Kuta used to be the place-most-visited by Australian travellers looking for sun, surf, and cheap eats. But as we’ve explored the various areas around this tourist-trap hub, we’ve found much more interesting locations and islands. Here’s our pick of the top five, spanning populated modern mini-cities to remote tropical islands.
1. Sumba, Indonesia
Basically tourist free, with an offbeat ancient culture, single resort and a perfect wave, Sumba is the off-the-track Indonesian island many wish Bali still was.
For a luxurious stay, head to Nihiwatu where a one-bedroom luxury villa costs about $1,360 per night. Rates includes all meals, non-alcoholic drinks, airport transfers and WiFi. Surfing slots are limited to 10 surfers per day. The resort is flanked by a turtle hatchery, and it offers excursions outside the hotel (if you can pull yourself away).Take a trek to Nihi Oka valley, explore thick palm tree jungles and local, traditional settlements.
Go on a market tour of Waikabubak, west Sumba’s largest town, where piles of dried fish, chilli, tobacco and betel nuts are highly revered by locals.
2. Ubud, Bali
Take a stroll along Monkey Forest Road and admire the handiwork of local artists, then buy a bunch of bananas and make your way to the Monkey Forest. Monkeys will swing from the trees to greet you, babies and feisty teens in tow.If you’re keen to try your own monkey moves, head to The Yoga Barn (Jl Raya Pengosekan). With many different styles and classes for all levels, it’s the perfect way to work up an appetite before lunch.
The raw food movement has long been popular in this mountain village. Enjoy dessert at The Kafe (Jl Hanoman), Bali Buddha (Jl Jembawan), Down to Earth (Jl Goutama Selatan Gianyar) or Alchemy (Jl Penestanan Klod). Sweet treats include the likes of melt-in-the-mouth raw chocolate with mint and goji berries, creamy cashew and chai custard or coconut and macadamia snowballs.
3. Seminyak, Bali
Australian chefs are taking over this elegant spot on the island of Bali. This year, Seminyak set to become a greater force with Frank Cammora opening a MoVida restaurant at the new boutique Katamama hotel, run by the group behind the consistently excellent Potato Head beach club, and Maurice Terzini, of Bondi’s Icebergs and Da Orazio, bringing a casual Italian experience at Da Maria.
With free entry, the rice-paddy-inspired pool and attached Woobar at W Retreat & Spa Bali (Jl. Petitenget) –pictured – is the perfect place for a dip and a cocktail while watching the sun set over the water.
For the adventurous, cab it to El Kabron (Jl. Pantai Cemongkak, Pecatu) in Uluwatu, a Spanish cliffside venue boasting a pool, paella, tapas, cocktails, and the best sunset views in the area.
Taking the local ‘anything anytime’ motto to heart, Aussie-run, LA-vibing Boss Man (Jl. Kayu Cendana No. 8B) will hand-deliver top-notch burgers until 4AM. There’s nothing better than their ‘Al Capone’ bacon cheeseburger with bone marrow emulsion and a side of truffle fries to keep the party going.
4. Moyo Island, Indonesia
This unspoilt nature and marine reserve to the east of Bali is a private paradise for well-heeled travellers. It’s surrounded by the turquoise waters and pristine reefs of the Flores Sea. There’s only one resort on the island, the remarkable Amanwana, where you can stay in a jungle or ocean test decked out with luxurious beds and finishes.
The island offers scuba diving and snorkelling, and hiking trails span the hilly tropical forests.
Approach by private plane and circle over the savannahs and tropical jungles on the island, where protected deer,wild boar, macaque monkeys reside. The island is a perfect destination from which to explore nearby Komodo and Raja Ampat islands as well.
5. Lombok, Indonesia
It doesn’t draw the tourists that Bali does, but the island of Lombok shares its cultural heritage, temperature,cuisine and natural scenery with Bali. Unlike Bali, though, it’s relatively unaffected by the increasing developments, tawdry souvenir shops and price surges.
The deeper into the countryside you venture, the more interesting Lombok becomes. Slightly north of the airport in Mataram is Medana Bay, where luxury resorts gaze across placid waters. The road winds over forested mountains inhabited by packs of macaques, and paddy fields take over the scenery.