The spirituality, legends, art, rice fields, volcanoes, beaches and sunsets – few places capture the imagination quite like the “island of the gods”.
Don’t listen to anyone that suggests the Bali fantasy no longer exists. Overdevelopment has indeed marred many parts of the island but it doesn’t take long to find an enchanting spot of your own. The choice of accommodation is mind-boggling – wooden guesthouses, surf lodges, party pads, spa retreats, lavish five-star palaces – with standards high across the board.
The best hotels in Bali are:
Spliced into a deep “V” of a valley on the outskirts of Ubud, staring out at the Ayung River, tangled rainforest and tiers of lime-green rice fields, the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan woos from the moment of arrival. Villas tick all the romantic boxes – spa bathrooms, huge netted beds, private pools – while candlelit dinners can be arranged in the jungle or alongside the gurgling river. Warm up for consummating your nuptials with a two-hour long tantric bliss ceremony at the spa.
Price: Doubles from £565
Black volcanic rock, soft white stone, poker straight lines and cabanas that look like huge matchboxes cantilevered over 100-metre high cliffs, all backed by the seemingly limitless bright-blue Indian Ocean – the design at Alila Villas Uluwatu seems to embody all that is cool about Bali. Whitewashed villas come with one, two or three bedrooms, butlers, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto private pools. Throw in a sensual spa (try the signature shirodhara treatment), warm service and top-notch food and you’ll feel little need to leave the hotel.
Price: Doubles from £635
If Wes Anderson located his next film in Bali, the sets would probably look something like this dreamy camp. Overlooking the Keliki Valley, a 30-minute drive outside of Ubud, Capella Ubud greets guests at an open-air reception desk before leading them to one of 23 theatrical tents. Wake to the sound of birdsong, eat breakfast muffins overlooking the river, spend your days hiking through nearby rice fields, touring temples or receiving blessings from Balian healers, and enjoy evenings toasting marshmallows around the campfire.
Price: Doubles from £703
It’s a twisty-turny four-hour drive from Ubud to this peaceful retreat in the far north of Bali, but the scenery is gorgeous and it’s worth every queasy minute from the moment. The property is split between two locations: one in the mist-licked Abasan Mountains, the other at their base on the charcoal-black sands of Tejakula. Food is pescatarian and there’s free morning yoga and excellent (very reasonably priced) massages. And the best bit? Nearly all profits go to supporting the local community, including families recently displaced by Agung volcano’s rumblings.
Price: Doubles from £50
The Fairmont is a resort with all-round appeal. The soothing woody aesthetic, the heady tropical gardens, the Willow Stream spa, an enormous swimming pool, and four bars and restaurants make it ideal for couples, families or solo travellers. But what really seals the deal is its location on one of Bali’s prettiest beaches, all golden sands, gentle Indian Ocean waters and bobbing red, yellow and blue jukung fishing boats. Rooms are contemporary and spacious and the service is tip-top.
Price: Doubles from £202
Sitting on the cliffs of Uluwatu, the villas are big and beautiful, with sunny terraces, private pools and plenty of space for roll-out beds. There’s bathrobes for all, big and small, and the Rocka restaurant has a spot-on selection of kiddie staples (and under-fives can eat for free). Find a cultural hit for the whole family at nearby Uluwatu Temple, with its millions of monkeys and nightly Kecak fire dance. Kick back by the pool, or slip to the spa while little ones tie-dye, garden and cook at the forward-thinking kids’ club.
Price: Doubles from £388
Want a feel-good holiday that gives back? Stay at Bambu Indah, built on the outskirts of Ubud, in collaboration with Bali’s right-on Green School. Every one of the buildings here has been built from local materials by local workers and filled with local produce. Each of the villas is different, reflecting Indonesia’s diverse architecture – a teak wedding house, a semi-circular moon house, a two-storey thatched house that looks like a giant witch’s hat. The hotel also has a natural river pool filtered with algae and an excellent restaurant.
Price: Doubles from US$115 (£87)bambuindah.com
Rice paddies, a river valley, tinkling waterfalls, healing pools, sunrise yoga, jasmine-scented massages – Fivelements is the Balinese spa you’ve always dreamed of. All manner of wondrous treatments are available, from fire blessing rituals with a local priest, to aura cleansing, chakra balancing and good old-fashioned Balinese massage. The nine bamboo suites are large and filled with light, and the vegan food is a revelation.
Price: Doubles from £149
The surf is always up at this stylish new beachside hotel in Bali’s hippest ‘hood. Spend days with your toes in the sand, piňa colada in hand, gazing at dozens of surfers twirling in the waves – or join them with a session at the Tropicsurf school (all levels are catered for). Rooms are spacious, with large spa-style bathrooms, if not as cool as you might expect from the Como brand, but the colourful beach club, moreish food, spa and service are all on the money.
Price: Doubles from £189