The beautiful tropical paradise of Bali is widely sought after as a dreamy honeymoon destination or a perfect couples getaway. The island also attracts many single travelers who come for yoga and meditation retreats (particularly since the hit movie Eat, Pray, Love came out). Admittedly it’s is not the first place you may think of for a family vacation. However, you may want to take a second glance. Even though we found Bali to be the perfect “babymoon destination” a few years ago, I had an equally fun time there when I went a few weeks ago with my now 3-year old daughter. The island is culturally rich, has plenty of western amenities for those who’d like a more comfortable stay, and loads of fun-filled activities that are appropriate for those who travel with little ones in tow. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites for your vacation inspiration.
We’ve been to a lot of waterparks all over the world, and none of them quite check all the boxes of what we are looking for in the perfect day out for the whole family like this one does. Advertised as “not your average water park,” that statement is more than a marketing gimmick. The park has everything from thrilling rides for the dad who’s never grown up, a massage cabana for a mum looking for a bit of zen and a fun-filled water play area just for the littles. The park has some of the most beautiful grounds I’ve seen anywhere with more than 50% still covered by gardens and green space, and plenty of shade to keep you cool during your visit. As a bonus, we love that the park is so committed to eco-friendly practices (think paper straws and real plates). You won’t need to pack a lunch here either as the park food isn’t your typical hot dogs and sodas, but an elevated offering that includes made-daily fresh pizza, chicken shawarma wraps and fresh-baked doughnuts. If you stay until closing time, walk to the mall across the street afterwards and watch the iconic sunset at Kuta Beach – it’s totally stunning.
If you’ve traveled much at all around Southeast Asia, you’ll know that monkeys can be quite the pest, so I’d keep a close eye on the kids and your belongings during this one. However, with a bit of attention and caution, a visit here is a truly enjoyable and memorable experience. The Sacred Monkey Forest is a sacred site known around the world and is one of the island’s most popular attractions. While the thousands of people visiting each day make the forest a less tranquil place than it was a few years ago, it’s still a unique place to visit and have a stroll. Of course your kids will certainly enjoy seeing the hoards of wild monkeys swinging through the trees, snacking on bananas and playing near the trails. The forest is village owned and managed by a foundation that monitors and protects the natural and cultural resources so tourists can continue to visit year after year and enjoy this sacred and beautiful place.
There are a few turtle hatcheries in Bali, however this particular hatchery is known for their commitment to responsible and ethical practices which makes us a fan. The organization is managed by a group working to protect olive ridley sea turtles and their habitat through community-based, grassroots conservation practices. If you happen to visit between April and October, you can join a group that releases baby sea turtles into the ocean. The turtle releases happen right along busy Kuta beach, making it convenient to join in on a particularly impactful and memorable wildlife experience. Do note that there’s no exact schedule to the releases, so participating in one takes a bit of luck, so follow their Facebook page where they post release dates and times as soon as the information is available.
For more ideas about ethical wildlife experiences in Asia, visit this post.
A favourite among expats in the area, Finns Recreation Club (formerly known as the Canggu Club) is a large sports and leisure complex offering a huge variety of sports and relaxation activities. There’s a water park, bowling alley, tennis centre and Bali’s largest trampoline centre (parents can jump too!) as well as several food and beverage options. You can also drop the kids at the kid’s club while you go for a swim or enjoy a relaxing spa treatment. This is truly a one-stop sports centre with something for the whole family.
Home to more than 1000 animals from over 100 different species, Bali Safari and Marine Park combines Balinese cultural ambiance with the African Savannah making for a unique way to see some of the world’s rarest and most endangered species. We do hesitate to recommend places that still allow elephant riding, as it’s not the most ethical. However, the animals seem to be well cared for, and there are other options such as 4×4 jeep tours of the park. There’s a small water park that makes for a great way to cool off at the end of the day, so be sure to pack your swimmers.
Arts and Crafts in Ubud
One for the crafty kids (and parents too!) Jewelry making, pottery and other traditional crafts are popular activities in the artsy town of Ubud. You can make your own silver jewelry, or ceramic pot, do a wood carving or take a painting class and more. Not only will everyone in your family be able to enjoy a bit of cultural education, but you’ll get a hand-crafted souvenir to remember your time in beautiful Bali. The Bali Center for Artistic Creativity is a good place to start. They offer classes, courses and workshops for both individuals and groups with some classes and workshops being specially geared towards families. The whole family can make art in a variety of mediums at the same time. However, with a bit of a search on the web or a wander through the streets of Ubud you can find many studios and learning centers offering various classes in different art mediums.
What would a trip to Bali be without a few days frolicking in the surf and laying in the sand? Our favourite beach areas to stay with kids are quirky Seminyak and the resort area of Nusa Dua. Both have their perks but offer a bit quieter escape than busy Kuta. We found the surf on Kuta to be a bit too rough for our toddler and prefer the shallow, calmer waters of Seminyak or Nusa Dua, however, Kuta does remain a constant favourite among those who’d like easy access to restaurants and attractions. Nusa Dua is great if you are looking for a nice full-service resort on a beautiful stretch of sand, but it can be a bit secluded if you aren’t the type who just likes to stay in the resort. All in all, Seminyak offers the best of both worlds for our family with tasty restaurants and activities nearby but calm and beautiful beaches that are family-friendly.
Stay in a Kid-Friendly Resort
You won’t even need the rest of this list if you book one of Bali’s world-class resort hotels. There are numerous resorts that cater well to families. Think playgrounds, kiddie activities, sports facilities, supervised kids clubs and world-class dining with kid-friendly options. If you’d like to really splurge book the Chedi Club at Tanah Gaju in Ubud which is sure to blow you away or the Four Seasons in Jimbaran which has a massive kids club. However families travelling on a lower budget can still enjoy kid-friendly accommodations with the likes of the more mid-range offerings at InterContinental Bali or the Hard Rock Cafe which is a hit for those who love a good pool and waterslide.
Snorkeling is a magnificent way to for kids to experience a taste of the magnificent marine life under the sea. It’s truly an activity that’s fun for all ages. You’ll quickly find that the water around Bali is just as beautiful below as it is above once you strap on your mask and have a go at it. For snorkeling spots that are good for families, check out Padang Bai on the island’s east coast (Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugel beaches, not the main beach), Nusa Lembongan which is a short boat ride from Sanur or Benoa and Menjangan Island which is part of West Bali National Park. The last is particularly good for those who are snorkeling for the first time and it’s quite likely you’ll see some impressive sea life here due to the especially calm water around Menjangan.
Take a Day trip to Gili Air
The three island’s that make up the Gili’s are a quiet retreat from the sometimes-busyness of Bali. Gili Air is one of the most accessible, but that doesn’t mean it’s teeming with people. In fact, there are no dogs, cars or motorbikes allowed on the island making it a great place to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. Your kids can play in the shallow water near the shore and the whole family will love snorkeling the coral reef that’s just offshore. Plus, traveling around the carless island by horse and cart makes the whole experience even more fun for kids.