A soul-soothing paradise, luxury hotel the Royal Purnama knows how to make the most of its totally tranquil location on the beach. Between dawn (sunrise yoga) and dusk (dinner at its acclaimed Indonesian restaurant), adventures take place overlooking the black sands and swirling waters of its quiet corner of south-east Bali. Rice paddies and tobacco plantations stretch as far as the eye can see, but the hotel’s interiors are equally entrancing, like its cool, tiled spa with dramatic doors and stone-surrounded pool.
Double rooms from £131.27 (IDR2,550,000), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast; fried-rice favourites nasi goreng, mie goreng and bubur ayam (the latter with chicken) make up the Indonesian offering, with a Continental selection of eggs Benedict, breakfast burritos and French toast.
Made Sujaya, otherwise known as Chef Jay, offers cooking classes for guests. Spend a surreal morning or afternoon learning how to create your favourite dishes from the menu (or Balinese classics) surrounded by standing stones, cooled by sea breezes and serenaded by the sound of the waves.
At the hotel
Spa, yoga classes, gym, public beach, valet parking, gym, library, boutique. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, kitchenette, air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
Colourful and traditional, the hotel’s rooms are modelled on modern Balinese bedrooms, with canopied four-poster beds, intricate carvings and sleek satin cushions in sunset shades of gold, warm orange and wine-red. Be tempted into the water in one of the Cempaka One-Bedroom Pool Villas; we also love the Jepun One-Bedroom Jacuzzi Suites for their ocean views. East Bali is renowned for its spectacular sunrises, and here you’ll have front-row seats for the solar action.
Fans of pool porn will have to surgically remove themselves from the pool – located next to the black-sand beach and surrounded by canopied day-beds, sunloungers and standing stones. Spend the day there and order a Bintang (or three) and a bowl of nasi goreng to where you’re sprawled. The beach may be a Balinese beauty but the current’s too strong for swimming – best to play it safe poolside.
Uplifting colour rather than minimalist neutrals adorn the spa. Decorated with traditional Balinese carvings and vibrant Ikat patterns, the two couples’ treatment rooms (complete with oversized soaking bath tubs) and aromatic steam room have views of the tobacco plantations and paddies for you to admire as you submit to a black-sand therapy (wallow in a beachfront sand bath, followed by a nourishing coconut soak and a Balinese massage).
Save room in your suitcase for Indonesian batik fabrics – look to the staff’s beautifully crafted uniforms for inspiration.
There is a compulsory 4-course dinner on 24 December 2017 ($50 a person) and a compulsory buffet gala dinner on 31 December ($80 a guest).
Over-12s welcome, but this is more of a grown-up getaway.
The hotel sources much of its produce locally, including fruits and vegetables from nearby markets or organic seasonal vegetables grown on-site. The hotel uses ecologically-sound bath products and transport is provided by electric buggies.
Slip outside and reserve a table under the stars for love-is-in-the-air suppers.
Throw on your most patterned sundress or better yet, pick up an Ikat sarong at the market.
Chef Jay presides over an intimate, lantern-strung dining room with sea views. Smiling local Servers waft between the relaxing wicker chairs in purple-and-white batik-print uniforms – as unfussy and unpretentious as the food, which includes truly trad local dishes like seafood nasi goreng and gulai kambing (lamb curry). Asian-fusion dishes and Continental classics like cheeseburgers and pasta offer variety on a lengthy menu. If you’re looking for a slap-up celebration meal then opt for the sumptuous set menu: four courses of plump lobster from nearby coastal villages, served various ways: poached tail, bisque, ravioli and Provençal-style, followed by a fruity strudel.
Breakfast is served between 6am and 11am; lunch from 11am until 5pm. Dinner is served from 5pm to 10pm with last orders at 9:30pm.
Jl. Pantai Purnama (Purnama Beach), Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia
In secluded Sukawati the hotel is tucked between the rice terraces of the south-east coast, but within an hour’s drive of the airport, Seminyak and capital Denpasar.
Ngurah Rai International Airport is just south of capital Denpasar and it’s around an hour’s drive from the hotel. Fly from Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Australia with Emirates (www.emirates.com), Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com) or Malaysian Airlines (www.malaysiaairlines.com). The hotel can organise transfers to and from the airport (US$35 each way).
