The first thing you notice about hotels in Bali is the impressive architecture and the spectacular settings. The second thing you notice is all the green.
When you finish reading this introduction, you’ll come to a list of especially impressive Balinese hotels. As you look at photographs of these hotels, you’ll be awed by their audacious designs — you’ll also be amazed by the impossibly verdant forests and foliage. The color green is everywhere. Private villas and pool pavilions sit surrounded by jungle canopies and the long lurch of palm fronds. Luxury suites cling to cliffs, overlooking an impenetrable ocean of leafy treetops. Even for hotels down on the beach, staring straight out at golden sand and the deep blue sea, the emerald creep of vegetation is never far away.
But that’s not the only green Bali is known for. These days, the green talk in Bali is all about “Green Zones,” designated regions that the Indonesian government is planning to reopen to international tourism by the middle of 2021. Of course, like everything related to the pandemic, the situation is fluid, dependent upon a number of variables and benchmarks. Some hotels are banking on the return of travelers, others are cautiously awaiting further progress before making their rooms available to book.
It’s a fascinating microcosm of what’s going on around the world today, as countries open, close, reopen, and close again. For those interested in visiting Bali in 2021 — heck, for those interested in visiting anywhere — the best advice we can give is to do your research, consulting resources like our recently published pandemic travel guide, and take advantage of our team of Travel Specialists, who will be happy to help you fill in the blanks and ensure that you’re planning a safe and unforgettable getaway.
And with that, enjoy this collection of Bali’s most unique and spectacular hotels.
If your Danish design sense is tingling as you scan the photos of Chapung Sebali, you’re not mistaken. For this boutique hotel, though it’s located on the outskirts of Ubud, in inland Bali, is in fact operated by Guldsmeden, the group responsible for a few of our favorite hotels in Copenhagen. And it’s fair to say the combination of Balinese villas and Scandinavian modernism is a winning one.
Certain parts of Bali may be overbuilt, but you don’t have to go far off the beaten path to reclaim some of that far-flung seclusion. An hour’s drive from the airport, half an hour up the southwest coast from Seminyak, and just a mile inland from Kedungu Beach, Nirjhara is surrounded by forest, and a stream, complete with a picturesque waterfall, winds across its acreage.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
From inside any of the 65 villas at Alila Villas Uluwatu you’d be hard pressed to place them in the island-villa genre at all — there’s so little tropical kitsch and so much sophisticated apartment-life functionality. Still, there’s no mistaking the setting, visible through glass walls, of which you’ve got at least one, if not two or three. An infinity-edge pool and a fitness center are absolute musts in this segment of the market, and a pair of restaurants see to it that you don’t have to leave the grounds.
Balquisse Heritage Hotel
There are plenty of beautiful hotels in Bali, but only one, as far as we know, that comes paired with an interior-design and furniture showroom — that’s the situation vis-a-vis Balquisse Heritage Hotel and its companion piece, Balquisse Living. It’s also certainly the only one that so skillfully blends Balinese and Moroccan design traditions, thanks to Zohra Boukhari, the Moroccan-born, Bali-based designer behind the Balquisse name.
Trust the Aman resorts to show you a different side of Bali. Amankila’s location, on a cliff overlooking the Lombok Strait on Bali’s east coast, is one of the island’s most isolated resorts — and though the opening of the Denpasar-Klungkung road means that Amankila is a bit more accessible, it still feels as remote as ever. Perhaps it’s because the private beach at the bottom of the cliff is the only sandy stretch for miles — Amankila doesn’t have to share this location with anyone, which is all the better for the guests here.
Blue Karma Villas Umalas
In an area as overrun with contemporary luxury resorts as Seminyak, it’s refreshing to find a place that’s still in touch with Indonesia’s more traditional side. Blue Karma Villas Umalas’ architecture is based on the design of the joglo, the teak houses traditional to the island of Java — though it is, in fact, on Bali, a short drive from the international airport via the resort’s complimentary shuttle.
