On the wild, less visited shores of south-west Bali, a new level of luxury has arrived with Soori Bali. Architecturally accomplished and sublimely minimalist villas – ranging in size from one to 10 bedrooms – each have their own pool and courtyard overlooking the cerulean Indian Ocean. The natural setting between verdant rice paddies and shimmering volcanic-sand beach has been enhanced by lush gardens and reflective ponds. Add a slick spa, decadent dining options and service from personal hosts and you're in pamper paradise.
Get this when you book through us:
A 45-minute Balinese massage for each guest; stays of two nights or more will also get free airport transfers
Officially noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £718.95 ($908), including tax at 21 per cent.
À la carte breakfast is included.
The classic Balinese Massage is hard to beat, or splash out on the luxurious Journey to You, a full day’s pampering from yoga at sunrise to massage under the stars. Junior Smiths, there's a kids' treatment menu too.
At the hotel
WiFi throughout, library, spa, gym, bicycles, gift shop. In rooms: personal host service, flatscreen TV, preloaded Apple TV, iPod dock, luxury bath products, minibar, espresso machine.
Our favourite rooms
All the sublime minimalist pads enjoy ocean views, but book into a second-storey Ocean Pool Villa for a blue bonus: a sea-view bath tub. Villas 202 to 206 are best positioned to maximise the postcard-perfect panorama.
At the resort’s heart lies a sleek 25m infinity pool with four submerged day-beds at the shallow end.
Soori Spa sits on the edge of the black-sand beach and offers a range of beauty, massage and wellness treatments; choose from classic massage therapies, acupuncture, neuropathy and meditation sessions. Indulge in a knot-untangling Thai massage in one of the five stone and terracotta treatments rooms, then relax in the mediation pool and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and views of Mount Batukaru.
Women will need to cover their shoulders at nearby temples, otherwise Odabash bikinis and floaty Heidi Klein numbers should do the trick. Bring closed shoes, or your own hard hat, if you're planning on horse-riding.
Younger guests are welcome in these divine natural surroundings. Baby cots and extra sofa beds are free for children up to 12 years old (breakfast is half the adult price). Babysitting costs about US$16 an hour.
Younger guests are welcome in these divine natural surroundings. Baby cots are free, and although extra beds can’t be added to rooms, the villa’s sofa can be made up for children up to 12 years old to sleep on. Babysitting costs about US$16 an hour.
Children of all ages.
The three-bedroom villas work best for families. If you like to play and stay with friends who have kids, the resort also has a five- and 10-bedroom villa. For smaller groups, some of the One-bedroom Beach Pool Villas have adjoining second bedrooms.
All ages can participate in Balinese dancing lessons to get into the local groove. Horseback riding is on offer for older children as well. Many of the customised Soori programmes, focussed on cultural activities, are suitable for youngsters, but the Leisure Concierge and personal butlers are the best sources of advice for this type of family planning. Little Smiths can learn all about chocolate, make and fly a traditional Balinese kite, craft terracotta trinkets at Pejaten village, go on a guided butterfly walk through the tropical surroundings, or bake and decorate cookies with Soori’s pastry chef.
Let them frolic in the private pool in your villa or head to the beachside infinity pool where there’s a shallow end.
Whenever the restaurants are open, kids are welcome and can select from a special menu. Staff members from the kitchen are happy to warm up milk or baby food upon request.
Available for around US$16 an hour, with two hours’ notice.
No need to pack
Baby cots are free, but book them in advance.
The resort doesn’t add extra beds to rooms, but can make up the villa’s sofa as a single child's bed for kids under 12 years old (ideal if you're staying in a one-bedroom villa). Rooms in the villas open directly to the pools, so toddlers will need close supervision.
Green innovations include aligning buildings to encourage natural light but minimise heat gain, natural cooling through fresh air circulation, and planting indigenous vegetation. The hotel supports eco work in the community, too.
Come well before sunset to snag one of the two beachfront tables at Coast; dine under the stars at Ombak. A table can also be set by the pool at your villa for a romantic, private affair.
Skip the stilettos in favour of Havaianas topped with cool kaftans or a simple sarong over swimwear. There is no sign of LV or the like on this beach; instead it’s all about effortless chic.
Begin each day with an adventurous, tasting-style breakfast (and a carefully considered range of teas and coffee) at casual, open-air Coast. For lunch and dinner, the talented chef rustles up a range of authentic Indonesian dishes, cooked with precision. Ombak is a little more fancy, designed with romantic dinners in mind. Start with sunset cocktails and nibbles from the special snack menu, then explore the European-influenced tasting menu, matched with wine and cocktails.
