While hotel-browsing rarely phases me (I browse hotels in my free time), searching for a place to stay during my May 2014 trip to Indonesia’s travel darling felt like shopping in the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest shopping, leisure, and entertainment destination): A touch overwhelming. While I refuse to sacrifice style, would I do Bali beachfront or street-side? Luxury or budget? Big or boutique? A la carte or inclusive? Oy.
Early on, Mr. Trip Styler and I made a few inroads in our hotel selection process. First, if we were going to fly halfway across the world to an ocean paradise about which we’d been dreaming for years, by God, we we going to stay by the sea. Second, we found that 90 percent of the accommodations cuddled up the coast were part of the island’s luxury set resulting in a hefty premium. Third, the à-la-carte-versus-inclusive debate fell by the wayside when we gleaned the majority of Bali resorts fold breakfast (plus WiFi and safe drinking water) into room rates.
After our several late-night study sessions for Bali Accommodations 101, we decided to tick off a trio of hotel types and jet-set in the most au courant areas as a tasting menu (of sorts) for future visits. We settled on stays along a free spirited beachfront stretch, at a cliffy retreat, and in a far-flung nature reserve. We then divided our nights between boutique, budget, and luxury.
Viewfinder Tip: Each tourist is required to pay US$25 when entering Bali. Upon departure, save a few Indonesian Rupiah for the airport for an additional 200,000 Rp (about US$17) departure tax per person.
We spent our first three nights in Seminyak, a boho-meets-chichi beach town anchored by a sultry stretch of sand and upscale boutiques. (Shoppers: Make sure to leave space in your suitcase, you won’t come home empty-handed). While local hotels a block from the beach start around US$75 per night, a plush oceanfront plot will set you back more than US$250.
As modern-design enthusiasts, we selected the Anantara Seminyak Bali for its sleek rooms, infinity-edge pool, and beachfront status. The in-room hand-crank espresso machine was the icing on the cake. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fresh-pressed juices mingling pineapple, mango, watermelon, and other tropical tastes served every day at breakfast.
Known for its sand-in-your-toes seafood restaurants and technicolor sunsets, Bali’s crescent-shaped Jimbaran Bay is proudly featured on many travelers’ Facebook cover photos (it’s that gorgeous). Walk a few blocks south and the bay gives way to Bali’s other iconic vista: Verdant cliffs towering over the gemstone-blue Indian Ocean. This is where the island’s choice cut of ultra-luxury hotels cling to the rocky bluffs.
In this area, I hotly recommend the RIMBA Jimbaran Bali, a gleaming-white high-rise hotel set back from the cliffs. Completed in late-2013, six outdoor swimming pools cascading in a rice paddy formation, and a sleek aesthetic—right out of the pages of DWELL—intermingle with modern Balinese touches to create a styled stay that won’t leave your bank account in the red. Ocean lovers, don’t fret: The private beach is only a quick shuttle away.
Far from the major tourist areas splashed across Bali’s south coast, the woodsy west island is graced with untouched beaches, world-class diving, a slower pace of life (donkeys pulling horse feed saunter on the roadside), and shoestring-budget hotels. The only setback is getting there via a 100-mile, four-hour drive along a narrow two-lane highway (for this, hire a driver). On the upside, the ride is a window into everyday Bali, think: rolling rice terraces, local homes, and dark-sand beaches.
Set on seeing this lesser-developed and jungle-covered part of the island, we spent three nights in Bali Barat National Park at The Menjangan, a 22-room, thatched-roof retreat riding the line between safari and savvy. (If you stay: book a Beach Villa, from US$200, for the ultimate experience). Due to its remote location, we lingered in the 950-acre park for three days straight sporting sea-salt-in-our-hair ‘dos and a Bintang-beers-on-the-beach pace, courtesy of Bali’s beachfront bliss.
What are some of the tropical destinations on your Bucket List?