Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa
At high tide it becomes clear why Impossible Beach at Uluwatu got its name. Submerged under a metre of seawater, waves crash against the foot of limestone cliffs. From the vantage point of the infinity pool at the new Anantara hotel perched at the top of these cliffs, I’m watching the surfers drawn to this challenging coastline. The luxury hotel is the first to open in this part of Uluwatu, on the wild western side of the Bukit Peninsula, and is likely to attract not just the more well-heeled surfers but those seeking to get away from the hubbub of Bali’s crowded resorts further north.
Befitting the dramatic location is a building that is uncompromisingly contemporary. A modern-day citadel approached by a huge flight of steps that opens to an expansive lobby with creepers hanging from the top storey and a floor of opalescent black marble that flashes rainbow lights at every step. For sheer glamour, it scores a 10.
All the suites, whether in the main body of the hotel or cascading down the hill towards the sea, are designed to maximise the views and are spacious enough to accommodate a family of four. For those seeking more privacy, there are also two- and three-bedroom garden and ocean villas, and a kids’ club.
An open-air, two-person Jacuzzi bath sits on each balcony and there are nice touches in the rooms, such as a complimentary sketch pad and Balinese folk tales and chocolates left each night on the children’s pillows.
In a relatively remote setting such as this, dining options need to be good and the Anantara offers a rooftop restaurant ideally located to watch the sunset as well as a Japanese fusion teppanyaki bar and an open-air poolside restaurant.
Landscaped gardens are planted with flowers that attract thousands of butterflies and with pink and white frangipani in bloom, the air is scented and delicious. The rooftops of the hillside suites have been planted with rice, the sacred crop around which Bali revolves – and which has an ecological bonus for its cooling effect on the buildings.
Sunset is the time for one of the area’s most spectacular events, staged not far from the Anantara. The traditional Balinese Kecak Fire Dance is performed in a small amphitheatre next to one of Bali’s holiest temples, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, built up to the edge of the cliff. Running the gauntlet of a crowd of thieving macaques is required (they appear to be in short supply of sunglasses) before you reach the sanctuary of the temple and drink in those views.
Against the backdrop of a rose and peach-coloured sky, the Kecak lasts an hour and is hugely entertaining for children and adults alike. The dancers in their glittering Balinese costumes tell the story of Rama and his wife Sita who is kidnapped by the demon Ravana and then rescued in a fiery finale – all accompanied by a choir of around 70 men imitating the sounds of musical instruments.
RATES: Suites are priced from US$385 (about A$376) per night and villas from US$615 (about A$610) per night plus taxes.
Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran
Another strikingly modern hotel has opened in Jimbaran to the north of the Bukit Peninsula, sited on the vast crescent of sand known for its seafood restaurants. Just footsteps from the restaurants is the new Le Méridien with luxury suites built around a meandering salt-water lagoon – some of which have direct access to the lagoon from the balconies.
The wow factor begins in the third floor lobby where, beyond the room, a curved pool of water with bubbling ountains projects out over the lagoon below with palm trees growing up and through it. “This is the coolest hotel,” announces my 12 year old and I have to agree. Ideal for families are the interconnecting suites that are modern and fresh. Marble bathrooms with stand-alone bathtubs and waterfall showers complete the luxury ensemble. The children, as ever, are more impressed by the 3D hi-definition TVs.
Anyone searching for a unique location to throw a big party would do well to consider the rooftop “celebration space” (marriage chapel is so last century) at Le Méridien.
The hotel’s most luxurious sky villas and penthouses share an ocean view from their expansive terraces and plunge pools. But all of the rooms have one thing in common – from every balcony there is a view of the resort gardens that feature an illuminated catwalk and central podium in the lagoon.
In keeping with the informal but professional service, masseurs from the hotel’s Serenity spa wander around with little backpacks offering mini massages beside the pool and friendly restaurant staff show up with new delicious fruit drinks they’ve dreamed up for guests to try.
With some of the island’s freshest seafood on your doorstep it would be mad not to visit one of the local restaurants and the hotel encourages guests to do so – but the Australian chef at Le Méridien has an ace up his sleeve. He and his staff at the resort’s Bamboo Chic restaurant set out to rediscover Bali’s “lost” cuisine beyond the staples of satay and nasi goreng. Visiting fishing villages and talking to local people, he has devised a menu that uses local produce and takes traditional recipes as its starting point. The degustation menu is a good place to start.
Cool though it certainly is, there’s a laid-back, inclusive vibe to Le Méridien that encourages families as well as singles. There’s a great kids’ club and kids’ choice menu and, once the baby sitter has been booked, adults can enjoy cocktails in the sky bar with resident DJ to watch those famous sunsets.
RATES: Entry level rooms are priced from US$210 (about A$205) per night, suites from US$390 (about A$381) per night and sky penthouses from US$890 (about A$870) per night plus taxes.