There are more than 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, but for many wellness travellers, there is just one. From heavenly resorts and spas to healthful restaurants, Cathy Wagstaff learns how to find balance in Bali.
Bali has long been a pioneer in health and wellness tourism, with resorts that make the most of their dreamy setting with yoga studios, massage parlours, healthful restaurants and spiritual ceremonies to help create a sense of calm.
You could spend weeks – indeed months – being buffed and polished, having your chakras aligned, saluting the sun and healing your gut, all in the name of feeling good.
Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach
Best for: Gracious ambience and an award-winning spa
Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach nods to Balinese rice terraces, village craftsmanship and the high regard local people have for nature.
Sava Spa has been designed to reflect Balinese spirituality and traditions. Softly lit treatment rooms and soothing relaxation zones are set around a Zen pool inspired by the historic Balinese subak irrigation system. The healing hands of the skilful practitioners will take you to seventh heaven. Treatments combine modern holistic natural healing with traditional local wisdom.
Activities range from yoga and surf lessons to cooking classes, electric scooter rides and Balinese dress-ups.
Suites, villas and rooms throughout the 4.7-hectare resort have garden or ocean views, and every guest bathroom has a golden basin to invoke the feeling of Seminyak’s thousand-year-old Camplung Tanduk temple and encourage guests to perform their own cleansing rituals.
Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach overlooks the ocean, so whether you’re unwinding with a cocktail in a bar or lounge (there are four) or dining in one of the restaurants, the rhythmic sounds of the ocean will hold you in a deep state of peace. My favourite restaurant was SugarSand, offering guilt-free Japanese Izakaya-style bites created from locally sourced ingredients in a stylish beachside locale.
Como Shambhala Estate, Ubud
Best for: A jungle oasis
Meaning ‘peace’ in Sanskrit, COMO Shambhala Estate is easily one of Bali’s best wellness resorts. The property is spread across nine hectares just north of Ubud. Eyebrow-arching views greet me at the Bali health retreat.
Think a five-star refuge for luxury travellers seeking to say farewell to stress and hello to a sense of complete spiritual development.
This destination spa specialises in wellness programmes and Ayurvedic treatments. Every wellness program here is completely bespoke. Most notable is the tailored Integrated Wellness Programme combining modern science with ancient practices. It features a consultation with an expert who then creates a comprehensive and personalised plan to align mind, body and soul. Everything from Ayurvedic oil massages to deal with stress-related weight gain, to Japanese acupuncture to get subtle energies working is available. Hindu water blessings and chakra healers are just as accessible here as spells in a sauna, steam room or infinity pool.
Every day there’s a schedule of activities I can participate in. Including biking around rice fields, meditating, attending a Balinese gratuity ceremony, water blessings and sunrise qi gong.
Spaces at COMO Shambhala Estate have been lovingly crafted to bring the outdoors in. With creative flair afforded by award-winning architects Cheong Yew Kuan and Koichiro Ikebuchi.
Rooms, suites, pool villas and enormous residences are pared back in a patchwork of local stone, wood and traditional alang-alang (thatched) roofing, inspired by the elements of wind, earth, fire, water and forest.
A spring that provides fresh mineral water that runs through every hotel tap. My favourite suite, Wanakasa, which translates to ‘Forest in the Mist’, is a luxury treehouse with interconnecting rooms around an enormous banyan tree with a private pool.
I have no idea how chefs make raw, organic food taste so delicious. The nutrition-optimised dishes at glow restaurant are bursting full of fresh ingredients in health bomb combinations. Every bite feels like a healing hug.
REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Bali
Best for: A balanced retreat
Welcome to REVĪVŌ, a holistic Bali wellness retreat for those who neither want their wellness journey too medical or too boho – it’s all about balance.
The three hectares property envelops just 22 private villas crafted by renowned Australian architect Kerry Hill. Known for his Asian tropical flair in design, Hill created grounding spaces of stone, wood and rattan thatch. Each villa is replete with water features and private courtyards.