More lounge than bar, the informal Drift resembles the living room in the beach house of one’s most enviable friends – slip-covered couches and comfy chairs on a weathered wood floor, plenty of sunlight and the added bonus of air-conditioning inside make it the ideal spot to escape the sun. Sit back and plan the following day with an iced tea in hand, although you could always opt for the Long Island version or the Haven II, a warm vanilla-bourbon tea infused with Cognac, fennel seed, cardamom and honey. The latest style bibles are piled high for guests’ delectation while sipping on freshly pressed juices.
The official witching hour is 11pm, but night owls have nothing to fear; Soori’s service-minded staff will feed hungry guests at any hour.
Prefer not to leave your pleasure palace? Room service – from the restaurant menus or specially requested comfort food, like pasta and burgers – can be delivered 24/7.
Soori Bali is on the island's central west coast in the Tabanan Regency, one of the island’s most fertile regions. It's just 20 minutes north of the famous and sacred Tanah Lot temple, and 45 minutes' drive from buzzy, bar-strewn Seminyak and Kuta.
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.
Soori Bali is about an hour’s drive north west of the airport and the hotel will organise complimentary transfers for most packages (otherwise the cost is US$50 each way). You can rent a car at the airport but the traffic is hectic and the roads aren’t always of top quality (particularly away from the built-up areas). Fortunately, you can hire well-maintained cars with excellent drivers for as little as US$30 per 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.
Ask the hotel about helicopter transfers from the airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
After lazing by the beach or pool, active types call on the Leisure Concierge, who can organise trips throughout the Tabanan region, exploring its thrills, spills and culture, including visits to food markets, crafts workshops and temples.
Bali boasts innumerable holy spots and other shrines but none has a more dramatic presence than Tanah Lot, the 16th-century Hindu sanctuary built on a rocky outcrop and known as the Temple of the Earth in the Sea. Located about 20 minutes south of Soori Bali, this is only the most famous of the resort’s spiritual neighbours worth visiting on the temple tour that culminates at the hilltop Timan Agung temple with Champagne and canapés at sunset.
Have the resort arrange a one-of-a-kind Soori Journey customised to you; journey through the rice paddies, explore the Kerambitan and Tabanan areas, take a half-day cookery course with the chef and spend a day learning about bean to brew at a cocoa plantation. Coffee drinkers will especially appreciate one of the other special Soori experiences, the Munuk excursion, to see how Bali’s famous Kopi Luwak is produced and then taste the aromatic brew. Also on offer from the resort’s uniquely in-depth Journeys programme are explorations into the ancient rice terraces, the opportunity to learn Balinese dance, riding along the beach on one of the horses from the nearby royal stable, and the chance to spend the day with famed Balinese artisans.
Take a day trip to the nearest temples to Soori Bali – Pura Penarukan, discover the sites in the heart of the Tabanan Regency, or spend a day trekking and cycling through the neighbouring village of Baturiti, lush tropical plantations, and Unesco heritage sites. Picnic lunches can be arranged, as can experiences specifically suited to families and little Smiths. Tee times can be arranged for you at Nirwana Bali Golf Club, as can helicopter tours over Bali’s volcanoes, rice paddies and temples. There’s also a criss-cross of pathways ready for exploring by cycle or foot (pick up a map at reception first), ATVs to ride on the beach, and vibrant underwater worlds to explore snorkelling or scuba diving.
Head to Warung Subak Pekendungan for a memorable Balinese meal quite unlike any other. This traditional restaurant is made up of connecting wooden gazebos, floating over a giant gold-fish pond. There’s also a an indoor section for those that prefer to keep their feet on dry land. Slightly further away, the Lawn on Canggu beach serves up tasty tipples and scrumptious sharing platters all day long. Take their signature Lawn Board on the lawn in the day, then move the party inside with a pitcher of Rosé sangria and one of their pizzettas or a fillet steak from the grill.
The friendly staff at Café Selancar are always happy to meet a new face. About 30-minutes south of the hotel, this easy-going eatery serves simple but tasty food from all over the world; the menu includes burgers and chips, full English breakfasts, nasi goreng and calamari with huge, colourful salads – a real mixed dish of cuisines.
With Batu Bolong in the background, Old Man'sis a colourful hangout day or night. After hours of catching waves, take a bean-bag and refuel on one of their meaty burgers, or carb load for the next splash in the surf with a generous portion of pasta or fish and chips. By night, the brightly-coloured cabana becomes a buzzing bar and club with live DJ sets and parties that last till the small hours of the morning. For something more up scale, though slightly further away, head to the sunbed-dotted lawns, infinity pool and bars of Potato Head Beach Club.
