Story: Rhonda Bannister
Every holiday to Bali comes with the delicious dilemma of choosing where to stay. This magical isle is home to hundreds of luxury resorts managed by the world’s top hotel brands — they line the white-sand beaches along the coast and straddle the hills and valleys of the artistic hub of Ubud in the centre.
One of the latest to welcome guests in Ubud is HOSHINOYA Bali, respected hotelier Hoshino Resorts’ first property outside of Japan. And we can attest that, even within this spoiled-for-choice scene, it’s something special.
At a glance:
Designed by Japanese architect Rie Azuma and inspired by the layout of a Balinese village, the choice of timber and thatch — traditional in both Japanese and Balinese cultures — is fitting for this boutique, five-star resort of just 30 villas.
Set in an infinite expanse of green forest and overlooking the sacred Pakerisan River, this is a destination where laid-back luxury meets impeccable design, offering soul-stirring solace in an oasis of calm. The soothing sound of water is everywhere, from the rushing river meandering over rocky outcrops below to the subak-fed canals that channel water to the surrounding rice paddies, and the three river-like pools that unite the property.
A timber walkway offers easy connection from villas to common areas, including the library, yoga gazebo, restaurant and the stilted pavilions of Cafe Gazebo, created to hang over the valley like human-sized bird cages.
Landscape design by Hiroki Hasegawa follows the land’s timeless rhythm, with soft grass running down the undulating hill and magnificent tree ferns and native plants in abundance, softening the timber walkways and stretching as far as the eye can see.
In daylight, you’re immersed in the endless shades of green, but in the early evening, as the sky darkens to a velvety shade of grey, a mystical silver mist wreathes its ghostly tentacles around the trees, wisps floating across the valley like nymphs dancing to Pan’s flute. It’s an intriguing sight and an almost-spiritual experience that I’ve only experienced in the jungles of Ubud.
Best room for two:
Our Jalak Villa featured an expansive, wraparound balcony and full-length sliding doors offering stunning views of the jungle and the first glimpse of the rising sun. The timeless beauty of timber walls and flooring was complemented by the free-flowing energy of space and light, with a sofa and coffee table designed to lower the centre of gravity in the Japanese style.
Softly lit by Batik-clad lamps, the bedroom’s intricately carved timber screen was a show-stopping backdrop for the king-size futon, dressed all in white, that skimmed the raised timber deck. While the bathroom housed a spacious bath, double-head shower and, joyfully, a sensor-controlled Toto bidet toilet suite (the pinnacle of bathroom luxury!).
Outside you could spend all day padding barefoot back and forth from the attached pavilion’s plump daybed for a swim in the 70-metre-long pool — granted privacy from neighbouring villas by carefully placed water gardens.
Food & drink:
Kickstart the day with a zesty, heart-warming Wedang traditional drink made from local herbs and spices then prepare to ‘float’ over the valley with an Air Gazebo breakfast in your private bird cage. Or indulge in an Indonesian, Japanese or Western-style set breakfast in the open-air restaurant.
Japan is known for its incredible cuisine, and the attention paid to every course on a kaiseki menu. Having had what we considered the best meal of our life when we stayed at HOSHINOYA Tokyo, we were looking forward to our ten-course Ubud Jungle dinner, created by Executive Chef Mitsuaki Senoo, using local ingredients with a Japanese-French twist.
Although I could run through each fantastic course of artfully plated dishes, by the time you stay here the menu will probably be different. So, let me say – the second-best meal of our lives! This delectable dining experience alone makes it worth staying here.
Couples will love:
The many optional (paid* and unpaid) activities such as Balinese dance lessons*, Ubud rice field and local village walks, craft lessons in Batik dyeing, flower offering and origami making, sun salutation yoga, matcha making and immersing in the taste of Japanese sake*. Further down the hillside you can indulge in deeply restorative traditional Balinese therapies at the resort spa.
Although it’s easy to lose yourselves in the exquisite surrounds of HOSHINOYA Bali, couples will also love the township of Ubud, and the resort offers five free shuttle car journeys here every day. Or hire a car with a driver to tour the lush surrounding areas.
By combining the Balinese attitude of tri hita karana (living in harmony with nature and other people), and the Japanese philosophy of omotenashi (utmost consideration and caring for their guests), along with a design aesthetic that captures the essence of Ubud, Hoshino Resorts has created an extraordinary resort that is unique in Bali.
Images: Courtesy Hoshinoya Bali