At REVĪVŌ you can immerse yourself in yoga, fitness classes, soothing spa treatments, and revitalising emotional therapies. With a belief that the mind shapes your mood and outlook on life, the personalized retreats are designed to empower you with the tools to harness its power. REVĪVŌ presents a range of Six Signature Immersive Retreats, allowing you to choose according to your specific goals. With a minimum stay of 3 nights, each retreat program is tailored to meet your unique wellness requirements, encompassing nutrition, holistic treatments, and targeted workouts. The expansive MOVEŌ fitness center sprawls across 800 square meters, featuring a Yoga Barn, an outdoor studio for Aerial Yoga, a serene Meditation Room, a Pilates studio equipped with reformers, a fitness room with TRX and boxing facilities, a fully-equipped gym, a 25-meter lap pool for invigorating aqua workouts, rejuvenating jacuzzis, a steam room, FIR Sauna, hot and cold plunge pools, and 500 square meters of beautifully landscaped park for outdoor exercises.
The resort’s menu heroes raw foods, fermentation, dehydration and cold-press cooking techniques to lock in nutrients. The end result is delicious plates that are high in protein, low in carbs and sourced from local organic ingredients, many harvested from the on-site permaculture garden.
Best for: Beachfront luxury
In Bali’s coastal village of Jimbaran, I’m met at Raffles Bali with the promise of curated cultural experiences, uninterrupted peace and sublime service.
It’s the largest in scale and smallest in room number of any Raffles property in the world. 32 villas are set across 23 hectares of grounds manicured with palms, bodhi trees, naupaka flowers and moringa, an unassuming superfood that grows wild here. Hiking trails weave through the property, and also lead to the resort’s private beach.
My villa has a gazebo and private pool with Indian Ocean views. Inside, there’s a harmonious marriage of traditional architecture and Raffles’ signature aesthetic. Rustic rattan furniture and hardwood floors complement the natural surroundings, while a reference to the Indonesian craft of batik (hand-dyed textiles) can be seen in the artisanal tapestries hung on the walls.
My butler (every villa gets one) regularly replenishes my room’s tropical fruit platter. He also pours me strong Javanese tea scented with jasmine flowers, and leaves me bottles of jamu, a medicinal Indonesian elixir made from roots, herbs, flowers, bark and spices. I can feel it doing good with every sip.
Try private yoga sessions or mindfulness meditation at the outdoor sala within the resort’s intimate spa. Practitioners here also host sunrise and full moon yoga on the beach, Tibetan singing bowl meditation in a secret cave, and something called ‘Giri Bhuana love meditation’. Reiki energy healing uses holy water from a single source on the island, crystal gems are employed to balance the body’s seven chakras, and shiatsu is featured in the ‘Aqua Soul Healing’ ritual held in the pool, for that ultimate sense of weightlessness.
I opt for the ‘Royal Balinese Boreh’ experience, a centuries-old herbal healing ritual that involves my body being slathered in a fragrant mask made using cloves, ginger, turmeric root and powdered rice, to remove dead cells and promote skin circulation.
Buffed and polished on the outside, it’s time to nourish my insides at Rumari restaurant. Its menu is dedicated to progressive Southeast Asian cuisine, with 80 per cent of produce sourced from around the Indonesian archipelago. That might be ahi tuna slightly smoked with coconut, dressed with seaweed from Lombok and a punchy sambal matah, perhaps. Or ruby red snapper ceviche with ginger flowers.
Each Raffles has its own take on the classic Singapore Sling, a nod to the drink created in the original Singapore hotel in 1915. Here, the Bali Sling muddles local spirit arak with jackfruit and butterfly pea flower. It’s at once tropical and surprising, and like my stay at Raffles in a mouthful.
Best for: Retreating into the mountains
Alila Manggis resort is tucked away on the east coast of Bali between the ocean and Mount Agung, Bali’s most sacred peak. Being at this wellness retreat is like winding back the clock to a time when the island was less touristed and less developed. Rice fields have the space to thrive, beaches come with black sand, jungle reclaims monkey-dotted temples and villagers still practice age-old crafts – on one trek through paddies I see a group of women weaving batik on ancient looms while children run gleefully down narrow lanes.
