It was Miriam Adeney who said, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” As I sit here typing this with Tri Datu on my wrist and beautiful memories of my first visit to Bali, I am happy that I left a piece of my heart here. I spent ten days exploring various parts of the island, staying in a handful of the best luxury hotels in Bali. My aim was to get the first glimpse of several areas to inspire more in-depth experiences on my future visits to the idyllic island.
Getting to Bali
I arrived easily by plane from Bangkok where I was finishing a trip in Thailand. The Ngurah Rai International Airport is easily accessible and central to heading in all directions on the island of Bali. You can easily taxi to Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud from here and I relied on taxis and personal drivers for my entire visit.
Bicycles, fast boats and mopeds are the main modes of transportation on Bali, I found it very easy to transfer from place to place and my only caution is to allow extra time for traffic and temple ceremonies which happen often an unexpected and cause delays and complete stand-stills.
You will receive a Visa on Arrival (VoA) when you arrive and you do not need an additional visa if you are visiting less than 30 days (check your own country’s requirements before leaving home).
Related: Indonesia Photo Gallery
5 of the Best Luxury Hotels in Bali
Where to Stay in Ubud
The magic of my visit began with my arrival at Fivelements just south of Ubud, and it was the perfect welcome. This award-winning luxury resort is nestled on the banks of the Ayung River which provided the perfect backdrop for the theme of water which was prevalent throughout my entire visit to Bali, and an essential element of Bali and its culture.
Not only one of the best luxury hotels in Bali, Fivelements is a retreat-style sanctuary too, focused on Balinese healing, living foods and sacred arts, it is intimate and intentional. My two-day stay here was pure medicine in every way, with the invitation to “live well,” I was given authentic opportunities to attune my mind, body and spirit to the natural surroundings and breathe deeply and find peace.
I was led to my suite by a grass and stone path that meandered through the property and past the Sakit Dining Room, an open-air room with a river view, the Mandala Meeting Room and Sacred Spaces where both private and group events are hosted, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear the faint sounds of chimes along the walk coming from the property-wide music system which carried me straight to my suite, and into it even, as I was welcomed with the sound of soothing traditional healing music.
There are nine exclusive suites on this property, each designed with inspiration from a sacred spiral which gives the space an open-air feeling. The décor of each suite and the property throughout includes Balinese “Songket” textiles and antiques which give it an authentic and old-world, traditional feeling. I felt at home instantly here.
Each suite contains a king-size bed which is positioned in the centre of the room and facing the river. The room opens in two directions; from the foot of the bed it opens out onto a private terrace overlooking the sacred Ayung River with a seating area and covered riverstone healing bathtub where I enjoyed a Sakti bath which included lemongrass, Balinese orange, lime, pandan leaves, ginger and Sakti bath oil with the sound and view of the river from where I was soaking. The sliding doors on the opposite side of the room open up to an alfresco bathroom including chromotherapy lighting, and a stone path rain shower.
Every detail of my stay was intentional, every staff member welcomed me with a loving bow and a hello and I was carefully looked after from the moment I arrived until my departure. The Core Values and Guiding Philosophies of this property are aligned with Balinese culture and the aim is to create a space and invitations for guests to transform their lives and live with more love. It was easy to be here with my heart wide open and in receiving mode.
I experienced my very first Melukat at Fivelements, a traditional Balinese water blessing and purification ceremony. The private ceremony took place in the Sacred Space and included a meditation with the temple priest. He prepared the holy water in a clay vase with flowers and incense and chanted mantras in Sanskrit. This was deeply emotional for me as I chant in my daily meditation and Bhakti practice and I felt very much like this was a homecoming. The “holy shower” was a beautiful experience that I highly recommend, and it was the perfect welcome to my two weeks in Bali.
The Healing Village features eight private riverside healing rooms where the treatments take place, each one designed with an open-air river view that welcomed a perfect breeze along with private bathrooms and stone healing bathtubs. These sanctuaries are so quiet and so peaceful it is hard to leave.
The Watsu therapy pool, along with a large lap pool for relaxing and cooling off is located in the centre of the property. Both have massage jets, underwater music, and chromotherapy lighting; the decking surrounding the pools provides dappled shade for napping and the sound of the rushing river as a soothing backdrop.
The Bidadari Beauty Sanctuary and Boutique are available if you feel like splurging on any Balinese-inspired beauty and rejuvenation treatments for your body, face, nails and hair or souvenirs of your time spent here such as healing crystals, mala beads for japa, essential oils, etc.
I loved the Sakti Dining Room and the beautiful meals that I enjoyed there. The fine-dining atmosphere and healing cuisine described as “Living Foods” by the chef; comprising raw vegan options and other lightly prepared plant-based dishes. The dinner reservations are made and set each morning and the menu is prepared daily. I enjoyed a set five-course meal that was both healthy and delicious for dinner both nights, and the breakfasts were full of brightly coloured fruits and bowls filled with organic goodness. The menu and concept of Fivelements supports local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products.
