Checking In: Raffles Bali

While the Jimbaran resort quietly made its debut in July 2020, the grand opening this December marks the culmination of a project nearly four decades in the making.

Inside the bedroom of an Ocean Pool villa. (Photo courtesy of Raffles Bali)

To say Raffles Bali has had a long gestation period would be an understatement. The resort was first dreamed up in 1984, when the late Dr. Shoichi Kajima — then president of the Tokyo-based Kajima Corporation — came across a parcel of jungled land on southern Bali’s Jimbaran Bay. Although the acquisition process took more than two decades, he never lost sight of his vision: to create a classic Balinese resort in a Japanese manner.

Hence the Raffles’ elegant, Zen-like aesthetic of muted colors and minimalism with a focus on local materials: woven bamboo-mat ceilings, hardwood floors, limestone taken directly from the site. These elements are balanced with batik tapestries behind the beds and a trove of antiques from around the Indonesian archipelago. Stepping into a villa (there are just 32 across the resort’s 23 hectares), guests might find bronze nekara kettle drums, paddles from Papua, or tricolor gorga singa sculptures carved by Toba Batak artisans in North Sumatra.

Raffles Bali’s 900-square-meter Presidential Villa.

The contemporary Indonesian menu at Rumari includes Rujak Scallop, which blends fresh Maluku shellfish with Balinese fruits. (Photo courtesy of Raffles Bali)

Also apparent are all the creature comforts expected of a Raffles property, whether that might be cloudlike pillows misted with lavender or an enormous bathroom featuring double vanities, a deep-soaking tub, and an indoor and outdoor shower. On the private terrace out front, beside a plunge pool whose limestone cladding absorbs heat during the day (ensuring the water is never too cold for a nighttime swim), a thatched bale with an oversize daybed is just the place to take in the ocean and sunset views.

Raffles Bali also excels when it comes to dining. Down by a hidden stretch of golden sand, Loloan Beach Bar and Grill serves up wood-fired pizzas, a zesty garden salad with hummus, and grilled seafood marinated in a Jimbaran-style spice mix. Rumari, situated at the highest point of the property, offers an indulgent à la carte breakfast packed with delights like tuna poke, Central Javanese soto ayam, and lobster omelets. By night, French chef Gaetan Biesuz and his team turn out exquisite interpretations of Indonesian dishes, which are best prefaced with sundowners at The Writers Bar next door. The resort can even organize private dinners at a seaside gazebo, a rustic pergola next to its fruit and vegetable gardens, or the Secret Cave — a natural grotto discovered during construction.

Guests at Raffles Bali are looked after by a team of Wellbeing Butlers. (Photo: James Louie)

This sand-floored cavity doubles as a venue for morning meditation sessions; nearby, therapists deliver muscle-melting massages in the main building’s two treatment suites or at The Sanctuary, a stilted hillside pavilion where spa-goers are cocooned in greenery. Instrumental in Raffles Bali’s push for holistic wellness is its team of discreet yet attentive Wellbeing Butlers, who pamper guests through experiences like the Sleeping Ritual, a turndown service that includes a bite-size sweet — rolled coconut pancake (dadar gulung) served with acacia honey, perhaps — and a rotating selection of wedang, Javanese herbal drinks infused with ingredients such as rosella, pandan, lemongrass or kaffir lime.

And when one awakes after sunrise, few things beat sitting out in the thatched bale, listening to birdsong and the waves of the Indian Ocean lapping against the beach far below. In an age of instant gratification, it’s comforting to know that Dr. Kajima’s long-cherished wish has finally been fulfilled.

rafflesbali.com; doubles from US$1,060

Poolside at one of the resort’s ocean-view villas. (Photo courtesy of Raffles Bali)

This article originally appeared in the December 2021/February 2022 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Jimbaran’s New Gem”).

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