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Bali resorts review for all sizes

Welcome to Bali, the Island of the Gods - drooling sniffer dogs, manic-depressive monkeys, and full volume Indian weddings... Also explore the no-walls "naked experience" adults-only Buahan Banyan Tree Escape and the colonial French La Reserve 1785 Canggu.

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by Vijay Verghese

SEE ALSO Bali fun guide | Bali spas | Bali volcano and safety update | Golf in asia | Asian dives | Palawan resorts | Sanya resorts | Jakarta business hotels | Vietnam Resorts | Pattaya guide | Small meetings in Asia | Lombok guide | Child friendly resorts | Asian dives | Golf | Top Asian hotel reviews | El Nido fun guide and resorts review

La Reserve 1785 Bali - four poster beds and privacy

La Reserve 1785 Bali at Canggu offers plenty of room with an old-world feel, four poster beds and French design. It is a few hundred yards from the beach and its La Brisa Beach Club.

JUMP TO New resorts | Nusa Dua | Benoa | Uluwatu | Jimbaran | Kuta | Seminyak | Canggu | Sanur | Candidasa | Ubud | Pemuteran & Tembok | Besakih, Sidemen, Penelokan | Hotel Contacts

IN BALI, “THE ISLAND OF THE GODS”, much has changed. The Covid shutdowns did not dampen demand on traveller surveys where the island continues to spark interest. The island has reopened and is eager to get started. In summer of 2023, travellers are now voting with their feet - and wallets. The very name conjures visions of soporific tropical tranquility outdone only by a five-day kabuki performance staged on the beach. Far from it. Things are happening and this once other-worldly island is buzzing. New hotels sprout by the month with luxury brands - including a proposed and controversial Trump Tower that is unlikely to materialise - tripping over each other to set up shop.

Best Bali romantic hotels, Alila Uluwatu's 'birdcage' for sunsets and cliff-edge views

Alila Uluwatu birdcage viewpoint for romantics/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Vast armies of genial Chinese travellers had discovered Bali and its sumptuous five-star dinner buffets with a vigour and intensity that alarmed hotels sufficiently to withdraw their heaped lobster, crab, and even prawn from the tables. "It all just disappears before any guests have a chance to tuck in," said one exasperated hotelier. But that was in the past.

Indian weddings have descended on the island in a big way too bringing hordes of carousing, shimmying revellers who turn up the Bollywood volume at odd hours and transform tranquil lagoon pools into Pirates of the Caribbean before shocked tiny tots and slack-jawed mothers. Yet the place is big enough to spread out these New Age adventurers and seclusion can always be had at less than pocket pinching prices when compared to a Phuket or a Sanya. The island retains some of its earlier innocence too. One gentlemen I met informed me he was very jet-lagged. Where had he come from? "Lombok," he answered, the neighbouring island, a 30-minute flight from Denpasar Bali. Well...

At the old airport signs once exhorted passengers to “Make Good Queue” but chaos was the norm as everyone attempted to wrestle into the x-ray line before exiting to arrivals. This has changed, somewhat. The new and expanded international airport terminal wheezed into partial operation just in time for the October 2013 APEC Summit right after the Miss World circus and tumult in Nusa Dua and now offers a great deal more carpeted elbow-room and, alas, a great deal more queues, delays, and hassle though things are improving.

Expect the immense snaking immigration line to take an hour or more if you have the misfortune of multiple flights arriving at the same time. At other times you might waltz through in minutes. As of April 2015 the facility had dispensed with arrival and departure cards, making formalities ever simpler and by mid 2018 the facility was hitting its stride as the October IMF meeting arrived. The airport representatives of yore have been permitted back and can be a game changer for pink-eyed travellers as they will meet you at the gate of the plane and escort you right through immigration to your limousine. This can cut an hour to just 15 minutes or less. If you have an APEC card you can also use Chanel 1, though it is unmarked. Several luxury hotels offer this service to speed things up for their VIPs.

Bali luxury tent resorts, Capella Ubud arrived in 2018

Freshly raked sand, Nusa Dua at Grand Hyatt / photo: Vijay Verghese

After immigration there's an enormous queue for the customs green lane where forms are inspected, followed by fresh queues for the x-ray machines. There are three but usually just one or two are in service. Then comes the snaking 'duty-free' squeeze as the passage narrows to just 10ft or so winding through Dufree mall before spitting passengers out where the drivers are anxiously waiting.

If you care for a spot of duty free shopping in Bali, a one litre bottle of 12-year-old Chivas is roughly US$38, a one litre Johnnie Walker Black US$39 and a 50ml EDP of Dior's J'Adore is US$142. A 7.5ml parfum bottle of Chanel No.5 will set you back US$140. Also spot (at departure) large stores from brands like Longchamp, Burberry, Gucci, Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs, Montblanc, COACH, Furla, Michael Kors, Fossil and TUMI. There's a large Hard Rock presence (and its burger too). Prices here will appear strangely reasonable when compared with duty-free prices around Asia - largely on account of the rising dollar value and depreciating local currency.

At departure keep enough time for the long and tediously slow security lines though these have been speeded up with nifty full body scan machines. Expect several security checks including an open bag search at the boarding gate. The airport is clean, spacious and friendly but there are several bottlenecks. A small tip for departing travellers at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, avoid the lousy food and awful WiFi reception at the premier lounges and opt instead for a bite in the main throng - try the Hard Rock burger, or sample local fare at the excellent and friendly Made's Warung. Regular Ngurah Rai airport free WiFi even at some departure gates is quick and easy to access with a stronger and more stable signal than at the overcrowded Premier Lounge that hosts several carriers including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Korean. It hosts both Oneworld and Star Alliance airlines.

The car park is crowded and the exit queue for cars moves at a crawl. That done, a 12km toll road priced at Rp11,000 to Benoa and Nusa Dua and a new underpass at the notorious Kuta circle ensures traffic is more quickly routed to Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Seminyak turn-offs. Before you get to our Bali fun guide you need to get through all this. But "modernity" of a sort, is creeping into this once sleepy island, all the more reason to get there quick.

As growing numbers of travellers will attest to, Bali is acquiring more bite. I enjoyed a serendipitous moment as a security man opened the car door and a slobbering Alsatian stuck his massive head in, drooling all over my lap. The dog proceeded to sniff me in parts that have remained unmolested since my mother last changed my nappies a very long time ago. Mirrors on long poles were run around the rim of my car.

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Bali luxury resorts review, Apurva Kempinski soaking tub by window

Apurva Kempinski offers clean lines and tubs with views/ photo: Vijay Verghese

I watched heavily muscled men in dark blue uniforms march, parade, perform synchronised push-ups, shout and pump their fists in the air, not unlike a Club Med get-together. Later at Uluwatu Temple, I enjoyed a dazzling sunset as surf crashed into the cliffs far below. Applauding the scene were apple-cheeked tourists and cheeky red-bottomed monkeys who snatched cameras, hair-bands, necklaces and hair beads – pretty much anything with a shine. Terrified children bawled and women pleaded for their jewellery. My driver pleaded with a monkey to return his baseball cap while the simian snarled and scowled.

I bought some raw corn and parleyed an exchange with the canny mischief-maker. The money snatched the corn and tossed the cap in our general direction. This is the barter economy at its best and most entertaining.

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This is Bali, the Island of the Gods, Drooling Dogs, Manic-Depressive Monkeys and Testosterone-Crazed Security Guards. You couldn't ask for a more VIP welcome. It’s a delightfully heady mix and that’s even before you get to the majestic landscapes, the brooding volcanoes, stunning Bali resorts, and eye-poppingly green rice fields. There’s more Bali fun stuff for families or solo adventurers in our detailed Bali Guide.

In our annual Best in Travel Poll Bali has been consistently voted to the top in the “Best Holiday Destination in Asia” category. Bali’s return to prominence signals traveller’s growing intolerance of tacky gewgaws and crocodile shows – no matter these crocodiles can dance the samba and send WhatsApp mail. Today’s well-informed travellers demand authenticity – which Bali has in spades – and they recognise that security is something we all have to live with.

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Newer Bali resorts and openings

Hyatt Regency Bali is contemporary but utterly Balinese

Newlook Hyatt Regency Bali is clean and contemporary yet completely Balinese/ photo: Vijay Verghese

On then with our Bali resorts review though it’s a tough script to follow with a slew of hotel openings, some recent, some in the pipeline. Watch for the sprawling and grand 520-key Kempinski (Nusa, opened end 2018), Pullman G (Kuta), a new 101-room corporate meetings Westin Ubud Resort & Spa, a new 165-key avant-garde InterContinental in Canggu (with villas, wedding chapel, spa and even a cinema), and luxe names like Waldorf, Raffles and Mandarin Oriental. Also look out for Eaton Luxe by Langham near the Nirwana Bali golf course, and Indigo Seminyak Bali (opened 2017). Bali Golf & Country Club returned mid-2014 as the Bali National Golf Resort sporting fresh greens designed by Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright (but the same par 72 course) and a bevvy of villas and hotel rooms from Shangri-La (where work commenced mid-2017). Much choice then for Bali resort weddings, small corporate meetings and child-friendly escapes.

There are still handsome discounts to be had at most establishments though the cut-rate deals of earlier years are fading fast. The fresh top-end onslaught may help win better rates for travellers. Five-star properties may retail in the low season for anywhere between US$100 and US$150 per night and all properties have regular specials.

Of course, top-drawer establishments will draw the line higher and Bali villa properties will set you back US$250-US$600 or more, so balance your need for a bargain and decent bed to ensure you end up with the latter.

If you have the moxie – or a barnacle for a mother-in-law - try a local guesthouse, or losmen. Some are very good though not quite what the in-laws had in mind. With the Indonesian rupiah exchange rate at around US$1 = Rp14,300 (it fluctuates considerably on a daily basis) things couldn't possibly get more welcoming. Check our Bali Map and dive in. If you’re looking for a hotel Bali offers endless, and confusing options.

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Nusa Dua hotels, Bali villa deals, golf resorts

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel is a child-friendly hotel and popular for wedding photography at its candi bentar gate

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa is popular with Chinese wedding photographers/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Nusa Dua in the far south is a safe and sanitised custom-built tourism enclave resembling the drive in to Singapore from Changi Airport. You may chew gum here and harmonica-playing Marlboro horses can roam free. This is mega-resort country and the glittering wall-to-wall red-tile roofs prove it. It could be Bali with a lobotomy but some excellent resorts have rescued it from the sort of monotony that has ravaged so many other Asian destinations.

The oldest resident and one with the most mature gardens and a good spread of beach is the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa. After a major 2010 revamp the stand-alone, cream-wall spa with its lap pool and greenery is an even bigger draw and not just for hotel guests. An exclusive but friendly Palace Club caters for Club guests. A Premier Room weighs in at 42sq m with herringbone wood parquet flooring, flat LCD TV, a work desk plug-in internet, batik bed runner and balcony. These rooms were renovated in 2011 to include a flat laptop safe, a rainshower and a bathtub with a glass partition to the bedroom.

Smart Lagoon Pool Access rooms arrived at the Palace Club in 2016 along with the large and airy beachfront all-bamboo Tamarind Kitchen & Lounge designed by late Indonesian icon Made Wijaya. The hotel has two ballrooms for meetings and Bali conferences as well as open air event space packed with traditional artefacts and statues. Of late the resort has grown a reputation as fine spot for pre-wedding pictures and it is not unusual to spot Shanghai lovelies bedecked in all their white bridal finery posing at the stunning Candi Bentar that fronts the hotel. Try it out yourself. It is a superb location for we-are-in-Bali selfies without the rigour of monsoon drives and traffic. Even if you don’t stay here, drop in for a quick pose and a beer by the beach.

The rejuvenated resort is a very child friendly Bali hotel with extensive greens, water features, and packs of geese and acrobatic squirrels that will all but take the breakfast right out of your hand. The pizzas are not bad at all and at the seaside Chess you can enjoy drinks, snacks – and even a game of actual chess on a giant stone chessboard. The Residence at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel is a discreet getaway for dignitaries with its own private driveway, pool and beachfront. Take in traditional dance shows, walks and the sound of pounding surf.

Centara Grand Villas changed over to Awarta in 2015

Awarta villa/ photo: hotel

Drop off kids aged three to twelve at the Gecko Kids’ Club between 9am and 5pm. Here they can while away the time learning Indonesian and play traditional games. But wait, there’s more. The Club also offers a whole range of water sports, including aqua volleyball, aqua basketball and even aqua golf. The ballroom meanwhile will handle 400 persons cocktail style.

For a contemporary Bali luxury villa option check out Kayumanis Nusa Dua (also in Ubud and Jimbaran). The villas are plush and smartly set out but do not accommodate children below 16 years. Expect a rustic chic ambience and smart service.

From Thailand with bold silk accents and plenty of wood underfoot and private pools for the pampered few, came the Centara Grand Villas Nusa Dua (August 2014), only to switch to Awarta Nusa Dua Luxury Villas & Spa by mid 2015. This ensemble is along the tourist enclave of Nusa Dua in the far south of the island. Expect a spread out lowrise complex with 14 pool villas (the hotel rooms have been sequestered into a separate resort that opens later). At the centre of this invitingly small and personal resort is a square blue pool set against a pebble-wall waterfall (a feature mimicked in villa pools), and the woody, breezy restaurant.

Villas run from 224sq m to 350sq m with one to three bedrooms with pools ranging from 20sq m to an almost Olympian 75sq m. Splash out big time, Thai style. Kids can enjoy a separate fun pool. The Jasmin Villa is set in a private sun-drenched courtyard. This retreat is not on the beach and so focus is on personal space and this is handled well. A reasonably long blue-tile pool runs along the garden with deck chairs and a dining area facing the courtyard. The long villa bedroom has a cream marble floor with a large central bed on a raised wooden plinth and its distinctive half-drapes like a schoolgirl’s neatly parted hair.

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua blends French elegance with rustic chic

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua/ photo: hotel

Expect a large flat-screen television, a classic Davenport desk, pillow menu, butlers to your bidding, and rich mahogany cabinets. The rooms is uncluttered and spread out. It’s all earth tones beneath high wood beam ceilings. Behind this is a black marble bathroom with rainshower and tub. All electric sockets are round hole two-pin. Bring an adapter or ask the hotel for one.

A shuttle bus may run to the main Nusa Dua beach. This property plans to make its mark as an upscale Bali conference hotels venue with large 200sq m function rooms and proximity to the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The Club Med is for people with French accents who like to use coloured beads for money. Well no more actually. The place sports the usual raft of adrenalin-charged activities. Sultry women with pneumatic bodies that look like someone's robustly applied a bicycle pump to them, waft about in day-glo bikinis, accompanied by bronzed men with arms like tree trunks.

Petit Club Med handles tots aged 2-3 years, Mini Club Med deals with kids from 4-10 years and the Juniors’ Club Med entertains 11 to 12-year-olds. There’s also a circus school for kids complete with a flying trapeze but nothing too vertiginous of course. Explore the Club Med Spa with its Turkish bath, a six-hole putting course, and the wide swathe of beach with snorkelling possibilities. Right next door the Bali Desa Suites offers Balinese-style villas in a compound 100 metres from the beach.

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua blends French elegance with rustic chic

Sofitel Bali's woody 'banyan tree' lobby/ photo: Verghese

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua (December, 2013) occupies a prime stretch of beachfront and garden to the north of this tourism enclave in the vicinity of Club Med. The resort serves up 415 elegant rooms radiating out in two wings from the soaring central ‘banyan tree’ lobby with arcing wood and breezy open views above and restaurant below. As many as 12 function rooms are available for conferences and corporate meetings, while the main restaurant ripples down the centre of the resort towards the sea under a multi-section ‘roof garden’ that thrusts upwards at eye-catching angles. Look out for a wedding chapel, a beach club (no longer Nikki), and subtle spa touch-ups and 'artisinal' anti-ageing treatments.

A Luxury Room offers 48sq m of stretch space with grey-stone and stressed wood flooring. There are pool access rooms too. The décor is contemporary and neat with a blue-grey floral carpet, lamps, textured fabric walls, balcony, large flatscreen TV, a funky minibar with serving tray fitted atop, coffee machine, sliding door access to the bathroom with its terrazzo soaking tub, marble basin, and thoughtful seating under the rain shower.

Expect three-pin multi-plug electric sockets on either side of the bed. WiFi is free and other power outlets are deep round-hole two-pin sockets. There are 17 private villas as well where the pampering increases along with the price.

A tiered swimming pool runs along the resort between the two 'arms' of the hotel. Executive retreat Club Millesime, So Spa, and the kids' club are taking shape. Sofitel brings its fashionable blend of French-meets-East to Bali with infusions of local design and motifs in a contemporary setting. The resort is neat and modern and has gained some appeal as a venue for Indian weddings.

Grand Hyatt Bali is one of the best family-friendly hotels on the island

Grand Hyatt floral welcome and lotus ponds/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Editor's choiceThe Grand Hyatt Bali stormed the Nusa Dua scene in 1991, a typical mega-resort in the Hawaii mould with a sprawling campus verdant with manicured tropical foliage and signature pink bougainvillea, blazing red-tile roofing, and more swimming pools than you could throw a herd of hippos at. Spread out in four ‘villages’, each a self-contained cluster of multi-level low-rise rooms and suites connected by open sided zigzagging corridors overlooking vast lotus ponds with monitor lizards (alarming some but fascinating many), this has always been the one to beat. The rooms are a tad tired and ageing now but remain functional and homey. They could be due for a reset in late 2020 and two wings have undergone a soft refurbishment. The woody open-sided ground-floor Grand Club is in the East Village set amidst ponds and walkways lined by smooth black lava stones frequented by monitor lizards, ducks, herons, and koi fish. Its quiet, very modest breakfasts start usefully early at 6.30am unlike some hotels on the strip that open at a leisurely 7am. Botanical garden delight sister hotel Bali Hyatt closed for a long renovation on Sanur beach and returned 1 January 2019 with an Andaz scheduled for December 2020 nearby.

Grand Hyatt’s modestly elevated reception, open to sea breezes (though the lobby lounge now sports a much needed air-conditioned section) and a grand iridescent view leading to the pools and beach is a signature design element, copied by many, that immediately sets the mood, utterly redolent of Bali with a simple unassuming style, hyper-clean public toilets, busy intuitive smiling staff and the quintessential gamelan twosome tapping out that cheery hypnotic discordant melody so intimately connected with the island.

Unsurprisingly, the common central areas – there are five free-form swimming pools including one quieter stretch for the Grand Club – with a modest splash pool and shallow slides for kids, and a larger beachfront construct with slides and more for Camp Hyatt (the kids’ club) make this one of the top child-friendly hotels in Bali and the constant sound of laughter is a testament to that sun-dappled toddler satisfaction.

Grand Hyatt Club Lounge for light breakfast

Grand Hyatt Club Lounge is a breezy venue for light breakfast and evening canapes/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Never a dull moment for the kids who can enjoy supervised activities and action at the Kids' Club from 9am to 6pm for children aged three to twelve. There are three tennis courts too. And for that extra wow factor, there’s the alfresco Balinese buffet dinner amphitheatre Pasar Senggol with its lip-smacking Asian and local fare with the added allure of a traditional kecak (pronounced kay-chuck) dance drawing its inspiration from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. En route to this venue is the village ‘market’ with stores from the likes of local cotton lace favourite Uluwatu, and surfer biggie Quicksilver.

For wellness lovers, the Grand Hyatt Bali serves up its secluded kriya spa echoing the cadences of a Balinese water palace. This is a spacious, breezy complex with water features that come alight in the evening. Each spa villa has its own courtyard, plunge pool, soaking tub, and twin massage facilities. The colours are light, pastel, and soothing. The pale, cool stone runs in clean straight lines defining water pools and channels, offering a pleasant counterpoint to the heat of the overhead sun.

The Karangasem Ballroom set to one side of the lobby is a renovated Muscle MICE draw that pulls in big conventions and conferences that certainly up the volume peak time. The hotel boasts 13,320sq ft of meetings and events space. But back to the rooms. These remain the Achilles Heel of a gracefully ageing grand dame. As mentioned earlier, they are functional and homey - lacking USB sockets and full length mirrors and with not enough international electric points. But there's no prospect of your kids knocking over a priceless Ming vase, thank heavens, and the rooms (some with a soft refurbishment in place) are due for a facelift and upgrade perhaps late 2020, which would really tick all the boxes at this fine resort.

Meanwhile expect parquet flooring, rough woven rugs, woody Indonesian accents, large wood-slats opening onto the bathroom tub, a rain shower and hand shower cubicle, a single vanity, plenty of mineral water and a sliding door that reveals a small walk-in dresser with open hangers, an old box safe and an iron. The small but proficient hairdryer is affixed to a drawer below the washbasin.

Grand Hyatt Bali is a top child-friendly hotels pick with 5 swimming pools

Kids always enjoy Grand Hyatt's many swimming pools and slides/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A Club room features an alcove with fitted divan (that doubles as an extra bed), a verandah perhaps with chairs, and three three-pin electric sockets with a couple of deep round-hole two-pin local plug sockets too.

Grand Club rooms weigh in at 51sq m of space but explore a slightly more contemporary Grand Club Suite or the large beach-sited one-to-three-bedroom Villas with in-room spa facilities.

Grand Suites are vast and marble floored with a single three-pin international electric socket by the bed. Bathrooms are vast with two rain showers and twin vanities. Expect a living area with flatscreen TV, a dining alsove and a generous balcony looking over duck ponds.

(Grand Hyatt Bali is showcased in our exclusive by-invitation Top Asian Hotels Collection, featuring the best Asian hotels, resorts and spas in a printable A4 page with stunning visuals.)

Next up in the Nusa Dua five-star fraternity is the smart The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua (formerly the Sheraton Laguna Resort & Spa, part of the Starwood Luxury Collection), which has a charming Lagoon Spa and refurbished rooms including the Lagoon Access Rooms enabling you to tumble out of bed and into the pool assisted – in the event of too much champagne – by 24-hour butlers.

Water sports enthusiasts will not be left wanting. Scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, fishing, sailing and kayaking are just some of the activities on offer.

The Laguna Spa has its own Spa Villa where a raft of treatments is on offer. This is a good Bali conference hotel choice as is its sister property next door, 334-room The Westin Resort, Nusa Dua. The Westin is a straight up convention hotel albeit with all the trimmings of its fancy Nusa Dua peers with a large atrium lobby, three swimming pools, four floodlit tennis courts, and the now de rigueur WestinWORKOUT.

Westin's new look Deluxe room

Westin new look Deluxe/ photo: hotel

Kids will be kept busy at the Westin Kids Club (with facilities like a 12m water slide in the freshwater pool, gifts and healthy greenery), while frazzled parents unwind at The Heavenly Spa by Westin. There is a Westin Kids Spa as well. The Heavenly Spa offers 16 treatment rooms with a warm-up Himalayan salt sauna, hydro pool and steam room. You can even choose to have your massage in a pavilion on the beach.

For long comfortable stays, pick a 117sq m family suite if you have tiny tots in tow or opt for a luxurious 86sq m Ocean View Suite or a more roomy Two Bedroom Suite. These refurbished rooms, unusually for a conference hotel, can compete with the best on the island. The Deluxe entry level rooms are now in contemporary trim with clean lines, woody tones, flat screen TVs and bright splashes of art.

Select 38sq m Deluxe rooms offer a stretch-out terrace with direct access to gardens or pool. All rooms are fitted with visual telephone alerts and audible emergency alarms to help disabled guests. Later, enjoy fine or friendly Italian fare at Prego and crunch into zesty wood-fired oven pizzas.

The hotel's real strength of course is as a Bali conference hotels pick with 2,700sq m of exhibition space and a total of 26 meeting rooms, several with natural light. The main ballroom can handle 2,700 persons. Westin is a popular Bali resort weddings choice too with the space, top-notch facilities, a breezy and happening beachfront, and revved up on-the-ball staff for a fun event.

