Upon arrival at this unique 5-star hotel on the island of Bali, practically everyone gets out his smartphone to take a photo. The one-of-a-kind design and location of Alila Villas Uluwatu make it one of the most photographed hotels on Instagram.
This experience had already begun some time earlier; right after making the reservation, we received an extensive questionnaire on which we could indicate the preferences of every member of our family. What films do the kids like? Activities? Favourite magazines, music? Type of pillow? And so on, and so on. If this isn’t your idea of an unique experience, then we don’t know what is.
And an unique experience it is. It all starts with the way we are welcomed at the airport. At the end of the aircraft passenger bridge, our friendly host awaits our arrival. He swiftly takes us to the luggage belt and customs before getting us into a waiting SUV. During the 45-minute ride to the hotel, the chauffeur informs us of where to go and what to do on the island. Then, the moment of arriving at the hotel. The main building seems to appear out of nowhere. Members of the staff stand ready to welcome us and, as we walk into the lobby, our luggage is taken over by invisible hands. The view is nothing less than spectacular. The hotel is situated on an elevated plateau, more than 100 metres above sea level with a 180-degree view of the ocean.
The complex has a serene and minimalistic character. The terrain reminds us of terraced rice paddies. Thanks to the various levels, the 61 individual, open-plan villas lay well hidden. The houses thus offer absolute privacy. Everywhere you look, water flows into shallow ponds and streams – just like a real rice paddy. Lava stones fill up these waters and also serve as roofing for the villas. It is not only decorative, but also eco-conscious as the lava absorbs the warmth of the sun and spreads this same warmth when it gets colder. The villas are beautifully designed and constructed from white natural stone in combination with wood and a variety of green ferns and grasses.
After having expanded our Instagram account, it’s time to admire our villa. Our host – every guest has the luxury of a 24-hour butler – takes us to an enormous 3-bedroom villa. Our mouths fall wide open when we enter the villa. It seems carved out of a rock. The stairs come out onto a long hallway with access to three bedrooms, a kitchen and a private fitness and massage room. When we walk around the corner we see the living room on our right and, as an absolute highlight, our private 15-metre long infinity pool stretching out to the other side of the three bedrooms. Our kids turn quiet: “who else will swim here?”.
The villas have one up to four bedrooms and have the same modern design as the rest of the hotel: flat screens in every room, iPad docks everywhere, espresso machine, wonderful king-size beds (with the pillows we specified in the questionnaire) and so on. We are rather blown away by it all. Walking around in our villa, we hear familiar music, and yes: it’s our favourite singer. When we take a look at the immense film library on the flat screen in the living room, we instantly notice that our youngest daughter’s favourite film ‘Frozen’ is first on the list. And what about the fresh flowers, fruit, bathroom products (an attraction in themselves: a complete range of bathroom amenities in a Her and His version). This is the epitome of luxury. Yet, at the same time we instantly feel at home.
It takes us half an hour to discover everything in and around the villa. The three bathrooms, one for every bedroom, are huge. In the bathroom adjacent to the master bedroom, we even find an oversized Jacuzzi with a view of the ocean. There are comfy lounge sofas in the living room as well as books, magazines and a large dining table. On the terrace, another dining table with chairs and a cabana where you can relax in the shade.
On the wish list we were asked to make prior to our arrival, we could choose from three levels of butler service (private, discreet or indulgent). We selected ‘private’, which means our host appears when we ask him to. If you opt for ‘indulgent’, your suitcases will be unpacked and you won’t even get the chance to get a drink from the fridge yourself.
So, it doesn’t surprise us at all that many guests hardly leave their villa at all. This is actually a shame as the communal facilities are just as special. Thrilled with our private infinity pool, Alila Villas’ showpiece, a pool of no less than 50 metres behind the lobby, wows us even more. The moment we lie down on the day beds, a staff member hands us a large picnic basket filled with water, bath towels, sun cream, a refreshing spray and all other sorts of things you may need when spending a few hours by the pool.
The two restaurants are on either side of the swimming pool. Cire focuses on contemporary Western-style cuisine, whereas the more laid-back Warung serves the most delicious and authentic Indonesian dishes. Before indulging ourselves in the culinary delights, we first enjoy the sunset in the striking wood-slatted cabana lounge bar spectacularly hanging over the cliff. The unique position of the cliff-edge cabana makes it a very popular wedding location.
Although it is a fairly serious and stylish 5-star hotel, you’ll find relatively many families among the guests. The staff does its utmost to please even the youngest of guests. There is no kids’ club. Still, the hotel staff is ever so willing to organise all kinds of activities. At the suggestion of our host, our kids went to paint some pots and when the assistant manager asked us whether the children would like a swim ring, they brought an enormous inflatable swan.
There is also a whole range of activities for adults. Here as well, the host is more than helpful. For a start, the gym has all the equipment needed to keep fit. We must say, a fit shape is more than welcome if you choose to walk to the beach down under by using the stairs next to the cliff-edge cabana. To get the picture: there are literally hundreds of steps. There are no facilities on the beach and it is impossible to swim there, but it is a wonderful spot to collect shells and to enjoy the wild waves. Further, it is only a 15-minute ride to the famous Uluwatu Temple. Every day at sunset, you can watch a dance performance. Although it attracts a lot of people, it is certainly worth a visit. And what to think of all those other activities whether or not guided by the host: mountain biking through the rice paddies, visiting other temples, visiting various artisans, climbing a volcano, going to less-known and thus very quiet beaches, a cooking class that includes a visit to the local market with the chef of restaurant Cire, and so forth.
# Children will be delighted by the private swimming pool just as much as by the large, mutual swimming pool. Little guests are very welcome and no one will mind the odd mug being knocked over at breakfast. Yet, it is not the place to run around screaming through the hallways.
# The staff is superb. Friendly, but never submissive nor superior. They are hosts and hostesses in the true sense of the word. Always there at the right moment to help you or just to ask you if you are enjoying your day – without coming on too strong.
# Yes, it is very expensive indeed, but it is all high-quality. On the other hand, the two restaurants are reasonably priced. That’s quite pleasant, as there is no alternative nearby.