If you want to ride alongside spinner dolphins in wooden fishing boats, engage with the friendliest locals on the planet, immerse yourself in local culture, and maybe even treat yourself to a $15 massage while you’re at it, Northern Bali is the place for you.
Transportation in Bali is pretty wild, and pretty limited to either hiring a driver, a ‘taksi’, or trying your luck on a rented motor scooter. Hiring a driver is your best option if you can afford around $30-$50/ day dependent on distance, time, and your negotiation skills. There is only one way up to Northern Bali coming from Denpasar, or anywhere in Southern Bali, and that is a four hour drive winding up scooter-infested roads, the beautiful rice paddies of Ubud, playful road-side monkeys, and beautiful inland lakes.
There are plenty of options for accommodation, ranging from small villas ($10 USD), to more expansive beach-front condominium properties such as the Lovina Hotel. Most are located right on the beach, and all the ones we have strolled by seem clean and inviting. It is a great place to relax, or if you are like me and have a problem sitting still, there are endless activities.
Lovina is famous for its dolphin cruises at dawn, and although the dolphins were not in the mood to play with us this morning, it was still an amazing trip being out on the ocean and seeing the sunrise over the Lovina coastline. You are almost guaranteed a glimpse of the friendly spinner dolphins as they travel in large pods and hunt near the Lovina coastline. The trip is two hours and costs about 100,000 (Rupiah or Rp) per person (roughly $8 USD)!
The black sand which covers the Lovina coastline is the prime example of the beauty and filth seen all over Bali, and many other places I have traveled in South East Asia. Walking along the shoreline leads you past beautiful villas next to beheaded chicken coups, past smiling Balinese faces, and through piles of garbage. The stark contrast between one step and the next is fascinating.
You can get lost for hours strolling along this strip of sand, and it allows for a real look inside the daily lives of Balinese people. We saw babies laughing as their fathers chopped up bloody fish, old women carrying heavy loads upon their heads smiling through the gaps in their teeth, and every fisherman we passed smiled at us. I have never been in the presence of a culture that was so engaged with the human identity, and so content with it as well.
The temple lies along winding roads nestled high above Lovina, and is immaculately cared for. We had the place to ourselves, and this was the first time in my life where I have had the pleasure of experiencing complete silence while visiting a temple.
I’m not sure how much ‘soul-cleansing’ I accomplished in the sacred springs, but it is a beautiful place to spend an hour or two frolicking in the natural warm waters. The teal water pours out from the mouths of eight Naga, or dragon-like statues, and gets its color from the sulphuric water. We went in the morning around 8 am, and it was the perfect time to get a chance to explore the springs without too many visitors.
If you are staying at private hotel or villa it can be easy to miss the beautiful madness of downtown Lovina. The roads in either direction of the infamous Lovina Dolphin statue are teeming with unexpected life. There are markets selling every kind of elephant-pant, souvenir, or wood carving you could ever dream of owning, local volleyball matches, and plenty of small bars and restaurants to keep you satisfied. Bin Tang is the beer of choice in the North, and after a long, hot day there is absolutely nothing better. And at 25.000 (Rp) or about $2 USD, you can afford more than a couple!
Getting out of the southern tourist hives and into lush rice paddies, local villages, hot springs, and dolphin-filled waters is a must if you want to enjoy Bali for all its immense worth.