In this vicinity is the sprawling INAYA Putri Bali (September 2015, formerly Hotel Putri Bali Nusa Dua) that has had a top-to-toe makeover as a five-star contender, more upscale than the sibling Inna brand that hosts stays elsewhere on the island. The property has morphed from dark and traditional to bright and contemporary with clean lines and vast open spaces, huge uncluttered green lawns, expansive mirror-smooth swimming pools set in three tiers, and seven themed 'villages' - each a low-rise accommodation structure blending the contemporary and classic.

Arrival is via a long drive through the grounds past the accommodation blocks to your left, up to a soaring arched 'longhouse' style wood-roof lobby that looks onto the ocean.

INAYA's longhouse wooden lobby in the distance

INAYA Putri Bali, contemporary and simple/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The acreage is vast. Yet, interestingly, the architects have sought to move all the accommodation well away from the beach, thus opening up huge communal space for guests to enjoy leading past the pools and lawns to the beach. This offers ample elbowroom for energetic kids. Engage in a contemplative evening stroll, or opt for a Balinese wedding by the sea with grass underfoot and lots of value accommodation - in a prime location - for hangers-on.

INAYA Putri Bali is host to 460 rooms and villas. Deluxe rooms start at a generous 48sq m with cool cream stone floors, small work desk, fast internet, Indonesian motifs, and marble bathrooms with soaking tub and rain shower.

Ground floor Deluxe Pool Access rooms are 51sq m with similar contemporary Balinese interiors, coffee machines, swivel flat-screen TVs, complimentary minibar (for soft drinks) and step-in-and-splash-out possibilities. The long rooms face a slim free-form pool that runs along the building past other similar units. The bathroom quite generously runs the entire length of the room with a rainshower, wall-mounted hairdryer, and a terracotta bathtub, offering ample room for ladies in need of pampering.

Decor is simple and modern in woody tones. Find a safe for valuables, a phone on the slim workdesk (but not by the bed), free WiFi, and round domestic-style deep-socket two-pin electric plug points. There are several sockets but just one multi-plug adaptor in each room. Bear this in mind if in need of several charging options. The hotel will, of course, happily oblige if you need more adaptors, and irons can be requested too. Spacious bathrooms are a plus and hot water arrives fast and with vigour.

Inaya Putri Bali serves up vast pool areas

INAYA's vast pool areas are perfect to catch the rays/ photo: Vijay Verghese

There are 19 smart grey-stone shingle-roof villas with red-stone trim and plunge pools as well as access to a villa-guest-only snaking 'river' for a languourous swim. A one-bedroom unit is 157sq m, with two-bedroom villas going up to 330sq m. Suites and Villas offer butler service and pillow menus. For more privacy, a sea-facing Suite, above the restaurant in Building 8, will do the trick. Also expect a spa, mini zoo and shopping arcade at this family-friendly hotel.

A small A-frame glass chappel sits just above the main restaurant facing the pools, aimed at Bali resort weddings. But it is in the area of MICE and corporate meetings that INAYA could come into its own with a grand ballroom for conferences and five meeting rooms for smaller breakout sessions.

A minor niggle for some will be the close proximity of the rooms that tend to look onto each other. The residential dip pools similarly are set right by walking paths, open to quizzing eyes. This will not bother kids but adults may need to be careful while undressing. But, heck, this is Bali, who cares? Enjoy yourself and delight your neighbours with your six-pack abs.

The Spanish-run Melia Bali (which includes a private compound housing ten plush villas with plunge pools) is green, laid-back and inviting. Set in 25 generous acres, the Melia Bali launched the group’s young Yhi Spa brand and offers more than a fair bit of wellness indulgence with extensive treatment menus.

There is a large lagoon-style pool, a 3,000m jogging track and two floodlit tennis courts. By the beach enjoy a new timbered boardwalk and sun deck with sun umbrellas.

 Melia statue

Melia statue/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Grab a cool drink or a bite at the restaurant. Scheduled activities such as water aerobics, Balinese dance lessons, fruit carving and cooking demonstrations are available daily. The secluded and intimate Garden Villas are a world apart from the main resort with thatch roofs, each with150sq m of private gardens and its own swimming pool. Inside you’ll find a DVD player, and a pillow menu. The resort has a Kid’s Centre.

The Ayodya Resort Bali (formerly the Bali Hilton), and its exclusive Ayodya Palace wing, is crammed with all manner of striking statuary depicting scenes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Its design is supposed to mimic a traditional Balinese water palace with ample lagoons and pools. This child-friendly Bali resort is hotel-cum-museum and girdles a beachfront lagoon with swimming pool. Kids can avail of Camp Ananda with its special games, camp counsellors and “art corner”.

The 541 rooms all feature private balconies that overlook the pool, gardens and lagoons, but the Ayodya Palace wing offers additional amenities including access to the Ayodya Palace Lounge (with its private pool), complimentary breakfast, tea and cocktails, gym access and meeting facilities. Another decent option in the Nusa fringe area near the golf course is the cosy, compact and green, The Grand Bali – Nusa Dua (formerly the Swiss-Belhotel Bali Aga), a smart away-from-the-beach option that will not unduly test your pocket. Rooms are simple with wooden floors and the usual mod-cons but this medium-rise complex is neat, green, manicured and friendly. Find a spa, a jogging track, tennis courts, and lawn bowls as well as WiFi and a business centre for workaholics. All this is topped off with an exuberant cobalt-blue swimming pool. No special kids' facilities but a children's menu is available.

Bali child-friendly hotels, Courtyard in Nusa Dua

Child-friendly Courtyard/ photo: Vijay Verghese

New and businesslike neighbour Mercure Bali Nusa Dua (Jan 2013) serves up 201 modern and colourful rooms with free WiFi in a compact lowrise building also set away from the beach not far from the small hotel-style Hotel Santika Siligita Nusa Dua Bali (Jan 2013) with its plain but neat rooms. Santika, just outside the Nusa Dua enclave on a fairly busy access road, is a value option at around US$50 for a superior room.

Alas not on the beach, but cheerful and brilliantly welcoming of kids, the Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua (by Marriott), opened in March 2011, is the 900th iteration of this value brand. It boasts 234 rooms and seven suites. This is a neat grey-stone construct with clean lines and a Zen sense of space. Expect an onsite lagoon swimming pool that meanders playfully around, dedicated beach club facilities on Nusa Dua Beach, and a fitness centre to work up a sweat. When you’re done, stop by the Courtyard Spa and let the therapists get to work. As at other Courtyards there is an all-purpose Momo Café. Also let the tots run wild at the kids’ club. Close by is the Hotel Novotel Bali Nusa Dua Hotel & Residences, quite a mouthful, but a pleasant residential complex set away from the beach overlooking the golf course with 175 smart and contemporary rooms, a Kids’ Club, conference room, and spa services.

At the far end of the Nusa strip is the former Bali Golf and Country Club with its 18-hole championship course. The greens closed for a major overhaul and returned late 2014 as the Bali National Golf Club. This revamping manicured green enclave is also referred to as 'The Maj' (the hospitality arm of the owning Ancora group) and encompasses seven private villas, the golf club, the David Leadbetter Golf Academy and a long-in-the-works Shangri-La (now due sometime 2019). The new greens are designed by Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright (but serve up the same par 72 course).

Bali resorts review Ayana offers a stately experience

Ayana serves up a grand experience with great views/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The club also used to manage one of Bali's best-kept secrets, The Villas at Bali Golf and Country Club. These lovely contemporary villas are in three and four-bedroom layouts. While old timers will recall villas 11 and 12 conveniently opening onto the tee for Hole 9, the new address offers grandstand views across holes 17 and 18. Expect butlers, private pool and 24-hour in-villa dining. A two-bedroom villa starts at around Rp9,000,000 per night, or roughly US$675, a steal with the perks and swing-out opportunities right at your doorstep. These luxe escapes now run as the The Bali National Golf Villas with seven options, each housing up to six persons.

The neighbouring all-villa Amanusa, one of the Aman resorts Bali trinity that launched in 1992 left the group 28 February 2018. Aman Resorts will return with a new product for this prized tourist strip. Amanusa shall be missed. The fact that there are just 35 villas, each with substantial separation, open areas, great views and soothing greenery everywhere, added to the sense of intimacy. People with wallets deeper than the Grand Canyon holidayed here yet the ambience was convivial and friendly.

The Aman Villas (launched mid-2013) remains with the group. These are a secluded set of private hideaways serving up ten 4,000sq ft accommodations with three to six-bedroom ensembles - huge living areas with separate bedroom villas, living room and dining areas and, of course, that staple emerald swimming pool that runs long enough for fast calorie-burning laps.

The Aman Villas are a short buggy ride up the hill away from the main complex. You'll have your own chef and butler, so don't even think of moving.

At this end of the Nusa Dua beach stretch is The St Regis Bali Resort that opened late 2008. The long driveway rises up to an elegant but wonderfully sparse high-ceiling open lobby with cream marble, a central floral arrangement, and wide sofas. This looks onto a ‘river’ of lava stone – illuminated by burning torches at night – that leads to the main pool with its island of gauze-draped bales and adjoining kids’ pool, all fronting a generous beach. There is a second 3,668sq m swimmable saltwater lagoon pool for further water adventures.

Bali luxury resorts review, St Regis floral lobby decor

St Regis floral decorations in the lobby/ photo: Vijay Verghese

With 2,820sq m of recreational space and 350m of beachfront there’s pretty much something for anyone here no matter how pernickety (for hardboiled grumps there’s always those suave butlers, some with Spanish names and impeccable silver screen manners). Figuring out what to do? Pick from swimming, gym and yoga to jet therapy pools, sauna, wedding chapel, and the dedicated Remede Spa with its glowing onyx lamps set amidst reflecting pools.

The hotel features a combination of suites, "residences" and villas with plunge pools and gardens. Upper storey suites in the main building (accessed by lifts) get a generous balcony while ground floor digs enjoy a private garden with relaxation bale.

The 79 wooden-floor suites offer a spacious (at least 92sq m) homey feel with differing furniture and lampshades that attempt to break the symmetry of this vast sybaritic playground. Handsome dark wood doors lead to a vestibule with mini-bar (Coke at roughly US$4.90, Heineken at $7.50) and beach hats. Beyond this is a living area with Indonesian accents and a slim work desk kitted out with a broadband cable and one international three-pin electric socket (that also takes two-pin plugs, 220 volts AC). A long white cotton curtain separates this part of the room with its sofa and planter’s style easy chair, from the plump white bed (with pipe reading lights) facing a 42-inch flat-screen TV atop a cabinet. At the cabinet you’ll find a second three-pin international plug socket and data-port with USB and media HDMI sockets. The bed does not have a three-pin socket alas but it provides two USB charging ports and a deep round-hole two-pin European socket.

Master and room light switches are large, tactile and splendidly responsive (a far cry from the whimsical Singapore St Regis mood lights that can be downright frustrating). A large numeral bedside digital clock will be a godsend for many as it is easy to read yet not bright enough to ruffle your sleep, and the lazily whirring wooden ceiling fan is a nice feel-at-home touch. The bedroom leads to a broad balcony with a treetop view or an ocean view depending on your room, a large sofa and two chairs. A nice spot for a morning tea or cup of Joe.

The pièce de résistance is the generous white marble bathroom with its well-lit twin vanities, leather stool, spoiling toiletries from Remede, and a soaking tub by the window. There is a rain shower and hand shower cubicle with easy controls to avoid a 6am scalding. Hot water arrives briskly and the shower jet is reassuringly strong. The water is a tad hard and if you still feel soapy worry not. A small niggle but an annoyance nonetheless is the absence of a hairdryer socket in the bathroom and the only choice really is a dimly lit walk-in dresser with a mirror wall. Not the best option for ladies coiffing their hair. The dresser however is a good size and home to a laptop-friendly safe. WiFi is complimentary, fast, and easy to access.

Bali spa resorts guide, St Regis Suites are large and well appointed

St Regis Suite/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Villas are a dream and run along the walkway to beach or are set around the lagoon. They feature their own plunge pools, spoiling amenities, and BOSE sound systems. Rent a DVD and unwind. Rooms are soundproofed. Top of the line are The Strand Villas (from 604sq m for a one bedroom stay) arrayed along the beach. Expect butler service on rails, and a private split-level garden. The compounds are enclosed in low limestone walls for complete seclusion.

St Regis Bali is in many ways a grand, almost imperial, enterprise. You might expect to turn a corner and run into a coliseum or the odd vestal virgin amidst the hip and happy. But it manages to be intimate too and serves up a fine breakfast at the Boneka Indonesian puppet restaurant featuring excellent cooked-to-order eggs, hash browns and sausages (nothing lies around in soggy heaps as at many establishments) and inventive small side dishes like egg white frittata in lobster bisque or fusilli with mini meatballs. Boneka does jazz Sunday brunches too. And for culinary romance with a view there’s the fusion Kayaputi Restaurant in an elegant villa by the beach facing the main pool and sea.

The St Regis is not your run-of-the-mill Bali resort straining to be higgledy-piggledy local. It is a high-end establishment with gleam and gloss, a contemporary feel, and structured lines - yet Bali is always in evidence. As our St Regis Bali review concludes, with a 4:1 staff-to-room ratio the pampering is palpable and the resort compares very well vs other luxury options around the island. It is one of the best leisure hotels in Bali and justifiably so. Mark it in your diary.

The Balé, with 29 stylish private pavilions (they don't call them villas) each with a small pool and garden is located just across from The St Regis, rising up a hillock. It has extended its accommodations with fresh new pavilions in an uncluttered setting, each in its own compound with open shower areas, day beds, glass-panelled bathrooms, big soaking tubs, pool, 40-inch flat-screen plasma TV, DVD player, iPod dock and complimentary high speed Internet access.

Bale Single Pavilion

The Bale Single Pavilion/ photo: hotel

The resort's approach is minimalist with streams linking rectangular pools filled with smooth, rounded volcanic rocks to set off the pale beige sandstone.

This Lifestyle Retreats property also features an intimate, small and secluded spa. Try yoga, Tai Chi, deep water toning, or the 120-minute “Tropical Romantic Ritual”. The spa’s packages also include a two-course meal specially designed by the Executive Chef to compliment the treatments.

The food at the gourmet Faces poolside is light and excellent. Or, for something lighter still, check out Bliss at the spa. The Balé has been compared with Aman and there are certainly some similarities, not least the outdoor shower and the light stone (reminiscent of Amankila). Upon check-in you'll get to choose from eight spa soaps. Don't grab them all. Toiletries include an emery board, razor and sewing kit. The largest 11m pools are with double pavilions 22 and 23, 19 and 20, and 16 and 17. While not located on the beach, the resort has a Beach Club a short walk away.

From Jakarta haute hoteliers Mulia comes the sprawling Mulia Bali (or The Mulia, The Mulia Resort & Villas Nusa Dua - Bali, in its complete form) a mini destination on its own with three hotel experiences in one. Stroll through The Mulia (an all suite seafront medium rise complex), the Mulia Resort, the middle section set away from the beachside with hotel accommodation, and the Mulia Villas, set farther inland up a rise with electric buggy access. Run the gauntlet of a thorough but smiling security detail to arrive at a breezy, modern raised lobby with pyramidal glass skylights adorned with large hanging blown glass discs. The space is vast and imposing with cool marble underfoot and homey deep seating furniture at various intervals for tuckered out legs. The accent is on contemporary rather than classic Balinese, an architectural meld that might be equally at home in Sanya or Cannes. It is comfortable and roomy.

From the lobby the two arms of the 526-room Mulia Resort stretch out seawards, tipped by the exclusive The Mulia with its high-end suites and many ocean-facing balconies doubly blessed with Jacuzzis. A 63sq m Royal Suite in Mulia Resort serves up 400 thread-count cotton linen, pale baby blue and cream textures, flat screen TV, balcony, sofa bed, twin vanities, soaking tub (perhaps with a view of the courtyard pool), rain shower, iPod dock, laptop safe and nifty mobile device charges.

Mulia Villas (pictured) is often compared vs St Regis

Mulia Villa/ photo: Vijay Verghese

It is a pleasing ensemble save for the fact that the work desk lacks a convenient electric socket and ones you find might be the old-fashioned recessed round-hole two-pin variety. WiFi is charged in-room though it is free elsewhere in the resort's public areas.

A short buggy ride leads up to the spacious Villa reception. One Bedroom Villas offer a canopied sun lounger, patio and 50sq m hydrotherapy pool with clean lines and contemporary yet classical furniture. Bathrooms are huge and the bedrooms may remind you of a posh apartment with a homey feel. The décor is muted and the feeling is welcoming and recognisable rather than in-your-face exotic. It is a quiet luxury aimed at worn travellers seeking a standard definable experience. The treated "bug-free" roofing soars neatly above the pale pastel surrounds featuring flat screen TVs, big Jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor showers, twin vanities, Nespresso machine for a quick cuppa, and a small safe. The vast Mulia Kidz serves up ample distractions for children aged three to eight with a smorgasbord of fun activities 9am-8pm - arts and craft lessons, dance, Balinese costumes, music, flower arrangements, team building, table tennis, movies, yoga, and meals.

Mulia Bali is a grand, borderline bland, sprawling essay, easy on the eye, with plenty of stretch space and a strict rulebook. That upscale restaurants require a smart dress code is not unusual. What is a departure from the resort norm though is a strict adherence to the two adults and one child policy per room, and the fact that restaurant tables cannot be joined to accommodate larger groups. Guests take it in their stride and encomiums continue to pour in.

The hotel plans to uncompromisingly maintain high luxury standards. There is much to like. Mulia Resort Bali is no slouch on trimmings – enjoy several swimming pools scattered around the 745-key complex, a kids club, kids pool, a Mulia Spa for wellness pampering, a fitness centre and business centre for workaholics. This is a top MICE address with superb, glittering conference facilities.

The Mulia aims to be a romantic getaway as well as a family-friendly Bali resort with a confident pitch to the Bali weddings market (there are three wedding chapels) and meeting planners. Take a look. This is something different for when thatch-and-grit is not your cuppa.

Heading on from here along the coast is the secluded Hilton Bali Resort (formerly Grand Nikko Bali rebranded 1 December 2016) perched on a cliff with four pools and fun-filled unofficial camel safaris on the beach. The little ones will be fully occupied with the dedicated kids’ lagoon and pool featuring 30m water slides. There is also a camp for kids aged six to twelve. Kids love the occasional camel rides on the beach but this is freelance fare, not the hotel's service. This is an older resort styled much along the lines of the Grand Hyatt but in a more compact setting and sited up a cliff with vast views. Expect a gentle pace despite the occasional patter of conference footfalls, with very leisurely breakfasts from 6am to 11am.

Bali resort weddings - new look Deluxe Ocean View room late 2019 at Hilton Bali

Breezy, new look Deluxe Ocean View room in 2020 / photo: hotel

Hilton had introduced fresh totally remodelled rooms by late 2019. As many as 185 Premier Rooms and Suites with their cliff-front location, arrived in time for the IMF Bali summit. And another upgraded wing featuring new-look rooms has added zest to the rooming options.

The 86 units of the Deluxe Ocean View with 45sq m of neat airy space include a balcony, large 'smart' HD TV, an even larger bed, small foyer, wooden flooring with a patterned blue and gold carpet and a cobalt headboard for the bed. The rooms are a far cry from the earlier offering - smart, contemporary and unfussy with room for children to romp without smashing some priceless object, while functional for conference goers who may blush at the prospect of a see-through bathroom wall with blinds for privacy. Expect a rainshower, a soaking tub, single vanity, iron and ironing board and a sensibly empty mini-bar (just order the content package of your choice). Tea and coffee are available in-room. This is a bright space that will delight those with gadget mania as there is a useful surplus of three-pin multiplug points - one on either side of the bed (with USB ports) and two by the side of the TV. There is no work desk so toss out that spreadsheet and unwind. The new rooms are a game changer for this re-emerging resort.

Other feathers in the cap at this lively, friendly resort are 300sq m pool villas (in one to three-bedroom layouts with indoor and outdoor showers, BOSE sound, iPod Docks, large LCD screen televisions, and the usual mod-cons, and butler service), and a newish 1,100sq m convention centre with banquet space for 760 persons. Clearly MICE and weddings (with the addition of a separate open air wedding pavilion for 30 guests) will be the name of the game at this rebranded property and the place is well positioned to offer both style and value in a reasonably compact space without all that sweaty walking around.

The hotel boasts a spa with eight comfy spa villas, as well as a Beachside Bale. Guests can gaze at the sweeping views of the Indian Ocean while masseurs work at revitalizing those aching muscles, or simply pile on the pampering with manicures, pedicures, facials, you name it. If you like HUGE ocean views, this one's for you.

The Ritz-Carlton Bali is set cliff-edge and requires lifts and buggies to get around

The Ritz-Carlton, Bali/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The Ritz-Carlton, Bali (late December 2014) marks the return of this legendary brand after it vacated its old establishment in Jimbaran (now the Ayana). Set below a high cliff are luxurious rooms, suites (will 1,000sq ft suffice?) and pool villas (going up to 7,290sq ft) where butlers are on hand to do your every bidding – if you don’t know how to unpack, for instance. Open balconies and terraces offer wide-angle sea views and flaming sunsets, while indoors, await marbled bathrooms, deep soaking tubs and rainshowers. Expect WiFi, Bluetooth connectivity, a home entertainment system, and a hotel that is willing to ‘childproof’ the room for you. This aims to be a family-friendly escape with an excellent spa and corporate meeting facilities for those who insist on conferencing and ignoring the sun outside. Parents can ask for Ritz Kids while suits hunt for the Conference Concierge or explore menus in six F&B outlets.

The arrival lacks lustre with a small breezy lobby that fails to pull off the 'intimate' feel it might have been taking a stab at. It is plain and functional and gets the job done. The clifftop darkwood lobby is understated and neat with splashes of green-lit counters but otherwise is not much of a selfie spot. One level below, a breezy lawn stretches out to catch the sun and open vistas. This is a walk-out area immediatly fronting the ballroom (for 200 persons) and meeting areas (which have their own separate private entrance). From here, a see-through glass lift whisks you far below to the actual resort complex where buggies are on hand to trundle you about. Lifts and buggies are the choke points at this resort where 400 steps climb from pool level to the lobby and not in a straight line. Later, leave footprints in the sand - though at low tide there may be precious little of this - or splash out in the stunning swimming pool.

The grassy beachfront area with its resuarants and wedding chapel is a delight. This entire strip once supported a seaweed collection cottage industry as the more favoured beach areas around Nusa Dua developed. Rooms are spacious, contemporary and well finished. Think pale plum tones, cream stone foyer, one three-pin electric socket either side of the bed in a bedside drawer, instant-on WiFi, russet gauze drapes, and dark wood floors. A suite in cream and tan tones offers a snadalone tub sans view, and a large balcony.

The Apurva Kempinski Bali brings fresh luxury lifestyle experiences to the Nusa Dua area

Woody breezy lobby with local flair at The Apurva Kempinski Bali/ photo: Vijay Verghese

En route to the Hilton, on a hilltop, is the Sekar Nusa Villas. The Sekar Nusa has cottages, each with a private pool or Jacuzzi, and two communal pools. It's quite pleasant but lacks access to (or facilities on) the beach. Spa treatments and bike rentals are available. This is a good set-away-from-the-crowd budget option though you will certainly find a few flag-waving groups passing through.

At the stylishly cascading contemporary chic and minimal The Apurva Kempinski Bali (1 Feb 2019, www.kempinski.com/en/bali) in Nusa Dua, set atop a low hill and rolling into the azure sea, find 475 rooms, luxury suites and private villas. Expect, fine restuarants and flair as at the PALA Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, a luxury spa, a vast pillarless ballroom, wedding chapel, and 2,200sq m sea-facing lawn for everything from conferences to elegant weddings. The resort will hit its stride by late 2019 and the green should be leafy and mature by early 2020. Its centrepiece is the breezy high-ceiling lobby with Indonesian wood carving and filigree work. This is a stunning high ceiling space.

