Starbucks in Bali: Coffee Is Optional

Starbucks sign

On most online travel forums there’s usually a thread about eating in US-based chain restaurants while traveling overseas. Views are normally polarized; exchanges can be serious and sometimes heated.

And for some reason, Starbucks frequently comes up. As they say in the South, “I don’t have a dog in this fight,” so I’ll leave the arguments to the caffeine corps. However, I can say that the Starbucks Store in Ubud, Bali has to be in one of the most exotic and beautiful locations in the world.

The store is located on one of Ubud’s main streets, and from the front, it looks like most of the other shops. However, when you stroll into the side and back yard, the scene opens up to something very special.

Immediately behind the building is a large reflecting pool, filled with blooming lotus flowers.


On one side of the pool is every kid’s dream … a wonderful, mysterious treehouse.


In the rear is an intricately designed Hindu Temple.


Grass strips


And luckily, we were there when one of the staff placed the canang sari (daily offering) in front of the temple.

Starbucks offering

Think what you will about Starbucks, this is one awesome sight, and a must-see in Ubud. Coffee is optional.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

54 thoughts

  1. Although I love trying new food and usually eat street food or in cheap local restaurants while traveling, every now and then a McSpicy Chicken Sandwich with french fries and a chocolate shake hits the spot.

    That Starbucks is amazing. All of them should be like that.

  2. I know Starbucks gets a bad rap, but when living abroad it’s nice to sometimes indulge in an overpriced latte. Because no matter where you are in the world, it magically tastes the same in all Starbucks! When I lived in Indonesia for a year,this place was a nice retreat from those occasional feelings of homesickness.

    1. Thanks for the comment Jenna, and for dropping by the blog. And I’m with on the periodic indulgence in some “back home” food. Anyone who has spent any time abroad knows this to be true. There’s always that comfort food that you miss, and it’s great to be able to satisfy the craving. In addition to food, many of these restaurants are also a great place to get free wifi. ~James

    1. I’m with you Cameron. Starbucks did this one right. I have no problem with US chains overseas, as long as their architecture fits in, and this building totally does. ~James

    1. Thanks Anne, for the comment and for dropping by the blog. China cups at a Starbucks? I hadn’t heard of that one. It’s just another sign that maybe corporate America can loosen up a bit. Our local Starbucks is pretty much the normal type, but since we live at the beach, Tuesday is “wear your favorite hat day”. So all is not lost. ~James

  3. I like Starbucks because it is reliable. If I can’t find a local cafe, and I need my daily caffeine fix, Starbucks always comes through. While there are several local cafes we’ll visit near where we will be staying in Paris this summer, I also noticed there is a Starbucks (just in case).

    But that said, I think I would want to go to these chain establishments in other countries just to see what is different. I hear that McDonalds has very different menu options in Asia too, so if (or more likely when) I wander to Asia one day, I’ll probably stop in just to see what’s different!

    1. Thanks for the comment Jen. I’m pretty much in your camp on both counts. In cultures that don’t have a coffee tradition (e.g. Asia and Far East) it’s nice to know a place to get a good cuppa joe. I don’t go unless I have to, but I don’t hesitate either. And McDonalds does make some minor changes, but in general, everybody wants the typical menu. However, I have to say, that McD’c coffee in Europe is very good. And the biggest problem that you’ll have in Paris will be finding a cup of coffee that doesn’t break the bank. ~James

    1. Elaine, I would like to think that Starbucks (and other American companies) make their own decision to fit the local architecture, but I suspect that in many cases the local government does some arm-twisting. Either way, it’s nice to see when it happens. ~James

  4. Wow, I think my chai tea latte would taste much better if I was surrounded by this much beauty. Maybe I wouldn’t mind the price so much either.

