Travelers talk of discovering a destination’s soul like it’s an attraction they can ride. It’s not—it must be earned, like the allure of Bali.
The sunset from the Premiere Villa at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay—sunrise views are equally stunning.
I’d traveled to the “Isle of the Gods” previously, before coffee plantations built swings for influencers and Kardashians converged to cultivate their karma. Had it become the new Tulum? Where soul-searching involved color-coordinating yoga pants with prayer beads and carefully crafted social media posts?
My sojourn started at Six Senses Uluwatu, Bali (rooms from $550 per night, @sixsenseshotelsresortsspas)—a luxury escape chiseled into the imposing cliffs of southern Bali overlooking the Indian Ocean. The chic property, and the area’s more arid weather, produce a sophisticated Southern California vibe. Surfers flock here for formidable breaks, while others abscond to brunch at hidden coastal escapes like Sundays Beach Club (@sundaysbeachclub). Perched perilously atop a steep cliff and overlooking crashing waves, the must-visit Balinese Hindu Uluwatu Temple is one of the island’s six spiritual pillars–but be mindful of the opportunistic monkeys. Back at Six Senses, sweeping ocean views from the impeccably appointed Cliff Pool Villa ($800 per night) and the sustainably focused property’s postcard infinity pool transported me to a higher plane of relaxation.
From top: Hang out during an anti-gravity yoga session at Four Seasons; the Ranger for a Day encounter at Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa includes a fully catered lunch in a mangrove with views of Ijen volcano in the distance.
A two-hour traffic-snarled drive north brought me to “God’s Garden,” or Ubud. With its lush rice paddies, ancient temples and artisan heritage, this inland area screams travel nirvana. The Balinese-styled villas at Desa Visesa Ubud (rooms from $250 per night, @desavisesa) overlook picturesque rice terraces and are five minutes from the buzzing center of town, where a steady stream of visitors tour Saraswati Temple. Dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning, literature and art, the ancient temple is a great place to view Balinese fire dancing. While exploring, stop for an organic nosh at Clear Cafe (@clearcafeubud). The heat wore me down, so I recharged back at the resort with a Bali Rejang healing massage (90 minutes for $55). My son was equally content petting chickens and feeding cows in the kids club.
From top: A villa entrance at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, a premier destination conveniently located near the international airport; the open-air Visesa Balinese Healing Spa in Villas at Visesa Ubud.
Soon it was time to get off of the beaten path and travel to West Bali National Park. Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa (rooms from $180, @plataranresorts) offers nature without sacrificing affluence. Plan for a five-hour drive to reach the eco-glam outpost. Stop at The View in Munduk restaurant for nasi goreng and epic mountains vistas. The area is called “God’s Secret Courtyard.” Nature abounds. Deer, monkeys and monitor lizards roam the 1 ½-square-mile laid-back resort among 175 species of plants and 167 species of birds. Start your day with a sunrise over tranquil waters from a signature A-framed Ocean Mangrove Villa ($220 per night). The resort is Indonesian-owned and -operated, and a handful of rangers patrol the park daily to protect animals like the endangered pangolin. The main attraction is Menjangan Island, where snorkelers and scuba divers commune with colorful coral reefs and fish. Reserve the Into the Blue half-day snorkeling excursion with picnic lunch ($300). When not diving, trekking or bird watching, lounge by the infinity pool and absorb Zen-inducing sunsets over distant Javanese volcanoes.
Signature A-frame Ocean Mangrove Villas at Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa—the only resort located within West Bali National Park.
Since everything in Bali is godly, I’m anointing the grounds of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (rooms from $700 per night, @fourseasons) as the “Garden of Eden.” The floral-lined property occupies optimal footing atop rocky bluffs overlooking idyllic Jimbaran Bay. The Premier Ocean Villa ($1,400 per night) with plunge pool and sweeping bay views is one of Bali’s most sought-after accommodations. The service and food are exquisite. Jimbaran Bay is known for sunsets, gentle rolling surf and ikan bakar Jimbaran or “grilled snapper a la Jimbaran.” Each night as the tide goes out and the sun goes down, beachgoers comb the tidal flats and chill under amber-hued skies. The best seat in the house is at the Four Seasons’ Sundara restaurant. To truly get centered, I took an anti-gravity yoga class (60 minutes for $100) and reserved an Aura-Soma Chakra Balance Massage (90 minutes for $150). In the end, I relented and slunk deep into Bali’s mesmerizing allure.
Photography by: FOUR SEASONS RESORT JIMBARAN BAY PHOTOS BY KEN SEET; PICNIC PHOTO COURTESY OF PLATARAN MENJANGAN RESORT & SPA. OPPOSITE PAGE: FOUR SEASONS RESORT JIMBARAN BAY PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HORAN; SPA PHOTO BY ANCHYI WEI; SIX SENSES ULUWATU PHOTO BY KIATTIPONG PANCHEE; A-FRAME PHOTO by PLATARAN RESORTS.