A hip bartender is pumping out cocktails in tiki glasses and coconut shells, a thatched gelato cart pulls the thigh-high crowd on the sand, while Millennials pose for selfies by the beachfront pool.
Welcome to the new face of Nusa Dua, where stylish travellers sip, sup and brunch with their feet in the sand, or recline on cabanas fawned over by Balinese staff. There's a new wave sweeping through Bali's luxury gated resort enclave that features hip beach clubs, chic bars and fine dining. The sprawling mega resorts are still here, classic Bali getaways with the luxe factor ramped up with each new resort opening or refurbishment. But the hip factor has definitely been dialled up in Bali's previously soporific resort strip.
Leading the charge, Manarai Beach House (formerly the Nikki Beach Bali) is a fully fledged beach club by day and a sophisticated lantern-lit affair after dark. There's no headache-inducing doof-doof music, no entry fees or minimum spend for its weekly DJ poolside sessions. What it does offer is a menu of tantalising bites and Bali classics from Michelin trained chef Stefan Poyet and guest DJs while families are welcomed with open arms. You'll find a swim-up bar, cabanas, a sit-down restaurant, a wine shop and a choice of two pools or the beach.
Owned by Jakarta hospitality empire the Ismaya Group, it adjoins the luxurious Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Resort – which was itself a catalyst for change when it opened in 2013 in the once sleepy fishing village of Nusa Dua, which means two islands.
Sylvain Pasdeloup, the resort's French general manager, has watched the resort precinct evolve since joining Sofitel in 2013. From 2010, the Nusa Dua beachfront saw a rush of new luxury resorts with the Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua bringing a breath of fresh air to a new generation of savvy travellers, he says.
Along with its immense resort pools, kids' club, and the island's only ocean-view ballroom, the Sofitel Nusa Dua has a gobsmacking Sunday brunch and ramped-up wellness facilities which include SoSPA and a dedicated anti-ageing clinic. There are walled pool villas and pool-access rooms (its biggest seller) where you can roll out of bed into the tropical lagoon that flows into the main pool. Your butler will even deliver a floating breakfast tray which is a big hit with Instagrammers.
Pasdeloup believes the Ismaya Group's opening of Manarai Beach House has had a big impact on how Nusa Dua is perceived. "The beach club alone helped shift the perception of Nusa Dua as being a destination for just sun, sand and surf. It's brought a new youthful energy and chic vibe to the once sleepy coast."
Aside from Manarai Beach House, you can catch a blazing Bali sunset or dine overlooking the Indian Ocean at a raft of other cool beachfront bars and upscale eateries. The Sky Bar at Mulia Resort offers sea vistas and a stellar cocktail list; Nudi Bar housed in a two-storey traditional-style lumbung is a terrific spot for sundowners, while Tamarind Kitchen and Lounge's beachfront dining is housed in a stylish two-storey bamboo building. For traditional Indonesian rijsttafel (spiced rice dishes) meanwhile you can't go past Bumbu Bali, a culinary icon.
Personally? You'll find me on a daybed under a blue-and-white parasol at Manarai Beach House, crispy tuna tempe in one hand, the Manarai's take on a pina colada in the other.
It simply doesn't get better than this.
Sheriden Rhodes travelled courtesy of Qantas Airways and Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Resort.
Qantas flies to Denpasar daily from Sydney and Melbourne. . See qantas.com