Canggu Is The Kid-Friendly Bali Trip Your Family Deserves
Full disclosure: I love Bali. I know a lot of Australians don't like the place, synonymous with bogans, Bintangs and braids. But I can't get enough. I've done the tourist-y Seminyak resort trips, I've done the Eat Pray Love Ubud couples retreats, I've done the partying till dawn on the beach with friends trips. And just recently I did something completely new, I did the sensible family holiday to Bali.
If you think Bali with a toddler can't be done, think again. You just need to be wise about where you stay. Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are hectic. Ubud is too quiet. Sanur, while it's tipped as the place for families, is in my opinion: boring.
Where Do The Cool Kids Go?
The place to stay in Bali is Canggu. It's about 45 minutes outside of Seminyak and was once a sleepy little village visited by hippies and surfers. Nowadays it's created quite a buzz, reinventing itself as the Byron Bay of Bali. It's not overly busy so you can always get a table for lunch and you can walk down the streets without being knocked over by Aussies on motorbikes. But it's also not too quiet so that you miss out on all the fun. There are LOADS of cool cafes, restaurants, shops and beach bars so the adults can still have fun - and the majority of them are kid-friendly. It's not a resort town so book a family villa with a pool and make that your base to explore all that Canggu (or "the Gu" as the cool kids call it) has to offer.
Where To Eat?
As I said, there are so many options and there seems to be a new cafe popping up every week (run by an ex-pat Aussie who has had enough of the fast-pace life). A family favourite for us is the Echo Beach House where you can get fresh seafood cooked before your very eyes as you enjoy an ice-cold beer as the sun goes down over Echo Beach. It's super cheap (like $10 for a fresh seafood plate!), has all-you-can-eat sides (great for hungry toddlers who can't wait for their meal to arrive) and I would go as far as saying that the seafood is the best in Bali - even better than the famous Jimbaran Bay. Oh and go for happy hours - I'm talking $4 margaritas!
For yummy Mexican food with lots of space for little ones to run around - and even a cactus garden to explore - you can't go past La Mexicana. They have a cheap kids menu with mini Mexican favourites.
My son's favourite restaurant might not tout itself as kid-friendly (I would go as far as saying it's a romantic couple night out kind of place) but Dandelion was soooooo super welcoming to kids. The waitstaff took my son by the hand, showed him the resident rabbits and handed him lettuce to feed these cute bunnies. Needless to say, he was in his element and we got to enjoy some local cuisine in a fine dining setting, overlooking the rice paddy fields.
Where To Play
Finns Recreational Club (formerly Canggu Club) is a mega water park that you could easily spend a whole day at. There are loads of waterslides at every age level, including one that even adults will think twice about entering. There are rope swings, a lazy river with floats, tipping buckets and plenty of deck chairs for relaxing and enjoying a meal (and a cocktail or two). Entry is less than $100 for the whole family and it's not overly busy so you'll never be lining up for rides!
Canggu's beaches are a mecca for surfers but not so much young kids who want to paddle. It doesn't seem to matter because there's so much atmosphere on the beaches, take the kids to the beach for sunset to hear music playing, people drinking on beanbags and all walks of life enjoying the pink skyscape. There are also lots of people flying drones and various other contraptions that will entrance your toddlers as they gaze up into the sky. Start at Old Mans Beach and walk your way up to Echo Beach. Grab some freshly cooked corn from one of the vendors along the way and enjoy the atmosphere.
If you want to try your hand at surfing, make sure you put your life into the hands of experts - Canggu can be pretty treacherous for beginners! I highly recommend Baruna Surf Culture - the instructors pick you up and take you just outside of Canggu to a chilled out spot called Kedungu which is much more suitable for beginners and those trying to climb the ropes. The team are super friendly, they'll listen to your concerns and always make sure you have a smile on your face. Your happiness is their happiness! So if you've ever wanted to try, here is your place to shine.
Old Man's Beach Bar
It might seem like an oxymoron but the bars in Canggu are super kid-friendly! I especially love The Lawn where you can stretch out on a picnic rug on the grass and watch the surfers, take a dip in the pool or sit upstairs to get the best view of the sunset - there's even a rocking horse for the kids! Also a favourite of the whole family is Old Man's which reminds me of a classic Aussie beer garden that's been gentrified with cool mosaic tiles, an outdoor shower for the beachgoers and Western-style pub meals. And if you go early, I recommend Finns Beach Club for its gorgeous ocean views and infinity pool that has you looking over it watching the surfers. Of an evening it can get pretty rowdy with the cool crowd but if you go for breakfast you'll have run of the place.
The brand new one in town is called La Brisa and as the name suggests (it means sea breeze), it has an easy breezy vibe, so it's the perfect setting for kids who want to splash around in the pool bar while mum and dad have a beer and enjoy a fried chicken bao bun (ohmygod so good!). I just love the rustic fisherman's decor, the bar was built using reclaimed wood from more than 500 old fisherman boats, so it's one of the most sustainable eco-friendly venues in town. Oh and did you see the view?
Of course pretty much anywhere you go in Bali is a bar, all the cafes serve alcohol, so pull up a deck chair and relax - it's Bali, baby!
Finns Beach Club
Echo Beach House
How To Get There
There are several budget airlines that will get you to Bali direct from Sydney. Fly into Denpasar and then organise a driver to get you to Canggu (many of the villas will offer this service). It's roughly a 1.1.5-hour journey from the airport depending on traffic. Check out the Bali Bible for more up to date tips on Canggu. And see you there, we have vowed to make it a yearly pilgrimage!
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