Bali Alternatives: 21 Stunning Destinations That Rival Bali, Indonesia

by Jackie
A view of people and boats on the white sandy beach of Arambol Beach in Goa, India, one of the best alternative places to visit instead of Bali, Indonesia

Bali is one of our favorite Indonesian islands to visit. We’ve visited the “Island of the Gods” many times and love the beautiful landscapes and rice terraces, incredible beaches, and tons of outdoor adventures. 

Yet, we’ve seen the changes over the years and how Bali is experiencing an influx of overtourism. 

According to The Bali Sun, Bali has a goal of 4.5 million incoming visitors by the end of 2023, and it’s already received 4.3 million tourists from January to October 2023. It’s a lot of people on this island! 

From the slow crawling traffic on the narrow roads to the increase in prices for attractions and entering the country, visiting Bali is not as peaceful as before. 

So, where are alternative destinations to visit that are similar to Bali? 

With the help of our travel blogging friends, we’re sharing 21 alternative places to visit instead of Bali in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. 

These “destination dupes” are less touristy, more affordable, and have vibes comparable to Bali, so consider one of these options for your next island getaway!

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Map

Map of places to visit around the world instead of Bali, Indonesia

Click on the map to see a detailed view of places to visit instead of Bali, Indonesia. Credit: Map data: Google


Bali Destination Dupes for Southeast Asia

1. Nusa Penida, Indonesia

By Jackie & Justin, Life Of Doing

Nusa Penida, located south of Bali, is a fantastic place to visit instead of Bali mainland. 

It’s the largest of the Nusa Islands (the other two are Ceningan and Lembongan), yet it has casual and quieter island vibes. 

There aren’t any mega resorts here, so you stay overnight at a guesthouse or a bungalow with a jungle or ocean view.  

The absolutely stunning landscapes and ocean views are one of the top reasons to visit. 

From the descending steep cliffside of Kelingking Beach to the Instagram-worthy treehouse overlooking Thousand Islands Viewpoint, there are many picture perfect sceneries to enjoy. 

Jackie Szeto and Justin Huynh, Life Of Doing, sit on the edge of the cliff and sees the right side of Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is a top Indonesian island to visit instead of mainland Bali. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

For those who want to relax and soak in the sunshine, hang out at one of the beaches. Diamond Beach and Atul Beach are recommended spots to spend a few hours. They won’t be crowded since they require a short hike down a cliffside. 

Seeing manta rays on a diving and scuba diving adventure are also highlights of visiting Nusa Penida. You could get your scuba diving certification done here too.  

To get to Nusa Penida, you’ll need to take a speedboat from Bali mainland, Gili Trawangan, or Lombok. Unfortunately, Nusa Penida does not have an airport. 

Traffic around Penida Island is not congested like in Bali, yet it can be slow on the narrow roads. 

In previous years, the roads were a pothole mess but now they’re paved. So, if you’re interested in driving a motorbike, it is doable but drive slowly and carefully in the steep areas.    


2. Java, Indonesia

By Jackie & Justin, Life Of Doing

Java is the largest island in Indonesia and well worth the visit as a destination dupe to Bali. There are different areas and things to do based on your interest. 

Yogyakarta, located in central Java, is an ideal starting point for those who want to learn the history of the famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Borobudur and Prambanan Temples

Both are beautiful temples to see in person. Yet, Prambanan’s temple complex is more exciting as you can walk, cycle, or take an electric tram to the smaller temples. 

Otherwise, Yogyakarta is an urban area with plenty of shopping, local eats such as gudeg (unripened jack fruit and seeds), and the Royal Palace. 

When heading to eastern Java, the number of adventurous activities increases. 

From hiking the active Mount Bromo volcano, seeing Ijen Crater’s Blue Flames, and trekking through waterfalls such as Tumpak Sewu Waterfall, it’s an exhilarating area for adventure seekers to spend a few days or up to a week. 

Note: Many of these attractions require a midnight or 1am start time so get some rest as much as you can. 

Purple and orange skies as the sun rises at Ijen crater's turquoise lake

Ijen Crater on eastern Java is a beautiful place to see an active volcano. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

After the nonstop adventures, what about the beaches? To be honest, beaches were not a focus of our itinerary.