The property is private and secluded and tucked away in a small village that is a beautiful place to wander about if you are feeling like you want to explore. I walked to a nearby temple complex and just beyond it to some rice fields. You can easily arrange a taxi for exploring beyond a short walk but I found myself happily content with all that the property had to offer and invitations to push pause with plenty of tranquil areas to do this.
Related: Ubud Travel Guide
Desa Visesa is located in Ubud, within short resort shuttle to many activities and shopping, this luxury resort property prides itself on honouring the past traditions of Balinese culture while adding modern luxury and plenty of healing, cultural and luxury experiences to invite guests to appreciate the essence of a Balinese village and daily life on the island.
I received my second Tri Datu bracelet as part of the welcome ceremony and blessing when I checked in to Desa Visesa. This gift was accompanied by a traditional Balinese rice blessing and an offering of the welcome drink while I waiting to be escorted to my villa. It was a lovely way to be welcomed to the resort and indicative of how I was treated the entire time.
The suites and villas that make up the property are intimate sanctuaries and mine was so generous and abundant that I did not want to leave. My One Bedroom Pool Villa is one of 35 units and is 124 square metres of space that includes a private floating walkway entrance, outdoor lounge area with stocked mini bar, private dipping pool with fountain, an enclosed bedroom with air conditioning and a canopy king-size bed, and a beautiful open-air bathroom with shower and deep soaking tub.
I love that the villas and suites at Desa Visesa are designed into the natural landscape of Ubud, my villa was located beside the property’s temple and with a field of rice flanking it which created incredible privacy and the most lush and beautiful views. I enjoyed breakfast and lunch by the pool, and a traditional flower bath in the bathtub during my stay, the space was luxurious and each guest is provided with their very own 24-hour butler room service.
There is plenty to do at Desa Viseas, the property has designed experiences of all kinds that invite guests to participate in traditional Balinese culture, as well as five-star luxury experiences on the property that take advantage of the land and a staff of local experts. Everything from making offerings to cow bathing as well as farming and permaculture activities with plenty of things to do for children of all ages too. Guests can find the daily schedule in their rooms and on a board in the lobby, and many activities are included in the stay. Additional luxury experiences including a private picnic in the rice fields on property which I enjoyed, village cycling and yoga as well as making gebogan and learning Balinese dancing can be booked when you arrive.
Property shuttles leave on the half-hour from the lobby and take guests into downtown Ubud for shopping and exploring which I did both days that I stayed at Desa Viseas. I highly recommend visiting the various markets in town where you can purchase beautiful handmade bags, and other local textiles.
One of the highlights of my stay was an incredibly delicious five-course vegetarian meal at one of the property’s four restaurants. I was led down the candlelight path from the lobby into the courtyard and grand entrance of the Padi Fine Dining experience where I was greeted with my very own mixologist who mixed a welcome table-side cocktail for me. Every course was served with care and meticulous detail. The food was tremendously delicious and innovative, fresh and organic flavours, fully vegetarian and plated with artistic perfection.
A caviar of legumes, salt and sugar-crusted beets, hand-pulled cheese burrata, pickled green asparagus, wild grilled taro roots, smoked aubergine and the list went on and on. This meal was not only the highlight of my stay at Desa Visesa, but it was also one of the most beautiful meals of my life. I watch the Chef and his team in the open kitchen as they created each dish, and I was pampered with wine paired perfectly with each course. The final course, a chocolate dessert was served with pretty candies in a box for me to take with me to my room.
There is plenty to explore on the property of Desa Visesa as well. The main pool just beyond the lobby is a beautiful hideaway spot with dappled light and loungers for resting, lounging and napping even. A raised garden with paths and a large stone Buddha can be found just above the pool area, you can wander into the rice fields and along paths leading to the spa and pavilions where events take place, you can even take bicycles or a staff-driven cart around to explore.
Every morning just outside my villa door in a nook to the right of my door I found incense burning and a small offering tucked inside, the nightly turn-down service left my room with the curtains drawn and slippers waiting for me to slip into. It was so hard to leave this property after a few days feeling right at home here.
During my stay at Desa Visesa I hired a local guide to drive me to the Bali Swing, the Tegalalang Rice Terraces and the Tirta Empul Temple. I participated in a purification ceremony at the most famous temple in Bali with many other visitors and stood in awe of the rice terraces which took my breath away.
