Hotel of the Week: Nihi Sumba

One of Indonesia’s finest beach resorts channels the tribal culture and frontier feeling of its island home.

Nihi Sumba overlooks its own private beach and surf break. (Photo: Jason Childs/Nihi Sumba)

Why You Should Go

Accessed from Bali via a 50-minute flight and a scenic drive through the countryside of Sumba island, this dreamy barefoot-luxe retreat has been twice recognized as the world’s best hotel. Weary city-dwellers will delight in its remote location on Sumba’s southwestern coast, ensconced in a 270-hectare plot of forested land stepping down to a private 2.5-kilometer-long beach. Rates here include all meals as well as local excursions and a range of activities on the water, including ocean kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing. Dining does not disappoint: excellent international and Indonesian fare await at sand-floored restaurant Ombak, while Nio Beach Club serves up comfort food — think barbecued seafood and pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven — by an infinity pool. The beachfront sushi bar, Kaboku, specializes in seven-course omakase menus prepared with the catch of the day, and Nihi Sumba’s newest dining venue, Latin American tapas bar Mex’ikan, offers tacos and ceviche.

The resort celebrates the age-old megalithic culture of Sumba in its overall appearance: most thatched villas and communal spaces take their design cues from the traditional high-hatted dwellings found in local villages. The property also shows how high-end tourism can be harnessed as a force for positive change. No less than 93 percent of Nihi Sumba’s workforce are hired locally, while profits from the resort are fed directly into the Sumba Foundation, which improves access to clean water in the surrounding communities, provides nutritional meals for schoolchildren, and runs medical clinics with the aim of eliminating malaria from the island over the next decade.

The three-bedroom Mamole Tree House. (Photo: Read McKendree/Nihi Sumba)

An outdoor tub in a one-bedroom Raja Lamba villa. (Photo: Read McKendree/Nihi Sumba)

The Rooms

Natural materials such as wood, stone, and bamboo predominate in the 27 rustic-chic villas, which are configured from one to five bedrooms. Tribal carvings and Sumbanese ikat tapestries lend the rooms a local flavor; colorful indigenous patterns also adorn the bed runners and cushions. Each of the villas enjoy ocean views, and all feature king-size beds, private plunge pools, outdoor bathtubs and showers, as well as the services of a private butler. One of the newer additions is the Mamole Tree House, comprising three separate villas set in an expansive private garden with two infinity pools (one of which is tiered) and two open-air dining areas. Built around a tree trunk, the circular upstairs master bedroom at Mamole even has sliding glass doors on all sides.

A surfer at Occy’s Left. (Photo: Jason Wollcott/Nihi Sumba)

Horseriding at sunset on Nihiwatu Beach. (Photo: Tania Araujo/Nihi Sumba)

Things You Can Do

Avid surfers should not miss the chance to tackle Occy’s Left, the world-famous reef break out front that is only accessible to Nihi Sumba guests. Other water-based activities range from deep-sea fishing excursions to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in the sea or down the nearby Wanukaka River. Wellness-minded travelers are advised to embark on the Nihioka Spa Safari, which includes an optional hike through the countryside and a Sumbanese village, breakfast in a gazebo perched above a private cove, and then an entire day’s worth of muscle-melting treatments. Inland, Nihi Sumba also offers guided excursions to the teal-colored swimming hole at Matayangu Waterfall (a.k.a. Blue Waterfall) for a refreshing dip followed by a picnic lunch. Horseback riding on the beach during the late afternoon is a must-do, while kids and adults alike can sign up for chocolate-making classes at the Hobbit-esque chocolate factory on the resort grounds.

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