The rice paddies and temples appear to have been engulfed by shopping malls lined with Givenchy and Bulgari boutiques in the 20 years since Mr Smith and I last visited Bali. Somehow, though, the island has retained its distinctive charm. Everything still appears to have that same human scale – the malls remain modest, the temples diminutive and the roads more like alleys.
Not that we notice any of this at first. The journey from Ngurah Rai Airport to Soori Bali on the island’s isolated west coast is an impressive indicator of the two days to come. After being met by a car organised by the hotel, the attention to detail en route is deliciously distracting: ginger-scented face flannels, exquisite snacks, cool bottled water and an aloe vera, ylang-ylang and lavender face spray. The driver even offers to phone ahead to ensure a meal is waiting in our villa when we arrive.
After another fragrant flannel (in case we managed to work up a sweat between opening the car door and stepping out, perhaps), we are shown around the resort by the charming manager. Our first response is that this is one of the most beautiful hotels we have ever experienced. The combination of spectacular scenery – the villas overlook a turbulent ocean whose waves crash onto an iridescent black-sand beach – and the effortless elegance of the architecture make the hotel an aesthetic delight.
Once we’re alone in our Ocean Pool Villa, Mr Smith and I eye each other before whooping like children. This is, without question, the most glamorous place we have ever stayed. Our bedroom opens into a living space that opens onto a private pagoda with day-beds overlooking the sea. Each villa has its own swimming pool, indoor and outdoor showers, and his-and-hers toiletries (they are discreetly changed over to his-and-his versions during the afternoon).
For the first half-hour Mr Smith and I are quite literally paralysed by luxury, unable to decide whether to use the day-beds in the lounge or the pagoda, or if, in fact, we should take a dip in the ocean, the 50-metre infinity pool or our own private one. Finally, we settle for soaking in the perfectly proportioned double bath, complete with ergonomic stone head rests. Considering these Mr Smiths are from drought-ravaged Melbourne and normally shower with buckets at their feet (to recycle the water to the garden) this is incredibly exciting.
For the next two days, we revel in the property. There’s the complimentary afternoon tea to enjoy, accompanied by gamelan players, and we end up dining at all three of Soori’s eateries. The first night is casual beachside Coast where I devour a gorgeous grilled snapper with Balinese spices, backdropped by waves glimmering under spotlights and a horizon illuminated by a lightning storm.
The next day we visit the main dining area, Cotta, where I have ayam taliwang (barbecued chicken with red spice) and Mr Smith has rigatoni with portobello mushrooms and truffled ricotta – a seamless curation of cuisines from East and West. Finally, we test informal Drift, where you can order café-style food among books and sofas by day, and enjoy fine-dining at night. In principle this is a great idea, but in practice eating a meal in the severe white room filled with hard-edged furniture was as cosy as chowing down at an Ikea showroom. The food is, as usual, terrific: lobster and mushroom quesadilla, smoked chicken pizza and chargrilled vegetables. All of this is then followed with a delicious green tea martini. Need I say more?
Perhaps it sounds like we are preoccupied with food, but between meals we do book in for massages in the tranquil, temple-like spa beneath the central reflection pool. Greeted with a cool lemon and honey drink, I relax with a reflexology massage, while Mr Smith has a more traditional Balinese massage. Both are heavenly and transport us into complete relaxation mode. Lying in bed at night watching CNN (one of our few criticisms is the lack of bedside reading lights – although we’ve heard they’ve since been installed), we feel a million miles away from the world. In our designer retreat, surrounded by black volcanic rock walls and driftwood sculptures, we feel completely cocooned.
Rested beyond our wildest dreams, we venture out of the hotel grounds on our final morning. The resort’s leisure concierges can organise all types of sightseeing opportunities (they call them ‘journeys’) and we opt, perhaps unsurprisingly, for the gourmet variety. Soori’s sous chef, Made Suriana, acts as our guide to the real Bali. Made, a man of great dignity and knowledge, gives us a crash course in the island’s culinary culture, taking us to markets and showing us deep-fried elvers (baby eels) caught in the local rice paddies. He explains that the small village eggs are the most expensive because they are the equivalent of what we know as free-range. Made also points out the many offerings – woven baskets filled with flowers and food – for sale. One of the cultural shifts in the past two decades is that women, traditionally responsible for creating these gifts to the gods, have now entered the workforce so don’t have time to make their own.
Afterwards, guide becomes chef once again and Made prepares an extraordinary meal while demonstrating the basics of Balinese cooking. As we’re eating, I think of the local people in the markets and how impoverished their lives are by our standards. Still, they devote so many of their scarce resources to their beliefs, making offerings of gratitude for what they do have. It occurs to me how little appreciation Westerners have for their blessings, and that there is much for us to learn in this small, beautiful island of smiling strangers.