Lush beaches covered in black sand, stunning vistas atop the dramatic limestone cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula, the majesty of volcanoes Batur and Agung, and, of course, the world-renowned surfing scene are just a few reasons why Bali has become one of the most-loved travel destinations in the world. Each year, travellers flock to the island to experience its landscape and culture.
Aptly named “The Island of the Gods,” Bali is a predominantly Hindu island in a mainly Muslim country. The Hindu culture is woven into the fabric of daily life on the island and adds to its natural beauty with the many ornate temples and imposing statues of Hindu Gods that can be found all over the island.
I’ve been visiting Bali for the last ten years, which isn’t really all that long, but at the rate the island is developing I feel like I’ve seen Bali through many different stages. I make an annual trip and each time I marvel at how much has developed in only one year; so much change that it often feels like several years has passed.
Even before vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants came onto the scene, it was always relatively easy to find good local vegan food. Tempeh is widely used throughout Indonesia and can easily be used as a substitute in dishes that traditionally come with meat or fish. There are also plenty of tasty traditional dishes, like Gado-Gado (without egg) that are already vegan and can be found at most warungs (small restaurants or cafés)
These days, there are seemingly endless options for vegans in the most-loved destination spots of Bali, beyond the classic rice and veggies. Some of the most delicious vegan food I’ve ever had has been in Bali, so I’d like to share a few of my favorite places to eat at one of my favourite places on the island, the Bukit Peninsula.
The Pecatu region of the Bukit Peninsula
The Bukit Peninsula is situated on the most southerly point of the island and the Pecatu region is comprised of some of its most popular areas, including Balangan, Bingin, Padang-Padang, and Uluwatu. Tourists come to this area for the surf and its unique landscape, which is in stark contrast to the rest of the beaches in Bali. Characterised by its limestone cliffs, the beaches on the Bukit are small and secluded, accessible only by descending many precarious stairs. One of the most stunning temples can be found here and is built along the cliffs at Uluwatu. A decidedly slower-paced area compared to some of the other popular tourist spots in Bali, the Bukit has seen a lot of changes over the years, but still manages to maintain a pretty relaxed vibe and some of its rural charm.
The area features a vast variety of accommodation options: what used to be limited to local homestays, bare-bones bungalows, or tiny, family-run inns has developed into a dizzying array of choices. There are opulent villas perched atop the cliffs, sleek apartments, sprawling hotels, comfortable Airbnb stays, along with the old-school budget hotel options.
If you wish you can find accommodation right on the beach, but bear in mind that it takes a certain level of fitness to lumber up and down the many, many steps you’ll take to get there.
Southern Bali has a severe water shortage; if you’ve ever visited you’ve probably noticed a fair number of water trucks. They’re trucking in all of the water for the region, so I try to be mindful of the amount of water I’m using and try to find accommodation doing their part to help conserve and tread as lightly on the environment as possible.
Tucked down a side road in the Bingin neighborhood of the Bukit Peninsula, what Melali lacks in Indian ocean vistas is made up for with style, privacy, and comfort. Nearly everything at Melali has been locally sourced, and owners Elise and Liam make efforts to be as eco-friendly as possibly by recycling, using local produce, and utilizing a filtration system which makes the tap water potable, which is a rarity in Bali. Breakfast (with vegan options!) is included in your stay; I most highly recommend the decadent coconut porridge with a fresh juice and Bali coffee.
The Cashew Tree
One of my favorite places to grab a nourishing meal after a surf is at The Cashew Tree, a casual eatery in Bingin with a very cool, relaxed vibe. Over the years The Cashew Tree has become a favorite among locals and tourists alike, serving up juices, big healthy bowls brimming with organic vegetables, and their own spin on local favorites. There are several vegan options and many of their other dishes can be made vegan.
This is the spot to be on Thursday nights for live music, dancing, and their famous frozen margaritas.
Owned by the same family who owns The Cashew Tree, Kelly’s Warung is located right on Bingin Beach. A smaller, more limited offering than what is at The Cashew Tree, Kelly’s Warung still has delicious vegan options, which are enjoyed on their comfortable deck overlooking Bingin’s famous surf-break. Kelly’s also offers basic but comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price.
Set in the back of a beautifully curated surf boutique on the main road, Labuan Sait, Drifter serves up the usual café offerings, in addition to breakfast and lunch.
Sit outside in their tranquil garden setting between the shop and their gallery space, and enjoy a delectable tofu scramble, or one of their beautiful smoothie bowls.
Or sip on an espresso on their front porch and enjoy a raw vegan treat while watching the world whiz by on motorbikes.
You might be surprised by the proliferation of Italian restaurants in Bali, particularly in the Bukit region. It’s almost as if a bunch of people got together and decided that the only thing the area was lacking was for several Italian restaurants to open at once.
They’re all pretty good, but, in my opinion, La Baracca, which is located on Labuansait heading toward Uluwatu, tops the charts for both ambiance and food quality – AND they have several vegan options.
In fact, they have a vegan pizza here that is to DIE for. I never knew fried pizza was actually a thing until I indulged in my very first one at Baracca. They call it the Pizza Bombie ; the crust is crispy and surprisingly light and the homemade vegan cheese is out of this world.
Located on the road heading toward Balangan, Saffron is a vegetarian fusion restaurant with plenty of vegan options and boasts a menu completely made from scratch. I’m not really one for mock meats, but they have a couple dishes with mock chicken and they’re quite delicious! Saffron’s quiet setting makes it great for date night.
This local warung is about a 15-20 minute motorbike from the Uluwatu area heading toward Jimbaran and well worth the drive (look for the sign “STOP Makan YUK on the left side of the road) – especially if you’re on a budget, since a meal here probably run you no more than $5 USD. This isn’t a vegan spot, so be sure to ask which items are safe as you choose from the offerings of traditionally prepared foods. There are typically a few vegan options to choose from and include anything from tofu dishes, tempeh manis , a slightly sweet preparation of tempe, gado-gado, and a variety of rice or noodles.