Yet, Timang Beach near Yogyakarta is a beautiful option where you can walk on a suspension bridge or take a gondola to a small rocky island. 

Java is more conservative compared to Bali as most people are Muslim. So, please be courteous and respect the culture. 


3. Gili Islands, Indonesia 

By Robin, Where To Stay Bali

If you’re fed up with the crowds of Seminyak and the constant traffic jams of south Bali, consider visiting the Gili Islands instead. 

Nestled by the western coast of neighboring Lombok island, Gili islands are an idyllic destination not to be missed for travelers seeking perfect beaches and unspoiled nature. 

There are three famous islands. Gili Trawangan is the biggest island with the best facilities and a good nightlife scene. Gili Air boasts incredible romantic villas perfect for a couple’s stay or even a honeymoon. Gili Meno is the smallest island, perfect for an off-grid stay.

Three people sitting on one of Gili Trawangan's white sandy beach at sunset

Gili Islands is near Bali and worth a visit for fewer crowds. Photo credit: Where To Stay Bali

What’s special about the Gili Islands? Well, for starters, cars are not allowed, to protect nature. 

Forget about the noise and traffic of mainland Bali, and get ready for tranquil strolls and bicycle trips. 

Another thing that you should know about these special islands is their pristine nature. While Canggu or Uluwatu in Bali may be perfect for surfing, their beaches are nowhere near as pretty as beaches in the Gili islands. 

And, apart from offering turquoise water and white sand, the shores here are teeming with colorful fish and turtles, which you can see everywhere. 

Some of the best snorkeling places include Turtle Point and the underwater sculptures

On top of that, hotel prices are often much cheaper compared with the tourist hot spots in Bali.

Getting to Gili islands is also super easy, and daily boat services leave from Bali’s Padang Bai, Sanur, or Amed.


4. Nha Trang, Vietnam

By Jackie & Justin, Life Of Doing

Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s popular beach towns and is similar to Bali with beach vibes. 

With 6+ kilometers (3.7+ miles) of golden beaches along the coastline, you’ll see plenty of people playing volleyball, hanging out in the afternoon, and splashing in the ocean. You can rent a day bed on the beach to rest all day long. 

Other exciting activities include snorkeling off a nearby island or doing water sports such as jet skiing. Or, visiting the VinWonders Nha Trang theme park or Hon Tam Island for a day trip. 

While Bali has Hindu temples, Nha Trang has Buddhist pagodas and temples to visit. Long Son Pagoda is a pretty place to visit with the tall white Buddha statue overlooking the city. 

Another popular spot is Po Nagar Cham Tower which was built by the Cham people, an ethnic minority group. The restored Cham Tower looks similar to Cambodia’s Khmer temples in Siem Reap

Two Cham Towers at the Po Nagar Towers in Nha Trang. The towers are made out of red bricks and have a triangular roof.

Po Nagar Cham Towers is a top place to visit when you’re in Nha Trang. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

Since Nha Trang is a destination to fully relax for a few days, a unique experience is to spend a half day or a full day at the hot spring. 

There are a handful of hot spring spots with natural mineral waters and mud baths to rejuvenate the skin. Public and private areas are available on request. 

I-Resort is a recommended place for an upscale experience. The private villas for spa treatments and mud baths are worth the pampering. 

As with accommodations, Nha Trang has both luxury international hotels such as Intercontinental, and budget-friendly guesthouses. Many are located near the beach for easy access. 


5. Sapa, Vietnam

By Jackie & Justin, Life Of Doing

Sapa, located in northern Vietnam, is a mountainous destination and worth the visit instead of Bali.

This area has many attractions to check out such as the gorgeous rice terraces, hiking trails through ethnic minority villages, and the highest peak in Vietnam – Fansipan Mountain

Sapa’s rice terraces rival Bali’s, especially during the harvest season. They’re a beautiful sight with a golden color. Yet, the rice terraces cascading on the mountains are jawdropping throughout the year. 

Afternoon sun shines on the rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam

If you love Bali’s rice terraces, then Sapa is another place to check out. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

For those seeking cultural experiences, trekking and visiting an ethnic minority village provides insight into the Hmong, Day, Xa Pho, Dao, and Tay people. 

