Which areas & what hotels to choose on a luxury stay in Bali


Final evaluation after 3 visits to this tropical island in 5 years

As fate would have it (our son is currently yet again in Singapore for study purposes, more on this city later on), my husband and I were stranded once again in Bali, after visiting it already in 2014 and 2016. This gave us ample chance to explore two more areas – the lesser visited east of Bali and Nusa Dua, a planned resort community in the island’s south, in addition to the ones we knew from our previous stays. In such a way, I was able to get an almost complete image of “the Island of Gods”, as Bali is also called, at least in terms of which areas and hotels to choose when appreciating the finer things in life.

Before going into Bali’s areas which are suitable when looking to stay in style, a few words to the island’s tourism development in the last years.

Bali as travel destination

Bali’s popularity has continued to grow since our last visit in 2016. In this year, the island welcomed 4.9 million foreign visitors. In 2018, this number was up to 6.1 million, and a stagnation or decline of these visitor figures are not foreseeable!

While in 2016, the Australians were still the biggest group of tourists to the Islands of God, the Chinese overtook them in the successive year for the first time! And the same goes for 2018. Evil tongues say that Chinese are changing Bali, but they are not the first ones to do so. They ask the (rhetoric) question after the nationality who made Kuta “the worst place on Bali”. In case you should not know, this southern beach destination has been very popular with Australians in search of beach, beer and bungalow, and this since the 70s!

The change in top visitor arrivals had a considerable impact on Bali’s tourist landscape, and this most notably in the appearance of zero-dollar tours. And they work like this. In China, potential tourists to Bali are offered heavily discounted all-inclusive tours. Once in Bali, they are taken to overpriced, Chinese owned shops where they are urged to buy marked-up goods. A part of the profit flows then back to the tour organizer in China to make up for the money lost from the discounted travel package. Tourist officials in Bali worry that this phenomenon will cheapen Bali’s image and they assume that the percentage of this kind of tourism from China might be as high as 70%!

So far, so bad: I strongly agree with Bali’s tourist officials, is has to be taken care of Bali’s reputation of a high-end tourist destination – apart from the infamous Kuta –, which could take harm from high volumes of Chinese tourists on zero-dollar tours.

As far as my personal experiences with tourists from China in Bali are concerned, it was evident that there were more Chinese around than on our previous stays on this island. They are also, of course, easier to spot than the Australians … 

Next are my recommendations where to stay in style in different areas of this fantastic tropical paradise.

Luxury hotels by location

After three visits to the Islands of Gods, I can give you quite a complete picture in terms of luxury hotels in different areas worthwhile spending a few days. Some are more expensive than others but all of them generally deliver what one expects from them.

For a description of the individual locations and the hotels in some detail (characteristics of the place and the accommodation) as to the ones we stayed at earlier on (in 2014 and 2016), please refer to my post I published after my first two visits. In the following, you find a short summary of the findings gained at the time. Although the stays date back a bit, all the hotels mentioned still get good reviews on TripAdvisor.

As far as the regions we recently visited for the first time (east Bali at Amankila Hotel in Manggis and Nusa Dua in Bali’s south at The Royal Santrian) are concerned, I will inform more in more details how it was.

Ubud (southern center, stays in 2014 & 2016)

This town in the uplands is regarded as the cultural and spiritual center of the island and is home of a vast number of hotels. Back in 2014, we stayed at The Samaya Bali Ubud Hotel offering an idyllic river location amidst the tropical jungle and upscale private pool villas.
See here my review. Two years later, we opted for the newly opened Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property, in a similar setting by the river boasting lavish luxury villas and suites.
For more details, have a look at my corresponding post.

Lovina (northwestern beach, stay in 2014)

This is a quiet, relaxed coastal town in the lesser visited north of Bali.
Hotels to stay in style here are scarce, your best choice is probably The Damai in the hills above the seaside resort.
For a truly luxurious experience go for a pool villa. My review about our stay at this hotel can be found here.

