From the top of the hill, you can sprawl in a traditional Balinese bale, admiring views of the Lombok Strait; from the bottom, you can sun yourself on the sand. Halfway up, you'll find the walkway-linked villas of Amankila, each one equipped with terraces for sun-soaking and day-beds built for losing days on.
Noon, although later can be arranged if the room is available. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £681.51 ($883), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast for two, plus airport transfers.
Amankila operates an assortment of excursions and activity packages – our favourite is the reef-friendly snorkelling trip on Aman XII, a 50-foot Balinese fishing craft.
No check-ins or check-outs are allowed on 25 March, 2020, when Bali observes Nyepi Day (Day of Silence). Bali’s airport also closes for the day.
At the hotel
Spa, library, DVD/CD selection, free WiFi throughout, Balinese art gallery, boutique store. In rooms: sound system with iPod dock, minibar. TVs and DVD players can be provided on request.
Our favourite rooms
If you don’t plump for the panoramically endowed Kilasari Suite, Ocean Suites 6, 7, 11, 19, 36 and 37 offer the most eye-pleasing visuals. All the suites are freestanding beach house-style huts, with alang alang thatched roofs and terraces furnished with coconut-shell tables and rattan chairs. If you want lashings of space (or you've got tots in tow, opt for the Indrakila Suite).
As well as the enormous lap pool by the Beach Club coconut groves, Amankila’s signature three-tier infinity pools step down from reception towards the shore like rice paddy fields. They’re lined with loungers and thatched <i>balé</i> pavilions.
You’ll be doing a lot of poolside lounging, so make sure you’ve got a tome or two to regale yourself with. Some sturdy sandals will get you to the beach and back.
Amankila likes to keep it real by sponsoring a local village, Jati Tuhu.
Amankila’s well suited to young ones and welcomes under-12s for free. Older children can stay for $100 a night. Babysitting can be pre-booked for around $10 an hour.
For that sky-painted-with-stars, sunset-over-the-ocean romance factor, arrange to dine privately beside the pool or down on the beach.
Slinky halter-neck dresses for Mrs Smith; crisp, pressed linens for her squire.
Just above the topmost swimming pool, Amankila’s restaurant blends local and Western culinary nous to produce a zingy, healthy menu with some excellent veggie options. You can eat on the terrace by the pool, or enjoy light lunches in the Beach Club.
The open-air island bar beside the restaurant is capped with a thatched wooden roof and furnished in bamboo. Three nights a week, you can watch traditional Balinese dancing by the pool. On other nights, there’s the lilt of live rindik music.
The restaurant shuts at 11pm, but the bar keeps the ice cubes a-plopping until there’s no one left to enjoy them.
A selection of enticing Indonesian and Western dishes can be brought to your suite 24 hours a day.
From the international airport in Denpasar, the drive to Amankila should take an hour. Flights from the US tend to stopover in Singapore or Hong Kong. The airport is served by carriers including Garuda, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar and JAL. If you need one, visas can be bought on arrival, so have cash with you if necessary. Hotel transfers are free.
Denpasar is 130km away; Kuta is 120km away.
Speedy helicopter transfers between the airport and the hotel can be organised (US$2,125 from Ngurah Rai Airport; US$1,625 from Benoa Port).
Worth getting out of bed for
Ask the hotel for a picnic hamper and go and have a private picnic on the hillside (private dinners on the beach can also be arranged at the drop of a beach hat). Staff will take you out on treks or cruises, or lend you snorkelling gear so you can familiarise yourself with the local sea life. Take a trip to Tenganan, Bali's oldest traditional village, where you can listen to amazing Gamelan music and admire ornate double ikat fabrics. Your eyes will widen at Tirta Gangga, a former royal palace decorated with lush gardens, tiered fountains and stone sculptures of creatures, whose mouths spout water.
The Smith-approved Alila Manggis hotel has a seductive restaurant called Seasalt, set in a traditional Balinese pavilion over a lotus pond. Expect gorgeous Modern Asian cuisine, presented with flair. Mozaic(+62 (0)361 975 768) has garnered a loyal following – it's arguably Bali's most famous restaurant, thanks to its elaborate degustation menus (and prices to match) and romantic garden setting. It's in Ubud, an hour and 15 minutes away by car, but we reckon it's more than worth the journey. Ku De Ta in Seminyak (90 minutes by car) is also something of a crowd-pleaser, thanks to its prime beachside location, expert DJs, potent cocktails, zingy dishes and well-dressed clientele (+62 (0)361 736 969).
