10 of the best hotels in Bali, Indonesia's spiritual island heartland

From luxury beach resorts with spas and infinity pools to tented lodges tucked away in the rainforest, Bali has accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

There really is nowhere like Bali. Its sense of spirituality is evident in the blessings offered daily and the non-stop festivities and ceremonies. This fertile, volcanic island is exceptionally beautiful, too. Profusions of frangipani add explosions of colour to forest canopies, white-sand beaches are shaded by coconut palms and lapped by turquoise waters, and country roads run between verdant rice paddies. It’s understandable these qualities draw huge crowds, but as the island’s economy recovers from long lockdowns, responsible travellers’ expenditure can do a lot of good. The welcome they’ll receive remains as warm as ever. 

1. Four Seasons Bali at Sayan

Best for old-school luxury

This much-loved Four Seasons was considered groundbreaking when it opened 25 years ago — some of its innovations were even imitated by subsequent openings — and it still wows today. Guests cross a bridge to a circular pool to enter the property, which unspools beneath it and extends across the Ayung Valley below. Thoughtful surprises are commonplace: open to the elements but capped by a triple-height ceiling, the bar hosts beautiful and gentle performances by local musicians. Perch at the riverside infinity pool and you could catch sight of passing whitewater rafters; at your breakfast table, a server might open a case to reveal an array of fresh pastries. Understandably adored by honeymooners, this property remains very special. Rooms: From 13.2m IDR (£720). 

2. COMO Uma Ubud

Best for wellness 

For travellers visiting Bali in pursuit of a physical reset and spiritual awakening, the Eat, Pray, Love effect remains in full force here. Enveloped by forest and overlooking the River Oos, the resort’s Como Shambhala Retreat spa is bordered by koi-filled ponds and features an open-air yoga pavilion shaded by the treetop canopy. In cloud-white treatment rooms, exceptional massages are inspired by local beauty rituals. Beyond the spa, there are picturesque hikes that start at the resort’s front door. Complementing it all, restaurant menus feature nourishing dishes that make delicious use of Bali’s abundant produce, such as pomelo salad with poached prawn, green mango and lemongrass. Rooms: From 4.3m IDR (£233) B&B. 

3. Potato Head Bali

Best for sustainability

Stylish and social as can be, this remarkable hotel in Seminyak is also a sustainability superstar — and it often conveys its values by stealth. Mention you like your room’s rainbow-flecked chair and you’ll be told it was formed from 30kg of waste plastic; comment on the candles that illuminate the property and you’ll learn they’ve been moulded from repurposed cooking oil. Guests can find out more at the resort’s recycling lab or join workshops in regenerative farming, while other thoughtfully delivered offerings feel completely indulgent. Ijen, which claims to be Indonesia’s first zero-waste restaurant, serves superb seafood, while spiritually minded wellness sessions are offered at the Sanctuary and complimentary morning yoga takes place in sight of the sea. Rooms: From 2.5m IDR (£137)

4. Mamaka by Ovolo

Best for budget surf stays

Circled by bargain bars and restaurants, the resort town of Kuta often serves as a gateway to Bali for students and backpackers. Situated on the beachfront, stylish and guest-centric Mamaka by Ovolo is one of the area’s more polished hotels, and worth seeking out. With complimentary DIY laundry and a gratis minibar for those staying in suites, this friendly hotel goes out of its way to show genuine hospitality. And it’s fun here, too. By the rooftop pool, buzzy Kuta Social Club hosts lively brunches, sunset cocktail soirées and resident DJs. Also part of the property, Quiksilver Bali Surf Academy provides expert tutelage to riders of all proficiencies; its Australian-Indonesian owners have even trained world champions. If you don’t want to join them, request a sea-facing room so you can watch them in action instead. Rooms: From 1.5m IDR (£82). 

