Exploring Bali in two days-Day 1

Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot

Steve looked like he was in some kind of tantric trance sitting under the spout, droplets of warm water bouncing off the top of his head in a perfect halo formation.  “Tell Gusti we’ll be here for awhile,” he said, “this is heaven,” as we gazed from the 5,633 ft Mt. Batur volcano blackened from it’s most recent 1994 eruption to the blue, shimmering waters of Lake Batur adjacent to the hot springs we were lounging in.

For beach lovers the white sands, warm waters and perfectly shaped waves of Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia might fill the holiday agenda, but if you have soaked up your maximum sun allotment and want to explore the island there are many more pleasures to be experienced, including luxurious hot springs at the base of mighty Mt. Batur.

A two day tour of the island is adequate to give the visitor an overview of the island, which is small enough that if you are taken with a particular site it’s easy enough to  get back there for further exploration.

Steve and Gusti sample coffe and tea

Steve and Gusti sample coffe and tea

On every block in Kuta and Legian tour operators can be found hawking their version of a tour, usually one- or two-day tours ranging in price from around US $40-100/person/day.

During a recent stay in Bali with my husband I stumbled upon Bali Blues Adventures on a back lane of Kuta and really liked Christian’s low key and flexible approach to planning the tour and he limits tour to 6 people. Tours can be booked by phoning or emailing but we enjoyed going to the office for a chat with the jovial proprietor, who also offered suggestions on where to eat and shop, based on his 30 years in Bali, when asked. It turned out that no one else signed up for the tour so we essentially had a private car and driver, enabling us to adjust the pace to suit us, spending more time soaking in hot springs, less time shopping in handicraft villages, and substituting snorkeling at 8 am instead of dolphin watching at 6 am.

Day 1

Our driver, Gusti, picked us up in Legian promptly at 9:00 in a new SUV. He was a very good driver with a decent command of basic English, but he was clearly a driver and not a trained guide, responding to questions and offering only a few bits of information here and there, which was fine with us.

Saranam Eco-Resort

Saranam Eco-Resort

Leaving the bustle and din of Legian, hotels and shops were gradually replaced with rice paddies and small villages. We visited the dramatic seaside temple of Tanah Lot, and after running the customary gauntlet of stalls selling the exact same goods that can be found at hundreds of stall in Kuta, it was truly breathtaking to see the waves crashing over the rock supporting the temple. The tide was out so we could walk through tide pools to the temple and take pictures with everyone else.

As we drove away from the western coast and began ascending into cooler climes we made an unscheduled stop, after Gusti asked us if we wanted to see a coffee plantation. “Sure,” we replied hesitantly, fearful of an unabashed tourist trap. Mertha Sari Bhuana Coffee turned out to be the highlight of the day. While it was indeed set up for visitors, the engaging Sandi, who spoke excellent English, led us through an educational and interesting short tour of the ground, starting with a visit with a luwak (a civet-like animal). I wondered how a zoo animal fit in with coffee, when all of a sudden it dawned on me, as Sandi was explaining the digestive process. This was the animal that ate coffee beans from the forest floor and excreted them partially fermented, creating a delicacy. “Ahhh,” we said in unison, light bulbs of understanding going off, “coffee poop”. I wondered if that would be on the menu, but, since it’s expensive it wasn’t, sparing us the decision point. We walked along a narrow path pleasantly shaded by coffee, mango, papaya, salat, mangosteen, jackfruit, durian, pummelo, passionfruit and more, Sandi pointing out the various species. A clearing in the thicket revealed a rough, wooden tasting bar, where we sipped delightful thimblefuls of ginseng coffee, lemongrass tea, ginger tea, Bali coffee and hot chocolate. Our favorites were ginseng coffee and lemongrass tea, which we were only too happy to purchase at the end of the tour, finding the ginger tea weakly flavored, and the Bali coffee and hot chocolate bitter.

Sunset over Lovina Beach

Sunset over Lovina Beach

Lunch was an expansive buffet of Indonesian staples, including grilled whole fish, nasi goreng, spicy mie goreng, shrimp chips and more, held at the lovely Saranam Eco-Resort. Perched on the side of a steep hill on the flanks of Mt. Batukaru, the second highest mountain on Bali at 7,467 feet, the restaurant is positioned perfectly to capture restful views of brilliant green rice terraces and catch cool mountain breezes.  The property cascades down the hill with standard rooms located near the pool at the midpoint, and a lazy inclinator to transport guests to the private bungalows at the base of the hill, where verdant landscaping blends seamlessly with the rice fields and jungle.

The afternoon was a blur of stops, punctuated by sellers surrounding our vehicle before we could disembark, testing our sanity even through our tropical languor. We paid too much for delicious fruit at the market in Candi Kuning, strolled in a light afternoon monsoon at a temple on the shores of Lake Bratan, begged Gusti to not make us walk a mile to Git-Git waterfall in a downpour, and whizzed by the monkey forest. “Monkeys not out in rain,” said Gusti. Smart monkeys, we thought. We pulled into Lovina, at the northern tip of Bali, in early evening, as the sun broke through and  checked into the Angsoka Hotel. We found a typically plain, but clean, budget room, large restaurant and pleasant, tree-filled grounds. After a quick swim in the luxurious, inviting pool we caught the sunset over the nearby black sand beach and had dinner in the deserted tourist area (it being low season) feeling like we had gotten more than our $65 worth for the first day of our tour.

See related articles, Budget Travel in Bali and Exploring Bali in two days-Day 2, where we experience the hot springs.


Bali Blues Adventures
Jalan Benesari #69
Kuta, Bali
email:  [email protected]
$65/person/day for 2 day tour, including car, driver, accommodation, entrance fees, most meals except dinner.

Mertha Sari Bhuana Coffee
Jalan Raya Luwus
Baturiti, Tabanan, Bali

Saranam Eco-Resort
Jalan Raya Baturiti
Pacung, Baturiti, Tabanan, Bali
62-368 21038

Angsoka Hotel
Bina Ria Beach
Jalan Kalibukbuk
Lovina, Bali
email: [email protected]

Getting There:

Several airlines provide air service from the U.S. to Bali, including Qantas, Cathay Pacific and KLM. Prices for airlines departing from San Francisco International Airport range from $1,300-1700 with one or two stops, and takes about 21 hours.  Check Skyscanner for more information.


Angsoka Hotel

Refreshing pool at Angsoka Hotel