Best way to experience Bali: do it the local way!

There is certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Bali, but how do you make sure you leave this culturally rich island with the feeling that you truly saw it rather than being just another tourist doing touristy things? While being one of the top travel destinations and seeing millions visitors a year, Bali still has a lot to offer to those seeking authentic travel experiences. So once you cross some key attractions off your list, let us take you beyond the touristy side, bring you closer to nature and connect you with the local life and culture. Enjoy our best local Bali experiences!

In this post we share a selection of some of our favorite local experiences in Bali and tell you stories of the amazing people behind each. You can mix and match these experiences as you wish depending on your whereabouts on the island. This map will give you an idea of their locations so that you can easily plan your own itinerary.

Camp, surf or fish with Wayan in South Bali

Being a son of a fisherman, Wayan learned about the ocean from an early age. Growing up in Seseh, which is primarily a fishing village, he learned to fish at the age of five. At the age of ten, he started surfing and later on joined various competitions catching waves at all of the prime surf spots of Bali and the surrounding islands.

Now Wayan is a father of three teaching his own kids to surf and fish. To provide for his family Wayan organizes surf lessons as well as camping and fishing trips. Having grown up between the sea and the rice fields of South Bali, he has developed a strong passion for nature. Therefore, he campaigns for sustainable and responsible fishing and strives to convince the fishing community to use only eco-friendly methods and tools.

If you stay in South Bali (think Kuta, Canggu, Seminyak, Sanur, etc.), Wayan will pick you up at your accommodation and will take you to the activity location. Do one or combine all three. Here are some more details on each activity.

Camp on the beach 

There is nothing more romantic than camping on the beach and waking up to the relaxing sounds of the ocean waves. Doing it in Bali is a special treat!

Let Wayan take you on a beach camping experience, where you will enjoy some delicious food and great stories sitting around a bonfire. Together with Wayan you will build a fire and prepare a dinner with fresh locally caught seafood. If you want to go extra “glamping” style, a lobster can be included with your dinner for an additional charge.

No need to bring your own tent: comfy tents, bedding and pillows are all provided! After a good night of sleep, enjoy a sunrise walk or swim while Wayan prepares your breakfast.

Learn to surf

Bali offers surfing opportunities for all skill levels, so it’s a perfect destination to catch your first wave or take your existing skills to next level. Get a surf lesson from a pro who knows every current, every reef and shore break in the area. Wayan was mentored by the Balinese surfing legend Made Switra and is now a great mentor himself working with both adults and kids.

Wayan will teach you the basic techniques, safety procedures as well as some ways to read and understand the ocean. You’ll start on the sand with a lot of practice and then will have plenty of time in the surf. The location for the lesson is flexible, depending on surf conditions.

Go fishing

Wayan is all about having fun in life while preserving nature for future generations. When you go fishing with him and his team, you’ll feel good about doing it in the most responsible way and using only eco-friendly methods and tools.

If you’ve never gone fishing, no worries! You’ll learn all the basics and catch your very first fish in no time. Amberjack, barracuda, lobster, mahi-mahi, sailfish, spanish mackerel, tuna, giant trevally, yellow fin trevally, and wahoo… what will you catch?

You can choose between a sunrise or sunset fishing experience starting at either 7 am or 3 pm. Depending on the time, enjoy a simple breakfast or lunch, then hop in a traditional Balinese boat and away you go!

Enjoy an herbal walk near Ubud or go on a longer hike

Westi and Lilir have a passion for nature and in particular traditional herbal medicines. Westi is qualified to teach others about Bali’s living pharmacy and continues to learn from three traditional healers. Both Westi and Lilir are afraid that this traditional wisdom will die if it is not kept alive. Fueled by their strong desire to preserve Bali’s unique indigenous heritage, they started to take visitors on walks near Ubud and share their knowledge. Using their own example, they want to inspire more young local people to learn about the Bali’s old tradition.

