Alila means “surprise” in Sanskrit and given the wow factor of the resort’s minimalist design and maximal location, the name is spot on. Located on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula and just a 30-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport, this eco-chic retreat by Singapore-based WOHA Architects sits on the edge of Uluwatu’s dramatic limestone cliffs. Its contemporary flat roofs, geometrical pools, cloud-reflecting ponds and exquisitely framed lines-of-sight over the Indian Ocean give it an architectural edge like no other.
The resort’s cliff-edge locale covers 14.4 hectares of gardens festooned with flora native to Uluwatu. Using permaculture principles, landscapers have made use of plants, creepers, and trees that can survive typically dry and rainy seasons, along with aesthetically pleasing ponds and flowing subak (traditional Balinese irrigation channels) for a water-wise natural approach. The Bukit Peninsula’s famed Uluwatu Temple is 15 minutes away as is Jalan Labuansait, a charismatic road punctuated by local warung eateries, fancy cafés and diners, and shops with an “island life” aesthetic.
Alila’s villas, tucked into the natural landscape under lava rock rooftops, enjoy a rare sense of escapist privacy. They’re sustainably designed to “disappear into the hillside” so only the recycled timber poolside cabanas rise from the greenery. Countering this is the sleek modernity of the main resort, with its orthogonal water gardens, white stone corridors and picture-perfect pin-thin coconut trees. A stay here makes the most of both vibes.
Of the 65 pool villas, it’s the enormous three-bedroom villas that have incredible oceanfront views. But most guests stay in one of the 56 one-bedroom hillside abodes measuring a generous 290 square metres. The look is mod-masculine luxe with dark-toned woodwork and furniture softened by white stone tiled walls and occasional Balinese accents such as batik fabrics. Guests seeking downtime could fill their days lounging in the cabana, dozing in pool recliners, soaking in the two-person bath and spread-eagling on the bed without feeling the need to ever leave the villa.
Food and drink
The Warung is as much a favorite of guests as it is a go-to for island residents craving authentic Indonesian and Balinese cuisine with a refined touch. The culinary journey begins with a sambal taster platter and continues with choices like sate lilit ikan (grilled minced fish wrapped around a lemongrass stalk), soto ayam (herbed chicken soup), and dadar gulung (coconut crepe filled with coconut and palm sugar). Cire, the Mediterranean and Pan-Asian restaurant, scores just as highly for its fresh produce and organic approach. Jutting over the cliff edge, Sunset Cabana Bar is the place for a day-end tipple with the sea breeze blowing and the sound of the waves crashing below. Open until midnight, cozy indoor bar Batique specializes in top-notch Scotch and cigars.
Western-style massage, facials, scrubs, and manicures are outshone by Eastern modalities with a local touch. Balinese beauty rituals include a traditional lulur body scrub, said to remedy aching joints and skin problems, and a creambath to hydrate hair and indulge the scalp. Free daily hatha yoga classes are offered on the dramatically positioned cliff-edge yoga shala, while guests can also book private meditation and mat Pilates sessions.
Kids are well catered to, from the Twinkle Toes spa pedi to activities such as a “movie under the stars” set up on the terrace of your villa. The latter is among a quintet of stimulating half-day experiences, with archery and gardening being two of the other choices.
From its design stages, Alila Villas Uluwatu opted to be at the forefront of regenerative tourism in Bali. This plays out with a no-plastics policy, an on-site water purification plant and the Sustainability Lab where all waste streams—from ear buds and toothbrushes to left-behind shoes—are processed for reuse, recycling, or upcycling. It’s genuinely impressive.
The Bukit Peninsula’s legendary surf breaks are hands down the best in Bali, rolling onto the nearby beaches of Jimbaran, Balangan, Bingin, and Padang Padang. Explore them onshore with a professional surf coach or onboard a traditional jukung fishing boat.
Reviewed by Penny Watson