Review of Amankila, Bali’s best luxury hotel

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last summer, I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Singapore and the Indonesian islands of Java & Bali. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (November 7, 2018): Review of Amankila, Bali (Indonesia)

Mount Agung provides a dramatic backdrop for Amankila, a secluded seaside resort overlooking the Lombok Strait and managed by Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. The 34 free-standing thatched-roof suites offer exceptional views from their hillside locations, and are connected to the resort’s facilities by raised walkways. Guests can relax around the signature three-tiered pool or at the beach club on Amankila’s beach, with its silverblack sands and turquoise waters. What separates Amankila from other luxury Bali hotels is that it is situated in Karangasem, one of Bali’s most traditional regencies, offering easy access to untouched rural countryside, local crafts and the region’s royal past.

Amankila features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Bali, the best luxury hotels in Indonesia, and the world’s most beautiful hotel pools.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Amankila is located near Manggis in Karangasem Regency in eastern Bali, far away from the tourist crowds that are present in Bali’s popular southern and central urban resort areas. The untouched East of Bali offers a blissfully tranquil landscape where you can still discover the island’s authentic spiritual and regal heritage. Here, sacred mountains tower over emerald-green rice paddies and traditional villages, where life has changed little over the centuries. It’s a miracle that eastern Bali survived the island’s tourist hype almost unscathed (so far). Amankila is 90 minutes from Bali’s airport and the resort provides complimentary transfer in WiFi equipped cars.
  • Amankila’s name is derived from Aman (meaning peace in Sanskrit) and Kila (hill in Balinese) but the name is a little modest since the resort occupies a spectacular hilltop spot on the verdant hill of Indrakila. Due to its elevated position, the property affords terrific panoramas of the deep blue waters of the Lombok Strait, a waterway between the islands of Bali and Lombok that connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. The property’s hilltop location is set against the backdrop of Mount Agung, an active volcano which is the highest mountain on the island and considered by the Balinese people to be a replica of Mount Meru, the central axis of the universe.
  • The resort’s magnificent design is inspired by East Bali’s spectacular nature, colorful festivals and mystic culture. The three-tiered infinity pool mimics verdant rice paddy fields; wall art depicts ancient tales from sacred Hindu texts; and all materials are sourced locally and custom-made for the resort. Although Amankila is more than a quarter-century old, the resort is still a masterpiece of timeless architecture with a minimalist decor that effortlessly embodies the Aman ethos of understated luxury. Amanikila was designed by renowned U.S.-based architect Ed Tuttle, who is also the mastermind behind some other Aman properties, such as the very first Aman resort – Amanpuri in Phuket – and the Greek sanctuary of Amanzoe.
  • Amankila features a spectacular layout. The fortress like main structure – with its monolithic stone blocks, traditional thatched roof pavilions, and exotic carved woods – sits on top of the hill and houses the open-walled lobby, the main restaurant, a bar and a boutique shop. All facilities here are centered around a majestic staircase and afford stunning panoramas of the three terraced lap pools and the blue waters of the Lombok Strait beyond. Below the pool area, a short stroll away down the hill, is the beach club, which features another restaurant, a lap pool, and water sport center. The stand-alone accommodations are nestled into the forested hillside and connected to the main facilities by elevated white walkways.
  • Reached by a series of stairs and elevated walkways and raised on stilts, Amankila’s 33 suites – nine with private pools – are freestanding beach house-style huts with alang alang thatched roofs. During my visit, I was upgraded to a magnificent pool suite, located in the upper part of the resort. Decorated with inlaid pearl and coconutshell furniture, the suite featured a bedroom – with a canopied kingsize bed, a desk and window-side divan – giving way to a large bathroom with a soaking tub, his/her sinks, separate dressing areas, and separate rooms for the shower and toilet. The large terrace was furnished with coconut-shell tables and rattan chairs and featured a private pool enclosed by a paras-stone courtyard.