Where to Stay in Canggu
I arrived at Tugu Hotel Canggu delighted to find this hideaway property located in the middle of the vibrant beach village. “Tugu” means monument in the Indonesian language. There are three Tugu Hotels in Indonesia, founded by Anhar Setjadibrata who is the owner of the biggest collection of fine Indonesian art and cultural antiquities in Indonesia. He designed the boutique hotels to house his collection and to share it with the world, and being surrounded by this collection is one of many things that makes a stay at Tugu Hotel extra special.
This Tugu Hotel property is located in Canggu, just a short walk to Canggu Beach. It is on the southwest coast of Bali, 30 minutes from the Ngurah Rai International Airport and 15 minutes from Seminyak. There is a lot to explore in every direction from this property, and the vibration here was very different from Fivelements. The property is expansive but maintains an intimate feeling with secret pathways, gardens, ponds, bridges and water features along with the main pool with a wall of sculptural fountains pouring into it. There are plenty of places to find solace and many invitations to be social as well.
Nothing could prepare me for the indulgence I found when I opened the large antique doors into my own private courtyard, tropical gardens with coy pond, suite and private splash pool. The Dedari Suite was decadent in every way. The main suite with canopy king-size bed, seating areas, desk, TV and wardrobes provided ample space for me. The splash pool just beyond the suite area was my favourite for lounging on the hanging day bed, the one in-room breakfast I enjoyed and private skinny dipping in the late afternoon and evenings.
But, it was the bathroom that had me squealing. The private spa area showcased a unique sunken bath in an open-air room with antique doors that opened out into the coy pond and private courtyard. I could see the coy happily splashing about during each shower and bath and I enjoyed a really incredible traditional Balinese flower bath one afternoon by candlelight. The hand-painted terra-cotta tiles juxtaposed with the antique wooden patina of the little doors that opened beyond the bathtub made the space charming and cozy.
There are three restaurants on the property which makes leaving a hard option. Tugu Bali Restaurant located in the open-air hall of Wantilan Agung which is majestic in its own right and full of enchanting nooks and crannies to find a cozy, romantic spot for two or to enjoy the best spot in Canggu to watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace. The menu includes an eclectic selection of fresh seafood and a mix of gourmet continental cuisine with a blend of Asian and Indonesian influences. I enjoyed a sunset aperitif with sushi one night and it was perfect. The Ji Terrace by the Sea is a whimsical and cozy spot for a really beautiful experience of the playful blending of Indonesia, Japan, India and Thailand. The menu is inspired by Japanese and Asian dishes and the Pad Thai was my very favourite. This space is transformed at sunset with a DJ, locals and visitors who enjoy the ambience well into the evening. The third dining option is Ji at Bale Sutra, this exquisite experience takes place in an ornate and elegant dark wooden temple, originally a family temple that was used for generations and found by the owner of Tugu. The temple dining room is lavish and oozing with red walls and large prints and antiques that spill out in every direction. The menu is inspired by centuries-old cooking traditions from Japan, as well as other East Asian countries.
In addition to the formal dining options, guests can order meals on the lawn and beside the pool and every afternoon guests can participate in high tea in the bar just off the lobby.
I enjoyed one of the best massages of my life at Tugu Hotel. I received a Chakra Opening Massage with Healing Mantra, it was a beautiful blend of medicine and healing and I will never forget it. The healer heated soothing herbal oils and applied them to my body while chanting mantras, I was also given a rice blessing and water purification ceremony. The authenticity of the experience moved me, the healer was so loving and beautiful and I left feeling so full of love.
Related: What to do in Seminyak Bali
Where to Stay in Seminyak
The Amala, was the first of two Lifestyle Retreats sister hotels I would enjoy. The Amala, a five-star luxury resort, is tucked away in the heart of Seminyak; and while it is literally in the centre of big activity in Seminyak, as soon as you arrive you are welcomed into a calm and pace that the space dictates and that pace is very slow.
Bamboo walls and floating stone pathways lead you from the busy outside world into the tranquility of The Amala, passing various property temples, shrines and spirit houses which are adorned with devotion several times a day. Beyond the open-air lobby you wander into a series of open spaces: the six table dining room which is the heart of the property, a beautiful lap pool joined by a bamboo footbridge, and open air kitchen and lounge area where Balinese Cooking Classes are hosted, and the intimate Pool Villas just beyond this. The guest library is a closed room with air conditioning and fast WiFi, and just off the pool with a glimpse of it from where you can read and work. There are plenty of cozy places to lounge by the public pool, and the dining room is flanked on all sides with private spa rooms and an open-air spa lobby.
Beautiful food is served at The Amala; the Bamboo Restaurant continues the theme of “health-through-harmony” specializing in organic, raw foods which echo the property’s holistic wellness approach. It was easy to be a vegetarian at The Amala, everything was fresh and delicious.
My Spa Villa was a grand, indulgent space of 120sqm with a private pool and open-air bathtub courtyard. The kitchen and dining areas were perfect for in-room dining.
