Where to stay in Bali: The island’s best resorts offer luxury infused with local culture

Where to stay in Bali: The island’s best resorts offer luxury infused with local culture

Bali’s popularity with Europeans dates back to the 1970s when hippies chose the island for its spiritual culture and low cost of living.

Fast forward to 2021, and another type of traveller seeking out cheap rent and food descended on the island – digital nomads. When the borders of the island fully reopened post-COVID, tourists came flooding back.

Millions of Balinese rely on tourism for employment but some believe the negative impacts have not been well-managed – landfills are overflowing, sewage flows into the sea in some places and pollution from cars is palpable.

Despite all of this, Bali is magical. Local people are welcoming and delighted to share their multi-religious culture with visitors. The food is excellent, and there’s an itinerary for everyone – whether you want to explore temples, beaches or just the inside of bars, it’s all here.

As with any popular destination, hotel owners have little sway over what the government does to manage tourism. But they do have control over the experience of their guests, and I have only had positive experiences in Bali.

On a recent trip, my first time back here since pandemic restrictions lifted, I decided to explore Jimbaran.

This beachside town has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country and is home to large, luxury resorts.

It’s also a short drive from the airport - ideal when you’re just off a long flight and can’t face Bali’s traffic congestion.

Raffles Bali: A long time in the making but worth the wait

It’s hard to find an unobstructed ocean view in Bali these days but the infinity pool at Raffles looks out over a calming ocean.

The 23-hectare estate, cooled by a gentle ocean breeze, was originally eight separate pieces of land. All of these were joined together, with planning and construction taking 34 years from vision to opening in 2021.

This ambition and attention to detail was evident in every part of our stay, from the welcome ceremony to the beautiful gifts we were given upon check-out.

Everything here is done to your liking, from tailored menus to the timing of meals which ensure you rarely cross paths with other guests. I suspect privacy is what many come here seeking. The spacious villas are spread out amongst native trees and plants, adding to the sense of seclusion.

Guests are greeted with a traditional welcome ceremony
Guests are greeted with a traditional welcome ceremony - Raffles Bali

What is it like to have a personal butler?

Raffles is famous in the hospitality world for providing guests with their own butler. Like in the films, I had expected ours to be a serious, suited and booted greying old man, prone to bowing when leaving the room. In reality, Rai was young, cheerful, from nearby Lombok and very professional.

Like everything here, he was on hand when needed (via WhatsApp) but unintrusive. He expertly navigated my dietary requirements to arrange our delicious in-villa dinner and was knowledgeable about the local area. We only ventured out a couple of times, though – the resort is so beautiful and all-encompassing that we were happy to stay in the cocoon.

Fresh, imaginative food that’s locally sourced

Meals at Raffles Bali are unrushed, allowing you to savour the thought and care that has gone into the sourcing and cooking of every ingredient.

Fine dining was fused with Indonesian culture during our five-step journey meal at the in-house Rumari restaurant.

A traditional hand washing ceremony was the first stop on our culinary journey around the Indonesian archipelago. With 17,000 islands it is the world’s largest and each area has its own culinary tradition - each dish at Rumari introduced us to exquisite new flavours, all expertly explained to us by our lovely waiter.

Cultural immersion is easy here
Cultural immersion is easy here - Raffles Bali

Bali's wellness at its finest

Like many travellers, I strive for my presence in a foreign land to benefit rather than exploit local communities. So it’s reassuring to know that 80 per cent of the ingredients used at Raffles are sourced within Indonesia, with the other 20 per cent imported. Another lovely touch was breakfast being a la carte, rather than a buffet, to reduce food waste.

The local community equally benefits from the spa as the healers are Balinese.

We had a couple’s sound healing session in a tranquil space indoors, though the outdoor sanctuary looked equally magical.

The session began with a numerology reading, a modality I was already intrigued by.

Using our names and birthdays, the healer told us about personality traits that could benefit or harm us and how to harness these. He then spoke about what the year might have in store. Considering he’d never met us before, I found his reading to be spookily accurate. My husband was somewhat more sceptical but still enjoyed the experience.

The morning we left Raffles, I stepped out onto the terrace for one last sunrise swim in our private infinity pool. I emerged feeling refreshed, grateful and vowing to return to this piece of paradise.

The writer was a guest of Raffles Bali.