I went for a quick 5D4N getaway to Bali earlier in February 2015 with my husband, and was wowed by the two resorts we stayed at, as well as a third resort that I visited.
Since the good things in life ought to be shared, here's my lowdown on the three properties:
1) Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort
If you want a resort in the heart of Kuta beach, that also has a good range of facilities and activities, with great shopping and food options just a few minutes away from its location, then Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort is the place to book for your next stay in Bali.
This resort made me very happy right from the outset because I was given a free upgrade upon arrival, from a Deluxe Ocean View Room (46 sqm) to a magnificent Ocean Front Suite (100 sqm).
The spacious and classy suite came with a private balcony, and offered uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean, as well as views of the resort's very well-manicured courtyard.
The suite is decked out in warm, earthy hues, which are pleasing to the eye. I liked the in-room, in-house range of Shine toiletries too, which have a very uplifting scent.
From the suite, it's just a short stroll to the resort's main facilities - the pool, spa, fitness centre, and two dining areas. Those with young children will be happy to know that the property also has a recently-opened Play@Sheraton Kids Club, a two-level venue in the resort with facilities, books and programmes for children up to 12 years old.
The Club also has a splash pool for the little ones.
If you have some time, try out the Balinese massage at the resort's Shine Spa. My husband and I signed up for a 60-minute Balinese couples massage, and also asked for a 30-minute express Balinese massage lesson.
The massage was extremely soothing, and was preceded by a calming foot wash. At the end of the treatment, we were ushered to a relaxation room where we sipped hot ginger tea from little cups, feeling utterly relaxed as we watched the sun slip into the sea.
On the second night of our two-night stay at the resort, my husband and I tried the food at the resort's Italian restaurant, Bene. Some of the dishes we had were very good, including the salad that came with pear, prosciutto, baby fennel, and sun-dried tomato, and the seared scallops with cauliflower puree and sultana paste.
A pasta I would recommend is the ravioli stuffed with chicken breast, parmesan cheese and garlic, which was served with tomato sauce. In general, the restaurant has a vast selection of dishes and pasta options, so you'd definitely be able to find a dish you like.
Beyond the food, the service was excellent, and yes, this is superficial, but the plates were beautiful and served to enhance the entire dining experience.
The resort's other restaurant is Feast, where buffet breakfast is served. There are options aplenty, but I'd like to highlight their desserts station, where you can get freshly-made churros, waffles, and pancakes. There are a range of sauces and condiments for you to douse over your chosen dessert, so feast away.
Kids will have a fun time at Feast too, because there are kiddy chairs and a breakfast selection just for them.
After breakfast on both days, my husband and I walked off the calories by going shopping at Beachwalk, a retail, dining and entertainment hub located right next to the resort.
If mall-ish shopping is not your thing, a pasar malam (open-air market) is located a lane away from one of the Beachwalk's gates. The lane is called Poppies 2, and it's where you can bargain down the price of a singlet or tank top to about SGD$5 per piece.
Overall, this was a wonderful, warm resort with something for everyone, and I'd be most happy to stay here again on my next trip to Bali.
2) Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa
From Sheraton, we headed for Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa, which is located in South Kuta and a 45-minute drive away.
We arrived at the resort at twilight, and there was something delightfully mysterious about it right from the outset. Flaming torches in bowls placed upon pedestals blazed in the dusk, and the lobby was located atop a flight of steps that was structured like a Mayan-period pyramid.
I felt like I was climbing up a mini fortress, and that feeling was amplified by the dramatic sounding of a gong upon the completion of our ascent. In the lobby, gnarled tree parts, artfully shaped and lacquered over, served as our seats as we waited to check in.
We were soon ushered into our Ocean View Suite, an 84-sqm sized space with an interior that combined wood with geometry. To me, the room was reminiscent of the one I stayed in at Heritance Kandalama Hotel in Sri Lanka in 2012, which also had polished wooden floors and a similar black and brown palette.
What gave this room a lighter, fun touch, however, were elements in the form of a wooden block-stacking game tucked away around the sofa area, a traditional Indonesian game called Congklak placed atop the the outdoor jacuzzi, and a towel art-shaped elephant on the bed.
As I stepped out of the room to the balcony, I was treated to the roaring sound of waves crashing upon the shore. I could not see the Indian Ocean's waters that clearly at nightfall, but the noise they made clearly conveyed creation's force, energy, and power. I stood there for awhile in the dark, awestruck.
We were too lazy to leave the room, so dinner was a comforting room service meal of chicken satay, fish and chips, and an Anantara burger. The generous chunks of chicken satay were tender, and went very well with the very thick peanut gravy that they came with. The fish meat was fresh, and the husband found the beef patty in the burger juicy and tasty, and the overall portion size satisfying.
The next morning, we wandered around the resort, marvelling at its architectural details and the nature that it lured into its grounds. Dragonflies and several types of butterflies flitted around boldly, and birds hopped about the lush lawns. Because the resort is cut into a cliff, the rooms are tiered and when viewed from above, they look just like a small Balinese rice terrace with their grass-carpeted roofs.
We met with the resort's general manager Stephan Winkler for a chat and he said Uluwatu is a relatively new but up-and-coming area, because of its pristine beaches and generous waves. "We offer supercharged surfing, an excellent view, and total relaxation," he said with pride, adding that the resort has been growing increasingly popular with honeymooners.
The resort houses a beautiful wedding chapel, which hosted some 200 weddings last year. There have already been about 50 bookings to date this year.
That afternoon, I went for a manicure and pedicure at the resort's spa, both of which were well done. The spa uses Opi nail products for everything from the hand scrub to hand cream to cuticle treatment oil and nail polish, so you can be assured of the quality of the treatment you'll be getting.