5. Gaia Oasis

Best for switching off

A two-hour drive from Ubud through winding mountain roads deters most travellers from exploring the black-sand beaches and traditional villages that surround this community-minded property. Staff here are endlessly welcoming and accommodation is split between a site on Pantai Beach and another in the Abasan Mountains, just a 10-minute drive away. The retreat is sensitively integrated into its setting, collaborating with local farmers to source its produce, funding educational programmes for disadvantaged local children, and working to protect traditional cultural pursuits. This out-of-the-way destination makes a beautiful and restorative base for friends and couples who want to briefly leave their ordinary worlds behind. Rooms: From 960,000 IDR (£52).

6. Jumeirah Bali

Best for a beach break

Dreamland Beach in southern Bali is one of the island’s finest — and Jumeirah’s first Indonesian property sits right on it. Situated off the main tourist trail, this serene golden stretch draws skilled surfers from the first light of dawn until the darkening of dusk. It’s mesmerising to watch them over breakfast from all-day restaurant Segaran, before returning later in the day for aperitifs when the unobstructed sunset views are among the most spectacular enjoyed by any of the island’s hotels. And there’s much more on offer here, from infinity pools and the vast Talise spa to waterfront grill restaurant Akasa. For romantic evenings in, vast villas feature outdoor day beds, teardrop-shaped bathtubs and generously sized pools. Rooms: From 10.1m IDR (£549) B&B. 

7. Alila Villas Uluwatu

Best for aesthetes

Just as awe-inspiring now as it was when it opened in 2009, this gorgeous hotel shows that exemplary design never goes out of style. Here, morning yoga sessions take place in a pavilion cantilevered over the Indian Ocean, walkways are shaded by fragrant frangipani trees sporting glorious yellow blooms, and the timber-framed Sunset Cabana Bar — with its reclaimed wooden slats and dappled shadows — remains one of Asia’s most stylish hotel bars. The 65 supremely private villas are wonderfully romantic, with locally sourced materials and ingredients present in everything from lava rock roofs to custom bath products and stellar breakfasts. It’s an undeniable privilege to be completely surrounded by so much beauty. Rooms: From 14.7m IDR (£800) B&B. 

8. Capella Ubud

Best for extravagant escapism 

Hotel designer Bill Bensley’s deserved reputation for eccentric innovation is on spectacular show at Capella Ubud, a tented camp with 23 standalone lodges inspired by the stories of European settlers who came to Bali in the 19th century. Individually decorated, with free-standing tubs and private salt-water pools, rooms are shrouded by mature woodland (not a single tree was felled to create the resort) and set above a gentle river. Beyond the hubbub of central Ubud, this beautiful  retreat is like a time capsule planted in the forest. It’s a setting that inspires romance, reflection and relaxation. Rooms: From 11.2m IDR (£612) B&B. 

9. Andaz BaliIn

Best for family breaks

In sleepy Sanur on Bali’s eastern coast, Hyatt’s beautifully designed and welcoming Andaz Bali opened quietly during the pandemic, and remains relatively under the radar. For families, Kemu Mai indoor-outdoor kids’ club features extensive all-weather play facilities (under-fours must be accompanied by a guardian) and a roster of activities including kite-making and fish-feeding. Of the resort’s three pools, Alit (meaning ‘little’) is reserved especially for children. And there’s plenty for teenagers to experience with their parents, from bike-riding to paragliding and even helicopter tours. Rooms: From 4m IDR (£220) B&B.

10. Tribal Bali

Best for remote working

In Canggu, Bali’s first purpose-built coworking hostel offers attractive, wood-accented facilities, open to the surrounding plant life. There are regular icebreaker workshops, and conversation occurs spontaneously at the bar or around the pool, meaning new arrivals obliged to take their work on holiday needn’t worry about disrupting the property’s serenity if they crack open their laptops over breakfast. Whether bunking down in a dormitory or a private room, every guest gets complimentary access to coworking spaces.Rooms: Dormitory beds from 295,000 IDR (£16); private rooms from 795,000 IDR (£43).

Published in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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