Designer Kalita Al Swaidi, who works with Balinese artisans to create her conscious resort and occasionwear label, knows Bali’s secret spots like the back of her hand. She tells Culture Trip where to eat, sleep, shop and more.
Sustainable fashion designer Kalita Al Swaidi, of resort label KALITA, has been travelling from London to Bali multiple times a year since 2014. Staying for weeks at a time, she’s developed her environmentally sound brand, while getting to know local artisans and the island’s highlights.
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As a destination at the forefront of sustainability (local artisans have been known to recycle fishing nets and ocean plastic to create manmade fabrics), Kalita considers Bali a fascinating place to work. Her collections, which favour fluid silks, linen and cotton, are all hand-dyed by local artisans whom she continuously learns from.
“Our artisans in Bali are crucial to the business, and we learn from them far more than they learn from us,” she says. “It’s wonderful to watch how they work and bring local traditions of sewing into the designs, plus how they live as people with such a kind and giving nature.”
When she’s not busy at work, Kalita spends her time making the most of the island – discovering foodie spots, exploring nature and staying in the best accommodation. She shares her insights so you can, too.
Where to go shopping
“The Ubud Art Market is a must-visit. It offers pure Balinese artisan delights from wood craft and paintings to silk scarves, handmade woven bags, baskets and batik prints. Meanwhile, Sukawati Art Market offers almost every Balinese handmade product you can imagine.”
The best traditional cuisine
“Sarong is a wonderful restaurant, in the bustling centre of Seminyak, where you will find all the local favourites – pork belly, Malay prawn salad with green mango, Wagyu beef Panang curry, butter chicken and grilled scallops with sweet crispy duck.”
The best seafood restaurant
“Jimbaran Bay Seafood, with its sunset beach view, is the best. The restaurant offers fresh fish and seafood that’s grilled to order, along with live music and often an incredible sunset.”
The best plant-based restaurants
“Peloton, Earth Café, KYND, Shady Shack and Secret Spot – not necessarily in that order. Expect scrumptious food, a wide variety of desserts, pleasing interiors and, most importantly, friendly and accommodating staff.”
The best beaches
“Visit Nyang-nyang Beach, Uluwatu, and Geger Beach, Nusa Dua, if you’re the type of person that seeks peace and tranquillity. Both are ideal places to chill out and relax – they’re a bit of a distance from the busier Seminyak area but well worth the trip.”
The best areas for water activities
“I would suggest Karma Kandara private beach or Sunday Beach Club at Uluwatu. As well as swimming, there are various other activities to try such as canoeing or snorkelling. They have a reliable wifi, great food, and the sunset view is spectacular.”
The best destination for hiking
“Head to Mount Batur for a good hike – ideally at sunrise when it’s quiet and the views are incredible.”
With Culture Trip, you can enjoy a Mount Batur sunrise hike on our epic 12-day Bali adventure, led by our local insider.
The best place to party
“The OMNIA Dayclub in Uluwatu – it has an unending beach view and the best DJs with great music to dance to.”
The best place to reset and relax
“The Como Shambhala Estate, set right in the jungle next to the Ayung River, is just breathtaking. The retreat offers a holistic approach to wellness and change, including a digital detox programme that I thoroughly recommend. Guests who want to make a lasting commitment to change can also embark on one of the targeted programmes — Cleanse, Be Active, Ayurvedic and Bespoke – as well as practices like yoga, Pilates and meditation exercises.”
The best sunsets and views
“La Lucciola is one of Bali’s worst-kept secrets – but the sunsets are honestly out of this world. You can enjoy a cocktail while watching the sky turn every shade of pink and red imaginable.”
The best hotel on the island
“The Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay is the ultimate in laid-back luxury – authentic Balinese architecture, open-plan villa accommodation and incredible views across the bay from the individual infinity pools. The service is impeccable, friendly and discreet; it’s the perfect place for privacy and a leisurely stroll down to the beach for a sundowner and freshly caught seafood.”
What to pack for Bali
“When I travel to Bali, I pack light – flip-flops, cut-off jeans and a selection of white t-shirts. I also pack my trusty KALITA Aphrodite dress in a selection of colours, the Gaia wrap gown with at least one or two other easy-to-steam silk KALITA pieces for balmy nights on the island. The dress code is generally relaxed, but Bali is a place where you can get as dressed up as you like when out in the evening or visiting the more boutique and upmarket establishments on the island.”
Feeling inspired? Join our Balinese adventure with other culturally curious travellers and a local insider to guide you around the island – giving you an authentic experience other visitors don’t get.
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