    1. Melanee, this is one of those instances where I didn’t mind paying more for my coffee. There may be other Starbucks around the world that are just as unique, but I haven’t seen them. ~James

  5. That’s amazing! Usually, when I whip around a corner in a foreign country and see a Starbucks, I cringe. Not because of the coffee (although it really isn’t that good in the UK), but because of the architecture. ❤ the daily offering too…

  6. Bravo! An out-of-this-world coffee experience. How wonderful to sit and enjoy coffee in this exquisite setting. Traveling to exotic and far away lands is always a great and rewarding adventure. Then again – to see a familiar land mark sign (such as Starbucks) when you have been away from home for a long time is very reassuring. It is too easy to make corporate operations fair game for slings and arrows. Virginia

    1. I agree Virginia. Everyone likes to pick on the soul-less corporate world, but when traveling abroad for long periods of time, most people don’t mind the odd reminder of home. ~James

  7. That’s interesting, I hardly noticed it when I was there last year… is it brand new? Or was I consciously trying to ignore the fact that it’s Starbucks?

    1. No Amy, it isn’t new. However, it’s located on one of the busiest streets in Ubud, and with all the mopeds, tourists, and cars zooming by, your attention was probably elsewhere.

  8. I once, long ago before Starbucks existed, spent a magical week in Ubud. I believe the magic of the place seeps into everything. Maybe that is what inspired Starbucks to go above and beyond…

    1. Thanks Curt. We’ve been to Ubud a couple of times, and it is a magical place. However, I can say that it has changed a good deal from a decade ago. You know the story, it gets rave reviews, people go, the place changes. We were there after the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” came out. The joke we heard there was that the locals say “Eat, Pay, Leave.” However, even with all the changes, it’s still a wonderful place. ~James

  9. This is so great! We went to Bali on our honeymoon this past December. It’s fun looking at your pictures – Bali is such a lovely place and I had fun reminiscing as I looked at your pics. The best part is the Starbucks coffee as part of the offering to the gods! 🙂

    1. Thanks Sarah. Bali must have been a wonderful place for a honeymoon. There’s isn’t much on the island that isn’t romantic. And you’d think that Starbucks would be using a place like this in their marketing. It was exotic, and beautiful, and we were lucky to be there for the offering. ~James

  10. Bali is one of my most favorite places in the world! Whenever I think of paradise – I think of Bali. Great pics! I just started following you..can’t wait to see where else you’ll go 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Melanie and for dropping by the blog. Our most recent trip to Bali was our second. We visited on our first RTW, and vowed that we would get back. And we did on our last RTW. It has changed a good deal in 10 years, but it’s still a very special place. There’s a vibe there that you can’t find anywhere else.

  11. The coffee here in Spain is fabulous and we have discovered many local coffee shops that we frequent but when we get to the Alicante airport, we head for Starbucks because it is a little piece of home! Now if they would only open a Tim Horten’s…….

    1. Darlene, this Starbucks was, without a doubt, the most attractive coffee shop I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was local zoning pressure or just someone being very creative, but whichever it was, the end product was fabulous. And I can certainly relate to a bit of comfort food from home. As for Tim Horten’s, you know there will be some Canadians reading this and saying: “Is she nuts! I’d be eating paella every day! ” 😉 ~James

  12. HA! I’m a Starbucks fan (no matter what some people say). And That is my favorite Starbucks in the world…so far. All that cool stuff out the back side. And all the options for people watching out the huge window street side. What’s not to like? Fun post.

    1. Thanks BF. I’m with you on this. I think that most people that travel enough finally get to the point where they say: “What’s the big deal, and why is a little reminder of home so harmful?” And regardless what Starbuck’s corporate policy is, any company that goes to this level of work to make the business fit in is OK with me. ~James

  13. I sent a link to this to a friend who is in Bali right now. She emailed me back to say that she had just had a beer in a cafe on the other side of that very pond!

    1. That’s a wonderful coincidence Kathy. I hope that your friend enjoyed this garden as much as we did. Starbucks worked hard to make their store fit in, and the result is proof that sometimes corporations can be sensitive and creative. It was also very neat that we were there to see the staff member place the daily offering. ~James

      1. Ah, memories…I’ve had a beer in that opposite place and coffee in Starbucks. There is one thing I would change about the Starbucks, though. They used to have a hand-carved wooden sign, but a year or so ago, they replaced it with their plastic modernistic one you see everywhere. I meant to write them about that, but never did. I think the old one hangs inside now.

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