Regular readers know that I recently returned from a month-long trip where I spent most of my time on the incredible Indonesian island of Bali. I'm a mature solo female traveller who loves natural landscapes, cultural experiences, and slow travel. During my month, I got all that and so much more. Some of the most spectacular natural sites are the magnificent waterfalls scattered all over the island. With so many great things to do and see in Bali, it simply isn't possible to visit all the waterfalls within most travellers' schedules. Today, I want to share my reflections as I compare three magnificent waterfalls: Tegenungan, Banyumala, and Goa Raja to help you prioritize your time when visiting Bali.
The volcanic nature of Bali, with mountains, ravines, and rugged escarpments results in waterfalls along almost every waterway. Some are small, some are huge, but each is a refreshing retreat with its own charm and allure. It's tough to choose a favourite but I have decided to compare three of the best-known that I visited: Tegenungan, Banyumala, and Goa Raja. I will compare each waterfall based upon several key criteria:
Effort Required to Access the Waterfall: As a mature traveller, I am pretty fit but nowhere near having the same strength I had in my younger years. Some of the treks to beautiful places in Indonesia are very challenging and may be limiting to older travellers or those with fitness or mobility challenges.
Costs: Not only am I a mature traveller but I'm also a budget traveller. I don't have unlimited funds, so costs are always part of the criteria I use when planning excursions.
Crowding: I don't like crowds and I hate the selfie-crowd of social media models who take over beautiful places with their photoshoots. Anywhere I can go with fewer of both is a big bonus.
Beauty & Wow-Factor: For me, it is obvious that this criterion gets the greatest weight in determining whether a place is worth visiting. When it comes to aesthetics, this is completely subjective, of course. For Wow-Factor, I was looking for something unique that made the waterfall particularly attractive.
Come meander with me into the enchanting world of Bali's waterfalls, and let's check out which will be your favourite.
Bali Waterfalls: Tegenungan Waterfall
Tegenungan Waterfall is the closest to central Ubud, near to the artist villages, the Bali Butterfly Park, and the Bali Bird Park. It's about 10 km from Ubud Palace, located in the village of Tegenungan Kemenuh, and is part of the Petanu River system. It is often included in tour packages that focus on the Ubud area. This is a busy tourist destination that includes a market area, and a restaurant with a pool. There is a resort that overlooks the falls with private-access only.
Access to Tegenungan Waterfall
Like most waterfalls, the best viewpoint is from the bottom. Visitors will need to walk down from the market/parking area. The path is mainly paved but it is uneven in places and has some steep stairs. It will take 10-15 minutes to get to the bottom, with several areas to stop along the way. There is a small changing area at the very bottom. The trip back up, with the typical Bali heat and humidity, will take longer.
The pathway is quite pleasant. Dense foliage surrounds the falls, but the view along the path is kept clear with several photo spots set up. The volume of the cascade is strong and fierce, increasing in intensity during the rainy season. There is a float line about 30m from the base of the falls which cannot be crossed. During the dry season, to enter the water pool in front of the falls, you will need to sidle along a bamboo bridge.
Cost considerations for Visiting Tegenungan Waterfall
For those who choose to self-drive, admission and parking costs are minimal, only 20 000 IDR ($2 CAD) for admission and the same for parking. I was not willing to self-drive in Bali. The roads and traffic rules are chaotic and I did not want to spend my time constantly focused on defensive driving techniques.
Depar, my driver from Bali Dream Tours
A one-way taxi ride will cost about 300 000 IDR (depending upon your negotiation skills). The various day tours range between 400 000 - 600 000. Most allow between 45 - 60 minutes at the waterfall. These organized day tours usually include all admissions and guide services. A private driver can be negotiated for about the same as a day tour but the itinerary can be controlled. With a private driver, admissions are not included and it is expected that you will buy your driver lunch. For reasons of convenience and safety, I used private drivers to get to each of these waterfalls, as part of a day trip that included other stops in the area.
Crowd Dynamics at Tegenungan Waterfall
Since this is the closest waterfall to Ubud, it is busy. There are fewer people on weekday mornings but fills up through the day. During peak season, it can get very busy. A few members of the selfie-crowd did interfere with getting across the bridge and kept posing in the prime photo spots longer than seemed fair to others but when I visited at mid-morning there was still enough room to not feel super-crowded and to find a quiet spot where I could soak in the magic of the falls.
