Get away from the world and find true relaxation in Bali. Follow our guide to the most beautiful resorts, the best food, and the fastest way to find peace and calm in paradise.
For my grandfather’s 90th birthday the entire family decamped to a private resort in Seminyak, on Bali’s southern coast. It was the perfect way to gather as a larger group to indulge in the decadence and hospitality of this famous island. We would gather for meals prepared by the resort’s attentive staff, lounge together around a pool beneath the palm trees, or embark on individual expeditions to day spas or yoga classes. The needs of all generations were looked after and it was the most relaxing and luxurious holiday, and a wonderful way to celebrate a huge milestone.
Bali just might be the best place in the world to do very little. Its famous villas and resorts make for magnificent accommodation that you barely need to leave. The food is diverse and delicious, and features world class restaurants. Its scenery is stunning, full of lush forests and beautiful beaches.
Its Hindu heritage is a unique attraction of Bali, perhaps in part why its people are full of warmth and hospitality. It’s called the Island of the Gods for a reason, because you’ll feel like you’ve found heaven.
Famous for its tourism, Bali can be busy. But when you get away from the crowds and embrace everything it has to offer you’ll find true relaxation in Bali's luxury.
Resorts you’ll never want to leave
Bali has some of the best accommodation options you’ll find anywhere in the world. Set amongst the jungle or on the edge of the beach, Bali’s resorts are lavish and stylish. Our villa was nestled in a groomed garden of frangipani, orchids and palm trees, each couple had a huge comfortable room with an ensuite. There was a large pool surrounded by outdoor lounging areas, a yoga studio, and a massage room. Each morning the resort’s chef would prepare us breakfast of fresh fruit or a traditional nasi goreng. And if we didn’t feel like leaving they’d make a delicious lunch and dinner too.
Bali has a long list of very good resorts. These are two of our favourite. Overlooking the Indian Ocean on Bali’s southwest coast Alila Seminyak is a beautifully designed modern resort that stands out in one of the island’s hippest areas, while embracing its surroundings. With the bustle of Bali hidden just out of view, the Alila provides you with all you need, from yoga to sunset dining, to enjoy this island paradise. Embrace everything the resort has to offer and let the Alila’s luxury nourish you.
In the jungle of Ubud the Royal Pita Maha resort has been built into the landscape using traditional architecture. Designed by the Ubud royal family the resort is based on a historic Balinese village. The private villas with views across the river, palm trees and rice paddies are a sanctuary for the soul with a traditional touch.
Relax your body and soul
With a vast offering of day spas, Seminyak is the best place to invest in your personal rejuvenation. Bodyworks is one of Bali’s pioneering spas, established more than 20 years ago. My wife and I snuck away from the family for an afternoon of Bali’s famous massage at Bodyworks. The setting alone relaxes you immediately. By the time I left two hours later, my deep tissue tenderised by expert fingers, I felt lighter on my feet. Definitely try a hot rock massage too.
For something extra special Spa Alila at Alila Seminyak offers half day and full day “escapes”. Couples can start with acupressure reflexology and end with a cocktail in the sunset. Wellness will wash over you.
A unique culture
Bali’s beautiful culture, the source of much of its popularity, has also shown great strength in the face of the rise of tourism on the island. An outpost of Hinduism in the country with the world’s largest muslim population, the influence of the religion imported by Indian traders around the 9th century still gives Bali its unique aesthetic and spirit.
Across the island there are thousands of temples decorated with bright flowers as a tribute to the gods. The famous spots are busy – but for a reason. It’s definitely worth visiting the Uluwatu temple that clings to the cliffs high above the surf breaks. The Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple that floats on the Bratan lake is worth the journey into the heart of the island, the landscape you’ll cover on the way worthy of the trip itself.
Explore the Balinese countryside and you’ll discover how the temple still sits at the heart of village life. We toured Ubud’s surroundings on a guided bike expedition. We were warmly welcomed into villages and shown traditional cooking techniques and agricultural practices. Or you can opt for a private car expedition with knowledgeable drivers in air-conditioned comfort – a great option for those who feel like cycling isn’t necessary while on holiday!
A delicious cuisine
The hidden hero of a holiday in Bali is the food. Influenced by Chinese, Indian and Indonesian food, like the rest of its culture Bali’s food has developed a unique personality. Its traditional cuisine is heavy on spices, fresh herbs, and coconut. Definitely visit the local restaurants called ‘warungs’, where you’ll find the famous sate lembat, skewered meat cooked over coals. Be sure to try babi guling – spit roasted suckling pig – served sliced with crispy crackling.
Bali has also become the home of world class, award-winning, high end restaurants. A celebration of the best of Indonesian produce, Locavore in Ubud is a collaboration between local chef Ray Adriansyahu and Dutch chef Eelke Plasmeijeray. Locavore uses over 95% Indonesian ingredients to create stunning modern cooking that comes with a light environmental footprint. Be sure to book at least two weeks in advance for dinner though.
Chef Will Meyrick has built a reputation on elevating Asian street food and his five restaurants in Seminyak represent different celebrations of local cuisine or produce. Sarong Bali, Mama San Bali, Hujan Locale, Som Chai and Billy Ho are all worth a visit.
As well as great restaurants Bali has developed a sophisticated bar and nightclub culture, and the nights last long after the famous sunset. Motel Mexicola has a well deserved reputation for its colourful decor, cocktails, and nightlife. A wonderful place to dance until the early hours.
Eat, drink, relax. And if you don’t want to, you really don’t need to do much else in Bali.