As a teen, my vacation world started and ended with Goa. I thought I had found paradise, when I waded the less-than-murky waters of the Arabian Sea, and vegetated on the beaches of Palolim and Baga. I grew up, and my heightened-deserve ability took me to the shores of Hawaii for my boss’s wedding. And that’s when my whole perspective on beach resorts and vacationing by the sea, changed. My thirst for luxury, surf and sands took me to Maldives, Mauritius and Mombasa. And finally Bali happened! Living the luxurious beach-bum life took a whole new meaning.
Bali is traditional, exotic, fun, exciting, culturally preserved and knows how to treat her guests with utmost love. Right from pampering you with a traditional Balinese Massage to gorgeous sunsets, Bali is the ultimate destination for those who don’t mind waking up to the most spectacular sunrises, spending the day lazing at the comforting beaches and calling it a night by partying hard.
Adventure sport enthusiasts, nature lovers, romatics and of course party animals cohabitate in a culturally rich environment. What I love the most about this destination, is the ease with which you can meditate at one of the Hindu temples by day and then slip into your partying avatar by night.
You are spoilt for choices, when it comes to picking the hotel you have to stay. Bali has so many options – AirBNB, budget to ultra-luxury resorts. Today, we curate the Best Luxury Resorts and hotels that you can stay in. Right from those who offer private pools with floating breakfast baskets to ones with the most personalized services. Have you stayed in any?
The Hanging Gardens of Bali
A favorite with many, The Hanging Gardens of Bali is as authentic as it gets. Comprising of only 44 exclusive villas that are decorated with signature hand-crafted furniture and embellished with exotic fabrics, this resort brings you close to the Ayung River and its wonderful journey.
A look at the cascading waterfall near the resort, immediately replenishes your tired soul and envelopes you in its calmness. Much emphasis is given on the design and the construction of this resort, which is a good thing.
My favorite here is the traditional Balinese styled Riverside Villa, which is designed to be settled over high wood pillars. The welcoming private infinity pool and the poolside gazebo is an instant hit with most guests.
The thought of unwinding with a glass of wine, some succulent chicken satay and the surrounding sights and sounds from the jungle … utter bliss!
I encourage you to experience the Floating Boat Sensation, a service that the hotel offers. While you have several dining options available at the resort, nothing beats the uniqueness of dining in your private pool with a floating boat of Balinese goodies.
The who idea is to make you feel like royalty, while you partake delicious food that floats in the middle of your infinity pool, as you calmly take in your surroundings.
The next best thing to enjoy at this hotel is the romantic dining experience at the ancient holy Dalem Segara Temple. The whole idea aligns with the signature ‘Once in a Lifetime Experience’ that the hotel promises. Enjoy a private gourmet dinner with a spiritual experience.
You are welcomed by a Balinese religious priest – the holy Mangku – and they bless you with a Hindu ritual that cleanses your soul (symbolically). After this your personal chef treats you to some gastronomical delights.
You may have had plenty of spa treatments, but none of them would match the serenity of having someone massage you by the river. Ubud’s jungle preserve on the holy river of Ayung and the jungle backdrop guarantee a magical experience. Do try.
The Bvlgari Resort Bali
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed fashion labels upping the ante in the hotel industries, and the bespoke Bvlgari Resort Bali is one such place. You should not expect anything except ultra-luxury and Bvlgari delivers.
The fusion of Balinese traditions and Italian vivaciousness has led to a spectacular resort. Perched 150 meters over the sea with breathtaking views, the hotel has a hidden gem called the Ocean View Villa. This one-bedroom villa offers a grand view of the Indian Ocean and I love the elevation that makes you feel you’re on top of the world! The interiors have been carefully designed to reflect the rich heritage of Bali.
What I love about the villa, is the private garden and the plunge pool that complement the extra-large bathroom and roomy tub.
Given that a fashion brand has conceived the resort, design will be at its core. Architects Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners have done an amazing job at making you feel the ‘King of the World’ and the staff actually treats you like one.
To keep alive, the cultural sensibilities and taking advantage of the natural elements available, the resort sees the use of hand-cut volcanic stones, traditional wood, and authentic fabrics. For example, you will find the natural lava and palimanan stone being used in the garden and interior walls. Balinese antiques and art dot the walls and corridors, making you want to take some home! Officially, I mean.
When here, you have to experience the culinary delights by local Chef Luca Fantin. Apparently, the Ubud food festival is one of Bali’s most awaited events, and it happens during Spring. In fact, if you are in Ubud between 26th and 28th April, Chef Luca will be participating in the festival and you can cheer on team Bvlgari.
The exclusivity of the Bvlgari Resort is evident from the fact that the beachfront of this hotel is off-limits to public. A private access from the hotel cliff on one side, and the coral reef on the other side, ensure you (and other hotel guests) are the only one enjoying the white sands.
Since the spot is so secluded with little human intervention, you can be lucky enough to spot schools of dolphins that like to frequent this beach. The Beach Club is hotspot of the hotel and I recommend that you stay back for a drink or two.
Lastly, do try the ‘Four Hands Massage’, where two therapists work on you in tandem. This is a new experience for me, because typically I have only one masseuse giving me a massage. They start from your feet and work their way to your head, leaving you completely rejuvenated and refreshed.
St. Regis Bali Resort
I have stayed at a couple of St. Regis properties, and hands-down, the St. Regis Bali Resort is my favorite. It could be because of the 3,668 square meters of clear, swimmable blue saltwater lagoon, that runs through the property, and reminds me of my favorite resort in Goa. It too had a similar theme.