Beauty & Wow-Factor of Tegenungan Waterfall
Tegenungan Waterfall is touristy. It is overdeveloped and has shops, restaurants, and Instagram-type photo props. When it is safe to swim in the natural pool in front of the falls, you will need to navigate around the many, many visitors taking photographs.
Having said that, even with lots of other visitors, be prepared to be captivated by its natural beauty. The lush jungle around the waterfall creates a contrast between the bright green of the foliage and the white water dropping from great height. The sound of the water cascading down the rocks is rhythmically mesmerizing. If the sun is at the right angle, you'll be treated to rainbows in the water spray.
The water is clean, fresh, and cool but the current is quite strong and visitors will feel the pull and push of the water. The pool is deep enough to enjoy some swimming when conditions are safe. During much of the rainy season or after a particularly strong rainfall, no one is allowed to enter the water for safety reasons.
Bali Waterfalls: Banyumala Waterfall
Banyumala Waterfall is in the northern part of Bali, about 1 1/2 hours from central Ubud. It is a split waterfall in the Warangiri area and is included on almost all North Bali group tours. It is fairly near to Ulan Danu Beratan Temple and the Warangiri Hidden Hills.
Effort required to access Banyumala waterfall
The road to the waterfall is rough, muddy, and bumpy. The path from the parking area to the fall is less accessible than Tenganugan. Visiting these falls will require a significant trek through the jungle. It's listed as "moderate" on several guides but I would say it is tougher than that.
The path is rugged, muddy, and steep at times. Be prepared with comfortable footwear, a full bottle of water, a sense of adventure and patience. There will be people resting along the path both on your way up and definitely on the way back up. It will take about 15-20 minutes to walk to the falls from the parking lot. There are sections that include a rope banister that will be useful. Those people with health issues or who are quite out-of-shape will need to take it slow and might want to avoid this waterfall completely. Even the obviously fit young people were struggling on the way back up, making jokes about doing a month's worth of "leg days".
Cost Considerations for Visiting Banyumala Waterfall
Since Banyumala is further away from central Ubud, it will cost more to get there. Few taxis will be willing to take you that distance so your best bet is a tour group or private driver. Expect to pay about 800 000 IDR for the full day which will likely include visits to Ulan Danu Beratan Temple, Warangiri Hidden Hills, and the Handara Sun Gate. Admission is 30 000 IDR.
Crowd Dynamics at Banyumala Waterfall
One of the big advantages that Banyumala holds over Tegenungan is its relatively serene and secluded atmosphere. It attracts fewer visitors and due to the larger space, it feels very relaxed in comparison. Even during peak season, I am told that it never feels crowded. There are no food or drink sellers so most visitors will only spend a couple of hours here.
The selfie-crowd has plenty of room and many spots to choose amazing backgrounds for their photoshoots. The photoshoots from the bridge were the only place where others were inconvenienced but most visitors were quick and polite.
Beauty & Wow-Factor of Banyumala Waterfall
Banyumala is extraordinarily beautiful, even in the drizzly weather. The water falls in a curtain from the edge, splitting at the bottom before dropping into a gorgeous green pool at the base. The fall isn't as powerful as Tenganugan so you'll be able to get right under the water. The sun filters through the trees onto the water. The pool is deep and large which allows for plenty of room to swim and splash around, so don't forget a towel. The rocks on the bottom of the pool are large and slippery. I would recommend bringing water shoes.
Bali Waterfalls: Goa Raja Waterfall
Goa Raja (King Cave) is about 45 minutes from central Ubud and is a true hidden gem. Few tourists make it to Goa Raja which is truly located off the beaten track in Bangli. Other places worth exploring in the area include the traditional village of Penglipuran. I would suggest making the village your first stop in the morning, and then spending the afternoon at Goa Raja. Make it a true Balinese day by stopping to pick up some suckling pig from a stall while on your way to enjoy as your picnic lunch.
Effort Required to Access Goa Raja Waterfall
Once you leave the main road, the route to the waterfall is terrible. Much of it is narrow, unpaved and rutted. You will need to pull over to let other vehicles pass. There is little parking perched on a small flat grassy section without shade. Of course, there is a trek to the waterfall. Most of the walk is an easy trail through the forest. There is a challenging section at the beginning, but it's fairly short.
