Bali, Indonesia: An Outdoor Adventure Tropical Paradise

In this guest article, Lash from LashWorldTours shares her outdoor adventures on the island of Bali. Known as the Island of the Gods, this tropical island in Indonesia is well known for its gorgeous beaches and surfing, but did you know that you could dive on some of the best reefs in Asia, go white water rafting, pedal past paddy fields and hike up a volcano?

Of all the countries I’ve visited during 15 years of nomadic world travels, the place I would most like to live long-term is Bali, Indonesia. When I first visited the ‘Island of Gods’ in 2001, I didn’t know much about Bali except what was written in a  guidebook: a volcanic tropical island with a large tourist industry and inhabited by Hindu Balinese people who possess a rich and varied artistic heritage.

Lush terraced rice fields - Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

Lush terraced rice fields – Bali

During that first two-month trip around the island I immersed myself in Balinese arts, bicycled half the island, climbed its two major volcanoes and then plunged myself into several weeks of beach-side clubbing. I quickly fell in love with Bali and have returned numerous times to teach scuba diving and explore the island in more depth, usually staying 4-6 months. On my very first trip, what I learned foremost about Bali is the island’s mind-boggling diversity and depth. I discovered that Bali embodies very different things to many different kinds of visitors.

Bali's highest temple Photo: LashWorldTour

Bali’s highest temple

Bali feeds the senses and the spirit

For surfers Bali is one of the premier surfing destinations on the planet. For young Australians Bali offers a hedonistic tropical party paradise. For short-term luxury-vacation seekers Bali provides world-class, all-inclusive beach-side resorts.

Many spiritual-health-oriented people consider Bali a major ‘power center’ and gather on the ‘Island of Gods’ for intensive yoga, detox/cleansing, spa treatments and meditation. Avid scuba divers flock to Bali to enjoy pristine reefs and the rare opportunity to spot giant mola-molas and manta rays.

Gamelan troupe perform at a funeral ceremony Photo: LashWorldTour

Gamelan troupe perform at a funeral ceremony

Among art aficionados, Bali’s unique painting styles are famed throughout the world, fetching extremely high prices at exclusive international auctions. World-music practitioners head to Bali to study its unique gamelan percussion music. And for young, creative entrepreneurial artists, Bali is the place to design and manufacture anything from jewelry to clothes to home interiors and furniture.

Beauty lies off the beaten path

Despite all that, I’m afraid that for most Americans and Europeans, living halfway around the globe from the ‘Island of Gods’, distant Bali probably only conjures up images of an over-developed tropical tourist destination packed with luxury beach-side resorts, international restaurants and shopping (a la Waikiki Beach, Hawaii). That image is enough to put off many independent travelers, especially outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, from even considering a trip to Bali. And that’s a shame because Bali really is a beautiful nature-lovers’ paradise.

View of Bali's sacred volcanoes from Amed coastline Photo: LashWorldTour

View of Bali’s sacred volcanoes from Amed coastline

Truth be told, that grossly touristic slice of Bali does indeed exist. But thankfully only on Bali’s far southern shores, comprising the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak sprawl emanating out from the international airport. Though most westerners may not realize it, beyond Bali’s overly-developed tourist zone, there’s a completely different Bali, one which I consider to be the real Bali. That Bali is full of unique cultural arts, pristine nature and great outdoor adventures. In fact, that real Bali comprises 80-90% of the island. Visitors who venture outside the maniac tourist zone down south quickly discover a lush, tropical, little-developed natural paradise full of outdoor adventure opportunities and a unique artistic culture.

Upscale resort at Sanur on Bali's south coast Photo: LashWorldTour

Upscale resort at Sanur on Bali’s south coast

The island of eco-adventure opportunities

Bali island is dominated by several high volcanic peaks which the Balinese consider sacred. As a result of those central volcanoes, most of the island consists of steep slopes, plunging canyons & gorges and winding mountain roads. All is blanketed by incredibly-dense tropical foliage: palms, bamboos, bananas, gingers, coconuts, flowering trees and bushes, all of which bloom year round.

