In movies and magazine spreads, Bali looks like a balmy, year-round beach lover’s paradise. And for a good portion of the year, it is. Temperatures average between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the island is also located in the tropics, and from November to March, rainstorms and humidity envelop those parakeet-green forests and buttermilk-hued beaches. Of course, there are some advantages that come with traveling during the low season -- fewer tourists, more eager hosts, and lower prices, to name a few. To help you plan your visit, we broke down what you can expect in each season. Keep in mind that these “seasons” are applied loosely and with a western mindset since Bali sits in the Southern Hemisphere and most people here don’t focus on four separate seasons.
Editor’s Note: Mount Agung in Bali has been on the brink of eruption, and officials continue to extend the state of emergency on the island, though the alert level has been lowered. We recommend checking for travel advisories before booking your trip.
Bali’s heaviest rains occur from December to February. The first and last months of the year in particular are humid and hot. So, why would anyone want to visit this time of year? A little rain never stopped a mind-altering massage, wallet-friendly craft shopping trip, or a pulsating evening of clubbing. Plus, the tourist population, which swells in the high season, is much more manageable during the wet months. You won’t have to worry about traffic jams or finding an open patch of sand on the beach. During the rainy season, about 20 days of the month bring precipitation. But remember, the rain usually stops and the weather is still warm enough for relaxing on the sand. Typically, a downpour lasts for an hour or less. Bali has so many microclimates that it may be raining on one part of the island and not on another. The precipitation also helps keep the temperature cool in the evening. There’s another a plus side to the weather from November to April, particularly for surfers: the water is at its warmest.
Interesting events during this time include Saraswati in January, a day devoted to Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, art, and literature. Beginning in the morning, the Balinese faithful make offerings to holy books. In some parts of Bali, Chinese New Year is accompanied by dragon parades and fireworks. On the holy day of Tumpek Landep (which occurs in early February), metal objects are blessed and cars and motorcycles are decorated with stitched leaf ornaments.
Many people consider April to June the best time to visit Bali. The rainy season has ended, but the big tourist crowds of the high season haven’t arrived yet. These are excellent months for snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing. Swimming at one of the island’s most exclusive beaches, Nusa Dua, may require staying at a nearby resort. If you’re not staying at a resort, but still want a secluded experience and perhaps a lesson, check out Bali Jet Set Dive and Marine Sports. Pemuteran Bay has a coral reef conservation project that’s stunning to see, as well as many pearl farms. And Banyuning has a Japanese shipwreck that has become home to tropical fish and shy reef sharks.
As the weather improves, the number of festivals increase. The Bali Spirit Festival in late March brings yoga enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate the discipline, along with music and dance. Saka New Year is a holiday celebrated in Bali in several ways. On its eve, the faithful chase away evil spirits (bhuta kala) by smacking pots and making merry noise. Papier-mâché effigies named ogoh-ogoh are built in the weeks leading up to the celebration and paraded down the street. The new year (also known as the Day of Silence) is observed by unplugging from technology (including electric lights) and not traveling. So, when mid-March rolls around, be prepared to chill. On the day after, the village of Sesetan partakes in the kissing ritual in which people throw a lot of water on each other and do a little smooching to celebrate.
July and August are the most popular months to travel to Bali -- and for good reasons: temperatures are moderate, rainfall is minimal, and the waves for surfing are high. That said, the prices of flights, hotels, hostels, and tour guides all go up. Anyone planning on visiting during this time should book far in advance. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself elbowing your way through crowds of yoga devotees and stressed-out families trying to get away from it all.
For anyone who has always wanted to surf in Bali, this is the time of year to come. The waves off of the Bukit Peninsula are some of best in the world nearly every day in July and August. Landlubbers who want to stay on the beach can enjoy soothing breezes (just be sure to head out early to secure a spot).
Plus, plenty of events occur during this time to entertain tourists. From mid-June to mid-July, the Bali Arts Festival features traditional dances, handicraft exhibitions, and rarely seen village rituals. In August, the week-long Nusa Dua Fiesta offers similar art displays along with sporting events. For kite fans, the Sanur Kite Festival is quite an amazing sight. Pandas, octopi, and snakes all float in the air in search of one of the prizes awarded during the three-day competition. There are also awards for innovative new flying crafts.
July and August are also prime months for clubbing, with beachside locations such as La Laguna (in Canggu) and La Plancha (in Seminyak) offering a mix of cocktails, food, tunes, and views of sandy dunes.
From September to November, the weather in Bali changes quite a bit. Many travelers to Bali consider September as desirable as the spring, with just a couple more rainy days on average and slightly higher temperatures. The majority of the high season crowds have left by now, making it a lot easier to find a place in the sun and sand. October and November bring the return of the rainy season, though the rainy days tend to take up about half of the month and the temperatures average in the low 90s. Humidity levels in November can reach 80 percent, so travelers should expect to get drenched at some point. Still, the rain is often followed by a cool breeze.
In October, the Kuta Karnival (on Kuta beach) offers visitors a combination of a kite exhibition, Balinese art and sand sculpture competition, and food festival. For those who prefer to head to the beach to kick back with a good book, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, also in October, hosts more than 150 local and international authors who come together to give readings, discuss their work, and lead seminars about writing.
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