Nusa Dua translates literally as 'Two Islands' – although they are actually small raised headlands, each with a small temple. But Nusa Dua is much better known as Bali's gated compound of resort hotels. It's a vast and manicured place where you leave the rest of the island behind as you pass the guards. Gone is the hustle, bustle and engaging chaos of the rest of the island.
Candidasa is a relaxed spot on the route east, with hotels and some decent restaurants. However, it also has problems stemming from decisions made three decades ago that should serve as cautionary notes to any previously undiscovered place that suddenly finds itself on the map.
This is the original boom town, showing a lot more skin than you’ll find in the rest of Sumatra. The heart of town is the Nagoya Entertainment District, dotted with beer bars, shopping malls and massage parlours. It ain’t pretty, but Nagoya is ultimately functional, and a good place for dining out and an overnight stay if you’re travelling to or from Singapore by boat.
South of Ubud
The roads between Ubud and south Bali are lined with little shops making and selling handicrafts. Many visitors shop along the route as they head to and from Ubud, sometimes by the busload, but much of the craftwork is actually done in small workshops and family compounds on quiet back roads.
The peninsula of Tanjung Benoa extends about 4km north from Nusa Dua to Benoa village. It's flat and lined with family-friendly resort hotels, most of midrange calibre. By day the waters buzz with the roar of dozens of motorised water-sports craft. Group tours arrive by the busload for a day's aquatic excitement, straddling a banana boat among other thrills.
Just south of Kuta and the airport, Teluk Jimbaran (Jimbaran Bay) is an alluring crescent of white-sand beach and blue sea, fronted by a long string of seafood warungs and ending at the southern end in a bushy headland, home to the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. Jimbaran remains a relaxed alternative to Kuta and Seminyak to the north (and you can't beat the airport access!).
This popular oasis in the northwest corner of Bali has a number of artful resorts set on a little dogbone-shaped bay that's alive with local life such as kids playing soccer until dark. Pemuteran offers a real beach getaway. Most people dive or snorkel the underwater wonders at nearby Pulau Menjangan while here.
Munduk & Around
The simple village of Munduk is one of Bali's most appealing mountain retreats. It has a cool misty ambience set among lush hillsides covered with jungle, rice, fruit trees and pretty much anything else that grows on the island. Waterfalls tumble off precipices by the dozen.
Tulamben to Yeh Sanih
North of Tulamben, the road continues to skirt the slopes of Gunung Agung, with frequent evidence of lava flows from the 1963 eruption. Further around, the outer crater of Gunung Batur slopes steeply down to the sea. The rainfall is low and you can generally count on sunny weather. The scenery is very stark in the dry season and it's a thinly populated area.