Drive-through tree in Bali's central mountains Photo: LashWorldTour

Drive-through tree in Bali’s central mountains

Bali also has miles and miles of little-developed beaches, fast-flowing rivers, steeply terraced rice fields, sacred crater lakes and pristine coral reefs. Unfortunately most nature-loving, adventurous western travelers are probably unaware of this fact. Hopefully that’s changing. During the past decade, Bali has taken up the call of ecologically-minded travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. Around the island the adventure-outdoor-eco travel industry has been growing steadily. And Bali’s visitor’s board has been promoting Bali as a prime eco-adventure destination.

White water rafting in central Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

White water rafting in central Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

Bali offers white-water rafting trips, snorkeling and scuba diving, sailing trips, hiking and mountain climbing, cycling, wind surfing and other outdoor activities. Most of these outdoor sports are actually not new to Bali, by any means. Visitors have been scuba diving, surfing, white-water rafting and mountain climbing on Bali for at least two decades. It’s just that few people outside any particular sport have been aware of it. What has changed is that Bali’s tourist organizations have been striving to make more people aware of the island’s natural beauty and developing its potential as an eco-outdoor destination. Here are three of Bali’s most extensively available outdoor activities (excluding Bali’s already world-famous surfing scene):

Dive on pristine reefs in Bali

Bali’s scuba diving industry has been established for well over two decades. Many world-class dive operators (a majority run by westerner dive professionals) guide divers on Bali’s pristine reefs and varied dive sites year-round. Most companies also teach all levels of diving courses from introductory to professional levels.

Scuba diving by jukung in Amed - Bali's far northeast coast Photo: LashWorldTour

Scuba diving by jukung in Amed – Bali’s far northeast coast

Until recently few people besides dive enthusiasts knew about Bali’s supreme diving. That’s rather a mystery to me because Bali has incredible reefs and excellent dive conditions. Amed, in Bali’s far northeast coast, has perfect conditions for beginners, while dive sites off Bali’s southeast coast have trickier dive sites suitable for advanced divers only. As a PADI Dive Instructor in Asia since 2004, I can honestly say that Bali’s has some of the best reefs I’ve seen anywhere in the region.

Coral outcropping at a dive site on Bali's northeast coast Photo: LashWorldTour

Coral outcropping at a dive site on Bali’s northeast coast

Bali’s best dive areas are in Amed, on Bali’s far northeast coast; Mengingan in the far northwest; and southeast Bali dive sites accessed from Sanur, Padang Bai and Candidasa.  For more details, see my guide to diving in Bali.

Cycle mountain trails in Bali

Besides surfing and scuba diving, cycling has probably been making the most headway as an outdoor sport on Bali. Since the early 2000s many small local tour companies have set up guided cycling tours through Bali’s central terraced rice fields and downhill from Mt. Batur volcano. One company even offers rugged off-road cycling on forested mountain trails. More recently, rental bicycle shops have been cropping up all over the island, particularly in Sanur, Nusa Dua, Ubud, Lovina and even at remote Amed. Several international-quality bike stores have also opened in Denpasar city and the south. The Bali Cycling Federation has been established and several local cycling clubs have sprung up. The Cycling Federation organizes an annual BaliAudax international advanced bicycling challenge in November, a 2-day race around the entire island.

Lash cycling around Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

Lash cycling around Bali

Increasingly westerners are bringing their own bikes with them to pedal around the Island of Gods. Independent cyclists can easily cycle around the entire island on their own in 1-2 weeks. The total distance is only 500-700 km, depending on which routes are taken. Bicycling around Bali immerses cyclists in the daily lives of Bali’s local villages, towns, and rural areas. They’ll pedal past rice fields, along beautiful coastlines, up volcanic flanks, and through lush winding mountains. The entire way, riders will be surrounded by nature and in personal touch with locals, reaching authentic Balinese places that very few tourists even know exist. Visitors who want to simultaneously explore Bali’s fascinating culture and scenery more fully can cycle-tour at a more leisurely pace, perhaps stopping in Ubud, Bali’s artistic heartland, for one week then along the north coast beaches for one week.

