Ubud is the spiritual center of Bali. Lush, exotic and filled with culture, it’s a city bustling with energy and things to do.
We spent 3 full days and 5 nights here. Our itinerary worked out perfectly, so if you want to get some ideas for your own adventure, read on.
Day 1: Night Arrival to Ubud
We landed in Bali around 8 p.m. after a long journey from the United States. Ubud is about an hour drive from the airport. It’s a good idea to stop at an airport ATM to take out some cash. There are several located before immigration and customs.
I recommend arranging transportation with your hotel or Airbnb ahead of time. The taxi drivers at the airport can rip you off if you’re not careful. Plus, landing in a foreign city with jet lag can be disorienting–better to have a trustworthy person waiting for you. Make sure to tip him with the cash you got from the airport ATM.
I also recommend arriving at night if you’re traveling from far away. After crossing so many time zones, we were exhausted. We were able to fall asleep quickly (even though it was the middle of the day in the U.S.) and wake up on a normal Indonesian schedule.
Day 2: Monkey Forest + Downtown Ubud
The best part of waking up is NOT Folgers in your cup–it’s opening your curtains to this view… I mean, c’mon.
Hotel: Anumana Ubud Hotel. Highly recommend. We reserved a room with a private plunge pool (there are only three on the property, so book early if you want one).
Breakfast was included, so we had a leisurely start to our day with a hot meal and incredible Indonesian coffee in the outdoor dining area. Indonesia has some of the best coffee in the world.
After breakfast, we walked to the Monkey Forest because it was next to our hotel. The Monkey Forest is a natural habitat of the long tail Balinese monkey. They roam freely, so be cautious because they’ve been known to bite. It takes about 30 minutes to see everything. Admission is approximately $3.50 USD.
We were sweating by the time we left because of the heat and humidity, so we went back to the hotel for a dip in our plunge pool before heading downtown. Anumana Ubud Hotel offers free shuttles to the downtown area (about 5-7 minutes drive).
We got gelato, pursued the markets, meandered into temples and wandered down side streets. I purchased a few items, including a sarong. I used the sarong in the water temple the next day and as a beach cover up later on.
We also stumbled into a jewelry store, where we bought Christmas gifts for our families. It was called Blink–high quality and reasonably priced.
For lunch, we stopped by a restaurant near the jewelry store. It was just okay, so I’m not linking it. Across the street was an art gallery. We purchased art (around $100 USD per piece) and then headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.
The art gallery is on Monkey Forest Road right before you get to Ubud Palace, on the right. It’s called Happy Happy Shop, but there’s no website. The gallery is run by a woman with help from her children. The artist is her husband.
Dinner: Melting Wok Warung. This restaurant was recommended to us by a friend and it was amazing. They have a small rotating menu of classic Indonesian dishes. You need to make reservations. It’s cash only.
After dinner we caught the free Monkey Forest shuttle back to our hotel. Tip: The Monkey Forest has a free shuttle that operates all day and you don’t have to actually go to the Monkey Forest to ride it.
Day 3: Private Driver (Tegalalang Rice Terrace + Water Temple + Elephant Safari Park + Tegenungan Waterfall)
Hiring a private driver for a full day is the best way to see Ubud and the surrounding areas. It sounds extravagant, but it’ll cost you just $40 USD total. We split the cost between the two of us.
We began the day around 9 a.m. and finished around 5 p.m.
The best advice I can offer is to NOT rent a car yourself. The drivers in Bali are insane. There are hardly any traffic lights and it’s basically a free for all. This is the opposite of a Nike moment: just don’t do it.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace: There are several rice terraces in Ubud and our driver told us this was the best. Trust the locals. We stopped here first because it can get crowded later in the day. The cost is free, but I recommend leaving a donation upon arrival as it helps the workers who maintain the terrace.
You’ll see a few birds’ nests where you can take photos to make all of your friends jealous. The cost was the equivalent of about $1 USD. Totally worth it.
A big reason I highly recommend Tegalalang is because it has a swing. The swinging craze is big in Bali, but if you book at Bali Swing you’ll pay about $35 USD to enter. Then you’ll have to wait in line for hours to get your picture taken. I heard the entrance fee comes with a meal but reviewers claim the food is lousy.