Following the pampering, it was off to a yoga class in the open. I highly recommend this. There's something special about doing yoga with the evening sun's warm rays upon your body and the balmy sea breeze around you. For those uninterested in being yogis, the resort offers a host of other activities including Balinese cooking, Balinese dance, and ceramic-making lessons.
Dinner on this second night at the resort was something called Dining by Design, a private dining experience with your own personal butler. From a range of locations, we chose the resort's pool island - a platform right in the middle of the resort's infinity pool.
The quality and presentation of each dish in this five-course meal was excellent. We had a starter of Angus beef carpaccio, followed by homemade lobster ravioli with spinach and white tomato foam, and then a third course of grilled barramundi rolled in parma ham with spinach gnocchi, enoki mushrooms and green lentil sauce.
We were starting to fill up by this point, but I'm glad we saved the remaining space in our tummies for the main course - veal tenderloin with a tiger prawn stuffed within, drizzled with port wine jus. Dessert was a smooth and creamy Amaretto Sabayon, served with a scoop of ice-cream of our choice.
The husband and I agreed at the end: This was an absolutely delicious and self-indulgent dinner.
The next morning, more food awaited. I was surprised at how much of the buffet breakfast at the resort's 360 Restaurant I could eat. The chefs there do their eggs, mushrooms, and sausages well, and the same can be said of their pancakes and juice blends.
Do try their fruit-based shooters. I downed a few dragonfruit shooters because the bright purple concoction was too visually arresting to resist. They tasted so good.
It struck me then, that the hours in this haven were fast slipping away. It was 11am, and we were leaving at 3pm. I coaxed the husband to take a walk to the Impossible Beach, located right below the resort. The resort has a beach lift, that opens directly onto their Surfari Sundeck on the beach. This wasn't working during our stay though, so we traipsed on foot around the property and descended to the beach via another route.
Being confronted with the vastness and nearness of the majestic ocean was breathtaking. The waves were strong and had this raw energy to them, while the sand beneath our feet was so very fine and soft. I spotted some rocks that had a unique blue tint, and started prowling the beach for them.
After this, we headed back to the resort for a dip in its inviting infinity pool. The complimentary Belinjau crackers provided with the poolside towels were hugely addictive. I think I gained more calories from gobbling them up than those I shed from swimming.
Then, with much reluctance, it was time to go.
Bali has been called the Island of the gods. At Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa, I definitely felt as though I had been transported to a slice of paradise for those two days, into an otherworldly sanctuary where life is nothing but goodness, comfort, relaxation and bliss.
3) AYANA Resort and Spa Bali
Wanting to squeeze every last bit that Bali could offer me before I headed back home, I arranged for a visit to AYANA Resort and Spa, a cliff-top property located above Jimbaran Bay and just 10km away from the airport.
I had two objectives: To check out the resort's newly renovated Ocean View Pool Villas, and to soak in the day's last rays at the resort's famed Rock Bar.
As our car drove around the compound, I was impressed by the resort's sprawling grounds - some 90 hectares worth of 290 rooms and 78 villas, 15 restaurants and bars, and recreational facilities.
AYANA's 24 relaunched, one-bedroom Ocean View Pool Villas look fit for royalty.
The centerpiece of the bathroom, for example, is a hand-carved Roman-style bathtub, and this indoor space leads to an outdoor shower where you can bathe in your birthday suit.
The outdoor plunge pool is also framed by trees and plants, for a very natural, outdoorsy dip. The canopy-style bed also comes with indigenous textiles and throw cushions, all of which convey cozy, luxe comfort. For those who want to luxuriate all day long in an oversized room, these villas are for you.
I, however, hastened to the Rock Bar, which is built atop natural rocks 14 metres above the Indian Ocean, at the base of AYANA's towering cliffs.
Visitors can walk either walk down a staircase, or be transported to the bar below via an inclinator. I opted for the latter - just for the fun of it. As the inclinator descended, the bar almost seemed to rise out of the ocean below, as it juts out from the cliff-face.
The bar has a wonderful ambience and a super cool vibe, in part thanks to a DJ booth elevated above the bar. There was beauty all around too, with the rocks glittering in the sunlight and the sun shining brilliantly above.
The quality of the bar's savoury tapas options was also very impressive. We ordered popcorn chicken which was served with these stone bowls containing herbed olive oil and a spice blend of nuts and seeds. The oil helped to coat the spices around the chicken, and it made for a very aromatic treat.
I would also highly recommend the chilled soba noodles, which came in a swirled heap in stone bowls and were topped with coconut froth and zucchini mash. These really cleansed the palate and are refreshing for a hot summer's day. Other notable bites would be the lobster spring rolls and fried chicken wings.
As we ate, the bar became awash with golden light. All too soon, many had whipped out their mobile phones for selfies and were eagerly snapping away in the direction of the forthcoming sunset.
My husband and I soaked in the sight of the sky's changing colours in a comfortable silence, before we too could resist it no more and had to capture images of the sun before it set beyond the horizon.
We stayed at the bar all the way until the remaining sunlight had dissolved into alluring sheens of yellow, orange and pink, and then willed ourselves to leave.
The Rock Bar was a marvellous location to take in the day's spectacular sunset, and I'm more than glad I was there to witness that sliver of creation's beauty - a stunning end to a wonderful trip.
Bali, I'll be back.
Join me on my lifestyle adventures, snap by snap on Instagram @brybrybanana
Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort
Jalan Pantai Kuta, Bali 80361, Indonesia
+62 361 846 5555
Anantara Bali Uluwatu Resort & Spa
Jl. Pemutih - Labuan Sait, Uluwatu, Bali 80364, Indonesia
+62 361 895 7555
AYANA Resort and Spa Bali
Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, Badung, Bali 80364, Indonesia
+62 361 702 222