There’s something about Bali that I just can’t get enough of, and I’m not alone. Repeat tourists to Bali are more common than the common cold – this island never gets old!
If you’ve visited Bali solo, you probably had a relaxing time drinking cold Bintang by the hotel pool. But when you return with your partner, friends, or family, it’s a completely different vacation.
I recently visited Bali for the 17th time and tried a new experience – travelling with teenagers.
Yep, I spent a week with my niece (14) and nephew (15), and like most teenagers, they’d be happy to spend a week in a plush hotel with on-demand movies and a high-speed internet connection… But where’s the fun in that?
Teen years are a period of discovery. They’re fundamental in shaping identity by cultivating passions, likes and dislikes. So, when I took these teenagers to a region with a culture as rich as Bali, I wanted them to get off the Wi-Fi and try something completely new and exciting.
Here are my best 21 things to do in Bali with teens for holiday full of adventure with a dash of Balinese culture and a splash of relaxation.
Bali tip: Pre-book your transport from Bali's airport to Ubud to avoid haggling and stress.
Internet tip: A fast, mobile internet connection is still a life-saver in Bali. I recommend aloSIM.
1. Swing amongst the trees at Bali Treetop Adventure Park
Teens can unleash their inner Tarzan or Mowgli at the Bali Treetop Adventure Park where you climb high into the trees to complete a series of obstacle circuits. The circuits have different levels of difficulty so you can start slow and work your way up to fear-defying zip lines, rope swings, and suspension bridges.
I tried two medium difficulty circuits before tapping out and watching my niece and nephew continue to tackle the second hardest circuits. Sadly, the rain set in before they could try the hardest circuit but I suspect they’ll be back to conquer it.
The park (map) is over an hour drive northwest from Ubud but well worth the trip. Turn your visit into a day trip by stopping at nearby look-out points, the Ulun Danu Temple, or the Bedugul Traditional Market.
2. Get caged at Bali Night Safari
If you’ve ever felt like locking your teenagers in a cage, the Bali Night Safari is the place to do it. And it’s perfectly legal. Like many zoos, you can feed animals by poking food through holes in a cage, but here the animals roam freely while humans are the ones in the cage.
The Night Safari program is split into three activities:
1. A walking tour of animals local to Indonesia and neighbouring countries. A guide shares information on each animal as you pass komodo dragons, binturongs (bear cats), porcupines, a white tiger, an owl, and an Asian elephant.
2. A driving tour where you can feed zebras, camels, African cows, and elephants from within a mobile cage. The highlight of the tour was watching our guides feed lions and tigers by poking meat through the cage. I had a slight disadvantage of being so tall when the tigers jumped on top of the cage to get fed through the roof…I could feel their breath centimetres from my face and they drooled in my hair!
3. A BBQ buffet dinner followed by fire dance. After the tours, guests are taken to the restaurant for a buffet dinner of BBQ meat, corn and veggies with sides like salads, rice, noodles ad spring rolls. The program closes with an African-inspired dance show with live drum music and props like stick puppets and fire.
3. Hold a live chameleon
Driving through Bali’s mountains and jungle can make for a long day out. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and stretch your legs along the way at restaurants or lookout points. Some locals hang around these lookout points with rescued Balinese animals to show to tourists.
We stopped at the Bali Strawberry Panoramic Terrace and my niece got to hold a rescued bat, chameleon, iguana, and baby owl. Holding the animals is free but there is a donation box which helps care for the animals.
4. Soar over a volcano in a helicopter
Up to 5 passengers can get a bird’s eye view of Bali’s rice terraces, jungles, lakes and volcanoes in a helicopter tour. There are several helipads around Bali, but we took off from Mason Elephant Lodge and flew for around 30 minutes.
Tip: You’ll need to bring a copy of your passport for check-in.
We flew to Mt Batur (also called Kintamani), which last erupted in 2000. The tour usually flies over the top of the volcano to give tourists a glimpse inside but the clouds were too low on the day of our flight. We gasped at panoramic views of the volcano’s crater, fields of black lava and nearby volcanic lake.
The pilot happily shared his knowledge of local traditions, customs and beliefs through the headsets as we flew over villages, temples, and landmarks. I was amazed to see a village and temple so close to the active volcano but it turns out locals believe the volcano is holy so want to live as close to it as possible. I’m not sure if I’d be that brave!
Get discounted helicopter tour tickets at Voyagin from US$185.96 per person.
5. Bathe and feed rescued elephants
After our helicopter tour, we stuck around Mason Elephant Lodge to feed and pet the elephants. The lodge is Bali’s only dedicated elephant rescue facility and home to over 30 elephants rescued from Sumatra.
