Happy Birthday to Me: A Review of Amankila in Bali, Indonesia
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Bali, Indonesia, is one of my favorite places in the world -- I can't get enough of the lush landscape, unique culture and friendly people. We've visited several times and usually stay in one of the island's many unique Airbnbs, but on this visit we decided to try one of the most iconic luxury properties on the island: Amankila.
Just a few nights prior, we'd enjoyed our first experience with Aman properties at Amanjiwo on Java and were interested to see how this 27-year-old property, which means "peaceful hill," would stack up. While Aman properties are always expensive, we were keen to visit before the 4th Night Free benefit significantly devalues in September, to slightly soften the financial blow.
Aman does not sell its rooms through online travel agencies to maintain some of the prestige of the brand, so should you wish to book an Aman property, your best best is usually through a Virtuoso travel agent or Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, where you can receive additional benefits like free breakfast and spa-and-food-and-beverage credits.
We booked the best available (though still expensive) rate through the Citi Prestige concierge service, which included breakfast and airport transport for $580 a night plus fees and taxes. Our total spend for four nights came out to $2,227, which I put on my Citi Prestige card. I earned 6,681 Citi ThankYou point, thanks to the 3x multiplier on hotel spending.
Amankila is in east Bali away from the madness of Seminyak and the hordes of tourists in Ubud. It's a leisurely 90-minute drive from I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), perched on the hill of Indrakila overlooking the Lombok Strait. On a clear day, you can see both Lombok and Penida islands.
There isn't an abundance of restaurants or shops nearby, so if you're looking for a night out, this isn't the property for you. The quaint beach town of Candidasa is a few miles down the road to the east, while the dingy port town of Padang Bai is 5 miles down the road to the west. There are a few cultural sites nearby, most notably the bat temple Goa Lawah and the gorgeous Sideman rice paddies. A few other temples like Besakih are relatively close and can be reached in less than an hour.
An Aman staff member met us right outside baggage claim at the airport to help us with our luggage and help us locate our driver. Once we made it to the pickup area, there was about a five-minute wait before the driver arrived. After our bags were loaded, our driver offered us a choice of still water, sparkling water, Coke, Sprite or a beer, along with rice crackers or cookies to enjoy on the ride back to the hotel.
There was a narrow winding road up to the hotel from the main road.
After being welcomed into the hotel, the staff told us they would bring our bags to our room and we could get checked in there instead of the lobby desk, since it was getting kind of late -- we arrived at the hotel around 8pm.
The lobby of the hotel was at the top of the hill, and the rest of the hotel cascaded down over a beautiful cliff. The three-tier pool was the centerpiece of the hotel, and upon first sight of it, I had a feeling that it was going to be an awesome stay.
When we arrived at Villa 5, the team brought over delightfully refreshing chilled ginger beer with fresh cinnamon cookies, lemon sorbet and passion fruit.
Check-in formalities took about 10 minutes, which included a review of some of the activities we had planned, a confirmation that we had requested a scooter, which would be at the hotel first thing in the morning, and an outline of the amenities of the hotel, which included the beach club, free yoga three times a week and afternoon tea or local coffee served at 4pm.
Our initial villa had air-conditioning issues on our first night, and we were promptly moved into Villa 1, both partial-ocean-view rooms. The layout of both villas was identical, but the orientation of the villas differed — one was perpendicular to the ocean, while the other directly faced the ocean.
The outdoor area featured a desk and tons of seating. The aesthetic and decor felt timeless and true to Bali: wood paneling, thatched accents and furniture reflective of local craftsmanship. The view from both villas had vistas of the Lombok Strait.
The terrace led to the interconnected walkway bridges that connected the entire hotel, and this might've impeded the privacy of rooms more on the main path, but we didn't find it much of an issue in our room. Our balcony terrace faced southeast, so it was an amazing place to watch the sunrise.
The main sliding doors of the room opened up to the bedroom, and another desk and lounge. I've found a lot of similar villas around Bali to be quite dark at night, but the lighting in the Amankila rooms was perfect.
