Staking a stylish claim on Bali’s rugged Bukit Peninsula, Alila Villas Uluwatu is a cool, contemporary cliffhanger of a resort which delivers dramatic eco-friendly design in a jaw-dropping setting.
We asked Tamara and James Lohan, aka Mr & Mrs Smith to review Uluwatu for us during their stay earlier this year, and after reading about their experience its not surprising in the slightest that Uluwatu took out the highly coveted spot of number 1 Best Dressed Hotel in the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards as voted by members.
Read Tamara's experience at Uluwutu below for a more ...
Location Bali, Indonesia
Style Minimalist eco-glam
Setting Indian Ocean edge
2013 Smith Hotel Awards Winner: Best-Dressed Hotel
Travelling down the long, beautifully manicured driveway, catching sight of the gleamingly polished sign that heralds your arrival at Alila Villas Uluwatu, you know you are in for something special. But nothing can prepare you for that entrance view.
Alila is the Sanskrit word for ‘surprise’ and, as the hotel hoves into view, we are properly Alila’d. We’ve visited more than our fair share of hotels in our time, and enjoyed a lot of impressive arrivals, but this one doesn’t just knock your socks off, it empties out your sock drawer and hurls the contents over the cliff edge.
From the circular lobby through to the shallow pools, the architecturally astonishing ‘bird-cage’ cabanas, infinity pool and vast stretch of ocean beyond, it’s a panorama that leaves you speechless and beaming.
The closer you get to the cliff edge, the wider the smile. Generally, we avoid using the word ‘stunning’ because it’s worth keeping in the bank, ready for deployment at appropriately mind-blowing moments – and yet now, faced with this, it still falls short.
‘Quick! Hide!’ Mrs Smith whispers.
‘We need to find a place to hide because WE ARE NOT LEAVING. EVER.’
In the absence of secret underground bunkers to conceal ourselves in for eternity, we decide to go to our villa. The hotel is fully booked so we’ve been (woe is us) upgraded, meaning we’ve also acquired (woe upon woe) our own private butler. Escorted into our three-bedroom villa by the very lovely Indra, we are delighted to see that view again, this time complemented by our very own personal infinity pool.
Indra often seems to pop up from nowhere (like Cato, but without the karate attacks) continually offering to get us something, anything – ‘just let him know’. We’re just not used to having a butler. Wherever we lose ourselves in our new abode (and yes, it is big enough to get lost in), Indra seems to find us. I start to wonder if he’s planted some sort of tracking device. Omnipresent Indra may be a bit disarming at first, but after a few drinks here and some nice fluffy towels there, we quickly get the hang of the on-tap room service. After a couple of hours, I find myself asking Mrs Smith: ‘How will we ever look after ourselves again?’
We’re still wrestling with this dilemma as the sun sets. We’re sitting in the hotel’s huge cliff-hanging lounge, sipping our drinks, watching a full moon rise in the sky and scatter its light all over the surface of the sea. It’s astoundingly romantic. I bet Indra organised it.
There are two options for dinner: the polished Western fare of Cire and the authentic Indonesian dishes on offer at laid-back Warung. As we’re here, we decide to take our palates east to explore the sates and sambals of traditional Balinese cookery. We are not disappointed. The food at Alila Villas Uluwatu is almost as impressive as its design. Breakfast (a rainbow of moreish small dishes) is fabulous and lunch can be a simple and satisfying as pizza or as elaborate as a five-course tasting menu. There’s enough choice that you wouldn’t get bored even if you stayed for two weeks, let alone just a couple of nights – sadly, that’s all that we have.
The next morning, we decide to take advantage of low tide and embark on the 600-step descent to the beach below. It is, we’re assured, worth the walk and, in any case, helps us work off our over-indulgent breakfast. Going down is one thing but coming back up takes your breath away, and every step is worth it. The rock pools below are a spectacular sight, revealing amazing coloured corals and shells.
Early evening takes us to the resident Alila spa, which, predictably, is gorgeous. Alila makes all its own products, ranging from ‘lightening and brightening’ (wild yam, papaya and lime) to ‘deep and dirty’ (coffee, coconut and cocoa) so every scrub and massage is accompanied by a miasma of wonderful scents to help soothe away those residual stresses.
In fact, that’s what Alila Villas Uluwatu does all over – it blows your mind, then it soothes it into serenity. Our only advice is to savour every moment of being here, and, if you find the hiding place that we couldn’t, stay there for as long as you can.