A staff member told us that each elephant eats 80kg of food per day so there’s no shortage of opportunities for tourists to help feed them! Bamboo is available for free or you can treat them with a basket of fruit and vegetables for Rp.50k (US$3.40).
Admission to the park costs US$22 per person. Half day tours including washing and swimming with an elephant start at US$70 per person.
6. Snorkel with tropical fish at Lembongan Island
Swimming with angel fish, rainbow fish, and clown fish is a must see for teens that grew up loving Finding Nemo. We discovered the best snorkelling spots while doing a day trip around nearby Lembongan Island.
Our tour included car and ferry transfers from Bali and a buffet lunch at a private beach club. Weather permitting, the tour stops at three snorkelling spots:
- Crystal Bay for vibrant coral reefs and tropical fish
- Manta Point for manta rays; and
- Gamat Bay for deep-sea creatures like shrimp and moray eels.
The water was too choppy for Manta Point and Gamat Bay on the day of our tour so we snorkelled at Crystal Bay and two nearby coral reefs.
Don’t worry if your teens haven’t snorkelled before, our guides from Lembongan Water Sport gave us a quick snorkelling lesson on board and were always in the water with us keeping an eye out.
After snorkelling and lunch, our guides took us for a quick drive around the island stopping at lookout points, landmarks and to point out their home villages. Rainbows formed by the spray of crashing waves at Devil’s Tears wowed us, while the swing at Dream Beach was too Instagram-worthy to resist, and we bought hand-made bracelets from local children at a lookout point.
Get discounted snorkelling day tour tickets at Voyagin from US$64.86 per person.
7. Walk under water
For more interaction with Bali’s tropical fish, try walking underwater with Seawalker or Aquanauts. Underwater walks last 15 minutes and take you about 5 metres down to the ocean floor to see different types of fish than you see when snorkelling.
Guides help at each step of the tour and provide food for the fish to eat out of your hand (the fish nibbled my fingers!).
Our underwater walk was part of a day cruise to Lembongan Island with Bali Hai Cruises. The three-storey cruise boat had food and drink available for purchase on-board and awesome live music. The boat docked at Bali Hai’s pontoon off the coast of Lembongan Island where some guests chose to spend the day swimming, snorkelling and water-sliding.
We caught a speed boat to a smaller pontoon for our underwater walk and then to Bali Hai’s beach club on Lembongan Island to sunbake on lounge chairs, swim in the pool, and enjoy a buffet BBQ lunch.
There’re heaps of free activities at the beach club like banana boat rides, canoe and paddle board hire, and snorkelling tours (although I think my nephew’s favourite thing about the beach club was its free Wi-Fi!).
Tip: It’s best to bring your own towels to avoid paying for hire towels from the beach club.
Speed boats regularly run between the beach club and pontoon/ship. We caught the last boat to the ship at 2.45pm to return to Bali.
8. Learn Indonesian culture through dance at Devdan Show
Devdan is one traditional dance performance that teenagers will not find boring.
Over 30 dancers keep the audience on the edge of their seats with exquisite costumes, engaging props like swords, puppets, water, and fire, and by flawlessly executing complex lifts and jumps.
Devdan cannot be watched by simply looking forward and drifting off. The dancers tend to enter the stage down the aisles and hi-five lucky viewers (like me) in the front rows. One dancer even asked my wife and niece to get up on stage and join in!
Each dance represents a tradition from an Indonesian island so teens will learn while they watch the show. There’s a rain dance from Sumatra, a drum dance from Papua, shadow puppet and warrior dances from Java, flag and rain dances from Sumatra, and ceremonial dances from Bali.
Modern dance is thrown in too. At one point, dancers in monkey costumes surprised the audience with a hip-hop routine to “Buttons” by the Pussycat Dolls. Other dancers gracefully pulled off acrobatic moves with aerial silks in a style similar to Cirque du Soleil.
9. Try surfing at Waterbom Bali
It’s no surprise that visiting Waterbom is one of teenagers’ favourite things to do in Bali. You can easily spend a day zipping down waterslides, relaxing in the lazy river, and drinking cocktails (or mocktails) at the swim-up pool bar. And then there’s the private cabana for recovery.
I got to re-live my teen beach days when we tried stand-up surfing and bodyboarding on Waterbom’s new FlowRider and I can tell you it is not as easy as it looks! My niece picked it up in no time and the instructor soon had her doing flips and slides along the current. My nephew and I spent more time wiping out than riding the current, but that’s half the fun!
