Sundowner cocktails on a balmy tropical beach, valleys stepped with rice terraces, waterfalls, smoking volcanoes, shadow puppet shows and sandalwood-scented temples – Bali ticks all the boxes for an unforgettable holiday in Asia. And, the luxury hotels on the island are among the best on the continent – here is our selection.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay / Expedia.com
Quieter than Kuta and more serene than Seminyak, Jimbaran Beach is every bit as broad and golden as both – and it’s equally well-positioned for Indian Ocean sunsets, as well as for the airport. The faux-Balinese villas at the Four Seasons sit on a bluff at the quietest end of Jimbaran. Oceanview villas come at a premium price, but this is the place to book them – with the entire bay (and that sunset over the ocean) at your feet as you sip a cocktail on your sundeck, toes in your personal plunge pool.
Bali’s not all about ocean sunsets. At Wapa di Ume, there’s a magnificent rural view at every turn: marvel at rolling rice terraces and rainforests from your four-poster bed or plunge-pool, and, from the open-sided restaurant, enjoy the view of the smouldering cone of Mount Agung rising moodily against the sky. Sidemen village is remote even by Balinese standards – around a 2-hour drive from the airport – so, you’ll find more islanders than tourists here and more buffalos than cars: a lovely local touch.
Basking beautifully just beyond sleepy Candidasa town at the feet of the volcano Mount Agung, Amankila sits at its own beach, where two oceans meet. Clinging to the steep hillside, the villas fuse Indonesian with Amalfi design: they are decked out with woven palm-thatch, intricately carved hardwoods and rich marbles and flooded with light from wooden screen-windows that open entire walls to the outside. You could soak forever in the private swimming pools perched at the cliff edge, your gaze hovering over the ocean.
Set on a surf beach on the edge of a sleepy resort town, the Tugu is the antidote to the anodyne, corporate-designed luxury found elsewhere on Bali. It’s as quirky and individual as a Victorian collector’s hoard – crammed with Asian curios gathered over a lifetime of travelling by the owners. Snarling naga dragon-serpents hover over the giant copper bathtubs in the teak-wood cabins, intricately carved temple doors serve as headboards, stone Buddhas meditate next to bar stools in the ocean-view bar, and window shutters recovered from ancient Javanese painted houses open onto a garden of lotus ponds and frangipani trees.
Once Ubud was a quiet, temple-dotted Balinese village in the island’s rural centre. Then, Julia Roberts came to eat, pray and love. At COMO, it’s still peaceful, thanks to its location in a forest, a 10-minute shuttle ride from the bar and restaurant hurly-burly of modern Ubud. The villas are so quiet that you can hear tinkling water and birdsong. All are kept in a minimalist white and bathed in light from open side-walls. Some have private pools. And, if you choose not to eat or pray in Ubud itself, the hotel has a tranquil low-lit Italian restaurant and provides free yoga mats.
The Slow works hard to be effortlessly cool. Every tiny detail has been carefully thought through: notice the arty black-and-white underwater nudes on the raw-stone walls, which match the matrix-grey counterpanes and the industrial concrete perfectly. In the bedrooms, you’ll find Asian-wicker Eames-style chairs to relax in. When you step outside the front door, you’ll find yourself in the backpacker-rushing, taxi-tooting whirligig of Canggu Beach’s main street.
Most Balinese beach hotels target couples. The Anvaya is for families. Kids stay for free, and the hotel offers babysitting, a kid’s club, a huge menu of family activities (including shoreside cycling, with children’s bikes available) and several swimming pools with toddler-friendly shallow ends. Rooms include big family suites, and there’s a tropical garden, with plenty of family-friendly restaurants nearby. The small beach is far from Bali’s best, but it’s right on the doorstep.
With interlinked villas climbing a cliff to a monumental main building, the Apurva looks like a postmodern reworking of the Triumph Palace in Moscow. But, while it’s more Bolshevik than Bali on the outside, interiors are soft and serenely Asian – with warm colours, honey-hued polished stone and Indonesian wood carvings. And, if you book a Cliff or Ocean Front villa or suite, there are beautiful views – out over plunge pools and broad, sandy Nusa Dua Beach onto the open ocean.