One level up is a spacious state-of-the-art ballroom with three crystal chandeliers. The ballroom - flooded with natural light - looks over the resort and the sea but it could do with more toilets to cater for bigger events. From here 250 steps run arrow straight down to the vast 60m pool and kids' water slides (amidst which the serene PALA Restaurant and Rooftop Bar await). There are swimming pools at intermediate points too along the steps with sunning spots. The conventional way to get to the main beach area (and the accommodation) is via two separate elevator banks that can create a bit of a squeeze if several guests are moving at the same time. The vistas are vast and uncluttered as the vegetation tenuously starts to take hold (it should have matured by late 2020).

The Apurva Kempinski Bali offers a vast impossibly blue pool

Vast impossibly blue pool at The Apurva Kempinski Bali/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A spacious 65sq m Grand Deluxe Room is in classic earth tones with a rustic semi Indonesian finish, ikat wall hangings, and an open-air terrace to take in the views. Yet, it has a sparse contemporary straight-lines feel that borders on modern apartment. You could be in Hong Kong or Dubai. Bathtubs are set window-side. Think spoilingly large flatscreen televisions, de rigueur complimentary WiFi (a tad slow at 4mbps), a selection of pillows to pamper your neck, a working desk and a laptop-friendly safe.

You can of course go whole hog at a 200sq m Ocean Front Prestige Suite in hushed, dark and gleaming woody tones, filigree partitions, clean contemporary lines, a powder room, and a lavish bathroom with separate bathtub and shower. The Cliff Private Pool Junior Suite serves up 100sq m of stretch space should you be tired of cramped city life. The Villas are curiously arrayed before the lobby and thus lack any views at all but this is on purpose. This compound offers supreme seclusion and will be aimed at the high end Middle East market. Entrance to the hotel is through an attractive Hobbit vine-hung archway and then past a water feature. Once the vines and creepers manage to spread down the villa walls and sea-facing room balconies the resort will have a lived-in greener feel to soften its grey angular cubism.

The 'Lady in Red' art de vivre ambassador is a nice personalised Kempinski check-in touch that will be a takeaway memory along with the pampering indulgence of The Apurva Spa with its menu of local 'Lulur' and 'Jamu' treatments.

The Shanti Residence is a modern, splendidly private villa retreat in Nusa Dua not far from the Hilton and 30 minutes from airport. There are five suites of which three have their own plunge pool or garden.

Bali resorts review, Samabe villa interior

Samabe villa/ photo: hotel

Each is staffed by a personal chef, butler, housekeeper and chauffeur. The Residence overlooks the ocean and is within minutes of the beach. At its heart is a large infinity pool with a timber deck for alfresco dining and entertaining.

Also from the group are Four@Drupadi in Seminyak with themed accommodation, The Lotus Residence set in paddy fields, and The Satung in Ubud. The Satung occupies 15,000sq m of prime real estate on the banks of the sacred Agung River. Expect a 1,200sq m garden, a restaurant and a dedicated yoga and ayurvedic centre for chakra balancing overlooking the stream.

Also in the general Nusa Dua area, a bit farther west after the Hilton, is the villa and suite Samabe Bali Resort & Villas. Expect contemporary chic, bright splashes of colour, and smart rooms with sea views. Pick from a suite or a larger one or two-bedroom pool villa. One bedroom Garden Pool Villas start at a generous 265sq m and are aimed at the honeymoon and Bali resort wedding set. Dawdle in outdoor showers or soak in a standalone tub. Or spa out. You get the drift…

Set just away from Nusa Dua at Taman Mumbul and within easy reach of the airport is the Swiss-Belhotel Bay View, a combination of residences, suites and villas. This is a business and leisure all-suites resort with the whole works – kitchen, pantry, living room, Internet, and satellite TV. Expect a business centre, three swimming pools, a children’s club, and the rooftop Kawas Spa with herbal baths and signature treatments. Shuttles run to Kuta and the beach club.

Royal Santrian in Benoa

Royal Santrian, Benoa/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The resort has recently opened the Bay View Villas, which offers 34 one-bedroom villas and five two-bedroom Pool Villas. Confused? We’re just warming up. As we said, “Welcome to Hotel Bali – you can check out but you can never leave…

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Benoa hotels and resorts

Among the smart smaller picks along the Benoa seafront is The Royal Santrian (sister property of The Puri Santrian and Griya Santrian, Sanur), with a breezy 2.5 hectares by the beach with three oceanfront Royal Villas and 17 Deluxe Villas. The resort is contemporary and smart with clean lines, an attractive slim pool running arrow-straight towards the beach (lined by crimson sun umbrellas) and thatch-roof luxury villas with private pools. There is a Royal Spa on the premises with a range of treatments. Regular shingle-roof villas are set in private walled courtyards with generous pools and lounging pavilion. Inside expect beige woody tones, dark wood floors, huge flat screen TV, big safe, dressing area, twin vanities for him and her, rain shower, and bathtub. It is a smart ensemble set off by verdant lawns and large stone statues. At one-bedroom Royal Villas also expect Royal Butler service, handy for all that packing and unpacking. Plan a romantic Bali wedding here, enjoy a honeymoon dinner under the stars.

Another nice spot on the Benoa stretch is the attractive child-friendly Novotel Benoa Bali with almost 200 rooms, a few beach cabanas, three pools, two whirlpools, a tennis court, fitness centre and a shuttle bus to Nusa. In season, the resort offers daily recreational programmes poolside. With a dedicated Kids Club, there are enough activities here to keep an army of tots fully occupied for a week.

Bali hip hotels and resorts, Chedi Sakala in Benoa

Mantra Sakala Resort & Beach Club/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The Mantra Sakala Resort & Beach Club, Bali (formerly The Chedi Sakala, Bali that opened 1 November 2013) rebranded April 2015. It is at the very end of the hotel strip after Novotel at Tanjung Benoa. It is not a quiet thatch-roof retreat but a hip hotel with grey-stone and dark-wood infused, in particular into the 14 duplex pool villas that stretch out from one side of the futuristic mushroom lobby. The 161 rooms are in a neat mid-rise array behind the lobby, stretching far back with a wonderful – and huge 116m – blue tile Z-shape pool set within their inward-facing ‘courtyard’ fold. Expect straight lines and sharp angles rather than curves, lots of black and mirrors. The small and friendly Club Lounge (for villas and suites) is here as are the kids’ club and restaurant. The beach, alas, is separated by a narrow road, and on this section of the hotel you’ll find the dramatic Sakala restaurant with its fine French fare. The beach is broad but occasionally overwhelmed by watersports. Of an evening it makes a reflective spot for a cocktail and a quality nibble.

The smart villas are the centerpiece, arrayed on either side of a small paved walk with high walls enclosing a small pool, timber deck with sun chairs, green foliage and two floors. Both ‘villas’ upstairs and downstairs are largely identical with the upper floor possessing a balcony and a roof. And they are served by brisk butlers. Walk through large carved black-stained wooden doors into a generous living and dining area with kitchenette (microwave, basin, mini-bar with complimentary soft drinks), comfy sofa and a large flat-screen TV. Rooms have polished grey stone floors with carpets. Large sliding windows on all sides allow plenty of light into the rooms with their mod ‘lantern’ lamps and bright down-facing spotlights. The bedroom serves up twin four poster gauze drapes above a plump bed with the bathing area behind it. Expect another flat-screen TV here as well as a smaller LCD TV facing the bathtub. The rainshower is fast and hot accompanied by posh toiletries while a futuristic double-spoon basin provides twin vanities for him and her. Find a laptop safe, iron, and plenty of three pin multi-plugs as well the local round-hole two-pin affairs.

Mantra Sakala has 14 elegant villas with private pools

Mantra Sakala Resort, Villa/ photo: hotel

A 62sq m Cabana 'hotel' room is smart and modular with wooden floors. Expect a small kitchenette with small cooking range and microwave leading into the living area with a work desk with two three-pin plugs, sofa, flat-screen TV and, perhaps, a pool access verandah on lower floors. The bedroom is fairly compact with wood flooring. The open plan bathroom has a marble tub, one washbasin, and a double-shower cubicle. Mantra Sakala is certainly different, but it works for the younger set and families. The hotel can also rustle up meetings – and ample parking space – for up to 450 people cocktail style.

The other contenders are the Melia Benoa, which sells all-inclusive packages and has a spa, the more basic Aston Bali Resort & Spa, and the larger Grand Mirage Resort with its Thalasso Bali hydrotherapy spa where seaweed, seawater and assorted water jets, sprinklers and foaming baths await. This was the first Thalasso on the island. Grand Mirage remains a very family-friendly Bali hotel and is littered with activities for kids from water polo to giant chess. Hotel Ibis Styles Bali Benoa is a 174-room smart, mod and businesslike value option from about US$70 on the early Benoa stretch on the main road (not by the beach).

In stately contrast is the impeccable and sprawling 353-room Conrad Bali Resort & Spa. The large and breezy lobby offers immediate ocean views and leads on down to the pools, massage bales and the beach. The resort present clean, well-planned, imperial lines, almost a Rome-comes-to-the-beach sort of look, with open spaces as well as snuggeries for couples. Arriving early or have a late departure? No worries, the hotel has set up the Reflections Lounge for guests to relax while they wait. The rooms are bright with an abundance of blues including blue-ripple carpets, woven headboards and, replacing the customary yellow rubber duck, a green rubber turtle to grace the bath. The golden "bangkirai" wood from Borneo adds to the sense of lightness, and glass, full-length walls, enable you to look out from the washroom to keep an eye on the TV or the kids, or the hubby.

Bali spa resorts review, Conrad Bali

Conrad Bali Resort & Spa/ photo: hotel

The safe is large enough to handle a laptop. A nice touch is the wireless Internet available throughout the resort and there is high-speed access in the rooms as well. There's a spa, and a state-of-the-art Games Zone is equipped with everything from computer games and SONY Playstations to Monopoly.

Pizza by the metre? The Conrad can do that too. The latest feather in its cap for those in search of a romantic Bali wedding is "Infinity", its dedicated weddings venue.

This all-white, tented, futuristic venue with floor-to-ceiling glass panels and attractive water features, offers ample light, breeze and views. It is set in a 1,200sq m Ocean Garden reserve. Soothe your conscience after all that extravagance by donating to the needy through one of the many community causes that the Conrad Bali donates too.

For something smaller, simpler, cheaper, look at the Rumah Bali, Bed & Breakfast where rooms start at just US$73. In larger rooms enjoy a pool, breakfast on your porch, kitchenette, TV, VCD player, fridge and safety box. Rooms are spacious, wood-floored, with four-poster beds complete with mosquito drapes. Private villas are also available from US$275 a night, which boast three bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, private pool and a sundeck.

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Uluwatu luxe resorts, Ungasan spas, villas

In secluded Uluwatu, I drove past another clutch of heavily-muscled guards, knowing these people would wrench my head off if I so much as looked liked misspelling Bulgari, one of the newer designer boutique resorts to open on Bali. For the uninitiated, it is spelled two ways, BVLGARI in capitals and Bulgari in lower case, and never to be confused with Bulgaria (which also claims a few resorts). The difference between a night at the chic Bulgari Resort Bali and a Bulgaria resort is about the GDP of Bangladesh. Now you know.

 Bulgari Bali with one of its clifftop pools

Top-of-the-line Bulgari/ photo: hotel

Bulgari, and its attendant leggy models, glitterati, beautiful people, hangers-on and impoverished journalists, is a welcome pick-me-upper for Bali. Its 59 swish villas with Bang & Olufsen flat-screen TVs, DVD players, private gardens and plunge pools, ocean vistas and spoiling BVLGARI amenities cascade down a quiet Uluwatu hillside, just past Pecatu village, hoping to offer the ultimate in branded designer chic. Splash out at the arm-and-a-leg Bulgari Villa, a 1,300sq m area boasting its own 20m pool, a meditation pergola, a spa treatment room and even a private cinema, or spoil yourself silly at the Spa, a traditional ensemble complete with hand-carved teakwood doors at the entrance.

Each self-contained villa has its own sundeck running alongside a dark-timbered bedroom under a traditional sloping alang-alang thatch roof. Indoors, Balinese gives way to textured, minimalist Italian. The starched white-linen bed with its intricate songkat runner looks out over the ocean through floor-to-ceiling glass panels with the black-floor bathroom just behind similarly bathed in light.

There is a bathtub and outdoor shower. The general layout of the entire complex is a tad compact with thatch roofs running in unbroken tiers down the hill, ending dramatically cliffside, where views from an alluring infinity pool and signature restaurants plunge into the blue yonder. Over a year on since the opening, maturing greenery has lent further privacy and character to the villa plunge pools.

Anantara Uluwatu is minimalist chic

Anantara Uluwatu/ photo: hotel

Enjoy the splendid BVLGARI amenities, the funicular leading down to the crashing surf and tanning beach far below, the spa and, yes, even a few Bali edition watches. The beach is picturesque but not inviting of a swim on account of the coral and rock.

Bring along a book and a sharp 20 megapixel camera. And pose. Welcome to the latest Bali luxury villa offering and BVLGARI Hotels & Resorts where the fun begins at a paltry US$750 per night if it’s off season.

The Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa (opened 2013) is a modern cliffside presence, almost hidden, with a squat, layered structure that rises reticently above a tiered infinity pool, the modular suites and villas in neat, flattened boxes above it, each with grand views of the bay. This address is thoroughly contemporary with straight uncomplicated lines, cool stone floors underfoot, pastel tones, grey divans, flat-screen TVs and textured headboard walls. This is comfortable minimalism that encourages use of space without stumbling over antique artefacts. It is stylish and with a sense of Bali without this being overdone.

Ocean Pool Access Suites do just that with a walk-in-and-dip attitude, iPod docks, iPads for library browsing and more. Move on up to an Ocean View Suite, a Two Bedroom Garden Pool Villa or the premium Three Bedroom Ocean Front Pool Villa. For still more spoiling - and some damage to your wallet no doubt - there's The Penthouse with 336sq m of space both indoors and outside. The duplex suite serves up a rain shower for the master bedroom with an alfresco soaking tub, Bose sound system, a kitchen and, of course, sweeping vistas and stunning sunsets that Uluwatu is famed for.

Bali resorts review, Banyan Tree comes off well vs the competition

Banyan Tree Ungasan/ photo: hotel

There is a Wedding Chapel on site as well as the de rigueur dedicated Anantara Spa with four treatment rooms for singles, a room for couples and a bale for wellness workouts. As with all newer resorts, this one is getting into its stride. Keep an eye on it.

Another option in this area is the Blue Point Bay Villas & Spa, a Japanese-owned complex with private villas set on the cliff, each with a pool and undisrupted views. There are two main swimming pools and a dedicated spa.

The Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali, is on Bali’s southernmost peninsula, sprawling across the cliff-top near the Uluwatu Temple. The resort opened end 2009 with a signature Banyan Tree Spa (with nine treatment rooms), pool villa accommodation, and a buggy road winding down in hairpins to a private beach. Each villa boasts private gardens, outdoor jet pool and 10m infinity pool. The Pool Villa – Ocean View starts at a camel-swinging 403sq m. Walk in through a slate-grey compound wall to find yourself on a sunny sundeck patio with a belvedere looking over the cliff at the crashing surf far below. The views are vertiginous and vast.

Leave the pink bougainvillea to step into the villa living and dining area with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that are relentlessly welcoming of light. Drop onto a sofa and watch the latest movies on a large flat-screen TV, gaze out over the pool, or wander into the HUGE toilet to rummage about the goodies - twin vanities, a soaking tub, lotions and potions, and well-lit mirrors to spot each and every hidden mole. Flooring alternates between cool marble in the living room and dark timber in the bedroom. Find literally acres of space for parties, weddings, and corporate functions. The views are breezy and unobstructed especially from the almost Mediterranean Ju Ma Na Bar where, with a cool sundowner in hand, you can see forever. And yes, the WiFi is free.

Alila Uluwatu

Alila Villas Uluwatu/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A private villa option in the Uluwatu area is the exclusive and well sited The Edge Bali, a secluded bolthole with sweeping ocean views across infinity pools. New villas were added in 2015 but the scale is still relatively small and personal with eight units in all. Expect quality fittings and butler service to personalise the experience for guests.

You might even consider a small destination wedding at this corner of Bali. The feather in its cap is the vertiginous spa set high above the blue vistas with floor to ceiling views and water flowing underfoot. The Edge is a contemporary setting for those looking to break out from the trad-thatch Bali mould yet staying very much in the spirit of the place.

The minimalist designer-chic 60-villa Alila Villas Uluwatu is spread over 13.5 hectares and perched atop a dramatic cliff looking across pounding surf and open ocean vistas. The low-rise villas offer contemporary design with clean, straight lines in cream with plenty of sluice-gates in courtyard walls for the wind to whistle through.

And refreshing it is. No better place to enjoy this than from the tree-house style belvederes that sit vertiginously atop the cliff with randomly placed horizontal wooden beams for walls, with vast, almost disconcerting gaps to allow the eye to view the sunsets undisturbed. The 84 villas start at a generous 291sq m for a one-bed pool villa.

With all this stretch space there’s plenty of room for the flat-screen TV, DVD, WiFi, iPod dock, safe, espresso machine, tea making facilities, private bar, twin vanities, outdoor dining terrace, private cabana, indoor and outdoor rain and jet showers, stand-alone bathtub, and Alila toiletries. Alila Uluwatu serves up contemporary style at wallet-humbling prices and for the wellness inclined there is the Spa Alila with five treatment villas.

Wedding chapel at the somewhat isolated Renaissance Bali Uluwatu

Renaissance Bali Uluwatu wedding chapel/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The resort has gone to considerable lengths to be environmentally sustainable with a number of green features incorporated in its design. Stone lattice-work walls are accommodating of both sea breezes and light. Water is recycled and local nurseries grow the shrubs and trees that provide a refreshing green burst in what is otherwise a doggedly drier part of the island. A somewhat different and contemporary Bali escape.

In this area is the new Renaissance Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa (opened March 2018), perched on a cliff with vast views (but no beach) and a huge sun-dappled swimming pool (a major draw for honeymooners or kids) to catch the rays. It is a curving terraced ship-bridge construct alsa a bit in the middle of nowhere though it serves up a fine sunset. It is aimed at a younger hip set with chill-out music and not much in terms of distinctive style. You need to buggy down to a 43sq m Deluxe Terrace Ocean King, which is our best average room pick here with pale wood walls (with the de rigueur flatscreen television mounted facing the bed), delicate long reed birds' nest hanging lamps, balcony, rain shower and soaking tub. Striking black and white animal fur patterns on the bedroom walls and the mosaic work in bathrooms is the leitmotif here. Junior Suites are classy with dark timber floors, grey charcoal walls and woody tones. Expect a full-fledged spa with everything from body wraps to scrubs and facials. And with 12,000sq ft of event space (ballroom for 300 banquet-style) this address offers generous corporate meetings and conference possibilities. Two pools, pumping music, an attractive wedding belvedere (which is a quiet standout), good food and a sense of contemporary isolation if this is your thing. The price point should appeal.

Another development making a name for itself in this South Bali area is the Karma Kandara (see also Jimbaran). Expect quality luxury villas with good finish, a spa, varied food and beverage choices and a beach club. Think space, gleaming marble floors, flat-screen TVs, timber sun decks and plunge pools vertiginously dangling cliff-edge.

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Jimbaran villas and spa resorts

Best Bali spa resorts - Ayana rooms are old luxury with dark traditional touches

Ayana rooms are 'old' luxury in dark tones and need a pick-me-up/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Halfway to Kuta, along a pleasant bay facing west, is Jimbaran. The area has acquired a fashionable collection of resorts, eateries and private villas. Perched over a secluded promontory, is the stately eco-friendly AYANA Resort and Spa. Once the Ritz-Carlton, Ayana features its own 22,000sq m hydrotherapy Thalasso & Spa, almost a resort within a resort. If this place were any bigger, it would mint its own currency and hand out passports. Amidst the gardens and water-features, are the spa villas, a spa suite and a 650sq m "aquatonic" pool. Don't ask me what that means. The water flows and swirls in varying temperatures while jets and hidden currents massage and relax.

Check out the dramatic Ocean Beach Pool. This is a phantasmagorical elevated 80sq m seawater pool with molded “ergonomic” underwater recliners. Grab some rays – and fabulous views of the surrounds – from 10m above sea level. Look out too for the clifftop Ayana villa with gym, kitchen, spa and three bedrooms lavishly spread over 3000sq m, plus a small lawn for private functions or weddings. Also visit the newer Kubu Beach Club, a 1960s throwback with a cool vibe. It is open to all complex guests including RIMBA and is accessed by a lift near the Ayana Villas that whisks you down to the seafront. Also browse the new market street on the wander down to the Rock Bar funicular. There's an Uluwatu white-lace ladies dress outlet here.

If you’re in need of a Bali luxury villa, the awfully private accommodations at the far periphery of the resort may be just the ticket. Spa out, organise a resort wedding, enjoy that second honeymoon, practice your golf swing, go mountain biking, host a meeting, or simply romp with the kids. Here, you can manage it all. Your appetite won’t be ignored either. There are 12 restaurant and bar options sprinkled generously throughout the resort.

Little touches include the small bottles of cold mineral water the valet will thoughtfully place in your car before you drive away. This is a swish address but definitely a family-friendly Bali hotel for your diary.

SKY at Ayana offers outdoor grassy venues for Bali destination weddings and events

Ayana serves up acres of space for weddings and outdoor events - SKY venue/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Main Wing Ayana rooms are old style dated 'luxury' with Indonesian accents and a darker tone with buttoned-down dark olive padded leather headboards, cream marble floors, see-through bathing area with tub and rainshower, a wooden fan, flatscreen TV, one three-pin international plug socket on either side of the bed, USB ports and flat laptop safe.

Rooms are neat but tired and not quite at the level of the external finery as in the pools and wedding venues like the vast grassy cliff-edge SKY with its amazing amphitheatre and the grassy village-style restaurant performance venue Kampoeng Bali.

Close by is sibling RIMBA Jimbaran Bali (opened late 2013) on extensive acres that serve as a sylvan eco-friendly escape with an on-site greenhouse and organic fruit trees. The hip high-roof lobby is lined with strips of painted wood sourced from old fishing boats and this lends the place a charming rustic flair that carries into lifts and corridors. No mistake though, this is no bumpkin layabout. It is a fresh and contemporary space set on undulating land with meandering walks, five tiered pools and one panoramic stretch along the pulsing Roof Bar.

The cool circular pond that projects from the lobby with its two circular sunken lounge seats sets the tone as flamenco plays. Charred driftwood seats are the sole lobby adornment.

A 38sq m Hill Side Room offers cool marble floors and a views from a sit-out balcony. Expect a huge 47-inch flat-screen TV, DVD player, aromatherapy set and round soaking tub. Bathrooms are compact and tubs need to be climbed into. Not easy for the elderly. The colour tones are fawn with silk bed runners and rippling gold wall patterns.

RIMBA Ocean View Room

Ocean View room at RIMBA/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A ground floor Pool Access Room does exactly what it says and offers direct step-in to a somewhat private pool. Its size is the same 38sq m with the usual bundle of aromatherapy knickknacks, free WiFi and coffee and tea making facilities. A Jimbaran Room has an olive bed quilt, flat-screen TV, three-pin multi-plug sockets at the desk, an iPod dock, three-pin sockets bedside, a laptop-friendly safe and a compact toilet with a round tub, single basin, hairdryer, and rainshower set directly above the tub. A pull-around shower curtain encircles this giddy ensemble.

There are 282 rooms in all at this modern yet friendly playground with the 70sq m Jimbaran Bay Suite providing top-of-the-line beds with cosy elliptical velvet sofas and breezy balconies. The Thermes Marins Bali spa is a free buggy ride across in the Ayana estate.

The Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (yes, that's the entire name) cascades down a hillside above the shimmering sea. Its stylish thatch-roof villas - that have re-emerged mid-2017 after a two year top-to-toe renovation - feature a separate Balinese dining pavilion, courtyard and plunge pool. Bathrooms not only have separate bathtubs and showers, there’s also access to a private outdoor garden shower. There are additionally nine spacious Estate Homes (up to four bedrooms) with plush interiors and private pool. In-room facilities include DVD and CD player, down pillows, iron and ironing board, and hypo-allergenic pillows. Ocean Front Villas offer twin vanities, old style water faucets, a laptop-size safe, Broadband (charged), a plump bed with mosquito net, small plunge pool, outdoor breakfast area, flatscreen TV, DVD, Bose entertainment centre, and large light-welcoming windows. Usefully, bedside you'll find a large numerical digital clock. Clutterbugs will enjoy the twice-daily bed turn-down service. The main infinity pool at the resort looks over the bay and is well positioned for both sun and breeze.

