and gives kids a chance to learn all about elephants, watch them playing and bathing in the park lake, as well as hand feeding, photographs and elephant rides.
Perhaps the single best thing that Bali still has going for it is the amazing scenery - stunning terraced rice fields, dramatic river gorges, tropical waterfalls and ancient Balinese temples. There are a huge number of pre-arranged tours letting you explore the area via bus, ATV or bike, or you can even hire a private driver to enjoy the countryside at your own pace.
Rafting is an exciting sport suitable for all ages and levels of experience. Several professionally-run rafting companies run on the Ayung River, northwest of Ubud and on the Unda river, north of Kungklung.
Surfing and Bodyboarding
Bali is a mecca for surfers and boarders and there are several excellent surfing beaches around Bali where annual competitions are held. Nusa Dua is popular with experienced surfers, while Kuta, Legian and Medewi beaches are good for beginners. The best season for surfing is between September and March.
The Balinese use two local calenders, the Hindu saka and wuku, along with the Western calender. This can make it difficult to determine which events fall on which days â€“ check with a tourist office what festivals and events are coming up when you arrive in Bali.
Galungan Festival - This religious festival is observed in the 11th week of the 210-day Balinese wuku calender, (check with your travel agent or the Indonesian Tourism Authority for dates). This 10-day period is set aside for visiting family, friends and neighbours and is always accompanied by feasts and finery. Legend has it that during Galungan, all the gods come down from earth and this is celebrated by barongs (mythical lion-like creatures) dancing from temple to temple and village to village.
Nyepi - Usually falls between the end of March and the beginning of April and celebrates the New Year in the saka calendar. Preparations begin three days before Nyepi, with the effigies of the gods from each village being taken to the river in a long and colourful procession, where they are bathed by the god Baruna before being returned to their shrines. One day before Nyepi, exorcism ceremonies are held at all the villages and carnivals featuring the gods and giants of Balinese lore are held after sunset. Nypei day itself is eerily quiet, with nobody working or going about their normal activities. People stay inside their houses with the lights dimmed and the TV or radio down, and no traffic is allowed on the road. On this day, the world is cleansed and everything starts anew.