It’s the pools that you notice first. The sheer number of them – a maze of water set in the midst of verdant palm trees and tropical fronds, with oversized swimming pools and elegantly curved lagoons (one with a waterfall built in) everywhere you turn. So many different options that, on the two occasions I swam during my stay at Bali’s The Laguna resort, I had the water entirely, blissfully to myself.
In fact, some of the rooms, suites and private villas at this sleek luxury hotel in Nusa Dua – a coastal paradise on Bali’s southern tip about 20 minutes from the airport – have direct balcony access into a pool, allowing for the possibility of a dip before you’ve even seen another soul. It’s all part of the casual luxury of the resort, where everything you need is on hand and your biggest decision is deciding which sublime spot to set your sunbed in; the shady gardens or in view of the Indian Ocean. With private villas hidden away from the main rooms, its own ice cream parlour, tennis courts, two cocktail bars, not to mention the private beach with golden sands and clear (if not turquoise) sea, it’s hardly surprising that maps are dotted about the complex to help guests get their bearings.
Having so much at your fingertips is essential, for Nusa Dua is a place to go to for beaches, watersports, tropical weather and not much else. The area attracts a mixed crowd with guests from as far afield as Europe, India, Japan and Korea, spread evenly between young couples enjoying a night of luxury after a budget trip, guests more accustomed to high end hotels, and families, many of them from nearby Australia, but all are on the hunt for a place to unwind and be waited on hand and foot. Teeming with plush hotels but low on tourist attractions, Nusa Dua is a far cry from the better known Bali hotspots of Kuta and Semaniak, where visitors jostle for space on packed beaches and at noisy nightclubs. Enjoying a pedicure at the tranquil spa (not cheap in terms of Indonesian prices, but well worth it), with calming music in the background, I felt like I was a million miles away from the well-trodden Balinese tourist trail.
The Laguna – a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa – is part of the Starwood Group of hotels, with a sister resort just down the road. In common with most hotels of its ilk, all the luxe trimmings are there; a grand lobby, top notch service and a focus on a smooth guest experience. Mostly, it avoids the feeling that it could be anywhere in the world; attention has been paid to styling The Laguna in keeping with Balinese design, meaning pagodas and pavilions aplenty, as well as lanterns lighting up the restaurant after dark. Rooms are elegant in neutral browns and nudes, with engraved stone feature walls adding to the feeling of opulence. And of course they come with everything you might need: scattered chairs, a TV and DVD player, a well-stocked mini bar, and a large bathroom with a bath meant for sharing. A snug corner balcony offers the perfect spot for morning coffee, brought – naturally – by a charming personal butler just moments after you call for it. The service is complimentary; not uncommon in such resorts in Indonesia’s premier tourist destination, but a touch that allowed us to feel like royalty.
The Laguna’s dining options include a cafe and two restaurants (plus you can order snacks at the bars, or book a private romantic dinner on the beach), including the beachside Arwana, offering a salad bar at lunch and exquisitely presented gourmet seafood dishes for dinner – my sea bass nestled in fennel and pineapple salad was divine, and the unnecessary Valrhona dark and white chocolate mousse with tamarillo sorbet afterwards turned out to be quite necessary – as well as sushi and an oyster bar. Those on the hunt for traditional Balinese cuisine such as the rice dish Nasi Goreng should head to Banyubiru, where you can order a la carte or partake in the all you can eat seafood BBQ buffet. A salmon risotto salad (on the menu as a starter but which they happily upsized as a main) was the perfect light dinner; look out too for the seared tuna. Cocktails, both old favourites and concoctions using local spices, are available across the complex, with happy hours every evening.
For us, breakfast was the crowning glory; it took all our strength not to stay there all morning and go back for fourths (or possibly fifths, but who’s counting?). We enjoyed granola and fresh watermelon and pineapple, followed by eggs cooked to perfection, then tucked into crepes and waffles with fresh jam to prepare us for a hard day’s sunbathing. We chose to bypass savoury Balinese staples like gado gado given the early hour, but they were all there too. The highlight was the dedicated juice bar, offering an array of freshly squeezed options, smoothies and detox choices. All in all, it was no bad thing that the well-equipped gym was open 24 hours a day.
With little to do nearby – wandering into the next door resort aside – you probably wouldn’t stay here more than a few days. But having spent the previous week travelling at breakneck speed from sight to sight, taking in the rice paddies and temples of Ubud and the backpacker vibe of the Gili Islands, never mind trekking up the majestic Mount Rinjani over on Lombok, the serene, scenic Laguna resort offered the perfect place to unwind and contemplate what we’d seen. As we did, enjoying a glass of wine as the sun faded over the Indian Ocean.
Rooms at The Laguna start from £211 a night. For more information and to book, see The Laguna’s website.