Four Seasons Jimbaran Pool Villa

Swish Four Seasons Jimbaran Pool Villa/ photo: hotel

The spa is a big draw. Spa suites feature outdoor soaking tubs, cleansing "rain showers" and a generous array of treatments. The resort also offers two to four-bedroom private residence rentals located adjacent to the property, a five-minute walk from the beach. PJ's restaurant has gone to be replaced by a two-level restaurant with a swimming pool. Dip, eat, and enjoy the sunsets.

Just above the Four Seasons is the new Raffles Bali (July 2020) a small luxury resort from this highly regarded upscale brand. Perched on the hillside with private pool villas (including two-bedroom escapes and a grand Presidential Villa), the resort offers a spa, a very generous pool that catches the rays and the views, and an excellent private beach that outclasses much of the competition.

Bathrooms are generously proportioned and rooms have a rich but minimalist feel with sloping mat-weave roofs, patterned head walls, lazy woven-reed fans and pastel decor outlined by simple but elegant black lines like a cream Chanel coat with piping. It's very much contemporary colonial if you like.

This is a conveniently located resort, less than 30 minutes from the airport, and within reach of Uluwatu Temple and its manic monkeys. Jimbaran is a nice residential area with lots of eateries and local art.

Karma Jimbaran is a gracious all-villa affair with 40 one to six-bedroom pool villas to pick from. Expect alang alang elephant grass thatch roofs, private pools, a Living Pavilion with state-of-the-art kitchen, an eight-seater teak table, satellite TV and DVD and CD player with surround sound. All are sprinkled with local artworks and Balinese antiques. As at their Koh Samui property, the restaurant is trendy and different. Karma Lounge serves all manner of culinary creations.

Raffles Bali private villa, luxury resorts review A-lister

Raffles Bali villa / photo: hotel

After hours, pop by the Karma Spa and Wellness centre for some serious chakra realignment, massage or beauty treatment. Kids aged two to eleven can be dropped off at The 3 Monkeys kids club, which has an arsenal of handy activities. Water sports, ceramics making, sandcastle competitions and Balinese dance are just a few of the distractions. This is a handy Jimbaran option covering a range of traveller requirements.

The Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran (December 2012) is a study in contrasts. Set within protective concrete walls - a modern equivalent of a jungle kraal - without the usual arrival hoopla as at other larger establishments, the resort is easy to miss. From the hotel entrance by the main road, a buggy takes you up a somewhat cramped ramp to the lobby. From then on it's like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. And the result, if you're young and hip, is just as entertaining, from the lazily whirring ceiling "punkahs" at the lobby and the brightly coloured walls and cushions to and The Beatles "Abbey Road" collage, there's distraction by the metre.

With an inward facing courtyard design, three-storey buildings ringed around a large central free-form pool, Le Meridien has made the most of a compact plot to extract fizz and wow with more than a hint of W Retreat DNA. For one, the staff is excellent. Service is brisk and attentive. Stand a moment in deep thought and someone will wander by to assist.

There are 118 rooms, all with free WiFi, the pick of the bunch being the ground level walk-in pool access rooms and the penthouse suites with their grand canopied terraces that offer the only sea views from this resort. It is unlikely you'll miss the views. There's much to do within. A Lagoon View Room weighs in at 62sq m with bright powder blues predominating. Expect a plump white bed, a 3D smart TV (you don't need to be too smart to use it), split-level digs leading past a blue sofa to a small balcony (facing the pool). The bathing and dressing area is immediately to your left and right as you enter but this open plan approach has been seamlessly melded into the design. Find a standalone bathtub, big rain shower for a feel of the true blue tropics, and a notebook size safe. The wooden work desk has a three-socket multi-pin plug and all switches in the room are wondrously large, tactile and idiot-proof. The last thing you need on a holiday is a wrestle with the light buttons at 3am. A ground floor 82sq m Aqua Studio Suite Lagoon Access appears a lot more spacious with its grey-blue walls, dressing closet, flat-screen TV and verandah for step-in pool access.

InterCon Bali is both a top spa hotels choice as well as a child-friendly option

Stately InterContinental Bali/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The cafe by the pool leads to a bar from where you exit the hotel, cross a small street with a row of shops behind which is one of Bali's best beaches. This is a child-friendly hotel with its J Kids Club to keep the tykes at bay while their mums rediscover endless ways - and reasons - to smack daddy's teeth. All in, despite the lack of view and immediate beach access, this is a hotel that injects much needed youthful vigour and attitude in an area otherwise dominated by slower paced luxury hotels.

Ensconced on a generous slice of property smack in the middle of Jimbaran Beach, is the spacious 417-room InterContinental Bali Resort. There are Classic Rooms, Singaraja Rooms and a swish Club InterContinental wing in the more secluded north of the 14-hectare property. The InterCon offers six attractive outdoor pools, Jacuzzis, the tempting Spa Uluwatu, villa retreats, and breezy oceanfront massage tents. Check out the Sunset Bar, perfect for sipping on sangria while watching the sunset from the shoreline. Rooms are ample with a working desk, Asian-style three-pin square plug points, a small safe for your video camera, a balcony, and an extensive in-room massage menu.

Emerging from major renovations that include hand painted walls in-room and a general freshening up, the InterContinental Bali Resort is an excellent family-friendly hotel set up in straight geometric lines with a careful grey-stone red-tile-roof architectural symmetry that ensures you are unlikely to get lost as you wander its vast acres past rock pool to rock pool, past lotus ponds, bulrushes, and the beachfront swimming pool drenched in sun and bordered by traditional stone carvings and water spouts. Everywhere is the happy sound of birds – and kids having a blast.

This is quintessential Bali with a comfortable all-safety-boxes-ticked American vibe. While the hotel does not provide inflatable toys for the pool, outside companies do, and you are likely to encounter waddling pink ducks and grinning sharks as you course through the stunning blue waters. This is a great main pool, watched over by the stately breezy elevated high-roof lobby (with its art and artefacts) and leading on to gardens and the best stretch of Jimbaran sand. It also makes a splendid venue for a Bali destination wedding.

Guide to Bali family hotels, InterContinental Bali at Jimbaran pool

InterCon Bali is a child-friendly sprawl with a huge beachfront pool/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The private balcony is nice spot in which to unwind and it also has a nifty drying rack so you don't slop wet clothes all over the bed and sofas. Refurbished rooms, now in muted beige and white tones with occasional splashes of coloured cushions, offer 37-inch flat-screen plasma TVs, DVD player, timber floors, and louvred floor-runner wood-slat windows - in wood tones in regular rooms and white in the Club InterContinental rooms.

The overall feel of the interiors is now more airy and welcoming of light. In 58sq m Club Rooms expect a coffee-maker, large work desk, iron and ironing board, and Broadband access for which you'll need to pay. Wi-Fi is complimentary in the lobby and public areas. Bathrooms are spacious with separate soaking tub and rainforest shower and a butler is never more than a call away.

Club guests can additionally avail of the new Club Lounge, a Club Pool, an "Inspiration Space" lounge with books on Bali and visiting lecturers, as well as an InterContinental Bali Resort lounge at the airport. Down in the lobby order a "Prada's Sangria". No “Cartier Omelettes” available as yet but relax, prada in Balinese, means "golden".

The spacious grounds and welcoming staff offer a child-friendly resort feel with facilities to match. Kids will enjoy the added facilities including trampoline, soccer and drawing (does anyone still do that?). The InterContinental Bali Resort also sports a children's resort club called Planet Trekkers. The club incorporates an air-conditioned clubhouse housing a raft of activities like mini basketball, table hockey, "turtle workstations" for art and more. An "Internet Cave" offers four work stations for older kids. Children are split into two age groups, four to seven years and eight to twelve years with corresponding activities and distractions. Adults will also have their hands full with various activities on the resort calendar. This is a top child-friendly Bali resort.

Bali boutique hotels, Belmond Jimbaran Puri pool on the seafront

Belmond Jimbaran Puri pool/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Farther up the road down a narrow turn-off leading to the beach is the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali (formerly by Orient-Express Hotels), a boutique resort on the beach that has been completely refurbished with a nice swimming pool and the Spa at Jimbaran Puri. The 120sq m Luxury Cottages, some with pools, serve up kingsize beds as well as sofa beds for younger guests, roomy bathrooms with terrazzo soaking tubs for romantics and rain showers.

Two Bedroom Garden View Pool Cottages may be a mouthful but offer excellent duplex suite accommodation for four with flat-screen TV, iPod dock, DVD player and sunken pools. Moving up the luxury scale are the One and Two Bedroom Deluxe Pool Villas with 350sq m of rumpus room. Enjoy the Beach Spa with outdoor bales for two, perfect for a romantic sunset rubdown, or try a more exotic warm oil drip or a Balinese coffee scrub.

The Library is a useful refuge for book lovers or those in search of a fast iMac with internet access. Think deep armchairs, and heavy teak bookshelves reminiscent of how grandma did it. Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali uses understatement to make a strong point - it is an oasis of meditative calm minutes from the thrum of Jimbaran village. Set right on the beach there's access to gardens and sand underfoot. Small wonder this makes a useful escape for honeymooners or those planning a resort wedding in Bali. Simple wedding and blessing ceremonies kick off at about US$850. From here you can go up to as lavish as you like.

Here, expect a butler to do your every bidding, breakfast, high tea, complimentary mini-bar, and free Internet access (there is WiFi throughout the resort as well). A Deluxe Pool Villa with a single bedroom still has enough room to swing a horse by the tail with 350sq m of fun space for honeymooners or families. The two-bedroom villas stretch to 400sq m. Close by are the small-scale and traditional Puri Kosala Cottages.

Bali hotels review, Kupu Kupu Jimbaran

Kupu Kupu Jimbaran rustic chic/ photo: hotel

Also consider the pleasant and quiet Villa Balquisse that was renovated in early 2011. There are two villas. Villa Balquisse I has two (double) bedrooms and a two-storey bungalow with private pool. This would be comfortable for a couple with children in tow. Villa Balquisse II has three (double) bedrooms and two more connecting bedrooms. In-residence chefs serve up Asian and Western set and a la carte menus. Its spa offering, the Henna Spa, boasts six spa treatment suites. The resort also runs a villa in Seminyak and another in Umalas (Kuta).

Or pop by the inviting Jamahal Private Resort & Spa where a one-bedroom pool villa will cover most needs with mini-bar, safety box, CD/DVD player, rain shower, and the obligatory WiFi. The Jamahal Spa employs Balinese treatments interspersed with hot stones and Javanese massage. This is a rather special and intimate Bali luxury villa getaway with just 10 suites and three villas, with a lagoon pool stretching throughout. This boutique resort is a hit with wedding parties, and it arranges a traditional Balinese wedding replete with a cendrawasih Balinese dance, uluwatu blessings and more.

Kupu Kupu Jimbaran (opened April 2011), the sister property of the quirky Kupu Kupu Barong up in Ubud, offers 30 suites in traditional Balinese style along with a spa by L’Occitane.This is a stylish and contemporary construct with a long and narrow central pool set on a broad timber boardwalk flanked on both sides by the suites on two levels. Rooms are modern and functional with all the usual mod-cons including safe, DVD and flatscreen LCD television. In-room expect lots of rustic touches. For some information on booking Bali villas see our Fast Facts at the end of this story.

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Kuta Beach resorts and Legian

Up the sunset coast in Kuta, a 15-minute drive from Jimbaran, there is a riot of accommodation. This is clutter-and-clatter country if you're into that kind of thing but you can get away in the Tuban area (which sees itself as rather more upmarket) or at the north end of the main Kuta Beach Road.

Sheraton Kuta is a super Bali child-friendly hotels pick

Sheraton Kuta view/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Choices here include the trendy and popular Hard Rock Hotel, which has numerous innovative promotions and packages, spa treatments, handy Internet, and a guitar model once played by Sting. Here you can let your hair down, get a good massage in a sheltered cabana poolside, and let your kids go wild at the Lil Rock Kids Club. It is a family-friendly establishment. At the Rock Spa, try a “Stereo Massage” with two therapists working in tandem, a “Hard Rock Massage” utilising a range of healing oils, or an “Indian Head Massage” using ayurvedic techniques. The focal Centrestage doubles as lobby bar, rock venue and guitar museum. The hotel boasts the largest free-forming swimming pool in Bali, replete with its own sand island, and organises daily Aqua Rockersize activities in the pool. There’s even a 5m rock-climbing wall for mountaineer-wannabes.

The 203-room Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort (opened end 2012) has upped the ante on this formerly beer and bellies t-shirt sunset strip. Next to the Beachwalk shopping centre with a podium pool that looks over at the sea (the beach is across the main road), fine Italian dining at Bene, and super fare at its streetside all-pink Feast restaurant, this is a hangout for everyone from families to conventioneers. There are nine meeting spaces with the largest offering 700sq m of MICE space. Replacing the Sahid Jaya, and just up the road from Hard Rock, this weighty contender offers rooms with balconies, several with sea views.

A 46sq m Oceanfront Room has free WiFi (throughout the hotel as well), see-through glass bathing area partition with the bathtub fashionably facing the bed, good, bright ring lights on the mirrors in the toilet, a rain shower, and a laptop-friendly safe for workaholics. The stone floor sets the stage for an unfussy room that is simple, functional and friendly. At the work desk expect a three-pin multi-socket with data port and large tactile room switches. Suites offer iPod docks and cycles are available on a complimentary basis for a pootle around the strip. A scooter with a sidecar will set you back about Rp20,000 an hour. Need an upgrade in the Kuta life? Sheraton is one to look at.

Hip hotels, Stones on Kuta is a good MICE and Bali conference hoterls choice and tubs with a view

Stones (by Marriott)/ photo:hotel

Heading up the road from Sheraton, on the Kuta Beach Road bordering Legian, is another higher end offering, this time from Marriott's Autograph Collection, The Stones Hotel, Legian Bali (late 2012). Turn in past the smart office-cum-display-showroom sporting gleaming Bentleys and motorbikes and drive in through a narrow "giraffe neck" leading away from the beachside bustle to a chic, contemporary enclave that miraculously opens up to reveal a minimalist space age lobby and a refreshing azure pool around which the two wings of the medium-rise 308-room hotel are set. This inner oasis is bright and welcoming of light and breeze. The pool is the dominant feature with step-in sun loungers in the shallows where drinks can be served. Of an evening you might find a lone saxophonist wading about lost in a musical reverie. It's a cool touch at a hotel that has much more to entice the discerning set to Kuta's raucous party. This contemporary resort has a residential feel - vertical gardens providing a green lung and eco eye candy - and it is situated far enough up the Kuta strip to be well away from the noise and bluster. Stones offers great access to nightlife, sunsets, and hair-braiding on the beach with the option of a fast retreat.

From the sea-breezes at the lobby walk into the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel wings. A 32sq m Deluxe Pool View serves up clean, mod design with light pastels and cream wooden parquet flooring in a compact setting with open views, a large bed, 47-inch mega-flat-screen TV (with 60 channels), and a balcony with a soaking tub. Yes, there's a curtain should you be feeling squeamish. The hip, young and restless will be pleased to encounter blazing speed free WiFi, iPod player, Bose sound, two three-pin multi-plug electric sockets by the round shell-plated desk, an alarm clock that projects onto the ceiling (very cool), and a giant rain shower with organic soap. The foyer doubles as the dressing area with the cupboard at one side and the bathing area on the other. There are 135 pool view rooms with balconies and ground floors offer the option of direct pool access with 3,500sq ft of water to splash about in.

Bali hip hotels, Stones vertical garden

Stones vertical gardens/ photo: Vijay Verghese

There's a 1,500-pax sit-down ballroom for MICE travellers. The hotel is no slouch on meetings and aims to set a new benchmark in Kuta as a Bali conference hotel. Room service? Try the in-room Gourmet Express served by red-shirted delivery boys. It's as close to home as you can get. Mark this one down for the family or a corporate meeting getaway.

Further up the road is the new Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana. This is another modern construct with 353 rooms with balconies, king-size beds and interactive TVs. As with other Kuta properties it is facing the beach but separated by the road. WiFi is free and there is a Kids' Club too making this a child-friendly choice.

The Holiday Inn has been reborn in the gentrified neighbourhood as the Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali with several rooms enjoying a sea view, breezy balconies, a beachside bar and rooms with Internet, Wi-Fi, in-troom video games, and flat-screen TVs. This remains a true-blue child friendly Bali hotel with the Rascal's kid's club (and even special KidsSuites with bunk beds) and for the older set there's the Tea Tree Spa.

After hours at the beachfront chill out with a cool cocktail and cooler music. The ballroom can manage up to 264 persons enabling this to double as a Bali conference hotel for smaller meetings and groups. This is a highly rated hotel that scores well on our Bali resorts review despite several lower category rooms that border on compact. It is a good pick in the Kuta and Tuban area close to shops, nightlife, entertainment and the beach.

The old and stately mega-resort-style eight-hectare Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel has 318 sea-facing or garden-view rooms, tropical gardens, several restaurants and even an inhouse shopping plaza. The more compact Bali Dynasty Resort offers kids a 56m water-slide to rev up for a heroic splashdown in the hotel pool and complimentary entrance to the Enchanted Garden Kids Club, as well as an all-adult Lazy Pool and Grace Kelly’s Irish bar for the parents. The all-water Waterbom Park, an ideal distraction for families, is right across the road.

Child-friendly Bali resorts, Holiday Inn Baruna Bali, Kuta

Holiday Inn Baruna pool/ photo: hotel

Not to be outdone, the very tasteful former Hotel Imperial Bali is now the Accor-run The Royal Beach Seminyak Bali - MGallery Collection (previously the Sofitel Seminyak Bali), gracing 4.5 hectares of prime beachfront. The 128 rooms are bright and contemporary while 17 Spa Villas offer up to 260sq m of living space with oversized bathtubs and private plunge pool. The Royal Beach Seminyak specialises in meetings for small executive groups with themed activities and special outdoor events.

Other options in the area include the Padma Resort Bali at Legian and the 228-room Patra Bali Resort & Villas. The Patra Bali Resort & Villas, formerly a company retreat for the Pertamina group (then briefly Patra Jasa), has some of most spacious two-storey bungalows anywhere on the island. The beach however is a tad pebbly and it is close to the airport. Still, it is a reasonable BIG-family option with plenty of negotiating room, 12 acres of garden and children’s facilities. The huge villas offer a “resort within a resort” feel. Not a bad choice for those watching the wallet and in need of space within shouting distance of Kuta’s shopping and nightlife.

Another small and friendly spot, right in the middle of the action, is the mid-range Poppies Bali with 20 thatch-roof cottages set amidst scented frangipani and hibiscus. Each cottage comes with a private garden area featuring a sunken bathtub. The resort offers a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, a reading room, and a pool bar. The place has been a favourite of those in “the know” for years and has survived price wars and the arrival of brasher competition.

The charming Alam Kul Kul Boutique Resort, an environmentally friendly Bali boutique resort is a good value option. It is compact but stylish and its breezy, informal Papa's Café looks across the road onto the beach. This is a good spot for a sundowner and Mediterranean morsels. Alam Kul Kul has standard rooms, thoughtfully designed Family Rooms (with a queen-size bed and two twin-beds) and private villas with four-poster canopied beds and outdoor baths. It also features one of the original Balinese "Jamu" spas.

Seminyak hip hotels review, W Retreat pop art

W Bali, Seminyak, pop art/ photo: Verghese

The Jamu Traditional Spa is tucked away in a quiet, leafy corner. Leafy corners abound as the owner refused to have any foliage destroyed. An architect who wanted to hack down a coconut tree was told quite bluntly, "You can go, the trees stay." Quite right. The tree in question now protrudes proudly through the café roof. This is a no-hassle friendly resort across the road from the sunset beach.

A four-star option with clean hotel rooms and Balinese villas is the Legian Beach Hotel spread over four hectares. There is also a spa on site. Doubling as a long-stay residence and a hotel, the Aston Kuta Hotel and Residence (one of a growing list of Astons in Bali) serves up 209 rooms within a short stroll of the beach. Expect extensive banqueting and meeting facilities at this unpretentious but handy performer, plus gym, pool and spa treatments. In-room there's a work desk, safe, hairdryer and minibar with Superiors starting at 31sq m and Family rooms offering 46sq m of stretch space. Regular shuttles operate into the Kuta shopping and beach strip.

Another property to watch for in the Kuta and Tuban area is the Rama Beach Resort & Villas.

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Seminyak retreats, hip hotels

A 15-minute drive north from Kuta brings you past Legian to Seminyak, home to crashing breakers, vast stretches of sand, a handful of top-drawer resorts and a good selection of trendy bars and cafes. Waves can get high and there is a strong undertow at times. It is not unknown for an occasional guest to swim out and fail to return and settle his bill, which is rather uncivilised.

On this posh, if tumultuous stretch of beach is the W Bali - Seminyak (March 2011, no longer called W Retreat), with 232 rooms and villas, a sumptuous spa, and the trademark W bed to commence your romance. There is a 332sq m meeting space for the discerning few who really want to splash out. This is gently curving grey-stone affair fronting the sea and beach with a lavish 1,790sq m three-tier swimming pool in between. The upper level is for tiny tots to splash down.

W Bali is a funky and hip Bali resort

W Retreat stone initial looks over Seminyak/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The lobby is awash in mood lights – think ethereal purple and neon green – and bright pink cushions. Sunset views are liberally on tap from sea-view rooms as well as from a breezy alfresco beachfront bar.

The hotel lists its features out loud and proud, and all in caps. There’s its WHATEVER/WHENEVER service, a SWEAT fitness centre, and the AWAY spa. For some over the top pampering, head to the WET pool, where the staff will do bring you everything you need, be it sun care amenities, towels, games, snacks or cocktails. They’ll even help you clean your sunglasses. WiFi is free throughout the resort. Top-line "Extreme WOW" three-bedroom villas require a rather bumpy buggy ride across to a secluded compound with pool, sundeck and more orange furniture than you can shake a stick at. There's party space for a dance get-together, a kitchenette, spacious bedrooms with furry pom-pom orange cushions, large circular terrazzo bathtub, free WiFi and more. If you're in the mood hire a W Mini Cooper or a Smart car.

The unabashed “Spectacular Ocean Facing” room starts at 64sq m with predominant greys, as elsewhere, and aged pale wood on the floor with white whorls. Slide the doors of the checked mother-of-pearl panel to reveal the 40-inch LED flat-screen TV. Carpets are a pale green with cushions to match. The balcony is terrific with a day bed and a chair in case you can’t make up your mind. In-room expect a long work desk, data port, multi-pin electric sockets, iPod dock, BOSE sound system and DVD player.

The safe can handle a laptop. The bathroom, behind a glass-wall partition, offers twin washbasins in jungle green while a cream terrazzo standalone tub and large rain shower complete the ensemble. The overall feel in-room is bright and airy with mischievous signs to egg you on. Look for the small, chatty, ceramic ladies in the bathroom. If a villa is more to your liking pick a stylish two-bedroom Marvellous Villa with its own pool.

Seminyak resorts review, The Oberoi Bali

Oberoi lanai/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The Oberoi Bali was one of the first designer resorts and it is still green, manicured and attractive. The luxury lanais and villas are well spaced out to afford maximum privacy. The Oberoi's Luxury Villas follow floral names and themes and some feature private pools set within a very generous courtyard. The lanais offer raised beds, perhaps a tad too high for some, a tape player, hairdryer, sunken bath and a BIG old-fashioned Elsafe to lock your laptop and more.

The large German hairdryer emits a satisfying whine like a B747 ready for takeoff. There are tea and coffee-making facilities and a flat-screen TV with DVD player. WiFi in public areas is free but costs around US$22 per day in-room. The four 380ml complimentary bottles of mineral water are a godsend when the humidity and heat peaks.

