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Q&A with Janine Cottle: Tips for a Great Bali Family Holiday

Escape Haven Bali 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

Janine and her husband trent with their daughter Indii in Bali
Janine and her husband trent with their daughter Indii in Bali

Hi Janine Cottle, when did you move to Bali and why?

Janine and her family ready to hit the surf at Legian Beach in Bali
Janine and her family ready to hit the surf at Legian Beach in Bali

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.

What makes Bali a great destination for families?

Kids at a Mums and Bubs retreat at Escape Haven in Bali
Kids at a Mums and Bubs retreat at Escape Haven in Bali

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.

Which areas of Bali are best for families?

Trent throwing Lullah in the air at Westin Resort Spa in Ubud Bali
Trent throwing Lullah in the air at Westin Resort & Spa in Ubud, Bali

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!

Enjoy a fantastic Jungle Swing and ATV Ride in Ubud – Book it now!

Janine, what are your favourite things to do in Bali with kids?

Kids playing at Milk Madu in Bali
Kids playing at Milk Madu in Bali

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.

Book now your Bali Banana Boat Water Sport Packages here!

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.

Get your Bali Reptile Park Tickets here! [Great deal]

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.

What are the most family-friendly restaurants?

Janine pushing Lullah on a swing at Bali Beach Glamping
Janine pushing Lullah on a swing at Bali Beach Glamping

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.

Where would you recommend staying?

The Westin Resort Nusa Dua Bali
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali

The Westin resorts at Ubud and Nusa Dua are great options, with well-developed kids’ clubs and facilities. Como Uma Ubud or Como Uma Canggu are also both excellent choices and are known for being terrific family-friendly destinations.

Soulshine Bali in Ubud is a place that creates a lot of joy and is ideal for families wanting to get away from the hustle and bask in Bali’s best nature and views, especially at sunset. The two-tiered pool and water slide is a huge highlight. The food is delicious (as is the cocktail menu!). Kids can pick fresh produce from the organic garden and then the chef will whip it up into an amazing lunch for them. This means they can enjoy a really educational experience and you know they are eating healthy food too.

Go ahead and book your stay at  Soulshine Bali – CHSE Certified here!

For any mums eager for a kids-free escape with a focus on luxury, wellness and complete rejuvenation, I would say join us for a retreat! We run pop-up ‘Mums and Bubs’ retreats throughout the year, where a small group of mums visit us for a luxury retreat with their little one in tow. Mums can enjoy mums and bubs yoga and different activities as a group, but then we also have a team of experienced nannies that care for and entertain the kids so the mums can indulge in spa treatments, meditation and time out to recharge.

When is the best time to visit?

Janine Cottle with her family in Bali copia
Janine Cottle with her family in Bali

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?

Janine Cottle and her family on a buggy in a rice field in Bali
Janine Cottle and her family on a buggy in a rice field in 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 (balisupernannies.carrd.co). For drivers, Big Gusti is very trusted and speaks excellent English – you can contact him via WhatsApp +62 812 3927 711.

Special offer

An Escape Haven Bali retreat
An Escape Haven Bali retreat

Escape Haven has a special offer for Out & About with Kids readers. Book any of its Bali retreats and get a free room upgrade to a jacuzzi suite with your own butler and spa therapist, unlimited spa treatments, and $700 off regular rates. Email info@escapehaven.com and quote outandabout. Terms and conditions apply

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