Indonesian entrepreneur Jenny Tan has gone back to her roots with Lelewatu Resort Sumba, a cliff-hugging hideaway inspired by traditional local architecture. Thoroughly modern comforts – ocean-view balconies, indoor-outdoor bathrooms and sleek private plunge pools – shelter beneath its villas’ thatched peaked roofs. The call of the spa may be strong, but it’s worth tearing yourself away: blessed with white-sand beaches, turquoise waterfalls and saltwater lakes, Sumba’s unspoilt wilderness is just waiting to be explored.
Double rooms from $458.00 (IDR6,390,000), excluding tax at 21 per cent.
Rates are full board, including a hearty breakfast – with dishes such as nasi goreng, fresh waffles or Bircher muesli – lunch and dinner (excluding alcoholic drinks), as well as a free minibar and afternoon drinks.
It’s worth ambling down to Lelewatu’s lagoon. The rocky coastline may be too rough for a swim, but the private deck comes with soul-stirring views of the Indian Ocean.
At the hotel
Private beach deck, yoga classes, bikes to hire. In rooms: free WiFi, flatscreen TV, air-conditioning, free minibar, tea and coffee.
Our favourite rooms
Wake up to sweeping views of the Indian Ocean from the comfort of a glorious bed draped in airy nets and handwoven ikat textiles. Built under traditional Sumbanese thatched roofs, Lelewatu’s villas make the most of their tropical setting with indoor-outdoor living spaces open to the sea breeze. They’re all lovely, with strategically positioned day-beds, sea-view plunge pools and outdoor showers, but the One-Bedroom Royal Honeymoon Villa is particularly seductive thanks to its sprawling balcony and private massage area.
Fringed by loungers big enough for two, the resort’s infinity pool is slim, sleek and perfectly poised for ocean views. Or retire to your villa: each has its own freshwater plunge pool.
The pampering Maraga Spa has three rooms, including one for couples. Organic oils and unguents from Bali are used in soothing treatments, supplemented by local ginger, cloves or cinnamon. Opt for the spa sampler, a head-to-toe session combining a tension-busting traditional Sumbanese massage with a scalp-revitalising avocado hair mask.
If you’re planning on making the most of Sumba’s triumphant wilderness, bring sturdy shoes, plenty of bug spray and a waterproof pouch for your snap-taking gear.
Lelewatu has a free daily laundry service.
Welcome, but the cliff-perched villas may not be suited to tiny tots. The restaurant has high chairs and will heat milk or baby food. Extra beds can be added to Uma Humba, Uma Mandoku and the two- and four-bedroom villas. Book babysitting one week ahead.
With their larger pools and ensuite bathrooms, Lelewatu’s two- and four-bedroom villas are perfect for families. Larger broods should opt for the rustic Uma Humba or Uma Mandoku, kitted out with eight single beds in airy communal living spaces.
There’s no shortage of activities around the resort. Little Smiths can play ball with the villagers, get crafty with jewellery workshops or book a horse-riding session in traditional Sumbanese costume. The resort encourages cultural exchange, too, thanks to field trips in the nearby rice paddies and school visits in the local communities.
Keep an eye on little ones – neither the communal pool nor the villas’ plunge pools have safety railings.
Even the fussiest of eaters will find something in the crowd-pleasing menu of pizzas, pastas and tempting desserts. The restaurant has highchairs and will happily heat milk or baby food for tiny tots.
Book local babysitters one week ahead (IDR250,000 an hour, two hours minimum).
No need to pack
Should the odd rainy day strike, ask staff for art materials and board games.
Older children can borrow bikes to explore the resort’s winding pathways.
Lelewatu minimises its impact on unspoilt Sumba island by recycling waste and grey water, using eco-friendly cleaning products and making the most of locally grown produce in the kitchen.
Grab a perch at the bar for canapé, followed by the best sea view you can wrangle.
Pick up an ikat sarong at the local market to drape around your shoulders, should the gentle breath of sea wind get a little too brisk.
From its high perch at the top of the resort, Le Humba commands impressive views over the island. Dressed with hanging textiles, chicken-cage lights and carved wooden pillars, poolside Bokosawu is more laid-back. Chef Reno Sabardi is at the helm in both restaurants, rustling up tantalising Sumbanese specialties such as broiled cuttlefish with banana flower alongside steaks, pizzas, pastas and whatever bounty from the sea has been caught that day.
Bokosawu’s sand-floored bar is a relaxed poolside hangout. Cocktails have a tropical vibe: order a classic lychee martini, or something fresh and zingy laced with ginger and lemongrass.
Breakfast is served at Bokosawu 7am–11am; lunch at both restaurants is noon–6pm; dinner is 6pm–8pm. Drinks are poured at the bar until 10pm.
If you’d rather hide away in your villa, the restaurant’s full menu can be served there.
Flanked by a savannah and luxuriant rainforest, secluded Lelewatu is set on a picturesque stretch of western Sumba’s wild coastline.
Flights from Bali touch down at Tambolaka airport, a 90-minute drive away. The resort can arrange return private airport transfers (IDR2,600,000 for up to four people).
The island’s unpredictable roads mean driving is best left to the professionals.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you can tear yourself away from the spectacle of waves crashing against the untamed coastline, Lelewatu calls for sedate pursuits. Spend an hour or two surrendering to the ministrations of a spa therapist, lounge on a day-bed on the private beach’s deck, quell hunger pangs with afternoon tea at Le Humba, or just rustle up something head-turning from your free minibar and watch the sun’s setting antics from your private balcony.
It pays to venture out, though: Sumba’s unblemished, otherworldly wilderness begs to be explored. The western corner of the island is packed with postcard-worthy spots. Make a beeline for Lake Weekuri, a clifftop saltwater expanse housing coral gardens teeming with colourful fish. For a taste of Sumbanese culture, amble around the traditional village of Ratenggaro, set steps from an idyllic white-sand beach. The Lapopu waterfalls are strikingly photogenic, and well worth the short jungle trek; the hotel can also organise a bike ride there, should you have excess energy to burn. Staff are also at hand for excursions to nearby villages, paddy-field picnics, ikat weaving demos and horse treks – and they’ll bring along a thirst-quenching coconut or two for the ride, naturally.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this tranquil hotel in Sumba and unpacked their trekking shoes and ikat sarongs, a full account of their luxury island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Lelewatu Resort Sumba in Indonesia…
Just an hour’s flight east of Bali, Sumba is a jewel in Indonesia’s archipelago – a striking landscape of verdant rainforest, castaway beaches and tranquil paddy fields. The island may be off the beaten path, but you needn’t sacrifice your creature comforts to sample these natural wonders. Clinging to a cliff in western Sumba, Lelewatu’s villas take inspiration from local traditional houses’ thatched roofs and handwoven ikat fabrics, but with an artful helping of modern indulgences. Watch rambunctious waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean from a day-bed-strewn balcony, soak a while in your elegant plunge pool, or saunter down to the spa for a restorative massage using native herbs and spices. This laid-back spot has digital detox writ large all over it, so strap on those trekking shoes and get wandering. From crystalline waterfalls to paradisiacal beaches, fascinating villages to surfing hotspots, this is one of the last great wildernesses to explore.
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