This is designer Bali at its affordable best. The sunken swimming pool follows the style of a Balinese water garden and care is taken to maintain a local style right throughout the resort. The result is authenticity, space, and green acres – soothing in the extreme. Everywhere you’ll find cosy seating and tables to enjoy the sea views shaded by the signature saffron umbrellas. This is a resort to lie back in and savour an unhurried pace.

Up the road is the swank and stylish all-suite The Legian Bali, run by the new Indonesia-based LHM Group (the hotel was formerly managed by GHM). This is a stylish and hip hangout and not just for the young and restless but the discerning and well-heeled. They all flock here, and with good reason. Set behind grey slate walls in a happening, yet quieter corner of Seminyak, hotel rises three floors up in a simple yet elegant square-frame matchstick design that permits sea breezes - and rain - to mingle with guests and corridors. This is not as alarming as it sounds. The limestone structure is light and minimalist and ushers you into Bali from the moment you step in with gamelan players, a large engraved plaster wall, and staff who will literally leap into your life demanding to be of assistance.

Bali resorts review, room at The Legian

Legian Bali room/ photo: hotel

Unlike at several other resorts, staff here know what is required. They smile, assist and get you settled in speedily, all with first names wherever possible. The resort leads on to a pool-fronting restaurant that does breezy breakfasts and then the fun begins as it is this beachfront that forms the centrepiece of the refurbished Legian. Three pools running parallel to the pepper-sand coastline are set in tiers offering a vast expanse of blue with up to 30m for a stylish lap or a super eat-your-heart-out selfie pose. The lip of the lowest beach-top pool is an excellent spot for honeymooners and awesome sunsets. Gardens stretch out in either direction with timbered sun decks stretching either side lined with sun loungers and umbrellas. All this is set about 10ft above the main beach level. Enjoy watching the surf work itself up into a frenzy and follow lifeguard and swimming instructions. There can be an undertow here at certain times of year.

Set in the gardens to one side is the expanded Spa with six relaxing treatment rooms facing the surf. Behind this is a new gym area, a nail bar for the decadent, and a swish 12-seater Library with 65-inch projection screen for a CEO corporate chinwag or a quiet read. A 110sq m Deluxe Suite (there are 70 or so suites in all) features rich-toned wood, cool marble and balconies looking onto the sea. The herringbone wood parquet flooring is homey, sans the creaks, and leads past the kitchenette with its microwave, free soft drinks and munchies, to the long woody living room with a small checked stone-inlay table, large divan, swivel flatscreen television, silk lamps, and slim dark-wood Venetian blinds covering the full height sliding doors to the balcony.

Top Bali resorts, The Legian's beachfront pool

Legian beachfront pool and surf/ photo: Vijay Verghese

An iPod with BOSE sound ensures there's always the right accompaniment and a second iPod (not just Dock) is located in the bedside drawer with two sets of earphones. It's a classy touch and the rustic feel is another feather in the cap. It's not easy to create rustic elegance as it so often comes across as cheap. Here, The Legian is the master of the light touch. Much attention has gone into the fine detail, from the stone inlay desk, to the firm mosquito-proof gauze netting on the large and enormously comfortable bed set behind sliding wicker-weave doors, to the spoiling Acqua de Parma toiletries, dimmer knobs for most lights, the old-fashioned metal door key, natural spray-on insect repellant, and slip-resistant flooring in the rainshower and toilet (with bidet hose). Toss your laptop into the safe, soak in the tub, don slippers (provided), and enjoy the place.

If it's aroma you want, puff a Havana at the bar. There is a fair selection on offer. A swank Three-Bedroom Beach House with a sunny patio and HUGE ocean views is on offer, but third-floor suites do a good job of providing seascapes looking just over the palm fronds. Another fine distraction is the fleet of six sleek black Vespa scooters for hire at Rp200,000 per day (about US$20). Of course outside rentals are far cheaper but, heck, a Vespa? With a user-friendly design there's not too much tramping about to get from room or lobby to the beach. If you’re in search of Bali hip hotels, this is certainly one for your diary. You will not be disappointed.

An upmarket add-on here is the exclusive The Club at The Legian, featuring ten one-bedroom villas and one three-bedroom villa in private compounds with 10-metre swimming pools, all with personal butler service.

Bali hip resorts review, Legian sun deck by the beach

Legian sun deck/ photo: Vijay Verghese

These are not your run-of-the-mill plunge pools built for toddlers with big wallets who enjoy splashing about in three inches of water. They are swimming pools. The discrete little Club enclave is set apart from the main resort. Walk, or use the buggy.

The Legian is popular with the hair-moussed upwardly mobile and the Japanese (who know a gem when they find one). Sit back at the beachfront restaurant and watch the sun set over a mirror-smooth infinity pool. Next morning sample the hotel’s enticing breakfast menu. Get your eggs done just right. Tight security is the norm.

Also in the vicinity is the very contemporary The Seminyak with its oceanfront infinity pool, lily ponds and water features and stylish rooms, many with glass partition bathrooms with standalone tubs, rain showers, flat screen TVs and gleaming wood floors. Pick from the Garden Wing, Ocean View Suites or thatch-roof villas (with Jacuzzi, 42-inch LCD television, DVD player and iPod dock) for larger parties. The resort offers a spa as well a pavilion that can host 150 guests for a wedding.

Do take a look at the very pleasing The Samaya Seminyak Bali with its remodelled private courtyard villas and a main pool set in a broad expanse of green lawn fronting the ocean. The whole Samaya ensemble underwent complete transformation and expansion by late 2012 with 30 new beachside villas and 22 villas at the Royal Pavilion (across the road away from the beach). On the seafront, 23 villas have private pools and seven at the Royal Pavilion offer the added luxury of a private plunge.

Seminyak spa resorts review, Samaya poolside lounge

Samaya pool bale/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A One Bedroom Pool Villa has 220sq m of rumpus room with a patio and pool enclosed within a white-walled courtyard. Expect free WiFi and mod-cons like a flatscreen television, laptop-friendly safe, iPod dock and Bose sound. Walk in through a foyer to the step-up bedroom with its custom made bed, and around the back to view a Jacuzzi, huge rain shower and indoor and outdoor bathing facilities.

Samaya has a friendly laid-back feel and attentive service. The Breeze beachfront bar is a cool hangout for sundowners and more and the inhouse spa is popular. Sit at the bar or settle into a sofa, alfresco. Along the seafront massage balés offer much holistic spa indulgence. The Samaya is a Seminyak boutique resort with a tranquil air about it, a Club Med antithesis if ever there was one.

Also managed by the same group is the Samaya Ubud Bali, which offers guests the opportunity to stay along the River Ayung. Think contemporary villas with traditional touches, spa treatments and spa pool, and the riverside Swept-away restaurant for romantic or wholesome dining.

Samaya sister property The Kayana Seminyak, Bali, is part of the group’s “Royal Collection”. Close to the W but with no beach access, this Bali luxury villa resort serves up 24 residences with plunge pools and more, and outdoor living and dining areas. Pick from Deluxe Villas, Pool Villas, and the Two-Bedroom Villa. The design is Balinese with interiors suggesting a happy mix of the traditional and modern.

Katamama suites are spacious and contemporary

Katamama Suite / photo: hotel

The 200sq m Deluxe is crisp and clean with terrazzo floors, a garden courtyard with breakfast bale, large flat-screen TV in-room with DVD player, iPod dock and free WiFi. The minibar is complimentary too except for the wine. The safe is large and laptop-friendly. The solitary two-bedroom villa is a lavish 400sq m with butler on call.

At the Ayur Spa indulge yourself with, well, what better than the 180-minute Kayana Indulgence involving a floral foot bath, a scrub, citrus body wash, herbal tea and a Kayana massage. This romantic Seminyak villa escape doesn’t come cheap. It is a narrow, elongated plot with a single and tight buggy road lined with fragrant frangipani trees. The walled courtyards don’t offer views but the living space has been well thought out.

A new offering in this swank beachside neighbourhood is Katamama (March 2016), by the same group that brought you the chill-out bar Potato Head. This intimate 58 suite resort is for indulgent trippers who was a sense of contemporary design mixed in with Indonesian chic. In-room expect hand picked furniture, art and luxury collectibles. The resort follows a clean design flow without clutter, described as 'artisanal chic'. There is endless texture and visual distraction for design aficionados, from woody hues to quirky artworks. The Katamama is one of three beachfront hotels to emerge from the same group. The 286sq m Rooftop Suites take pride of place among the inventory with a roof garden and ocean views. Or pick a Pool Suite. Not much else to ask for...

Also keep an eye out for the stylish beachfront Alila Seminyak with its broad swathe of gardens and splendid sea-facing sun-drenched swimming pools. A 60sq m Deluxe Ocean Suite is our pick with a clean and sparse layout with woody tones, free WiFi and a superb balcony for sunsets and breeze in the hair.

Bali child friendly hotels, Jambuluwuk Oceano Seminyak rooftop pool

Chic rooftop pool at Jambuluwuk Oceano Seminyak/ photo: hotel

The layout is similar to W's with a lowrise set of buildings embracing a central 'courtyard' - in this case with a series of large swimming pools depending on your mood or desired vantage point. Like to invest in a beachfront suite? Talk to them. And, of course, for tired limbs, there's always the Spa Alila.

Just up the road on much travelled Petitenget Street is the smart and welcoming Jambuluwuk Oceano Seminyak Hotel with 138 rooms, a children's club, two pools to splash down in, a well kitted out fitness centre, and the chic rooftop attic-style brick and pale wood Clubhouse that serves Indonesian and Asian fare. After the shopping and beach wander (the hotel is set a short distance away from the sea) sun yourself at the rooftop infinity pool set in a breezy timbered patio, or consider a small meeting in one of two private rooms (starting at Rp385,000 per person for a half day session).

These are pleasant surrounds for a corporate chinwag. A Deluxe room weighs in at 35sq m. Expect free WiFi, a balcony looking onto the main pool, and flatscreen TV. Or opt for more space with a smart 45sq m Junior Suite with cool marble floors, see-through bathrooms with a soaking tub, wall mounted flatscreen television and darkwood cabinets with ornate gold patterns. This address is part of the family-run Jambuluwuk Hotels and Resorts that is building a name for itself in destinations like Gili Trawangan, Batu, Yogyakarta and Puncak.

The 59-suite (and one penthouse) Anantara Resort Seminyak is on Bali’s hippest strip. The resort is uncompromisingly modern with a stark outline. The large 80sq m suites offer plasma TVs, WiFi, private balcony, iPod docking station, Bose DVD player, and contemporary décor.

Bali hip hotels, Indigo at Seminyak

Colourful room at Hotel Indigo/ photo: hotel

The five-storey resort offers ocean views in a contemporary setting with a chill-out rooftop bar. Guests can savour Thai cuisine at the lobby restaurant, splash out in two infinity-edge swimming pools, or get limbs stretched and kneaded at the Anantara Spa. A small drawback could be the tight access by road and peak hour traffic.

In keeping with the brand philosophy of representing the immediate neighbourhood with an immersive in-room experience, Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach (early 2017) sums up the entire promise in its meandering name and serves up a contemporary experience littered with carefully sought bric-a-brac ranging from old wooden chests and black-and-white framed photographs to homey swing divans, patterned mosaic tile bathroom walls, filigree lattice work, peek-in bathrooms and a colour palette largely in gold woody hues and pale greys. Expect large flat-screen televisions and complimentary WiFi (for hotel guests). There is a sunny pool leading towards the beach, a well kitted 24-hour gym for vampire-timing fitness buffs, and a spa. The resort is down a small road off Jalan Raya Seminyak midway between Legian and the Seminyak dining strip.

The Villa Sin Sin run by the Kafe Warisan group, is a small complex, modern in design. Its low-slung “A” roof resembles a stealth bomber in a tropical setting with Balinese touches. Villa Sin Sin has its own chef, provides spa services, and babysitting is available at all times to guests of its three villas. It is 10 minutes from the beach by car but is certainly a comfortable and chic choice for a family. Expect to fork out upwards of around US$400.

The Contiki Resort Bali, which positioned itself as a playground for the young, hip and restless if they were between 18 and 35 is now The Breezes Bali Resort & Spa. What happened to the young and hip? Where once the doors were closed to Anna Nicole Smith and her ilk with near-death oldies in tow, this 133-room fun Bali resort has been prised open for all.

Alila Seminyak serves up an array of seafronting pools

Alila Seminyak/ photo: hotel

The place covers 2.7 hectares and offers an array of attractions like volleyball, water polo, a spa, yoga and aerobics. This is a family-friendly four-star hotel set around a four-tiered lagoon pool a short walk from Seminyak Beach. There is a Kids’ Club as well for minor distractions.

In the vicinity is the mod but messy Bali Mystique with a decent and well-kitted apartment complex and a Hobbit-style gnome-villa hotel section. Can be fun, depending on your mood and the prices are often a bargain. The dark and brooding Villa Ananda Resort is for the intrepid. Lots and lots and lots of traditional motifs, dark stone, bright rooms, brick walls, a bit of garden in the back.

Still in Seminyak is The Villas Seminyak (formerly The Villas Bali Hotel & Spa) serves up 50 well-equipped conical thatch-roof villas with cobalt blue swimming pools, private gardens and more in three separate compounds. The original McCoy is at 118X Jalan Kunti. A 200sq m One Bedroom Villa offers a pool with garden, kitchenette, large en suite bathroom, flat-screen TV, DVD player, dining area and walk-in wardrobe for those fussing over what to wear for dinner. Keep it simple. Bathers will suffice. Pebble-floor bathrooms with partially open views add that rustic touch. Three Bedroom Villas stretch to an elephant-swinging 600sq m with a larger pool and WiFi is free. Breakfast is normally included in villa rates, but the chef can cook for you at your villa if you are so inclined. The Bali Bakery is just across the road should your nose be twitching for a hot croissant.

The Prana Spa - a startling orange fantasy, Indian Bollywood meets Love Boat confection - with its exotic archways, crenelated ramparts, cotton drapes and hallucinogenic hues, serves up a huge variety of treatments. This is a popular spot with visitors as well as locals and is a mini industry with expectant Koreans, Japanese and Australians streaming into the scented reception awaiting the ministrations of a trained therapist. The treatment rooms have bright green and burgundy walls with subdued lighting, Indian ornaments, Mughal paintings, mirror work, drapes and everything you'd expect of an Arabian Nights fable.

Bali romantic villas review, The Villas Seminyak

The Villas Seminyak/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Try a 120-minute "Jet Lag remedy" at Rp630,000, a "Mum-To-Be" for expectant mothers no less at a slightly more stinging Rp750,000, or an "Exclusively Male" massage, exfoliation and facial for Rp800,000. Clearly men pay more, and rightly. The list - and price - climbs up in scope, range and impertinence. Expect a playful attitude and lots of kitsch at this Bali honeymoon hideaway with attitude. It's not on the beach and is set on a winding road close to furniture stores.

An understated newcomer to Seminyak is the 12-villa The Amala, which includes six one-bedroom Spa Villas, featuring steam showers scented with Ginger green tea, spiced citrus and more, plus five one-bedroom Pool Villas with kitchenette, butlers and complimentary WiFi, and the Amala Residence. Luxuriate at the spa or check out the Wellness Studio. Explore tai chi, yoga, meditation, Pilates and more. The main pool includes Jacuzzi jets to massage the feet and back. This is a sister property of The Bale in Nusa Dua also run by Lifestyle Retreats. It is worth noting the Amala is inland on Jalan Kunti near the Bali Deli, a cheerful enough location close to shops and eateries. A five-minute cab ride will get you to a good spot on Seminyak Beach.

For a relatively cheaper (not cheap) and cheerful hotel with a smart contemporary air, try the cream and cubist The Haven on Jalan Raya (the Suites are on Jalan Arjuna). Expect modern rooms with large LCD TV, DVD player, coffee-making facilities and the Atma Spa.

From Thailand’s Centara Hotels group, the Centra Taum Seminyak Bali is a value proposition for families and holidaymakers a short distance from the beach near a happening nightlife district. Kerobokan, the actual location, is reasonably close to Tanah Lot temple and the Seminyak beach-and-restaurants strip.

Clean and modern Seminyak hotel, U Paasha room

U Paasha Seminyak/ photo: Verghese

This is a smart and clean “village style” layout in contemporary and clean straight lines with bright purple sun umbrellas by the pool to lift holiday spirits. WiFi is complimentary and there is a children’s pool. In all, a family-friendly Bali hotel.

Another contemporary face in this smart enclave is the U Paasha Seminyak Bali (May 2013) from Thailand-based U Hotels & Resorts. The hotel, in a busy location away from the beach, offers 94 spacious bright and airy suites with 50sq m of stretch room and four penthouses at a roomier 70sq m. With a narrow frontage and a long plot, the hotel stretches some distance from the high-ceiling textured stone and brick lobby that narrows farther along down an uncluttered rustic polished cement corridor. Suites serve of terrazzo and polished cement floors with straw mats, large beds, strip-stone white walls, rattan-weave divans, and grey-blue furnishings.

Expect a flat-screen TV, free WiFi, large tactile light switches, one three-pin multi plug socket by the pale wood desk, sliding mirror wardrobe with a notebook safe, twin vanities, rain shower, honeycomb tile and mirror bathrooms and iPod dock with speakers. The rooftop pool is open 7am to 8pm set in a timber patio with low palm trees and open views.

Neighbouring IZE (pronounced "ice", from Lifestyle Retreats) launched in April 2013 and has shaken up things vastly with a hip ambience appealing to the younger set, surfer parties, a great street-fronting kitchen-style chipped-wood-floor cafe that dishes out incredible brownies and garlic prawns (while playing chill-out music or Nora Jones), and the steady touch of the irrepressible livewire Jose Luis Calle from Lifestyle Retreats who's ponytail says it all.

Bali hip hotels in Seminyak, IZE room

IZE hip room in blue/ photo: Verghese

A sister property to the lux Bale down in Nusa Dua, IZE is the flirtatious youngest child with a wild, exuberant streak but lots of style. Rooms are in pale wood veneer with all-glass goldfish bathrooms that will appeal to romantics. There's just one privacy blind with one glass wall uncovered so drop your modesty and dive in.

Expect a large washbasin, rain shower, blonde wood features, long working desk with free WiFi, one multi-plug adapter with one three-pin socket and one two-pin deep round hole socket. A narrow balcony looks onto houses or over the roofs depending on the floor.

There is an open wardrobe with hangers to optimise space, a bright blue IZE emblazoned dressing gown, a complimentary soft drink mini-bar, comfy bed with fluffy pillows and etched mirror walls with daubs of the signature pale blue.

Grey stone dominates the hotel with a rough but welcoming finish and an unmistakable ice-blue armadillo-scale frontage lends the place a space-age "alien" feel. The rooftop seventh floor pool ("Energize") is a delight in an all white get-up and breezy views over Seminyak. There's a bar here too.

Down in the lobby three PCs are set up for Internet surfing and one level below Deluxe Pool Rooms offer the added luxury of a step-in pool fronting a few select accommodations. Staff is attentive and bright and smiles are abundant. This is a cheerful address with everyone from bronzed muscle-bound surfers and elderly Indonesian families rubbing shoulders quite happily though the accent is on testosterone.

Konaditya offers 5 acres of green with luxury touches

Konaditya/ photo: hotel

The only niggle is perhaps the noise level as sound can filter up from the lower floors through the bathroom. The bustling Jalan Lakshmana frontage puts you right in the middle of great shops, eateries and bars like Rumours, Trattoria Cucina, Cafe Bali (a white wooden villa and a must for Italian or local, dishes from Rp45,000-Rp75,000), Kaizen (Japanese), Chandi, Mykonos (Greek), Ginger Moon, and Khaima (with its attractive bamboo shuttered windows).

On the southwest coast not far from Seminyak past rice fields near the village of Cemagi is the small and serene Konaditya House (2014) set in greens acres fronting the coastline. This is an upscale well-built escape with attention to detail, from the timber flooring to marbled bathrooms (with twin vanities), lotus ponds, thatch roofs, and, for the truly discerning, spa and fitness facilities, tennis, billiards, and a library. There is a sense of openness and space and the design follows the traditional Balinese style with a lot of modern fittings to please jet-setters. There are six roomy en suites in all set in the five-acre grounds. Guests can expect organic food grown on the estate and freshly baked wood-fire-oven breads along with international fare.

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Villa browse in Seminyak

Some of the best private Bali villas are in this area and some worthwhile Seminyak villa options include Uma Sapna (from two to six-bedroom villas), Downtown Villas, Lakshmana Villas (private residential-style villas with personal chef and butlers in attendance round-the-clock), The Elysian (Bali luxury boutique villas with trendy poolside café, bar, and Mediterranean fusion food), and the Sentosa Private Villas & Spa.

The Maya Sayang Villa Seminyak offers private pool villas in a somewhat narrow and long compound that lacks a top-class restaurant but is still welcoming and friendly. There are 11 villas with TV and Internet access with rates running from US$280 for a three-bedroom villa. For some information on booking Bali private villas see our Fast Facts at the end of this story.

Close by The Oberoi in a good location near nightlife and restaurants though not on the beach is the modern cubist, starched-white Villa Aqua with four bedrooms, iPod docks, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, DVD players and a library stocked with books and CDs.

Bali resorts review, The Legian sports a terrific beach

Huge expanse of beach and breakers at The Legian, Seminyak/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Other options could include the Bali Rich Luxury Villa & Spa Seminyak (with properties in Ubud and Sanur too) and Bali Niksoma. At Bali Rich find spacious modern villas with partial alang-alang roofing, marble underfoot, four-poster beds with gauzy drapes, widescreen LCD TVs, DVD players and garden courtyards. Some newer villas offer private pools. Splash out. You may need a minimum four nights to check in.

Bali Niksoma serves up some stylish boutique flourishes in a neat compound with contemporary Deluxe Rooms, and Suites with wooden parquet flooring and four-poster beds for in-room romance. Two pools with striking white and red sun umbrellas look out onto the sea while a spa is on hand for kneading tired muscles. Divine Villas offers hideaways in Seminyak and Canggu.

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Canggu Kerobokan, Tanah Lot

Moving on into the Kerobokan and Canggu area, the 31 July 2017 closure of the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort and the designing of the proposed Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali has been accompanied by the sort of wild controversy always surrounding the outlier president who wasn’t. The hotel’s planned tower wing is claimed to violate both local tradition – where hotels do not rise higher than a coconut tree – and anger the gods, say villagers concerned that a high-rise would be an affront to local deities and the neighbouring cliff-edge Tanah Lot temple, a huge international draw.

This has not slowed the partnership with property tycoon and MNC Group head Hary Tanoesoedibjo that envisages a ‘six star’ address with a revamped golf course. Designed by Greg Norman, the Nirwana Bali Golf Club course has won numerous accolades over the years.

Closer to the beach but not on it, is the La Reserve 1785 Bali at Canggu (August 2022) a French designed all-villa escape with a an old world feel, roomy interiors, four-poster beds, woody floors, thatch roofs and ample natural light. French flair and mystique is evident in its directions for its Secret Spa, set in the Jardins des Moines...

New 2022 Bali resorts review - La Reserve Canggu, colonial feel

La Reserve 1785 in Canggu offers an old world feel/ photo: hotel

A buggy shuttles guests a few hundred yards to the rustic and canopied La Brisa Beach Club facing thundering breakers. A spot for wind in the hair. Or you might walk to the beach. Set away from the beach bustle this hideaway is a bit more private. Brush up on your French. You may have occasion for a C'est Magnifique!

A 42-villa escape from Alila (opened December 2009) is sited near Tanah Lot and its storied steeples and dancing celebrants. The Alila Villas Soori, like the breezy complex in Uluwatu, offer a contemporary look and feel melded into the flowing Balinese rice-terrace landscape, with a particular focus on being green. Expect a library, gym, and Alila Spa, a doctor on hand 24 hours a day, an infinity pool, and beach cabanas set on the speckled black sand.

