The Island of the Gods has long been a popular tropical holiday destination, but three new resorts are making the Indonesian paradise an even more tempting prospect. Charlene Co and Oliver Giles share insider tips after stays at these luxurious hideaways
1 Capella Ubud
Capella Ubud is a tented camp that combines the unexpected and ultra-luxurious. You’re in for an enchanting experience.
LOCATION: On the outskirts of Bali’s cultural hub of Ubud, Capella’s luxurious tented camp resort nestles within four hectares of rainforest lined with rice paddies, and overlooks the sacred Wos River. This is Keliki village, located about half an hour away from the centre of Ubud, and a two-hour drive from Denpasar airport. But don’t let its apparent seclusion fool you—a specially built 4G tower ensures guests can remain connected.
ROOM & DESIGN: World-renowned designer Bill Bensley is the brains behind the sumptuous interiors of Capella Ubud’s 23 tents, spa, and both its restaurants, drawing inspiration from the camp life of early colonial settlers in Bali. Each of the tents—22 have one bedroom and one is a two-bedroom lodge—has its own theme, offering a fascinating glimpse into Bali’s colonial heritage.
Charming details are on display within these tents: a minibar emerges from a leather trunk; there’s a deep soak tub made from hand-hammered copper; vintage campsite tools are tacked to the walls; and there’s an elaborate loo worthy of the set of Game of Thrones.
Each tent comes with its own private saltwater pool and a rustic entrance accessed by a suspension bridge. Step outside your lodge and you have a spacious wooden deck with a daybed where you can lounge and commune with nature—though it’s easy to do that indoors, too, as the tents, while fully air-conditioned, are built using only thick membranes so guests remain close to the sights and sounds of the surrounding jungle. That said, we’d recommend a tent farther down the property closer to the rice paddies and not within hearing distance of the road.
FACILITIES: There’s plenty to do at the camp, from working out at The Armory, a tented gym where suspension yoga and barre-based classes take place, to swimming at the Cistern, a 30m outdoor saltwater pool. There are also guided activities such as rice paddy trekking, jungle boot camps, mud pilates, and mountain bike rides. For a more spiritual experience, opt to join a cleansing ritual with Keliki villagers at the camp’s temple, or immerse yourself in local arts and crafts. A personal favourite is to spend at least one evening sitting around the campfire, toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate while watching a movie.
SPA: The Auriga Wellness spa offers a range of treatments inspired by the rhythms of the moon and local Balinese traditions. Only 100 per cent organic, locally-crafted products made on site are used. The menu can be overwhelming, but you can leave your wellness programme in the capable hands of your therapist. Relax to the sounds of the rainforest, though as the spa is also tented you may hear the conversations of passers-by and this can make it difficult to be completely at ease.
FOOD & DRINK: The cuisine at Capella Ubud is superb, managing to be both inventive and unpretentious. The team, led by chef Matt McCool, takes pride in the fact that all ingredients are locally sourced and prepared in-house—dryaged meats included. Breakfast is unmissable. Served at Mads Lange, the main dining room that’s named after a Danish spice trader who was nicknamed the King of Bali, guests can choose from a selection of healthy breakfast bowls, hearty plates of grilled homemade sausages and bacon with sides of beans and eggs, or local fare such as delicious loempia, a fried spring roll.
A totally different experience is Api Jiwa, an Asian barbecue restaurant. There’s no menu here, so prepare to be surprised by McCool over a 10-course meal that includes premium cuts of beef, seafood and vegetables, all perfectly seasoned with local spices. It’s a gastronomical journey—and one to be savoured.
2 Como Uma Canggu
Five-star resort Como Uma Canggu opened earlier this year in the surfers’ paradise of Canggu on Bali’s southern coast. We find out how it’s changing the game
LOCATION: Until about a couple of years ago, Canggu was relatively off the radar, a low-key village with some budget accommodation for surfers and a handful of luxurious holiday homes hidden in the surrounding jungle. But that’s all changed. Canggu is now flooded with hipster cafes, juice bars, and beach clubs—so much so that some now refer to it as “Brooklyn on sea.”
Como Uma Canggu is at the tip of Canggu’s picturesque Echo Beach. Guests can step straight out of the hotel onto the sand. It’s a short walk into buzzing Canggu itself in the daytime, but the lack of streetlights means it can take longer to find your way back by torchlight in the evening (especially as scooters zip past dangerously close). The resort is roughly an hour’s drive from Denpasar airport, although with traffic it can take longer.
ROOM & DESIGN: Not all rooms are created equal at Como Uma Canggu, though they’re all lovely in their own ways. There are 11 different categories for just over 100 rooms, which roughly divide into rooms (in one wing) and residences (in a second). Go for one of the residences, which range from one-bedroom apartments to three-bed penthouses and are located in the wing closest to the pools, Como Beach Club restaurant and Echo Beach.
All rooms have been given a beachchic feel by designers Koichiro Ikebuchi, Paola Navone, and Giacomo Passera, who have succeeded in making them plush but not fussy—you don’t need to worry about walking through to your shower in sandy swimwear. If you’re looking for a room with a certain wow factor, splash out on one of the 12 penthouses, each of which has its own private pool nestled beneath a dramatic curving roof.
