Getting married? Partying hard? Going zen? These luxury Bali resorts offer something for everyone.
The unassuming entrance off a narrow Sayan street would never indicate the sprawling jungle fortress hiding at the end of the driveway. Snake down to the reception pavilion and smartly dressed, ever-smiling staff will lead you over a stunning suspension bridge high over the gurgling Ayung river.
The show stopping central building – a circular, almost-Aztec compound of dazzling white Indonesian stone and rich brown teak – is the beating heart of the secluded paradise. It’s no wonder Julia Roberts shacked up here for months while filming the love part of Eat Pray Love.
What’s to love The sleek modern villas and sharp suites haven’t aged a day since the place opened in 1998 (it was named Wallpaper* magazine’s hotel of the millennium). It’s a totally zen, inside/outside sanctuary that’s at one with the pristine green jungle and tiered rice patties. Whatever you need is no problem here, from buckets of filtered ice to dinner reservations.
Check out The still, green pond balanced on top of the main pavilion is teeming with plant-life and thrashing goldfish, and hosts everything from morning yoga salutes to romantic private dinners.
Food situation Ayung Terrace restaurant overlooks the humming tangle of lush green jungle and the river below. The menu is mod-Indonesian, from spicy sambals to beef rendangs. A breakfast buffet is usually included, with a heaving array of made-to-order omelettes, spicy noodles, fresh fruits, breads and cereals.
The extra mile There’s a fantastic tour called A Day In The Life of an Indonesian Farmer, which takes you into discreetly into traditional Sayan homes, before planting rice patties, eating a traditional lunch on the river bank and getting a full stone scrub and massage. It’s a surprisingly authentic slice of Indonesian life with a luxurious Four Seasons twist.
What’s nearby Located a few kilometres from Bali’s arts/yoga hub, Ubud (think Byron Bay among the rice patties), the hotel runs regular transport to and from the main centre. It’s a charming, slightly gentrified hippie-Mecca, with a Starbucks on the main drag among ancient temples and soul-searching young Americans.
Looking for a bite in town? Try Melting Wok Warung for a delicious Thai/Indo cheap eat or Locavore for something special. Finish with a cocktail at the outdoor bar where everyone seems to finish up, CP Lounge.
Ideal for Honeymooning couples with a mystical soul, a taste for privacy and an eye for design.
How cool is this place? “That’s SO W” is something you’ll hear the staff (known as Talent) say of anything with playful style and effortless cool. Arriving at the W is like arriving at the world’s most happening nightclub.
The resort – in hip but slightly scungy Seminyak – is enormous, with dozens of private villas and a vast five-story main building overlooking a multi-zoned pool inspired by the rice-patties. This is the heart of the hotel, with cocktails ferried to sun lounges, kids jumping in and out of the clear blue water and buff tanners reading thick paperbacks.
What’s to love The rooms are ultra cool and comfortable, with generous bathrooms and loads of cute extras, including divine Bliss bath products and an extensive DVD library. Got more cash to splash? There is a separate wing with a maze of villas, from party houses to lush private apartments.
Food situation There are two restaurants and the sickeningly fabulous WooBar by the beach with plush daybeds and pounding soundtrack. If you feel like venturing into the wider world, Aussie-owned Argentinian joint Barbacoa is so hot right now, while Mama San is near impossible to get into.
The extra mile The best thing about the W is its sense of humour – carpets in the lifts are changed three times a day (Good Morning! Good Afternoon! Good Evening!), the stereo plays a specially-mixed soundtrack when you arrive, and there’s even a silver kaleidoscope in the room marked with instructions to explore.
What’s nearby The Potato Head Beach Club is right next door – weird name, but this is the place for hoards of Aussies in Bali to come and tan, drink and laze by the horizon pool. The music pumps and the party hums but beware – the water around the swim-up bar can get pretty soupy at times.
Ideal for Hip and happening tastemakers who like to chill out during the day and party hard at night.
In Bali you’re either a beach person or a jungle person – and this classic resort is the best of the beach.
Set on sparking Jimbaran Bay 15-odd minutes from the airport, you’re a world away from the bustle of Denpasar or the trash of Kuta. Inspired by authentic old-school Balinese design, the hotel is a labyrinth of private villas, with intricately-carved doors, crystal-clear blue plunge pools, palatial bathrooms and private terraces.
What’s to love The exceptionally private villas are the stuff of legend: immaculate, soulful, with all the luxurious trimmings, including standing baths, outdoor showers, walk-in robes and four poster beds (with dreamy pillow-tops). You’ll love the rooms so much you won’t want to leave – but that would be a shame.
Check out There are two shared pool areas, including the new-ish Sundara bar and restaurant right on the bay. Fragrant frangipani flowers burst into bloom, the sun shines, the staff smile. This is the life.
Food situation Sundara has an exceptional Australian-inspired menu helmed by Greg Bunt, with steaks, salads, surf and turf, overlooking the long, narrow horizon pool. Hot Spanish mixologist Javier de las Muelas also designed a stellar menu of brightly-hued drinks (presented on iPads in lieu of menus, of course). In the villas there’s the usual list of club sandwiches, mee goreng, spag bol – anything you like, whenever you like.
The extra mile Just dial one and a zippy golf buggy will arrive at your door in minutes to take you wherever you need to go in the complex.
What’s nearby The hotel organises tours to the nearby Uluwatu Temple, a touristy but essential look at ancient Balinese culture. Watch the nightly fire dance as the sun sinks into the sea, and enjoy sleek private transfers with lemongrass-tinted hand towels, chilled water, and WiFi in the car.
Ideal for Families, and FIFOs who want to fly into luxury, have everything they need on-site, yet still have the complete Bali experience.
Like a slice of Ibiza via Santorini overlooking the Indian Ocean, Karma Kandara is a party zone and a wedding fantasy. Check out Instagram and you’ll see it’s one of the most desired places in the world to get hitched, and why wouldn’t it be?
Fabulous villas and a lush horizon pool perched dizzyingly high above a beach fringed by rocky coral reefs and deep green jungle. Take the quirky funicular Grand Budapest Hotel-style from the hotel to the swinging beach club, which has killer sushi and hosts bikini beach parties and movie nights.
What’s to love You’ll get a private concierge when you check in, most likely a spunky young thing who’ll show you round the hotel like a mate and then tell you to call if you ever need anything. It’s a nice touch.
Check out In the spa compound you’ll see a prominently displayed signed photo from Madonna – she came here for oxygen treatment a few years ago.
Food situation There’s the Di Mare restaurant on site with a mostly western menu, a hefty cellar (with prices to match) as well as the usual room service offerings. Villas are also kitted out with basic kitchens if you want to do your own cooking.
The extra mile Call reception and they’ll get you whatever you need – nothing’s a drama at Karma. It’s relaxed and a lot of fun.
What’s nearby Hop around to nearby resorts such as Bulgari or Ayana for drinks and a sticky beak, or arrange a car down to Jimbaran Bay for a seafood feast on the beach (it’s a total madhouse, everyone seems to want to go to the same plac, Menena Cafe). Got a bigger budget? Try Cuca.
Ideal for Glamour weddings, groups, party animals