Ubud is a bustling cultural hub of vibrant art, delicious food and traditional Hindu architecture located 1.5 hours from Denpasar. Spirituality, rejuvenation, mindfulness, culinary delights and relaxation are all words that spring to mind when travelling through Ubud. From the beautiful Balinese Hindu temples, the greenery of the rice fields, spectacular waterfalls, tastiest street food and bustling market atmosphere, Ubud ticks all boxes for the perfect family holiday.
As a couple, we had travelled to Ubud many times, but never with the kids. On our recent trip to Bali, we returned to Ubud for a 5 night stay with our 2.5 year old and 5 month old. Lets just say, by the 5th night, we wished we had booked for longer. There is so much in Ubud and surrounds to do with kids. Here are our highlights.
Goa Gajah (or Elephant Cave) is a Balinese Hindu temple located about 10 minute drive from the centre of Ubud. This beautiful site is believed to be a spiritual hub for meditation for Balinese Hindus and it’s a great place to take the kids. There are spectacular sculptures surrounding the cave as well as bathing pools, smaller temples and and a lily pad pond at the back of the complex, which makes it a great place for kids to explore. The cave entrance is amazing in itself. You enter through the mouth of “barong” and wander through the darkness to smaller sculpture of Ganesh and Shiva.
We arrived early in the morning, around 8:00am, which was perfect as we were the only ones there and it wasn’t too hot. It’s important to note that you will need to wear a sarong at this temple. You can bring your own or they lend you one when you purchase your ticket. The ticket was 15,000 Rupiah (AUD$1.50). There a quite a few stairs down to the temple from the car park, so if you have younger kids/babies a carrier would be beneficial. It’s not recommended to take a stroller.
Kanto Lampo waterfall
Kanto Lampo waterfall is a large waterfall located about 30 minutes west of Ubud center. From the car park, there are a few steps down to the waterfall. You need to pay 15,000 rupiah pp for a ticket to enter the waterfall. From the ticket booth you walk down the stairs past amazing rock sculptures that resemble Barong and Hindu gods on the wall on the way down to a small Hindu temple which overlooks the beautiful river. To the left of the temple are steps that go down to the river where you are able to swim and to the right are uneven steps that cross a section of the waterfall that lead to the waterfall itself. If we had known, we would have been a little more prepared.
We had our baby in the carrier, and we ended up carrying our 2.5year old. It’s not far, maybe 50 metres odd from the temple, but it was slippery. However, it is definitely worth it. Once you venture down the slippery steps (20-30 steps) there is a small platform where you can view the waterfall. This is as far as we got as there were too many rocks down to the falls, and was a little dangerous for our little ones, however if you had slightly older kids, it would be absolutely amazing place to explore.
We arrived at 8:30am and it was perfect. The lighting that came through over the opposing hill through the trees was beautiful. It was hot, as it is in a rainforest type atmosphere, so be prepared to sweat a little. A dip in the river will soon fix that. It is definitely worth a visit, although with smaller kids, you may have to tag team to swim under the waterfall itself.
Tegenungan waterfall is another waterfall located 25 minutes south east of Ubud Centre. This is another great waterfall for the family to explore, however, be prepared to walk up/down a lot of stairs to get there. A Baby carrier is recommended here, and strong arms to carry younger ones back up to the top. There also seemed to be a lot more tourists here than Kanto Lampo waterfall, maybe because it is easily accessible and a better place for a swim. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area as it is pretty spectacular. The beautiful mountain surrounds make for a perfect backdrop to any family photo.
Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple
Tirta Empul is a Balinese Hindu water temple located about 30 minutes North of Ubud centre.
The temple grounds contain a beautiful spiritual Hindi bathing pool in which the Hindus go for ritual purification. We have been to Tirta Empul many times and have entered the ‘pool’ to participate in the ritual. It’s a very spiritual experience in which you start at the left and work your way slowly to the right, cleansing your head and face under each spring of holy water as you move along.
As our kids are only 2.5 and 5 months, we did not go in this time, although looking back, I wish we had taken our eldest in. He was fascinated by the experience and enjoyed watching the locals “wash their hair” under each spring.
The temple complex itself is a magical place. There is a large Hindu temple and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.
It’s important to note that you need to wear a sarong at this temple as well as in the pool. You cannot use the sarong they provide at the temple to go into the water. You need to bring your own one.
ARMA art and culture Museum
If you happen to be around Ubud on a friday evening and have young kids, it is definitely worth heading over to the ARMA art and culture museum for the Barong dance and cultural show. The show starts at 6:00pm, which is great if you have younger kids. Most other cultural performances start at 7:30pm. The best part, is there was only 15 other people at this show, so you don’t have to tackle the crowds.
ARMA stands for the Agung Rai Museum of Art and was founded in 1996 by Balinese born Agung Rai who wanted to preserve Balinese art. The complex itself is stunning, and really hinders on the traditional Balinese architecture.
The show is performed outside with a spectacular Candi Bentar (split gate) as the backdrop. The show runs for approximately 1 hour and explains the meaning of Barong. Barong is a storytelling dance, which depicts the fight between good and evil. Barong is the king of the good spirit in the Hindu religion and his enemy is Rangda. The show itself represents the fight between Barong and Rangda – the good and bad spirit.
Ubud Royal Palace – Puri Saren
The Royal Palace (Puri Saren) is one of the main tourists sites in the town centre of Ubud. It is located on Jalan Raya Ubud road opposite the main central market. The palace is a great place to visit with kids as it is smaller so little legs won’t get too tired, it’s in the centre of town so it’s easy to get to and it’s free.
The sculptures and carvings are amazing and have been so well preserved since their construction date in the 1800’s. We had a pram with us as we incorporated the Palace in with the market and a restaurant for lunch. It was pram friendly with only the odd step up to the next level.