Another amazing local we work with here is Komang. The reason he takes guests on herbal walks or hikes is the influence of his grandmother from an early age. She treated all family illnesses with herbal remedies and taught Komang to use the healing properties of nature. Komang is committed to keeping Bali as green as possible. Preserving the environment is one of his big passions. Here in Bali the locals begin to feel the impact of development and consumerism on nature, particularly that of plastic waste. Aside from educating visitors about the Balinese culture and nature, Komang helps  teach locals about the importance of preserving nature for our future.

Take an herbal walk with Westi and Lilir or Komang

Ubud is a unique place and is the center of art, healing, yoga and meditation in Bali.  Its name comes from Ubad, which means medicine. The area around Ubud is well known for its medicinal herbs and plants as well as beautiful nature.

Taking a walk with a knowledgable local is a great way to explore the surroundings of Ubud.  Along the way, you will be able to smell the strong fragrances of various plants, taste the nectar out of the red flowers of the hibiscus tree and drink fresh young coconut juice. Westi & Lilir are both great, and we bet you’ll enjoy this 3-hour walk through the beautiful countryside of Ubud with them.

If you are pressed for time, there is a 2-hour option with Komang as well.

Hike through the largest rice field in Bali, a Unesco World Heritage site

If you have a little more time, then hiking with Komang through the Jatiluwih rice fields is totally worth it. As the title suggests, it is the largest rice field in Bali certified by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

You will pass different villages and get the opportunity to experience real local Balinese village life along the way. Hiking across the Jatiluwih rice fields will take about three hours with some stops for rest. During those stops you’ll learn about the herbs and plants which grow here. You will also take a break to rest and cool off your feet crossing the river on the way. You can try the red rice tea that is a very special experience and good for digestion.

Pickup service from Ubud, Sanur and Kuta area is included and can also be arranged from other locations.

Enjoy the local food and learn to make it yourself

There is no better way to explore the Balinese local life and culture, than through its food!

One of our favorite cooking experiences in Bali is with Wayan and his family. Wayan lives with his wife and two little daughters in a small Balinese compound in Bangli in the heart of Bali, not too far from Ubud. Most of the people who live here are farmers. There are many farms in the area, so nearly everything one needs for cooking grows here. Wayan loves to welcome guests in his family compound and give them a peek into Balinese life.

What we love about Wayan is that in addition to supporting his family and community when you take a cooking class with him, the money you spend also goes towards a program to teach English to local children and a recycling project to educate local people on how to reduce plastic garbage. Wayan started the Green Sunday Project so that every last Sunday of the month he goes out with his family and local children to collect trash in the area while educating the children about the effects of plastic on the environment and what we can do about it.

Cook and learn to process coconut oil with Wayan

The traditional Balinese cuisine uses a number of herbs. The herbs are also a type of traditional medicine which are still in use today. During this cooking class with Wayan, you’ll be introduced to many of those herbs and techniques used in the traditional cooking.

All the ingredients used during the class are organic and fresh. Some of them are grown right here at Wayan’s organic farm. The rest are purchased from farmers around the village who also grow organic vegetables and herbs. It is important for Wayan’s family to know the exact source of the ingredients.

After you arrive (pick-up from Ubud is included and can be arranged from other places as well), you’ll enjoy a small Balinese breakfast before your class begins.

You’ll get plenty of fun facts during the class and will also learn how to make an offering.

Additionally, one of the interesting activities you can enjoy during the cooking class is learning how to make coconut oil in a traditional way. Wayan’s mom who perfected the art of making coconut oil over many years will show you all the tricks.

After you create traditional Balinese dishes, you will be able to enjoy them for lunch. It’s quite delicious, trust us on this!

Learn to cook in a local village

If you prefer a school setting, then Wayan’s cooking school (another Wayan) is a good one. The setting is different than the one of cooking at someone’s home, but we love that the money you spend on this class directly empowers the local people of the village and encourages the younger generation to develop their own cooking skills.

