Escape Haven founder JANINE COTTLE loves exploring her adopted home of Bali with her husband, Trent, and their daughters Indii, 5 and Lullah, 3. She shares some of her expat secrets.
Out & About, "Tips for a Bali Family Holoday".
When did you move to Bali and why?
I moved to Bali in 2008 to follow my dream of setting up a luxury women's wellness retreat. I had recently left the corporate world after suffering from burnout. My goal was to create a tranquil luxurious sanctuary for busy women to get away from it all and fill their cup. I especially love hosting mums — it is always so wonderful to be able to nurture and pamper mums who spend so much of their time nurturing others, and to witness the effect the retreat week has on their sleep, health, stress levels and overall vitality. I always say one week is all it takes for women to rediscover the best version of themselves. We have three retreat locations in Canggu and my role is ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ — making sure that our team and guests are all thriving.
"In Bali, kids are revered. They are indulged and treated like mini gods! Childcare is very affordable and high quality"
What makes Bali a great destination for families?
In Bali, kids are revered. They are indulged and treated like mini gods! Childcare is very affordable and high quality. That makes it easy for families to travel here and for parents to enjoy some guilt-free adult time knowing that the kids are living their best lives and are in safe hands.
What are the most family-friendly restaurants?
Milk & Madu in Berawa and Canggu are great for little ones. They employ full time staff to do arts and crafts so adults can relax and enjoy a meal and conversation. They have a great bar, live music on weekends and exceptional food for both adults and kids. Their pizzas are famous on the island!
Como Beach Club Canggu is also a great spot for families as children are allowed to enjoy the kids’ club free for an hour whilst adults are dining at the beachfront restaurant. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset over the ocean and the service and food is wonderful.
What are your favourite things to do in Bali with kids?
As my kids are little, I love taking them on an easy cycle along the beachfront in Nusa Dua. We start at the Westin and go along to St Regis and back again. I also love taking them on the banana boat and jet skiing. It’s always a lot of fun and the kids get so much enjoyment out of it (as do adults!). The water sports company will pick you up by boat from The Westin in Nusa Dua and take you around to Benoa to do this.
We also love taking them for surf lessons at Santai Surf School in Legian. We meet there with other families and do a weekly Saturday surf. We try and do a day trip or two every month. There are lots of great places, such as the Bali Reptile Park, Bali Zoo and the Night Safari. They are really fun, but also educational.
There is an excellent kids’ club right down the road from us at Como Uma Canggu. This is a favourite place for us to enjoy as a family and has turned into a Sunday tradition. We all enjoy a swim in the beachfront pool and then a barbecue lunch with other families at the beach club. As I have two girls, they also love coming shopping for kids’ clothes. My favourite stores are Indigo Kids in Canggu and Seminyak and Theodore + James in Canggu.
Which areas of Bali are best for families?
Nusa Dua is wonderful as it has an abundance of family hotels with excellent kids’ clubs, fun activities and sports programs for older kids. It’s a favourite family destination for expats on the island too.
Ubud also offers a great change from the ‘beach scene’ that Bali is known for. It's a great opportunity for kids and families to experience a taste of Balinese culture, and there are lots of fun outdoor adventures. You can swim in waterfalls, go white water rafting through the jungle full of monkeys and other wildlife, experience the big swing above a valley of lush coconut trees, stroll through rice fields, chase butterflies at the Butterfly Park, ATV through the jungle and even cycle down a volcano!
Where would you recommend staying?
When is the best time to visit?
If you like drier weather, April to October is best. If you prefer less crowds and better deals, then November to March is a great time to come. Perhaps avoid the Christmas and New Year period, which is understandably busier.
Any other tips for families visiting Bali?
Take your time and don’t try to rush around to fit everything in. Bali traffic can be quite busy, and you don't need unnecessary stress on your holiday! It can also take time to adjust to the heat and humidity. Adopting a ‘less is more’ mentality will mean that you feel relaxed and leave feeling like you've had a real break. Maybe make a plan for a few key things you want to do, and then allow lots of time for relaxing by the pool, eating good food and seeing how the day unfolds. Bali isn't very pram-friendly, so my suggestion is to avoid the oversize baggage and leave them at home! It’s easy to book a driver and a nanny before you come too. I recommend Bali Super Nannies. For drivers, Big Gusti is very trusted and speaks excellent English – you can contact him via WhatsApp +62 812 3927 711.