A romantic’s guide to Bali
by Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. & Janet Lever, Ph.D.
Bali is one of the world’s great romance capitals, with white-sand beaches, crystalline waters, electric green rice paddies, and lush jungles. In addition to that passion-perfect background, its romance really comes down to something simple— exquisite attention to detail. Hoteliers there understand that unique touches can make a blissful experience transcendent: a basket of fruit decorated with flowers waiting in your villa; a private dinner overlooking the water as a server waits on you discreetly. And nearly every resort’s beach furnishings include bales, exotic four-poster beds with gauzy drapes for privacy.
Bali helps put body and soul together. It is an island of daily spiritual activity, where every morning local men and women carry fruit and flowers to a temple or sanctuary for blessings from the gods. Each village has a specialized art form, which means that driving (or, as we recommend, being driven) from village to village yields discoveries of sculpture, music, dance, basketry, and painting. The island is almost always celebrating something; plan your trip around a full or new moon, and you will witness particularly inspiring ceremonies.
Worried about what you’ve read in the newspapers? Bali is a peaceful island, but quite a few years ago, some terrorist incidents occurred. We can’t say it will never happen again, and it’s a good idea to avoid heavily trafficked areas like Kuta. Check the U.S. State Department warnings, and you should feel, and be, secure. And if you’re worried about a tsunami, relax: this is not in as vulnerable an area as other Indonesian islands (such as Java). In addition, some sides of the island (Nusa Dua) have a sea shelf that makes large wave action almost impossible.
Biking Through Ancient Rural Villages
Bike tour companies pick you up early in the morning, and some will stop for breakfast overlooking an active volcano! A 2.5-hour gentle bike ride will take you through lovely scenery where you can take photographs, talk to farmers, visit a local temple, or spend the afternoon in a traditional Balinese home and enjoy a multi-course lunch. River rafting excursions are also available.
They’re everywhere, but you’ll need help finding the best, most secluded ones. A worthy concierge will not only find the cove, but pack a picnic and offer to send someone with you to serve, clean up, then magically disappear until requested again.
House Blessings & Temple Ceremonies
Here again, a good concierge can arrange such an experience and guide you with your attire formal dress, with a sarong, sash, and headscarf) and what to bring (small gifts of fruit and flowers). Depending on what is being celebrated in the ceremony, the event could start early or late—or go all night. Participants are dressed beautifully, and you’ll enjoy a night filled with dancing, music, and sometimes, ancient stories of good-versus-evil spirits or love triumphant over mysticism. We find the traditional music of the gamelan orchestra stirring—even magical—and one of our ingredients for romance.
Find a Rice Paddy Hideaway
There are sweet little places rentable for a night or longer, amidst terraced hills and rice paddies. They are usually basic, but in astoundingly beautiful and scenic locations.
Shopping in Bali can be an adventure that takes you from downtown Ubud to nearby villages, each with its own specialized craft (One will specialize in basketry, another jewelry and silver.) Try to visit artist studios in Ubud and all through the island. Many have fine carvings, paintings, textiles, or other handcrafted items. You can also shop with a personal guide; there’s no fee for the tour, but guides add 15% to whatever you purchase. Ask your concierge for a recommendation.
Massage, Bali Style
Couple massages on the island are relatively affordable ($35 to $85), so you can have a lot of them! Most massage rooms are enclosed on three sides, with the fourth opening onto a stream or fountain. Here are some of our favorite romantic spa experiences:
Antique Villa Spa A ten-minute drive from Seminyak, Antique Villa serves both a gay and straight clientele. We recommend the rose bath. Your masseur soaps you up all over (and we mean all over), then you lie on a slab and are hand rinsed. This treatment is offered for couples, too. 62/361-739-840, antiquebali.com
Jari Menari (Dancing Fingers) Clean, safe, and pretty, Jari Menari features an all-male staff. The highlight is the four-handed massage done by two people, and you can arrange to do it together. 62/361-736-740, jarimenari.com
The Spa at the Four Seasons-Jimbaran Bay Pricier, but the elegant surroundings make it special, and you can buy something delightful to slather on your partner’s body later. 62/361-701-010 / fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay
Spa on the Rocks at Ayana Resort & Spa, Jalan
Built on rocks overlooking the Indian Ocean, this spa incorporates natural ingredients in a luxurious setting. In a cottage facing the ocean, couples can soak together and then get massaged side-by-side as sea breezes waft over. A memorable choice is the Rose Petal couple massage. Soak in a private pool strewn with rose petals and then clean each other off in an outdoor shower— before two lovely masseuses rub you down, side by side. Mmmmm. 62/361-702-222 / ayanaresort.com
Hotels with Heart
Amandari Ubud $$$
62/361-975-333 / amanresorts.com
Part of the ultra-exclusive Aman chain, this getaway is situated among verdant terraced rice fields and a deep, beautiful valley. Paths to your room wind past shrines and intricately carved doorways that make you feel like you are in an actual village. The entrance to each villa looks old and venerable, as if many centuries of Balinese had lived behind these doors. In some villas you walk on stepping stones in a koi pond to enter your villa. Suites are large, with 20-foot ceilings of native reeds and woods. Many include a large private pool (think moonlit skinny-dipping) in addition to a sunken tub and private outside shower.
