Bali bliss (Picture: Supplied)
I’m floating on my back, stark naked, in a private infinity pool gazing up at a cloudless, sunny blue sky.
A sea eagle flies overhead as I look towards the horizon and take in the panorama of traditional wooden boars gentling bobbing on the ocean. It’s blissful.
But I can’t get too lost in my reverie, there are some important decisions to be made: do I crack open a Bintang beer and have it in my my huge bath tub, or do I call a golf buggy to take me to the spa for a steam, sauna, hot tub combo?
While Bali is still a destination that’s unfamiliar to a lot of Brits, it shouldn’t be. You see, Indonesia’s most famous island has celebrity pedigree in spades, with a roster of A-list guests that span the fame gamut. But you don’t need to be a celebrity here to feel like one, you just need to splurge on star quality accommodation.
From private infinity pools and personal butlers, to swoon-worthy spas and decadent dining – here are the top five Bali check-ins that are favoured by Tinseltown’s finest…
Four Seasons Sayan
Get your Julia Roberts on (Picture: Four Seasons)
Lush rice terraces, ornate Hindu temples, yoga studios and organic eateries – Bali’s Ubud region has long been a spiritual and natural wellness haven.
Though its status as a hippy haven has been long-held, in recent years the success of the bestselling autobiography, Eat, Pray, Love (partly set in Ubud) has kicked things up a notch, putting the small town on the international map and attracting a new wave of travellers in search of their very own spiritual transformation. And the Four Seasons Sayan truly embodies the tranquility for which Ubud is renowned. Little wonder then, that this is the hotel where the movie’s lead star, Julia Roberts, chose to rest her fame-weary head for three months during shooting of the blockbuster.
Accessed via what is easily one of the most Instagrammed hotel entrances in the world – a teak footbridge suspended over a gorge overlooking a mass of jungle, which ends at an infinity lotus pond.
Could I be more zen? (Picture: Supplied)
Nestled in the Ayung River valley 10 minutes from downtown Ubud, the manicured tropical gardens and rice terraces house a selection of hotel suites and 52 private luxury villas, all of which boast private outdoor pools, day beds, marble bathrooms, and outdoor showers. It is this seclusion that is a real drawcard for paparazzi-shy celebs. Certainly the ability to swim, shower, and sunbathe in total privacy is one of the reasons why former American President, Barack Obama, checked in with his family here after leaving the White House. The famous politico stayed at the resort’s Royal Villa – a three-story, three-bedroom palatial pad, which is also where Julia Roberts resided during her Ubud stint.
Celebrity endorsements aside, the hotel was also recently named by Travel + Leisure as its ‘No. 1 Hotel in the World’. Part of this accolade is undoubtedly the resort’s impressive wellness offering. From the anti-gravity yoga in the in-house yoga bale, and the resident ‘wellness mentor’, to the two-tiered riverside pool, outdoor heated spa pools and sauna and steam rooms, and sprawling Sacred River Spa.
Here, you can make like a real-life Elizabeth Gilbert and give your heart a healing once-over with an indulgent 120-minute Anahata Chakra Ceremony, which promises to ‘open the heart chakra.’ Perfect if you’re on the hunt for your very own Prince Charming.
The Chef’s table dinner at Sokasi. A tasty seven-course dinner and cultural immersion in one, the Sokasi Chef’s Table dinner offers visitors a unique selection of slow-cooked dishes that are normally reserved for ceremonies, including the renowned Babi Guling (roast suckling pig). Offered three times weekly, the communal tasting meal might mean that you end up rubbing shoulders with a VIP.
Mandapa Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Personal butler anyone? (Picture: Mandapa Ritz-Carlton Reserve)
Also in the Ubud area and set right next to the roaring Ayung River amidst Ubud’s lush jungle, Mandapa is one of only a few Ritz-Carlton Reserves in the world, which means that Mandapa is special – very special. In luxe hotel speak, this translates to serious exclusivity and a guest roster of V-V-IPs.