Many visitors take a day hike through the touristy Cat Cat Village, but hiking through the Muong Hoa Valley area is less traveled and very peaceful. 

Staying overnight at a homestay and having a meal with the local family is a memorable experience. 

Bali is known for the beautiful gates at the temples, such as the Lempuyang Temple’s Gates of Heaven or Handara’s Gate. 

While Sapa doesn’t have Hindu temples, several attractions have replicas of the gates. Check out Moana Sapa or Heaven Gate at O Quy Ho Pass so you feel like you’re actually in Bali! 

The weather varies between Bali and Sapa. Bali is hot and humid all year round while Sapa experiences seasonal weather. 

Therefore, Sapa is a great getaway for the winter for cooler weather. You may experience a rare drizzle of snow too!  


6. Siargao Island, Philippines 

By Katie, KatieCafTravel.com 

Siargao Island in the Philippines is a great alternative to Bali, attracting surfers and travelers alike. 

As the surfing capital of the Philippines, Siargao boasts world-class waves and a variety of surf camps for all skill levels. 

The prime time to visit Siargao is September, aligning with the island’s National Surfing Cup at Cloud 9, which is fun to watch for both beginner surfers in Siargao and the more advanced.

A wooden boardwalk over the turquoise waters of Siargao Island, Philippines

Siargao Islands is the perfect place to practice surfing. Photo credit: KatieCafTravel.com

Siargao’s appeal extends beyond surfing. One of the best things to do on the island is to take a tri-islands tour to Naked, Daku, and Guyam Islands.

Travelers visiting Siargao should also consider taking a tour from Siargao to Sohoton Cove. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can safely snorkel with stingless jellyfish

The island’s tours are famous for ending in a traditional Filipino “Boodle Fight” buffet lunch, featuring creatively arranged rice, noodles, fruit, and fresh fish, which are artfully shaped into little pictures and words. 

You can get to Siargao by taking a short flight from Manila or Cebu to Siargao’s Del Carmen IAO airport, or a budget-friendly option of an overnight ferry from Cebu to Surigao, followed by a short local ferry.

For accommodations, the Surfing Temple, a boutique hotel popular among surfers, and Nay Palad Hideaway, a luxurious 5-star beachfront hotel, are some of the best on the island.


7. Langkawi, Malaysia

By Penny, Globetrove

Bali is one of the most popular places that tourists flock to. The island however can get super crowded. 

If you are fed up with the crowds, then think about heading to Langkawi which is one of the cool islands that Malaysia has to offer. 

It has its own international airport and is pretty well connected. Plus there are loads of flights from Kuala Lumpur too!

Now this island receives its own fair share of tourists but it is definitely less crowded than Bali. 

It also has some great beaches, you can head out kayaking, swimming, diving, or take one of the numerous mangrove tours in Langkawi.

The best part about heading here is that there are loads of options where accommodation is concerned.

You could choose to indulge in one of the five-star hotels which are luxurious or you could choose a budget option instead. Even the hostels are pretty cool.

Another thing that many people love about Langkawi is the amazing food. There are some amazing food markets and they keep rotating depending on the day of the week so make sure to check which one is close to you!


8. Borneo, Malaysia/Indonesia/Brunei

By Annelies, Travelers & Dreamers

Borneo is a great alternative to the often tourist-packed Bali. Firstly, it is less crowded, offering a more serene and authentic experience. 

Compared to Bali, you can also still view lots of wildlife here, like the famous orangutans and the funny-looking Proboscis monkeys which are endemic to Borneo. 

An orangutan sitting on a tree branch in Borneo

Seeing the orangutans and wildlife is a highlight of traveling to Borneo. Photo credit: Travelers & Dreamers

Furthermore, Borneo is a magnificent island for nature lovers.

While there isn’t that much untouched natural beauty left in Bali, Borneo is still home to large patches of intact primary rainforest full of hidden waterfalls, caves, and amazing jungle trekking routes.

Bali is a great island for diving and beautiful beaches and, if you are looking for good underwaterworld experiences, Borneo is also a wonderful choice. 