A complete paradise, the inviting beach near the resort, holds the promise of many activities, which include snorkeling, surfing and kite surfing. Their well-stocked library is air conditioned and a haven for readers like me. Although I carry a book or two with me, I’m always intrigued to know what other people are reading across the globe.
The signature Iridium Spa holds twelve healing rooms, and those who want the extra indulgence, can opt for the Spa Suites. There are very few brands of hotels that go the extra mile to showcase local heritage and the St. Regis Bali Resort is one of them.
The evening ritual includes this dynamic display of the Fire Dance Ritual, which is showcased near the grand staircase. I love these kind of interactions, as it gives you the opportunity to meet other guests and spark new friendships. The Children’s Learning Center holds interesting activities for youngsters as they get to learn through art, cooking, dance and music.
Located in Nusa Dua, Bill Bensley of Bensley Design Studios has designed the resort and he has taken inspiration from Isamu Noguchi (Japanese American artist) and the principles of Balinese culture. The locals believe in the “sacred journey from the mountain to the sea”, or “Nyegara Gunung”. “Nyegara” represents sea and “Gunung” stands for the mountain.
Bali’s holiest temple, Pura Besakih is located at the highest point, and thus you can draw parallels from here. If you map the resort to this belief, then the lobby represents the mountains, and the ocean (Indian Ocean) is of course the sea. The flowing river is represented by the long Fire Garden and the spectacular villas signify the daily life of the Balinese people.
Keeping true to the traditions of the St. Regis brand, you can expect the hand rolled cigars and cognac awaiting you, post dinner. The theatrics of uncorking a bottle of champagne with a sabrage, will do Lady Astor proud. While traditions like afternoon tea, midnight supper and fresh flowers continue, my personal favorite is the bespoke Butler Service. It is the highlight of your stay.
When you arrive, they graciously come and serve you the customary tea and coffee in your room. They will even unpack (or pack) your suitcase and iron out your outfit for the day. On the go? No worries, simply chat with your chap over WhatsApp or email. Jeeves will be at your service.
The drink of the day has to be their signature cocktail – Bloody Mary, created by Fernand Petiot in the King Cole Bar. The meal of the day, is Sunday Brunch at the Boneka, especially if you can manage a terrace seating. The overall vibe of this restaurant is that of an Indonesian puppet theater, which is very interesting. Yummy Asian meals with ocean views is what dining at Kayuputi is all about. Do try.
Hotel Tugu Bali
When romance and art is at the core of a hotel, then how can it be anything but perfection. Touted to be “The Art, Soul And Romance Of Indonesia”, Tugu Hotels is the passion of one man – Anhar Setjadibrata – a medical student who took up law and then eventually turned into hotelier. It is an ode to Indonesia’s romantic history, the founder also owns the biggest collection of fine Indonesian art and cultural antiquities in Indonesia, which is displayed throughout the hotel.
Each space is thoughtfully designed to reflect a story of romance and is expressed through the art décor and antiques that are displayed in the room. This is the place you want to stay in, if you want to know the real cultural truth of Bali.
You can experience what it felt like to be feasting with the kings, for example the 14th century Majapahit Kingdom and how festivities in his era were. Terracotta pots, wood-fire, and eating with bare hands … get the real taste of the feast!
Book the Puri Le Mayeur Suite, which is an extravagant single story villa right above the lotus pond and with a clear view to the Indian Ocean. This villa pay tribute to the Belgian artist, Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès and Ni Polok. Ni Polok was first his muse and then later his wife, and you can feel the energies of love throughout the villa.
You see it being reflected in the thoughtful plunge pool or the open-air dining pavilion. The intimate oversized hand-beaten copper tub and the verandah, are the perfect spots to catch the sunset.
You can experience a unique hands-on cooking class and learn some traditional Javanese and Balinese cuisine. Learn indigenous cooking techniques, that you can replicate back home, otherwise there is no point learning these cooking tips. Team this with the Djamoe Herbal Drinks Class, which is focused on the ancient herbal healing art from Java.
Experience the theatrics of a Javanese kitchen and learn some guarded traditional recipes of healing in this Djamoe Class. The kicker of course, is the Art and Gallery shop, which is nothing short of a museum. Bring home some souvenirs from here.
JAMAHAL Private Resort & SPA
A private boutique Spa and Resort, JAMAHAL is for those who want to leave the world behind and focus on some R&R. Intended to host only 24 guests at a time, this adults-only resort (16years and above) has a ratio of 2:1, when it comes to staff is to guests ratio. That’s correct, 50 people cater to the whims of 24 guests, and pamper them from morning to night.
It almost seems like a privilege to be able to command that kind of attention, and I’m sure you will love it too. There is only one master – pool villa, which can accommodate up to 4 guests, and if you decide to stay here, I’d suggest you call the dibs on it. Called the Frangipani master pool villa, the large exclusive swimming pool is sheer indulgence.
Unlike most resorts, the JAMAHAL doesn’t have a dining room, instead the staff prepares fresh meals and serves it directly to your room. They even customize the meals to your taste, especially if you are a vegetarian or prefer continental meals.
Originally the private residence of a local Balinese, the Boutique Resort transformed to an environmentally-friendly space, which retained the original design cues. Perhaps this is why, the rooms feel very authentic and not standardized like hotels. To be honest, JAMAHAL is more about its personalized services and this is its biggest strength.
Unlike resort-chains, they are not one-size-fits-all kind of people. Ideal for honeymooners, the resort offers complimentary VIP access to ‘Ibiza in Bali” the hotspot in Jimbaran.
Bali is best between April and early December, which gives you a wide timespan. Take your pick, book a ticket and simply fly out to one of the most grounding destinations.