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:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 new First Class suite from London to Singapore
- Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel (Singapore)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
- Review: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobodur (Java)
- Review: Amandari, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amankila, Bali
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Uluwatu (today)
- Review: Bulgari Bali Resort (Bali)
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Singapore Airlines B787-10 Dreamliner Business Class from Bali to Singapore
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 (old) Business Class from Singapore to London
Today (December 26, 2018): Review of Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali (Indonesia)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Banyan Tree Ungasan
Banyan Tree Ungasan sits 70 m (230 ft) above sea level on the southern tip of Bali, close to the famed Uluwatu Temple, overlooking a gold sand beach and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Most of the resort’s 73 palatial villas enjoy a view of the sea and they all come with a plunge pool, outdoor hot tube, and plenty of retractable floor-to-ceiling glass, instantly turning bedrooms into open-air cabanas. Traditional Balinese accents and modern Asian decorations are fused throughout the interiors, and occasional carvings or statuettes tweak the well-honed Banyan Tree aesthetic. The property features several excellent dining venues (although the in-villa barbecue prepared by a personal chef is not te be missed) and a world-class spa.
Banyan Tree Ungasan features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Bali and my favorite Banyan Tree hotels in the world.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Reviews of other hotels in Bali & Java
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Banyan Tree Ungasan enjoys a secluded location in Uluwatu, a place on the south-western tip of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula. This limestone cliff-fringed peninsula enjoys Bali’s most sunny weather and harbors one of the island’s most famous temples, together with a spectacular coastline that serves as a world-class surfing playground. With its vast coastal length and exposure to the Indian Ocean, Bukit attracts wave riders from around the globe to its variety of surf spots. Uluwatu was “discovered” as a surfing destination in 1972, due to the making of ‘Morning of the Earth’, a 1971 classic surf film by Alby Falzon and David Elfick. Today, the area is home to some of Bali’s most exclusive resorts, including Banyan Tree Ungasan.
- The ultra-luxe resort, which opened in 2010, occupies an expansive site on top of a 70 m (230 ft) high cliff, offering panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and with direct access to a public beach below (more on that below). The beautifully maintained property and the low-rise hotel pavilions seamlessly merge with the surrounding natural environment. In keeping with Banyan Tree’s core principle of tranquility, the resort grounds feel close to nature and a world apart from the island’s overcrowded resort areas (e.g. Seminyak, Kuta). It is an absolute pleasure to stroll through the resort’s tropical gardens that bloom with frangipanis, bougainvillea, and take in not only the ocean views, but also the colors, fragrance and the sounds of nature.
- Upon arrival at the hotel’s majestic lobby, all guests are treated to a warm Balinese welcome and blessing ceremony, which includes putting a flower behind your ear, sprinkling blessed water on your head, and sticking a little pinch of rice on your forehead. Afterwards, as you are escorted to your villa, you’ll get your first impression of the massive hotel site, which gently cascades down from the lobby towards the main facilities, the villas, and the cliff’s edge. The resort grounds are spread out and hilly, but efficient and fast buggy service is provided (available 24/7 upon request).
- Designed by Peddle Thorp Architects with the interior decor by Wilson Associates Inc, Banyan Tree Ungasan’s timeless decor was envisioned as a symbiosis of old and new, antiquity and modern. Traditional principles and local considerations were used to maximize the space on the cliffside and to offer unparalleled ocean views while reflecting the arrangements of a Balinese village. To pay homage to the local tradition, the resort was designed along the along the “kaja-kelod”, the axis from North to South separating the mountain and sea. The mix of open and enclosed spaces and the use of a neutral grey and beige color palette further accentuates the dramatic vistas over the deep-blue ocean.
- Banyan Tree Ungasan features 73 one, two and three-bedroom pool villas, which are all massive in size and rank among the most spacious accommodations in the Indonesian archipelago. The villas are located in a few rows below the lobby, tumbling down the hillside, with most of them enjoying a (partial) sea view. During my visit, I was upgraded to a pool villa with ocean view, which featured a lush landscaped garden with a large infinity pool (10 m or 33 ft), a jet pool, an outdoor shower, and a Balinese balé (outdoor pavilion). Inside, the villa’s spacious living area and bedroom with en-suite marble bathroom were connected via a courtyard, and carefully selected furnishings combine contemporary design with touches of Balinese artistry.
- Banyan Tree Ungasan features two public pool areas, which are always quiet, since most guest prefer to lounge at their own private pool inside the villas. The main pool area is located in the center of the resort, and features several loungers overlooking a fabulous, Instagram-worthy, infinity-edged pool, which is flanked by stone columns and offers the resort’s most spectacular ocean view. Several facilities are located around this pool, such as the kid’s club (open daily from 9 am to 4 pm), a bar, Bambu restaurant, and the Banyan Tree boutique shop. There’s a second, smaller swimming pool located at the spa area, which is accessible to all guests although it has a focus on relaxation and tranquility (so families with children may feel out of place here).
- Banyan Tree Ungasan is one of the few cliffside resorts in the Uluwatu area which has direct beach access. The beach below the resort – called Melasti Beach – is one of the most scenic beaches on the island. For the comfort of its guests, the Banyan Tree resort even operates a private beach club on this wide stretch of golden sand (with sun loungers, umbrellas and towel service). The beach has only been open to the public for a decade (formerly it was only used by Balinese Hindus for prayer and religious events). The cerulean blue water and towering limestone cliffs make the beach popular among in-the-know photographers and locals, although it is still largely ignored by tourists. It’s a great and majestic spot to relax in the sun or watch giant waves crash on the offshore reef.