Road up to Mt Batur volcano from Bali's north coast Photo: LashWorldTour

Road up to Mt Batur volcano from Bali’s north coast

Cyclists can either buy a new bike in Bali or else bring their own. Either way, bike parts, repairs, and service are easy to come by. Bali’s roads are in good condition and drivers are well-aware of smaller vehicles like motorbikes and scooters sharing the roads. All over the island visitors will find plenty of local food to eat, inexpensive places to stay, and friendly, curious, helpful people. In short, cyclists will experience the real Bali while staying fit, exploring at their own pace, spending money in local communities, and not harming the environment. It’s the epitome of eco-adventure in Bali. I’ve personally toured Bali by bicycle twice. You can read about the daily adventures of my 2010 tour here to get a feel for what it’s like.

Bali's Sacred Mt. Agung as seen from Amed Photo: LashWorldTour

Bali’s Sacred Mt. Agung as seen from Amed

Hiking & Mountain Climbing in Bali

A small part of Bali’s hiking/mountain climbing scene has been in operation for at least two decades as well. Visitors have been trekking up Bali’s two most famous volcanic peaks with local guides since then. Guided treks to the summits of Mt. Agung and Mt. Batur usually start in the middle of the night in order to reach the peaks by sunrise. But it’s certainly feasible to hike up either volcano in the daytime, like I’ve done, particularly if you hike on your own without a guide. Besides these two volcano climbs, in more recent years several other hiking options are slowly becoming more well- known.

Volcanic lake in central Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

Volcanic lake in central Bali

One rewarding hike is the climb up the 1700 steps of Pura Lempuyang Temple, near Tirtanganga and Amlapura city in northeast Bali. The 7 tiers of Lempuyang Temple are located along the steep route between the parking lot, near the base of the mountain, and the mountain peak. The route itself consists almost entirely of steep stone steps going up through a dense, damp, rain forest with trees dripping in vines, ferns, and moss. At the top are astounding views of nearby Mt. Agung and sweeping views all the way to both Bali’s south and north coasts. Hiking Pura Lempuyang from the parking lot takes about one hour each way. Almost unknown to visitors, it’s also possible to hike to Pura Lempuyang on a RT day trek through mountains from Bali’s northeast coast at Amed.

Another hiking region is Bali Barat National Park in the island’s far western corner. The park’s interior is rarely visited and completely un-developed, probably because of the park’s very strict entry rules. Anyone who wants to hike in the park is required to obtain a permit and hire a fairly pricy local guide to escort them. If costs aren’t a deterrent, hiking Bali Barat N.P. can be a rewarding experience, a chance to see wildlife, and a glimpse at a part of Bali that very few people ever see.

High headland on a hike at Amed Photo: LashWorldTour

High headland on a hike at Amed

Travelers who prefer independent hiking without any fees or guides, can head over to Amed, Bali’s remote northeast coast. The region is famed mainly for its coral reefs and for its charming little boutique resorts that dot the coves and headlands. But Amed also offers loads of great hiking opportunities in the seaside hills that hug the coast. Locals traditionally engage in fishing, farming, and salt-making. Many live in small thatched houses up in the mountains.

Local trail in Amed hills - perfect for hiking Photo: LashWorldTour

Local trail in Amed hills – perfect for hiking

They’ve created an intricate system of paths to get between their houses, fields, water sources and the coast. Hiking along those local trails takes visitors past villages, houses, fields, cows, roosters and crops. The trails offers spectacular views of Bali’s north coastline and glimpses of rural Balinese life.  As mentioned above, it’s also possible to walk all the way to Pura Lempuyang and back along the mountain’s sole paved road. Other independent hikes are found at Ubud in south-central Bali and Munduk village, accessed from the north-central coast near Lovina.

Hiking trail- Buikit Campuan- Ubud- Bali Photo: LashWorldTour

Hiking trail- Buikit Campuan- Ubud- Bali

More information about activities on Bali

I hope this post will help spread the word about the real Bali beyond its tourist glut, particularly about the island’s lush, pristine nature and it’s great eco-friendly outdoor adventures. If you’d like more detailed information about diving, cycling, hiking or other great activities in Bali outside the ‘tourist zone’, please feel free to e-mail me; lash@lashworldtour.com , read through over 50 posts I’ve written about Bali on my travel blog, or check out my two guidebooks: Hiking in Bali and Cycling in Bali.

