Living in Bali is a lot more than sunsets, scooters, infinity pools, luxurious villas (should we go on?) and visa runs… there’s a whole island of local venues to get to know. But where should you start when it comes to finding the best restaurants, beach hangouts and even spas to visit? Well, that’s where we come in.
If you can’t spare a year to live the tropical dream (poor you!) our insider’s guide to Bali’s favoured expat haunts is the next best thing. We’ve listed our top places to spend a few hours across Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and beyond to help you get started. And remember – if ever in doubt – look for the crowd with the deepest tans (but no dodgy lines or sunburn), or those sipping lychee martinis looking a bit too smug.
The Bali institution. Old Man’s is the island’s favourite expat meeting place – many straight out of the surf, and any time of the day or night. Surfers, hipsters, creatives, musicians, drifters, models, locals, tourists, backpackers, business peeps are all fans. You’re never lonely at Old Man’s because everyone’s always there.
Achingly cool in that nonchalant, Bali way, Old Man’s has got the lot. Great food. Cold drinks. Killer location. Daily Happy Hour. Good prices. Smiling staff. Sean, the good looking Aussie owner, The Man. Happy Hour. Hamish, the good looking Welsh manager. Iconic Lucas Grogan murals. Photo opps galore. Happy Hour. Coconuts. Designer breakfasts. DJs. Live Music. Table Tennis. And did we say Happy Hour?
7am till late, seven days a week.
Old Man’s, Batu Bolong, Canggu, p. +62 361 8469 158.
Just down the road on Batu Bolong is Canggu’s most frequented café, centrally located but overlooking evergreen rice fields. Looking a bit like Robinson Crusoe lives upstairs, Betelnut is a breezy beach house serving natural, delish delights for the cool crowd of expat locals, surfers and hipsters. Grab a booth or a place at the communal table upstairs, or sit in the small air-con area downstairs.
Fab breakkie. Great coffee. Teas. Fresh Juices. Wheatgrass shots. Burgers. Burritos. Betel Bowl. Bintangs. It’s all fresh as a daisy. Topped off with sweet treats including cheesecakes galore, and of the best kind: Oreo, mixed berry, Banofee, Bounty. Say hi to Gypsy, one of the owners, as you thank the ever-smiley staff on your way through.
Open Tuesday to Sunday – 7am to 10pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Betelnut, Jalan Batu Bolong 60, Canggu, p. 0821 4680 7233.
METIS BAR & RESTAURANT
You’d be forgiven in thinking that, from the road, Metis is an intimidating and expensive antique furniture gallery. But behind it’s uber-spacious and stylish exterior lies one of Petitinget’s most gorgeous, open-air restaurant, bar and lounge. And antique furniture shop.
With beautiful water lily pond gardens and overlooking stunning rice paddies, the view at Metis never gets old. It only turns gold as the sun sets in front of you with cocktail in hand. Just as well, as you’ll religiously find the expat crew here every Friday night for Happy Hour. Usually after having started earlier in the day with lunch in the restaurant.
The Lounge is open daily from 4pm, Happy Hour Fridays are 5-8pm with selected drinks from 600,000IDR and complimentary tapas served.
Metis Bali, Jalan Petitinget No. 6, Petitinget, p. +62 361 47378.
Did somebody say ‘margarita’?
Bali’s not short of fab Mexican sensations – we especially love LaCalita & Laca Laca and you’re no-one if you haven’t been to Mexicola – but this one has a sweet spot in our discerning tastebuds and wallets. With a prime position on Jalan Petitinget and another in Ubud, Taco Casa isn’t the flashiest joint around but what it may lack in neon murals or mega-margarita glasses, it makes up for with simple, amazing Mexican food. With prices that means you can visit over and over again.
Did somebody say ‘burrito’?
Open seven days, 11am – 10pm.
Taco Casa Petitenget, Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, p. +62 361 916 1919.
Taco Casa Ubud, Pengosekan Ubud, Gianyar, p. +62 361 212 3818 .
The bad news: This hole-in-the-wall discovery may now be Seminyak’s worst-kept secret, but for good reason. Great. Coffee.
But without Revolver Espresso, life in paradise just wouldn’t tick all the perfection boxes. Let alone, fuel our energy levels for all the surfing, yoga, scootering and island socialising that defines Bali life.
The good news: Revolver now supplies directly to many of Bali’s best cafes, so if you can’t go original, you can get your fix all around the island.
Revolver, Gang 51, Jalan Kayu Aya No.50, Seminyak, enter from ‘This is a Love Song’ or ‘Home’ store or walk down the lane way.
Baby Revolver, Jalan no 80361, Jalan Petitenget No.110, Petitinget, +62(0) 361 744 4468.
Love. That’s how we feel about everything inside our favourite homewards mecca and cafe, Bungalow Living. Aussie expat owner Giovanna has curated the perfect mix of Balinese and Indian goodies in her store and bigger gallery. It’s worth a visit even just to check out the picture-postcard welcome, above, on entering the gallery space. Not to mention all the photo opps with local legend and Canggu’s 2014 bachelor of the year, Bungalow’s gorgeous Golden Doodle BB King.
But Bungalow does come with a serious warning: don’t bike here. Come with an extra suitcase or at least your driver, as you won’t leave empty handed. Cushions galore. Bed throws. Crochet rugs. Wooden pineapples. Bali bags and purses. Candles. Inspiring books. Beautiful cards, including a range featuring Giovanna’s own photography. And they’re just the things we’ve personally purchased! Grab a vegetarian bite in their café, as shopping up a storm can be exhausting.
