If you’re planning a trip to Bali, Indonesia, or just fantasizing about one, you’ll drool over some of the accommodations on the island. Bali has some of the most stunning hotels in the world (literally, you will be stunned), especially if you’re looking for something romantic and money is no object (lucky you). But there are also plenty of affordable options that won’t make you feel like you’re sacrificing a view or a gorgeous pool.
OPTION 1: A WELLNESS RETREAT IN THE JUNGLE
COMO SHAMBHALA ESTATE — Speaking of a gorgeous pool, Como Shambhala Estate is a holistic wellness resort that feels more like a home than a hotel (I could totally live there). Each guest room is unique, the food is organic, and where else can you can practice yoga, pilates, or qigong and then make an appointment for Ayurveda Therapy? There’s a three-night minimum stay, but who wouldn’t want to swim in that pool forever?
OPTION 2: RENT A VILLA
ART VILLLA — The flight to Bali is horrendously long and exhausting, but when you open the rustic wooden doors to Art Villa, you’ll get a rush of childlike excitement. We’re here! We’re in Bali! And we get to swim in this pool! Gush, gush. It feels like the house sprang up in the middle of the jungle.
The view from the upstairs suite is like something out of a movie. That’s Mt. Batur, an active volcano, off in the distance. Each room has its own private outdoor bathroom and shower. And if you make arrangements with the host of Art Villa in advance, a local family will cook a traditional breakfast and dinner for you during your stay. The breakfast includes a big bowl of fresh fruit, black rice with coconut milk, and fresh ginger and lemongrass tea. And they’re more than willing to teach you about their culture and traditions.
If you need a driver, they’ll provide one (and you will because the GPS is spotty, the roads are narrow and windy, they drive on the left side of the road, and if there are traffic rules, no one follows them). You can feel good about hiring a driver because it costs the same as a rental car and you give a local a job. Plus, they know all the shortcuts and can make sight-seeing suggestions.
You can rent the entire house or an individual room and the rates are very affordable. (Please note, the pictures on their Airbnb site are outdated. The rooms have been redecorated.)
OPTION 3: AN ECO PARADISE
BAMBU INDAH — If you prefer a boutique hotel experience, but want something authentic and eco-friendly, Bambu Indah is right out of the pages of a fairy tale.
Bambu Indah means “beautiful bamboo” and the second you arrive, you can see why. After you check in, they escort you through a bamboo building, where they hold yoga classes and offer movie screenings, and then over a bamboo bridge.The bridge takes guests over a natural swimming pool made of lava stones. Bambu Indah figured out a way to clean, filter, and oxygenate the water so they don’t have to use chlorine, algaecides, or cement. And, of course, there’s a rope swing, too. The jungle view and rice fields off in the distance will make you want to pinch yourself and cry happy tears.Their organic garden, which spans the property, is designed by permaculture experts and the produce is served at both of their restaurants. All of the fruit is ripened on the vine and they get huge brownie points for that.
Rather than waste natural resources to build new guest houses, Bambu Indah shipped vintage Japanese bridal homes to the property. Every one of the windows in the Elora House (in the picture above) opens, providing a cool cross breeze, but they do have an AC unit, if you want it. The jungle sounds at night are dreamy, and the sheets are like silk.The mosquito net is linen and if you need it, they provide organic mosquito repellent and incense in each room. The private outdoor shower makes you feel like you’re bathing under raindrops during a warm tropical storm (with good water pressure). The surplus water drains into their soil and ground water system and all the bath products are organic.When you sit on the patio, you have an incredible view of the tree house. You can’t see it from the picture, but the tree house is situated on the top of a cliff and overlooks the jungle and rice fields below.Climb up the ladder and get comfortable on the cushions because you’ll never want to leave.
The view from the upstairs bedroom made me want to quit my life and move to Bali.
THE RIVER POOLS
To get to the river pools, you take a bamboo elevator that descends down into a rock (a once-in-a-lifetime experience)…walk across a bamboo bridge…
then along a path by the river…past a jaw-droppingly gorgeous private bridge that leads to the owner’s house… and down a spiral staircase…
to Bambu Indah’s river pools! Choose a hut with a private pool and swim in the natural ponds. If you get hungry, they’ll bring traditional Balinese food out to your table.
After you eat, walk across the stones, have a swing, and then throw yourself into the pool while you watch the Ayung River flow by.My mantra the entire day was, “I never want to leave this place, like never ever.”Bambu Indah won the 2013 HICAP Sustainable Operations Award for their sustainable practices and environmentally and culturally responsible development. The hotel felt like it was designed with an overflowing love and appreciation for nature, with playfulness and creativity everywhere. It truly embraces the culture and spirituality of the Balinese people as well as the natural environment. The rates vary, but many of the rooms are reasonably priced, and they also have glamping. If you want a truly special experience, check out their Moon and Cooper rooms. They were featured in Architectural Digest, and for good reason.
OPTION 4: THE MOST GORGEOUS “TENT” ON THE PLANET
CAPELLA HOTEL — If the hippy, rustic vibe isn’t your thing and you want a more upscale experience, Capella is major honeymoon bait. It’s stunning, but you’ll have to trade your entire savings account for it. On the bright side, you get your own private “tent” and plunge pool in the middle of the jungle. It must sound incredible when it rains.
OPTION 5: A VERY AFFORDABLE BUNGALOWDRAGONFLY VILLAGE — This charming little village is made from recycled wood and traditional antique teak houses brought over from remote villages in Java (an island in Indonesia).
The village is situated in the best spot to watch the sunset over the rice fields in Ubud and the grounds are meticulously cared for, with lily ponds and dragonflies everywhere. They focus on “living simply and consciously within an organic environment.” The rates are very affordable, but book early because the hotel sells out months in advance. Their website is a bit dated and doesn’t accurately reflect the charm of the place, but if you go straight to “Book Your Stay” and put in your dates, you’ll see pictures of each bungalow.
OPTION 6: WESTERN COMFORTS
THE FOUR SEASONS BALI AT SAYAN — This luxury hotel won the 2018 World’s Best Award by Travel + Leisure, but I don’t completely agree. Its location on the Ayung River makes for a stunning view, but you can get that at other hotels (like Bambu Indah). The best feature of the Four Seasons is its dramatic suspension bridge, which is an incredibly romantic spot for a wedding party.But other aspects of the hotel felt too Western and far removed from Bali for me. The jungle looked manicured, the food is Western, and the room felt corporate and uninspired. But the private suites with infinity pools look gorgeous. For some unknown reason, they don’t provide mosquito nets (I killed one in the bathroom), or have USB ports by the bed (kind of a sin for a luxury hotel in my book). The infinity pool was packed with people and kids running around and the cafe is built around it so there is no privacy whatsoever. The Four Seasons is lovely, don’t get me wrong, but I would either pay more and stay at Capella or less (depending on the room) and have a more authentic experience at Bambu Indah. You came to experience Bali, right?As alluring as all these hotels are, I hope you get out of the pool and explore every corner of of this beautiful island.