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The best Bali resorts for a winter sun retreat

COMO Shambala Ubud - one of the best resorts in Bali
Yoga and wellness are a huge focus at the COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud - Martin Morrell

When it comes to dreamy tropical locales, meticulous hospitality and peak luxury, Bali is hard to beat. The island's hotels and resorts have fine-tuned the elements that make a once-in-a-lifetime holiday – from romantic beach dinners and jaw-dropping infinity pools to vibey beach bars, indulgent spas, intriguing activities and restaurants that serve up sumptuous meals made from locally grown ingredients. Add to this offering gorgeous views, fun-packed kids' clubs, private butlers and balmy tropical weather, and you have all that's needed for a very special holiday in paradise.

Perhaps you hope to make memories by going on fascinating local excursions with your loved one – or an activity-filled family break with the children and grandparents? Or maybe three-hour spa rituals and afternoons lounging in a canopy-view pool will tempt you. Whatever type of trip you're looking for, here's our pick of the best resorts in Bali, in locations including Ubud, Uluwatu, Canggu and Jimbaran.


How we review


Every hotel in this curated list has been visited by one of our expert reviewers, who are usually hosted on a complimentary basis. They stay for a minimum of one night, test at least one meal and trial other experiences that the hotel might have to offer.


At a glance, the best resorts in Bali

 

Tumbling down the hillside, this 147-villa resort has been designed to echo a traditional Balinese village, albeit a very fancy one with swimming pools and sun loungers. It's got a great perch at the end of Jimbaran Bay, a relatively sleepy beachside town known for its silvery-gold sands lined with brilliant barbecue seafood shacks. The volcanic stone architecture blends beautifully into colourful tropical gardens; twisting stone paths lead to emerald lawns and thatch-roofed bales staring out to sea; a grand infinity pool surveys the beach. Whatever you choose to do, it would be criminal to miss the splendid Spa Village – one of the finest spas on the island.

• The best hotels in Bali

This decadent destination on Bali's south-western shore is home to butler-serviced thatched villas, each with gasp-worthy Indian Ocean views, a sparkling infinity pool with ethereally draped cabanas, a secluded spa with another outdoor pool, plus a yoga pavilion, a salon and a fitness centre. And let's not forget the private beach. The hotel’s blend of Balinese architecture and contemporary Italian design might sound like an odd combination, but it works surprisingly well, exuding a Milan meets garden of Eden vibe. From the elegant villas and five-bedroom mansions, to the striking infinity pool and posh black-and-white restaurant, this may be the chicest of Bali resort holidays.

• The best hotels in Ubud

With streamlined, contemporary architecture, the island's most-photographed infinity pool, villas so slick you'll feel as though you've stepped into an Instagram feed, and a location overlooking the Indian Ocean, this may be one of Bali's most visually stunning resorts. In addition to the famous pool, there's a swish spa with huge treatment rooms, a 24-hour gym, a yoga pavilion, an organic garden, and a stretch of beach reached by a cliff-hugging stairway. The 65 minimalist villas have one to three bedrooms, and most also have ocean views (though some are distant). Butler service is provided.

• The best hotels in Canggu

Mandapa, hidden in the lush, peaceful valley of the Ayung River, is a true tropical escape that pays homage to Balinese culture and traditions. The visual focal point of the resort is the terrace of rice paddies overlooked by the swimming pool, the Pool Bar and Library. Villas are tucked away in private gardens and the suites are stacked in imposing multi-storey buildings that overlook the rest of the resort, but verdant landscaping conceals most of the buildings. Guests are appointed their own patih (assistant to a Balinese king) who act like butlers, and there’s a children’s camp programme. There are four dining areas with something for everyone.

• The best hotels in Nusa Dua

This Ubud hotel legend is arguably one of the most photogenic Bali resorts. It’s perched on a lush hillside growing with orchids, bamboo and coffee trees, with views stretching down to the Ayung River below and across the valley to the Indiana Jones-esque Dalem Segara temple. The hotel is renowned for its inventive architecture; traditional alang-alang thatched roof buildings are dotted amid luxuriant fairytale gardens, creating an Eden-like atmosphere that feels lost in time. Leaving the pool – one of the world’s most spectacular – is challenging, but a romantic restaurant, superb riverside spa and an array of activities do tempt.

• The best hotels in Seminyak

With a glowing infinity pool cleaved into the hillside, three-hour spa rituals, beautiful architecture (including a show-stopping sky-bridge skimming across the valley), a raft of daily complimentary activities and spacious suites and villas scattered around the sprawling grounds, the Four Seasons Sayan impresses on all levels. Paid activities cover everything from water purification rituals with a Hindu high priestess to river rafting around volcanoes and Indonesian cookery classes. The hotel has two restaurants; Ayung Terrace, where peppy Indonesian dishes are served by batik-wearing staff and the Mediterranean-influenced Riverside Café, a more intimate space above the pool.

• The best Indian Ocean hotels

The reigning queen of Bali, and a key player globally when it comes to destination spas. Few places do it better. The setting is knockout, the yoga top-notch and the fitness classes double as glorious sightseeing tours, incorporating cycle rides through the paddy fields and treks up smoking volcanoes. There are stunning overflowing infinity pools seemingly everywhere, as well as gushing waterfalls and rivers, plus treatment rooms where you can dabble in everything from acupuncture and Ayurveda to hot stone massages and reflexology. Bedrooms are upscale Indonesian with the best beds and linens, and bathrooms which encourage you to let go and wallow.

