Bali is a bit like stepping into a gelato bar; if you only stick to one flavor, then you’re missing out on discovering a world of new varieties to excite your taste buds.
Beyond the trendy beach clubs, high-rise hotels and upmarket boutiques, is a multi-faceted, fertile landscape that captures every shade of green, from palm-fringed beaches that stretch for miles to emerald green cascading rice fields that are often bathed in mist.
If you take a 360-degree look at the island, you’ll find sparsely-populated areas that are perfect for unwinding in – Balinese style.
The hilltop boutique resort of Alila Ubud is perched above the verdant Ayung River valley on stilts, which serves as a stunning backdrop in which to relax. The setting is also ideal for couples looking to exchange their vows in tranquil surroundings. The layout takes its cue from a traditional Balinese hillside village combined with contemporary design. Each of the 56 rooms and eight villas open onto their own private balcony, terrace or garden for a more immersive experience in the heart of nature.
Noteworthy: The Award-winning Plantation Restaurant, which is renowned for its authentic Balinese menu, is a must for those who appreciate farm-to-table dining and exotic features, including coconut pillars and a traditional thatched roof. The resort additionally prides itself on sourcing its fresh produce locally and Alila Living products from village co-operatives, supporting the surrounding communities.
Location: Alila Ubud is conveniently located five kilometers from Bali’s cultural center of Ubud. There you’ll find a mix of cafes, galleries, museums and boutiques that have attracted expats, digital nomads and wellness enthusiasts over the years. The bustling center is framed by lush green rice fields and jungle vegetation.
Tip: If you plan to explore some outdoor activities without sweating profusely, the best time of year to visit Ubud is between May and September when the weather is less humid.
With Oculus Bali you no longer have to imagine the feeling of spending time close to the majestic Mount Batur. Whether you’re planning to take a sunrise hike or simply soak in the breathtaking views as you swim or dine the night away, Oculus offers five levels in which to take in the ancient serenity of the prehistoric mountain. It’s a destination that’s known for its delectable cuisine, stylish interiors and warm hospitality.
Noteworthy: Marketed as a ‘new hotel’, Oculus Bali has eight suites and two royal suites to choose from – plus an infinity hot pool, spa and three restaurants founded on different concepts. The multi-tiered building, which blends into the surrounding landscape as if it were a work of art has captivated travelers exploring the Kintamani district.
Location: The north-east village of Kintamani offers yet another lens into Balinese culture. Do this by taking in traditional dance, cycling through the region or melting your troubles away in the Toya Bungkah Hot Spring. It’s one of the most underrated yet inspiring places that’s accessible by car or scooter.
Tip: Be sure to visit the mysterious Trunyan Village, which is famous for its funeral traditions.
Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape
With its “no walls, no doors” policy that translates to having a ‘naked experience’, this adults-only resort invites its guests to fully immerse themselves in the magical Balinese jungle. With uninterrupted views of seven mountain peaks that can be appreciated all the more from the comfort of your open-air pavilion, or bale as its referred to, Buahan is founded on the concept of creating a symbiosis with nature.
Noteworthy: Drawing on local ancient wisdom, Toja Spa’s signature treatment harnesses locally sourced natural ingredients and the serenity of the surrounding environment to experience Buahan Bliss that pairs wonderfully with the resort’s zero-waste, plant-based menu. Those craving seclusion will no doubt find the concept of secret hideaways on the property a big drawcard, for meditating or self-reflection.
Location: Buahan is roughly 40 minutes to the north of Ubud and 30 minutes from Gianyar by car. It takes its name from a small nearby village that’s rich in culture and tradition, and which is definitely worth exploring.
Tip: For a hyper-local experience, take advantage of a tour that uncovers Balinese delicacies and edible plants.
Boasting an impressive range of facilities, from a convenience store and hair salon to a children’s playground and a gym, Anwa is uniquely situated. It’s close enough to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Seminyak, while also allowing you to escape into a sanctuary with everything you need within arm’s reach. You could easily spend an entire day taking advantage of the services on offer; brunch at the bistro, a refreshing cocktail at the Rooftop Bar or perhaps an indulgent high-performance facial.
Noteworthy: Award-winning resident chef Josh Jobs brings his flair for modern techniques to Bistro Anwa, which truly captures casual Bali dining.
