Before I start let me apologise for the negative connotation attached to the title of this blog, but let’s be frank every man and his dog are posting their acai bowls and insta-worthy swing shots during their recent visit to Seminyak, Ubud and the Gili Islands. It is clear that Bali is subject to a huge amount of tourism that seems to be growing astronomically every single time I go back. However, there is no denying that I am in love with this little Indonesian island dotted in the middle of the Pacific, being my 4th visit over the last 8 years.
Bali, the island of Gods. The mention of this island conjures up thoughts of a tropical paradise, but Bali really is more than just it’s beaches, jungles and mountains. It’s ethos, spirituality, aspirations and island state of mind have kept me coming back time and time again. Stepping off the plane filled my nostrils with that familiar scent of ylang ylang, lemongrass and frangipani, amongst the delicate Hindu offerings that scatter the streets. Almost everything has a spiritual meaning attached to it here and most notably you will remember this place for it’s people; their warmth, humility and attitude to life. It makes me emotional thinking about it. Beyond it’s heart, Bali is filled with some of Asia’s best surfing, yoga, meditation, boutique shopping, diving, beach clubs, and volcanoes to climb. What more could you want from a holiday destination?
Organised by Pippa Rose Lifestyle, luxury travel and concierge company based in the UK, this trip was already on track to be like unlike anything I had previously experienced of Bali. Unlike my normal trips full of adventure and culture seeking, I set out on an uber-luxurious trip of a lifetime encapsulating some of the highest echelon of wellness retreats and hotels on the island. This experience in itself gave me a completely different take on Bali as a destination.
1. Let me start with the jewel of my luxury Balinese crown; the ostentatious Amankila perched on the lush hillside of eastern Bali. Frangipiani lined walkways connect stilted suites nestled in the tree tops, boasting breathtaking views over the 500m private black sand beach and perfect palm tree lined beach club with 42m pool. Amankila is situated in Manggis, only 90 mins from the airport and is remote yet easily accessible.
A far cry from the west coast, the serenity and air of luxury make this destination feel like you have stepped foot onto an exotic James Bond set; a sanctuary for pure relaxation, wellness, nature and cultural immersion. You feel like you are the only guest as you meander down from your thatched pavilion suite to the three tier pool at it’s epicentre, with panoramic views across to Lombok and Nusa Penida. The attentive staff and attention to detail is second to none; starting with your welcome health juice, buggy service across the grounds, private beach cabana lunches and stunning a la carte breakfast. Start your morning with yoga in the jungle shala as the sound of the waves crash behind you.
This hotel is impeccable and like nothing I have ever experienced before, very much what to expect from an Aman hotel. Despite not wanting to leave the serenity of the destination Amankila offers diving, trekking and many other out-of-house activities to ensure your trip is still culture (and adventure) inclusive. My only criticism would be the room itself which was a little on the small side considering the price point.
Good for: luxury escapes to a quieter part of the island or for honeymooners. Bad for: affordable stays and central locations. Rooms start at £567 a night to upwards of £2,500.
2. Find yourself in the depths of a hedonistic wellness retreat in the misty mossy valley hideaway of the Como Shambhala Estate. Set amongst the palm trees of Begawan Giri and lined by the Agung river, Como ‘Shambhala’ (meaning sacred in sanskrit) houses 40 individual suites dotted around this jungle haven.
Upon arrival I immediately felt this sense of serenity overcome me, there was something in the air that put my body into a complete state of relaxation and rejuvenation. As we were escorted around the estate by our assigned PA Purna, the warm frangipani scented breeze brushed through the leaves of the flora accompanying the incredible sounds of jungle wildlife. No man-made interruption, just nature and absolute bliss. I was already in love.
To start, we were recommended sunrise wake-ups, a digital detox and a tailor-made holistic health programme chosen from the extensive daily itinerary (including yoga, meditation, hydrotherapy and qi gong). Whether you wanted a structured programme or to indulge in room service with private pool dips and in-house massages, it is your retreat to tailor.
The 9 hectares of jungle terrain can be explored via the beaten path which takes you down to the river and spring water plunge pools. Being only a 15 minute drive from the artistic and cultural centre Ubud, there is the option to explore the local area too. Our suite was a timeless understated design of Japanese origin, including an outdoor bath (room) and shared plunge pool overlooking the terrain. Glow, the health food restaurant and epicentre of the estate, takes this experience to another level. Nourishing your body from inside out, the extensive menu featured a complete array of raw food recipes that would change your view on healthy living. I started my day with vinyasa flow followed by breakfast served in a 150-year-old former Javanese residence. We would half-walk, half-float back to our residence, feeling a million miles away from the pressures of home life.
Good for: a health overhaul (food and movement) and complete peace/digital detox. Bad for: alcohol/partying and central location. Room rates start at £397 to upwards of £3,000 per night.
3. Sandwiched between the hustle and bustle of the famous Seminyak beach in south-west Bali, The Legian is a sophisticated addition to the oceanfront and in my opinion the best you will find. Having been to Seminyak time and time again, and despite it’s allure of Australian boutique shops and high-end restaurants/bars, this is hands down the most touristy part of the island. This stretch of beach is home to all of the famous beach-clubs like Potato Head and Finns, but to my surprise The Legian is a quiet and exclusive destination with excellent service only a stones throw away from the best parties on the island.
Stepping out onto my balcony on the first morning of my trip, I was refreshed to hear the sound of the crashing waves, rustle of the palms in the warm breeze and not a single soul around; I couldn’t tell I was in the busiest part of Bali. The ocean suites are more than accommodating, with a spacious layout and more than enough amenities. The buffet breakfast overlooking the beachfront 3-tiered infinity pool was the best I experienced out of all of the hotels I stayed in across my trip.
Being only a short 20 min drive from the airport, you would be stupid not to make The Legian your first port of call on your trip to Indonesia. Despite not necessarily being on parr with the likes of Aman luxury, for the price point you could not ask for much better. The hotel is equipped with an extensive spa, fitness centre and complimentary yoga/meditation classes. So go and balance those chakras!
Good for: first night stay and central beachfront location. Bad for: exclusivity and natural surroundings. Rooms start at £424 per night to upwards of £1,800.
Streamlined, contemporary and visually stunning, the Alila Uluwatu perches on the cliff face of the western coast of the Bukit Peninsula. Arguably the best beaches in Bali, it feels like you’re floating in endless shades of blue with the 50m infinity pool that balances over the cliff of the famous Uluwatu surf.
The private Alila villas, each with their own pool, have been sustainably designed with locally sourced recycled materials; slats of reclaimed wood and iron are stacked up like jenga pieces which create that iconic contemporary sunset cabana you see in the pictures. The suite at Alila Uluwatu was most definitely a cut above the rest on my trip; the in-house spa products, luxe dressings gowns, outdoor and in-door shower, private cabana where you could have breakfast and exceptional PA services. The architecturally striking pool area comes as a serene setting with a micro-climate and butlers on tap. Team this with the exceptional spa, private beach, fine dining restaurant and the famous surf break, and it’s a delicious blend of perfect.
Although there is not much in walking distance, the epicentre of Uluwatu is only a 15 minute taxi ride away. Here you can catch the best sunsets teetering on the cliff at the famous bar Single Finns. Despite now being part of the Hyatt group, this hotel was truly unique with fantastic attention to detail.
Good for: location and exceptional spa. Bad for: traditional decor and affordable stays. Room rates starting from £566 a night to upwards of £4,000.
If you would like to stay at any of the properties above or have any further questions, get in touch with Pippa Rose Lifestyle luxury travel and concierge, who are an independent organising high-end luxury stays with impeccable service.