They also have a cultural show within the grounds at 7:30pm each night. It has a great reputation for being an awesome show, however it was too late for our little ones so we did not attend.
Rice terrace walk
Just a short walk from the Royal Palace is the start of a beautiful rice fields walk. This was a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Ubud town centre.
The walk itself runs along a narrow path that weaves its way through the beautiful rice fields lined with coconut trees, organic cafes, yoga retreats and craft shops. We chose to do this walk over the ridge walk as it was extremely hot and sunny, and the ridge walk has no shade. The walk itself is beautiful. Our son loved running through the rice fields and getting out into nature. We walked up to the Sari Organik cafe, and kept going along the narrow dirt path that went deep into the rice fields.
The Sari Organik cafe sells an array of fresh fruit juices and amazing organic breakfasts. We only had the juices, however, the food looked amazing. The view from the balcony is worth a visit in itself. This is definitely a great walk with young kids. Our son loved seeing the rice and learning how rice was made. Lots of shade, plenty of cafes and shops.
The only concern with this walk is you’re sharing the narrow path with motor bikes. So you’ll need to keep the little ones close by so they can move out of the way from the bikes passing by.
From the Royal palace, turn right (west) and head down Jl.Raya Ubud for approximately 500m. Keep walking past the Pura Dalem Temple (also worth a visit) and you will get to a small street that looks like a driveway and heads up a hill. There is a tattoo shop on the corner. Walk up the hill and follow it to the left around the bend.
Walk along the narrow path on the right hand side and not the road. This is the start of the track.
The beautiful Batuan Temple is a larger Balinese Hindu temple located approximately 10km from the centre of Ubud. The temple grounds are beautiful and the traditional architecture and sculptures and very well preserved considering they are over 1000 years old. This is a great place for kids who are fascinated in sculptures and statues. At the time of our visit, there were locals weaving baskets which were used in the hindu ceremonies a the temple that evening. Inside the temple complex is a large Balinese gate called the Kori Agung which is represents the entry and exit of the Balinese gods. The gate is surrounded by beautiful ancient sculptures which are known as the “guardian states”. There are a few steps within the temple complex, and I wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller for the little ones, however, it is not a large complex, so little legs should be able to manage okay. Entry to the temple is 15,000 rupiah pp (AUD $1.50)
Kedisah rice terrace.
This amazing rice terrace is located on the Northern end of the Tegalalang rice terraces. The rice terraces itself are beautiful and a great place for little ones to explore and learn how rice is made.
Our son loved running through the fields and exploring the terraces. The downside, it is tainted by instagram! What does this mean? Scattered along the rim of the rice fields were “birds nests” where people pay to sit in man made nests and get a photo. Although it looked quite cool it sort of tainted our opinion by the half nude women (and men) flaunting themselves in ridiculous poses inside the nests to get that perfect instagram shot.
It was then we realised that people aren’t there to experience or learn how rice is made or the effort that goes into growing it. There was also a large swing that went out over the rice field. It looked like so much fun! Until we saw that it cost 350,000 rupiah (AUD$35) and again women in bikinis swinging out over the rice fields, yelling at their partners to get better photos. You are also able to rent a flowing dress or “The natural terrace swing dress rental”.
If that’s your thing, then amazing, you will get some great photos, but it’s not ours.
Keep in mind, this was the “less touristy” of the terraced rice fields. As we drove away and down the hill back towards Ubud, we drove past the main Tegalalang rice terrace. As a couple we visited this terrace about 8 years ago and wow has it changed. It is now surrounded by souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, swings, nests and hundreds of tourists. I don’t blame them though, it is very beautiful. A walk around the terraces is definitely a must with the kids. Just be prepared to share them with lots of people.
As a couple, we visited the Monkey Forest 8 years ago. It was an amazing forest of beautiful architectural buildings engraved with stunning carvings of Hindu gods covered in green moss….and Monkeys! When there we had our sunglasses snatched from our face, our water bottle taken and saw a man get bitten on the shoulder by the ferocious monkey. As cute as they are, we did not feel comfortable taking our 5 month old and 2.5 year old, for obvious reasons. It would be great for older kids as it is like something out of a fantasy book. Just ensure you don’t have any food or loose items on you. If you have a backpack, make sure its closed securely and just be careful. Those monkeys are scary!
Getting around in Ubud:
Due to local government regulations, there is no taxis or ubers in Ubud. Most hotels and resorts will have a shuttle service to and from the main part of town. Alternatively, there are plenty of “taxi” drivers on the street offering their services to take you places. Negotiate prices with them and pay per the hour. Usually around 50,000 – 80,000 rupiah for the hour. (AUD $5-$8). Most will offer you day trip options, but feel free to tell them where you would like to go to suit you and they are more than accommodating to your needs and wants. Please note that there are very limited car seats in Ubud. We did not travel with a car seat, and found it very difficult to find one.
Where to stay in Ubud:
You are spoilt for choice for amazing places to stay in Ubud, and to be honest, when researching places to stay, we struggled to narrow it down. We decided on The Greenfield hotel. We are so glad we did. Set just off the main road on the southern end of town is a beautiful resort with rice fields right at your doorstep.
We opted for a ground floor deluxe room as we are travelling with younger kids. The grandeur of the room itself was magic. Traditional Balinese style furniture with a four poster bed, lounge chair and high ceilings. They gave us a cot for no extra charge as well. The resort itself has two pools. One salt water pool overlooking the rice fields, and second larger chlorine pool.
Full buffet breakfast is included at this resort, which was a mix of indonesian and western style food. This resort is perfect for families and we highly recommend to stay here.