The moment I meet Mountain and his wife, Ni Made Suyani, I feel like the air has been taken out of the room. The duo – he a Balinese healer, she a priest – hold an instant aura of calm. They visit Alila Manggis to host ‘Water Purification’ ceremonies. Over the course of three hours, we meditate together and practice yoga nidra, an intensely calming ritual that seems to pause time. The purification element of the ritual uses water from three sources: the ocean, a spring and a well. It’s an experience unlike anything I’ve tried before and one that reminds me why it’s so important to slow down and appreciate all your senses.
I’m determined to maximise the ‘Spa Junkies Paradise’ offer, which lets you book as many treatments as you can possibly manage over 48 hours. First up, a Shirodhara massage that draws on 5,000 years of Indian healing wisdom; it uses warmed, medicated oils that are poured softly onto the third eye to inspire deep relaxation. Many of the therapies available utilise local produce, such as ground Balinese coffee beans to exfoliate, housemade lulur powder (sandalwood, fennel seed, star anise, eaglewood and fenugreek) to cleanse, and young coconut to nourish.
The roster of activities of includes visits to fishing villages, paddy treks, cycling down Agung, learning to cook like the locals.
The resort embraces traditional design, brought to life by lauded Australian architect Kerry Hill AO, known for specialising in ‘tropical’ hotel design across Asia. Think steeply pitched pavilion roofs, shaded walkways and an abundance of water features, affectionately dubbed the ‘Kerry Hill touch’. Manggis, Alila’s flagship property, unites these elements across its serene rooms and suites, which sit among a grove of tall coconut palms.
Many ingredients from the spa also star on the menu at Seasalt Restaurant, named after a salt farm in nearby Goa Lawah. The signature dining experience here is known as megibung. The traditional meal shares food with friends and family during village festivals and ceremonies in east Bali. Rice is served on a carved timber stand called a dulang, with a parade of other dishes added to the mix: fish cooked in banana leaves, Balinese sausage, satay skewers and vegetables. It’s the perfect way to get a taste for the region while embracing local culture and traditions, something that is embedded in the Alila ethos.
Escape Haven at Echo Beach, Canggu
Best for: Design-driven bliss
Escape Haven is a design-driven yoga retreat. The women’s only sanctuary is within walking distance of the Canggu’s famed surf beaches, boutique shops, and eclectic cafes whilst still offering a private oasis to return.
Founder Janine Hall launched Escape Haven as part of her dream “to create an experience that makes women feel supported and nurtured as they travel through life.”
Wellness packages are guided by your focus – from Luxury Surf, Yoga, Fitness, Detox, Ayurveda, or Pilates packages. We love Escape Haven’s “no couples, no kids, no traffic” ethos.
The recovery centre has an infrared sauna, Moroccan-style ice plunge pool and 8-seat jacuzzi. The exquisite spa treatment rooms are specially designed around its Bali surroundings, offering unlimited spa treatments in the expert hands of professional therapists.
The 17 suites are inspired by different Balinese goddesses and all have a unique colour scheme. Locals have hand-carved wooden bedheads and created the striking artwork. Belgian linen, black-out curtains, and hand-blended natural shower products add to the fine luxe touchings.
All meals are included in my stay. Healthy meals might include green juice and baked eggs for breakfast; organic salads for lunch; and chicken satay with fiery sambal for dinner. This essential Indonesian condiment is addictive and easy to make, as I discover during an on-site cooking class one afternoon. Indeed, there are plenty of activities on offer, but nothing is prescriptive or forced.
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua
Best for: East-meets-West opulence
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua unites the brand’s French heritage with its Indonesian island setting: cool marble and stone alongside local timbers and alang-alang thatching; dreamy daybeds shaded by fragrant frangipani and palm trees; immaculate attention to detail but afforded a barefoot-luxe vibe.