When we needed a break from the fun, we chilled out in a cabana. Waterbom’s ThaiItalian restaurant will deliver food to your cabana if you don’t feel like getting out to dine at one of the parks restaurants, café, or specialty ice-cream stands.
Discounted tickets are available at Voyagin from US$30.73 per person or at the door.
10. Jam out at Hard Rock Hotel Bali
The Hard Rock Hotel is one of my favourite places to stay in Bali. I love hiring one of the hotel’s electric guitars (for free) and playing classic rock songs in my suite. This time I got to teach my niece how to play too.
11. Try delicious Balinese food
Balinese food is quite different to the typical meat and veg, pasta, or French fries western teens might be used to, but it’s probably better for them. Most Balinese dishes made with fresh and natural ingredients and full of rich flavours.
My nephew is vegetarian and enjoyed trying Balinese cap cay (fried vegetables), lumpia (spring rolls), perkedel jagung (corn fritters) and nasi goreng (fried rice). My niece favoured mie goreng (fried noodles) and satay chicken.
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.” - Jonathan Safran Foer
12. Drink from a coconut
When I imagine relaxing on a tropical beach, I picture a fresh coconut in my hand. Drinking coconut water straight from the fruit is an iconic part of any beach vacation. You can buy coconuts at most hotels and restaurants in Bali.
My niece and nephew had never drunk from a coconut before and Bali was the perfect place to try. It turns out they don’t like coconut water but hey, at least they tried it. More for me!
13. Sleep in a jungle (in luxury)
When you stay in a jungle area like Ubud, it doesn’t matter how many stars your luxury hotel or villa has, you’re guaranteed to come across some local wildlife, like bugs and lizards. They’re part of the charm!
We stayed at Villa Amrita, about 20-minutes north of Ubud and on the doorstep of rainforests, rice terraces, and a natural stream. The tranquil atmosphere touched my soul.
One evening while swimming in the pool, we saw fireflies and bats fluttering among the trees. We heard frogs, crickets, cicadas and the very loud mating call of the gecko each day.
It was a great opportunity for my niece and nephew to learn about living alongside nature without being scared. The villa’s staff were more than happy to share their knowledge of the animals and insects we heard or spotted and reassure the teens of their safety.
14. Discover Balinese agriculture & rice terraces
Five rice terraces in Bali form part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Bali Province Cultural Landscape. The rice terraces are not UNESCO listed for their stunning landscapes but for their traditional irrigation system (known as “subak”) of canals and weirs centred around a water temple.
We visited the Tegallalang Rice Terraces and watched local farmers hard at work while we balanced along narrow pathways and makeshift bridges between the rice paddies and canals.
Teens will love the Instagram photo opportunities at one of Tegallalang’s iconic swings and signs.
15. Soar over the jungle on a giant swing
After the rice terraces, we stopped at Kumulilir to sample Balinese tea and coffee. Kumulilir has a cosy outdoor area with iconic Instagram settings like a bird nest and 2 giant swings.
We decided to try a swing so Kumulilir’s staff helped us into harnesses before strapping us into the swing and pushing us out to soar above the treetops below.
My niece and nephew loved the views and the thrill, but I think they loved the Instagram-worthy photos to share with their friends even more!
16. Climb an active volcano
After being amazed by the stunning landscapes of Mt Batur on our helicopter tour, we yearned for a closer look so returned to the volcano, this time on the ground.
It is possible to climb the volcano if you have time (it takes about 90 minutes each way) but it’s recommended to climb with a guide as Mt Batur is considered a holy site.
We were short on time so stuck to walking along a low ridge to admire the views. Scenery around the volcano is absolutely breathtaking. Desolate fields of black lava are contrasted with thriving farms growing produce like onions and tomatoes.
My niece had recently studied volcanos at school so enjoyed seeing crops flourishing in the rich volcanic soil. First hand experiences like that can bring education to life.
17. Visit a sacred Balinese temple
Hindu temples in Bali are worth visiting for their stunning architecture and rich culture. We visited the 11th century Kehen Temple and admired its intricate gold-plated gates, ancient banyan tree and moss-covered stone stairways.
Our guide shared Balinese beliefs around the temple’s design. He explained that temple gates remind Balinese to keep their hearts and minds open. The carved characters on each side of the gate represent good and evil inside each person and act as a reminder to choose good. Long dragon statues with zig-zag bodies remind us that life will have its ups and downs.
I wonder if my niece and nephew will remember that next time they see a Gates of Heaven photo on Instagram?
18. Get drenched by a waterfall
Bali’s powerful waterfalls are a welcome change of scenery for teens used to the sunny and dry climate of Western Australia. We visited Cepung waterfall, a 1-hour drive northeast of Ubud.