Bungalow Living Bali, Jalan Pantai Berawa 35A, Canggu, p. +62 361 844 6567.
SINGLE FIN BAR
We love Uluwatu for having Bali’s best sunset view and surf break across the island. We love Single Fin bar and restaurant for its picture-postcard-perfect location right over Ulu’s cliffs as the perfect vantage point for these wave inspections and the sunsets. It’s the only place to be seen on Sunday nights down on the Bukit, as Bali’s most beautiful gather on the decks for sunset hour and the DJ’s crank up their tunes to track the sun going down. Salute.
Everyone knows their Sunday sessions is a must-do Bali experience, but clever expats choose Wednesday as locals night – same view, same ice-cold drinks, same tunes and same vibe but less the excess tourist crowds. Genius.
Single Fin, Blues Point Uluwatu.
We regularly thank our lucky stars for Ultimo restaurant, in the middle of Eat Street.
When Bali’s expats choose to leave their hood and tackle Seminyak’s traffic and tourist crowds for their favourite restaurant, it’s fair to say it must be somewhere spesh.
There’s a lot to love about this local legend but it’s hard to say what takes the cake – is it the never-ending, Italian-inspired menu, the well-priced wine (hallelujah!), the heaving crowds yet never waiting more than 15 minutes for a table, the bar where you’ll run into at least a million friends, or those giant frozen daiquiris? It’s likely to be the surprising reality of their old-Bali prices, making it great value or excuse for one last drink.
Open daily, from 4.30pm-1am.
Ultimo, Jalan Kayu Aya No 104X, Seminyak, p +62 361 738 721.
GLO SPA BALI
One of Bali’s first urban-spas, Glo Spa Bali is an original that keeps on delivering. They’ve got every beautifying need covered, and are often the first to get it to the island. With excellent pricing and three locations (Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Nusa Lembogan), Glo has become the expat’s beauty choice. Hair experts, tick. Spa treatments, tick. Best beauty, tick. Waxing, tick. Special events, tick. Fun fact: Glo actually trains many of Bali’s high-end beauty spas in waxing and beauty treatments, so you’re literally in Bali’s best hands when you book in. Necessary fact: their Keratin hair smoothing treatment is essential for Bali’s hair challenges.
Glo Spa Bali, Sanur p. +62 361 282 826, Seminyak p. +62 361 738 689, Sandy Bay Nusa Lembongan p. +62 8289 701 5600.
As much as we love a fabulous beach club or three, we also love authentic Bali experiences and Warung Pantai is a favourite with the local community. With its million dollar location along Batu Belig beach, just in front of Mozaic Beach Club, you can experience one of the few local warungs left along Bali’s beaches. Food is top-notch, drinks are ice cold, service is gold and again, they even serve good wine! So enjoy one of Bali’s million dollar experiences for the lowest price around. Even better, you can walk up along the beach from Seminyak or Petitinget and cut out Bali’s frustrating traffic.
Warung Pantai, Batu Belig Beach, Bali.
It’s lucky enough to visit or live in Bali, but Lucky Day bar and restaurant in the middle of Seminyak takes island living to a new level. A local legend for both locals and tourists, the open-air, Balinese ambience is a favourite for, pretty much, everybody. Men love the multiple TVs showcasing sport on sport, couples and families love the daily live entertainment from 7pm and dancing that follows. Everyone loves the traditional Balinese fare, complemented by western delights, and their tapas is a winner offering the likes of dumplings and Char Siu Pork amongst the tasty treats.
And everyone especially loves that Lucky Day has one of the longest happy hours on the island – 12-3pm and 5-9pm, seven days a week! Relax on the deck for an essential cold Bintang or a cocktail from the extensive list and say hi to Aussie owners Mitch and Emma, who are super welcoming to, pretty much, everybody!
Lucky Day Bar & Restaurant, Jalan Camplung Tanduk Seminyak.
SUNDAY W BRUNCH
It’s a splurge but worth it.
Sunday brunches are a Bali institution and it doesn’t get better than gathering up your local besties or visitors from home, and settling in for Sunday Funday at the W Hotel’s Starfish Bloo offering. The food is five star, buffet options are almost overwhelming, the drinks free-flowing (as a drinks package naturally) but it’s the amazing outlook and service that blows this brunch experience out of the water. It’s world-class and never ending, you won’t to go home. But you can always check in overnight or do it again next Sunday, as many expats often tend to do.
Starfish Bloo, W Hotel, Jalan Petitinget, 12 – 3.30pm each Sunday. Bookings essential.
CAFÉ COUS COUS
Best vegetarian in Bali? Many think so. Located in the upcoming Umalas’s neighbourhood, Café Cous Cous is a beautifully designed cafe space featuring vegetarian and Middle Eastern food, juices and specialist coffee.
Umalas’s best-kept secret for healthy eating is the brainchild of Australian owner Monique, who poured her exotic experiences of living in Dubai and her obsession of Moroccan design into this local favourite. Located in front of Palau Boutique Villas, Café Cous Cous offers a central, open air terrace with chunky communal tables, cushioned benches, mosaic tiled walls and floors and Arabic designs – all overlooking the lush green rice fields.
Café Cous Cous, Jalan Bumbak, Gang Pulau, Umalas, p. +62 361 55 33 662.
Top image: Single Fin Bar, Uluwatu.