Sipadan is a top-diving destination and again, you can come here without the crowds you will find in Bali. 

If you like Bali for its rich cultural heritage of Balinese Hinduism, you can also have an equally immersing experience in Borneo where you can learn about the various tribes that live in Borneo, like the Dayak and Iban, each with their distinct customs.

Highlights in Borneo to add to your bucket list are Bako National Park for seeing Proboscis monkeys in the wild and The Kinabatangan River where you can spot orangutans and even elephants. 

Other highlights are Mount Kinabalu for trekking and Sipadan Island for diving.

Do note that Borneo is still quite off-the-beaten-path and is not that easy to get around. It’s not common to rent motorbikes here and some destinations can only be reached on organized tours.


9. Chiang Mai, Thailand

By Catherine, Nomadicated

If you’re looking for a destination with the same jungle allure as Bali, a distinctive cultural vibe, and a thriving digital nomad scene, Chiang Mai in Thailand should be your next stop.

Geographically, even though Chiang Mai doesn’t have a coastline, both places are jungly and full of greenery. Mountains surround Chiang Mai, while Bali features its volcanos. 

Hop on your motorbike for a road trip to cultural temples, small ethnic villages, and cascading waterfalls

The only difference is that in Chiang Mai, you won’t have to deal with that nasty Bali traffic, and the road infrastructure is much better.

Just like Bali, Chiang Mai is steeped in culture and tradition. You’ll find more than 300 temples scattered throughout the city. 

An evening view of a golden temple in Chiang Mai with colorful lanterns lit

Thailand’s Chiang Mai is the perfect place for jungle landscapes and temples. Photo credit: Nomadicated

Plus, you’re just a few hour’s drive from Chiang Rai, home to the famous White Temple. 

Bali is a huge digital nomad hub, but Chiang Mai is often called the ‘Digital Nomad Capital of the World.’ Although the reason for both are plentiful, Chiang Mai has just a slight edge. 

It’s got a more affordable cost of living and, being smaller, has a super tight-knit community of digital nomads who organize events at Chiang Mai coworking cafes and spaces very often.


10. Koh Kood, Thailand

By Jen & Ryan, Passions and Places

Many aspiring visitors to Bali, especially honeymooners, imagine secluded resorts, private beaches, and pure peace and quiet. 

While those things can certainly be found on the Island of the Gods, they’re sometimes marred by the traffic jams, air pollution, and incessant noise plaguing Bali’s jam-packed cities. 

And that’s to say nothing of the crowds of tourists making most of the beaches feel more raucous than tranquil.

But if you’re looking for romantic walks on private beaches and a place to deeply relax and connect to your partner without any distractions, just head 1,600 miles north of Bali, to the island of Koh Kood, Thailand.

Koh Kood is the unspoiled paradise Bali wishes it still was, a place still mostly free of over-commercialized resorts, wild beach parties, and masses of backpackers. 

The island is quiet and laid-back with little pretension, the beaches are immaculate and uncrowded, and you never have to worry about touts or scams.

An outdoor cafe seating area with a table hanging from a wooden platform and two seat cushions at Koh Kood, Thailand

Koh Kood is truly a destination to visit for the relaxing island vacation. Photo credit: Passions and Places

It also offers low-key adventures perfect for a trip that’s about getting away from it all.

Rent a motorbike and tour around the island. Kayak the mangrove forests along the river. Wander through the fishing villages of Ao Yai or Ao Salad. Visit the waterfalls in the interior of the island. Go scuba diving or snorkeling off the coast.

Or, just relax and enjoy the tranquility. This is the perfect place for it – and it just might be exactly what you were hoping for in Bali.


South & East Asia Destinations Similar to Bali

11. Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

By Shweta, Zest In A Tote

If the cultural immersion in Bali excites you, then you will be pleasantly surprised by Sigiriya. Sigiriya is located in central Sri Lanka, about 170 kilometers (106 miles) from Colombo. 

The rock citadel in Sigiriya, cultural places in Polonnaruwa, and Dambulla Temple make up the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Lion Rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This massive rock citadel looms about 200 meters (656 feet) high and offers stunning views of the flat landscape around it. Once you summit, there are ruins of the Sky Palace that will amaze you. 

