Christmas in Bali: Finding the best of both worlds during the festive season
It’s that time of year again. Drinks flow freely, waistlines expand rapidly, and things get a bit nuts and fire-crackers. Everyone is asking, “What are you doing for Christmas?” and you’re feeling a little bit smug at the moment, because this time, your reply is:“I’ll be in Bali”.
But now that you have your location determined, chances are you are wondering what to expect and what to do. Firstly, it is important to remember that you are on a tropical island, which means being prepared for tropical weather. Particularly in December, Bali can be wet. Very wet.
Have a look at our article on weather in Bali to see what we mean. You may get some very heavy showers, which, like the winter snow, tends to bring people together indoors.
Only tropical rain is a whole lot warmer! That is the beauty of Bali at this time of year. You are blessed with many outdoor and indoor activities open to you for a range of interests and pursuits.
Have you ever been swimming while it is pouring with huge droplets of warm rain as the thunder roars overhead? Pool or ocean, it’s a truly incredible experience. (Just don’t wear anything metal – you’ve been warned!) But that’s enough about weather.
You have questions that you need answered.
Where can you buy a gift for mum?
Where can you go for a romantic Christmas lunch with your girlfriend?
What will you do with the kids on Boxing Day?
Where can you buy traditional Christmas-style food to host your own little party?
The mind boggles.
While this article is in no way a definitive guide, it’s going to point you in some very nice directions. And we’ve included some interesting thoughts from our InBali contributors on what they think you should get up to in Bali over Christmas.
After all, they know the place pretty well. Read on and get ready for Christmas – Bali style.
Christmas in Bali with the Family
For people holidaying with the family over Christmas, Bali is a fantastic to be.
Waterbom is a must for the kids and a great day out for adults too. While the children can run themselves ragged, dashing from a variety of crazy waterslides ranging from the moderate to extreme – such as the ‘Python’ and the ‘Boomerang’ – you can chill back in the sunken pool bar followed by a massage with reflexology.
If you’re into horse riding, or your children would like to learn, the Bali Equestrian Centre in Canggu (20 minutes from Seminyak) has been designed to accommodate the entire family. For ages 3 years and above, expect pony rides and day camps for the little ones, lessons, family village tours and beach rides.
After your ride, you can enjoy dining at the beautiful restaurant, swim in the pool area and going wild at the playground with glorious views over the main riding arena.
The sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is a great way to spend part of your day. Currently, over 600 long-tailed macaques inhabit the forest. Kids, big and small, can enjoy the beautiful, lush forest walk and take in the cool shade as you wind your way around the stone path to the sacred temple.
Expect to see entire monkey families, mothers with infants, siblings grooming each other and even the occasional dispute – just like home! Make sure you watch your bag and glasses. The term “thieving monkey” doesn’t come from nowhere! Want to give the kids some time away from you? Let them spend a day in a place where adults are banned: at the Cubby House Kids Club for ages 2-12 years.
If it’s raining, why not try your hand at some ten pin bowling, visit a cinema or bring the family together for some board games in your hotel or villa. Enjoy some extra fun at the Marriott Hotel in Nusa Dua, where guests are invited to treat their taste buds the night before Christmas as the hotel hosts a sumptuous Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner in the opulent surroundings of MoMo Café.
With a fantastic Christmas Choir performance and a very special visit from Santa Claus for younger guests, this celebration is the perfect way to kick off the Christmas festivities. On Christmas Day, from 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM, kids are invited for a special photo session with Santa and one of his elves, along with face painting and a drawing and colouring contest.
In the evening, fill your belly with an abundant Christmas Barbeque Buffet Dinner, preceded by the sounds of the Christmas Choir at 6:30 PM. Santa Claus will also be paying a visit to the hotel’s very special ‘little VIPs’.