I enjoyed a traditional Balinese Flower Bath upon my arrival and rinsed off in the rain shower complete with spa-like steam and beautiful herbal aromatherapy sacks for extra effect. Choose between the wild herbs, green tea or spiced citrus. The plunge jet-pool was the perfect temperature for cooling off and so private I barely wore a swimsuit, perfectly situated under a shade tree that created the most amazing dappled light and cool shade during the day.
A glass-like house just beyond the courtyard opened up to my suite which included a generous canopy king-size bed, seating areas and bathroom. The room, transformed each night with turn down, is surrounded by velvety floor-to-ceiling curtains that create a cocoon-like feeling, perfect for a deep sleep.
It was easy to find plenty of things to do both on and off property at The Amala, I enjoyed a beautiful Balinese Massage in the spa with traditional foot bath one day and wandered into town by property driver for coffee and shopping on the second day. There is plenty to do nearby and plenty of reasons to stay put and leave your To Do List for another day. This property was so peaceful and so intimate.
Related: Bali’s Best Coworking Spaces
Where to Stay in Sanur
I arrived at The Samata completely blissed out, and the luxury continued with this second Lifestyle Retreats property. Like Amala this villa resort is intimate with unique rooms and villas and incredible common areas. “Samata” is a Sanskrit word meaning the state of equilibrium between body, mind and spirit. The property is small which means you feel the extra attention from the staff and the community and there are invitations to find balance everywhere.
Located in Sanur, this property is a short distance from many temples, shops and cafes, day trips and adventures. I took a special trip with the property healer to a nearby local temple for a traditional Balinese Purification Ceremony. Otherwise, I found myself completely content with a private Balinese Cooking Class and plenty of one-on-one instruction from the chef, and a traditional palm reading and numerology report.
My 75sqm Ocean View Suite was absolutely perfect. Located on the top floor facing the ocean and property pool this room was generous with a one-of-a-kind view. The view boasts a perfect aerial shot of the main pool, emerald-green gardens, lush rice fields just beyond the property and the Indian Ocean in the distance. The view is enjoyed from a terrace spanning the entire length of the suite and including built-in loungers for private sun bathing. It was the absolute perfect spot to watch the epic sunrises and sunsets. This suite includes a canopy king-size bed, desk, lounging area and a super chic, modern bathroom with a dark stone bathtub big enough for two.
There are three pools on the property, the main pool which looks like it could be in a spread in Architectural Digest with clear modern lines and the signature of the property, a generous lap pool beside the main pool, and a pool located in the spa and wellness area. The Samata is Bali’s only health and fitness resort.
The spa includes four treatment rooms and an expert staff with a beautiful menu of traditional massage and treatments, attached is the wellness centre which offers yoga, meditation, and a variety of physical programs led by the on-property staff. Both public and private classes can be booked daily. The equipment here is bar none with a Muay Thai ring and plenty of weights and cardio and a personal trainer to guide you along.
I enjoyed two activities that I loved during my stay, the first was a traditional Balinese Palm Reading with Bagus, the property healer and Wellness Centre Manager, and the second was a private cooking class with the property’s Chef where I learned how to make traditional Balinese favourites with a vegetarian twist. The cooking class was followed by a beautiful feast of our creations in the Zenso Restaurant and I was given a Cooking Class certificate, commemorative Samata Sanur apron and the recipes to try on my own at home.
My favourite part of my stay at The Samata was a visit to a nearby local temple for an authentic purification ceremony which was performed by the temple priest. I was accompanied by Bagus, who helped me prepare for the visit in traditional Balinese sarong and top, and his wife also prepared the traditional temple offerings for my ceremony. The temple is one that not many tourists know about or visit, but it is a special temple for purification because it is located five minutes from The Samata, on the coast where the river water and ocean water meet. Bagus led me through the temple explaining every detail as I participated in the traditional ceremony and I will never forget how special and deeply meaningful it was for me. I received the first of two Tri Datu at this temple. Tri Datu is a unique Balinese bracelet made up of three colours of yarn: red, white and black. Balinese believe these yarn bracelets have magic powers, the red yarn represents Brahma, the black represents Vishnu and the white represents Shiva Tri Datu is also the symbol of Tri Kona (Birth, Life and Death) and has become a common reminder for the Balinese people of the greatness of God and the value of life. It was and still is a huge honour to wear this bracelet, especially as a reminder of this sacred ceremony at this special temple.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of these properties. All words, opinions and images are authentically our own.
Pat Russo is a Mystic, Muse, and Spiritual Teacher guiding women into their hearts with a journey of softening. She is a published poet, a lover of hearts, and a forever student.
Feeling the impossibility of choosing between her two favorite cities, she considers San Francisco and Paris home.