Another difference of this class is that you start the class with a visit to the local market where you’ll learn about many different ingredients and spices and the social life of the Balinese people. During the class itself you’ll also learn about the philosophy behind the Balinese cooking.

Pick-up and drop-off service is either included or can be arranged (depending on your location).

Enjoy a farm food experience

If you don’t feel like cooking, but would like to have a special local food experience, then a delicious 3-course Balinese farm lunch is the way to go.
The organic farm is located in Munduk Lumbang, just 10 minutes from the World Heritage rice fields of Jatiluwih. 
Here you can pick your own lunch (your own vegetables like lettuce, coriander, mint or a dozen other tasty plants if you wish). While you are relaxing or walking around, the locals will prepare your lunch. Take a sip of spring water with lime and mint while overlooking the greenery. Friendly villagers trained in the preparation of tasty dishes will serve you creations that will make even a master chef proud. Restaurant chefs often come to this farm to buy vegetables or herbs that are unavailable elsewhere on the island.

Immerse in the Balinese culture by staying in the coastal village of Jasri

Jasri is a beautiful village on the Eastern coast of Bali. People here strongly hold their unique culture and tradition, and their lives are still very communal. Most of them are farmers, fishermen, traditional craftsmen and workers. Locals of the village love to share their culture and give a peek into their daily lives. You can stay in the village for a couple of days to get a real sense of Bali.

Jasri village is the great place to experience the Balinese hospitality. If you ask us, living with a local family even for a few days will give you the understanding of a place better than a month of staying in a hotel and taking day tours.

There are several options for your stay here, so let us tell you more!

Combine your homestay with a rice field trekking

If you are pressed for time, this 2-day, 1-night experience is a great intro to the local life.

As soon as you arrive, you will meet your homestay family. Now you can relax and sip lemonade while taking up the beautiful surrounding of Jasri. There is also time to wander around, visit the beach and speak with the friendly locals. If you wish, you can also learn to make traditional Balinese food while helping your host family prepare the food. Balinese people love fish and coconut so you will definitely find one of these ingredients in your food.

The next morning after having enjoyed a delicious breakfast of toast, fresh fruits and juice, it’s time to hike through the rice fields! You will start the rice field trekking in the western part of the village in the lush and green surrounding. Enjoy the fresh coastal air and the views! Along the way you’ll meet farmers working in their rice fields and learn about the farming methods they use to cultivate the rice. You’ll explore the wide variety of vegetation and plants that grow along the edge of the fields. Some of them can be used as food and others are also used for traditional medicine. You will find banana trees, lemon grass, turmeric, jackfruit, palm, coconut and pineapples that grow side by side. You can enjoy a fresh young coconut juice on the way. The trekking will take about 3 hours.

After this morning exercise and before heading back, you will be served a savory lunch at your homestay with the family. If you need a ride to or from Jasri, it’s no problem. Your local hosts will arrange it for a very reasonable price.

 Add on cycling, local crafts and a massage

If you want to add one more night to your stay here, there is more exploration awaiting you in addition to all the goodness of a 1-night trip.

On the day you arrive, you can hop on a bicycle and cycle through the rice fields and alongside the beach in the company of a local.

The second day after lunch and some rest, you can explore the village, see some local crafts and even learn how to make pottery yourself! After trekking and cycling, you will enjoy to end the day with a relaxing Balinese massage.

Experience mystical and spiritual Balinese life

If you are not into active stuff like cycling or hiking or simply want to explore more of the spiritual and mystical side, there is one more option for your two-night stay in Jasri.

On your first night you’ll experience the mystical ritual of “Jerangkong” with a local shaman.  The villagers still come to the shaman because they want help or advice regarding certain circumstances: uncured illness, money problems, passed relatives etc. It’s a very special and unique experience!

Aside from delicious food, this option also includes a village walk, where you’ll learn from the farmers, pottery makers and the local blacksmith. On the last morning of your stay you can enjoy a Tai Chi and meditation class.

We hope you enjoy your stay in Bali and come back with a feeling of better understating of this culturally rich island!

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