Jatiluwih Rice Terrace Bali

The Ultimate Bali Neighborhood Guide: Where To Stay In Bali

Bali is one of my favorite places in the world and I spent many months living on the island of the Gods. I stayed in numerous areas on the island and traveled everywhere on my little scooter so I can safely say I know a few things about the different neighborhoods of the island.

floating breakfast sideman bali

Whether you’re staying in Bali for a few days or a few months, this guide will help explain the different neighborhoods/cities within Bali for you to make your decision where to stay. Whether you want to be with all the digital nomads in Canggu, or the yoga buffs in Ubud, or the surfer bros in Uluwatu, there is something and somewhere for everyone.

Jatiluwih Rice Fields Bali

Bali is a big island so you have many different neighborhoods that you need to understand. So save this post to your favorites and you’ll be ready for your next Bali vacation or digital nomad experience!

Full disclosure, this post will be written with my experience and my opinion. There is some bias here otherwise you could read about the different neighborhoods on Bali’s official tourism website. You might agree or disagree with some of these reviews but I’m just trying to tell you what I think.

Where to stay in Bali: The Different Neighborhoods of the island


First thing’s first. Let’s explain Bali and its geography. Bali is a huge island that is 5,000+ square km. It is 150km by 120km so it would be a mini state. Therefore, when we talk about neighborhoods, it’s not like a neighborhood guide of a city like Frankfurt but really more of a chunk of land within Bali that might span multiple cities and villages. Within each “neighborhood” are smaller mini neighborhoods that further distinguish the area.

Bali map neighborhood guide

Most of the island is actually beautiful agricultural land including its iconic rice fields and fruit plantations. The cities are incredibly densely populated with the 3.5m residents that call the island home. Before you read into the meat of this post, I can will list all the neighborhood/cities of Bali below with a one to two line description of what to expect

  • Canggu: Digital nomad friendly with endless amounts of cafes, restaurants, and villas. Great for long term oriented travelers as well as short term visitors that want a bohemian vibe without the typical big resorts. Not the best beaches, and is the busiest area in Bali
  • Pererenan: Area just north of Canggu. Is pretty much the same vibe as Canggu but with less development and less people. 5-10 minutes by scooter to the heart of Canggu. In due time, Pererenan will become Canggu.
  • Berawa and Umalas: More or less the same as Canggu
  • Kuta: For those that want to party and stay in big hotel chains. Not very pretty in my opinion and totally over developed. Great long beaches and popular for surfing.
  • Legian: Just north of Kuta with a similar vibe.
  • Seminyak: Just north of Legian with also a similar vibe. There are more trendy restaurants and beach clubs in Seminyak however.
  • Uluwatu: Great for surfers and those that want to be in more chilled spaces. Uluwatu has great beaches but they are not tropical beaches by any means. Lots of beautiful upscale hotels here as well for those that want to stay in fancy resorts without the crowds.
  • Nusa Dua: Great for those on honeymoons and want to be embedded into the big resort life. Not much happening in this part of Bali otherwise.
  • Sanur: Great for families and older travelers. The vibe is chilled and plenty of walkable streets. Also great for those that want to visit Nusa Penida.
  • Ubud: One of the best recognizable areas in Bali. Ubud is perfect for those that want to be more in the nature. Rice fields, jungle, and spiritual vibes is what defines Ubud. You’re also in the middle of the island so you will not be visiting any beaches while in Ubud.
  • Lovina: Perfect for those that really want to be away from it all. Lovina is on the opposite side of the island vs Kuta/Seminyak/Canggu. You’re right on the beach and this beach is much more chilled than others on the island

Canggu


Canggu is the bustling expat and digital nomad area that is vibrant and full of life. This isn’t the place for your typical Bali experience aka rice fields and beaches. However, Canggu is the perfect place to situate yourself for a few days while getting used to the Bali vibe, or to stay for many months at a time. Most of Bali’s digital nomads stay in Canggu because of the abundance of co-working spaces, restaurants, cafes, and other digital nomads.

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body factory bali gym canggu

For the purpose of this post, I consider Canggu, Berawa, and Umalas all part of the same “neighborhood”. If you hear people saying they’re staying in Berawa, know that it is literally right next to Canggu and not more than 5 minutes away by bike.

What is it good for: Digital nomads, foodies, cafe lovers, really all kinds of travelers
How busy does it get: Very busy
Price: $$$$

canggu remote working digital nomad villa

Canggu is the ultimate place for restaurants, cafes, and beach bars. Canggu has an insane amount of amazing cafes serving delicious coffees and brunch style foods with an unmatched ambiance. If you are into taking photos of restaurants and your food, there is no place that will match the opportunities you get in Canggu. Make sure to read my list of the best cafes in Canggu.

Canggu shortcut rice fields

In fact, I would say that Canggu has more beautiful and Instagram ready cafes per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. Popular places like Suka, Milk and Madu, Crate, Copenhagen, Nook, Avocado Factory and literally countless more will keep you occupied for months.