Seminyak (southern beach, stay in 2014)

This upscale beachfront resort north of Kuta and Legian outclasses his neighbors by featuring more high-end hotels and restaurants.
Unfortunately, traffic can get pretty crazy here. A good luxury hotel to choose in this coastal town is The Samaya Bali Seminyak Hotel with a great beachfront location and different categories of pool villas, out of which the Royal Pavilion is the signature one.
More about our experience in this accommodation is the subject of an earlier post.

Sanur (southeastern beach, stay in 2016)

Here you are in for laid-back vacations in a former fishing village, whose biggest asset is its 6 km (3.7 mile) boardwalk along the beach.
Opportunities for staying in style are not exactly plentiful, but the Maya Resort Hotel is quite a good option if you choose a Beachfront Pool Suite.
Top marks for architecture at this hotel but less so for a dignified breakfast!

East Bali (Manggis, stay in 2019)

This lesser travelled region is a good spot to escape south Bali’s crowds as it is still relatively untouched and pristine.
There are quite many things to do here, too. One of my next posts will be about recommended activities in this part of the island.

If you want to splurge in terms of lodging, the Amankila Hotel of the exclusive Aman hotel brand is definitely the place to go.
Actually, this hotel is the only one in this area that merits the distinction of being called “truly luxurious”.

Learn more about our recent stay here and our very first one at an Aman property ever in my soon to be published post. In short, we had a fabulous time at this “peaceful hill” (translation of Amankila) although we are not sure whether it qualifies as the best hotel experience ever, as we were led to believe by all this raving about Aman hotels in the social media.

Nusa Dua (southern beach, stay in 2019)

This peninsula in southern Bali is known as a purpose-built (in the 1970s) enclave of predominantly four- and five-star chain hotels. While the gated government-sponsored compound of resort hotels seems rather sterile and not really authentic, it is certainly a nice place to relax and unwind at the beach, but do not expect that you get a true sense of how this island ticks in this artificial world.
There also is not much to do in terms of activities. The beach is long and white, but at low tide you can walk to the reef, which makes this place a better place for beachcombers than for swimmers.Nusa Dua’s best feature apart from its beach is the 5 km (3.1 mile) long boardwalk along the coast that connects all the resorts here. And if you are into shopping, there is a shopping center onsite (Bali Collection).

Regarding staying in style, a myriad of suitable hotels is available, amongst them many international upscale hotel chains. My husband and I decided to opt for a boutique hotel near the northern end of the Nua Dusa boardwalk, The Royal Santrian. While it is a bustling affair in many larger resorts in Nusa Dua, this small hotel with only 20 villas (all with their private pools) is a rather quiet and serene place.
Best accommodation options onsite are the three Royal Villas by the sea.


Bali, well known for its beautiful landscapes, historic temples and lush vegetation, draws large crowds of visitors. When we first went to Bali in 2014, 3.8 million came here. Since then, this number grew to 6.1 million (in 2018), an increase of 61%! While Australians had long been the largest group of foreign tourists going to Bali, this changed in 2017, when Chinese overtook them for the first time entailing the appearance of so-called zero-dollar tours. This had a considerable effect on Bali’s tourist landscape, and this towards mass-tourism. It is therefore imperative that the Indonesian government makes efforts to preserve Bali’s good reputation in the field of high-end and cultural tourism.
After three stays in Bali, I made a list with areas to go and hotels to stay when you fancy the finer things in life, starting with the cultural hub of Ubud, coming to more or less lively beach destinations as Seminyak, Sanur or Nusa Dua and ending with quieter coastal spots as Lovina or East Bali (Manggis).
My next post will be about our first stay in an Aman resort, considered as best hotel brand by many travelers, amongst them the so-called Aman-Junkies, and this at the Amankila Hotel in the lesser-travelled east Bali.
I will also advise later on what to do when being in this area.

Date of last visit: July 2019

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