Checking In at Jimbaran Four Seasons

Premier Villa Detail JFS

Interior details now include carved stone panels and updated teak furniture.

A return visit to the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay reveals a classic reborn.

By Christopher P. Hill

Almost a quarter of a century ago, anyone walking into the newly opened Four Seasons resort on Bali’s Jimbaran Bay would have been astonished by what they saw. Instead of a conventional hotel building, there was a thatch-roofed lobby that led—by porter-driven golf buggy no less—through winding coral-stone-walled lanes to individual guest villas, arranged around seven squares in an emulation of a traditional Balinese village. Individual villas! It was a first for Bali, and possibly the world: though Phuket’s Amanpuri had arguably pioneered the concept with its 40 standalone “pavilions” in 1988,  the Four Seasons, which opened five years later, lays claim to being the first large-scale luxury villa resort, and certainly the first to outfit each of its accommodations with a private plunge pool. Never mind the gorgeous Balinese gardens and sweeping views of Jimbaran Bay—this was a game-changing property, and one that helped cement the island’s reputation as a bona fide luxury destination.

Checking In JFS

The poolside bale at one of the Four Seasons’ revamped Premier villas.

I was among its first astonished guests, and I have returned several times since. It’s still one of my favorite places in Bali. But as time passed, the Four Seasons admittedly lost its edge: other resort villas mushroomed in the region, offering bigger pools and more modish interiors. The Four Seasons’ “modern Balinese” that had seemed so fresh even a decade ago began to look a little fusty.

No longer. Thanks to the largest renovation in the resort’s history, most of its villas have been dramatically overhauled, expanding the bedrooms with the addition of a living area and, in the Premier category, increasing the size of the plunge pools by a third. Gone are the rattan furnishings, Balinese paintings, and marble tiles, replaced in turn by streamlined teak settees and work spaces, carved stone panels, and gleaming wooden floors. Sheer white bed canopies now hang from a square frame rather than a disk, adding to the sense of spaciousness, while wall-length sliding glass doors on two sides fill the villas with light. All the beds (now with heat absorbing mattress toppers and pillowy duvets), soft furnishings, and fittings are new, as is the in-room gadgetry, which includes big flat-screen TVs for those who need them. Indeed, the only relics of the past are the bathrooms’ freestanding soaking tubs—a longtime guest favorite—which have been thoughtfully retained.

Mind you, the best part about these villas has always been what’s outside: a courtyard-style walled garden with a thatched poolside bale and unobstructed views of the flat blue expanse of Jimbaran Bay. As I gaze out from the edge of my plunge pool on a bright day in April, I’m reminded that there are worse ways to while away an afternoon than playing spot-the-plane as jetliners descend toward the airport across the water. And that’s one thing that will never go out of fashion.

Jl. Bukit Permai, Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia; 62-361/701-010; doubles from US$1,050; fourseasons.com

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