For those who want a little bit of jingle in their bells
Some of Bali’s high-end clubs are situated perfectly on the beachfront, where you can enjoy a myriad of Christmas experiences. Enjoy a casual lunch by a beautiful pool, over looking the sea and stay long enough to indulge in an evening meal of the highest standard. Dance away the hours of the night to some of the World’s best DJs and live performers.
Potato Head, Seminyak
Potato Head Beach Club blends the daytime beach party, upscale restaurant and sophisticated nightlife into an experience that transitions guests from day to night.
Bali is not only a place with enchanting tropical beaches, but a place where days and nights mesh together. Tens of thousands of partygoers from across the world have danced the night away with international DJs since hu’u opened in 2001.
Deus Ex Machina, Canggu
Enter Canggu’s skinny jean scene, where you can tuck into a great meal, down a few drinks and marvel at how many good-looking people hang out in Bali. This place is always heaving on a Sunday eve, and Christmas time will be no exception.
Ku De Ta, Seminyak
Surrounded by the fresh ocean water, Ku De Ta’s elegantly designed spaces seamlessly transition into a lively backdrop for music, dancing, lounging, and dining as the sun sets into the evening.
In a celebration of all that’s amazing about a summer Christmas, the famous beach club is offering a four-course feast in its restaurant that includes an extravagant smoked Danish ham, Moroccan grilled sword fish and a black forest dessert. In a nod to tradition, there’s also slow roast Christmas turkey with all the trimmings and KU DE TA’s house-made Christmas puddings.
Keep the kids’ table happy with a menu designed just for them, filled with Christmas classics like roasted chicken and barramundi fillet, as well as fun twists on traditional dishes. To top it all off, look out for that very special visit from Santa on a motorbike!! He’s in Bali after all…
W Retreat and Spa, Seminyak
As we’ve come to expect from the folk at W Retreat & Spa Seminyak, they have decided to “abandoned the expected” this Christmas. All their venues will offer sophisticated dining experiences that are a feast for the senses.
Catering to the night owls, Director of Cuisine, Jack Yoss will recreate the comforts of home at FIRE restaurant this Christmas Eve with a set menu being dished up from 6pm – 11pm.
Looking for something a little more grown-up? Many of Bali’s best restaurants, hotels and resorts will do something a little bit special for the Christmas period. This is a fabulous time to visit some of the top dining venues and experience the best culinary delights that Bali has to offer.
Expert chefs stretch their imaginations to create something unique and tantalising to bring you that extra special-something to your Christmas and Boxing Day menu. Some venues will also have special entertainment booked. Treat your taste buds and your senses and make sure you book ahead. Here are a few suggestions to get your mouth watering…
The Slow, Canggu
Hot new opening in Canggu, The Slow is a multifaceted island stay incorporating art, food, drink and rooms. Head Chef Moran has created a contemporary take on Christmas dinner., using sustainable, seasonal produce of course. A must try this festive season.
Da Maria, Seminyak
Bon Natale! Da Maria is a modern Italian restaurant in the Osteria style and is the brainchild of Australian Restaurateur, Maurice Terzini. Fancy an Italian style Christmas with stylish interiors? Look no further.
Ginger Moon, Seminyak
Welcome to Ginger Moon, a modern eatery inspired by the people of Bali, and the myriad of tropical ingredients which make the island’s cuisine so exciting.
With rain and grey skies expected this Christmas season, comfort food is required. Chef Dean’s “Mother in laws” chicken curry will certainly warm things up, accompanied by lontong (rice cake steamed in banana leaf) and crispy fried shallots. This new addition to Eat Street is bound to put a smile on your face this Christmas.
Five Elements, Mambal
Got a vegan at the table this Christmas? Keep them (and the rest of the gang) happy at Five Elements Sakti Dining Room. This incredible kitchen produces epicurean vegan and raw living foods, sure to surprise and delight the traditional idea of a Christmas lunch.
Serving modern contemporary European cuisine using local, honest produce, Locavore is a Christmas favourite. Best of all, the informal spacious restaurant located in downtown Ubud allows you to feel right at home and get into the spirit of things without messing up your home or holiday digs. Winning!