After a short walk down a narrow rocky path and steep steps, we started to hear the promising sound of rushing water. The path then turned into a series of caves with a river trickling down the centre. We took off our shoes to walk along the river bed and were soon at the foot of the mighty waterfall.
The serene atmosphere was absolutely magical. It was an eye-opening way for teenagers to explore nature.
When we turned to leave, we discovered there was actually a second, smaller waterfall at the other side of the caves!
19. Get up close with monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud’s famous Monkey Forest recently had a major makeover. Monkeys no longer bite, scratch or steal from tourists but are well-fed and managed by staff.
It’s much easier to walk around peacefully and photograph monkeys munching on sweet potato or jumping between trees without fear of losing your camera.
My niece and nephew wanted to hold a monkey so staff used peanuts to coerce a monkey onto their shoulders. The monkey kindly stuck around to pose for photos before jumping down and continuing on its way.
Tip: Monkeys are hungriest in the mornings and more likely to get up to mischief. It’s best to visit in the afternoon.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is open daily from 8:30am – 6pm. Tickets cost Rp.50k (US$3.45) at the door.
We saw items 14 to 19 on a Voyagin day tour through Bali Hiking Tours. Customise your own itinerary or choose a proven plan like an Instagram tour or camping tour. We took on suggestions from our guides and also added a few sites we wanted to see, like the volcano and waterfall.
Driving between Bali’s scenic sites makes for a long day off the Wi-Fi for teens. We stayed connected with my Tep Wireless Hotspot.
20. Shop for cheap souvenirs
Bali is famous for bargain shopping so teens might want to pick up a few cheap souvenirs for their friends (or themselves).
We stopped at the Ubud Art Markets and found loads of handicraft items like jewellery, fans, homewares and clothing. Vendors never offer their best price first so I taught these teens serious bartering skills.
If you’re after more variety, the Kuta Art Market is the place to shop. Some items are hand made locally but you’ll also find imported products and imitation brands here. Items for sale include clothes, jewellery, wooden and shell homewares, DVDs, and Bali souvenirs like surfboard keychains.
21. Indulge in Gaya Gelato (world’s best ice-cream!)
Gelato is one of my favourite foods and I’ve sampled it all over the world. I’m convinced that the world’s best gelato is not actually in Italy but in Ubud, Bali.
My niece and nephew loved vanilla gelato, while my favourite flavour is pistachio.
Where to stay in Bali with teenagers
We explored Ubud’s rice terraces, waterfalls, volcano and other beautiful scenery while staying at Villa Amrita. I knew the villa was a winner with my niece when she said “we’re like the Kardashians!”
I’m not sure if it was the Villa’s pristine interior or dedicated driver, cleaner, and cook that sparked her comment but either way, what teenager doesn’t want to feel like a Kardashian?
The Villa has three separated bedrooms with full ensuites so the teens each had a private space to retreat in the evening. My nephew loved his bedroom’s balcony which overlooked the jungle, claiming it his “Instagram spot”.
Find out more about Vila Amrita in my article.
Tip: In order to easily reach most of the attractions in this article, we spent half the vacation around Ubud and the other half in Kuta.
Hard Rock Hotel Bali
For a central location in Bali like Kuta, you really can’t go past the Hard Rock Hotel Bali when travelling with teens.
We stayed in adjoining Deluxe Premium rooms which my niece and nephew didn’t want to leave! Their room had everything they could want – speedy Wi-Fi and free new release movies on the flat screen.
Hard Rock also has a fun-filled teen room, “Tabu”, where teens can play video games, foosball, watch movies, and even dance in a nightclub. Outdoors teens will have a great time in the giant swimming pool with waterslides and inflatables to hire. We hired a poolside cabana and spent a day swimming, relaxing and drinking mocktails.
After eating their share of Balinese food in Ubud, my teenage niece and nephew couldn’t get enough of the Hard Rock’s western-style food (especially chips). While happily eating “Italian nachos” at Jamie’s Italian my niece said “This place gives me such happy vibes”. I had to agree.
Musically inclined teens will love the Hard Rock Hotel’s free guitar hire, daily live band, in-house radio station, and professional recording studio.
The Bottom Line
I discovered there’s only a few things that teenagers need to be happy no matter where they are – being fast Wi-Fi, chips, and Coke.
Luckily my niece and nephew were open-minded enough to give those things up for a few days to embark on adventures and explore Bali’s natural attractions and fascinating culture.
I have a feeling they won’t forget this vacation any time soon.