Review: Alila Villas Uluwatu – A cliff-edge modernist paradise on the southern tip of Bali


You’ve seen its wooden structures cantilevered out over the limestone cliffs. The infinity pool that overlooks the Indian Ocean where sea and sky merge. The villas each with their own private pools. But stepping in to Alila Villas Uluwatu for the first time still takes your breath away, as it did mine when I stayed there one weekend in October just before the monsoon season descended on Bali.

Guests’ first impression of Alila Villas Uluwatu

I’d read up on the iconic property many times before, and again just before my stay, but words and pictures don’t do justice to the destination. Neither will this article — you just have to experience it to believe it.

The view from the opposite end of the reception area
The reception area

On arrival, the first thing I did was take out my phone and snap away at the establishment’s modernist architecture. I spied that wooden structure hanging on the cliff-edge. I also spotted several smaller structures scattered nearby where guests lounged in, freshly dipped in pool water. Then there were the bright white blocks that housed three in-house restaurants — Cire, Warung and Quila — as well as the spa, library, reception and seemingly never-ending corridors that linked them all together.

Alila Villas Uluwatu’s iconic wooden pavilion

“You’ve seen its wooden structures cantilevered out over the limestone cliffs. The infinity pool that overlooks the Indian Ocean where sea and sky merge. The villas each with their own private pools. But stepping in to Alila Villas Uluwatu for the first time still takes your breath away.”

Every villa, like this one-bedroom, comes with its own private pool

Check-in was swift — I received a welcome spritz of facial mist by a staff member, my passport was returned to me wrapped in a white ribbon bearing the name of the hotel in bold black letters, and I picked out the level of butler service I desired.

For the record, there’s three types: Private, Discreet and Indulgent, the last of which means having someone be at your service 24/7 and follow you at a distance throughout your stay. Feeling blessed enough to be there, I opted for Private, which meant calling in my requests. The Discreet level was a happy medium where the hosts would anticipate specific needs such as evening turndown, and deliver a seamless experience. Service at Alila, I concluded then and there, was second to none.

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An open-plan design means that sliding doors separate the outdoor area from the indoors

The decadence continued to the rooms — the villas, to be sure, hence the name of the hotel. Elegantly furnished like a private home with enormous windows overlooking your huge-for-a-one-bedroom-villa pool and sunbathing cabana (more wooden structuring), the décor was tasteful and chic. All clean lines, dark wood accents, batik cushions and creamy walls. When the doors weren’t made to be sliding, for one, they were heavily swinging in all its massive glory. It practically felt palatial.

“There’s three types of butler service: Discreet, Private and Indulgent, the last of which means having someone follow you 24/7 to tend to your every whim and fancy.”

With privacy being one of the pillars of true luxury, I was glad to see that the walls all around the vast abode were high enough so that you couldn’t spy on your neighbours, and vice versa. Even the cabana had rolling blinds and frangipani trees lined the perimeter.

The working space
His and her vanity spaces in the bathroom
Locally-made, Alila-branded amenities

The villa also boasted a water feature adjacent to the outdoor shower, while the indoor shower sat opposite the bathtub. Locally-made, Alila-branded amenities were displayed throughout the space, including a lip balm that was conveniently placed by my bedside each night, purifying face masks, signature sunscreens and suntan oils. His (lemongrass and black pepper) and her (mandarin, lemongrass and rose geranium) versions were even allocated between two vanity enclaves. Within the 3,000 sq-ft space, there was also a lounge area with its own queen-sized daybed, sleeping area, working desk and a small living area right smack in the middle of the room.

Plush cotton adorn the king-sized bed

With 65 villas spread across the entire compound in tiered rows like rice paddies — made up of mostly one-bedrooms and a handful of two- and three-bedroom villas — I couldn’t comprehend how expansive the property was. No wonder we needed golf buggies to get around.

The resort is known for embracing environmentally sustainable design principles

The resort itself is a remarkably tranquil, stunning retreat. Apart from its beautiful architecture, it’s also known for embracing environmentally sustainable design principles. Alila Villas Uluwatu was the first in Indonesia to receive the highest level of certification from Green Globe for Environmentally Sustainable Design. Local materials like lava rock, bamboo and rattan, for instance, are used for the roofs, ceilings and interiors. Wood materials are recycled from railway carriages and telephone poles. At dinner on the first night at Warung, I sat beneath a tree stump and root section with a reach so wide across the wall, I wondered how old the tree had been to have grown its roots so far out.

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“The resort itself is a remarkably tranquil, stunning retreat. Apart from its architecture, it’s also known for embracing environmentally sustainable design principles.”

The hotel’s 50-metre main pool at dusk

Perhaps the feature I loved most was the open-plan design — an aesthetic that pervaded the property and was neatly encapsulated in the wooden structures. Post-dinner, I wandered over to the biggest one that had greeted me from a distance when I arrived that afternoon. Perched on a 100-metre high cliff, I gazed out to the abyss but it was dark and I couldn’t see the turquoise-blue ocean or the waves. Still, I could hear the crashes and gentle roar. I felt a constant breeze envelop my body.

Uluwatu has long been my favourite spot in all of the island, away from the debauchery of Seminyak and the hipster hangouts of Canggu. I like that it’s far away from everywhere and everyone else.

I realised that true luxury wasn’t just about privacy or staying in an amazing hotel. It was, even more in this day and age, about peace. I had forgotten about that in the midst of my excitement in being in Bali but I knew then that I had rediscovered the simple joy in serenity.

Where: Alila Villas Uluwatu
Jl. Belimbing Sari, Tambiyak, Pecatu,
Kuta Selatan Pecatu Kuta Selatan, Pecatu,
South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali 80364, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 8482166

Note: The critic was invited by the hotel but all the opinions expressed herewith are her own

The luxe factor is

10 Location
8.5 Rooms
10 Service
9 Breakfast
8 Dining
9.1