The resort’s four pools are linked by a long lane, and my room has direct access to the lagoon-style pool. Butlers bring me room service with a twist – the ‘Magnifique Floating Breakfast’ is artistically plated with eggs, juices, flutes of bubbly and tropical fruits. Even though there are more than 400 rooms, suites and villas here, the resort never feels crowded – that’s in part thanks to the ridiculously expansive grounds.
It’s too early to take advantage of the swim-up cocktail bar, so I make a reservation at SoSpa. Today is a Balinese massage in an open-air sala by the beach. SoSpa treatments come in the form of hot-stone massages using essential oils, nourishing body wraps and tip-to-toe exfoliation. Guests are also invited make a solemn offering at a temple within the resort’s grounds.
There are a number of options when it comes time to refuel. A highlight is Cucina, a Mediterranean-style affair overseen by the chef Amaury Belkhanfar and his team. Every Sunday from 11am to 3pm, the Cucina Brunch is held: bubbles and cocktails flow, there’s live music, and bites like yuzu tiger prawns and blackened tuna are passed around.
This Ubud health retreat’s take on wellness is all about “sparking joy”. Rooted in barefoot luxury with a touch of Rock & Roll, musician Michael, of Spearhead fame, and his wife, a former Emergency Room Nurse, have built an incredible resort from scratch that mixes the modern with a classic Bali aesthetic – it’s a magical place to press “reset”. With three stunning pools – including a waterslide and a diving platform, two restaurants, a new full-service spa, two yoga shala’s, at Soulshine, they believe it’s just as essential to connect to your inner soul on a yoga mat, to let your heart soar on the dance floor or enjoy farm-to-table food grown right on site.
33 stunning rooms with panorama views of the rice fields and lush tropical gardens, some that feature large terrazzo tubs, are dressed with a touch of retro chic. It’s all in the attention to detail in design, which is mind-blowing. Be it outside with the hand-carved pillars by local artisans to create their “togetherness” lounge. To the interior styling with music nods like a Marley turntable, Bluetooth Marshall speakers, and a maxi (not mini) bar for recreating signature cocktails (or mocktails). The newest suite, the Soulshine Villa, comes with a private plunge pool, infrared sauna and its main bedroom suspended mid-air overlooking the jungle.
Eat, Pray, Love Yourself is one of their mottoes, with week long packages and retreats for yoga, pilates, dance, writing, and photography, including Micheal’s ‘The Soulrocker Music Experience’, up for the taking.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
Nowhere is this cultural resurgence more apparent than in the realm of Bali’s best wellness resorts than at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. The Sacred River Spa is set in the lush jungle of the Ayung River Valley of Ubud, a place whose name is derived from the word for ‘medicine’ (ubad) in Sanskrit. Its focus is on the transition from Niskala (the unseen or the energetic world) to Sekala (the seen or conscious world). Its Balinese Healing Rituals aim to restore balance from the inside out, creating spiritual experiences that effect physical change. No longer do guests pick a massage from a menu; today, I am guided by what my body needs.
I opt for a Chakra Ceremony, each dedicated to one of the seven main chakra points. As a frequent traveller, I’m directed to the 120-minute Muladhara ritual to cleanse the root chakra, the energy centre responsible for grounding us. The experience begins with a Balinese kemenyan smoke ceremony and the sound of a pure quartz crystal singing bowl tuned to 432 Hertz, the ‘intonation of nature’. The deep, slow massage that follows uses oil infused with locally grown ginger and cinnamon.
Now that balance has been restored, I am keen to discover some of the other cultural experiences offered by Four Seasons Resort Sayan. As well as 18 suites and 42 pool villas, this seven-hectare sanctuary is home to rice fields belonging to a local farmer, who humbly shares his way of life with guests.
