In February 2023, I checked into the Ocean Villa with Private Pool at Jumeirah Bali. Set within the Pecatu region along the beach area of Uluwatu in the southern tip of Bali, the 123 all-villa cliffside resort is slightly less than an hour from Ngurah Rai International Airport. Popular surfing destination New Kuta Beach (formerly known as Dreamland Beach) is accessible via stairs near the swimming pool, while the famous Uluwatu Temple is around 20 minutes away.
For the uninitiated, the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group operates ultra-luxury properties across the Middle East, Europe and Asia, with the iconic flagship Burj Al Arab Jumeirah being one of the most prestigious addresses in the world. Prior to my stay, my other Jumeirah experience was Jumeirah Guangzhou which I visited prior to the pandemic.
Other notable resorts in the vicinity include Alila Villas Uluwatu, Six Senses Uluwatu and Bvlgari Resort Bali.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Cliffside Majapahit-inspired romance in southern Bali.
The must-dos (if any): Explore the premises, in particular the Trowulan replica ruins and the corridor of arches past the grand staircase from the lobby area; have dinner and drinks at AKASA; enjoy the resort’s inhouse bath amenities as you take a nice hot bath (both indoors and outdoors).
Designed by Martin Grounds of Grounds Kent Architects (behind Four Seasons Resort Bali At Jimbaran Bay and The St. Regis Bali) as well as Jean-Michel Gathy from Denniston International (who also designed Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, Aman New York along with the upcoming Rosewood Hoi An and Aman Nai Lert Bangkok), the ultra-luxury resort draws its inspiration from Hindu-Javanese culture, in particular the golden era of Majapahit Empire in the 16th century which was the last Indianised kingdom in Indonesia.
Majapahit symbols and inspirations feature heavily throughout – statues of winged mythical creatures guard the grand Balinese arrival gate; a 120-year-old red Bodhi tree stands near the lobby (typically seen at the entrances of royal dwellings and religious sites) to the ornate swing doors in the public areas and the intricate wall carvings you see throughout the resort. Water features – from courtyard pools and dramatic tiered fountains to the reservoir-inspired cascading triple swimming pools near the beach – appear frequently amidst the lushly landscaped and terraced resort grounds. On the way down towards the beach from the lobby, you pass a grand staircase which leads to an area with an insanely photogenic row of creamy palatial arches (popular for Bali wedding photoshoots), and further flights of stairs lead you to scenic replica ruins of Trowulan, said to be the site of the eponymous capital city of the Majapahit Empire. It’s all a bit mystical and romantic.
The resort offers daily complimentary activities (Hatha yoga, yoga flow, cardio bodyweight fitness) as well as chargeable activities (batik painting, soap making, bamboo weaving, elemental cooking, Moci tea ceremony). During my stay, I attended a morning Qi Flow class conducted by wellness specialist Paula Choi which involved unlocking gates of vitality and power, half circle-tastic Tai Chi walking and lots of wobbling on one leg. The passionate and knowledgable Paula – formerly from other Four Seasons and COMO properties – also conducts wellness talks and consultations, which I would have attended but for the short duration of my stay.
In terms of wellness, Jumeirah’s award-winning Talise Spa offer Bali’s only traditional Turkish hammam and a variety of treatments based on ancient Balinese techniques and traditional herbal preparations. Elsewhere, the Fitness Centre is fitted with TechnoGym equipment, while three cascading infinity pools offer blissful views of the Indian Ocean and the Dreamland Beach down below.
Families with children can bring their little ones to Peafowl Kids Club, which organises fun activities for the kids (e.g. Balinese dress-up, music-playing sessions) within a lush green environment.
OCEAN VILLA WITH PRIVATE POOL
Boasting an outdoor terrace with a private pool offering partial ocean views far in the distance, the 210sqm one-bedroom Ocean Villa with Private Pool is tastefully appointed, featuring smart technological touches, creamy colours and glossy wood textures. The living room features sofa seating, a spacious work desk as well as a minibar and wine fridge stocked with four wine options (my pick being the Lavau Côtes du Rhône Villages). The kitchen provides Tasseo tea and Tanamera capsule coffee-making facilities.
The bedroom features a comfortable king-sized bed and a window-side daybed next to sliding doors which directly access the sheltered outdoor lounge bed. The open concept bathroom is fitted with a free-standing bathtub, double vanities and wardrobes as well as a rainfall shower which connects to an outdoor shower (where I befriended a large, almost entirely translucent baby snail). Pro-tip: hot outdoor showers during windy wet weather can be surprisingly invigorating.
Despite the fact that the villa was modern and beautiful, there were certain hardware issues. From the private pool, one has to traverse the bedroom to access the bathroom, a situation which is compounded by the choice of tiling in the bedroom. (In comparison, other Bali villas I stayed at such as Andaz Bali and Alila Villas Uluwatu had layouts which offered direct access to the bathroom from the outdoor terrace which did not involve passing the bedroom area.) The consequence was that the villa has a tendency to feel damp and humid, especially during rainy season. In addition, the shelter above the outdoor lounge bed leaked when it rained, and there was also an inexplicable stench of sewage percolating throughout the bathroom the second day of my stay. On the off-chance that I may possibly have been the cause (you know, bad aim or whatnot), I actually cleaned the toilet and bathroom just to see if the foul smell would go away, but to no avail, and a scan of recent Google reviews revealed that other guests have reported similar olfactory concerns.
