Due to the upcoming British Airways Executive Club Changes I decided to Redeem British Airways for Cathay Pacific First Class tickets to Bali in summer 2012. Although normally I'd leave planning where to stay in Bali and hotel research until quite a bit later, Ehtesham Q. asked for some follow up posts about Bali, so I thought I'd start by looking at where to stay, since this is the biggest expense if you've used miles for flights.
Let's first orient ourselves around the major places to stay in Bali, and my top luxury and affordable pick for each:
Ubud is the cultural heart and artistic center of Bali–this is where you should see gamelan and traditional Balinese dance performances, enjoy trekking, cycling past the rice terraces, whitewater rafting, birdwatching, and try traditional Balinese cuisine or even learn to make it yourself in one of the many cooking classes. Ubud is inland, so while many of the hotels here have beautiful pools, you won't be anywhere near the sea.
If price is no object and this is a romantic getaway, it's hard to beat the Four Seasons Ubud.
Since I'll be in Bali with Family, we might well have a meal at the Four Seasons, but we'll most likely stay at one of the Komaneka resorts. The Komaneka at Monkey Forest is more traditional and also the best deal, at $196-270 depending on time of year. It's also a great location, within easy walking distance of central Ubud.
The newer Komaneka at Bisma looks spectacular, but it also prices about $100 more than the Komaneka at Monkey Forest, so I might instead wait until I'm there and see if I can negotiate a cheap transfer or upgrade to that property.
There are also many more budget-oriented properties; one that seems especially promising is Tegal Sari, close to central Ubud yet peacefully enclosed, where standard rooms are under $50, and one of the two private villas is about $200/night.
Nusa Dua is both the name of the Nusa Dua peninsula and also to the small enclave on the southeastern part of the peninsula that is home to many of the 5-star luxury properties, such as the The St. Regis, Conrad, The Laguna (Luxury Collection), and Amanusa. Nusa Dua has beautiful white sand beaches and various watersports (parasailing, jetskiing) are on offer; it's not a great place for snorkeling or diving, however. The luxury resorts are pretty self-contained and most guests are here to relax, since it's not really worth staying here then driving to Ubud or other parts of the island.
I doubt that we'll stay here, but if we did, I'd probably try out the St. Regis Bali as a splurge choice.
Jimbaran used to be a small fishing village, but since the 1990s has developed a number of luxury resorts: the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, Ayana Resort and Spa (formerly the Ritz-Carlton Jimbaran Bay), Intercontinental Bali and others are situated here. As with Nusa Dua, there are nice white sand beaches, and a visitor favorite is to enjoy a grilled seafood dinner on the beach, while watching the sunset. Again, there's not a lot to do in this area–most are here simply to relax and unwind.
I previously stayed at the Ayana Resort and Spa, back when it was the Ritz-Carlton Jimbaran Bay, and it was spectacular. In fact, unless you're using points to stay at the Intercontinental Bali, also in Jimbaran, my view is that the best 5-Star hotel under $250 in Jimbaran is the Ayana.
This time, however, we may opt to splurge for a night or two at the Four Seasons Bali at Jimbaran Bay, for its superb service and kids club, since we'll have our 3-year old with us.
Just north of Legian, Seminyak is Kuta's more upscale and sedate cousin. This is the place to indulge in a luxurious spa experience or some retail therapy at fashionable boutiques. There's plenty of fine dining as well, although I'm more interested in authentic Balinese cuisine, which isn't really the strong point of Seminyak, although Seminyak does have plenty of French, Italian, Pan-Asian and other international fine dining (with high prices to match). I'm still considering some of the properties here, which include The Samaya, The Legian Bali, The Oberoi, the Anantara Seminyak and the W Retreat & Spa. Of these, I'd probably opt for The Samaya, which should by next summer have completed its renovation of pool villas (although even now, the construction seems to not be too bothersome to guests), and will hopefully continue to have some of the most polished service in Seminyak, as well as one of the most acclaimed (albeit pricey) restaurants, Breeze. One thing that is giving me pause, however, is that the surf here and in general in Seminyak is very strong, so I doubt we'd be able to take our child into the water (and we might not go in ourselves, unless we want to boogie board).
Eastern Bali is mostly home to budet accomodations, but it's where those shunning the tourist hordes of southern Bali head for more peaceful beaches, snorkeling and diving. There are plenty of little places to stay, warungs (roadside restaurants) and dive shops in Padangbai, and there are some mid-range places in Candidasa, but the place I'd most like to go to on the east side is Amed, which has some of the best diving in Bali. Also on this eastern side of Bali is Manggis, home to the Amankila, one of the top resorts on the island.
I put Kuta last as it's dead last in terms of where I'd want to stay in Bali–I have no interest in going to nightclubs while there. If, however, you love club hopping and must have a happening nightlife scene, Kuta is where you'll want to be.
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