Milk and Madu Canggu
Milk and Madu Canggu

Canggu is also one of the places that blends city life with island life the best. You have rice fields that are surrounded by villas, open roads, and easy access to the ocean. It’s not as overbearing as areas like Seminyak and Kuta where you only see concrete. I lived in Canggu for many months and absolutely loved it for what it’s worth.

Where to stay in Canggu

Canggu has an insane amount of places to stay but most of them are villas, guesthouses, apartment complexes. There are not many luxury big hotels in this part of the island. Make sure to read my best villas in Canggu post for the full list of recommendations.

Pererenan


Pererenan is the next village north of Canggu and is widely considered as part of Canggu depending on who you ask. For the purpose of this post, I will list it as a different neighborhood.

Pererenan is probably my favorite area in Bali as a digital nomad. It is located right next to Canggu being a 5-10 minute scooter ride away but in a much more laid back setting. Pererenan is essentially what Canggu was maybe 5 years ago. Nowadays, there are new villas and restaurants constantly popping up in Pererenan so it’s likely that it’s a matter of time before Pererenan reaches that point of being too much.

Touche cafe pererenan canggu bali

What is it good for: Digital nomads, foodies, cafe lovers, really all kinds of travelers
How busy does it get: Less busy than Canggu
Price: $$$$
Rating: 5/5

I think Pererenan still has another 3-5 years of being the utopia of Bali so until then, I will enjoy it to the fullest. Pererenan is also just as expensive as Canggu so while you’re not saving money on anything, you get to be in a more tranquil area of the island.

Where to stay in Pererenan

Canggu has an insane amount of places to stay but most of them are villas, guesthouses, apartment complexes. There are not many luxury big hotels in this part of the island. Make sure to read my best villas in Canggu post for the full list of recommendations.

Legian


Legian is sandwiched in between Kuta and Seminyak so you can expect the same overdeveloped and congested feeling in Legian. Legian, Seminyak and Kuta should just be the same neighborhood in my opinion because it all feels the exact same.

What is it good for: Big resort lovers and partiers
How busy does it get: Loud and Busy
Price: $$$
Rating: 2/5

Legian is also home to numerous beach clubs, big resort like hotels, and bright bars pumping loud music. Legian, like Kuta, was heavily impacted by COVID and everything was more or less closed due to the absence of short term Aussie tourists. It has since bounced back a little bit but I suspect Legian will never go back to its former glory.

The only thing Legian has going for it is the long sandy beaches on the coastlines which are perfect for surfing and walking around.

Where to stay in Legian

Canggu has an insane amount of places to stay but most of them are villas, guesthouses, apartment complexes. There are not many luxury big hotels in this part of the island. Make sure to read my best villas in Canggu post for the full list of recommendations.

Kuta


Kuta is the closest neighborhood to the airport and was essentially the first big area developed for tourists. Kuta is blessed with some of the best beaches in Bali that are perfect for surfing and lounging. Think long and wide sandy beaches that stretch of for miles and miles. Kuta is famous for its rowdy party scene, huge resorts, and endless rows of bars.

What is it good for: Resort lovers, party goers
How busy does it get: Dead because of the pandemic
Price: $$
Rating: 2/5

Kuta has seen better days. The pandemic essentially killed off all of Kuta’s economic activity. Being that it was the place for huge resorts meant for short term tourists, Kuta saw zero business for two years during the Pandemic. Many of the hotels went out of business and the whole area has been neglected and is in a less than desirable state sadly.

Even before the Pandemic however, Kuta was incredibly over developed and devoid of any charm that you’ll find in other parts of the island. It’s essentially a concrete jungle of shops, restaurants, bars, tattoo parlous, night clubs and more. It’s not really my scene and I would never stay in Kuta.

Kuta is home however to a huge mall with all the big stores you need like H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, etc. making it somewhere you can visit once in a blue moon while staying elsewhere. I’m not sure if Kuta will ever bounce back from the Pandemic because it’s been universally accepted that the Bali scene has shifted north towards Canggu.

Seminyak


Seminyak is located south of Canggu and north of Kuta. Seminyak was the previous king of all Bali neighborhoods as development pushed north from Kuta.

What is it good for: Resort lovers, shopping, fancy restaurants
How busy does it get: Very busy with hectic traffic
Price: $$$
Rating: 3.5/5

Seminyak is home to loads of big restaurants and beach clubs. Potato Head is one of the most famous beach clubs on the whole island and you’re sure to find all of the young tourists foreign and local flocking to this establishment. There are also numerous upscale restaurants here like Huge, Sijin, Da Maria and more.

I’m not the biggest fan of Seminyak as it is full of traffic and over development. It’s an extension of Kuta and Legian in my opinion and you can really feel it. There isn’t much nature to speak of within the neighborhood and the beaches are mostly occupied by huge resorts. While living in Canggu, I would sometimes visit a restaurant in Seminyak but I mostly avoided it because of the hectic traffic.

Therefore, it is cheaper than neighboring Canggu because it has lost the crown of the “go to” area of Bali.

