First Trip to Bali? Advice from the Island of the Gods
So you’re considering a vacation to Bali. It’s a great idea! The island, culture, weather, and cuisine are everything you’ve already heard and more. You’ll find unreal beaches, lovely quaint restaurants, and quiet frangipani lined streets, all in a perfect tropical climate. No wonder Bali has become one of the best vacation destinations in the entire world.
But if you’re looking for advice on traveling to the island, we’ve included some of the most critical things you’ll need to think through before you purchase your tickets and book your villa or hotel. You’ll want to consider the best time of year to travel, what to bring along, and the best locations for food and fun while you’re on the island of the gods.
Bali is just south of the equator where the mighty Indian Ocean meets with the Sea of Java, and has year-round tropical weather. The island is notoriously warm, usually sunny, and has a fairly consistent westerly ocean breeze off the Indian Ocean. The temperatures range around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (26-30 Celsius), and vary in small amounts based on seasons. While the temperatures sound lovely, the humidity can often be quite heavy (at or around 75%), making the air feel hotter than the posted temperatures. If you’re wanting to head to the mountains, the temperatures drop dramatically, and are even quite cool at night.
The only real seasons in Bali are shaped by the rainfall. The highest temperatures are in May, when the thermometer breaks the 90 degree mark on average. The rains start in November and continue through May, though the peak months are between December and March. For these months, the rainfall is at least 90mm/ month, or around 4 inches. This is a huge amount of rain, as would be expected in a tropical region.
In spite of the heavy rainfall during the months of December - April, the island is buzzing with activity and chaos, as thousands of people flee the cold of the Northern Hemisphere to find refuge in the tropics. During those times, the rain falls consistently at least 15 days per month, meaning that at least half your time will be spent indoors. The advantage, though, during the rainy season is the high swells, and a lot less crowds. Additionally, during January and February, the water temperatures stay higher - at 84 degrees. However, during the summer the water cools a bit, but just to around 80 degrees. Overall, the water temperatures are always comfortable.
Bali Travel by Month
If you’re considering going on vacation in Bali, there really isn’t a bad time to visit. The one difficulty is the rainfall, but in the tropics, a storm may come and go quickly. Plus, if the rains are too much, you can always escape indoors for some amazing food! During the winter months, many hotels and local restaurants have amazing spread of local cuisines that you won’t want to miss. And, if you’re in Bali over New Year’s Eve, we’d suggest heading to Kuta beach and enjoying the killer fireworks show that rivals any outlandish 4th of July celebration. If the rain kicks up, you can always take cover in the Beach Walk Mall, and still have a great view.
If you’re hoping to travel on a budget, the best month to come to Bali is February. Flights and hotels will be quite a bit cheaper because the weather is at it’s least comfortable. The dry season heat begins, but the wet season humidity sticks around, making for sticky sweaty days and muggy nights.
March is an exciting month, as the island closes down for 24 hours during ‘Nyepi Day’, or The Day of Silence. The Balinese Hindus observe the day by refraining from going outdoors and all forms of entertainment. The local security guards (pecaleng) watch the streets to make sure that the tourists do the same. The Balinese believe that if the island stays silent and everyone is inside, the evil spirits will pass over the island, thinking it’s deserted. Be warned - there won’t be a single store open on Nyepi, so stock up the day before. Not to mention, Denpasar’s International Airport is the only airport in the world that closes for 24 hours during this special ceremony. This is truly a remarkable event that should be encountered by all visitors. Nyepi day is followed by Ngembak Gen (referred to as Omed-omedan) during which the local youth honor the unique healing power of kissing.
During the dry season from May through September, the island dries out with lower humidity and at the same time the heat sets in over Bali. The evenings are lovely and the ocean breezes make the island a genuine tropical paradise. Night breezes can make the evenings very cool, so it’s always a good idea to pack a pair of socks and a hoodie. Perhaps it’s best we recommend packing socks and hoodie throughout the year, you just never know when the tropical chill might hit you.
Bali - A Surfer’s Paradise
If you’re planning on a surfing vacation, the high season is the wet season, as the storms of the Indian Ocean bring in some hefty swells. However, if you’re hoping for good weather with your good surf, you won’t be disappointed at the Balinese waves during the dry season either. Just remember that you’ll need to pack a wetsuit during those months when the water is cooler, and a pair of booties for the coral reefs are critical. Without them, you may end up with stitches from the sharp reef edges.
Regardless of when you travel, Bali is really a tourist paradise. Both wet and dry seasons have their tradeoffs, but the island boasts some of the best locations for travel and fun in the world.