• The best boutique hotels in Bali

One of Bali’s longest established luxury resorts, Amankila stands sentry on a hillside overlooking the Lombok Strait on the east coast of Bali. From the imperious main building – all blonde stone, Corinthian columns and puffs of pink bougainvillea – to its shimmering black-sand beach complete with linen-clad attendants, Amankila exudes a refined Balinese charm. Taking centre stage is a spectacular three-tiered swimming pool, which steps down the hillside echoing Bali’s cascading rice fields. Wind your way downhill from here and you’ll find a fourth fabulous pool at ground level, as well as a stunning sweep of volcanic beach.

• The best hotels in Indonesia

This elegant, eco-friendly retreat is one of the loveliest Bali beach resorts. It was beautifully planned to exude a sense of tranquility, and seamlessly combines the natural environment with bold, contemporary living spaces. Horizontal and vertical lines, natural textures and shades of grey, plus stone and water dominate the design; gardens have been landscaped to maximise the flow of cool air through the resort; and water pools around the property add to the sense of calm and coolness. Every villa has its own outdoor lounge/dining area and private pool, but there is also a communal beachfront pool. There are two restaurants, a gym and a spa.

• The best spa hotels in Bali

Step outside this boutique bolthole and you’re in the remote and utterly bewitchingly set mountain village of Sideman, which has the feel of Ubud about 20 years ago. The local staff have a real passion for the village and resort, which comes across in their insider tips and a determination that you not only enjoy your stay, but tell others about it. On-site, private pools star alongside a glorious two-tier infinity pool with sweeping views out to the rice paddies, and there's a superb spa and tempting restaurant. The look manages to merge into the rich paddy clad hillside, while well-chosen Balinese art, local stone and hardwoods feature throughout the public spaces.

Raffles Bali revels in a lavish sense of peace and privacy, due largely to the generous amount of space that the resort enjoys. The 32 contemporary Balinese-style pool villas are set on 57 acres (23 hectares) of land and the property, which has a magnificent ocean view, is laced with flourishing tropical gardens. Prior to arrival guests are assigned their own butler, who will ensure that guest preferences are fulfilled. The butler, the guest’s point of contact throughout their time at Raffles, is on hand to make all necessary plans and reservations, and to chauffeur guests by buggy around the resort. Facilities include a beachfront infinity pool, two restaurants, Raffles’ signature Writers’ Bar and library, a spa, meditation terrace, fitness centre, yoga space, gift store and two tennis courts. Unique to the property is a small limestone cave, used for meditation sessions and private dinners.

This luxurious boutique hotel – a stone’s throw from central Ubud yet perched on the edge of a verdant valley – is a captivating balance of contrasts and will delight any traveller with an eye for design. It is a delightful home from home. The hotel’s unassuming entrance gives no hint at what stretches behind: not only 38 gorgeous suites, but an exquisite bar, a rooftop restaurant, valley-side café, gym, library (the location of another café) and, Bisma Eight’s crowning glory, an infinity pool that overlooks the tranquil greenery. Staff are efficient and their friendly manner adds to the homeliness of the hotel.

The beautiful design and carefully curated services (and cocktails) could convince you to spend your whole holiday at this hotel. However, with one of Bali’s most-loved beach clubs right next door and the chic boutiques of Seminyak nearby, you might be tempted to step outside. Inside, make sure your stay is long enough to enjoy a meal at each of Potato Head’s five restaurants, which take sustainability, innovation and Indonesian flavours pretty seriously. There’s the iconic Beach Club – sun loungers, cocktails, international dishes – which fringes two infinity pools; zero-waste seafood restaurant Ijen; futuristic Tanaman (serving innovative plant-based interpretations of Indonesian classics); rooftop Sunset Park, a jaw-dropping sundowner spot; and Kaum (“tribal recipes – modern approach”).

Hugging a hillside above the sacred Ayung River valley, Alila Ubud is a jungle getaway only a stone's throw from popular attractions like the Ubud Monkey Forest and Ubud Palace. Bali has some of the world's warmest and friendliest service, and the staff at Alila Ubud surpass even the highest expectation they are so kind and helpful, and it feels as though you’re chatting with friends. The excellence extends to the facilities, with a tranquil spa set in walled garden, a 24-hour fitness centre, a sculpture garden, and a library with a television lounge. The pièce de résistance is the rectangular infinity pool (pictured), jutting out over the lush valley.

Nirjhara is the Sanskrit word for waterfall – which this riverside resort has as its focal point creating a beautiful oasis and the pool, which overlooks the waterfall, is central to the property. The open-air concept of the contemporary design allows indoor and outdoor space to integrate, resulting in a wonderful tropical resort that blends into leafy gardens and towering palm trees. The overall style exudes a modern, casual elegance and the art, furnishings and fittings – crafted locally – lend a wonderful sense of place. The intimate yoga shala at Nirjhara is reason enough to book a stay here: the bamboo structure has been built over the rocks beside the waterfall, and it really is a very special experience to practise.

Frequently asked questions

Which side of Bali has the best beaches?


Some of the best beaches in Bali are on the Bukit Peninsula at the southern tip of the island. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches such as Padang Padang, Green Bowl, Jimbaran and Nusa Dua.

What is the recommended length of stay in a Bali resort?


Stay for one week at a resort in Bali for the chance to see a temple, join a yoga class, take a surf lesson and relax in a beach bar. Any extra days you have in Bali can be used to explore other parts of the island or nearby islands such as the Gilis.

Contributions by Lee Cobaj, Robin McKelvie & Leslie Patrick Moore

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