Perched atop a verdant cliff overlooking endless Indian Ocean, Ungasan Clifftop Resort is a cluster of secluded villas in one of Bali’s most spectacular settings – and Bali has pretty high standards. Each of the seven individually designed houses has its own beguiling pool as well as a unique architectural and interior charm, from the colonial grandeur of Villa Tamarama to the hand-carved Balinese timber at Villa Ambar. Facing the infinity edge of the main pool, the restaurant serves up Indonesian classics and kid-friendly favourites, and in a white-sand cove at the base of the cliff, Sundays Beach Club is the place for paddleboarding and kayaking by day, and a bonfire and barbecue at night.
Get this when you book through us:
A free 60-minute Balinese massage a room, each stay
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm, but flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from $366.00, excluding tax at 21 per cent.
Rates include breakfast at the Selatan Clifftop Restaurant.
In 2016, Villa Tamarama was named Bali’s best villa by the island’s lifestyle magazine, Yak.
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
Swimming pool, beach club, spa, gym, playground, tennis court, watersports equipment at Sundays Beach Club, laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: TV and DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities. Villas with three or more bedrooms also have a kitchenette with an oven, a microwave, a dishwasher and a coffee machine.
Our favourite rooms
For one-bedroom suites, the pick of the villas are Pawana and Nora; in the Ocean View Villas, the infinity edge of your plunge pool satisfyingly meets open the sea. For three or more bedrooms, go for the crisp white interiors of Villa Tamarama, which comes with its own 28-metre pool, full-service private bar and wedding-party-ready open-air pavilion.
The 28-metre turquoise-blue infinity pool stretches along the cliff edge, surrounded by fragrant tropical plants and delicately manicured lawns.
Book in for a top-to-toes health and beauty session at the Vela Spa; options range from a Balinese massage to a sandalwood body scrub, and all can be enjoyed either in the spa rooms or your own rooms.
Pack multiple swimming costumes – you’re not going to be wearing much else.
For guests who book three or more bedrooms, a private driver and in-villa butler service is provided. Unfortunately the resort is not accessible for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome; children (under-12s) can sleep in extra beds and baby cots, which can be added to all rooms free of charge.
Over-5s, especially ones who like to swim and swim and swim.
The handy interconnecting bedrooms at Villa Ambar set it apart for families with small children, while Villa Jamadara has a generous lawn for garden playtimes with a view.
The calm waters of the lagoon are a shallow and spectacular place to explore by kayak or paddleboard, and with a snorkel if/when they fall in. On dry land, there’s a playground to conquer and a flood-lit tennis court – ask the hotel to book a slot or a lesson, and check the schedule for other kids’ activities.
The private pools at the three-to-five bedroom villas have generous shallow ends and more than enough space for a friendly game of ‘Shark!’ The communal 28-metre infinity pool is one to slip into rather than splash into, unless there’s no one looking…
Both Selatan and Sundays have highchairs, children’s menus, baby changing facilities, and colouring books. Tip: you’re going to need the blue and green crayons.
The resort offers a free nanny service for up to four hours a day, with a limit of two children. After that, it’s approximately £15 an hour (IDR250,000). Be sure to book at least a day in advance.
No need to pack
The potty, or indeed crayons, paints, baby toiletries or a bath thermometer. There are toys aplenty for both outdoor play and in the bath. Beach bags and plug adaptors available on request.
No need for the Sunday best – flip flops and floaty maxi dresses fit right in, or loose linens for gents.
Selatan is a relaxed, all-day and all-evening kind of restaurant, with woven reed chairs spilling out onto the shaded poolside terrace. The menu has everything from lighter bites like halloumi sourdough toast, Balinese pizza and king-prawn linguini, to the signature coconut chicken curry.
At the base of the Ungasan cliff, Sundays Beach Club is as laid-back and lazy as thatch-roofed cocktail bars come, with beanbags strewn across the sand and an ocean-facing spa bale for soothing massage and reflexology treatments. Kayaks and paddleboards are the choice ways to explore the lagoon, and don’t forget your snorkel for a spot of reef-peeping. Beach bites vary from yellow-fin-tuna-filled rice-paper rolls to jimbaran seafood spaghettini, and each night as the sun dips in the sky, the beach-bonfire lights up; save some room for toasted marshmallows after dinner. Wear your sensible shoes – Sundays is accessed via a funicular elevator and quite a few stairs.