Were you already aware of Bali’s great outdoor scene? Does this sound like a place you’d like to go hike, cycle, dive or check out other outdoor activities?

Lash bioAbout the Author: Lash is an expat American who’s been traveling the world solo since 1998, immersing herself in nature, culture and the arts of countries she visits. She aims to inspire others to follow their dreams by sharing her cultural insights, narrative adventure tales, travel tips and photos at LashWorldTour. Lash is the author of two adventuring guidebooks to Bali, which are available in 3 eBook formats on LashWorldTour and in print on Amazon: Hiking in Bali & Cycling Bali. Catch up with Lash on Facebook or Twitter

More tropical adventures:

Sierra Leone – a friendly welcome and a taste of paradise
Paradise Valley – blue pools and waterfalls in Morocco
Warm baths and waterfalls at Baños – in Ecuador

This article by Lash of LashWorldTour is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    January 26, 2014 at 4:43 am

    What an interesting post – and so timely as our family leaves for Bali on 1st February. I’m not into beach life particularly so the many alternative activities you discuss make me even more excited to be going. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

      @Clare Hope you’ll get some great ideas for some more adventurous things to do and that you have a great trip

  • Reply
    January 28, 2014 at 6:34 am

    That definitely covers the main attractions. Great post. Hope the weather was better for you – we went just this past December and the rain caused us to miss the volcano scenery, unfortunately. Happy travels!
    Jennifer´s last blog post ..Northern Thailand – Take a Spin – Digital Nomad Travel Magazine

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 28, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      @Jennifer What a shame you had poor weather, I guess even a tropical paradise has it’s rainy days to keep it green and lush

  • Reply
    January 29, 2014 at 3:25 am

    @Heather yes good point. We’re used to staying in places longer so we get a few nice days. We live on Thailand and when it rains for a week straight I feel for the ppl only here for a short time. So beautifully green and full of life in the rainy season though!

  • Reply
    Adam Burton
    January 29, 2014 at 7:06 am

    This is truly an interesting trip to make. Lot of things to do and lot of Asian culture to witness. I would really love to retire on this piece of paradise. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      @adam I wouldn’t mind some time in the sun either!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Can’t believe how green the green in those pictures is.
    Especially like the first one!
    Sofie´s last blog post ..The Best Destinations for Last Minute Ski Holidays in Europe

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      @Sofie lovely and lush – may be that tropical rain as well as the sun

  • Reply
    Jeanette Todd
    January 30, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Reading this entry is making me more inclined to visit Thailand within this year. Lots of adventures to make on this island.

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    February 1, 2014 at 10:27 am

    It all looks and sounds so wonderful! I read an article just the other day about how tourism is ruining the beauty of Bali as it is being overrun by the rubbish all the visitors create – a vicitim of its own success. I do hope the arcticle had exaggerated the situation but I expect its a problem in many places.
    Kathryn Burrington´s last blog post ..San Pantaleo and the best hot chocolate in the world

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      February 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      @Kat I think that’s a problem in many places, but as Lash shows when you look beyond the tourist hotspots there’s normally a different experience waiting to be discovered.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Nice info. are very nice to have an adventure and explore the genuine nature of Bali. behind the rice fields and the natural environment. information which is interesting. It was some of the activities carried out in Bali bsia with beautiful surroundings. nice.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Yaah that’s right Bali is known by the island of god and also Bali has known by the island with thousand temple. Your journey at Bali is so amazing, you visit in many place yeaah. And also many activites that can do in Bali right, many dive site in Bali, are you not try to diving at menjangan island or pemuteran beach ? that’s is the best place for diving. When you in Bali visi in many place, the best accomodation that you can stay is at en.balijetaime.com/private-bali-villa-rentals at there you can find the villa that near with the place that you want

  • Reply
    August 1, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Heather. I am a teacher in Bali wanting to organise a camp for students that i teach in Amed. Can you suggest any possible campsites or hotels. Wanting to complete activities in tree revegetation, bike riding, trecking, cooking, etc. Thank you for your help!!

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge