Bali is an exceptionally beautiful Indonesian island but not a paradise beach destination – best to think of it as a verdant tropical, cultural, and spiritual island that also has beaches. The island is truly lush – trees, tropical flowers, paddy fields… No cities as such, just towns and villages full of temples and local houses with their on family temples. All roads are single lane and since there has been a surge in motorbike popularity, traffic can be an issue. Beaches are white sand on the south coast and black volcanic sand elsewhere. Lots of mountains, lakes and volcanoes. Lots of activities on and off land, and easy to explore further afield such as Lombok, Gili and Java. People are the warmest and most genuine in Asia – smiles are everywhere and English spoken is excellent – also probably best in Asia. Service is paramount. Food is delicious and as spicy or not spicy as you want it. Population is predominantly Indonesian and Hindu but with some Muslims and Christians also. Spirituality is part of everyday life. People are very artistic and creative – Balinese arts and crafts and also furniture is amazing! Best to do minimum 2 centre stay to experience culture in Ubud in central Bali as well as beach life. Better yet: 3 centre!
I’ll start out with the two resorts I visited in Uluwatu and Ungasan, both at the very southern peninsula.
The first was Alila Villas Uluwatu, which is only 30 minutes away from the airport. It’s in a remote location on a cliff top overlooking the sea. It’s super pricey, too, but has a real WOW factor. It’s a very contemporary ‘design’ hotel with simple creative lines, very chic and cool and trendy in neutral colours. Greenery, pebbles, volcanic rocks, water features, and bamboo are all utilized – it’s really beautifully put together. The pool villas are sexy, stylish, and super spacious – to die for! They have a huge bedroom with rear and front wall windows, which can be opened completely to allow a wonderful open air feel during the day. There is a huge day bed in a room at the edge of a good sized private pool with a huge ‘bale’ at the other end, and a large bathroom with an indoor and outdoor shower. You’ll also enjoy butler service, and he will even run your bubble bath for you if you want him to! The spa, Alila, has lovely amenities and there are two restaurants with a very chilled vibe. Kids are allowed, but there are no actual facilities, and the doors seem like potential little hand traps as they are huge and heavy. Overall, Alila Villas Uluwatu was stunning, modern, spacious, and cool, but it is remote and not for beach lovers despite the fabulous views as it is on a cliff top.
My next stop was The Bale, Nusa Dua, which is also about 30 minutes away from the airport. It’s located away from the beaches, but is only a 10 minute walk or a free hotel shuttle bus ride away. It’s also five minutes’ drive from a few restaurants but nothing special; it’s a bit manmade rather than evolving from a village. The Bale is also quite close to St. Regis. Nusa Dua itself is the Miami of Bali with large resorts and golf courses, and as such The Bale is a great boutique option here. It’s very contemporary and minimalistic with cream stone and dark wood – it even has the feel of climbing up to a temple with lots of steps. It has a lofty restaurants and a small main pool area, but all villas have private pools so no real need to use this one.
The interiors of the buildings and suites are cool and minimalistic. The One Bedroom Pavilion has a good-sized pool, bright green lawn, sundeck, and a ‘bale’ so it’s very spacious. The Deluxe Pavilion, however, is much larger overall and has the added benefit of a choice of lunch, dinner, or spa daily, with complimentary sunset cocktails. The resort doesn’t allow kids under 16, so it’s perfect for young honeymooners. The resort has a great outdoor space and chic indoors, but it’s away from the beach and is in quite a sterile area.
Come back next week for the three resorts I visited in Jimbaran!