Some hotels get quite the reputation. Celebrities flock, the rich return and the rest of us aspire to grace the hallowed grounds while attempting not to ogle someone famous stretched on the sunlounger next to us. Such is Amankila on Bali’s thankfully less-developed east coast. One incredibly well-travelled friend – a boutique connoisseur with a form of hotel ADD – names it his favourite holiday destination in the world and, trust me, he’s seen a few (thousand). Posh and Becks don’t seem to have checked into Amankila just before us, but fear not: your intrepid reviewers are ready to report back nevertheless. Armed with a healthy dose of ‘it can’t be that good’, we accept our brief to find out what all the fuss is about.
Amankila’s greeting is understated. We enter the hotel compound from above, the ubiquitous Balinese jungle gradually giving way to tamer, more manicured frangipani and tuberoses and, finally, the genteel reception area. I recognise a slight ‘I told you so’ brow lift from Mr Smith, but it’s soon replaced by an embarrassing ‘oh my god, are those three cascading infinity pools?’ jaw-drop as we begin the show and tell en route to our villa. Yes, those are indeed three swimming pools terracing the cliff. They’re lined with sexy grey volcanic slate, surrounded by expansive thatched bales and overlook the deep blue sea of Lombok Strait. I pick out one for cocktails later. Meh, I guess it’s alright.
The villas are another revelation we try hard not to get overexcited about. Perched high above the undergrowth on concrete stilts and accessed via a series of elevated walkways (does Bali have earthquakes?), they manage to deliver absolute privacy and ocean views. Ours is on the resort’s westernmost boundary and its generous entrance terrace, complete with enticing day-bed and casual desk, faces the sea. Inside, a suite the size of our city pied à terre is all beige tones, marble floors, woven roof coverings and his-and-his gold bathroom fittings. OK, it’ll do.
As it happens, we choose neither to lounge in our new home nor live it up poolside. Instead, we venture to the private beach, a five-minute walk down the hill. Here, we see double: another 40-metre pool, serviced by its own café, sits among sleek lawns and a sparse coconut palm grove. We resist again and finally make it intact to the sandy shore, where more bales and plumply cushioned sunloungers provide hassle-free reading spots. Glasses of tangy ginger beer appear as if by magic, and we settle in for an afternoon of reading, snoozing, wandering and swimming. OK, I admit it, we’re finally hooked.
Dinner that night does nothing to undermine the effect. Our sundowner G&Ts are superbly mixed and chilled. A generous menu of Asian and European favourites seems flawlessly executed – an East Balinese fish curry is wonderfully sweet and sour, and the satay sauce a revelation of perfect peanuttiness. A gamelan plinks away in the background.
It is hard not to sleep the sleep of two overgrown babies that night with the distant crashing of waves acting as a lullaby. In some ways, this might be considered the sum total of Amankila’s charms – pool, beach, villa, restaurant, plus the occasional spa treatment and daily tea ritual – but it’s a strangely large total in this particular execution of that time-honoured combination. It is hard to put a finger on what makes Amankila so incredibly special. Partly, it is to do with scale. We discover later that the resort’s land footprint at 34 suites is, in fact, the same as a recently developed luxury hotel in Jimbaran – at more than 800 rooms! It’s easy to lose the crowds here. Hell, it’s easy to lose yourself. Service also plays a big part – it’s attentive, constant, understated, genuinely proud and never servile. And seclusion is clearly one of its key attributes for camera-shy celebs, since only the most determined paparazzi could get anywhere near close enough for a shot.
But somehow the sum of these elements is far greater than its parts – a multiplication factor in many ways caused by its location on one of the world’s great island getaways. This is Bali, remember; volcanic Mount Agung towers above the coastline like something out of a geography book and everywhere – even in the resort – little elephant gods wear their black and white scarves in incense-filled shrines.
Our Amankila stay happens at the end of an extended island break, so we have the perfect excuse to make like complete sloths and not take up any of the hotel’s many ‘off campus’ activities. It gives these heavy-lidded Smiths even more time to road-test (read: nap beside) all the beach and pool hotspots and come up with a considered opinion on Amankila’s many charms. The verdict? Our spoiled friend with the short attention span is right. This could well be our favourite holiday ever.
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 Amankila’s Guestbook below.
The surroundings, gorgeous rooms, amazing pools and beach. The lower pool is breathtaking and you'll find you often have it all to yourself thanks to the space available and the low guest numbers. This is a real foodie's paradise – breakfast would be very hard to beat and lunch and dinner are outstanding. The service is excellent too.
Nightlife – there wasn't a soul around after 10pm! No one seemed to head to the bar to drink after dinner. Honestly, it adds to the relaxation. Get an early night and wake up for the sunrise.