The small island of Bali is by far the leading tourist destination among all the 17,000+ islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago. Known for its unique religious and cultural traditions, Bali is clearly at risk for overdevelopment; but its performing arts, beaches and tropical beauty still entice travelers from the world over.
To accommodate all of Bali’s visitors, international hotel chains have built probably the greatest number of luxury resorts per capita in the world. Yet perhaps none have done it on the scale of the Four Seasons chain, which has two amazing resorts on the tropical island: one in Sayan, near Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital; and the other at Jimbaran Bay, a stone’s throw from the international airport and iconic Kuta Beach.
The Four Seasons Sayan is a perennial Travel & Leisure Reader’s Choice Award-winning resort — and its sister property in Jimbaran Bay is a perfect clone. The major difference: while the Four Seasons Sayan is nestled between two rivers flowing through lush green rice terraces, the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay overlooks the Indian Ocean and boasts expansive views of the sea, as well as exquisite sunsets.
Of the two resorts, the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay is larger, comprising 147 villas and nine private residence units. True to Balinese architectural design, each villa consists of several thatched-roof pavilions housed within a courtyard enclosure that contains a spacious suite, an outdoor sitting and dining area and a private plunge pool. The interior of the spacious bedroom is especially stunning, crowned with an intricately fashioned dark bamboo ceiling.
Balinese village tradition is carried over culturally as well: reflecting the proliferation of temples and shrines throughout the island, the resort’s grounds abound with 500 characteristic small shrines. Additionally, each cluster of villas is organized under the stewardship of a local “chief” — the man to call with any questions or requests. Of course, all aspects of the superlative service for which Four Seasons is universally renowned is available at the touch of a phone button – including a fleet of chauffeur-driven golf carts that appear virtually instantaneously to whisk guests everywhere in the resort.
One destination within the resort no-one should miss is the spa, where superbly trained professionals pamper clients in sumptuous indoor-outdoor treatment suites. To complement and enhance any massage, couples can enjoy the intimacy of a shared herbal bath suffused with flower petals. The spa gift shop also sells the ingredients of their signature treatments to those wishing to re-create the experience at home.
Actually, the bathrooms in the guest villas are practically spa-like themselves: in addition to the inviting tub and roomy shower stall, there is an outdoor shower set among tropical vegetation. Amenities by Bulgari, comfortable robes and numerous fluffy towels add to the trademark Four Seasons luxury.
In such surroundings, it is always a difficult choice whether to order room service — to take advantage of the courtyard dining area — or to eat at one of the resort’s four excellent restaurants. Nonetheless, dinner in the al fresco Warung Mie, serving classical Indonesian and Balinese dishes is highly recommended.
After dinner, and likely a long day of exploring and shopping, a trip to the cozy library might be in order: to pick up a book or select a DVD to watch on your villa’s entertainment system. Another nice feature is the complimentary Internet access from one of the library’s computers.
Bali is an extraordinary place to visit; it’s nice to know there is an equally extraordinary place to make your temporary home.
Published rates: $680-$1665
Text by Buzzy Gordon, who was hosted by Four Seasons for purposes of review. Photos courtesy of Four Seasons.