Designed to resemble a local village in miniature, accommodation is nestled in between a working temple and rice terraces and comprises only 35 suites and a mere 25 private villas, each of which is kitted out with everything a luxury hotel connoisseur could demand: heated, full-size infinity pools, plush daybeds, tropical outdoor showers, and deep freestanding bath tubs built for two.
Thanks to its stellar reputation, the hotel has become a magnet for visiting celebrities, including both Will Smith, and Crazy Rich Asians star, Henry Goulding.
Part of the appeal for famous folk is the ‘click-of-your-fingers’ service that this kind of luxury living affords. Each villa comes with a personal butler who will remain at your private disposal for the duration of your stay.
Four dining options, includes Sawah Terrace (a farm-to-table fusion of Balinese and pan-Asian cuisine) and Kubu, the fine dining Mediterranean-European. Top tip: request one of the private cocoons by the river, for an especially romantic dinner. Another fab standout is a tour of the local area’s highlights in one of the hotel’s convertible VW cars — driving one of these past vivid green rice fields and ornate temples is social media gold!
When chilling out by your private pool gets too stressful, you can head to the in-house Mandapa Spa. A complete wellness destination, the complex features a yoga pavilion, meditation temple, vitality pool, 24-hour fitness centre, saunas, steam rooms and experience showers, alongside an extensive treatments menu.
The Marma Massage – a massage using differing pressure and techniques that is designed to ‘balance and align energy centres’ – comes highly recommended.
Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape
Up in the mountains (Picture: Buahan)
The newest opening of Bali’s luxury hotel crop is also one of the most unique. An adults-only resort with an innovative ‘no walls, no doors’ concept.
Set in the heart of the jungle with sweeping views of seven mountain peaks, lush rice paddies and the roaring Ayung River, Buahan, Banyan Tree Escape lets guests experience the jungles of central Bali in their purest form but without having to rough it.
A whopping 15 years in development, the property is comprised of just 16 ‘bales’ (villas) set across four levels over the steep mountainside and connected by charm-infused stone pathways. Each is positioned to offer maximum privacy and expansive views and each offers expansive open decks, private infinity pools, cosy day beds and gazebos, curtain enclosed huge beds, and open-air oversized, copper bathtubs – which allow for indulgent soaks paired with captivating jungle vistas – and then there’s the private butters (on call 24/7) to cater to your every whim.
So serene (Picture: Buahan)
Communal areas include The Open Kitchen and Living Room – the resort’s dining and lounge spaces respectively – that provide the space for interaction and exploration of Buahan’s farm-to-table, plant-forward, zero-waste food philosophy. Here, guests gather for delicious breakfasts and decadent dinners, both of which hero local ingredients that are often sourced direct from the resort’s on-site gardens.
And then there’s the tempting Toja Spa. The Banyan Tree brand is famous for its wellness concepts and the spa component here is sublime, especially given that treatments are performed in the open-air bamboo pavilions which overlook the babbling river.
The resort is known for its wellness (Picture: Supplied)
Guests are encouraged to discover the surrounding nature and to engage with the local culture through a range of purpose-led experiential experiences – experiences that include a journey into the nearby countryside (in a vintage convertible no less) to join a local farmer for a tour of his land, foraging for fruits and edible plants that are native to the island of Bali.
Taste raw honey from wild bee hives, raw coffee cherries uncover the plethora of flavours that nature has to offer with traditional local delicacies hand-made by the farmer’s wife.
For a more spiritual experience, you can’t beat the water rejuvenation and meditation session, which takes place at Buahan’s own waterfall at the bottom of the valley.
Trading the jungle for the beach further south on the island and you’ll reach the cliffs of Uluwatu and Alila Villas Uluwatu.
Set on top a plateau near limestone cliffs that swoop down to the ocean – close to the famed Uluwatu Temple and 30 minutes from Bali’s main airport – Alila offers luxurious accommodations and breathtaking Indian Ocean views. Little wonder then that it has become a go-to for visiting jet setters.