Another stop in the Cultural Triangle is Polonnaruwa. This was the capital of the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms for about 3 centuries. There are numerous ancient sites to visit including the Royal Palace and beautiful Buddhist statues.

A Buddha statue with its legs crossed carved into a rock at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa is a stunning place along Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle to see Buddha statues. Photo credit: Zest In A Tote

The rock cave temples of Dambulla are a popular religious site in Sri Lanka. The 5 caves within the Dambulla Temple hold a vast number of Buddhas in different positions. You can also do a wildlife safari at Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park.

Sri Lanka and Bali share similarities – the warmth and hospitality of the locals, plenty of local cuisine options, sandy beaches, and budget-friendly to luxury accommodations. 

Unlike Bali, Sri Lanka gets far fewer crowds, and the nightlife and art scene is not as thriving. 

Yet the 3000 years of ancient civilization history and the more diverse landscape make it a fantastic destination to visit.


12. Goa, India

By Hanit, Gotta Love New York 

Goa, a popular destination located along the western coast of India, is a great alternative to visiting the island of Bali. 

Both Bali and Goa offer stunning beaches, amazing food, cultural heritage, and a laid-back vibe where visitors can make memories for a lifetime.

Goa is actually a small state in India, and visitors usually make their way to its coast along the Arabian Sea where the beaches are a big attraction. 

Visitors can choose between North Goa, which is more populated and offers food and nightlife options to suit every budget. 

South Goa is well known for its luxury resorts, which offer privacy, secluded beaches, and high-end restaurants.

Pink and purple sunsets on a beach in Goa, India

Goa is the place to visit in India for the beach and delicious food. Photo credit: Gotta Love New York

Goa offers a unique blend of Indian and Portuguese influences that are evident in its architecture, food, and way of life.

Fontainhas, the oldest and largest Latin quarter in Asia is located in Goa, as is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church which dates back to the 16th century. 

The nightlife and beach parties in Goa are well known, as are its night markets and colorful festivals.

Similar to Bali, Goa has options to rent full-service villas or hotels at all price points. Given both are located in Asia, the quality of service is second to none.


13. Maldives

By Mayuri, Fernwehrahee Blog

Bali is best known for its beaches and is the perfect tropical paradise for beach lovers. 

Maldives, on the other hand, is also known for its crystal clear blue turquoise water, beautiful marine life, and green landscapes on the islands. 

With more than 1000 islands, Maldives is considered less touristy than Bali. 

Each island of Maldives is unique and it’s divided between local and private island resorts. 

Bali has luxurious Airbnb and high-end beach resorts making it perfect as a romantic destination. 

Maldives also has expensive overwater bungalows with an intimate atmosphere which is perfect for honeymoon lovers.

A white sandy beach and blue waters in Maldives

Maldives has stunning beaches and bungalows to experience on your next trip. Photo credit: Fernwehrahee Blog

Both Bali and the Maldives are renowned for their water-based activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and water sports (ie: jet skiing and parasailing). They are popular in both locations due to the rich marine life and clear waters.

Many people think that visiting Maldives is expensive as compared to Bali but you can always visit Maldives on a budget by visiting local islands

This way you can get insight into local Maldivian culture and you can do day trips to private resorts for a luxurious experience. 

Also, note that Maldives is a Muslim country so you need to respect local laws for dressing appropriately. 

Insider Tip: If you want to experience both the world – stay at both local islands and over-water bungalows to keep things on budget!

Surely, Maldives is the perfect destination for beach and sunset lovers as compared to touristy Bali! 


14. Jeju Island, South Korea

By Zhen, A Love Letter to Asia 

Like Bali, Jeju in South Korea is a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches and mountains. It’s so beloved that people call it Korea’s Hawaii! 

Just like how Bali is very different from mainland Indonesia, Jeju Island is also dissimilar to mainland South Korea

The lifestyle is much more relaxed and it is also less crowded. It’s recommended over Bali because Bali is getting too crowded with the influx of digital nomads! 