Hanging Gardens of Bali
Though a long way from Babylon, the Hanging Gardens Ubud might just be worthy of sharing a name with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Consider the situation: a half hour outside of Ubud, Bali’s inland attraction, it clings to the edge of the densely forested valley, a situation so precipitous that guests ride a funicular from the reception to the villas.
No relation, apparently, to any other Viceroy, in Los Angeles or anywhere else — the Viceroy Bali is a one-off, a family-owned hotel, a rarity at the high end of the resort market. The location is increasingly familiar, as more travelers discover the charms of inland Bali — the Viceroy is minutes from Ubud, high on a hillside overlooking the lush (and steep) Lembah Valley. Familiar is good, when it’s well done. And it is done very well here.
Given the pace with which Bali has developed, the best thing a hotel can do is attempt to turn back the clock — if not all the way to its pre-tourism days, then at least a couple of decades, to when it was still possible to stake out an unspoiled, out-of-the-way corner of paradise. That’s the aim of Villa Artis Bali, and, given its location in a suburban village just to the north of Kuta, it’s a remarkable success.
What’s better than a Balinese boutique hotel? A Balinese boutique hotel with a Japanese twist, that’s what. We’ll take your infinity pool and raise you a handcrafted Japanese-inspired soaking tub in every room; we’ll take your peaceful jungle setting and up the ante with minimalist design, yoga on the rooftop, and an impossibly picturesque, almost-too-cute-to-eat breakfast. That’s the idea at Bisma Eight, a 38-suite hotel right in the center of Ubud.
Alila Ubud shows a different side of Bali. The town of Ubud is Bali’s arts capital, and is well inland, surrounded by lush valleys and volcanic hills no less spectacular than the island’s beaches. The Alila resort is about fifteen minutes from town, in the traditional hillside village of Payangan, on the banks of the Ayung river, an ideal location for experiencing the authentic Bali — traditional villages and family compounds dot the hillsides, a far cry from the beachfront development and tourist throngs of the more common seaside resorts.
The days when Bali was innocently viewed as an undiscovered paradise are long since gone. These days travelers can expect something a little more worldly, and peace and quiet are increasingly hard to come by. Hence the appeal of a place like the Elysian. This is more like urbane apartment living than the typical island getaway. The Elysian’s 26 private villas face out onto walled garden courtyards, each one with a private eight-meter swimming pool. Inside, the look is a sort of cosmopolitan contemporary Asian, all clean lines, local teak wood and light stone.
RIMBA Jimbaran BALI by AYANA
Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia
RIMBA Jimbaran BALI by AYANA, a tropical princess with a suitably mellifluous name. It makes sense if you think about it; not much (if any) unexplored territory remains here in Jimbaran, the South Bali version of Beverly Hills, where impossibly luxurious villas crowd one another for that coveted sunset perch. So they looked inward, capitalizing on over 220 clifftop acres to set aside this portion — just as lofty, just as replete with botanical wonders, and just as spectacular, especially around sunset.
Potato Head Suites
Picture your dream hotel on the beach in Bali. Chances are, you’re not imagining a large red-brick building that soars higher than the tree line. Indeed, Potato Head Suites, a 58-room hotel on Petitenget Beach, turns the old standard on its head. Unconventional as it is, it’s practically right on the sand, with a fabulous pool and an open-air cocktail bar straight out of your vacation fantasies. Designed and built almost entirely by local artisans, the interiors rounded out with a lovely collection of mid-century furniture, Potato Head Suites is an architectural showpiece, an ode to Indonesian artistry.
Bulgari Resort Bali
On a bluff overlooking Bali’s rough south coast stands a worthy follow-up to the first Bvlgari in Milan, where the architecture, the design, and the stunning, secluded city-center ex-monastery location conspire to produce one of Europe’s finest modern hotels. Here, it’s essentially a cross between a traditional Balinese village and a modern luxury resort. Villas cascade down the terraced hillside, topped by thatched roofs, their interiors decorated in a style that’s at once traditional-Indonesian and modern-Milanese.