Staking a stylish claim on Bali’s rugged Bukit Peninsula, Alila Villas Uluwatu is a cool, contemporary cliff-hanger of a resort which delivers dramatic eco-friendly design in a jaw-dropping setting. Panoramic views over the Indian Ocean complement architecturally striking pool villas, each with serene, minimalist interiors, seductive outdoor living spaces and personal butlers on tap. Stir in a top spa, fine dining and legendary surfing, and it's a delicious cocktail.
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A 60-minute spa treatment for each guest. Guests staying three or more nights also receive one three-course dinner for two adults
Sixty-one pool villas, with a choice of one to three bedrooms.
Noon. Late check-out costs half a night’s tariff up to 6pm; after 6pm, a full extra night. Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £537.05 ($692), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates exclude à la carte breakfast (from US$35 a person).
No check-ins or check-outs are allowed on 7 March 2019, when Bali observes Nyepi Day (Day of Silence), although stays are still possible. Bali’s airport also closes for the day.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, library with books, DVDs and computers, spa, gym, yoga, gift shop, gardens. In rooms: personal butler service, flatscreen TV with satellite channels, CD/DVD players, preloaded iPod, Spa Alila toiletries, minibar, espresso machine, TWG Tea, private pool.
Our favourite rooms
Villa 409 commands the highest point of the resort, so it’s the pick for couples in pursuit of total privacy with a 180-degree ocean vista. Sleek modern design, care of Singaporean architects WOHA, embraces the outdoors, harnessing natural stone, wood, rattan and water.
Feel like you’re floating above the world in the 50m infinity pool perched along the cliff edge.
Serious sunscreen, Tom Ford shades and a surfboard to ride Bukit Peninsula’s famous breaks.
You'll be assigned a 24-hour personal Host (butler) during your stay (choose between private, discreet and indulgent service options).
Very welcome. Free baby cots can be provided and extra beds for older kids (US$30 a night). The hotel can also arrange babysitting for a fee.
Alila Villas Uluwatu has been designed with only locally sourced, recycled and sustainable materials to innovative environmental standards. Open-plan lay-outs, flat lava rock roofs and bamboo ceilings allow sea breezes to circulate naturally.
Romantics should reserve a cliff-hanging open-air cabana for two, for idling above the Indian Ocean.
Asian clientele sport tailored beach frocks; European guests extend the style spectrum to barefoot chic.
Open throughout the day, the contemporary Western-style Cire has comfort cuisine inspired by the nautical surroundings: try roasted king prawns, wasabi-spiked crab and grilled octopus. Across the pool, the more mellow Warung offers authentic Indonesian fare, from slow-cooked pork ribs to rice laced with coconut milk and spices. The monochrome-styled Quila serves a Mediterranean-inspired menu of creative dishes made with locally sourced produce, including beef carpaccio and carrot curry.
The striking wood-slatted cabana lounge bar juts from the dramatic Bukit cliffs, overhanging the pounding waves below. Get your bearings with signature cocktails such as the Alila Gin Mojito, then settle in to enjoy the salmon-pink sunset.
Officially dinner is served until 11pm, but the accommodating staff is unlikely to disappoint nocturnal noshers.
Available 24 hours a day, serving dishes from the restaurant menus and homely comfort foods. You can also order from the Cravings Menu, provided on greeting at the airport so that your meal is ready in your villa on arrival.
Alila Villas Uluwatu is located on the Bukit Peninsula, Bali’s southern-most point and home to the famous cliff-top temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, as well as some of the island’s best surf beaches.
Fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport (www.baliairport.com), near capital Denpasar, served by carriers including Garuda, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar and JAL. You can buy a Visa on Arrival, if required, which costs US$25 for 30 days. The process is much quicker if you bring the cash with you.
Alila Villas Uluwatu is a 40-minute drive from the airport. You can rent a car at the airport but traffic can be hectic and the roads aren’t always of top quality (particularly away from built-up areas). Fortunately, you can hire well-maintained cars with excellent drivers for as little as US$30 a day. They will take you wherever you want and are even happy to wait while you have a swim at the beach, enjoy a meal or go shopping.
Want to arrive like a rock star? The resort can arrange helicopter transfers for US$900 for two adults.
Worth getting out of bed for
Make time in the afternoons to watch the young Balinese girls who practise temple dancing in the resort lobby. Though the gym is open 24 hours, challenge yourself to descend and then climb the hundreds of stairs leading to Alila’s patch of private beach. Save some energy to explore beyond the property on Journeys by Alila, which include visits to leading Balinese artists, private kitchen time with the hotel chef (as well as trips to Jimbaran Fish Market and Indonesian cooking classes); outings to community projects supported by the resort. Nearly next door, the black coral rock temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, hugs the cliffs and is believed by locals to guard the island from evil spirits. At sunset the kecak (monkey) dance is performed but watch out for the real things, who will steal your sunglasses, camera, water bottle or anything else they can get their thieving mitts on.
Popular with surfers and backpackers is the simple yet welcoming Yeye’s Warung (+62 (0)361 742 4761), between Uluwatu and Padang Padang beaches, where you can get Indonesian, Thai and Indian food, along with pizza and burgers (retro surf videos add to the vibe). For a range of fine-dining options, head to Ayana Resort and Spain Jimbaran: choose between their waterfront Kisik Bar and Grill, known for it's stuffed crab and lobster thermidor, Mexican rooftop restaurant Unique, traditional Balinese fare at Kampoeng Bali and many more.
