Bali is an incredibly popular tourist destination for good reason. There are very few places in the world that offer such an abundance of amazing hotels, restaurants and bars in a relaxed island setting. Throw in the famous Balinese culture with all its smiling and laughing, and you have the recipe for a fantastic family holiday – one that is affordable too. With Bali being our home for now, we often get asked about our favourite places to visit, which will be the topic of this article!
The soaring cost of housing in many countries is also driving many families to look at Bali as something more permanent. The hyper-connected world of the twentieth century allows for remote working, and families with young children can enjoy respite from the hamster wheel that is big city living. The Balinese have a genuine love of children, and the affordable help they provide has been well appreciated by our family since we made the decision to move here in 2015. Our business owes much to this island.
Canggu is a big area, and is the most popular one for expat families – we highly recommend tourist families also consider it. Seminyak is far more built up and the rice paddies have basically disappeared, whereas Canggu still enjoys many fine glimpses of these “Fields of Gold”, as Sting calls them. You will feel more relaxed in Canggu, and the Fields of Gold play a part in that. With fewer “tourist traps”, the prices will also make you more relaxed in Canggu.
During wet season (Nov-Feb), the beaches do get piled high with rubbish, so if you are considering a trip during this period, it is best to avoid the beach, or head to Nusa Dua where you will find clear water and white sand beaches. The reason Nusa Dua is cleaner is because of the prevailing winds. During the wet season, the westerly winds blow rubbish from the heavily populated island of Java directly towards the west side of Bali where Canggu, Kuta and Seminyak lie. Nusa Dua is protected from this trash as it sits on the east side of the island. During the dry season, the winds revert to the east, keeping the growing rubbish piles in the ocean away from shores (mostly!).
Back to Canggu. With so many families now living here, there is plenty of businesses catering to their demand. In no particular order, some of our favourites include:
Finns Recreation Club (the old Canggu Club) for water slide action. Some villas provide free passes, otherwise the daily price is not cheap, though arguably still worth it. Expat families often buy membership which includes entry to the water park. If you want a cheap water park that is popular with locals, head to Taman Segara Madu Water Park on Batu Bolong. It can get a little crowded on weekends, but is still a fun place to check out.
Bounce – part of Finns, the name says it all. Padded trampolines everywhere that will wear the kids out quickly. Heck, you may even enjoy it too. In the same building they have a “Kids Club” which is an indoor play area where children can be left (happily) for up to 4 hours each day.
La Casita – a cheap place for breakfast or lunch on Raya Semat – it includes a playground where your children can be supervised while you enjoy some peace of mind.
La Brisa – a fairly new, sprawling beachfront venue that is just as interesting for parents as it is for kids. With views of the lovely surf playground that is Echo Beach, the owners have an amazing eye for detail in creating a rustic haven for sunset drinks and play time. In addition to a pool area, out the back there is a very cool playground for children – made from handcrafted wood of course.
Milk & Madu – owned by the fabulous Aussie couple Jordie & Candice Strybos, this popular venue is a favourite for all in the area. You haven’t been to Canggu if you haven’t visited Milk & Madu. At the time of writing their usual venue is being rebuilt after a fire, and they have moved down the road to a pop-up venue next to Frestive supermarket. The old venue being rebuilt included a playground for children, and I’m sure it will be rebuilt with one too.
Kim Soo – another Aussie-run cafe & homewares store, this is our favourite place for breakfast if venturing into Seminyak (about 15 minutes drive in the usual traffic). Truly amazing cuisine and always friendly, professional staff.
Dinner can be enjoyed with kids at Dandelion on Batu Bolong. Affordable prices in a beautiful outdoors setting – and pet rabbits playing at your feet make it a good option to keep children amused!
Supermarkets – Canggu Station or “Canggu Deli” on Pantai Berawa, near Finns Recreation Club. In recent years, many more options have appeared, including Pepitos, Frestive and Popular Deli. The prices for imported items can be very expensive, and it pays to choose carefully. On the whole, prices are about on par with western countries, with some items costing less and some more. Eating out is easily justified when you consider the prices in supermarkets.
Cinemas – at the moment, the best option is to head to Beachwalk Shopping Centre in Kuta (about 40 minutes drive). There is a restaurant called The Joglo in Canggu (on Jalan Subak Sari 13) that does a kids movie night on a big screen. When combined with their playground, this is worth considering as an option.
Poolside fun can be had at any number of beachfront hotels, including The W in Seminyak, or Vue or Legong Keratong in Berawa Beach, Canggu. As long as you buy a round of coffees and smoothies for the kids, they’ll be happy to have you.
Pharmacies – no shortage any more. They used to be a little harder to find, but in recent years some well known pharmacy chains have popped up all over the place. Ask a taxi driver to take you to Kimia Farma, or Guardian Pharmacy, and you should find what you are looking for.
Taxis & transport – Uber does currently operate in Bali, along with several other ride hailing apps such as Grab. Be careful though, the local transport operators are fighting to maintain their turf over the new and cheaper competition, and they are not giving up without a battle. It is not uncommon for confrontations to develop as local spies spot you hopping into an Uber car. Given the low cost of taxis, it is safer to take a Bluebird taxi. Other taxi companies do not always use a meter, and can end up being rather expensive.
Spas – Esthetic Spa in Canggu Plaza is not the cheapest, and not the most expensive. It is well worth it though.
Surfing – Old Man’s beach at the end of Batu Bolong is great for relaxed mal riding. Berawa (or “Brawa” as the locals call it) can be ok for shortboards, as is Pererenan beach and Echo Beach. Pererenan has slightly sharper reef, and is a more advanced wave.
Seseh Beach – a beautiful, uncrowded beach for sunset if you want a bit of a journey to the fringes of Canggu to check what it used to be like. You won’t be disappointed – take your camera.
I hope the above list is of use to you when planning your holiday in Bali – there are plenty of other things to do, and new options pop up all the time. Part of the fun is trying out the new kids on the block!