  • Aman resorts are known for their breathtaking pool areas and Amankila is no exception to that. In fact, the resort features one of the most elegant pools I have ever seen at a luxury hotel in all my years of traveling. Cascading down from the lobby towards the shore, Amankila’s main pool area takes centre stage at the resort and will be your first sight of the resort as you arrive in the lobby pavilion. Laid out in dark blue tiles and offering spectacular ocean views, the three-tiered infinity swimming pool echoes Bali’s terraced rice paddies, which each pool flowing into the one below it and being of considerable size. The pools are surrounded by plenty of sun loungers and six beautiful bales (Balinese cabanas).
  • Minutes from the main resort facilities, Amankila’s private beach club can be reached by a picturesque stroll down a pretty steep set of stairs or by funky open-sided mini-cars driven by the resort staff and available 24/7. Set in a lust coconut grove, the beach club features a Balinese-style pavilion which houses a restaurant that is open for lunch only. Next to the restaurant is an elegant 40 m (130 ft) long swimming pool that is lined on each side by a row of elegant sun loungers. The restaurant and adjacent pool overlook a magnificent lawn with towering palm trees and frangipani trees but do not offer a view of the beach/sea itself since the lust vegetation bordering the beach was kept intact.
  • Just steps from the beach club is a stunning sweep of volcanic sand beach along Lombok Strait. Only accessible to hotel guests, the idyllic beach is completely private, a rarity in Bali where most beaches are overcrowded. Feeling very soft under the feet, the back sand shimmers and glitters in the intense light of the Indonesian sun. Amankila’s bay is sheltered and the waters here are calm most of the time due to the shallow gradient of the seabed, making the sea perfect for swimming or water sports like kayaking. Eight lounging bales are set along the beach in the shade of the tropical vegetation, well spaced to allow maximum privacy. The Aman staff is always at hand to offer refreshing coctails, fresh fruits and delicious snacks at your seat.
  • Amankila features 3 dining venues, all of them serving delicious food, with the herbs, fruit and vegetables coming from the resort’s own kitchen garden:
    • The main restaurant – located in an open-walled pavilion above the pool is open for breakfast and dinner. It offers Western and Indonesian cuisine featuring catch of the day and locally reared meats, including suckling pig, Wagyu beef and duck. An excellent à la carte breakfast is also served here.
    • Set back from the main pool, the Terrace restaurant is only open for lunch, and offers a selection of Asian and Western fare.
    • The restaurant at the beachclub is also only open for lunch and serves salads, pizzas and Indonesian and light Western dishes.
  • All guests can enjoy daily complimentary afternoon tea. Staff in traditional dress supply guests with Indonesian ginger tea, Bali kopi and cakes. The afternoon tea is served on the steps of the library on the upper pool level. Don’t forget to visit the library itself, a cool sanctuary overlooking the pool, with floor-to-ceiling windows and oversize daybeds; it offers a decent selection of books, newspapers, magazines, games and CDs
  • The wide range of excursions, activities and theatrical presentations makes this the most family-friendly Indonesian Aman. The region around Amankila is ideal for trekking or mountain biking, taking in tropical forest, emerald-green rice paddies, mountains and temples. Along the way, you can discover rural villages where life has changed little. Two of Bali’s most important temples – Luhur Lempuyang and Besakih, the island’s mother temple, reached by a majestic climb up Mount Agung – lie within reach of Amankila. The magnificent water palaces of Tirtagangga and Ujung in the area known as ‘old Bali’ are also close to the resort.
  • The impeccable service is what let Amankila really shine. To give you some examples: little complementary gifts & bedtime stories are waiting on your bed each night; Balinese children present you with traditional Hindu offerings each day; and the waiters call housekeeping as soon as you enter the restaurant for breakfast, so your room is made up by the time your return.
  • Amankila is a self-contained world of lavish luxury, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
  • Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.
  • Amankila is one of Aman’s five luxury havens scattered around various parts of Indonesia, so a stay here can be easily combined with a visit to one of Aman’s other properties in the country:
    • Amanjiwo: a superb hotel located in the cultural heartland of Java near the world-famous temple complex of Borobodur.
    • Amandari: a rainforest sanctuary near the village of Ubud in Bali’s cooler mountain area.
    • Aman Villas at Nusa Dua: a peaceful retreats located on Bali’s southernmost peninsula
    • Amanwana: a tented camp on the serene nature reserve of Moyo Island.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Although Amankila is more than 25 years old, it still delivers and remains my favorite resort in Bali, despite stiff competition. The remote location in East Bali, the breathtaking pool, the magnificent beach and the stunning design are hard to beat. Yet, there are some things you need to know before considering a stay here:

  • Amankila is located a few minutes by car from the harbor of Padang Bay. Although you cannot see the harbor itself from the resort, you will occasionally see ferry boats and smaller oil tankers pass by or wait for admittance to Padang Bay. During my stay, there were more ships than usual since the harbor was closed due to exceptionally high swells (the highest Bali had seen in decades), with the sheltered bay in front of the hotel being used as protected anchorage for a dozen ships. That said, it was not Amankila’s fault nor did it really affect my stay (the views were still spectacular, only marginally marred by the ships).
  • The resort is built on a hill with elevated walkways and lots of stairs. Although visually stunning, this can be a challenge for travelers that have difficulties with walking (there are no elevators on the property).
  • Unfortunately, Amankila does not have a real wellness center. Spa treatments are offered, but only in the privacy of your suite, a massage pavilion (a suite converted into a spa), a beach bale or a secluded open-air spot with tropical canopy. The good news is that a new spa facility will be added to the resort in the coming year, which will definitely enhance the overall wellness experience.
  • Since Amankila is an older resort, only a small number of the suites have their own private pool, which was an exceptional feature at the time of opening. However, this is now increasingly out of step with Bali’s other (and newer) leading resorts. So if a private pool is what you want, make sure that you book one of the 9 suites that come with a pool.
  • Once you stay at an Aman resort, you are hooked for life. So, be prepared to become an Aman junkie as Amankila will raise the bar for your future trips.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Pool: 10/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 10/10
  • Value for money: 10/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at an Aman property (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary lunch for up to two people per room).
  • Room tip: All suites are just great. Because of Amankilla’s 4 stunning pools, I don’t think it is necessary to book a suite with a private pool (unless you really want that). If you don’t plump for the panoramically endowed Kilasari Suite, the ocean suites 6, 7, 11, 19, 36 and 37 offer the most eye-pleasing visuals.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

REVIEWS OF OTHER HOTELS IN BALI & INDONESIA

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Located close to the equator, temperatures in Bali hover at a balmy 30°C  (85°F) year-found. Temperatures in the Ubud area remain fairly constant throughout the year, although some cooler evenings can occur due to its location in the mountains. The frequency of precipitation is the only concern for travelers seeking to visit Ubud. The rainy season lasts from October to March, and the heavy humidity and torrential rainfalls make this period more unpredictable for adventures and exploration. The dry season lasts from April to September, and the weather during this time is warm and pleasant, so this is generally viewed as the optimal time to experience Bali at its finest.


HOW TO GET THERE

Amankila is a 90 minute drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport and the resort provides complimentary transfers. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Bali.


PHOTOS
AMANKILA: DRIVEWAY TO LOBBY
AMANKILA: DRIVEWAY TO LOBBY
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION - VIEW OF POOL
AMANKILA: LOBBY PAVILION – VIEW OF POOL
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: MAIN RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: BAR
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
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AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
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AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
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AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA
AMANKILA: POOL AREA - VIEW OF BEACH
AMANKILA: POOL AREA – VIEW OF BEACH
AMANKILA: POOL AREA - VIEW OF BEACH
AMANKILA: POOL AREA – VIEW OF BEACH
AMANKILA: POOL AREA - TERRACE RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: POOL AREA – TERRACE RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: POOL AREA - TERRACE RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: POOL AREA – TERRACE RESTAURANT
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: LIBRARY
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: BOUTIQUE SHOP
AMANKILA: RESORT MAP
AMANKILA: RESORT MAP
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: WALKWAYS TO SUITES
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - EXTERIOR
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – EXTERIOR
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – ENTRANCE
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – COURTYARD WITH POOL
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – WELCOME DRINKS
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BEDROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE - BATHROOM
AMANKILA: POOL SUITE – BATHROOM
AMANKILA: TRANSFER TO BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: TRANSFER TO BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: BEACH CLUB
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE

AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE

AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: SPA SUITE
AMANKILA: GYM
AMANKILA: GYM
AMANKILA: GYM
AMANKILA: GYM
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
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AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT - TURN DOWN SERVICE
AMANKILA AT NIGHT – TURN DOWN SERVICE
AMANKILA AT NIGHT - TURN DOWN SERVICE
AMANKILA AT NIGHT – TURN DOWN SERVICE
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA AT NIGHT
AMANKILA: DINNER
AMANKILA: DINNER
AMANKILA: DINNER
AMANKILA: DINNER
AMANKILA: DINNER
AMANKILA: DINNER
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AMANKILA AT DAWN
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AMANKILA: BREAKFAST
AMANKILA: BREAKFAST
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AMANKILA: BREAKFAST
AMANKILA: BREAKFAST

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1 Comment

  1. Very nice review. I stayed there a few years ago and I would add 2 points of view from my experience. First, the resort faces east so there is no sunset view. Not a complaint but one should be aware. Second, I found the menu and meal here to be not as good as other Aman properties. I hope they made improvements since my visit.

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