Yet, you can still enjoy everything you can get in Seoul on Jeju Island, such as delicious food, jjimjibangs (Korean saunas), as well as cheap and good skincare. 

Insider Tip: After visiting South Korea over 10 times, some of the best food was on Jeju Island!

Jeju has several UNESCO sites with Seongsan Ilchulbong and Mount Hallasan being two particularly popular ones. 

At Seongsan Ilchulbong, you can also meet Haenyeo, or the elderly women divers of Jeju, who are famous for diving underwater without any equipment. The practice has been inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. You can even buy some of the seafood that they have caught! 

Two statues of Haenyeo women divers next to a beach on Jeju Island, South Korea

Jeju Island is a top destination in South Korea for beaches and outdoor adventures. Photo credit: A Love Letter to Asia

Mount Hallasan is a great place to watch the sunrise, especially during the New Year. It’s also the tallest mountain in South Korea, which makes it a fantastic hiking spot

Although the cold and windy weather in Jeju is a world’s apart from Bali’s tropical climate, Jeju is a good place for surfing with Jungmun Beach being one of the most famous spots.


15. Okinawa, Japan

By Aaren, What Do You Sea 

Framed by turquoise waters and miles of white sand beaches, Okinawa is a tropical refuge often nicknamed the “Hawaii of Japan”.

It parallels Bali in many ways with unique culture, island hopping, nature, endless coastlines, and quaint cafes to settle into. What separates the paradises is what makes Okinawa a solid alternative to Bali.

The biggest difference is tourism on each island. Since the reach of mainstream media hasn’t touched Okinawa, it remains untouched and frequented by locals from the mainland. 

Because of this, the culture is well-preserved across the island, tourism sites aren’t overrun, traffic is basically nonexistent, and there aren’t endless queues just to snap a photo.

A view of a small town off Okinawa's coastline

Who wants to visit Okinawa, a Hawaii equivalent in Japan? Photo credit: What Do You Sea

Okinawa’s beaches are what most expect to find everywhere in Bali: crystal clear water, powdery sand, and calm ocean to swim in. 

While they’re exclusive to some areas of Bali, they’re endless in Okinawa and without the crowds. Also, its nearby islands boast some of the clearest waters in the world.

There are plenty of things to do year-round, but the best time to visit Okinawa will depend on what you want to see and do. 

Timing a visit is crucial since each season is distinct with its own draws. 

Whale-watching and Japan’s earliest sakura (cherry blossom) blooms happen in the winter, summer is primed for beach days and diving, and the spring and fall seasons each have their own roster of cultural festivals and attractions. 

Museums, the Churaumi Aquarium, Kokusai Street, and ancient castle ruins are popular any time of the year. 


European Destination Similar to Bali

16. Sagres, Portugal

By Aimee, OurSaltSouls

If you are looking for Europe’s answer to Bali then the little town of Sagres in Portugal is your answer. Sagres is much smaller than that of Bali with a population of only 1,894 inhabitants. 

It’s located on the furthest southwestern point of Portugal. It can be reached by flying to Faro followed by a 1.5-hour drive.

However, those who flock to Sagres are looking for the same laid-back sun, surf, and sunset vibes that Bali provides. 

The local coffee shop Laundry Lounge not only serves up açai bowls with excellent coffee but also runs daily yoga classes as well as live music nights. 

The best thing about Sagres is the lack of pollution and traffic due to the well-planned larger roads surrounding the city. 

There is also a conscious effort to keep Sagres very clean for those who visit, especially the beaches in the surrounding area.

A view of the coastline and mountains in Sagres, Portugal

Sagres is a place in Europe with similar vibes to Bali. Photo credit: OurSaltSouls

While in Sagres, the main attraction is to surf its pristine coastline. There are two well-known surf breaks in the area; these are Praia do Tonel and Praia de Beliche. 

For beginner surfers make sure to head to Praia de Beliche as it is sheltered from the winds and tends to have calmer more rolling waves than those of the surrounding beaches.

For amazing sunset views make sure to also check out Sagres Fortress. From here you can see views over the beautiful, rugged coastline with surfers enjoying their last waves for the day.


