Bali may not be physically large (at least not by Australian or American standards) but there are a number of clear destinations on the island. The villa accommodations on the island are largely confined to a subset of those destinations. In this article, The Insider looks at the most popular destinations offering villa accommodations.
Villas in Bali are primarily found in the following locations: Candidasa, Canggu, Jimbaran, Pemuteran, Sanur, Seseh, Seminyak, Ubud and Uluwatu. These locations are primarily spread throughout the south-central region of the island. There are few villa accommodations located in the north, far west, or far east of the island; the two exceptions being Pemuteran in the far northwest and Candidasa in the southeast.
Located in the south eastern portion of the island, Candidasa is the newest destination to offer villa accommodations. Most accommodations are actually located between Candidasa and nearby Padangbai. This area first popped up on to the luxury travellers radar when the Aman group opened Amankila. The Alila group is also there now and we’re starting to see a few private villas open as well. Note that dining choices in the area are limited and taxis are few and far between. Look for a villa with a chef and a driver.
Why stay in Candidasa?
This is a good jumping off point for exploring the quiet rice terraces of east Bali and the slopes of Gunung Agung. It is also a good place to catch your breath either before or after a trip to neighboring Lombok. You can catch ferries to Lombok from Padangbai, or hire a speed boat if you prefer. With recent road improvements, Candidasa is now only 45 minutes drive from Sanur.
Canggu is the fastest growing villa accommodations area. There is a wide number of options in this area at a variety of price ranges. Many of these accommodations are new, so finding mature gardens may be a challenge. This is a largely flat area of gently rolling fields (ex-rice fields). Most villas are garden view. There are a number of villas on the coast in this area. The nearby Canggu Club is also a magnet for new villas and if you are travelling with children, look for villas with a guest club membership; this provides options to help your kids pass the time in a supervised environment (while giving parents a much needed break!). Canggu is just a few minutes drive from Seminyak. Note that the road is crowded with traffic and taxis are not as easy to find, so you will want to find a villa with a driver.
Why stay in Canggu?
Wide range of choices, access to the beach, nearby Seminyak and the Canggu Club.
Jimbaran Bay provides one of the few pleasant swimming beaches on the island, and it also gives easy access to a number of dining options. Several five star resorts are located in this area, including the Four Seasons and the Inter-Continental. Most villa operations here are villa resorts, though the nearby Tiara area provides some private luxury rentals (though these are far from the beach). This area is very popular with Asian tourists.
Why stay in Jimbaran?
Good walking and swimming beach. Access to fine dining and the seafood restaurants on the beach. This location is also just a few minutes from the airport, so getting in and out is a breeze. Taxis are easy to find here.
Pemuteran is a small town located at the far northwest tip of the island. It is primarily a destination for those who wish to go snorkeling or diving around Palau Menjangan, or who wish to trek into the Bali Barat National Park. Facilities here are limited, though there are one or two good villa resorts. Dining options and transportation are rare commodities, so plan accordingly.
Why stay in Pemuteran?
The big reason to be here (OK, perhaps the only reason!) is the access to the natural features. Snorkeling and diving at Palau Menjangan are superb — some of the best in Asia. Bali Barat is also an attraction for trekkers.
Sanur is Bali’s most gentile destination. A mecca for tourists since the 1930s, Sanur has a more laid back and mature feel that the frenetic nightlife and party scene of Seminyak. The beach here has a boardwalk and the ocean is gentle enough to allow for safe swimming. There are several villas here, some of them quite large and elegant — and quite exclusive.
Why stay in Sanur?
This is a more quiet side of tourist Bali. You have access to everything you could want here but without the party scene.
Seseh is a relative new-comer on the villa scene, at least in terms of name recognition. There have been villas there for some time, but most people have simply labelled the area “Canggu.” In fact, Seseh is further northwest of Canggu and on the coast. You might say it is the “next” up-and-coming villa destination, the natural progression of growth and development past Canggu. Seseh is quiet and must less hectic than Seminyak. It has more of a traditional Bali village feel than Canggu (which is largely rice fields). All in all, it makes for a more relaxed and intimate feeling. On the downside, it is a fair distance from all the conveniences: shopping, markets, restaurants, and taxis. Look for a villa here with full services and make sure you have a car and a driver included.
Why stay in Seseh?
As a destination, Seseh is great if you want some place quiet and relaxed with access to an undeveloped beach. Good for families, and for anyone who plans to spend time relaxing at the villa.
Welcome to party central! Seminyak is the destination of choice if you want to be only a short wallk (or ride) from shopping, restaurant, markets and nightclubs. This district is urban and frenetic. This is the home of KuDeTa, La Lucchiola, the Oberoi and much, much, more. Finding an oasis of peace and quiet is a challenge but not impossible. Prices tend to reflect popularity as this is currently the destination of choice for Bali tourists looking for villa accommodations.
Why stay in Seminyak?
Convenience is Seminyak’s hallmark. Everything is here. If you are party people or you really want a hopping beach scene, this is the spot for you. If you are willing to settle for a villa hotel or villa resort, there are some very good options here.
Often referred to as the cultural center of Bali, Ubud is a destination with a difference. The feature here is culture and increasingly, fine dining; it is not the spot for nightlife. Many people view Ubud as a day trip destination and stay on the coast. For those who choose to stay in Ubud, the day time is busy and a bit hectic, but in the evenings the town slows down and is very pleasant. Lots of good museums, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Plenty of shopping here, too, but prices in recent years have gone up dramatically. Note that proper taxi services are lacking in Ubud; if you don’t have your own car and driver you are at the mercy of the touts with private taxis.
Why stay in Ubud?
Ubud is cooler and damper. This is not the coast — this is the jungle. It has completely different vibe than the coastal locations. Stay here if you want to enjoy museums, dance performances, and exploring cultural attractions.
Uluwatu is a rising star in the luxury accommodations scene. (The arrival of the Bulgari helped cement that position.) Many five star resorts are under development here and there are some beautiful, large villas here as well. Some of the island’s most posh accommodations are perched atop the cliffs of Uluwatu, looking out over the Indian Ocean. Find a fully serviced villa here, with a car and driver, else you will feel stranded.
Why stay in Uluwatu?
Most people that stay here fall in two classes: Either luxe travelers, or surfers. There are accommodations for both. Aside form the surfing and the views, there is not much else to recommend the area, as development of infrastructure has yet to keep pace with the arrival of the resorts and villas.