Above: The sunset pavilion.
If you want luxurious designer villas with stunning ocean views, you canâ€™t do much better than Alila Villas Uluwatu, the highly regarded eco-luxe resort perched atop limestone cliffs on the south side of Baliâ€™s Bukit Peninsula.
But how to approach a stay? With the property spreading over 14.4 acres of varying elevation and including 54 one-bedroom and seven three-bedroom villas, first-timers to the resort could use a little help.
Your first decision must be about villa size: a one-bedroom or a three-bedroom. This will of course depend on the size of your party. No studios or two-bedroom units exist on the property.
All the one-bedroom units are in a large section on the hillside sloping gently up from the flat cliff top where the lobby sits. These villas are laid out in four rows, with each row at a different elevation. Though the prices might be the same, some villas have significantly better views than others. It pays to be informed.
Villas on the highest row begin with the number 4, and in general they have the best views. Of all the one-bedroom villas, units 408 and 409 have the best views. If those are already booked, try units 404 through to 407. On the third row, units 310, 311, 312, and 313 have the best views. On the second row, try for 220.
If youâ€™re interested in a three-bedroom villa, first decide about your desired location: on the hillside or on the flat cliff top below it. Units on the hillside begin with the letter H; those on the cliff top begin with a C.
On the hillside, you canâ€™t do much better than unit H15, which at the moment is the second-highest villa (though note that about 20 more three-bedroom villas are being planned or are under construction higher up the hill).
Units on the hillside, whether they have one or three bedrooms, tend to benefit from the wind. This is certainly true of unit H15, where a delightful breeze keeps sun bathers from feeling too hot and seems to reach every room and area. Of course air-conditioning is available throughout the resort, but many guests simply prefer the natural breeze â€” as the eco-conscious designers hoped.
The view from H15 consists of jungle, the flat rooftops of the other villas, and of course the ocean. If the rooftops sound like the least interesting part of that, take a closer look. One of the hallmarks of Alila Villas Uluwatu is elegant environmentalism.
The roofs fit seamlessly into the landscape. Theyâ€™re designed with black volcanic pumice rock that absorbs heat, keeps interiors naturally cool, and look quite stylish. As you enter H15 â€” the entryway is one level higher than the rest of the villa â€” youâ€™re greeted with a direct view of your rooftop through the glass walls of the stairwell. Consider it architecture as art.
In contrast to the hillside villas, the three-bedroom villas that sit on the flat, sun-baked cliff top near the lobby donâ€™t get as much breeze. Youâ€™re likely to need the AC in some rooms, especially the glass-walled living room. But these villas feature direct ocean views that can be described only as spectacular. Unit C6, which is furthest from the lobby, offers particularly stunning views and enjoys many repeat visitors.
Swim to the ocean-facing end of this villaâ€™s infinity pool and you can stare out at the vast expanse of the ocean directly ahead. Below, the cliff tumbles downward, with butterflies and small birds darting among its shrubbery. The lines of this villa are so expertly arranged that it can seem the horizon itself has been carefully placed there by the architectâ€™s pencil.
Aside from choosing your villa, another decision youâ€™ll need to make when staying at this resort is which level of service you want. Youâ€™ll be asked at check-in to choose among private, discreet, or indulgent.
With the first, youâ€™re left completely alone. You can safely walk around nude, if you wish, confident that nobody will barge in. With discreet service, itâ€™s pretty much like any other resort: theyâ€™ll clean your room when youâ€™re gone and leave you alone when youâ€™re in. With indulgent service, youâ€™re assigned a dedicated host whoâ€™s on-call and at your service around the clock.
The trick to enjoying these service levels is realizing you can switch at any time. Choose whatever makes sense for the beginning of your stay at check-in, but keep in mind that you can switch to another service level whenever it suits you. So a good strategy might be to start with indulgent, switch to private at night for skinny-dipping, and then request discreet in the afternoon. The point is that itâ€™s entirely up to you.
A few other tips on staying here: Mark the end of your day at the sunset pavilion, an open-air lounge bar where you can order a few cocktails and enjoy fantastic views that put anything found in Seminyak to shame. The pavilion is right on the edge of towering cliffs, which recede into the distance on either side. Bring your camera.
Next to the pavilion are stairs leading down to the beach. It takes about five minutes to get down. But donâ€™t just go on your own. For no extra charge a butler can accompany you with everything youâ€™ll need, like cold water and beach towels. Also, youâ€™ll want to go during low-tide when the beach is most exposed; the front desk has the daily tidal schedule.
Another perk at this resort is the free morning yoga session. Itâ€™s held every morning from 9 to 10 at a pavilion located near the bottom row of one-bedroom villas.
When you get a massage or other treatment at the spa, youâ€™re assigned a spa villa that includes its own safety deposit box. That makes returning to your villa to secure your valuables an unnecessary trip.
** Jimbaran Bay, with its excellent on-the-beach seafood stalls, is about 15 minutes away by car. If you donâ€™t mind its bustling and sometimes chaotic atmosphere, you can enjoy outstanding seafood at a fraction of the price youâ€™d pay at the resort.
** The pieces of rectangular wood affixed to some of the walls are old railroad ties.
** The stylish hollow metal columns with lighting inside, which youâ€™ll find supporting the roofs and illuminating the rooms, are made from recycled telephone poles.
** Uluwatu Temple, a major attraction famous for its cliff-side ocean views, is a short drive from the resort. Many tourists on Bali fight traffic and travel over an hour to reach it, but for resort guests itâ€™s just around the corner. Well worth a visit.
** So dry is the land in and around the resort that Alila must buy water and bring it in. Indeed a few decades ago local farmers considered the land so useless that many sold it for a song. Today hoteliers consider it prime real estate.