Ubud is one of Bali's liveliest, most beautiful, and most tourist-friendly towns. Between museums, markets, yoga classes, waterfalls, and delicious restaurants, you'd easily be forgiven for spending the majority of your vacation time there. But if you've got a day (or two) to spare, there's much to see on a day trip out of the city, from photogenic beaches to cultural experiences. Because the island is somewhat small, Ubud is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore Bali's diverse offerings.
Remember: Ubud's traffic can be quite heavy, so try to avoid driving into the city during mid-afternoon whenever possible. For the nearby sites, it's often quicker to travel by rental scooter rather than taxi. For destinations further away on the island, you can rent a car or hire a vehicle and driver for the day. You'll find many tourist vehicle services listed on sites like Viator and AirBnB Experiences. Taxis are usually an option, too.
Tirta Gangga Water Palace & Gates of Heaven: A Photographer’s Dream
Unlike many of Bali's temples and palaces, Tirta Gangga is relatively new, built in 1948. While the palace is closed to the public, the main draws are the gardens, water features, and pools filled with colorful koi. There are several small shops outside the palace, as well as a few cafes on the grounds.
The palace is 6 miles from the Gates of Heaven at Lempuyang Temple, which gets extremely crowded. The wait to snap a photo between the gates can be an hour or more. Visit the Gates first thing in the morning (before 7 a.m.) to have the shortest wait. Entrance to Tirta Gangga is 30,000 rupiah for foreigners while Lempuyang Temple is donation based, though you'll need to rent a sarong for 10,000 rupiah.
Getting There: Tirta Gangga is 38 miles from Ubud, but traffic can make the drive take more than 2 hours. There are coffee plantations along the way if you need a mid-drive pick-me-up.
Travel Tip: Go early or late to Tirta Gangga if you want photos without dozens of people in the background. It's a popular site for Instagram photoshoots.
Mount Batur: Catch a Tropical Sunrise
Travelers who don't mind early mornings can catch the sunrise from Mount Batur's summit 5,633 feet (1,717 meters) above sea level. The hike is only about 2 miles each way, but you'll gain about 1,700 feet (518 meters) of elevation, making it moderately challenging. Most hikers should be able to do it in 2 hours or less with appropriate footwear and plenty of water.
Getting There: You'll want a guide for this hike, so the most hassle-free way to summit Mount Batur is to join in on a guided trip in Ubud that includes transportation. Otherwise, it's an hour drive to the trailhead, where you can hire a local guide or join in on an already-existing group.
Travel Tip: You don't need to do this hike at sunrise, but most people do. The hike can be excruciatingly hot mid-day.
Tulamben: Dive on Intact Shipwrecks
Certified scuba divers should book a trip to Tulamben, where not one but two sunken ships await them. The USAT Liberty is one of the easiest wreck dives in the world as it’s accessible from shore and rarely has a current. Advanced divers should combine that wreck with a dive on the Boga, also called the Kubu. It houses sunken Buddha statues, pottery, and an actual car. Not certified? No problem. You can take an intro to scuba class or opt to snorkel on the USAT Liberty as its mast is near the surface.
Getting There: Tulamben’s dive sites are around 2 hours from Ubud. Since you need a guide to dive, it’s easiest to book a dive package with a certified operator that includes transportation, gear, a guide, and (usually) lunch and snacks.
Travel Tip: There are several dive sites in Tulamben, including reefs and drift dives. While the USAT Liberty is the most popular dive, it’s certainly not your only option.
Sekumpul and Gitgit Waterfalls: Go Chasing Waterfalls
You can't leave Bali without visiting at least one waterfall, and Sekumpul is the perfect choice for a dip in a dreamy swimming hole. North of Ubud, it's one of Bali's highest falls and close to picturesque (and popular) Gitgit Falls. If you haven't booked a tour in advance, you'll need to hire a mandatory guide in the Sekumpul waterfall parking lot. The cost depends on whether you'd like to view the waterfall or trek down to it. If you choose to trek, expect a 30-minute walk from the parking lot to the falls. A visit to Gitgit does not require a guide.
Getting There: Sekumpul is 45 miles north of Ubud and Gitgit Falls is about 12 miles west of that.
