In this latest instalment in our 'Healthy Travel Guides' we are exploring the tropical Indonesian haven of Bali. Unfortunately our trip was short so we were only able to explore a fraction of what Bali has to offer so this guide doesn't purport to be comprehensive. Our trip was limited to two of the most popular areas - Ubud (Part I) and Seminyak (Part II), but we'd love to hear your tips for healthy hotspots in other areas of the island! The health scene in Bali is booming, so if you're looking for the perfect cocktail of culture, sunshine and health, Bali is the perfect destination! You can check out our Bali adventures on Instagram @theholist.
PART I - UBUD
Mountainous Ubud in central Bali was put on the map for many by Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Many diehard fans will argue that the phenomenon of that book and movie has turned Ubud into a cliche for people on a journey to "find themselves". While we have no doubt that Ubud has changed a lot and has become very touristy, it is still Bali's spiritual and health capital and a dream travel destination for anyone interested in a healthy lifestyle. Surrounded by jaw-dropping lush green rice paddies,with a super laid back vibe and healthy cafes on every corner, what's not to love! While the main area of Ubud is pretty small and everything listed below is within walking distance, in order to really appreciate the beauty of the area we'd recommend staying slightly outside the hustle and bustle of the centre. Check out our round-up of our favourite hotspots from Ubud below. If you're planning a trip we'd recommend checking out Bali Spirit for details of Bali's holistic side including events, retreats and insider tips.
An institution of the Ubud scene, hidden away on a side street off the busy thoroughfare, Soma is an oasis of calm. It serves the most beautiful array of juices and fresh wholesome dishes and Ayuvedic, raw, macrobiotic and vegan and free-from options abound. They also do a delicious line of raw chocolate truffles, cakes and other guilt-free sweet goodies as well as serving F.R.E.A.K Coffee (see below). Upstairs is a newly opened "General Store" selling organic produce, homemade Kombucha and nut mylks, body care, jewellery and homewares.
With a self-proclaimed philosophy of "eat the food you wish to be", this wonderful cafe on central Jalan Hanoman serves up a range of carefully crafted tonics, elixirs, juices, smoothies. The food menu offers a range of light western and local dishes including healthy soups, salads and sandwiches, perfect for a light lunch to refuel after a jam-packed morning.
Kafe, open since 2005 is a Ubud healthy hub serving up fresh, wholesome cafe fare including salads, sandwiches as well as more hearty dishes and raw options. They also have a mean treats cabinet full of delicious cakes, cookies and other sweet treats.
Set in a shady garden in the grounds of the Yoga Barn, The Garden Kafe menu is pretty similar to that of it's sister establishment Kafe (above) with the addition of a specially designed Ayuverdic menu. This was one of our favourite places to cool down with a coconut and a delicious raw brownie after a gruelling yoga class.
One of Bali's largest healthy chains, Bali Buda's Ubud branch opened way back in 1994 and offers a great little health and grocery store (perfect for stocking up on healthy travel snacks) as well as a delicious cafe around the corner. The menu offers a host of the usual suspects, delicious salads, soups, sandwiches (with wheat-free options) and a host of delicious, nourishing juices and superfood smoothies.
Juice Ja is the perfect place to stop off for a quick cold-pressed juice and homemade bliss ball or granola bar while you browse their small grocery store. The owners also run Ubud's organic farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays which gives a vote of confidence to the quality of their ingredients.
A bit of a trek out of town but absolutely worth it! Alchemy offers a vegan cafe, raw chocolaterie and juice bar as well as a small health store and a range of natural therapies including colonics at their holistic clinic upstairs. The real draw at Alchemy however, is their mind blowing salad bar which offers an incredible array of freshly prepared, innovative salads. If they could just open up a London branch our lives would be complete!
Just up the road from Alchemy, Sari Organik offers a heathly, organic take on some of Bali's best local dishes.
Tucked away in a secret garden, stone's throw from Ubud's Monkey Forest, situated in a tucked away secret garden is the Living Food Lab, a cafe offering locally sourced organic raw food which is vegan and gluten free. They offer a range of hand crafted salads, a granola station, juice and elixir bar as well as scrummy sweet treats! They also offer half-day raw cooking classes which cover raw nutrition, hands on living food preparation, a 5-course gourmet raw meal.
For a higher end dining option check out highly acclaimed Locavore. Their ingredient driven menu reflects the chemical-free seasonal produce and ethically fed meat that they pride themselves on, an incredible 95% of which is sourced locally. Reservations are essential.
For those of you who can't live without your morning coffee, head to F.R.E.A.K, which prides itself on its "Farm-to-Table” approach to their coffee. They grow, harvest, process, roast and brew their own coffee and all coffee served in their establishment has been roasted less than 24 hours previously. They also offer the option of either Cashew or Coconut milk in place of the traditional dairy offering.
Another high quality, locally sourced organic coffee shop favoured by connoisseurs. At Seniman's all coffee is hand prepared either using a special syphon or hand pulling the coffee and they also offer coffee tasting sessions.
One of Ubud's highlights, the huge Yoga Barn offers South East Asia's largest full service yoga studio and holistic healing retreat center. The Barn offers an incredible range of yoga classes across their five yoga studios including Classical Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Power, Pranayama, Restorative, Iyengar, Yin and Anusara, as well as other classes and workshops including meditation and sound medicine. The complex also houses the Garden Kafe (see above), KUSH, their Ayurvedic rejuvenation centre, as well as their holistic healing centre which offers a wide range of holistic treatments including detox and fasting retreats, colonics, traditional Chinese medicine, Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Cranio-sacral therapy, Naturopathy and more. They also offer highly regarded yoga teacher training courses. We'd definitely recommend queuing up for the Tibetan Bowl Meditation class where you're treated to a traditional singing bowls ritual purported to aid deeper relaxation and meditation.
Radiantly Alive, located just across the road from the Bali Buda cafe, is Ubud's other leading yoga studio. With a more convenient location, it is smaller than the behemoth Yoga Barn and therefore offers a narrower schedule. That said most days still offer a pretty full range of classes from Gentle Flow to Vinyasa to Pilates.
For the ultimate in healthy indulgence check yourself into the world-leading health retreat, COMO Shambhala Estate located a short distance outside Ubud. Beloved by the A-list, you'll leave this life-changing wellness sanctuary feeling like a totally new person.
Look our for Part II - Seminyak coming shortly ...