Set on the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula in Uluwatu, Alila Villas is a 14-hectare world away from the hub-bub of Bali – namely Kuta, Seminyak and Legian, favoured by so many Australians. The region is best-known for its cliffside Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple and breaks for the experienced surfer.
Atop a plateau on the edge of sheer limestone cliffs 100 metres above sea level, the water features at every turn belie the sandy, dry landscape of this area. There's not a rice paddy in sight. Designed by Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell of architectural firm WOHA in 2009 (and most recently Oasia Hotel in Singapore) the property, inspired by local farmers' terraces meld into the landscape. Roofs are layered with volcanic rock for insulation and the grounds are full of native acacias and lemon, star and bermuda grasses. Very private villas link to the public areas by steps and bridges surrounded by water gardens. Cabanas with sun blinds, and made of the recycled and hard-wearing ulin timber, flank the 50-metre infinity pool. The Indian Ocean thundering below will be the soundtrack to your stay. While stone steps, all 620 of them, lead to the beach, the rocky area is best viewed from the Sunset Cabana, to gaze on outlines of the reef in the turquoise water. Light is filtered at all angles thanks to abstract screening that divides areas without blocking. The 200-guest property is at 80 per cent occupancy but there's little interaction.
The one-bedroom villa of earthy tones of stone walls, glossy tiles and whitewashed bamboo ceiling is airy, understated and cool. Two wide entrances lead to double vanities, each stocked with toiletries, indoor and outdoor showers, separate bath and a walk-past wardrobe without doors. The open living ends at the toilet which has a heavy glass door for privacy. The villa's king-size bed is matched by a king-size day bed that opens to the private pool and sheltered cabana in a garden of frangipani. Three levels of service are available for guests; from private, that is do not disturb, to discreet, to the full-service butler. As a first-time visitor, I appreciate the golf buggy that comes to take me down the hill to dinner.
The latest addition to the property is Quila, the fine-dining and only indoor restaurant. It's stunning, with walls of more than 2000 antique batik stamps. The 10-course degustation, designed by Spanish executive chef Marc Lores Panades and matched with French, New Zealand and Australian wines, is a whimsical affair with a menu shaped around the senses, and at one point involves a blindfold. In deference to Hinduism, the island's main religion and its sacred cow, Panades' ingredients in the "beef" carpaccio include watermelon, parmesan, snow peas and parmesan. Late breakfast at Cire with restrained servings of fresh juices, breads, granola, eggs and quiche are a welcome relief from super-size buffets. For more local fare, the excellent Warung ("small restaurant" in local parlance) serves traditional meals that pack a punch, including nasi liwet, a rice dish from Solo in Central Java cooked in coconut milk with chicken curry and sambal.
There is zilch desire to leave the property during my two-night stay given the sprawling grounds and wedding set-up to spy on, dining choices and places to relax including the library and gym that both overlook the gardens. An afternoon at the day spa passes quickly, even with ear candling. There are excursions of course, including a visit to five lesser known and considered to be holiest temples on the south coast or a cycling journey on the Bukit Peninsula that finishes on Thomas Beach with a cooling coconut water.
A chic Alila property in its Indonesian collection of seven hotels and resorts and one luxurious traditional sailing boat, this one is a place to be among nature and luxury. Come for a three-day weekend but warning – it may be your ruination for future, less elegant places. A good plan is to pair it with a stay at the newer property in Seminyak.
One-bedroom pool villas cost from $US850 a night.
Jl. Belimbing Sari, Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu, Uluwatu, Kabupaten Badung. See alilahotels.com/uluwatu
An early-morning yoga class with the resident yoga instructor.
A sleeveless dress is insufficient for the chilly Quila dining room.
One degree more.
Jane Reddy was a guest of Alila Hotels and Jetstar