Travel Tip: You don't need a guide to visit Gitgit, though enterprising scammers may try to sell you an expensive entry ticket in the parking lot. Ignore them and walk about 15 minutes towards the waterfall where you'll find an official ticket booth, plus a few small shops.
West Bali National Park: Snorkel and Trek the Day Away
Birdwatching may not sound thrilling, but it’s hard not to be captivated by the more than 150 different species of birds living in this massive park. Life underwater is equally diverse, so if hiking isn’t your thing, join in on a boat snorkeling trip around Menjangan island. Park entry is 200,000 rupiah per person with extra fees for activities like guided hikes or snorkeling.
Getting There: The National Park is about 85 miles from Ubud. It’s best to leave early to beat traffic and have the full day to snorkel, trek, spot wildlife, and relax on the beaches. If you’re passionate about birdwatching, plan to leave Ubud by 4 a.m. to see the birds when they’re most active.
Travel Tip: There’s nowhere to buy food or drinks in the park, so bring everything you’ll need with you (including extra water if you’re planning to hike).
Bangli: Stoll Through a Traditional Village
For a trip close to home, spend the day in Bangli, just 14 miles from Ubud. There’s plenty to do in the small town, including the rarely crowded Kehen Temple, the 17-acre Penglipuran bamboo forest, and the traditional Balinese village of Penglipuran. And if you break a sweat while sightseeing, end your trip with a dip in the swimming holes at Tibumana and Kuning waterfalls. Entry fees to Kehen Temple and the town of Penglipuran are 30,000 rupiah a piece. Kuning is 20,000 rupiah; Tibumana is 10,000 rupiah. Be prepared for short and steep walks to each swimming hole.
Getting There: Because Bangli is so close to Ubud, the easiest and cheapest way to get there is via scooter. Otherwise, it should be easy to find a taxi in Ubud willing to take you for 150,000 rupiah or less.
Travel Tip: Tourism is the main economic driver in Penglipuran. Consider giving locals who invite you into their homes a small tip to show your appreciation.
Gianyar: Prepare to Get Wet (and Hold on Tight!)
Central Bali is mountainous and covered in rivers and waterfalls, so it’s not surprising that there’s plenty of great whitewater rafting. Most rafting trips start in Gianyar, about 25 minutes by car from Ubud. Several companies run whole and half-day rafting trips on the Ayung River. The rapids in this area are class II and III, so you’ll likely be soaked by the end. You can book a trip in advance online or through one of the tour booking stands in downtown Ubud.
Getting There: Most rafting tours will include pick up from Ubud and surrounding areas. Otherwise, it's a quick 8-mile scooter ride to Gianyar.
Travel Tip: Before booking a tour from a roadside tour operator, it's worth doing a quick search online to make sure the rafting operator is reputable, safe, and provides proper safety and flotation equipment before booking.
Canggu: Learn to Surf and Hit the Club
Ubud is home to plenty of organic food, yoga classes, and meditation workshops. So if you want to change things up for a day, head to Canggu in the southwest of Bali. Canggu still retains some of its surfer-and-acai-bowl vibes, but in the last decade, dozens of beach clubs and bars have opened along the coastline. It’s the go-to spot in Bali for a morning surf lesson, afternoon sunbathing, and evening beach parties. Beach club costs can range from free to 300,000 rupiah or more per person.
Getting There: Some all-day surf packages will include pickup from your accommodations. Otherwise, you can drive yourself on a motorbike or grab a taxi from downtown Ubud. It should take 45 minutes to an hour to get there.
Travel Tip: For a serious party, head to Finns, the area’s most popular beach club. It gets crowded, so you may want to reserve a daybed in advance.
Nusa Lembongan: Snorkel With Manta Rays
A trip to Nusa Lembongan will be an all-day event from Ubud, but it’s worth checking out if Bali seems a little too crowded and touristy. You can snorkel, scuba dive, and sail along the island’s coast. It’s also home to massive manta rays, often visible from the water’s surface. Getting here from Ubud will involve a drive to ports at Sanur or Padang Bai, then a 30-minute boat ride to the island. It makes an excellent overnight trip, but you can do it a long day, too.
Travel Tip: If you’re not going with a tour, buy your fast boat tickets in advance. They take around 30 minutes versus 90 minutes for a budget ferry. Be prepared to walk through knee-deep water when exiting the boat.