Four Seasons at Sayan $$$ 62/361-977-577 / fourseasons.com
A great choice in the artistic Ubud area. Only a few minutes from town, this lovely river valley will make you will feel hidden away. Rooms are a chic mix of modern and classic Balinese woods and materials. The Terrace restaurant at the edge of Ayung River is truly stunning, and the property itself offers many rambles for lovers.
Desa Seni—A Village Resort $$
62/361-944-639 / desaseni.com
If you crave historical authenticity and a meditative experience, try Desa Seni, where an entire village has been re-created. Each villa is different: some quite simple, others true houses. All are warm and artistic. Yoga enthusiasts will love the outdoor yoga pavilion. Beautiful objects, furniture, and shrines dot the landscape; villas face the pool or are private, surrounded by greenery.
Amankila at Nusa Dua $$$
62/363-41333 / amanresorts.com
The story is water here—a dramatic vista stretches down beyond a series of lap pools to the coast. The villas themselves begin with an outdoor room facing the sea. The interior, where a vase of tuber roses fills the air with the sweetest scents, is graced with marble floors and fine teak furniture. Some rooms have their own pools with striking views of the bay, others turn inward toward the jungle. You can also reserve the palmshrouded resort pool near the beach just for the two of you and follow your swim with a torch-lit multi-course feast at the sea’s edge.
The Conrad at Nusa Dua $$$
62/361-778-788 / conradbali.com
This top-of-the-line Hilton is right on the beach. The entry lobby is grand but warm, with beautiful wood rafters and expansive ocean views. The rooms are large, bright, and quite beautiful, and feature a twoperson tub hidden behind a shuttered glass window with a view of the water. This is perfect place for families as there are many huge, child-friendly pools and an all-day kid program that can give you some free time on your own. If you want a youngster-free environment, Conrad Suites has a private pool, even more luxurious rooms and a “no child under 12” policy.
Matahari Beach Resort & Spa $$
62/362-92312 / matahari-beach-resort.com
This is an unpretentious and ecologically sensitive place where the rooms are traditional and lovely, the food excellent, and the sea stirring. On the seldom-visited west side of the island (prepare for a three-hour ride from the airport), the vibe is laid back, but there are activities to keep you busy including tennis, horseback riding, and excellent snorkeling around nearby Menjangan Island. Rates include airport transportation & all meals. Romantic Restaurants
Floating Dinner $$$
62/361-765777 / email@example.com
The Kayumanis at Jimbaran Bay is a resort that offers many pleasures, but for sheer romantic splendor, it’s hard to beat the Floating Dinner. Here, the staff creates a unique experience for you at their lovely pool-under the stars, surrounded by candles and flowers…the effect is magical.
The Hotel Tugu Bali’s Javanese Cooking Experience $$$
62/361-4731701 / hoteltugubali.com
This hotel is as much a museum as a place to stay and eat. Set on Canggu Beach, it’s a treasure trove of Balinese antiques, sculptures, and statues. For a special romantic experience, a master Javanese cook will take you to the market and then teach the two of you how to create Balinese and Javanese cuisine, culminating in a sumptuous dinner together.
Sunrise Buffet $
62/361-977888 / mayaubud.com
At the Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, the resort’s award-winning design of massive stone walls, recycled timber, and a mix of modern and traditional elements sets the stage for its sunrise buffet, a sumptuous repast set in the midst of a tropical jungle with the sound of the Petanu River rushing below.
Tapa at The Bale Resort $
62/361-775111 / firstname.lastname@example.org
This ultra-stylish, colorfully lit restaurant oozes energy in an outdoor setting. With live guitar music in the background, the party heats up with acoustic music on Wednesday and Friday nights. Foods are grouped by texture (crispy, smooth, crunchy, etc.) and the specialty is a delicious barbequed young pig. The food is served in small tapas fashion, great for sharing, and service is amazing.
Adapted from Places for Passion: The 75 Most Romantic Destinations in the World – and Why Every Couple Needs to Get Away (Frommer Media, 2014) by Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. and Janet Lever, Ph.D.