The one-bedroom Beach Villas with pool start at a very generous 156sq m with one 10-bedroom villa offering 4,600sq m of stretch space. In-room amenities include a flat-screen TV with DVD player, iPod dock, and Internet access. WiFi is available right through this eco-friendly property. The chain’s signature Spa Alila is on hand to knead away the day’s tension.

Also look at the simple yet elegant villas of the Plataran Canggu Bali Resort & Spa (formerly the Novus Bali Villa) where spa treatments await. Expect cool ceramic tile floors, four poster beds and private pools with some villas. Plataran has an option up in Ubud too. The compact sea-facing Grand Balisani Suites has rooms and a few cottages. The reticent but beautiful Puri Ratih Bali has been wound down alas.

The Hotel Tugu Bali is a minute’s walk from the salt-and-pepper beach and its huge breakers. The owner is a dedicated antique collector and incredible pieces of all sizes litter the resort. It's a mad assortment of nostalgic memorabilia not unlike your grandmother's attic that will either charm or completely throw you. I like it enormously. There’s a single access road through the paddy fields and should the temple throw a festive bash you may need to divert, adventurously.

Tugu includes a replica of the bungalow of German artist Walter Spies who did much to promote Indonesia. The villa has the original door, camera and family pictures and is an assault on the senses with its tinted glass windows, bright cobalt blues and ceramic tile floors. Expect a blue mosaic plunge pool too and traditional furniture.

Top Bali spa resorts review, Tugu Bali

Hotel Tugu Bali, Rejang Suite/ photo: hotel

The bed is large and heavily ornate with woodcarvings, and a ceiling fan whirs lazily above. Original letters, photos and paintings litter the mantelpieces. This is truly a step back in time save for the Wi-Fi, which is refreshingly complimentary and the flatscreen TV.

The red Puri Le Mayeur villa “floats” above a lotus pond and has its own plunge pool. The upstairs Rejang Suite is accessed via a creaking wooden corkscrew staircase. Find a spacious verandah, tiny safe, the aforementioned flatscreen TV, and a beaten metal bathtub. Every villa is authentic and astoundingly different. Herein lies the charm of this place.

Rummage through all the bric-a-brac. Or try a spoiling spa treatment in one of the custom-built spa villas. Alternatively, sign up for the complimentary classes on Balinese dancing and gamelan music.

There's also a Villa Tugu Bali, with six bedrooms, set on a breezy hillock near the hotel on an 8,000sq-metre plot with gymnasium, pool, tennis court and parking for ten cars. This is one of the best Bali spa resorts around. Step in to discover why. It also offers a grassy area near the beach (set a few minutes’ walk away) for weddings.

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Quiet hotel choices in Sanur

Editor's choiceIn traditional and fairly non-touristy Sanur, the sunrise beach in the southeast where many prominent local families maintain their residences, a highly popular family-friendly option, is the 363-room Hyatt Regency Bali (formerly the Bali Hyatt dating back to 1973), which doubles as the official botanical garden with acres of eye-popping verdure set in vast water features, now in contemporary straight lines. Old timers will recognise the pool 'cave' with its distinctive stone work. A new addition is the lap pool running along the beach.

The hotel closed 15 November, 2013 for a major refit and returned 20 December 2018. The old rooms were woody and traditional, featuring lots of batik and Indonesian woven ikat, teak flooring, and balconies. The new rooms, still compact - starting at 27sq m in a Garden View room - have been designed by the Japanese SPIN and are light and airy with a smooth ripple-wood wall behind the bed for touchie-feelie travellers who will not be able to resist running their fingers across it.

Bali child friendly hotels, Hyatt Regency pool in Sanur

Hyatt Regency Bali's new-look pools are straight-lined and sun-dappled/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Also expect the de rigueur flatscreen televisions, rooms with showers and bathtubs (some with just showers), twin vanities, dark brass faucets, a separate toilet cubicle by the entrance so that two people can get on with their morning ablutions without bumping into each other with wearying honeymoon intensity, irons, cool stone floors and ingenious use of sliding doors for cupboards and the bathroom. Now you see your mother-in-law, now you don't. Rooms feature narrow but cheerful balconies which, depending on the floor and room type, may be classed by frequent travellers as premium or a knee-bruising economy. For a business class stretch book a Suite (with an extra toilet and living room) or go whole hog with the 81sq m Executive Suite that is a standout with a sunny verandah for morning exercise. All standard rooms feature a nice alcove with a fitted divan for daytime lounging or tossing small kids. A sweet spot will be provided by Ocean View twin rooms.

Fronting the best stretch of Sanur beach (a 500m slice) and its brightly coloured catamarans, the hotel serves up a spacious dedicated spa with rock pools and breezy walks, the beach-fronting Pizzaria, the Piano Lounge for snacks and tipples, and the Omang Omang restaurant for Asian and Western menus. Hyatt Regency plans to set a high bar both as a small meetings and events venue as well as a Bali child-friendly hotel pick, reprising its former role with newfound and contemporary - yet entirely Balinese - flair. Also do pop by the hotel's rather different and nautically themed staff canteen to see why people are comparing it with Google.

(Hyatt Regency Bali is showcased in our exclusive by-invitation Top Asian Hotels Collection, featuring the best Asian hotels, resorts and spas in a printable A4 page with stunning visuals.)

Editor's choiceThe swish Andaz Bali (April 2021), an unabashedly new luxury Bali hotels pick, has been a while in the making but is well worth the wait with its clean lines, head-turning minimalism and textures that scream upscale without being overly brash. Strung out along the beach, this mod ensemble adjoins sister property Hyatt Regency Bali, whose considerable charms - and delightful spa - are on tap for Andaz guests a short barefoot stroll away. Marble-floored rooms from 50sq m up are welcoming of light and serve up de rigueur see-through bathing areas in slaty greystone. The natural woody feel of the room decor carries on to blend with the nature outside.

A walk-through King Bed Ocean View offer a 65-inch TV screen for a genuine home studio experience along with the usual holiday extras like iron, safe, electric kettle and circular bathtub for a languorous romantic dip. It is set up in a breexy open plan. Sample a Lagoon Access room for a walk-in pool experience or go for more elbow room in an 81sq m Andaz Suite or top-of-the-line Villas with up to 396sq m of rumpus room for the entire family or an exclusive canoodle in a Two-Bedroom Beach Villa. There is a twin-bed setup in each room.

New Bali luxury hotels in 2020 - Andaz Bali, deluxe room

Andaz Bali deluxe room / photo: Andaz

A range of eateries serving everything from Asian to Western grills and seafood lay out their eye candy and aromas at the Village Square while Fisherman's Club sited, unsurprisingly, right on the beach serves up the freshest catch of the day traditionally grilled on flaming coconut husk. The dress code at both venues is casual but you'll need to leave your swimming gear, flaming bikinis and Hawaiian trunks in the room.

This intimate 149-key resort for the discerning is a low decibel escape but it does offer a small 236sq m space for intimate events or that special function in case you remembered to bring along that ring. It can handle a small Bali wedding with aplomb and there's space for a modest beach spillover. A good pick for small corporate meetings in Bali if a beach getaway is on the mind after long lockdowns.

(Andaz Bali is showcased in our exclusive by-invitation Top Asian Hotels Collection, featuring the best Asian hotels, resorts and spas in a printable A4 page with stunning visuals.)

The attractive Griya Santrian and Puri Santrian are two stalwarts in this neighbourhood, Family-run Puri Santrian is stylish and spacious with a good stretch of beach, mature foliage with meandering walks, and three swimming pools. Premium Deluxe rooms offer contemporary space with a 40-inch LCD television while Santrian Club accommodation (for adults only) is higher end with four-poster beds and top-notch service. Griya Santrian is one of the oldest hotels on this strip and offers breezy rooms with balconies or terraces. Both Santrians have spas. The Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel (formerly the Radisson) lacks a beach and is plonked down next to a major highway intersection). It focuses on value conferences and MICE events.

A major contender for upscale business in this formerly mid-range area is the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali (December 2014) that took over the mantle from the Regent. A grand and stately construct, which launched in June 2013, it is right at the end of the Sanur strip, perched at the very edge of a sharply tapering beach, with good ocean views. Walk into to a breezy high-ceiling lobby with slanted dark wood beams and grey stone looking onto a central courtyard with green terraced lotus ponds focusing on a bale with gamelan musicians setting the mood. The resort is arrayed around this central space with black wooden lattice work frontage. This space is a tad cluttered and tight, interfering with line-of-sight views. At the seafront, a large infinity pool on a raised podium offers a spot for breezy evening sips while canopied bales at the edge of the beach offer a feel of sand underfoot. The straightforward and stark pool catches good sun but is not a major design element here.

This 120-room address includes 94 suites, one Villa, and 25 residences on narrow Jalan Kusuma Sari close by the Hyatt. The spacious split-level Deluxe Suites weigh in at 90sq m with textured interiors in dark, woody tones, with latticework, carved cabinets, artefacts, and contemporary furniture punctuated with bright cushions. A timber floor in the bedroom gives way to grey-stone underfoot in the step-down living room with its divan and mustard cushions. Look over water features and the central courtyard greens on to the distant islands. The room is a lot brighter than it appears on the website. And this is worth noting.

Bali resort weddings, Fairmont Sanur

Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali courtyard/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Expect king-size beds with additional stretch, mod-cons like iPod docks with BOSE sound and large flat-screen high definition televisions, and expansive bathrooms taking up almost 30 percent of the floor space. There is a separate bathtub for long soaks and a rain shower with ceramic olive-grey tiles, twin vanities for him and her, and bright mirrors. The working desk is set behind the central walkaround bed, with two three-pin multi-plug sockets.

Find reassuringly large switches to manage lights and more. No fiddling about in the dark. The large safe is laptop-friendly but you won't spot the customary iron. You could request one but the hotel already throws in six complimentary pieces of laundry per day so...

A 181sq m Premier Spa Suite (one of only two) offers more than ample elbowroom with 70sq m set aside for the bedroom, and the Villa is a pampering beachfront 937sq m two-bedroom hideaway. And, everywhere, expect those ubiquitous butlers waiting to do your bidding. A spa with Balinese wellness treatments is on hand for tired limbs while the Kid's Club tackles those typhoon tykes with an arsenal of goodies from PlayStations and the Wii to art and craft classes. There is a children's pool as well. WiFi is free throughout the hotel. The lower level breakfast area set among small pools and water features is a nice morning spot. A minor design niggle at this place for some could be the vast central courtyard that is lovely to look at but tedious to get around with no real shortcuts to the pool or beach. This is not a space that brings people together. It disperses them. Rear-facing corridors to the rooms are partially exposed to the elements. This saves electricity and offers a tropical feel but some may not appreciate the "view" onto other somewhat downmarket private residential developments. A green vertical wall helps take care of this. Still, whether you want a honeymoon escape, a child-friendly Bali hotel, or a spot for a unique Bali resort wedding, this could be one for your diary.

Not far up the road it's easy to spot the contemporary concrete lines and vine-draped walls of the Maya Sanur (February 2015) that would blissfully blend into Seminyak but appear seemingly out of place in this sleepy traditional village. Yet, as you wander in and the resort comes into focus you will appreciate how much thought has gone into this long narrow plot running from road to beach to create a stylish, semi-private, retreat.

Modern Maya Sanur seems a misfit in Sanur

Modern Maya Sanur/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The three grey-stone floors, topped by slabs of green on the roof are lined on one side by a long slim arrow-straight plunge pool for the happy occupants of ground floor units, and on the other by an exposed open corridor for room entry. Poolside balconies in a birdcage setting have pull-up flaps in the rear to offer partial privacy. Rooms along the length of the construct do not really offer views but do afford plenty of light, while some units at the end of the L-shaped corridor face the main pool and sea. Pick these if you need open vistas.

The smart, neat, modern rooms serve up 52sq m to 58sq m of living space in hushed pastel-grey surrounds with a see-through bathing area (twin vanities, bathtub and rainshower), a large flat-screen TV, ink-scratch wall art and lime green cushions and chairs. It is a minimalist construct with two three-pin multi-plug sockets at either side of the beds, free WiFi, and a breezy balcony. There are Indonesian-style deep round-hole two-pin sockets too. Down the corridor, a small glassed-in rectangle wedding chapel - that could be mistaken for a squash court - faces a patch of green and the sea. The main seafronting pool is compact and hip while a 200-pax ballroom caters for the more seriously inclined in search of meetings space.

Villa Mahapala offers a mystical escape immersed in zodiac symbols and Chinese astrology with a choice of 20 upscale pool villas – four of these in a two-bedroom format and 350sq m of living space. In villas, expect outdoor showers, LCD flat-screen TVs, in-room safety box, Internet access, and a Yukata robe. Also available are a fitness room, swimming pool and Jacuzzi.

The Raddin became the Mercure Resort Sanur run by Accor with 189 rooms housed in Balinese thatch-roof cottages. There is direct access to the beach and meandering stone-tiled walkways leading through the five-hectare gardens. Children’s activities are available at the supervised Kids Club.

Bali boutique resorts, Tandjung Sari pool faces Sanur Beach

Tandjung Sari pooll/ photo: Vijay Verghese

My pick in Sanur is the whimsical family-managed dolls-house Tandjung Sari whose 27 split-level bungalows (from 45sq m to 135sq m) and tiny 50ft re-modelled pool by the beach offer something very different from the pack. Families can try the larger Twin Bedroom or South Garden bungalows, which offer a bit more stretch space. All units are set in manicured compounds with a fair bit of privacy. Some reworked villas offer four-poster gauze nets, blue-tile floors, twin vanities, and outdoor - but covered - bathtubs and showers. This is a narrow and long compound where a meandering pathway takes you from lobby, past bungalows, to the pool and beach. Unlike at neighbouring mega-resorts, there's not much walking to be done. This would have suited The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger when he stayed here as an acned youth. David Bowie has graced these shores as well. It may have come as a surprise to them that this all natural resort favours a no-TV and no-music approach though an idiot box can be brought in on request. Music too.

Don't expect service to come on rollerblades here. Things happen sedately and always with a smile. This resort is dinky in proportions but mature in years. It celebrated 50 years of operation in 2013 and, as its founder Wija Wawo-Runto said, "My hotel is my living room, my guests are my friends." That strand of thinking remains unchanged, if anything, more strongly reinforced.

You might run into the affable and knowledgeable general manager Aviadi Purnomo who, as a member of the owning family, is deeply committed to carrying on the rich traditions of the place without compromising unnecessarily on fadish modernity. This is after all Bali. Park at the beachside restaurant and watch the sun come up on Sanur - along some of the best stretch of sand with brightly painted fishing boats - and, later, try your hand at kite flying.

There is the Jamu Traditional Spa for aromatic rubdowns and, thoughtfully, a library with books in various languages including English and Dutch. Villa rates are more reasonable than most along this stretch of traditional sand. For something simple, charming, homey, and resolutely welcoming, Tandjung Sari is hard to beat.

Tandjung Sari villas are in the traditional mould, homey and neat

Traditional Tandjung Sari villa/ photo: Verghese

The renamed Grand Inna Bali Beach (formerly Inna Grand Bali Beach) has a highrise hotel wing as well as some nice villas but service is appalling. The property was rebuilt several years ago after a devastating fire. At relaunch, they held a photographic exhibition in the lobby. Not of the splendid Balinese countryside, but of the place going up in smoke. For some information on booking Bali private villas see our Fast Facts at the end of this story.

A smart entity on this quiet stretch of coast is The Pavilion Bali with sumptuous pool villas ranging up to very spacious two-bedroom pool villas with kitchenette, DVD player, private gardens, Balinese decor, butlers to unpack and repack your luggage and Wi-Fi. There is a spa on site with a range of treatments for weary muscles and a library. The resort is close to but not on the beach.

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Candidasa and Manggis

The third Aman property, Amankila, is set high on a headland in Candidasa (an hour-and-a-half to the east, now connected by a fast motorway that traverses black sand beaches and fishing villages). Its 34 villas are connected by extensive walkways and a buggy transports you down to a Beach Club, offering daily yoga classes, and a stunning lap pool on the salt-and-pepper coast. The signature triple stepped swimming pools are the first thing you'll see when you arrive. Pop by the library and grab a book to read while you lounge by the poolside. Wind surf, kayak or rent a Hobie cat.

The views are breathtaking and romance is sensually ever-present, especially if you book into one of the pool villas. The villas are narrower than those at Amandari and the erstwhile Amanusa but more than adequate.

The bedroom leads into an open plan bathroom with twin vanities, two washbasins, two closets and pretty much two of everything you can think of. No more domestic spats. Yes, rich folk argle-bargle too over the washbasin in the morning. Expect to walk a lot at Amankila unless, sensibly, you’re sleeping in and enjoying your surrounds. Floors are in cool polished marble while the villas - and the resort - are in cream limestone that catches the sun and sets the ensemble alight in orange hues depending on time of day.

Best Bali romantic resorts, Amankila, East Bali

Amankila main pool/ photo: Verghese

WiFi works and is free though mobile phone reception is patchy at times. Large plump white beds await in-villa with indoor soaking tubs, and rain shower. The hairdryer is substantial but you may take a while to find the right electric socket for it. Gadgets can be recharged on the work desk in the bedroom that houses a "secret" panel (under one end) with several three-pin plug points. A multi-plug adaptor is provided in each room so you should be able to connect once the mystery is resolved. Lamps and spotlights work wonderfully well to create any romantic mood you choose. Small wonder this getaway is constantly voted among the top Bali romantic resorts.

Should you have a private pool there's little need to move out at all. Enjoy your own sun loungers and dive into a huge basket of fresh fruit. With stilted walkways running up and down the hill, buggies are quietly at hand whenever needed. But then, a brisk walk never hurt anybody. Opt for cycling in neighbouring rice fields or through Manggis Village (named after the ubiquitous Mangosteen), do a three-hour snorkelling cruise, dive, or laze in one of the gazebos around the main three-deck pool where stunning vistas and ocean breezes await. You could get married too if you pluck up the courage to say, "I do."

The Alila Manggis, is a laid-back sanctuary with no airs but plenty of style. Set amidst a coconut grove in gardens facing a salt-and-pepper beach, the resort is arrayed around a large square central swimming pool. For tired limbs there’s the Spa Alila where you might try out a Balinese Massage for an hour or a two-hour Seaweed Farm Body Wrap involving, among other things, exfoliation with sweet almond and sugar oil. There are 53 rooms and two corner suites housed in a two-storey thatch-roof building. The Superior rooms on the lower floors boast a private terrace while Deluxe rooms on the upper floors all have their own balconies.

Also in the vicinity is the saucily named Bali Shangrila Beach Club (no relative of the Hongkong-based Shangri-La group), with swimming pool, kids’ pool, private beach, video games and iron with ironing board. An interesting option here in east Bali is the Candi Beach Cottage with four-star cottage accommodation on the beach, with pool, and spa.

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Ubud resorts review, Sayan, Payangan

Top Bali hotels review - Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape

Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape near Ubud, Bali, a no-walls, no-windows experience

As with ice-cream, you must save the best licks for last, and so it is with Ubud, the central hill country wherein resides the true soul and heart of Bali. This is a fast-growing community, not just of frenzied artists and creative fiends, but of shoppers, travellers and local residents coming up to escape the sultry plains weather. Unfortunately, the traffic on Ubud's narrow, winding roads has multiplied as a result, and it is not always easy to whiz through. Head up here for culture and Bali shopping at its best passing en route villages specialising in silver, gold, art, stone work, furnishings and batik. On then with our Ubud resorts review.

A 40-minute drive from Ubud in Gianyar district but within reach of the Ayung River experience and lush mountain, jungle and paddy views is Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape (14 June 2022, escape.banyantree.com/). A chic rustic construct with lots of timber and rust tones and gauzy white curtains draped across open frontage, the resort is perched above a less travelled valley and features a "naked experience" that thankfully just means no doors and windows or restraining walls. You are open to the elements yet protected in this intimate, if sultry, communion with nature. There are 16 balés (villas) at this adults-only bolthole. Expect a signature spa and locovore cuisine.

Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (September 2015), is an exclusive 60-key hideaway neighbouring Amandari, offering high quality finish, thoughtful contemporary retro chic design and, best of all, a refreshingly uncomplicated arrival experience down a narrow village lane sans slobbering sniffer dogs intent on determining whether your underwear is kosher. It is a top drawer hideaway that sparkles with a polished rustic lustre and compares well with the best in the business, anywhere, not just in Bali. Here's why.

Perched on the lip of the Ayung River gorge facing a broad horseshoe bend with verdant views, the resort carves out vast visual - and residential - space in what is otherwise a closed-in valley farther up and down the sacred banks, occasionally ruffled by the joyful screams of rafters plunging through the rapids. Interiors are hushed, in handsome, textured dark wood, offset with copper fixtures and mood chandeliers and licks of lime green furniture. There's space enough to swing an elephant by the tail.

Set higher up the hillside, stone-floor Suites have long balconies that run generously the entire length of the 150sq m unit from the living area, past the bathroom with its fashionable lookout tub, to the bedroom. The light switches are delightfully old fashioned, large, tactile, and idiot-proof, and plug points are aplenty in international three-pin - and recessed round two-pin - formats, including in convenient pullout bedside drawers (which also include two USB sockets). WiFi is free.

Mandapa Bali darkwood Suite interior

Mandapa's soothing and chic dark-wood Suite/ photo: Vijay Verghese

While uncompromisingly upscale, it is a homey feel, the dark textured wood adding that element of soothing comfort and elegance with a single glowing mother-of-pearl chandelier as the focal ceiling light in both the bedroom and the living room. Two lazily hanging 'oil lamps' provide a vintage touch as do the frosted glass panes in the walk-in closet and bathrooms screaming for you to whip out an Agatha Christie whodunnit. Expect a retro clock-radio from Tivoli with Bluetooth, two swivelling flat-screen TVs that afford views from practically anywhere, an espresso machine, competent hairdryer, comfy divans, a naughty peekaboo white bathtub dressed in a stylish dark rattan weave, and a leap-up Japanese-style electric potty to administer the best pampering your derriere has ever experienced in Bali.

Beds are large and supple, adorned with individual songkets, and each room features one-of-a-kind handpainted Balinese-scene murals. An entry-level Suite does a good job of keeping up with the Joneses in a 100sq m format that combines the bedroom and living area. A One-Bedroom Villa starts at 430sq m while the enormous three-bedroom pool escape Mandapa Villa offers 2,000sq m of rumpus room. Villas serve up private gardens and pools set within limestone walls.

This village style resort with its shingle roofs and thatch blends in well with the countryside and encompasses a functioning rice field at its centre at the lower level with the villas arrayed around it facing the river, the 'jungle' or paddy fields. The vertiginous drop from the arrival point to your hillside Suite or lower level Villa is negotiated by buggy as are the distances from your bed to the excellent restaurants and spa. This may irk those who'd prefer steps and casual meandering walks but it is a minor niggle as you jolt over stone paving, safari style, driven by friendly staff and female butlers who materialize any time you need assistance. Male butlers are on hand too for shoppers intent on holiday heft. Service is intuitive and graciously attentive. The resort's task is to maintain this high level of engagement and spirit of genuine welcome from the general manager down to junior staff.

Breakfast at Mandapa overlooking green valleys and the river

Mandapa breakfasts overlook the river/ photo: Vijay Verghese

This Reserve is ideal for Balinese resort weddings and romance. Guests can also enjoy the secluded Mandapa Spa, bicycle rides around the countryside, four food and beverage outlets including the hugely atmospheric river-fronting Kubu with its bamboo 'cocoons' and soft lighting that create a magical Peter Pan setting, and a swimming pool for burning off those indulgent calories. There is a functioning temple on the grounds. Indeed, Bali is very much in evidence in the warp and weft of this finely crafted address.

Mandapa is unassumingly posh - a well-bred banker's daughter with tousled hair and no hint of privilege or snobbery - and will thus appeal to a broad set of travellers and even families with kids in need of a child-friendly nature trawl, not just LV-toting cognoscenti. Ask for the Mini Explorer programme and visit the Green Camp that moves down to the riverside (from up near the lobby) by Christmas 2018. Faster arriving, and hotter, water in-room through those lovely copper taps would be a boon, and some will prefer walking shoes to wheels. Yet there is adventure - and local experience - by the mile for those who crave it. The Ayung River is a genteel rafting route with a private hop-off spot at the resort. Escape the ungodly traffic on The Island of the Gods for some classy romance here in the rolling hills of Ubud. An absolutely 'must-do' entry without reserve for any travel diary unfazed by Ritz rates. No question, this is one of the best Bali luxury resorts in our line-up.