The Americas (North & Central America) Spots Similar to Bali

17. Hawaii, USA  

By Katie, Trekking The Dream 

Despite being over 6,000 miles apart and having an 18-hour time difference, there are some striking similarities between Bali and Hawaii. 

With clear turquoise oceans, lush green landscapes, and unique pristine beaches, these tropical paradises both have stunning flora and fauna and plenty of things to do.  

While there are many similarities, there are also some differences. Hawaiian towns and cities have a much more developed, western feel than Bali’s more chaotic, crowded, and rustic towns.  

Self-drive is an affordable and safe option for travel around Hawaii with its extensive, well-maintained road network. 

For those not wanting to drive, plenty of modern buses and comfortable private hire cars will take you anywhere on the Island for a reasonable price.  

On the other hand, Bali is much slower to travel around. While cheap, self-driving is not recommended. 

Poorly maintained roads and vehicles often cause long delays when crossing the island, with accidents being an all-too-common occurrence among locals and tourists.  

The coastline of Hawaii with the ocean and black sandy beaches

Hawaii is a fantastic place similar to Bali, especially with the island vibes. Photo credit: Trekking The Dream

Both Bali and Hawaii are great surfing destinations, but Hawaii is the home of surfing, and with warm water all year round and some of the most consistent waves on the planet, it is easy to see why. 

Novice surfers can practice their skills at Kahalu’u, which has easy access to the bay and reliable waves close to shore. 

For those seeking something bigger, Banyans Beach is a favorite surfing hotspot for locals and tourists, with breathtaking reef breaks every day of the year.  


18. Bermuda

By Victoria, Guide Your Travel

For those seeking an alternative tropical escape, Bermuda emerges as an enticing option, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. 

While Bali, Indonesia, has long been a go-to destination, Bermuda provides a refreshing departure for travelers seeking a more tranquil and sophisticated experience.

Bermuda’s allure lies in its pristine pink-sand beaches, surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters. The island boasts a subtropical climate, making it an ideal year-round destination. 

Steps on a rocky area that leads to turquoise ocean water in Bermuda

Bermuda’s turquoise waters are the top reason to visit here. Photo credit: Guide Your Travel

Unlike Bali’s bustling nightlife and crowded beaches, Bermuda offers a serene and laid-back atmosphere. 

The island’s charm extends beyond its beaches, with historic sites such as St. George’s, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Royal Naval Dockyard, showcasing its maritime history.

In Bermuda, outdoor enthusiasts can explore the lush landscapes through hiking and biking trails, while water lovers can indulge in snorkeling and diving adventures in the vibrant coral reefs. 

For a taste of local culture, visitors can attend the Gombey Festival, where traditional dance and music take center stage.

Landmarks like the iconic Horseshoe Bay Beach and the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse offer panoramic views of the island. 

Insider Tip: Exploring the hidden coves and caves along the South Shore is a must for those seeking secluded spots away from the crowds.

In summary, Bermuda is a captivating alternative to Bali, providing a refined and tranquil escape with its pink-sand beaches, historical landmarks, and diverse outdoor activities. 

The island’s unique charm and relaxed ambiance make it an ideal destination for those in search of a distinctive tropical experience.


19. Caye Caulker, Belize

By Sally, Sally Sees

While Bali once had a rich cultural charm and local feel, sadly the island has been overtaken by tourism. 

The island has been commercialized to cater to the millions of tourists arriving each year, leaving behind a sterile, internationalized, and busy version of what Bali once was.

The tropical vibes many people are seeking when they visit Bali don’t really exist anymore.

Enter Caye Caulker. Tropical paradise in the Caribbean, Caye Caulker is Belize’s laidback, ‘go slow’ island. Seriously, that is the motto of the island – to go slow.

The island has no cars, palm trees sway overhead sandy streets, and there are no large resort chains, fast food restaurants, or mega malls. 

A blue and orange Sip N Dip Beach Bar signage on the white sandy beaches of Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is an ideal destination to enjoy the slow paced lifestyle. Photo credit: Sally Sees

Caye Caulker has a distinctly Belizean feel, with reggae tunes filling the air, freshly caught lobster grilling on BBQs on the beachfront, and colorful clapboard houses lining the streets

There are even colorful hand-painted signs providing the Instagram aesthetics many travelers seek in Bali.