Exploring the island is best done by car, though you might find hiring one with a chauffeur a less nerve-frazzling experience than contending with chaotic local driving. If you do choose to drive, the hotel has valet parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
During the day, the Royal Purnama has everything needed to keep you entertained: wake with the sunrise for a lesson in bending and breathing in an ocean-front yoga class; indulge in a skin-sloughing treatment in the Black Sand Spa to ensure your tan is tip-top; or cook up a fiery chicken curry under the expert tutelage of Chef Jay. Nearby, Sukawati Art Market is Bali’s best and longest-standing market for traditional handicraft. Day trips to Ubud and Nusa Dua can be easily arranged at the hotel.
Located on the crossroads leading to the beach in Sanur, café-bar hybrid Soul in a Bowlis an Antipodean-style outpost imitating Melbourne’s coffee and clean-eating culture. During the day, stop by for brunch, fruity smoothies and cakes; after dark, the café transforms into a social hub where you’ll find tapas and a candlelit cocktail lounge. Delicious, cheap and authentic Balinese street food can be found at Warung Nasi Bali Men Weti on Segara Beach, in Sanur. There’s no website, tables or queuing system, but it might well be the best breakfast you’ll try on the island.
Stop by Divineon a Friday afternoon, for one of their regionally themed wine tastings; complete with canapés and live acoustic music on the terrace. Follow the sound of Bowie, Depeche Mode and Black Keysare eminating fromNo Más in Ubud for a creative cocktail or two in a lively bar.
It was our last two days in Bali and we’d already been charmed by the warmth of its people (and its weather) when the friendliest porter I've ever encountered turns up, whisks us into an air-conditioned car, and sets off on an hour-long trip through rice fields to the black-sanded coast of east Bali. Mrs Smith (my friend I’ve recruited for the adventure) and I are smiling the entire time.
Our destination was the Royal Purnama – I'm not sure of the exact moment I fall in love with it but I know it happens quickly.
First we pull into a twisty lane lined with tropical ivy and drive up to an understated bungalow lobby for a personal welcome from the manager. Then we’re handed what I can only describe as a Balinese version of Pimm's and hop into a golf-cart and head down a sun-speckled lane where arbors are draped with orchids. We can’t see it yet, but we sense the sea nearby.
A colourful wood-carved door is our exit point; beyond it a tiny courtyard of stepping stones surrounded by water. Another carved wooden door at the other side opens into our villa where water, wood and plants blend beautifully.
Inside, we explore our modern kitchen, elegantly canopied bed and wide private-pool-spying daybed. It’s difficult to outshine a private pool, but then we find our bathroom. It’s just as large as the bedroom, with one side open to the air but shaded by leafy plants, his-and-hers sinks, a giant bathtub sunk into the centre of the room and tiny, fresh yellow flowers strategically strewn.
If hotels could talk, this would be the time it said: ‘You think that’s good? You just wait…’ Because then we wander down the cobbled drive and turn into a clearing, where a perfectly manicured green lawn, sprinkled with giant white bean bags and canopy beds leads down towards the dark black sands and lapping waves of the Indian Ocean. There’s an outdoor bar, too, where a group of guests are enjoying afternoon tea with beaming smiles on their faces. We knew we didn't want to leave.
That evening, we dine by candlelight on the patio outside Standing Stones Restaurant, sipping local white wines paired with fiery nasi goreng. The waiters recognise us from lunch and ask about our day. At the end of the evening, they tell us they'll see us in a few days... When we painfully admit we'll have moved on by then, they ask us about home and when we plan to come back. It feels like being part of a family.
Such friendliness extends to the spa, too, where we find ourselves lounging after a truly perfect massage (I’m not a massage person, but then I’d never had a traditional Balinese massage before), sipping tea and munching on cookies while we chat away with the soft-spoken staff. We float back to our room and sleep like babies.
We wake early to watch the kaleidoscopic East Coast sunrise; the locals walking along the rough surf pausing as the first rays hit the beach. In the distance, we spot the outline of Mount Agung: a massive volcano usually hidden behind the clouds. We don't talk much, but the scenery speaks a thousand words. Then we retire back to the beanbags and sun loungers for the day, armed with our books and our sunscreen, grateful that we don’t have to do much of anything at all. At least for one more day...