At Tegalalang we paid about $7 USDs to swing and that included a bottle of cold water. The wait was about 10 minutes. Entry donation: a few USDs. Birds nests: $1 USD each. Swing: $7 USD.
Water Temple: Shoulders must be covered inside the water temple. We used the sarongs we bought at the market on our first day as a shall. You’ll see people praying, but I recommend not taking pictures of them out of respect. Entry: $1 USD.
Lunch: Our driver took us to this restaurant after the water temple–it’s about 5 minutes away. Because I loved this restaurant so much, I liked having the water temple in the middle of our schedule.
We sat in our own private hut. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was peaceful. It felt like a very “Eat. Pray. Love” type of situation.
Elephant Sanctuary: You may want to skip this. Asian elephants aren’t from Bali, so they aren’t native to the island. It was neat to see an elephant up close, but some of the tricks made me feel uncomfortable because it seemed like they were for show.
If you do go, I recommend getting the general admission package. I saw people swimming with them and it made me sad for the elephants because it seemed as if they were performing. Admission: approximately $20 USD.
Tegenungan Waterfall: We saved the waterfall for last so we could go back to the hotel after swimming. Going swimming first would have made the remainder of the day uncomfortable. Admission: free.
The driver will drop you off in the parking lot. From there, you have to walk down a TON of stairs. The rocks at the base of the waterfall are less stable than they look, so be careful.
Dinner: Habitat Cafe. We were exhausted when our driver returned us to our hotel. After a brief rest in our room, we headed across the street to a restaurant that had great reviews. Just like people claimed, it had both indoor and outdoor seating options, an extensive menu and well-made cocktails.
The indoor seating area had air conditioning, which is rare as far as restaurants in Ubud go. After a long day, it’s nice to have the option. No judgement. We sat inside for dinner and went back the next day for lunch outside on the patio.
Day 4: Mt. Batur Sunrise Volcano Hike
See sunrise on top of an active volcano in Bali? Absolutely breathtaking.
We booked through You Bali Trekking Tour and had a wonderful experience. I’ve linked the exact package we purchased for $55 USD.
The hiking company picked us up at 2:30 a.m. from our hotel. We joined a couple from Germany. It took an hour to reach the base of the volcano by car.
Upon arrival, we were given a hiking stick and headlamp. This is an undeveloped volcano–meaning not only is it active, there aren’t pretty little walking paths.
I don’t believe they allow people to hike the volcano on their own–you must book in advance with a guide. There were only 4 guests in our group. Because of the difficulty of the hike, groups are kept small so guides can pay attention to individual needs.
After hiking for about two hours, we arrived at the top of the volcano around 5:30 a.m., just in time to see the most incredible sunrise.
Our guide boiled water and made coffee and hot chocolate for us. He also served a tray of boiled eggs, banana sandwiches and Indonesian cookies.
After the sun came up, we went to another area of the volcano to see the steam. It was actually relatively hot–and figuratively speaking, a cool experience to have.
Just a warning: the skies were clear on the day we hiked and the weather was beautiful. But our guide told us that the day before it was completely overcast so they couldn’t see the sunrise at the top.
When most groups began their decent, we stayed to see the monkeys. Our guide said there are hundreds of monkeys living in the crater. They come out to salvage the scraps leftover from humans. Can’t blame them. We saw about two dozen monkeys.
On the way back to the hotel, our driver stopped by a coffee plantation at the request of the German couple. It took about 20 minutes.
While the tour wasn’t mind blowing, it was a nice pit stop. We sampled about a dozen coffees and teas and purchased a few of our favorites to take home.
We got back to our hotel around midday feeling sore and tired. We deserved the plunge pool after hiking an active volcano. More than ever. At our request, room service brought us a few rounds of Bintang, our favorite Indonesian beer.
After some R&R, we headed back to Habitat Cafe for lunch on the patio. The streets of Ubud are alive with mopeds zigzagging by and people walking around. We took in the sights of the city as we enjoyed our cocktail and Indonesian dish.
We spent the rest of the rainy afternoon reading, relaxing and packing back at the hotel before going to bed early. The only rain during our stay happened at the perfect time.
The next morning, we left Ubud at 7:30 a.m. to head to our next location in Bali: A remote island paradise called Gili Air.
If you want to continue with us on our journey, read related posts about our time in Bali. And follow me on Instagram: @megstraightup.
Related post: How to get to the Gili Islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili T)