Location: Nestled between Seminyak and Canggu, Umalas is revered by expats who prefer the quaint cafes and restaurants that bring this relaxed neighborhood to life. While not exactly known for its nightlife, Umalas has its own charm and is relatively close to neighboring Seminyak, Canggu and Kerobokan. Something to be aware of is that this area is spread out, often requiring a car or scooter.
Bulgari Resort Bali
With its mahogany wood interiors that blend nicely with luxurious furnishings, this resort offers a fine expression of modern opulence. The location is defined by dramatic cliffs on the edge of the Indian Ocean. The sunrises and sunsets alone are reason enough to choose from one of the 59 villas, which are perched on what resembles the gateway to heaven. Here you can expect to encounter the same kind of aesthetic that the luxury jeweler is renowned for, expressed through the inclusion of volcanic stone.
Noteworthy: The resort offers private access to a pristine beach and a traditional temple where daily ceremonies are carried out.
Location: The resort is a 15-minute drive from Uluwatu, which is synonymous with its iconic temple and ‘fire dance’. For surfers, Uluwatu is a world-class destination, while Instagram addicts find inspiration from the sunset spots – of which there are many.
Tip: Single Fin, a vibrant beach bar, is a popular destination for sunset seekers, as is Ulu Cliffhouse.
Samanvaya Resort and Spa
Led by New Zealanders Tracey and Rob, this ‘adults only’ luxury retreat is nestled within the rice terraces of the Sidemen Valley, over which two infinity swimming pools are suspended. Captivated by the unspoiled beauty of this region, the owners embarked on a mission to support the local community and its economic development. This is displayed by his team of dedicated staff, who hail from the local area and embody the spirit of Balinese hospitality.
Noteworthy: Nowhere else are local craftsmanship and sustainable principles expressed more than in the exceptional rooms and villas, which blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. For an authentic Balinese experience, the multi-level Lumbung-style villa can accommodate up to four people. And, for couples, the Alila Villa features a stone bathtub and rain shower within its own private garden.
Location: The rice terraces, active volcanoes and traditional villages of Sidemen Valley make this region of east Bali worth exploring. You’ll find hidden treasures tucked away in this corner of rural Bali, such as local eateries.
Tip: The most convenient mode of transport to explore Sidemen is hiring a scooter. If you’re arriving from Denpasar Airport, the commute time can range from one to two hours, depending on the traffic.
A mere three-hour drive from Denpasar Airport – and a 10-minute drive from central Lovina – is where you’ll find this Danish-owned hill-top paradise. Comprising 15 villas and its own orchard, The Damai offers its guests grand views overlooking Lovina Bay and an award-winning menu that showcases the best produce to be found in the north of Bali.
Noteworthy: While the hotel is set in the hills behind Lovina, Damai has a free shuttle service to Lovina to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Location: The northern seaside villages of Lovina provide access to stunning marine life that can be enjoyed through snorkeling and diving, and its most iconic attraction is, of course, the dolphin pods. While the black sands of the shoreline aren’t particularly enticing, northern Bali has plenty of charm – most notably waterfalls and a good selection of seafood restaurants.
Tip: To interact with the best marine life, head to Pemuteran or Menjangan Island.
Plataran Menjangan Resort and Spa
Having won a string of prestigious awards, Indonesian hospitality group Plataran has become a leading player in Indonesia’s tourism industry, particularly in eco-tourism. This is epitomized in Menjangan – an eco-retreat set in the biodiverse landscape of West Bali National Park. It’s within this protected sanctuary that guests can immerse themselves in the beauty of the wilderness. Unknown to most travelers, this vast area is home to rare and exotic animals that hide in the dense greenery, including leopard cats.
Noteworthy: Highlights of Menjangan Resort include an observation deck with 360-degree views of the national park; an infinity pool where you might be able to spot a deer; and the three-story Octagon Ocean Club, which is shaped as such to provide panoramic views overlooking the ocean and forest.
Location: West Bali National Park lies on the north-westerly tip of Bali. It’s about a four-hour drive from Denpasar Airport and can be reached by bus, car or taxi.
Tip: The nearby island of Menjangan makes for a unique diving experience that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Bali – or around the world. It’s rare that you’ll encounter deer while bathing in crystal-clear waters, which is the case at Menjangan Beach. This small island is also home to ancient temples, which are inhabited by Hindu monks. Be sure to check out the statue of Ganesha, which is believed to have protecting powers.