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Luxury Travel: Ayana Resort and Spa, Bali

For our honeymoon, Tim and I had the grand idea that we would hike the volcanoes of Indonesia. I’ve been dying to see Mt Bromo and the Ijen crater for a while now, and I thought it would be the perfect time. However, we were also planning to move abroad a month after the wedding, and a good friend advised us that sandwiching a hectic adventure holiday between a wedding and an international move might be a little unwise (she used significantly stronger language than this).

So we kept the Indonesia plan, but settled for what was effectively 7 days of relaxation. I’m so glad that we followed my friend’s advice and decided to just head to Bali for a week, because it was possibly one of the best holidays I’ve ever taken.

My working theory while planning was that since we were leaving for the honeymoon the day after the wedding, we would want at least the first half of the week to be all-inclusive, and not require us to travel for meals or entertainment. Boy, did I hit the nail on the head when we booked into Ayana Resort and Spa in Jimbaran.

This place is magical.

Ayana Resort and Spa is a huge, self-contained compound, located about half an hour from Ngurah Rai international airport. When you book the hotel pick-up, they collect you from the airport with bottles of water and damp, cool face cloths smelling of jasmine and frangipani, and transport you in air-conditioned luxury to the hotel. Those face cloths were a constant at the resort and offered at every meal, drink and seat, and while it seems like a small item to be so in love with, it really was the best thing ever after hopping off a long flight.

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The resort itself is extensive. It’s set over 90 hectares of land, with 11 pools, 10 restaurants and an endless swathe of stunning landscaped grounds. When booking at Ayana, you also have access to Rimba Jimbaran, Ayana’s other resort located right next door. Rimba is similar to Ayana, but geared more towards families, with children’s water slides and activity parks. It also boasts some amazing bars and restaurants, and a further 6 pools and a private beach.

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Needless to say, we could have spent our whole week trip at Ayana alone and never run out of things to do.

The staff at Ayana are second to none. I don’t know what they do for their training program, or how much they pay them, but every single staff member we encountered was impeccable. Every. Single. One. Given the scale of the resort, you would expect to be largely anonymous, but they all seemed to know us by name. This is understandable when you think about the fact that you give your room number every time you eat or drink or need anything (it all gets put on your room), so they can easily look up your name, but they do it so seamlessly that it feels like they know you. Since it was our honeymoon, “Good Morning, Mr and Mrs Martin” and “Can I get you anything, Mr and Mrs Martin” became a lovely reminder of our wedding and the fact that we were now husband and wife. If there was one thing that set Ayana apart from every other resort we have ever stayed in, it wasn’t the huge grounds, impeccable landscaping, stunning views, amazing restaurants or luxurious pools, it was the staff. I cannot speak highly enough of them. Despite the fact that we were staying in the least expensive room, and only there for a few nights, we felt like royalty.

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Our highlights of the stay:

The Ocean Beach Pool – This is the pool in all those breathtaking photos, hanging over a cliff above Kisik Beach. It’s open during the day, and you’ll want to get there early since it fills up fairly quickly. By this, I don’t mean that the pool is at all crowded; they simply limit the amount of people allowed in the area so that everyone gets their own relaxing daybed or lounge, and you’re ensured a peaceful swim. You can order food and drinks there, so my advice is to get there before noon and while away the hours with a book and a cocktail (or two). You can also wander down to Kisik Beach from the poolside.

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The River Pool – This is an architectural wonder of a pool. It’s actually sever interconnected pools on a couple of levels, with a lagoon vibe and a hidden hot tub around the corner.
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Lower Pool at Rimba – The best part of this pool is the private cabanas. These are tucked into the side of the pool above, and provide a great place to relax and maybe nap after a swim.

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The Kampoeng Show at Rimba – This is a dinner and theatre show, hosted several times a week at sunset. It includes a huge buffet, complete with suckling pig (drool) and authentic Indonesian and Balinese specialties. It’s a great way to try a bunch of different Indonesian foods and sample some local culture, all without having to leave the comfort of the resort.

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The Rock Bar – This regularly makes must-see lists around the world, including Forbes’ World’s Best Bars with a View. It is very busy, as it’s open to the public as well as resort guests, and to be honest, we found it very crowded the night we went. You need to be there well before time if you want to catch the sunset. Our tip: if you choose to have a drink here (and we’d recommend it, it’s part of the experience of Ayana), don’t bother waiting for the cable car to take you back up the main resort. The line up to leave was longer than the line to get in! If you walk along past the Ocean Beach Pool, there is a set of stairs up, which also gives you a great view of the pool, bar and city lights.

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Kubu Beach and Warung Kubu – This is our recommendation for sunset viewing. Everyone flocks to the Rock Bar, so Kubu was virtually deserted on the days we went there. They have ample seating, a treehouse platform and unimpeded views of the sun setting over the ocean. The warung here also makes some amazing cocktails. They serve a watermelon cocktail in a whole hollowed-out watermelon, including a spoon to eat the melon with. If you know how much I love watermelon, then you’ll know that this is pretty much my idea of heaven!

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Unique Rooftop Bar at Rimba – This is yet another amazing sunset location. The food and drinks here are also amazing, with the nasi goreng and lychees martinis my drug of choice. We ate here at sunset on our last night at Ayana, and it was a perfect way to close out a wonderful stay.

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