Adventuring through Beautiful Bali
With stunning beaches and steep, terraced mountains, Bali is idyllic, one of the most picturesque destinations on the planet. But the rich culture of the Balinese makes a family trip here more than a fun-in-the-sun beach vacation. Despite the tourists that pour into Bali, the islanders have preserved a mystical and optimistic spirituality that may be what your children remember most.
You want to do a little bit of planning before you buy tickets to Bali because when you go will make or break the experience. The best time to go is the dry season, which falls in winter.
Balinese Winters Offer the Best Weather
Bali is in the southern hemisphere, which makes its seasons mirror-images of our own. It has a tropical monsoon climate with dry and wet seasons. That makes December, January and February summer months the heart of the Bali rainy season. June, July and August are Bali's winter and the driest part of the dry season.
Don't bring your family to Bali during the rainy season. It is cheaper at that time, but traveling during the monsoon season has distinct disadvantages. The air is hot, sticky and humid. It rains almost every day and the precipitation makes it difficult to see 10 feet ahead of you, let alone cavort on a beach. Roads turn into mud banks.
From June to August, the temperature and humidity drop, and the cool breeze rises. That is the best time to go to Bali in terms of weather. Unfortunately, the dry season is also the high season when tourists flock into Bali and prices rise.
Depending on budget considerations, you might be better going just before or just after the peak months. You'll get significantly lower prices if you visit during the shoulder season. Go in April, May or September, and you'll have decent weather and avoid the worst of the crowds.
Getting Around Bali
Bali has so much to offer that you won't want to plunk down on a beach and stay put for two weeks, so find a way to get around the island.
You'll want to trek to the Goa Gajah/Elephant Caves (Jl. Raya Goa Gajah, Ubud 80581, Indonesia), an ancient grotto of 9th century stone carvings, and pay an early morning visit to the holiest temple, Pura Besakih/Mother Temple (Desa Besakih, Rendang, Besakih, Rendang, Kabupaten Karangasem, Bali 80863, Indonesia).
You'll want to take the children to see 2,000 species of plants including hundreds of orchid varieties at the Bedugul Botanical Garden in Candikunig (Jl. Kebun Raya, Candikuning, Baturiti, Kabupaten Tabanan, Bali 82191, Indonesia). And pay a visit to Bali Bird Park (Jl. Serma Cok Ngurah Gambir, Singapadu, Batubulan, Sukawati, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80582, Indonesia), home to Bali's most endangered species like the Bali starling, Javan hawk and cassowary.
While it's easy enough to rent a car in Bali, consider carefully. There is a stark comparison of the driving system in Bali to the U.S. The Balinese drive in the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right. In case you get into an accident, you have to pay large fines even if the accident wasn't your fault.
Your best bet is to hire a car and driver to take you where you want to go. This arrangement gives your family the freedom to explore the back roads of beautiful Bali, and a local driver will have less trouble navigating the roads.
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From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.