With glistening rice fields bordered by bananas, an airy pavilion with a sleek bar of polished bamboo, Sardine will keep the nature lovers happy this Chrissy. The menu stars fresh seafood and organic produce from Sardine’s own farm. So you can feel good knowing your overindulgence isn’t doing your body any harm.
Set in the beautiful expanse of a coconut grove, this relaxed restaurant is helmed by 3 Michelin star Chef, Kevin Cherkas. Indulge in this year’s Chef’s Festive Menu, available only from December 15 until January 2.
The delights start with a tribute to Shepherd’s pie – a smoky ragout of flavourful beef rib meat, red wine, onions and mushrooms covered by lightly whipped mashed potatoes. Try a rustic new version of Grandma’s Chicken Meatballs served with exotic tamarillo jam.
Guaranteed to fill your belly and get you feeling Ho Ho Ho. Find out more at cucaflavor.com
For something a little bit romantic, why not try…
Enjoyed in a lush tropical setting, Mozaic Restaurant is a fresh oasis in gastronomy. A multitude of flavours can be celebrated this Christmas with an exceptional 6 course special degustation menu with delicious choices including Indian Ocean rock lobster, black truffle soup and wine pairing.
La View Restaurant at Kapu Kapu Barong
For intimate wining and dining, make your way to this charming split-level setting with an outdoor terrace. Under a canopy of stars, share a romantic candlelight dinner upon a unique floating dining setting set high against the backdrop of lush forest and the enchanting Ayung River Valley below.
Listen to the sound of the water and birds singing while enjoying Asian/French fusion cuisine. Try to get there for sunset and embrace a magical festive experience as it drops.
Rock Bar at Ayana Resort, Jimbaran Bay.
This innovative open-top bar is perched on a natural rock 14 meters above Jimbaran Bay, taking the concept of “on the rocks” to a whole new level. Perhaps not for those who are scared of heights, the bar is accessed via an inclinator that traverses the cliff-face. Rock Bar has a tasty new menu this Christmas. Perhaps you are looking for something to do this weekend with the family? On Sunday the 21st of December 11:30am – 2:30pm, tuck into the perfect holiday brunch with a delicious poolside buffet and some fun, festive family time.
Villa Mathis, Umalas
Ensconced in the heart of a vast and lush tropical garden planted with native and exotic species, Villa Mathis’ signature restaurant, Les Nuits Baroques, offers a gourmet cuisine where the scent of lemongrass and nutmeg are unrivalled.
This Christmas you can choose to have a more intimate and romantic dinner at the pool or enjoy the restaurant’s ‘ephemere’ concept – where you can set a table anywhere in their one hectare metre size garden. Indulge your every sense with the romantic Xmas dinner menu at Villa Mathis. Find out more at secret-retreats.com/mathis.
Tandjung Sari, Sanur
Enjoy some smooth jazz on the beach in Sanur at Bali’s oldest boutique hotel, Tandjung Sari. Find out more at tandjungsarihotel.com.
Seaduction Bar, Canggu
For a laid back drink and a great view over Canggu, go to the Seaduction Bar on the rooftop of Frii Hotel. Find out more at friihotels.com.
If you prefer to be away from the crowds, why don’t you prepare your own Christmas feast in the privacy of your own villa. Head down to Carrefour, Bali Deli, Bintang or Coco Supermarket to stock up on various (hard-to-get) ingredients and recreate some traditional recipes. You could even request your villa chef to prepare a Christmas lunch especially for you and your family and friends.
Now it’s down to the business of gift giving. Bali is a shopper’s paradise and there is something for everyone. A menagerie of shopping can be found, from one-off designer items to market gear. If you cant find it, have it made! For some have-it-all shopping centres, try Bali Beach Walk or Discovery Mall.