Have baguettes on the beach at seaside café, Kelly's Warung on Bingin Beach. Take a table on the shaded terrace for a break from the midday sun and beautiful ocean views, and tuck into a toastie, wrap or more local fare; be sure to try one of their fresh smoothies and juices like the pitaya-packed purple haze or fruit-filled Bali love. A 30-minute drive away across the peninsula, Jimbaran Bay is famous for its beachfront seafood warungs, where freshly grilled fish, prawns, lobster and squid are served at tables on the sand at lunch or under the stars.
Founded by Bali’s first pro-surfer Made Kasim and Tai Graham, Single Fin is a waterfront hangout with an expansive terrace (apparently the biggest on the island) overlooking the surf. Grab something from the grill and an ice-cold Bintang beer at lunch before heading back to the waves, or enjoy a well-earned cocktail or two after a strenuous day in the surf. The terrace comes to life as the sun sets over the ocean with international DJs and live music performances.
Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. That is the only possible reaction to an arrival at Alila Villas Uluwatu. Although you could squeal like the Japanese lady.
It’s as if you’ve stepped onto another planet in another solar system in another time – not just one giant leap, but three. All at once. It’s like the Pond’s Institute has landed on a cliff in Bali. Beautiful young people waft about in white outfits spritzing face mist, smiling – always smiling – and moving without a sound. If it wasn’t so nice it might be just a little bit creepy.
All this has been observed from the lobby, which is, of course, to lobbies what Tiger Woods is to golf – and the ladies – a whole different league. The ‘lobby’ has the most perfect sight lines to the 50 metre infinity pool and the Indian Ocean beyond. It is one of the smartest pieces of architectural design you will ever see, simple as that.
Once you re-gather your senses, retrieve your jaw from the floor and stop mouthing profanities, you are escorted around the property by one of the beautiful quiet people. But when you walk into the oft-photographed ‘stick’ pavilion jutting out over the ocean, your breath is sucked away again. If first impressions count most, this has been quite the start. And we’re not even close to our room yet.
And so to our one-bedroom Pool Villa. Maybe the stats can give you a rough idea: a 300-square-metre footprint, larger than average plunge pool surrounded by decking and two enormous day-beds, indoor/outdoor shower, iPod dock, flatscreen TV, espresso machine… You get the picture. But until you are there it’s just a picture. In real life it is soooo much better.
The room is stunningly modern with lots of white (something of a recurring motif), dark timber and quite a few large mirrors – perhaps beautiful people like admiring themselves more than us fatties do. ‘Product’ abounds: product for him, just for her, for face, for hair, for shower, for mosquitoes, for after shaving, before sleeping and post sunbathing. And everything is just so beautiful. Begrudgingly I have to admit that the soap ‘especially for him’ knocks even the great Cussons Imperial Leather for a metaphorical six. Never have I smelled so sweet as I did for those two days.
More great design is evident in the shape and placement of the rooms to best catch the local zephyrs and reduce the need for air-con. Oh, yes, this place is green, the greenest ever built in Bali, and while not strictly a health resort there are daily yoga classes and lots of literature on ‘life journeys’ and ‘holistic wellbeing’ for your quiet contemplation. There is no alcohol in the minibar, but you have a butler at all times to answer your late-night whisky and Bintang calls. Thanks, Wayan. The overall mood is one of ‘young’ and ‘now’ and ‘of its time’. This is new-age luxury at its very best.
Mrs Smith and I settle in for the afternoon and find ourselves the only guests by the infinity pool. With villas as enticing as the ones on offer here, replete with pool and butler, I imagine more than a few guests never actually emerge into a public space after check-in. It’s their loss.
Our favourite encounter of the trip occurs when we inquire, quite sheepishly, if there might be a game of Scrabble we could borrow. The beautiful, smiling young man we ask looks thoroughly bemused and replies, verbatim: ‘We have Wii and Nintendo DS for your room if you like.’ We have arrived in the future. About four hours later the same white-clad, smiling, beautiful boy glides over as we leave dinner clutching the freshest, newest Scrabble box and claiming he ‘found it in another villa’. His exuberance and service standards are world class, although I suspect that someone was sent into Denpasar, the capital, to buy it. Which only makes us love the place even more.
On either side of the pool are the resort’s two restaurants. There’s the Warung, a casual, elegantly designed Indonesian, and Cire, the more upmarket international offering. For us, the hands-down choice was the Warung, where the food is fresh, local, indigenous and fantastic. For all its charms we think Cire might need to try a little less hard. The food is most certainly ambitious and the service is first rate, but, as the adage goes, sometimes less is more. If I want crazy French meets Indonesian cuisine adorned with every zeitgeisty ingredient under the sun, I have Sydney for that.
Alila is about a 15-minute drive from Uluwatu Temple, which is worth a visit at sunset for gorgeous dancers and thieving monkeys. Otherwise, there is not much nearby in the realm of Bali life as such. Seriously, though, you probably won’t think about leaving the grounds once you’re there. If you need something to do, you can always indulge at the rather special Spa Alila. The therapists are wonderful (and beautiful and quiet) and the products they use, as explained by Mrs Smith in language I would understand, are like the Macallan compared to your standard Johnnie Walker Red Label. Ergo, they are good.
The Alila group is still young and things might not be quite as polished as at, say, an Aman, but you just know they will get there sooner rather than later. Early evening drinks in the sunset cabana (ie, the stick pavilion) are almost fantastical – just expect the soundtrack to be more Ministry of Sound chill-out than Balinese bamboo xylophone.
And be prepared to be the least attractive person in the place. Unless you are beautiful, of course. Which you probably are, so you’ll feel right at home. In the best home you ever had.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Alila Villas Uluwatu’s Guestbook below.