Amanresorts’ gem, Amandari, is perched on the lip of the Ayung River Gorge, in Ubud, with an emerald pool that disappears over the edge. Amandari is used freely by Hindu priests as a thoroughfare to the sacred river during the daily blessings and ceremonies. Near the pool are three shrines and a seventh century tiger statue.

Guide to the top Bali resorts, Amandari pool

Amandari pool/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Armed with strong legs and a bottle of mineral water guests can trudge down almost right to the river’s edge. It is a stiff climb back up. Amandari is authentic, quiet and spoiling. You know you are in Ubud, Bali. The cliff-edge sliver of reflective emerald that is the pool forms a stunning centrepiece with the children’s dance school and 30 villas radiating out on either side. A spacious ground-floor bedroom villa offers natural soap, an outdoor tub, interior rainshower and twin vanities for him and her. Expect an iPod for music and a host of albums to pick from and two three-pin plug sockets on either side of the bed but no television. This is nature at its best. There is a work desk and free WiFi with good download speeds. Other units serve up a large airy living room on the ground floor with a small bedroom up a corkscrew wooden staircase. Take your pick. The upstairs bedroom is thoroughly local but the creaking staircase is not for the faint hearted.

More spoiling is the spacious Amandari Villa. At one end of the resort is Amandari’s spa with two open-air bales, sauna and steam room. The resort returned with fresh sparkle in mid 2009 after detailed renovation and refurbishment. Service is welcoming and attentive if understated with the feel of being in a friend’s home. Of an evening enjoy the local kids performing Balinese dances learned at the resort’s school. Villas are traditional and unfussy with clean spaces and cool marble underfoot. Opt for a villa with the bedroom on the ground floor if you are averse to attempting the whimsical corkscrew wooden staircase up to the romantic ship-bridge cabin. Pool villas are available too with blackened granite terraces and “natural” Balinese plunge pools. Nothing overly modern here. And no coy boutique influences. This is the very heart of Bali. Unspoiled. Perfect.

Top Bali spas, Four Seasons Sayan villa pool

Four Seasons Sayan villa pool/ photo: hotel

The spa is a main feature at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. The Sayan resort is architecturally different, to say the least. Upon arrival, you are greeted by a serene, if perplexing, circular lotus pond high above the valley. On my first visit I thought I had missed the turn. To get to the open-sided, airy lobby you actually descend through this idyllic lotus pond.

The Four Seasons Sayan features both 18 suites as well as 42 private villas – with the customary CD and DVD player, yukata robes and hypo-allergenic pillows – and its swimming pool licks the very edges of the Ayung River below. Access to the premium Royal Villa is again down, through a private lotus pond that doubles as a meditation and yoga area. It offers a private plunge pool and outdoor shower facilities. All dining facilities at the resort look over the valley at sumptuous forest and paddy field views.

Just before Four Seasons Sayan, if you're driving up from Sanur, is the newish Samaya Ubud Bali, also along the Ayung River. Like its Seminyak sibling, its is a well constructed neat place.

Kayumanis Ubud (which also runs tasteful luxury villas in Nusa Dua and Jimbaran) nestles in cinnamon groves looking over rainforest above the Ayung River. Do note the resort does not take in children below 16. Villa types range from Balinese and Oriental to primitive. Despite the thatch roofs there is of course nothing primitive about the finish and modern furnishings. Later escape to the Kayumanis Spa. The resort is just south of the Four Seasons at Sayan. The group can arrange for a whole host of dining excursions, including picnic lunches and full moon blessing dinners, and even cooking lessons for those gastronomically inclined.

Right off the scale when it comes to indulgence is the secluded COMO Shambhala Estate. COMO has revitalised this elegant establishment bringing a fresh buzz to the place. The five spacious "residences" as they are called (housing 21 suites), are spacious, pretty and utterly private, slung around the hump of a garden hummock at the centre of the resort and surrounded by jungle. All feature breathtaking pools and a butler.

Stunning pools at Hanging Gardens Ubud

Stunning pools at Hanging Gardens Ubud/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Two Retreat Villas come with private therapy rooms and private pools. Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the premises, a thoughtful touch. The COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri boasts an attractive spa, Kedara (formerly The Source), set further down the hill near a natural spring and waterfall. There are complimentary daily activities such as guided walks and yoga, and the Estate also boasts a wide range of wellness programmes. Toya Mampeh, the spring, is known in local lore for its healing properties. This mineral-infused water also feeds the chlorine-free Vitality Pool. This is one of the top Bali spa resorts in our review.

The Uma Ubud (also a COMO resort) is almost a small self-contained village with Balinese style villas featuring chic modern bathrooms, some with plunge pools and Broadband access for those refusing to part with their laptops. There's plenty of green space, tranquil nooks and corners for a reflective moment, water features, rockeries and shaded walkways. Spa out in a treatment room, steam off your city stress, or settle in to some soothing yoga. Extreme sport lovers will enjoy the white-water rafting, trekking and biking offerings.

The Ubud Hanging Gardens (formerly by Orient-Express Hotels until the owners took the brand back mid November 2013) is now Hanging Gardens Ubud. As the name suggests, the Balinese villas,are perched - pretty securely - above the Ayung River gorge, the de rigueur location for any upscale Ubud hangout. The resort is a 30-minute drive north of Ubud, part of it through verdant rolling hillside climbing up and plunging down impossibly narrow lanes. The white-knuckle ride is well worth it to get to this secluded hideaway. The 38 villas with thatched alang-alang roofs are set on wooden pillars with four-poster beds inside, outdoor showers and plunge pools. The Spa close by the river offers birdsong (which is free) and fancy herbal spa treatments.

Hanging Gardens Ubud is a unique boutique hotel offering nestled in the hills

Hanging Gardens Ubud, rooms with a view/ photo: hotel

A funicular connects the reception area up top with the lower villas, restaurant and stunning tiered pools that jut out enticingly, if vertiginously, above the valley, enabling fine views, poses, and rich tans. This is a much photographed gem and when you see it you'll understand why. This is 'selfie' heaven. Park on the timber deck for a cocktail or nibble. Another funicular glides down to the spa. Below the pools, set discretely to one side, is the owner's own 'Hidden Palace', a luxe five-bedroom thatch-roof villa with generous pool for up to 10 persons. It has its own private funicular. Fancy a private getaway? It's US$4,500 a night for this extravagance. Steps cascade down the resort so foot power is always an option too. Enjoy walks through the forest, or learn cooking. This is a panoramic spot with grand views in the very heart of Bali. Having made the effort to get here, you'll be tempted to stay, and stay, and stay...

Making a smart comeback is Kupu Kupu Barong Villas & Tree Spa a Hobbit-style villa reserve on the Ayung gorge that had closed a long while for major renovations. The new-look Kupu Kupu Barong is smart, better polished, and with a charming spa and the three hectares of lush green. It features 34 suites in traditional Balinese design.

The villas offer vertiginous views of the river from wooden balconies – and some rather steep steps to get to breakfast. Fortunately, a butler can be arranged to do all the running about. Villas all come with private plunge pools, outdoor terrace, LCD TV, DVD player, and bathrooms furnished with L’Occitane amenities.

This is one of Bali's oldest boutique hotels (it opened in 1986 as a restaurant) and is worth a look-see. The small main pool is now a stylish clean-lined infinity affair overlooking the gorge with a flutter of pink or red sun umbrellas. This is an excellent spot to pose for a photograph.

The signature La View restaurant (with an alfresco terrace) serves up Asian with French accents. But for something completely different, step into the Mango Tree Spa, run by L’Occitane and set in the branches of a mango tree. Surprisingly, this contrivance works, complete with water features, Jacuzzi and more. Aim high and step into the Tree Spa treatment room nestled atop bamboo trees.

Capella Ubud tented retreat

Capella Ubud, luxury tents/ photo: hotel

A new 2018 entrant in a secluded lane is the Capella Ubud, a rustic chic 22-tent affair tucked into the verdant rainforest. Expect all of the Capella's expected luxe touches along with a lot of vintage teak, creaking wood underfoot, four-poster beds, small boulder-hemmed dipping pools (not blue-tiled contemporary rectangles), Indonesian artefacts, rich textures, and striking cobalt blue canopies that lend their hue to reflections and the light pouting into bedrooms. There is a dining room (tent), an Officers' Tent for tea and coffee, and even an Auriga Wellness offering for spa treatments and invigorating massages with Bali potions and scrubs and rubs.

Yes, there's Pilatus and yoga too. For a longer stretch out there's a rock-lined saline 30m pool. Coconut trees lean unabashedly at awkward angles all over the resort, shading sun loungers and walking paths. This is a hideaway retreat for those seeking a touch of the wild and old Bali.

The delightful Ibah now renamed the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa is a treat and a sight for sore eyes with its dense green, stone walkways, and dreamy pool with romantic snuggeries carved into the rock. The 17 villas are tasteful with four-poster canopied beds. It has a health spa and the overly active can hop on a complimentary mountain bike and head off for a pedal-powered exploration of Ubud.

Located along the Campuhan River valley rim, the resort setting is verdant and atmospheric. At the two-bedroom Villa Frangipani duck through an antique doorway and ascend stairs past a waterfall to enter the living pavilion. You get the picture… While a standard suite may start at around US$260, a pool villa will go from US$600 up.

The smart but relaxed Kamandalu Resort and Spa has had a chequered history and was once managed by Banyan Tree. It is set amidst verdant rice-fields above the Petanu River. While some parts of the complex are compact, others are spread out with generous views. In April 2011, the newly renovated Ubud Chalets came on line.

Ubud resorts review, Kamandalu Pool Villa

Kamandalu Pool Villa/ photo: hotel

Newer villas offer two-level privacy with open valley views and a cliff-edge pool with sundeck and all the tropical props you may need. Find four-poster beds, flower petals and, imaginatively, towels-turned-swans. Staff is attentive and courteous. The ambience at Kamandalu is laid-back and relaxed and the pool overlooks lawns running down the hill to cottages and the lip of the river. Later check out the Kamandalu Spa. Refurbished rooms are smart and chic. Choose from pool villas, garden villas, or larger family pavilions that will accommodate two couples with a few tykes in tow. Located on the road heading up to Penelokan, the Kamandalu is well positioned for drives up to Lake Batur, Besakih Temple, and the north.

Right next door is the compact and exclusive enclave of the Viceroy Bali with its manicured lawns, a handful of discrete pool villas in varying configurations, the top-of-the-line two-bedroom Viceroy Villa, and The Lembah Spa. Freshly minted in July 2011 were ten new villas replete with private pavilions, living room with sofa, 47-inch TV, iPod dock and more. Soon to come are tennis and yoga centres to round off the resort experience. The ambience is traditional Balinese and though the resort is small there is a well-defined sense of space.

Step down from the lobby to the inviting infinity pool hanging demurely above the river gorge. The views across the valley are exhilarating. If you wish to skip the 45-minute drive from the airport, simply opt for a helicopter transfer.

For a real Ubud gem, pop into the green and gracious Puri Wulandari, a Bali boutique resort and spa. It is set some distance away from the road in lush paddy looking down over the Ayung River. The 35 thatch-roof villas are elegant and private and the terraced gardens are a treat. The villas feature their own brilliant blue valley-edge plunge pools with stunning views, and outdoor shower areas.

Ubud resorts review, Puri Wulandari

Charming Puri Wulandari/ photo: Vijay Verghese

A One Bedroom Villa offers 200sq m of stretch space in a private compound with that alluring plunge pool, blue lounge chairs, a belvedere, and a thatch-roof villa with four-poster bed, a boxy TV, DVD player, dressing room with twin vanities, a sunken tub and outdoor covered shower. There is no internet in the villa but WiFi is available in the public areas. The mood is languorously traditional, unhurried, and classy. From the moss-covered stone walls to the beaming smiles, everything here spells understated quality. The Lila Ulangun Spa has a wealth of treatments and massages ranging from aromatherapy to Javanese lulur and Balinese boreh. Keep an eye on this one. Puri Wulandari is a hidden gem.

Just north of here in Payangan is the Alila Ubud. The centrepiece is a stunning tongue of pool jutting out like a high-dive board over the Ayung gorge. The Alila is serene and professional with a laid-back ambience. There are 54 rooms set in separate two-storey arrangements on stilts, looking out over the valley. There are also four Valley Villas with a deck overlooking the Ayung River, and four Pool Villas with private pools, gardens and a lotus pond. The villas include personal butlers, in-room spa treatments and 24-hour room service. The ensemble is intended to mimic a Balinese village.

Thatch roofs mix with terrazzo floors and gravelled walks in a comfortable rustic chic that permits quiet indulgence without the self-conscious inhibition of many high-end getaways. You’ll find, terraces, back gardens, private balconies, breezy views, jungle critters and chirruping things, as well as iPODs. The all-new linen has a high thread count with a posh feel that should not limit your romantic overtures. Spa Alila is a dedicated offering with a wide range of treatments and a tempting array of take-back products. The Alila Ubud is a nice away-from-it-all escape.

Ubud resorts review, Pita Maha pool view

Pita Maha main pool/ photo: Verghese

The verdant, villa-style Pita Maha Resort and Spa (where I regularly enjoy a very flavourful meal with great views of the valley and the hotel’s wondrously blue swimming pool), is a useful pit stop. The villas nestle along a steep and heavily wooded slope leading down to the river. Birdsong and monkey calls are ever in the ear, a refreshing change from the Big City.

Statuettes welcome you at every curve of the stone pathways along with beaming smiles from staff. The neighbouring sister-property is the Hotel Tjampuhan Spa that boasts the "actual" home of Walter Spies, the aforementioned German artist. Both Pita Maha and Tjampuhan are well sited high up the valley with open views and stunning cliff-edge infinity pools. Pita Maha villas come with satellite TV, bar, and sumptuous furnishings.

A third and far more luxurious development by the Pita Maha group is the 75-villa Royal Pita Maha, not far from the Ubud Pita Maha Resort along the same valley as the Amandari. This is a smart pool villa development offering space and upmarket frills. For starters, when you walk into Royal Pita Maha's panoramic lobby, you'll be assailed by a breathtaking view encompassing a huge swathe of the valley. Far below, the sacred river gurgles along. Each thatch-roof villa compound is totally private within mossy-stone walls, the villa set several steep steps above the swimming pool, with open valley views. The Deluxe Pool Villa bedroom is at the centre of the layout with a large gauze-draped bed, often strewn with rose petals for honeymooners. At either side, step down a few rungs to access the living room with a work desk, divan, and old-fashioned but potent box TV; or the spacious bathroom with its apple-shaped terrazzo tub and soothing organic toiletries. There's no problem with fast hot water unlike at several other resorts. Enjoy free WiFi and plenty of light on account of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Opt for a Ayung Healing Villa (lower down the slope) with a natural water pool and organic breakfasts, or a Royal Pool Villa, also set closer to the river below in green surrounds.

Royal Pita Maha breakfast by the Ayung River

Royal Pita Maha eggs Benedict riverside/ photo: Vijay Verghese

Take two elevators (yes they have a couple here) and walk down winding steps past the Sacred Pool, stone statues, and a spring water pool, to get to the lip of the Ayung River against which is perched a breezy open-sided pavilion that serves organic breakfasts. Savour steaming Eggs Benedict perhaps served on sweet potato with crab cakes and pour down litres of fresh juice, all the while gazing upon a wondrous, smoky river scene only modestly ruffled later in the morning by the delighted squeals of white-water rafters as their inflatables bump the boulders.This is as close to Eden as you can get in Bali and one of the best spots for a meditative - or romantic - bite. The Ayung Garden cafe was completely rebuilt and resited some yards from where it was after destructive floods some time back. The new ensemble is rustic, neat, unfussy, and a treat with one raised belvedere table for private diners at the bend in the river. Also by late 2018 guests could enjoy a beatiful riverfront wedding chapel, a yoga pavilion and a new mini rock pool created for kids to paddle rafts in. It's an ingenious idea, given the setting.

The entire resort blends unobtrusively into the surrounds with Balinese flourishes at every turn. The place is brimming with stone carvings, several of playful monkeys and frogs, and there is a large main swimming pool high up the hill below the belvedere restaurant (from where the best views are on tap). Visit the library and try out the meeting room. Or head to the dedicated spa enclave with massage suites and all manner of wellness, Balinese and international. This is a grand setting for a honeymoon, Bali resort weddings, or a small corporate meeting for a CEO chinwag. Art flourishes have been provided by a member of the Ubud Royal Family, the main sponsor of this charming getaway.

In Ubud, Bali, a series of hairpins lead up to Penestanan where the road mysteriously peters out. This is the preserve of villagers, cyclists, beatific chickens, and a few travellers in the know. Here you'll find the tiny but lush and beckoning hideaway Villa Nirvana with a small range of private villas (with up to 12 rooms between them accommodating 24) set on individual green terraces. Each villa comes with its own private lap pool. The resort, the brainchild of Singapore-based journalist Vikram Khanna, opened early 2011, with steady upgrades and expansion that have included yoga, stepped up service and food (The Banana Leaf restaurant serves excellent Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and Western food). Service everywhere is friendly and attentive. This is a neat little hideaway with no pressure on your watch or wallet. Expect blue-tile pools, mod interiors with large flat-screen televisions, chill-out music, friendly staff, and healthy juices. This is literally the Lost World. Step in to escape.

Villa Nirvana is a friendly Ubud hideaway for total seclusion

Villa Nirvana, new look photo: hotel

Four more Ubud options are provided by the Komaneka resorts group. Pick from the Komaneka at Monkey Forest, the Komaneka Tanggayudawith its pool villas and spa overlooking the Oos River, the Komaneka at Bisma (opened 2008) set in verdant rice paddy terraces on a rather narrow access road above the Campuhan River, and the Komaneka at Rasa Sayang near the Monkey Forest. These resorts are small scale, friendly, and laid back with artistic touches like the polished driftwood benches at Bisma in the breezy lobby overlooking a tongue of green - the swimming pool set above the river.

A charming and smaller Ubud villa option is the Villa Semana that has a secluded spa and 10 lovely villas set in gardens overlooking the Ayung River gorge. The villas have unimpeded views in most directions. They offer a traditional Balinese escape with thatch alang-alang roofs and reasonable distractions inside including a minibar, a CD player, hair-drier and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The calming Maya Ubud Resort and Spa is worth a look-see for its stylish concept featuring, among other things, beaten metal in surprising places, including the bathtubs and sinks. Set aside from the hubbub, the Maya stretches along the spine of a low green spur leading into a bend of the river. Deep down the gorge, on the river, is its delightful spa. Funky compact villas look over the valley. These feature small pools, garden, TV, as well as coffee and tea-making facilities. There are hotel rooms in the main lowrise building as well and funky toilets. This is a stylish property that has made a name for itself.

Bali resorts review, Komaneka Bisma in Ubud

Komaneka Bisma jungle pool/ photo: Vijay Verghese

For something a little different explore ARMA Resort. Run under the aegis of the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) this is a stylish set of 16 rooms in eight villas and a pool. Money earned here goes into maintaining the museum so it is money well spent indeed. Expect a swimming pool, a fine art gallery, all manner of art and cultural workshops, and meeting facilities.

The Kori Ubud is a well regarded Balinise-style chalet getaway a few minutes south of central Ubud in Sanggingan village with 12 rooms overlooking views over rice terraces, a spa with two treatment rooms, a swimming pool, an art gallery and cooking classes for those wishing to stir the pot. Ask for a villa set higher up the hillside for more open views.

The Ubud Village Resort & Spa overlooking rice paddy fields with lotus ponds and manicured gardens is a calm retreat with a fitness centre, a business centre with Broadband Internet, Wi-Fi hotspots in the gardens and, curiously, a u-shaped pool. Garden Pool Villas are a generous 284sq m with four-poster beds, private pool, marble-floors, outdoor showers and hand-carved volcanic stone bathtubs. There are also two whopping big Village Suites offering 350sq m of space, featuring a private verandah, gazebo and pavilion. Check out sister Ubud Village Hotel.

A self-styled Ubud boutique resort option is the Champlung Sari Hotel in the Monkey Forest area. There are two pools, three restaurants, and a spa with double treatment rooms for couples offering Javanese and Balinese treatments. This Ubud hotel is a reasonable option but is not in the luxury or top-service category. Monkeys racing in to steal breakfast portions are part of the constant entertainment.

The Tanah Gajah Ubud, a resort by Hadiprana, (formerly The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, Ubud run by the Singapore-based GHM group until the changeover on 1 January 2020) offers 20 self-contained units (nine with pools) in five hectares of garden looking onto rice fields. This is a private home away from home format, spoiling, rustic, and mellow.

Bali resorts review, Tanah Gajah rice fields, Ubud, one of the best Bali boutique hotels

Tanah Gajah dining rice field view/ photo: hotel

Formerly an architect's home Tanah Gajah Ubud has reverted to the Hadiprana family and continues to offer a fair share of whimsy with an away-from-it-all ambience with birdsong, water features, breezy views and spoiling amenities. The resort is very homey, unhurried and welcoming, spread out in shockingly green acres with walks and ponds and any number of statues especially of the characterful Hindu elephant-headed God Ganesha, some playful, some sombre, some ornate, others darkly ascetic. The area is also famous for its elephant caves.

Rice fields open out in all directions (there are no boundaries demarcating the resort) presenting a soothing open-ended panorama from bedrooms or dining halls. Within this rustling verdant continuum are pool villas, three spa villas and a Two Bedroom Estate.

Decor is Indonesian (Javanese in style) and uncluttered. Expect carved wooden beds, ceramic tiles underfoot, beaten bamboo headboards, a flatscreen TV, DVD player and a Bose home theatre. There is a 35m pool if you need to stretch those muscles with some fast laps, a fitness centre, tennis court, open-air amphitheatre, an art gallery, and a spa with a meditation room. Mark down this exquisite getaway. It scores high on our Bali resorts review not least because it is different, with the rice fields providing a refreshing setting.

A host of dining and entertaining options are available at this charming Ubud resort. Overlooking whispering paddy, enjoy cocktails, tapas, or afternoon tea. Traditional Balinese and Asian fare is on offer for dinner at The Tempayan restaurant. Balloon over Bali, breakfast in the pool, or take in a kecak dance.

Some ways south of the Chedi but north of Sukawati (the art village) is the new Sthala, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Ubud Bali (October 2016) with 143 rooms starting at 36sq m (and Suites from 70sq m).

Sthala a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Sthala Superior room/ photo: hotel

The hotel is a rather straightforward construct, simple minimalist rooms with balconies overlooking jungle foliage, a village, and the pools.

Expect cream polished stone floors, dark wood desk and fittings, pale yellow chairs, flatscreen television and free WiFi. The rest of the hotel is similarly unfussy with a few art elements, statues, and textures. The main Ubud market strip is about eight kilometres from here. Sthala plans a slew of anti-ageing treatments and more at its planned Creme de la Creme by Vinski and Tompi. Expect a range of beauty treatments.

Other promising candidates include the Natura Resort and Spa with just 14 villas, the secluded Biyukukung Suites & Spa with tasteful rooms and satellite TV, the Nandini Bali Jungle Resort & Spa with 18 Balinese 42sq m chalets, and the Sungai Spa (in Payangan near the Alila).

A small and neat spot on the Ubud main street is the Aniniraka Resort & Spa, a trendy sort of place, compact and friendly, with just 11 pavilions (not villas) each with a private terrace. Aniniraka is surrounded by lush paddy fields and a small upstairs restaurant overlooks the green with a tiny alfresco section with a few tables.

For an Ubud villa option also check out Waka Resorts & Cruises which runs a few boutique resorts in Bali including in Ubud, Gilimanuk and Lembongan. This is the same company that specialises in Bali adventure and off-road itineraries. See our Bali Guide. For some information on booking Bali private villas see our Fast Facts at the end of this story.