For the youngsters you can head to beachwalk to enjoy Christmas carols, visit Santa Clause, and attend a kids fashion show. And just like home, don’t forget that you can also dash over their for the Boxing Day sales! If malls aren’t your thing, explore the multitude of flea markets in Bali and see what you can haggle. Spoil the ladies at a nice home deco and furnishing shop such as Piment Rouge, Kemarin Hari Ini or Bagatelles.
Chocolate lover on the to-buy-for list? Head to Be Chocolat by Michel Clement. For something a little different in Canggu, The Deus Gallery always has sports a few items to spark the imagination. They’re not all about the motorbikes, tattoo Tuesdays and live music, as it turns out.
To get away from it all, cleanse your body and your soul with a visit to Tampak Siring holy spring water temple in the Gianyar region, 30 minutes from Ubud.
Offer prayers and thanks as you look to start a New Year and say goodbye to 2014. Be prepared to get wet as you submerge yourself in the crystal clean waters that bubble up from the earth and in this very special place. A truly magical experience.
Hot Tip: Try to get there early as it becomes very crowded by 11am.
If you are looking to experience a more traditional Christian Christmas in Bali, you well most certainly have the opportunity. Although a predominantly Hindu island, Bali has communities of other religions.
During Christmas time, Christian Balinese gather in their masses to unique churches that blend traditional Balinese architectural features.
Some of the most notable Balinese Protestant and Catholic communities are located in the villages of Palasari and Blimbingsari in West Bali.
InBali contributors share their thoughts
So what are some of our contributors up to this Christmas and what’s their advice for a Christmas in Bali? We jumped into their already bursting schedules and asked them a few questions…
What are your suggestions for gifts and Christmas shopping in Bali?
LANI: Bottles for Earth! A growing percentage of visitors are very aware of not contributing to the plastic issue in Bali. These stainless steel hydration bottles are stocked all over Bali and make the perfect environmentally friendly gift or souvenir. My absolute favourite store in Bali is Bungalow Living Cafe & Gallery. The gallery, which is across the road from the cafe itself, is a treasure trove of goodies. Leather goods, cushions, beaded necklaces, Indian-style journals – my most prized possessions I have acquired during my hours of digging through their amazing collection. Gift vouchers to the Away Spa at the W Hotel are the ultimate gift of indulgence. Having a treatment there is such an experience. The detox room with oxygen masks, the plunge pools, the herbals teas and snacks. Even the voucher packaging is beautiful!
MASHA: Comme Des Garcons perfumes from Potato Head’s concept story – they give you the illusion there is some high fashion in Bali and bring you the memories of big city life. And also the artsy ceramics from Kevala Spa getaway at Como Shambala, the most luxurious retreat in the woods.
CARINE: I love discovering and re-discovering boutiques on the island. The following are my favourite shopping haunts and designer finds I’ve stumbled upon, and they have wonderful gift ideas for Christmas: 1. Bermain Bali – it’s an artsy, cutesy retro-esque kid’s shop for little peeps. Yep, I’m a BIG kid a heart. 2. Bungalow Living in Canguu, for a boho feel and amazing handmade products and homewares. 3. Erika Peña – her fashion range is right up my alley, from ethnic, African to resort style and boho chic. Erika’s a Bali local and her amazing fashion pieces are now manufactured on the island.
JOHN: I have been shifting my focus to items that are consumable rather than those that just take up space on a shelf – soaps and teas and the like, small things that bring joy and health to the mind and body alike. There is a great Bali tea store on Jalan Camplung Tanduk in Seminyak.
NICHOLA: If you’re buying for a special female in your life – mother, girlfriend or sister – you can’t go past Magali Pascal. She’s a beautiful French designer and the boutiques have amazing jewellery in store too. A voucher to Mama San, my favourite restaurant in Bali, would also make a lovely gift, as would a pampering day at Body Works. This is my favourite place to take some time out in Bali. You can spend all day being massaged, getting your hair treated and your nails done. The staff are so lovely and take care of your every need. A great gift for yourself to unwind during the silly season or someone else who is special in your life.