Breakfast is served at Segaran, an all-day dining restaurant overlooking the Uluwatu coast which offers Southeast Asian cuisine. While the buffet spread is decidedly modest, the restaurant does provide a variety of a la carte dishes such as Sambal Telur Goreng (double cooked eggs, sambal tomato, morning glory, prawn crackers); Bubur Ayam (Balinese porridge, chicken, egg, sambal, chicken consommé); Crab Custard (crab and sabayon, pomelo salad, salmon roe); Bakso (chicken or beef meatball, chicken broth, boiled egg, white cabbage, glass noodles); Smoked Salmon Benedict (poached eggs, toasted brioche, Balinese asparagus & foamy Hollandaise sauce); Avocado Toast (poached eggs, toasted sour dough bread, fresh avocado, sautéed mushrooms, confit tomato); Baked Eggs (chorizo sausage, brioche chips, tomatoes, salty yoghurt); and Shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomatoes concasse, smoked paprika & roasted bell pepper).
In addition to their usual breakfast menu, the restaurant also offers daily chef specials. During my visit, I had the Balinese set, which comprised rice served with three different Balinese specialties: chicken curry, prawn with honey and Pepes Ikan (banana leaf-steamed fish).
Interestingly, some of the breakfast dishes I had reminded me somehow of Singapore hawker cuisine. The Laksa (wheat noodles, coconut, lemongrass, prawns, crab crackers) possessed a thin, oceanic-tinged broth that reminded me more of Prawn Mee Soup than the coconut-creamy style of Laksa found in Singapore, while the hearty Fried Red Rice Bowl (corn, cabbage, mushrooms, beansprouts, egg crêpe) had a certain soy sweetness that evoked thoughts of Char Kway Teow (Stir-fried Rice Noodles) and Chai Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake).
The resort’s signature restaurant is AKASA, a cliffside venue specialising in flame-grilled cuisine with Balinese, Thai and Japanese influences. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, with the latter providing opportunities for sunset panoramas and moonlit alfresco romance. Some of the outdoor sofa seating zones even have their own table firepit for that wind-in-hair, naked flame-heated outdoorsy atmospheric feel.
The restaurant’s menu covers crudo, robata and grill options. From my dinner at AKASA, the seafood dishes fared the best, with the Jimbaran Prawn Salad (smoked pomelos in shell, papaya, red chilli, mint, tamarind) being a refreshing delight and the meaty Banana Leaf Seabass (lemongrass, coconut, lime) evoking fond memories of smoky outdoor BBQ sessions. The only dish which failed to please – incidentally the most expensive – was the Australian Ebony MB4+ dry aged cut beef, whose dryness and toughness failed to be ameliorated by any of the various accompanying sauces. Thankfully, the combination of tart Lemon (hazelnut jaconde, lemon cremeux, Opalys light mousse, lime thyme sorbet) and creamy Expresso (Bali coffee custard, coffee crumble, whisky espuma, coffee ice cream) ended the dinner on a good note.
The cocktail menu was fairly extensive. Even the refreshing-sounding tipples such as the Mesoyi Mizuwari (Blended Japanese whisky infused mesoyi wood, chilled blessing water) and Sichuan Cognac Sour (Cognac vsop. absinthe, lemon, rich syrup, Sichuan bitter, champagne emulsion) are fairly spirit-forward, and the particularly boozy Smoked Tenjaku (Dry vermouth, tenjaku Japanese whiskey, smoked burn spices) and Chocolate Sazerac (Jim Beam bourbon, malibu, cocoa chocolate praline) – my favourites of the evening – are presented to you with cloche-lifting smoke effects for added drama.
It will be remiss of me not to show appreciation for Christian, one of the staff members at the restaurant who always had the most bashful yet winsome of smiles whenever he served our table and who managed to reserve for us one of the above-mentioned coveted firepit sofa seats for after-dinner cocktails despite fierce competition from bigger groups who walked in and wished to be seated at said sofa.
Rounding up the list of dining concepts is Maja Sunset Lounge, an intimate space next to Segaran which serves afternoon tea and all-day refreshments.
Prior to and during my stay, I had made enquiries in relation to room upgrades and late check-out (as one is wont to, especially given the room rates involved at an ultra-luxury resort). However, the responses I received via email and text message dispensed with the usual cotton candy justifications that typically come with rejections of such requests (e.g. “we are fully booked”, “another guest is checking in later” etc) and instead immediately stated upfront that all such requests are subject to paying additional fees.
The bad February weather (we are talking fallen trees levels of bad) considerably hindered my ability to use the hotel’s facilities such as the swimming pools, and it was also quite evident that occupancy was not high. As such, the unapologetically transactional approach – delivered in such a mechanical manner without any human touch such as a personalised phone call to explain and deliver the bad news – left quite a sour taste in the mouth. Needless to say, the villa’s hardware issues outlined above certainly did not help to increase the already low guest satisfaction level.
AKASA might be worth an evening visit, but I am hard-pressed to recommend the resort unless the hardware and heartware are improved.
Kawasan Pecatu Indah Resort
Jl. Raya Uluwatu Street, South Kuta
Badung Regency, Bali 80361, Indonesia