My body is weightless, suspended in a silk hammock, and birdsong is my lullaby. Ibu Fera, a former Buddhist nun, gently sings about the life of the Buddha as she rocks me in my womb-like cocoon. The premise of the ‘Sacred Nap’ might seem too good to be true, but as I drift off to sleep, there are no thoughts running through my mind, no worries or impending duties; just this precious present moment. When I wake from my ‘air nap’ less than an hour later, I feel the most rested I’ve been in decades.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
There is just so much beauty to be found at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Wandering around the 14-hectare property, I come across a massage pavilion tucked away on a cliff, set beside a waterfall that overlooks a small private beach. Making it easily one of Bali’s best wellness resorts.
The all-villa Jimbaran Bay complements its Sayan sister in every way. The jungles and ricefields of Ubud are exchanged for the waves and sands of Bali’s southwestern coast, and the flow from Niskala to Sekala reversed. Here, The Healing Village Spa at Jimbaran Bay is dedicated to realigning the physical body in order to reconnect with the energetic world and the inner self.
Rather than starting my journey from the seen world to the unseen at the spa, however, my first stop is a session of AntiGravity Yoga. In a clifftop bale, our class flips upside down, effortlessly supported by the unique hammock. We swing and stretch, rediscovering the childhood joy of monkey bars, before finishing with a suspended meditation in our silken cocoons.
Now that I’ve defied gravity, I make my way to the oceanfront spa for a treatment that perfectly blends the interdependent Balinese principles of Sekala and Niskala. The Chakra Balance Massage uses the Aura-Soma colour system of oils and crystals to create a harmonious experience that completes my journey back to equilibrium.
The Apurva Kempinski Bali
Balance has also been built into the newest five-star hideaway in the chic enclave of Nusa Dua, The Apurva Kempinski Bali. Its terraced design is inspired by the traditional subak system that not only irrigates the rice fields but also exemplifies the principle of Tri Hita Karana – ‘three sources of life’ in Sanskrit – or the relationship between God, humans and the natural world. At the centre of the resort, waterfalls flank the 250-step Grand Staircase, itself paying homage the mother temple of Pura Besakih.
The herbal tonic jamu is a core feature of the Apurva Spa’s 10 multi-day Signature Journeys, based on Javanese traditions. Each revolves around one of the four stages of life – Remaja (Adolescence), Dewasa (Adulthood), Mahligai Kasih (Married Life) and Tenteram (Post-Adulthood) – and combines treatments such as lulur body scrub (said to be the beauty secret of Javanese royalty), steam baths, Urut Lanang deep-tissue massage and brightening facials with a daily dose of jamu, often in granita or mocktail form. I end my stay in Bali tending to the Niskala of my energetic body with the Awakening the Chakra Spirit experience.
Following open-air yoga and meditation designed to realign the chakras, we make our way to Pura Geger for the melukat purification ritual. We pause among the rocks at Beji, where we cleanse with holy water before entering the temple. Monkeys swarm us when we arrive, and we are told this does not happen often; it means we come with pure hearts. The simian crowd slinks back into the temple, however, when the priest, Mangku Wayan Repot, arrives, his smiling presence calming and almost surreal.
Throughout the ceremony, we do everything in threes in honour of the Trimurti of supreme Hindu deities. We flick coconut water over our heads, drink from our hands and place rice on our third eyes, eating a small piece as a sign that we are accepting the blessing. The Island of the Gods has brought me back to a state of peace and tranquillity, my spirit reawakened along with its sacred traditions. Bali’s best wellness resorts never disappoint.
Fivelements Retreat Bali
From chakra cleansing to cave meditation, there’s not much that isn’t on the menu at Fivelements Retreat. In the jungle-laced foothills of central Bali, the wellness resort’s collection of curvilinear buildings are crafted from sustainable local materials ringed by tropical gardens. It’s here that staff pluck flowers and herbs – pineapples, ginger, turmeric – used in vegetarian meals and spa treatments. Oranges and limes are pressed for bath rituals and ylang ylang and frangipani blossoms are added to tonics for fragrant facials. Between the weird and wonderful therapies and calming rooms, you won’t want to leave.