While it may be true, as some travelers often say, that the journey is more important than the destination, the Four Seasons Resort Bali easily defies this notion. Many of the resort's guests who make the long trip here seldom venture beyond the property's 35 salubrious acres.
Who can blame them? Nestled upon the northwestern slope of Bukit Peninsula, dangling from the southern tip of Indonesia's island of Bali, this resort is a true escapist paradise. One need only enter its teakwood- and marble-sheathed open-air lobby to quickly sense that refined relaxation is the name of the game.
From the reception area's commanding perch overlooking tranquil Jimbaran Bay, the resort's 147 private villas step down the hillside, emulating the graceful flow of rice paddy terraces so prevalent in Bali's highlands. Indigenous hardwood trees and feathery palms, peppered with showy drapes of bougainvillea and sweetly scented frangipani, embellish the meandering pathways that lead to each of the guests' walled compounds.
The villas, each occupying no less than 2,100 square feet and all with a bay view, are inspired by Balinese culture and modeled after the island's traditional architecture. Organized into villages after the style of local communities, the villas are presided over by "village chiefs" who serve as personal concierges and direct the "service family"--four staff members per villa--on their duties. Their exemplary hospitality is perhaps best captured in the way they greet their guests throughout the day. They simply inquire, "Are you happy?"
Inside the villas, the Balinese theme continues as the layout recalls a typical family kampong dwelling, a courtyard flanked with cleanly trimmed thatched-roofed pavilions. One pavilion, open on two sides but with pull-down bamboo blinds, is an outdoor "living room." Beneath gently whirling ceiling fans, a regal lounging couch and dining set look out towards a stone Balinese-Hindu shrine and private plunge pool with a separate sunning area.
Another pavilion, this one enclosed, houses the air-conditioned sleeping quarters appointed with teakwood furnishings and luxurious bed, strung with atmospheric though hardly necessary mosquito netting. Javanese marble flooring leads to the bath area, equipped with an oval-shaped pedestal tub, an expansive indoor shower and an even more commodious limestone-paved garden shower that spritzes via a bamboo spigot. Technological amenities include three IDD (international direct dial) telephones, a stereo tuner with tape deck and CD player, plus a TV.
Balinese flavor imbues the menu choices featured at the two principal on-property restaurants: Taman Wantilan for casual fine dining amid the tinkle of fountains from nearby water lily ponds, and Pantial Jimbaran (better known as PJ's), located within earshot of waves brushing the beach. Head chef Kenji Salz prepares what he terms "sassy cuisine," with creative flavors and festive appearance. Simply put, this means memorable meals such as Lemeng, braised prawns in coconut curry or Domba Rujak, roasted rack of lamb infused with tamarind, palm sugar and chili.
Neil Jacobs, cigar enthusiast and Four Seasons Resort Bali general manager, notes that cigar dinners are also easily arranged. "We love setting up special events for our clientele who are cigar smokers," he says, "and given the balmy climate here we don't have a lot of enclosed spaces, so smoke won't upset non-smokers." Indonesian Argopuros are readily available and the Four Seasons maintains a modest selection of Davidoffs.
Guests who bestir themselves to venture outside their private hideaways partake in the resort's numerous complimentary activities, including windsurfing, catamaran sailing and snorkeling. At the tennis club, the manager will kindly find you a partner for a match on one of two "supergrass" courts, and afterwards there's the fully outfitted spa to soothe away any tight muscles.
Of course, a few patrons can't resist exploring bewitching Bali outside the Four Seasons. A brief chat with the concierge presents several tempting options: whitewater rafting on the Teleaga Waja river, snorkeling excursions to the nearby island of Lembongan, Land Rover safaris into Bali's upland rain forests or personalized shopping trips to the island's notable craft centers.
To be sure, they're worthwhile excursions, but only after one has become fully sated with the resort itself.
Dan Klinglesmith is a Denver-based travel writer.
Four Seasons Resort Bali
Jimbaran, Denpasar 80361
(62 361) 701010; fax (62 361) 701020
One-bedroom villas from $475