Bali fun guide - Mara River Lodge for safari holidays with kids and family

Mara River lodge bedroom/ photo: Vijay Verghese

The Westin Ubud Resort & Spa (Late 2017) marks the brand’s second foray on the island after the Nusa Dua conference titan. This 110-room highlands hideaway too plans to offer some modest MICE Muscle for small corporate meetings (more likely destination wedding business) to an otherwise sleepy location, with three meeting venues including a 1,615sq ft function area. There is a wedding coordinator and pre-function space on hand.

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North Bali, Pemuteran, East Coast, Tulamben, Tembok

If heading south from Ubud with the kids in tow, explore the Mara River Safari Lodge (easily accessed via the east coast highway too if coming from Kuta or Seminyak), a theme resort with thatch-roof accommodation, jungle sounds, camel or elephant rides, and a night safari. It’s not too rustic. The 38 simple lodge rooms in the Kenyan style offer aircon, free WiFi, TV, babysitting services, swimming pool and a spa. Expect cement floors, simple but clean toilets, a bed with gauze drapes suspended above it, a small hairdryer, a GIANT safe, coffee maker, mini-bar, and a balcony or verandah with views across a moat. Spot zebra, white tigers, komodo dragons, oryx, and more. Safari tours at the Bali Safari & Marine Park take in animal shows, lion cub petting, personal encounters with orangutans and more. The park is clean, well managed and staffed by bright young kids who are both energetic and attentive. It is a nice antidote to temples and processions when all that gets to be too much.

Far up in Bali's less-discovered north are pepper beaches (not really black sand) and, in the northwest, high ranges clad in virgin rainforest. Against this dramatic backdrop in the Pemuteran area you'll find the quietly elegant Puri Ganesha Villas and its four two-storey Balinese-style villas with a broad stretch of beach. Pick one, two or three-bedroom space and plonk down in a lounge chair on a breezy wraparound verandah. All the villas face east to catch the first rays of the morning. A decent lap pool set in a refreshing bed of green grass looks out at the sea.

North Bali resorts, Puri Ganesha Villa Sepi for yoga and rustic romance

Puri Ganesha Villa Sepi/ photo: hotel

This is a spot for yoga, a slow unwind, a LARGE good book or that conversation with your better half. This is not a five-star in-your-face kind of place. For that head to Nusa Dua. As the owner Diana von Cranach mischievously, but honestly, declares on her website, "Don’t expect to find power showers, fluffy white towels, straws or canned drinks...expect to enjoy fabulous organic food, and litres of complimentary volcanic mineral water". Puri Ganesha encourages guests to support reef preservation and school programmes through the Pemuteran Foundation (www.pemuteranfoundation.com).

This is wonderful retreat, laid-back, and quiet. If you really want to go the whole hog they'll even arrange a five-day detox programme for you. The minimum stay is two nights. Also take a look at the smart Damai Lovina Villas high on a spur looking over the coastline (some excellent food is to be had here and there’s a spa), the expansive Matahari Beach Resort & Spa and, heading west along the coast, the 129-room low-rise Sunari Villa & Spa Resort (formerly Sol Lovina).

Also in north Bali, near Seririt and perched above the Sea of Java, is the Zen Resort Bali, a small boutique hotel featuring Balinese architecture. There are 15 ocean-view villas. Guests can indulge in individually created spa packages, or meditate and practise yoga on the special yoga pavilion. There's also a forest walk to a sacred temple and a tranquil beach. At the end of the day, take in the sunset from the treetop meditation terrace. The resort is a three-hour drive from Denpasar, and two hours from Ubud.

Lots of tours available to explore the northern beaches, countryside and rainforest. The Mimpi group has one of its three dive resorts here, on Menjangan Island. The Mimpi Menjangan Resort exploits the natural hot springs and offers a nice cottage setting.

Pita Maha villa

Pita Maha Ubud/ photo: hotel

The Mimpi Tulamben Resort, near Kubu, on the east coast, has a pebble beach and offers easy access to the wreck of the USS Liberty. And the Mimpi Resort Jimbaran rubs shoulders, comfortably, with its high-class neighbours.

En route to the north try stopping off at the spectacular Bali Handara Kosaido with its Jurassic Park golf course inside a misty volcanic crater. The Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive north from Nusa in a setting greener than a punk hairdo or the broccoli your mother fed you. The 18-hole green fee for is US$150 for visitors but around half that for in-house guests. Ponder this. A superior room at this scenic Bali golf course will set you back just US$95 a night. All the 43 rooms face the course and have private terraces. The course has seen better days but it certainly provides a stunning backdrop.

On the Jalan Singaraja-Amlapura road winding along the island's ruggedly beautiful east coast at Tembok, is the The Spa Village Resort Tembok - Malaysian YTL's first foray into Bali. This dedicated spa resort offers a cosy seaside setting with just 27 rooms, two suites and two villas. Expect elegant Balinese design in a contemporary setting, generous space, marble bathrooms with sunken baths, and balconies or terraces with panoramic views. The villas have private plunge pools. The highlight is of course The Spa where assorted treatments await minus the shrill rings of cellphones and pagers (which are discouraged, along with smoking). The Spa Village Academy holds classes on Balinese massage techniques, herbal remedies, and more. This is a distant location but it offers an away-from-it-all feel with little distraction. Sweeping views, a pebble beach, and spa treatments galore.

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Besakih, Sidemen, Penelokan

The Spa Village in Tembok is a luxury Bali resort in the east

Spa Village Tembok/ photo: hotel

South of Besakih, still in the highlands, and with terrific views of the hills and paddy fields was the charming little Subak Tabola Inn in Sidemen, which appears to have fallen off the radar. The rooms were clean and had a spacious porch.

Grandly perched above Lake Batur and its sulphurous volcano cones, the Lakeview Hotel & Restaurant continues to provide an exhilarating vantage point for an overpriced and mediocre but friendly must-have lunch buffet (around Rp60,000 plus a huge amount of tax). You’ll also need to buy a Rp10,000 ticket to enter the general Penelokan area. Lakeview Hotel offers a pool and decent unfussy lodgings at US$61 for a Standard. The Deluxe Room balconies look out over the lake for a sumptuous sunrise scene.

That's Bali north, south, east and west. Take your pick. As I negotiated security checkpoints, slobbering dogs, instant festivals and devotees thronging tiny roads, I slowed down behind a van bobbing elegantly along the rutted road with a large sign. “Quality before service” it said. Well…

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FAST FACTS / Hotel Contact List

The wet season (and it can get pretty wet when the heavens part) runs from late October to mid-March. Yet there is enough sunshine in between to keep most people happy. This is the period to push for discounts during the low season. August and September temperatures can be surprisingly pleasant with cool nights. Departure taxes are included in your ticket and are not paid separately at the airport and there is no arrival or departure card to be filled.

Bali black sand beaches line the east coast

Black sand beaches abound along the east coast / photo: Vijay Verghese

The exchange rate hovers around US$1 = Rp14,300 or better (especially in Kuta). Prefer moneychangers and banks to hotels. Hotels may add on an extra 10 percent service charge and 10 percent government levy up to around a 21 percent tax. Internet rates are available at several resorts and these fluctuate almost daily.

Check for the best available Internet rates (BAR). Room rates will vary from about US$80 at budget establishments and US$130 at mid-range properties to around US$1,200 or more at luxury villa resorts. An average rate at a good Bali five-star hotel will be in the range of around US$220.

Bali villa escapes for honeymoons

A lot of travellers prefer to stay in Bali private villas. One company offering a range of choice is Bali Luxury Villas (www.baliluxuryvillas.com/page/experience) with options in Canggu, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Seminyak and Ubud. We have listed a few Bali villas by district below.

Nusa Dua, Uluwatu, Ungasan & South

Alila Villas Uluwatu. Tel: [62-361] 848-2166, (www.alilahotels.com/uluwatu/).
Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 895-7555, (bali-uluwatu.anantara.com).
Awarta Nusa Dua Luxury Villas & Spa (formerly Centara Grand Villas). Tel: [62-361] 773-300, (www.awartaresorts.com/).
Ayodya Resort Bali. Tel: [62-361] 771-102, (www.ayodyaresortbali.com).
Bali Desa Villa. Tel: [62-361] 772-688, fax: 772-678.
Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali. Tel: [62-361] 300-7000, (www.banyantree.com/en/bali_ungasan/).
Bulgari Hotels and Resorts Bali. Tel: [62-361] 847-1000, (www.bulgarihotels.com/en-us/bali).
Blue Point Bay Villas & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 769-888, (www.bluepointbayvillas.com).
Club Med. Tel: [62-361] 771-521, 771-523, (www.clubmed.com.my).
Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua (by Marriott). Tel: [62-361] 300-3888, (www.marriott.com).
Grand Hyatt Bali. Tel: [62-361] 771-234, (www.bali.grand.hyatt.com).
Hilton Bali Resort (formerly Grand Nikko Bali). Tel: [62-361] 773-377, (www3.hilton.com).
Hotel Novotel Bali Nusa Dua Hotel & Residences. Tel: [62-361] 848-0555, (www.novotelnusaduabali.com).
Hotel Santika Siligita Nusa Dua Bali. Tel: [62-361] 846-5777, (www.santika.com).
INAYA Putri Bali. Tel: [62-361] 774-488, (inayahotels.com/).
Karma Kandara. Tel. [62-361] 848-2200, (www.karmakandara.com).
Kayumanis Nusa Dua. Tel: [62-361] 770-777, (www.kayumanis.com).
Melia Bali. Tel: [62-361] 771-510, (www.meliabali.com).
Mercure Bali Nusa Dua. Tel: [62-361] 846-7000, (www.mercure.com).
Mulia Bali. Tel: [62-361] 302-7777, (e-mail: info@themulia.com or www.themulia.com).
Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 771-210, www.nusaduahotel.com).
Renaissance Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 200-3588, (www.marriott.com/hotels).
Samabe Bali Resort & Villas. Tel: [62-361] 846-8633, (www.samabe.com).
Sekar Nusa Villas. Tel: [62-361] 773-333, (www.snvbali.com).
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort. Tel: [62-361] 849-2888, (www.sofitel.com).
Swiss-Belhotel Bay View. Tel: [62-361] 847-8000, (www.swiss-belhotel.com or www.swiss-belhotelbayviewvilla.com).
The Balé. Tel: [62-361] 775-111, (www.thebale.com).
The Bali National Golf Villas. Tel: [62-361] 771-791, (www.balinational.com/villas/villarates/).
The Edge Bali. (www.facebook.com/The-edge-bali/).
The Grand Bali – Nusa Dua (formerly Swiss-Grand Bali). Tel: [62-361] 776-688, (thegrandbali.com).
The Laguna Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali (formerly the Sheraton Laguna Resort & Spa). Tel: [62-361] 771-327, (www.thelagunabali.com).
The Ritz-Carlton, Bali. Tel: [62-361] 849-8988, (www.ritzcarlton.com).
The Shanti Residences & Resorts. Tel: [62-361] 734-656, (www.shantiresidencesandresorts.com).
The St Regis Bali Resort. Tel: [62-361] 847-8111, (www.stregisbali.com).
The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali. Tel: [62-361] 771-906, (www.westin.com/bali).

Benoa hotels

Aston Bali Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 773-577, (www.astonbali.com).
Conrad Bali Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 778-788, (www.conradbali.com).
Grand Mirage Resort. Tel: [62-361] 771-888, (www.grandmirage.com).
Hotel Ibis Styles Bali Benoa. Tel: [62-361] 300-1888, (www.ibis.com).
Mantra Sakala Resort & Beach Club, Bali. Tel: [62-361] 775-216, (www.sakalaresortbali.com).
Melia Benoa. Tel: [62-361] 771-714, (www.meliabenoa.com).
Novotel Bali Benoa. Tel: [62-361] 772-239, (www.novotelbalibenoa.com).
Rumah Bali, Bed & Breakfast. Tel: [62-361] 771-256, (www.bedandbreakfastbali.com).
The Royal Santrian. Tel: [62-361] 778-181, (www.theroyalsantrian.com).

Jimbaran resorts

AYANA Resort and Spa. Tel: [62-361] 702-222, (www.ayanaresort.com).
Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali. Tel: [62-361] 701-605, (www.belmond.com/jimbaran-puri-bali/).
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Tel: [62-361] 701-010, (www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay).
InterContinental Bali Resort. Tel: [62-361] 701-888, (www.ihg.com/intercontinental/).
Jamahal Private Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 704-394, (www.jamahal.net).
Kupu Kupu Jimbaran. Tel: [62-361] 703-342, (www.kupujimbaran.com/).
Karma Jimbaran. Tel: [62-361] 708-800, (www.karmajimbaran.com).
Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran. Tel: [62-361] 846-6888, (www.lemeridienbalijimbaran.com/).
Raffles Bali. Tel: [62-361] 201-5800, (www.raffles.com/bali/).
RIMBA Jimbaran Bali. Tel: [62-361] 846-8468, (www.rimbajimbaran.com).
Villa Balquisse. Tel: [62-361] 701-695, (www.balquisse.com).

Kuta & Tuban

Aston Kuta Hotel and Residence. Tel: [62-361] 758-699, (www.astonkuta.com).
AlamKulkul Boutique Resort. Tel: [62-361] 752-520, (www.alamkulkul.com).
Bali Dynasty Resort. Tel: [62-361] 752-403, (www.balidynasty.com).
Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel. Tel: [62-361] 751-067, (www.discoverykartikaplaza.com).
Hard Rock Hotel. Tel: [62-361] 761-869, (bali.hardrockhotels.net).
Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali. Tel: [62-361] 755-557, (www.bali.holidayinn.com).
Padma Resort Bali at Legian (formerly Padma Hotel Bali). Tel: [62-361] 752-111, (www.padmaresortbali.com).
Poppies Bali. Tel: [62-361] 751-059, (www.poppiesbali.com).
Rama Beach Resort & Villas. Tel: [62-361] 751-557, (www.ramabeachhotel.com).
Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. Tel:[62-361] 846-5555, (www.sheratonbalikuta.com/).
The Patra Bali Resort and Villas. Tel: [62-361] 751-161, (www.thepatrabali.com/).

Legian & Seminyak

Alila Seminyak Bali . Tel: [62-361] 302-1888, (www.alilahotels.com/seminyak).
Anantara Seminyak Bali. Tel: [62-361] 737-773, (bali.anantara.com).
Bali Mystique. Tel: [62-361] 730-465, (www.balimystique.com).
Bali Niksoma. Tel: [62-361] 751-946, (www.baliniksoma.com).
Bali Rich Luxury Villa & Spa Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 731-468, (www.balirichseminyak.com).
Centra Taum Seminyak Bali. Tel: [62-361] 473 1797, (www.centarahotelsresorts.com).
Divine Villas (Seminyak and Canggu). Tel: [62-361] 759-609, (www.divinevillasbali.com).
Downtown Villas. Tel: [62-361] 736-464, (www.downtownbali.com).
Grand Balisani Suites. Tel: [62-361] 730-550, (www.bali-sani.com/grand/).
Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach. Tel: [62-361] 209-9999, (www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/).
IZE. Tel: [62-361] 846-6999, (www.ize-seminyak.com).
Jambuluwuk Oceano Seminyak Hotel. Tel: [62-877] 800-400-80, (www.jambuluwuk.com/seminyak).
Katamama. Tel: [62-361] 302-9999, (www.katamama.com/).
Konaditya House. (www.villa-bali.com).
Laksmana Villas. Tel: [62-361] 733-320, (www.laksmanavillas.com).
Legian Beach Hotel. Tel: [62-361] 751-711, (www.legianbeachbali.com).
Maya Sayang Villa Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 732-230, (www.mayasayang.com).
Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana. Tel: [62-361] 762-500, (www.pullmanbalilegiannirwana.com).
Sentosa Private Villas and Spa. Tel: [62-361] 730-333, (www.sentosaseminyak.com).
The Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 730-814, (www.theseminyak.com).
The Amala. Tel: [62-361] 738-866, (www.theamala.com).
The Breezes Bali Resort & Spa (formerly Contiki). Tel: [62-361] 730-573, (www.thebreezesbali.com).
The Elysian Bali Villas. Tel: [62-361] 730-999, (www.theelysian.com).
The Haven. Tel: [62-361] 738-001, (www.thehavenbali.com).
The Kayana Seminyak Bali. Tel: [62-361] 847-6628, (www.thekayana.com/).
The Legian, Bali. Tel: [62-361] 730-622, (www.ghmhotels.com/en/legian-bali/).
The Oberoi Bali. Tel: [62-361] 730-361, (www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_bali/).
The Royal Beach Seminyak Bali – MGallery Collection (formerly Sofitel Seminyak Bali). Tel: [62-361] 730-730, (www.theroyalbeachseminyakbali.com).
The Samaya Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 731-149, (seminyak.thesamayabali.com).
The Stones Hotel, Legian Bali. Tel: [62-361] 300-5888, (www.marriott.com).
The Villas Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 730-840, (www.thevillas.net).
U Paasha Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 822-8888, (www.uhotelsresorts.com/upaashaseminyak/).
Uma Sapna. Tel: [62-361] 736-628, (www.coconuthomes.com/umasapna_overview.php).
Villa Aqua. Tel: [62-361] 847-6630, (www.villa-aqua-bali.com).
Villa Sin Sin. Tel/fax: [62-361] 735-599, (www.villasinsin.com).
W Bali - Seminyak. Tel: [62-361] 738-106, (www.whotel.com/baliseminyak).

Canggu /Kerobokan & Tanah Lot

Alila Villas Soori. Tel: [62-361] 894-6388, (www.alilahotels.com/soori/).
Balisani Padma Hotel (formerly the Grand Balisani Hotel). Tel: [62-361] 730-550, (bali-sani.com/balisanipadmahotel.htm).
Hotel Tugu Bali (also for Villa Tugu Bali). Tel: [62-361] 731-701, (www.tuguhotels.com).
La Reserve 1785 Bali at Canggu (lareservebali.com/ August 2022)
Plataran Canggu Bali Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 411-388, (www.plataranbali.com).
Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort. Tel: [62-361] 815-900, (www.panpacific.com/Bali/).
Waka Hotels & Resorts. Tel: [62-361] 723-629, (www.wakahotelsandresorts.com).

Sanur and southeast coast

Andaz Bali. Tel: [62-361] 320-1234, (www.hyatt.com/andaz-bali).
Hyatt Regency Bali. Tel: [62-361] 281-234, (www.hyatt.com/hyatt-regency-bali/).
Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. Tel: [62-361] 301-1888, (www.fairmont.com/sanur-bali/).
Griya Santrian. Tel: [62-361] 288-181, (www.santrian.com/griya/).
Grand Inna Bali Beach (formerly Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel, Resort & Spa). Tel: [62-361] 288-511, (www.innagrandbalibeach.com).
Mara River Safari Lodge. Tel: [62-361] 950-000, (www.marariversafarilodge.com).
Maya Sanur. Tel: [62-361] 849-7800, (www.mayaresorts.com/sanur/en/).
Mercure Resort Sanur Bali. Tel: [62-361] 288-833, (www.mercureresortsanur.com).
Puri Santrian. Tel: [62-361] 288-009, (www.santrian.com).
Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel. Tel: [62-361] 281-781, (www.sanurparadise.com).
Tandjung Sari. Tel: [62-361] 288-441, (www.tandjungsarihotel.com).
The Pavilion Bali. Tel: [62-361] 288-381, (www.thepavilionsresorts.com/bali-home).
Villa Mahapala. Tel: [62-361] 286-222, (www.villamahapala-bali.com).

Ubud, Sayan & Payangan, Gianyar

Alila Ubud. Tel: [62-361] 975-963, (www.alilahotels.com/ubud).
Amandari. Tel: [62-361] 975-333, (www.amanresorts.com/amandari/).
Aniniraka Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 975-213, (www.aniniraka.com).
ARMA Museum & Resort. Tel: [62-361] 976-659, 975-742, (www.armabali.com/resort/).
Biyukukung Suites and Spa. Tel: [62-361] 978-976, (www.biyukukung.net).
Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape (open 14 June 2022, escape.banyantree.com/)
Capella Ubud. Tel: [62-361] 2091-888, (www.capellaubud.com).
Champlung Sari Hotel. Tel: [62-361] 975-418, (www.champlungsariubud.com).
COMO Shambhala Estate. Tel: [62-361] 978-888, (www.comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate).
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. Tel: [62-361] 977-577, (www.fourseasons.com/sayan/).
Hanging Gardens Ubud. Tel: [62-361] 982-700, (www.hanginggardensubud.com).
Hotel Tjampuhan Spa. Tel: [62-361] 975-368, (www.tjampuhan-bali.com).
Komaneka (Ubud/ Bisma / Tanggayuda / Monkey Forest). Komaneka Monkey Forest. Tel: [62-361] 401-2217, 404-2218, (www.komaneka.com).
Kamandalu Resort and Spa. Tel: [62-361] 975-825, (www.kamandaluresort.com).
Kayumanis Ubud Private Villa & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 927-777, (www.kayumanis.com).
Kori Ubud. Tel: [62-361] 972-487, (www.koriubud.com).
Kupu Kupu Barong Villas and Tree Spa. Tel: [62-361] 975-478, (www.kupubarong.com).
Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Tel: [62-361] 479-2777, (www.mandapareserve.com).
Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 977-888, (www.mayaubud.com).
Nandini Bali Jungle Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 982-777, (www.nandinibali.com).
Natura Villa Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 978-666, (www.naturaresortbali.com).
Pita Maha Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 974-330, (www.pitamaha-bali.com/).
Puri Wulandari. Tel: [62-361] 980-252, (hotelpuriwulandari.com).
Sthala, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Ubud Bali. Tel: [62-361] 301-8700, (www.sthalaubudbali.com/).
Tanah Gajah, Ubud, a resort by Hadiprana. Tel: [62-361] 975-685, (www.tanahgajahubud.com/).
The Royal Pita Maha. Tel: [62-361] 980-022, (www.royalpitamaha-bali.com).
The Ubud Village Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 978-444, (www.theubudvillage.com/).
The Westin Ubud Resort & Spa. (www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/).  
Uma Ubud. Tel: [62-361] 972-448, (www.comohotels.com/umaubud).
Viceroy Bali. Tel: [62-361] 971-777, (www.theviceroybali.com).
Villa Nirvana (Penestanan). Tel: [62-361] 979-419, (www.villanirvanabali.com).
Villa Semana. Tel: [62-361] 898-7111, (www.villasemana.com).
Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa. Tel: [62-361] 974-466, (www.warwickibah.com).

East Bali, Candidasa, Manggis

Alila Manggis. Tel: [62-363] 41011, (www.alilahotels.com/manggis).
Amankila. Tel: [62-363] 41333, (www.amanresorts.com/amankila/).
Candi Beach Cottage. Tel: [62-363] 41234, (www.candibeachbali.com).
The Bali Shangrila Beach Club. Tel: [62-363] 41829, (www.balishangrila.net).

Buleleng Regency, North Bali

Zen Resort Bali. Tel: [62-362] 93-578, (www.zenresortbali.com).

Pemuteran, Lovina and East Coast, Tulamben, Tembok

Bali Handara Golf & Country Club. Tel: [62-362] 342-2624, (www.balihandaracountryclub.com).
Damai Lovina Villas. Tel: [62-362] 41008, (damai.com).
Matahari Beach Resort & Spa. Tel: [62-362] 92312, (www.matahari-beach-resort.com).
Mimpi Resort Menjangan. Tel: [62-362] 94497, (www.mimpi.com).
Mimpi Resort Tulamben. Tel: [62-363] 21642, (www.mimpi.com).
Puri Ganesha Villas. Tel: [62-362] 94766, (www.puriganesha.com).
Sunari Villas & Spa Resort. Tel: [62-362] 41775, (www.sunari.com).
Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali. Tel: [60-3] 2783-1000, (www.spavillage.com/tembokbali/).

Central Highlands/ Penelokan & Bedugul

Lakeview Hotel & Restaurant. Tel: [62-366] 52525, (www.lakeviewbali.com/).

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