Ayana Resort and Spa review, Bali: A warm, gentle welcome

THE LOCATION

A sense of deep relaxation settles in from the moment you check in at the tranquil, open-air reception area. Is it the effect of the sculpted pools, or the gentle welcome from smiling staff? Ayana Resort and Spa and its sister property Rimba are surrounded by 90 hectares of beautifully landscaped tropical gardens fronting the spectacular coastline of Jimbaran Bay – a private beach is available for guests.

Ayana accommodates guests in 290 hotel rooms and 78 villas that are discreetly dotted around the estate, with winding frangipani-lined pathways leading to pools, restaurants and bars.

THE SPACE

Several of the traditional Balinese-style villas are being renovated – 10 two-bedroom ocean villas will re-open in June with even bigger bathrooms, new airconditioning and new furniture. There is one three-bedroom "presidential" villa, 39 one- and two-bedroom ocean villas and 38 cliff villas.

THE ROOM

The enormous (500 square metre) one-bedroom cliff villa I stayed in is light, bright and airy; the living area and vast marble bathroom open onto a private walled garden and pool, with sunbeds and a poolside gazebo for serious lounging. All the villas feature ethnic Indonesian textiles and artworks as well as modern essentials such as free Wi-Fi, DVD players, iPod docking stations and 42-inch televisions (which you're unlikely to turn on).

THE KIT

Do yourself a favour and book in for a two-hour session in the Aquatonic pool, the largest of its type in the world. Its setting alone melts stress away – the towering pavilions have views straight to the Indian Ocean. You progress through a series of saltwater jets that treat all areas of your body and emerge at the end in a state of bliss.

The Thermes Marins spa also offers massage, reflexology, Thalassotherapy and aromatherapy treatments; a beauty salon that overlooks an 18-hole golf course; three tennis courts; a cafe; and the Honzen Japanese restaurant. There are 11 swimming pools at Ayana and Rimba, including a children's pool with waterslides and a fabulous rooftop pool at the UNIQUE bar at Rimba.

COMFORT

When you have 24-hour butler service you want for nothing. Pick up the phone and a buggy will arrive to take you anywhere around the resorts. Order dinner in your villa and your butler will arrive to set it up; request a complimentary massage or sunrise yoga session and it's all organised for you. As a guest of Ayana or Rimba you have priority access to the uber-cool Rock Bar, which gets pretty busy – especially at weekends when the jetsetters flock in.

FOOD

Where to start? There are 15 restaurants and bars across the two resorts that serve top-notch Italian, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Western cuisine. My favourite was the Kisik Seafood Bar & Grill, for dinner at sunset – you can hardly get any closer to the ocean.

A gamelan orchestra plays on the jetty a short distance away and the atmosphere is quite magical; the food is pretty good, too. Choose your seafood (fresh off the boats) from an impressive display and it's cooked to your taste and served with Balinese accompaniments.

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Dava does a fine breakfast and To'ge, at Rimba, is a contemporary venue that serves a range of international dishes from breakfast to dinner. A recent addition to Rimba is Ah Yat Abalone Seafood Restaurant – the upmarket Cantonese restaurants are extremely popular in Asia and this is the first one to open in Bali.

STEPPING OUT

Everything you could possibly want for a relaxing escape is on site. If you stay longer than a couple of days you might venture out to Jimbaran Bay's markets with one of the chefs, or to do a spot of sightseeing and shopping further afield – but I could happily spend a week there without going anywhere else.

THE VERDICT

The perfect spot for a wedding (there are eight wedding venues in suitably romantic settings), honeymoon or revitalising holiday.

ESSENTIALS

Ayana is 10 kilometres from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar International Airport). The resort organises transfers to and from the airport, if you've booked directly with them by phone, email or on the website. Rates for a one-bedroom ocean view pool villa start at $980 a night, which includes a US$50 spa/dining voucher. Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, see ayanaresort.com.

HIGHLIGHT

A morning in the Aquatonic pool is the ultimate de-stressing treatment.

LOWLIGHT

It's hard to pick fault but even guests have to queue for the Rock Bar.

The writer was a guest of the Ayana Resort and Spa Bali.

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