According to insiders, David Beckham checked in a few years back and, given his penchant for all things Posh, his choice of Alila is unsurprising. Indeed, even the most demanding of VIPs would struggle to find fault in this all-villa resort where private pools, jacuzzi tubs, indoor and outdoor rain showers, and butlers come as standard.
Service here is designed to appeal to fame-weary stars. At at check-in, you’ll be asked whether you’d like it ‘invisible’ or ‘extra-attentive’ categorised into ‘private,’ ‘discreet,’ or ‘indulgent.’
Food-wise, Indonesian flavours take centre stage at the Warung restaurant and Mediterranean-inspired at CIRE. But the most famous amenity in the resort – and the most photographed – is undoubtedly its cliffside infinity pool.
Often ranked as one of the best resort pools in international travel magazines, the pool and its iconic Sunset Cabana (an overhanging cliffside platform with dramatic views over the ocean) is one of the most photographed hotel features in the world. It’s at the Sunset Cabana bar where the jaw-dropping sunset can be observed at its best, as such, expect a crowd of honeymooner types and influencers on hand getting happy snaps.
Speaking of being loved-up with your belle or beau, for a romantic experience like no other, a massage at the Cliff Edge Spa Cabana is an absolute must.
Perched on the side of the Uluwatu cliff with a breathtaking view of the thunderous ocean below, a massage here will be an experience that lingers for a long time to come.
Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay
Pink has visited before (Picture: Four Seasons)
Sheltered in a calm bay along the chichi Jimbaran coast and enjoying dramatic ocean views, the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay is one of the island’s original five-star hotels. As such, it has a lengthy history of welcoming stars from both the stage and screen, stars including chart-topper, Pink, who holidayed here with her family on a super-secret vacay.
Staying in one off the 147 villas – all laid out to resemble a traditional Balinese village – the performer enjoyed a private plunge pool and personal sun terrace, alongside spacious bathroom, outdoor shower and jaw-dropping views. Not that these features are unique to a handful of rooms. Here, each of the 147 villas enjoys these features.
Outside of the suite life in your own private villa, the rest of the resort has plenty to offer too. There are several large pools (one with a huge waterfall), tennis court, yoga, fitness centre and an array of inclusive activities, such as kayaking, blessing ceremonies, and beach games.
A vibrant floating breakfast (Picture: Supplied)
While leaving your plush pool villa may be a bit of a wrench, there’s plenty going on in the rest of the resort. A quick phone call will see gold buggy pull up at your door ready to transport you to wherever you fancy, whether you want to stretch your (water) wings in the waterfall pool, to feel the pristine sands of the private beach in-between your toes, or to indulge in one of the amazing massages, facials or herbal body wraps at the plush Healing Village Spa. This newly-opened, sprawling 2,000 square-metre wellness complex is the jewel in Bali’s spa crown. A fusion of Bali’s rich culture of healing and state-of-the-art health tech.
In addition to the more standard range of massages, spa hounds can expect transformative and indulgent ones, such as the Celestial Light Ritual – a treatment pairing chromotherapy lighting, singing bowls and crystal-infused oils, performed on on bed of crushed quartz crystals.
For loved-up couples, the intimate Longevity Garden is a DIY experience involving Indonesian volcanic mud, sun loungers topped with infra-red mats, and private shower, steam room and cold plunge pool. Plus, a luxe hair salon is on hand to ensure that guests are always red carpet ready.
Sip on a Sundowner (Picture: Supplied)
Sundowners at Sundara Beach Club. Happily for mere mortals, it’s not only the suites that have boastful vistas – regardless of whether you’re staying at the property or not, anyone can visit its hip and happening Sundara Beach Club to sink a sundowner and to soak in the VIP vibe.
Opening directly onto the sands of Jimbaran Bay, cool crowd with its large beachfront pool, glowing fire pits, decadent daybeds and yummy cocktails. It’s a place where you can easily linger from day into night. After all, if it’s good enough for Pink…
Indonesia’s most famous island has A-list pedigree in spades.