Hidden paradises: Three of Bali's best places to explore off the beaten path

Three of the best quiet, hidden paradise spots in Bali to explore away from the hectic tourist hotspots.
Check out these Balinese destinations for those opting to avoid the tourist rush. Photo credit: Wonderful Indonesia/Samsara Living Museum/The Bali Bible/Supplied

The tourism industry's ongoing recovery from COVID-19 and the relaunch of direct flights from Auckland means a slew of New Zealanders are heading to Bali for their next holidays.

Air New Zealand said it sold 10,000 seats to the Indonesian holiday hotspot in the week after announcing the direct service's relaunch late last year and has seen strong demand ever since.

On a recent trip to Bali - my third visit and second post-COVID-19 lockdown - I was fortunate enough to experience true Indonesian paradise unlike my previous, stereotypical holidays filled with Bintang beer, Kuta Beach and the endless rows of merchandise shops and Western-catered restaurants.

Thinking of the thousands of Kiwis heading to Bali in the coming months, here are three must-go slices of Balinese paradise I recommend for those opting to avoid the tourist rush in favour of peace, culture and spectacular views.

Candi Dasa

Stretching several kilometres along Bali's East Coast, Candi Dasa's remote seaside location creates the perfect escape from the bustling streets of Kuta. Travellers planning to visit in the next few months will likely experience temperatures of between 26C and 30C, ideal temperatures in which to explore the area following the end of the rainy season.

The area's Alila Manggis Bali Boutique Hotel is a highlight. It was there I thoroughly enjoyed a massage on the beach, with the peaceful sounds of the ocean waves in the background, rather than your usual noisy tourists.

Alila Manggis Bali Boutique Hotel.
Photo credit: Supplied

I also had a lesson on cooking traditional Balinese food and it wasn't just Nasi Goreng. It ranged from skewers made from lemongrass and a fish paste to delicious Dadar Gulung (Indonesian coconut pancakes).

As we cooked, our chef taught us all about where the ingredients originated from and how they're used in modern cuisine. By the end of the evening, I was tucking into a fresh seafood buffet accompanied by the dishes we'd made during the cooking class. 

The dishes - particularly the skewers - were time-consuming (largely due to my slow chopping skills, apologies to my cooking partner), but the aroma and taste from the fresh fish and variety of traditional Indonesian spices were completely delicious.

Alila Manggis is just one of the incredible accommodation spots in the area, with a range of beach resorts and private pool villas on offer.

The quietest area of Bali I've visited, Candi Dasa makes an especially great spot for honeymooners; it's peaceful, only 60 kilometres from Bali International Airport and easy to access all those vital, stereotypical tourist activities, from snorkelling to hitting the spa - without being in the midst of the Kuta chaos.

Indonesian cooking lesson.
Photo credit: Wonderful Indonesia

Tukad Cepung Waterfall, Tembuku 

If you're confident hiking down steep terrain for breathtaking views at the bottom, the Tembuku Cepung Waterfall makes for an ideal day trip from wherever your base is on the island. The spectacular, hidden, jungle cave waterfall is the perfect place for those wanting to explore a hidden gem and take picturesque photos.

However, the short hike down steep stairs to get to the waterfall doesn't mean trainers and socks as you have to parade through some ankle-deep water, so remember to wear footwear suitable for getting wet. I did the trek in slides but I'd personally recommend water shoes, given the slipperiness of some of the rocks.

Also, make sure to go on a day with lots of sunshine. I loved gazing at the sun's rays spectacularly beaming through the cave's opening above the waterfall.

Address: Jl Tembuku Dusun Penida Kelod, Tembuku, Bali 80671, Indonesia.

Tukad Cepung Waterfall, Tembuku.
Photo credit: Wonderful Indonesia

Samsara Living Museum

This unique attraction previously wasn't something I'd typically add to my holiday wishlist and while it's nearly two hours' drive from the international airport, the Samsara Living Museum should be on your radar if you're interested in Bali's culture.

For me, it was a life-changing experience.

The museum is nestled in a soothing jungle forest in Bali's Karangasem district about half an hour from our base in Candi Dasa and there we were taught about the most sacred of Balinese culture; from the stages of life, traditional ceremonies, rituals and the beliefs and values of Hindus.

Samsara Living Museum.
An aerial view of the museum. Photo credit: Supplied

It's a place filled with things to do and see, so be sure to allow a few hours to explore the site. 

Samsara also showcases some of Bali's traditional dwellings including reed-made roofs, dirt-made walls and a stone-made gate.

Visitors can also learn to make traditional offerings: hand-crafted using bamboo, rice, flowers, incense, lollies, fruit and spices.

With post-pandemic travel to Indonesia in full force, Samsara is quickly gaining an international reputation - yet many Kiwi travellers probably haven't even heard of it.

Samsara Living Museum.
Photo credit: Samsara Living Museum

This special Balinese experience is the perfect opportunity to learn everything there is to know about the island, its culture and traditions. Our guides made the learning experience fun and I was blown away by the stunning scenery.

It's this sort of scenery you'll struggle to find if you travel to Bali and don't venture out of Kuta.

Trust me, it's worth the journey. 

Address: Jl. Telaga Tista Jungutan, Bebandem, Karangasem 80861, Indonesia.

Newshub travelled to Bali as a guest of Wonderful Indonesia and Air New Zealand.