Bali is one of those Bucket List destinations for most travelers and for the veteran traveler, often a destination for repeat business. The Indonesian isle is a draw for a variety of reasons: pristine natural beauty, welcoming people, unique culture and endless activities on top of mighty fine weather.
Because of all these draws, however, the island welcomes the entire gamut of potential travelers. As a result, “doing Bali” can come in several different forms and result in a vastly differing experience, depending on which route you take.
Here, for your perusal are three different approaches to enjoying the mainland that will each result in a unique holiday.
In Ubud: The Samaya Resort
Let’s call this the deluxe package. The Samaya is located about a 20 minute drive from downtown Ubud, which itself is about a half-hour-to-hour’s drive from the airport in Denpassar. It’s an interesting drive in, since you fight local traffic and narrow roads through local neighbourhoods before arriving in the resort’s driveway.
However, once you get a look at the check-in, it becomes apparent why this is one of the top rated resorts in all of Bali. The glass-encased check-in features a man-made pond and overlooks the grassy breakfast restaurant.
From there down, it’s a steep drop (physically) offering stunning vistas of the surrounding rice paddies and the river cutting behind the property. Friendly, polite and thorough, the Samaya staff aims to please at all costs with everything – a ride into town, room service, a massage booking – just a phone call away.
The rooms themselves, though, are in a class of their own. Private villas that feature a personal pool, a grassy dining and relaxation area, a gazebo for lounging outside or reading, a huge living area with a king-size bed in the middle and an equally impressive bathroom complete with gigantic tub and stand-up shower awaited upon turning the key.
As an added bonus, they offer a nice arrangement of bells and whistles for those traveling on special occasions, including rose petal baths, massages, as well as a candlelit dinner on the river.
In Candidasa: The Alam Asmara
Tucked away on the east coast of Bali, Candidasa is the road less traveled, but a spot that lends itself to the quieter, more familial Balinese experience. About two hours’ drive from Ubud (hire a car) the quaint seaside enclave is an ideal launch for the diving and snorkeling on the coast as well as well situated for some of the island’s nicer temples.
The Alam Asmara is a change from the Samaya, but that does not reflect on its overall quality. The resort has more of a dive resort feel to it with each room coming in the form of a personal cabana with little more than a television, netting a dresser and end tables. The resort, though, is laid out like a little community, meaning you get familiar with your neighbours whether that be at the communal pool, the seaside bar on your way to or from the spa or even swimming in the sea, just steps from the restaurant itself.
Proximity is one of the true benefits of Candidasa and to that end the Alam Asmara offers convenience that some of the other resorts do not. The town is a short drive from the stunning Ujung Water Palace. The Palace, perched on a steep incline offers some stunning architecture and a gorgeous lookout from the top of the hill (be prepared for stairs!) that is best enjoyed in the morning before the crowds can congregate.
The Asmara is also just a short skip away from Amed and some of Bali’s best diving. For the less SCUBA-inclined, excellent snorkeling can be found from most of the beaches inn Ahmed less than 20 feet from the shore with steep shelves and a wide array of sea life to observe.
In Sanur: The Puri Santrian
The Puri Santrian offers a perfect middle-ground between the Samaya’s sheer luxury and the Asmara’s more bohemian feel. Laid out more like your typical Mexican resort, with blocks of about 16 rooms scattered throughout the grounds, this stay is certainly more family-friendly than either the first two mentioned and gives greater access to the more fun-loving side of the Bali experience.
If you’re after some fun after dark it’s not hard to find from Sanur or the Puri Santrian, with a low-key stretch of bars dusted along the main street outside the property’s gates and a short cab waiting to take you to the night life of Kuta: should that be on your list.
The resort itself offers a nice blend of familiarity and luxury. Two central pools beckon near the seaside, one for quiet relaxation and one for active swimming and family fun. The latter features a swim-up bar and water jets to keep younger visitors amused.
Santrian offers an affordable and varied buffet for those that want to keep their dining on-property and even a couple restaurants for those seeking something a bit more upscale (steaks, sushi, etc.). It also, like all good Bali resorts, offers a well-equipped spa that is highly affordable. For best results, head over in the morning, since massages were buy one, get one free before 1pm as of spring 2014.
There are also no shortage of tours that launch from the Puri Santrian, allowing access to everything from white water rafting (back towards Ubud, a couple hours’ drive), catamaran cruises and the stunning Kecac fire dance performance at the Cliffside temple of Uluwatu.
Options often make for the best vacations. Perhaps the ability to cater to everyone – both in taste and affordability – is what has made Bali such a destination for so many travelers for such a long time.