Along the route you will cross several small bridges that lead over the river. The path, fringed with stunning tropical flowers, follows the river and leads to a pretty and flat area in front of the falls. Of the three waterfalls, this was the easiest walk but the worst road for driving.
Cost Considerations for Visiting Goa Raja Waterfall
Again, your greatest cost will be the transportation to the falls. I did not see this waterfall listed on any group tours but I didn't check out every group tour offered. I had planned my day to visit Penglipuran Village and my fabulous private driver, Jai, suggested that we should visit Goa Raja. He hadn't been there himself, but his friends and family loved it. Depending upon your itinerary and negotiation skills, a private driver will cost between 40 000 IDR and 60 000 IDR. The entrance fee was 10 000 IDR (about $1 CAD)
Best Bali Driver: Jai from Bali Kevala Tours (find him on instagram or WhatsApp +62 813-3718-2786)
Crowd Dynamics at Goa Raja Waterfall
We arrived about mid-day and there were less than 10 visitors, most were locals or domestic travellers. When we left several hours later, there were still less than 20 making this waterfall one of the least-crowded places I visited during my entire trip. There were people taking photos but it was all very respectful and everyone had plenty of space and time to take as many as they wanted. Most people took a few snapshots and spent the rest of their time just enjoying the water.
Beauty & Wow-Factor of Goa Raja Waterfall
I was totally enchanted with the walk to the waterfall. I wasn't as concerned my footing and could enjoy the serenity of the forest, the constant sound of the trickling river and birdsong, and the gorgeous tropical flowers along the way.
At the end of the path, the ground flattens out and opens up to a beautiful area with picnic shelters, a changing area, and lots of open space. The waterfall ahead is a mid-size curtain waterfall that empties into a couple of concrete pools at the base. It was truly beautiful and peaceful. I was hot and eager to swim. I changed quickly and headed to the waterfall, only to gasp in stunned awe to discover a hidden waterfall in a cave near the swimming area.
This is the King Cave with a towering cascade lit by the sun above and reflecting in the natural pool below. Beneath the water was soft sand but the cave is rugged with large rocks. If you will be wanting to climb those rocks, you might want some water shoes, those rocks are sharp! The cave echoes the sound of the falling water and is quite magical.
Jai and I ate our scrumptious meal of Babi Guling with our fingers as we sat beside the river in between swimming sessions... an experience I strongly recommend.
After exploring the wonders of Tegnungan, Banyumala, and Goa Raja waterfalls in Bali, I would suggest trying to include all three in your itinerary by combining them with other stops in the same area but if you can only choose one, I would say that Goa Raja Waterfall is the one that gave me the most joy.
It's hidden location, relatively unspoiled beauty, and stunning cave cascade was a true immersive natural experience. The relatively easy trek through the beautiful forest leading to the waterfall area was unexpected and frankly, very welcome. The cool, fresh water, safe swimming area, and unique hidden waterfall all contributed to my pleasure. The awe felt inside the cave under the waterfall was a "pinch-me" moment that I will treasure in my memories.
The costs were all relatively similar and should not be a factor in your decision-making. Whether you choose self-drive, taxi, tour group, or private driver the difference in costs are minimal, so choose the transportation that best suits your preferences.
While Tegenungan and Banyumala waterfalls also have their unique charms, it is the exceptional beauty, the feeling of enjoying a special place, the captivating ambiance, and the moment of seeing the King Cave of Goa Raja that have truly won me over. Its hidden oasis, picturesque surroundings, and serene atmosphere make it a true gem waiting to be discovered. The lack of crowds and instagram models, combined with the easy vibe and stunning beauty of the area just added to my overall delight.
I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Goa Raja waterfall. Let the beauty of nature envelop you as you meander the enchanting trail and anticipate the awe-inspiring spectacle that awaits. Goa Raja waterfall is a true hidden treasure that deserves a special spot on your itinerary.
Getting to these waterfalls may require some effort, but the rewards are well worth it. Embrace the adventure, immerse yourself in the natural beauty, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Bali's waterfalls are waiting to be explored, and I hope this post has inspired you to explore the magical cascades of Bali.
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