Ubud


Ubud is probably Bali’s most famous area and it needs no introduction. Home to all of Bali’s most beautiful natural sights including its world famous rice fields, Ubud is a must visit in Bali. It was first widely popularized by the movie Eat, Pray, Love and now it’s one of the most visited areas in Bali.

What is it good for: Spiritual people, yoga fans, nature lovers, all kinds of travelers really
How busy does it get: Very busy
Price: $$$

Bali is the backdrop of many incredible temples and religious sights like the Sawasti Temple. This temple is decorated with so many fine carvings and inside there Padmasana shrine located in the northeast, but it also contained bale barong, giant masks, statues of Goddess Saraswati and the statue of the devil Jero Gede Mecaling as high as 3 meters in front of the temple.

Sarawasti temple bali ubud

On a day trip you can even visit the ultra famous and picturesque Lempoyang Temple!

Lempoyang Temple Bali day trip

Ubud is also home to incredible resorts of all price ranges. If you’ve seen the photos of an infinity pool with the famous floating breakfast overlooking picturesque rice fields, then Ubud is for you.

Where to stay in Ubud

Ubud has countless amazing villas and luxury hotels. The hotels in Ubud are particularly worth a stay as they often times offer an incredible setting in the rice fields overlooking nature at its finest. Many of these hotels have famous infinity pools that are perfect for photos and the ultimate in relaxation. Just look at this photo below!

Kayon Jungle resort Ubud
Staying in beautiful hotels in Ubud

Uluwatu


Uluwatu is located in the southern tip of Bali and is one of the most beautiful parts of the island. It offers a totally different vibe compared to areas like Canggu/Seminyak and a completely different vibe to the jungles around Ubud.

What is it good for: Surfers, resorts with views, people that want to chill
How busy does it get: Busy
Price: $$$
Rating: 5/5

Uluwatu is known for its beautiful long sandy beaches, cliffs, surfing, and upscale resorts. The beaches here are a bit more mild but that adds to its beauty in my opinion. I stayed in Uluwatu for a few days while I was living in Bali as it became a popular weekend destination for people living in Canggu to get away from the hustle and bustle. There isn’t as much going on in Uluwatu as far as restaurants and bar scenes go but it is incredible to scooter through the area visiting the many temples and viewpoints it has to offer.

Uluwatu is definitely the spot to be if you’re looking for the big resorts and upscale hotels. If you’re coming to Bali on a honeymoon, I would absolutely recommend staying in the resorts in Uluwatu or Nusa Dua.

Edge pool uluwatu hotel bali

Where to stay in Uluwatu

Sanur


Like Canggu was just all rice fields and farms, Sanur was once an area for local fisherman and villagers. Sanur was one of the first areas that underwent a tourist transformation with hotels and luxury resorts. Nowadays, Sanur is known for its laid back and quiet vibe.

What is it good for: families and older travelers
How busy does it get: Quieter
Price: $$$
Rating: 4/5

Sanur is also probably the most family friendly place on the island with cheaper accommodations, less traffic, and just a much more calm vibe than places like Canggu. Sanur is one of the few places that you can get around entirely by foot without needing to own a scooter. It’s a little too quiet for my tastes but I know many people in Bali that swear by it.

Nusa Dua


Nusa Dua is located to the southeast of Bali across the island from peninsula with Uluwatu. Nusa Dua literally translates to “two islands” but actually they are two small raised headlands with their own small temples.

What is it good for: Beach lovers, honeymooners, resort lovers
How busy does it get: Not busy
Price: $$$$
Rating: 3.5/5

Nusa Dua is better known as Bali’s ultimate gated community of luxury resorts. There are many high end resorts in Nusa Dua that all share one of the best beaches the island has to offer. Nusa Dua is also home to numerous luxury resort complexes that’s good for big groups. I didn’t spend much time in Nusa Dua because there isn’t much of a community there given that it is primarily luxury hotels. However, if I was visiting Bali on a luxury honeymoon, then I would likely consider staying in Nusa Dua. The beaches in Nusa Dua are very pretty and offer calm waters unlike the rest of Uluwatu.

Lovina


Lovina is located in the far north of Bali away from all the action. Traditionally, it was famous for its dolphin tours that visit the schools of dolphins that call this area home. Nowadays, more and more people are visiting Lovina as an alternative to the hecticness of places like Kuta, Legian, and Canggu.

What is it good for: Travelers that want to be away from it all, enjoy beautiful nature
How busy does it get: Quiet
Price: $$
Rating: 4/5

Lovina is the quintessential beach town with a beautiful black sand beach stretching through many kilometers of coastline. There are many new restaurants and villas popping up in Lovina which offers the amenities you’re after but it is by no means overdeveloped in the slightest.

You can also expect much cheaper prices in Lovina than you’ll find in the areas in the south.

Where to stay in Lovina

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Johnny
Johnny

I'm a dual Canadian-American from NYC that moved to South Africa for work and ended up traveling all through the continent. I'm currently living the expat life in Frankfurt, Germany and traveling the world as much as I can. I'm a bit obsessed with scuba diving, churning credit cards so I never pay to fly, and eating the most questionable of foods in the most peculiar of places. My bucket list is the world, and some day I might make it there.