The Caribbean waters are electric blue, and perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 

Caye Caulker sits right on the edge of the Belize Barrier Reef, and under the surface is a rich marine world, full of turtles, sharks, rays, and manatees.

Don’t miss the opportunity to fly over the Great Blue Hole, the largest marine sinkhole in the world, hang out at The Split, a deep channel that is the best place for a swim, and see giant stingrays in the shallows at the Iguana Reef Inn. 

Sunsets from the west side of the island are spectacular, and the Caribbean-style cuisine is delicious.


20. Tulum, Mexico

By Carina, bucketlist2life

Tulum, Mexico is an excellent alternative to Bali. Like Bali, it offers beaches, gorgeous photo spots, and delicious healthy food.

Why is Tulum a great alternative to Bali? 

Firstly, because the best season to travel to Bali is summer, the best season to travel to Tulum is winter – this way you can be somewhere warm and tropical all year round. 

Secondly, Tulum is much closer for travelers based in the U.S.

Another great draw of Tulum is the Caribbean beaches. Many beaches in Bali have strong waves or currents and hence are not as safe for swimming as the super calm Tulum beaches.

A small white sandy beach without any people at Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico is a special place to visit instead of the touristy Bali. Photo credit: bucketlist2life

Bali is known for its watersports like snorkeling or scuba diving. 

Did you know that Tulum is located right next to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Great Mayan Reef? This makes Tulum a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts.

Additionally, Tulum can compete with Bali with another amazing body of water: The cenotes. Cenotes are sinkholes filled with groundwater. 

In other words: You can swim in caves in Tulum!

Bali is known for its yoga and wellness culture. While there are also plenty of yoga and spa options in Tulum, a Temazcal or Mayan steam bath is an experience unique to this part of the world.

In contrast to the amazing Hindu temples in Bali, there are countless Mayan ruins close to Tulum if you want to get your culture and history fix. Chichen Itza is even one of the seven world wonders.


21. San Blas Islands, Panama

By Eleanor, Elevate Your Escapes

The San Blas Islands in Panama, also called Guna Yala, is a great alternative to Bali for a tropical island getaway. 

They are an archipelago of 365 islands and cays off the north coast of Panama, home to the Guna people and their colorful molas. 

The islands are known for their pristine environs, sailing, and ecotourism.

Unlike Bali, which is a Hindu-majority province in Indonesia with a rich and diverse culture, arts, and biodiversity, the San Blas Islands are mostly inhabited by the indigenous Guna people, who have preserved their traditional way of life, language, and customs.

You can enjoy snorkeling and diving in the crystal-clear waters, exploring the coral reefs and marine life, sailing on a catamaran or a speedboat, visiting the different islands and villages, learning about the mola art and craft, and relaxing on the white-sand beaches.

Some of the landmarks you can stop by are El Porvenir, Carti Sugtupu, Cayos Limones, and Cayos Holandeses.

Palm trees lined along a white sandy beach of San Blas Islands, Panama

San Blas Islands needs to be on your bucket list for the swoonworthy island adventure. Photo credit: Elevate Your Escapes

Some tips to know before visiting are:

  • You will need to bring a passport and a visa (if required from your home country). There is a fee to enter Panama and the Guna Yala comarca.
  • You can book a tour or a package, or arrange your transportation by hiring a car and a boat.
  • The best time to visit is from December to April.
  • The accommodation options are mostly rustic and basic, with limited electricity, water, and internet.
  • The food is mostly seafood, rice, and plantains.
  • You should respect the Guna culture and customs.

Final Thoughts

Which of these destinations do you want to visit instead of Bali?

We hope you’re inspired to visit one or more of these Bali alternatives for your next trip. You’ll enjoy fewer crowds, less touristy attractions, cultural experiences, and ambiance similar to this popular island.  

Happy traveling! 

Like this post? Save it to your Travel Pinterest board.

Top photo of a white sandy beach with people in Goa, India, and the bottom photo is of the descending cliffside of Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida, Indonesia

Featured photo & pin #1 top photo credit: nanka-photo via Depositphotos.com

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