Selatan is open from 7am until 10pm, with breakfast served until 11am. Sundays opens at 9am and closes at 10pm.
In-villa dining is available at any hour of the day or night.
Ungasan Clifftop Resort looks out over the Indian Ocean from Bali’s southern-most coast, on the Bukit Peninsula. Bukit, which means ‘hill’ in Indonesian, is drier and rockier than the lush interior of Bali.
Ngurah Rai airport (www.baliairport.com) is served by major international carriers including Emirates, Qantas and Singapore Airways; from the UK and Europe most routes go via a hub in the Middle East or Singapore. It takes 45 minutes by car to get from the airport to the resort; free transfers are available on request.
Ungasan is not the kind of place you’ll want to leave in a hurry, but if you do want to explore the island you’ll need a car. There are car hire merchants at the airport and ample parking at the resort, but it’s less stress to book a private driver through the hotel (included free of charge with three- to five- bedroom villas).
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s nothing like an early-morning swim, but don’t let that stop you going for a late-morning, afternoon, or sunset one too; take your pick from your private pool, the main pool, or the largest pool of all – the Indian Ocean. Fill up at Selatan restaurant or Sundays Beach Club, then grab a kayak or paddleboard and work it all off… or grab a beanbag or massage table and don’t. Away from the resort, top of your Bukit list should be the 1,000-year-old Uluwatu Temple (Pecatu, South Kuta), perched on a cliff 70 metres above the ocean and packed with ancient architecture and a small army of monkeys; try to time your visit to see a traditional Kecak dance performance. For surfers and beach-bums, Padang Padang has the whole shebang: powdery white sand, sparkling blue water, and mighty waves rolling in from the horizon. Melasti Beach (Gang VIII No.8, Denpasar Utara) has soaring cliffs with especially spectacular views, and the tranquil beach itself is dotted with photogenic rock formations and is largely untrodden by tourists.
What the Bukit Peninsular lacks in dive bars and dance floors, it makes up for in damn fine dining and drinking in the most spectacular of settings. Sangkar, at the Bulgari Resort, holds true to local traditions with a menu of Balinese and Indonesian specialities flawlessly executed in a contemporary style. When they say ‘ultimate nasi goreng’, they mean it; it comes with wagyu beef and almost-still-wagging lobster tail. Cire is the pick of the cliff-top bunch at Alila Villas Uluwatu – next door to Ungasan Clifftop Resort – and you can choose to eat in a snug ocean-facing cabana if you’re that way inclined; bone-sucking-good short ribs and Bali’s own barramundi fish star on the menu of international gourmet comfort food. For diners that like lots of seating options, head to the tast-tapas restaurant, Cuca on the Jimbaran coast. Take your pick between the garden lounge lined with coconut trees, the intimate dining room, or the interactive food bar overlooking the kitchens for dinner and a show…
Call into the Cashew Tree in Bingin for a bento box or one of their brightly-coloured smoothies, packed full of fresh fruit and veg: stay longer on Thursdays for their weekly live music concerts.
Ju-Ma-Na Bar, part of the Banyan Tree Hotel, has a sophisticated, Arabia-flavoured terrace overlooking the ocean; settle in with cocktails and apéritifs in time for sunset. Whether you like them shaken or stirred, the martinis at the Martini Bar at Ayana Resort won't disappoint. Nor will the view, the bar overlooks the hotel's garden and the Indian Ocean in the distance.
We landed in Bali as honeymooners – straight off the back of our wedding and 24 hours of travel. To say we weren’t feeling daisy fresh is an understatement. It meant we were relieved to bypass the clubs and bars of Kuta and Seminyak, instead heading towards the village of Ungasan near the southern tip of the island. This area of Bali is known as the ‘Bukit’, and we soon discovered (warning: dad joke imminent) why it deserves a place on everyone’s list.