FACILITIES: Como Uma Canggu has all the facilities you would expect from a five-star resort—gym, Pilates and yoga studios, a kids’ club and two pools—but one that stands out is the Surf Shack, a surfing school within the hotel operated by international experts Tropicsurf. This Surf Shack is managed by Carl, a Swede who left chilly northern Europe behind in 2012 to move to the tropics and pursue his love of the sport. Unusually, Tropicsurf teaches beginners in the hotel’s 110m-long lagoon pool rather than in the ocean. This turns out t o be a wise choice, seeing as the w aves were nearly three metres high on the day of our lesson.
SPA: A wide variety of pampering, including massages, facials, and beauty treatments, is available at the hotel’s spa, the Como Shambhala Retreat. All eight treatment rooms are elegant and airy, and nothing is too much trouble for the unfailingly polite staff. However, Como Uma Canggu’s spa caters more to casual spa-goers—guests who want a massage after a surfing lesson and before dinner, for example—rather than wellness aficionados who line up treatments from morning to night. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing wellness retreat, we’d recommend visiting the resort’s sister property, Como Shambhala Estate, in Ubud.
FOOD & DRINK: Como Uma Canggu has only one restaurant, Como Beach Club, but it does most things so well that we never wished for alternatives. The dinner menu is split into three sections: Ocean (which features seafood options such as miso-cured kingfish), Earth (meat-based dishes such as a tender Balinese spiced pork chop), and seasonal vegetarian dishes (roasted goat cheese from Java was one of the most popular choices when we stayed). There’s an extensive drinks menu and the freshly mixed Como Shambhala juices make for the perfect accompaniments to any meal—the Culture Shock and Muscle Mylk are particularly recommended. Como Beach Club is perfectly sandwiched between the lagoon pool and the beach, so make sure that you arrive early if you want to get your hands on a beachside table at breakfast.
3 Six Senses Uluwatu
Six Senses Uluwatu is raising the bar for wellness resorts. We discover how while finding our zen in the new luxury property’s soothing surroundings
LOCATION: Six Senses Uluwatu is a new luxury property in Pecatu on the southernmost tip of Bali, also home to the famed Uluwatu Temple, not to mention beautiful beaches, top surf spots, and magnificent ocean views. Most of this can be taken in from the stunning 12-hectare site of Six Senses Uluwatu, which sits atop a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. When you arrive at the resort, you’re greeted by the sight of an infinity pool that seems to float against the backdrop of the ocean. It’s a setting so picturesque that it makes you want to rid yourself of all digital devices and enjoy what mother nature has created, preferably while lounging on one of the deckchairs by the pool and sipping cold jamu, a traditional concoction of turmeric and ginger.
ROOM & DESIGN: The sprawling resort features 103 villas and suites, each accessed by traversing a narrow path by buggy from where you catch a glimpse of the various villas, each built using locally sourced materials. Inside, the interiors are modern and restrained with hints of Javanese architecture, made warm and airy with a canopy bed (its mattress is handmade), wooden floors, and high ceilings with dark beams. They range from cosy one-bedroom suites to expansive three-bedroom villas, all of which offer sweeping views of the ocean and are equipped with their own private infinity pool which offers a refreshing escape from the scorching heat that hits Uluwatu for many months of the year. This, combined with the rather austere landscape, means it’s worth taking advantage of the resort’s buggy service, particularly if you find your villa set some distance from the facilities located in the lower part of the property.
FACILITIES: Six Senses Uluwatu puts a focus on wellness and is equipped with a fitness centre, yoga studio, and spa. Should guests feel the need to leave the luxury of their private pool villa, there are a variety of activities available, including Balinese dancing and cooking and various water sports. Younger guests may enjoy a visit to nearby gardens and farms, as well as the Earth Lab to learn about recycling and sustainable farming under a programme called “Grow With Six Senses.”
For first timers to this part of Bali, a trip to the sacred Uluwatu Temple, established as one of Bali’s spiritual pillars, is well worth it. The temple can be found just a short ride from the resort and from it you can take in a Balinese dance against magnificent views of the Indian Ocean and the setting sun. It’s a magical and spiritual experience, particularly when you find yourself delivered there in style in a top-down vintage Volkswagen, all effortlessly arranged by the resort’s dedicated Guest Experience Managers.
SPA: The spa is the jewel in the crown of any Six Senses resort, and no less so at Uluwatu. Here, guests will find 10 treatment rooms, an outdoor massage and relaxation area, a fully equipped gym, and a yoga pavilion. Six Senses takes pride in its integrated wellness programmes, which come with a detailed and non-invasive wellness screening that helps assess your health and lifestyle. From this assessment, a wellness guru recommends a targeted treatment. The Balinese-inspired massage is a particular highlight featuring only the locally sourced ingredients used in all treatments, as well as a gong bath session that will leave you in a state of complete relaxation.
FOOD & DRINK: Nutrition has an important role to play in overall wellness, and the food at Six Senses Uluwatu has certainly not been overlooked. The resort has three restaurants that feature a wide selection of Balinese, international and fusion dishes. Crudo offers a unique dining experience: a Nikkei-style sushi-ceviche bar menu prepared with locally harvested ingredients; while Rocka brings the farm to the table with fresh produce and local ingredients served up at this cliff-side eatery. The Cliff Bar, meanwhile, features one of the most stunning panoramic views of Uluwatu together with oven-baked specialities that combine Southeast Asian spices with traditional doughs and homemade pastas. Only the finest ingredients are used in these restaurants, with most of the herbs, sprouts, and vegetables incorporated in the dishes sourced from the resort’s very own vegetable garden and mushroom hut. At Six Senses Uluwatu, you taste the difference.