- Banyan Tree Ungasan offers a nice variation of terrific dining options:
- Ju-Ma-Na restaurant, which means ‘silver pearl’ in Arabic, is the resort’s signature restaurant, offering French cuisine with a Japanese twist in a spectacular cliff-edge setting. The open kitchen allows you to observe the chefs at work. The adjacent Ju-Ma-Na Bar offers sundowners along with Arabic finger food and Moroccan shishas (water pipes).
- Tamarind, set in the tranquil surroundings of the spa, serves a variety of nouvelle Balinese cuisine, emphasizing on authentic Balinese herbs and spices cooked to perfection using modern techniques.
- Bambu overlooks the main infinity pool and presents popular international and local specialties in a spacious garden setting, sometimes with live entertainment. Bambu also serves an extensive breakfast buffet, plus inclusive a-la-carte with loads of good choices and very good product quality.
- I advise you to splurge on a in-villa barbecue, which blends the best of delicious food and sheer privacy in the comfort of your own private villa. You can choose between different sets of barbecue menus.
- As with all Banyan Tree resorts, the Balinese outpost of this ultraluxe hotel chain features a stunning, world-class spa. The spa facility is located next to the lobby and is spread over two levels, with an elegant reception upstairs and several palatial treatment rooms, a gym and a tranquility pool downstairs. The spa focuses on the ‘high-touch, low-tech’ approach that celebrates human touch and the use of natural ingredients. Banyan Tree Spa’s signature range of Asian therapies are offered, including the Balinese massage, a deep tissue massage which stimulates blood circulation, improves energy flow and relieves tension. Spa treatments are specially concocted with fresh and natural ingredients to replenish your body with the best of nature’s gifts.
- From housekeeping and management to gardeners and bell boys, the Banyan Tree Ungasan’s well-trained staff provides exquisite and flawless service. In fact, the resort provides the best service I have ever experienced at a Banyan Tree resort across the globe. Also, besides the human factor, a lot of effort goes into service details in which the hotel tries to discriminate themselves from their high-end competitors on the island. For example, a ”scent of the day” is daily put in the room’s oil burners and incense sticks lit; every morning you get a small turn-down gift and, every evening, sweets and a vacuum flask of green tea await when you return from a night out. Another example are the Banyan Tree toiletries which are provided in the bathrooms in small bags you can take away as a memento (similar to amenity kits you get in Business or First Class on an airline).
- The hotel is managed by the Banyan Tree hotel group, one of the best global luxury hotel brands. The Banyan Tree hospitality company, which was established in 1994, has its roots in Singapore and provides naturally luxurious, ecologically sensitive, and culture-aware experiences for the discerning traveler. I have previously reviewed the equally superb Banyan Tree properties in the Seychelles (my favorite!), Koh Samui, Phuket, the Riviera Maya, Bangkok, and Vietnam.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The Banyan Tree Ungasan is a phenomenal hotel, offering a stunning cliffside location above a gorgeous beach, palatial villas in contemporary style, and excellent facilities. There are a few things you need to know when considering a stay here:
- The resort enjoy a spectacular natural setting, but sometimes nature – and especially the wildlife – comes a little too close. Each morning, monkeys pass through the resort grounds and they will enter the villas to look for food when you leave the windows open. It can make for some fun moment, which can quickly turn into panic when you find yourself with these monkeys inside your room (as I experienced myself). Fortunately, there is security staff on hand to gently remove any mischievous wildlife. So, always follow the advise of hotel staff to keep the doors shut whenever you are leaving the room.
- While the beach is good for relaxing, it is not very good for swimming, especially at high tide due to the corals. During low tide, some small natural pools are formed in the exposed coral, which is great for small kids. In addition, the ocean here is often too rough for water sports, although there are a few great point breaks for advanced surfers.
- Given the tiered cliffside architecture and the gentle slope rate of the hotel site, views from certain villas are interrupted by the roofs of villas in front. For an unhindered view of the sea, you need to book one of the (more expensive) villas on the cliff’s edge.
- Location is somewhat isolated, which can be a pro or con depending on your wishes. If you want to get away from it all, you’ll love this place. However, if you want to explore some of Bali’s famous sights, you’ll face some long day trips due to the bad traffic jams on the island. For example, it takes around 2-2,5 hours each way to get to Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali.
- Getting to the beach involves a 5 minute trip in one of the resort’s golf cart down the cliff, followed by a short walk on the resort’s private path to the beach, which features more than 100 stairs. So beach access may prove challenging for those that have difficulties walking.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Banyan Tree Ungasan (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: for an unhindered view of the sea, you need to book one of the (more expensive) villas on the cliff’s edge.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
REVIEWS OF OTHER HOTELS IN BALI & INDONESIA
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Bulgari Resort Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review of Amankila, Bali’s best luxury hotel
- Review of Amandari (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java, Indonesia)
- Review of Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Bali, Indonesia)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Villa Sungai, Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: the Viceroy Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali’s most spectacular hotel
- Hotel review: COMO Shambhala Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Soori 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
Banyan Tree Ungasan is a 40 minute drive from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Bali.
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