Nestling close to the edge of a limestone rock jutting out over the ocean, Ungasan Clifftop Resort calls to mind Tracey Island or a Bond villain’s lair. Instead of identikit hotel rooms, the Ungasan is a series of seven individually-designed villas, which means you have a whole luxurious home in which to stretch out.
On arrival, our butler (all villas are attended by your own personal Jeeves) threw open the carved wooden double doors to reveal multiple levels of fountains, decking and a long, curving infinity pool jutting out over the crashing ocean. It’s exactly the kind of pinch-me moment you hope for when you check into a hotel, and it was swiftly and shamelessly followed by me whipping my phone out and Instagramming it from every angle (much to Mr Smith’s dismay).
We were in Chintamani, one of the largest shared villas; large enough to sleep ten. It almost felt like a resort within a resort, with its lounge area and a bar, countless day-beds and that statement-making pool. If you were staying here with friends or family in tow you could imagine how fun it would be to have the run of the place. But even if you’re a deux, as we were, each room has its own private plunge pool, and we barely crossed paths with our fellow villa-mates. Well, that was until a troop of monkeys showed up to stake a claim on our day-bed.
The spacious bedroom felt very modern, with billowing white drapes and a stone-and-black colour scheme, but plenty of cushions and touches like rattan lampshades and stone frescoes lent it some local character. The bathroom gave the bedroom a run for its money in the size stakes, and featured a tub you could get lost in, lots of polished concrete, orchids and – the key to any happy relationship – two huge sinks on opposite sides of the room. We were still wandering around in jet-lagged awe when our butler rang the bell to ask if we would like an ‘afternoon temptation’, which Mr Smith took as code for something naughty, but in fact is actually tea, home-made hummus and delicious pink macarons, served on our terrace. Be careful not to leave crumbs – we foolishly left the remnants out only to discover more monkeys helping themselves to an al fresco feast. Who knew macaques were partial to macarons?
It would be easy not to leave your villa for your entire stay. But we moseyed over to the resort proper to take the funicular down to the beach. If there’s a more entertaining way to travel than a funicular I’d like to hear about it (dad joke #2: the clue’s in the name). The hotel’s Sundays Beach Club is a destination in its own right, meaning the exclusivity of the villas doesn’t extend to Ungasan’s main pool and beach area. Brace yourself for splashing families and selfie-ing squads of twenty-somethings. But who can blame them when Sundays has a white-ish sand beach (not a given in Bali), comfy loungers by day and beanbags around a bonfire at night.
The beachside restaurant at Sundays has a seriously on-trend menu featuring poke bowls, activated grain salads and a juice bar. But why would you go green when there’s the kind of cocktail list which would make any London barman weep into his Angostura bitters? I order a Rosemary Gimlet (gin, kaffir lime and rosemary syrup) and Mr Smith opts for a Sun Burn (gin, campari, triple sec and burnt orange, if you must know) and we lie back and watch the paddleboarders. They probably had an activated grain salad, I think as I head up to the small and homely Vela Spa where they serve me a tiny glass of chilled hibiscus tea and then knead my aching bones with a rhythmic Balinese massage.
If you wanted to hit up the beach parties, bars and clubs that Bali is famous for, then you’re only a 40-minute taxi ride away. However, we were feeling so lazy that we barely managed to stagger down to the resort’s restaurant: Selatan. Our fellow guests were apparently feeling similarly soporific, having opted to dine in their villas or down at the beach – we were the only guests there. This made it slightly lacking in vibe despite the candles flickering in the sea breeze. But tuna sashimi and a garlicky spaghetti vongole, beautifully presented in glazed ceramic tableware, more than made up for it.
The next morning (disclaimer: I actually mean afternoon, because breakfast is served on the beach until 12.30pm), over poached eggs and sourdough, we discussed our plans for the day. There’s a lot to see around these parts: an ancient Hindu temple and world-famous surfing breaks, but we couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away from our own blissfully private infinity pool. After all, it’d be time for ‘afternoon temptation’ in a few hours.
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