Where to stay and what hotels to choose on a luxury stay in Bali

Tropical island of Bali as luxury destination

Bali is a very popular tourist destination attracting many visitors, from backpackers to luxury travelers. It has much to offer: varied landscapes (among others fantastic rice terraces), rugged coastlines as well as sandy beaches, a unique culture (its particular Hinduism) with its temples well worth seeing, excellent international and local restaurants

and last but not least the friendliest locals.

After having visited Bali twice in the last 2 ½ half years, I would like to point out what towns to chose and what hotels to book when being a demanding traveler who seeks a luxury stay in beautiful surroundings.

Popular vacation destinations

Whereas the south of the island is well developed, this is not really the case with the rest of the island. Most tourists flock to the tourist hot spots in the south.

On the one hand, these are the beach resorts of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Whereas the first two towns rather attract backpackers and/or surfers in search of beach, beer and bungalow, the latter is more upscale offering good shopping possibilities and a lively bar and club scene. On the other hand, there is the cultural and spiritual heartland of Ubud.

Ubud: city center

Apart from these three towns there are also other places, which are popular with tourists, above all Sanur and Nusa Dua. Whereas the first one is quiet coastal town, the latter was designed to be an “all-inclusive” spot meaning it is in fact a gated community.

Sanur: city center

In the north, there is the tourist center of Lovina, which is still a rather quiet region although it is eager to follow the south’s example of Kuta and Legian.

My trip in 2014 brought me to Ubud, Lovina and Seminyak, the one a few weeks ago to Ubud and Sanur. In the following, you will find some information on these towns. Not only will I indicate what kind of travelers they are convenient for, but also which hotels suit discerning travelers best. More detailed reviews of the mentioned hotels will follow on this blog in due time.

Lovina: beach

As you most probably also will be interested in having good culinary experiences, I will write about recommended restaurants for foodies, too. This review will be posted her soon. Come back to check out my tips for fine and casual dining as well as other places to eat.

5 luxury hotels in Bali

Ubud: southern center

The lively town of Ubud, located amongst rice fields and steep ravines, rates as Bali’s first arts and culture center. It certainly has to be part of each travel itinerary, although traffic is heavy and touts are plentiful.
Ubud is an ideal base from which to explore sights both in the north and the south. Many of the island’s 1,000 temples can be visited from here. Tegallalang in the north of Ubud is worth a trip to wander in the magnificent rice terraces. But also the town of Ubud has its attractions such as the arts and crafts scene, the Monkey Forest and several rice field walks.
When it comes to accommodation for luxury travel, there is a wide range of possibilities, especially outside the town center:

Ubud: rice fields

1. Samaya Hotel Ubud: nicely landscaped hotel complex & warm staff

Our first trip to Bali 2014 brought us to Ubud where we stayed at the Samaya. We liked our Ayung Villa right by Bali’s longest river – the Ayung River –, which has its own private pool, the nicely landscaped hotel complex and the staff’s cordiality.

Samaya Ubud: Ayung Villa

2. Mandapa Hotel, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve: luxury in perfection

When returning to Ubud a few weeks ago, we opted for a newer hotel, and this is the Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, also by the Ayung River. We spent a truly amazing time there! Almost all my dreams of the perfect hotel experience came true.

Mandapa: view of resort from reception area

Seminyak: southern beach

The southern beach resort of Seminyak was a destination on the occasion of our trip to Bali in 2014. While you find top restaurant and shopping possibilities there, you cannot fail to point out quite a lot of negative points. The beach is not suitable for swimming (large waves), traffic is worst and a typical Bali feeling does not arise (the infrastructure aims to tourists). Regarding activities apart from sunbathing, shopping and clubbing you can visit temples, above all Pura Tana Lot, a temple by the sea, north of Seminyak. Also worth a visit is the likable town of Mengwi with its temple (Taman Ayun).
Regarding hotels for demanding travelers there is quite a selection. We chose the sister hotel of the one we had in Ubud in 2014:

3. Samaya Hotel Semyniak: gorgeous villa, but reservations about atmosphere and food

We were fond of our villa – Royal Pavilion –, where we had a nice private pool inclusive garden together with a well-sized living and sleeping area and the biggest bathroom ever, but found neither the atmosphere in the hotel nor the food extraordinary.

Samaya Semyniak: bathroom of Royal Pavilion

Sanur: southeastern beach

The relaxed coastal town of Sanur is Bali’s earliest beach resort – long before Bali became famous as a tourist destination, it already has been established as a vacation spot in the 1930’s. Its best asset is its 6 km boardwalk. It is also conveniently situated for exploring the south most point of Bali, the Bukit Peninsula, which is home of the beautifully located Uluwatu Temple and some of island’s best beaches. When visiting Bali for the second time in September 2016, my husband and I wanted to try out a new beach spot in the south. When looking around for luxury hotels in the area, we came across Sanur because of a rather recent hotel opening.
Accommodation for luxury travelers in this quiet town is not plentiful, in fact there are only two hotels catering for high-end tourism. One of those hotels and the main reason we chose Sanur is the following hotel, opened one and a half year ago:

Sanur: boardwalk

4. Maya Resort Hotel: unique architecture, comfortable pool suite

This hotel is quite extraordinary seen from the architectural perspective. It looks extremely modern, but has also traditional elements; we found it beautiful. We were in love with our room – Beachfront Pool Suite – and liked the hotel’s two restaurants situated on the main road.

Maya Resort: on the roof of the hotel

Lovina: northwestern beach
As we not only wanted to see the south of Bali when we first visited the island in 2014, we also chose a beach resort in the northwestern side. After some searching we opted for Lovina, a rather sleepy village, at least in April when we were there. The region is known for its black sand beaches, which are quite lovely.
There is only one hotel that deserves the label “luxury hotel” and that was it also what brought us to this quiet coastal town:

5. The Damai Hotel: nice pool villa, but not satisfying in other points

It is situated in the hills above Lovina, quite remotely located. The pool villa we had was gorgeous. As far as food and the infrastructure of the hotel are concerned, my husband and I had mixed feelings.

The Damai: view of Pool Villa

Assessment of Bali as luxury travel destination

Bali certainly has to offer attractive surroundings and divers tourist attractions. A highlight is the kindness of the locals and its unique Hinduism, which is quite different from the one in India. As already mentioned, there in an abundance of Balinese Hindu temples worth seeing. Plan to visit several of them – called “Puras” – in any case.

Regarding hotels and restaurants catering for high-end tourism, there is definitely no lack of possibilities in the south of Bali. There are also upscale accommodation and fine dining opportunities in the north of the island, but they are scarcer than in the south.

When it comes to deficiencies of Bali as a destination for demanding travelers, then you have to mention above all the lack of beautiful beaches suitable for swimming, at least in the more-visited south of the island. If you look for beach vacation only, I would suggest going elsewhere! A second negative point is the overload of tourists in the south of Bali. There are more than 4 million foreign visitors every year, amongst them the most important group are the Australians, and many of them flock to the lively tourists town of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. If you are in search of quietness and tranquility, then choose another destination. In the latter case, Lombok, Bali’s neighbouring island, may be the place for you to go.

Bukit Peninsula: Uluwatu Temple

Looking ahead

The subject of my next post will be – as announced – about recommended places to eat when being on a luxury stay in Bali. There will be information on restaurants for fine dining, but also on spots for quick bites and ice cream. In any case, something for everyone who values good food highly …

Maya Resort, Sanur: Beachfront PoolSuite & myself

After ending my report on Bali, I will have a look at Lombok, Bali's neighboring island, which tries hard to step out of the shadow of its popular neighbor.


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