There were no international power outlets next to the bed, but you could see local outlets if you craned your neck under the bed on both sides. There was an international power strip on one side of the desk, though. The open feel of the villa, natural-wood grains and marble floors made the villa feel luxurious, but the nod to local details and a Balinese aesthetic ensured it was not ostentatious.
I loved the smaller details like the carving on the bedposts (which matched the carved bedside lights) and the arched doorways.
On the other side of the doorway was the bathroom, although it was less of a closed room and more an extension of the space. There was a shower, water closet, bathtub and vanity, along with even more lounging space.
The bathtub was filled with rose petals upon our arrival, and just like at Amanjiwo, had a plate with essential oils, bath salts and a candle that was replenished every time the room was made up
The shower was comfortable and featured a nice rainfall shower head. A small minibar was also stocked full of drinks that came at an additional cost and a few different types of glasses. It was covered with a small counter that offered some free snacks, ice (which was constantly replenished) and a fresh lime. There was also a fruit basket replenished daily with a variety of local fruits at the front of the room.
Behind was a massive vanity area with ample storage on both sides for clothing and luggage. There were also a few cabinets full of anything you might need, from a flashlight to incense, cotton swabs to suntan lotion.
There was also a laundry basket where you could throw your clothes in and they would return them cleaned within 24 hours. No price lists were available, but it was all supposed to contribute to the experience of feeling at home. However, there was no tea or coffee available in the room, which at a hotel designed to feel like home felt like a miss.
The entire room was elegantly designed, and I really liked how it was split into four different areas with distinctly different feels, yet they all flowed into one another, from the outdoor terrace meant for your morning cup of tea all the way to the vanity where you might be packing for your next excursion. You weren't going to get flashy amenities like a TV in your bathtub or electronic blinds in your room, but the space and design more than made up for it.
Food and Beverage
Breakfast was included in our rate and was served in the main restaurant.
The restaurants were designed with space in mind -- there was never another party seated in a table directly next to us. Every day, the manager on duty came by to have a friendly chat at breakfast.
The included breakfast was essentially an all-you-can-eat a la carte menu. My massive daily order usually consisted of a smoothie or juice, espresso and a savory dish for myself along with a sweet treat and a plate of fruit to share. Some of my favorites included the vegetarian baked eggs.
I also liked the breakfast tacos.
And the Moroccan donuts came with a sublime espresso cream frosting.
And why not finish with a medley of local tropical fruit?
If breakfast was included in your rate then you also had the option of enjoying breakfast in your room, though we really enjoyed passing the morning in the restaurant with its sweeping ocean views. When we didn't finish a dish or wanted some extra fruit, they happily sent it down to our room at no extra charge.
Overall, it was probably one of my favorite hotel breakfasts ever -- not because the menu was particularly full of luxurious options like lobster-and-caviar omelets, but because all of the dishes they did serve were of the highest quality and presented beautifully and the setting was serene.
After some huge breakfasts, we ended up skipping lunch most days. We did have drinks and canapes one evening in the bar near the main restaurant, which was presented elegantly. Again, the quality of the salmon and tuna bites was top-notch. The bartender was extremely meticulous — when I asked for an extra lime in my drink, he sorted through all of his limes, found the best one, rolled it against the counter to soften it, cut it in eighths, squeezed it with tongs and even found a spoon to make sure it was all mixed in.
We had dinner one night in the main restaurant, where the grilled snapper was delicious. All of the seafood on site was sourced from local fisherman and tasted incredibly fresh.
Another night, we decided to feast on local king prawns, a pizza and an amazing chocolate dessert in the comfort of our own terrace. There was no additional charge for room service, and it was a cozy setup. The manager also sent down an additional chocolate cake with a candle, since it was my birthday.
Mains generally ran $20 to $40, while drinks were in the $14-to-$20 range, thanks to the high tax on alcohol in Indonesia.
The property was connected by a network of elevated walkways. You could always hear the waves crashing into the shore, and it was really fun just to walk around what felt like a fortress nestled in the tropical hills.
There were two villas close to the lobby that had been renovated as a massage pavilion and gym. Guests could rent out the gym privately for one-hour slots, and the equipment was pretty run-of-the-mill.
The three-tiered pool was the centerpiece of the property and had to be one of the most beautiful pools I'd ever seen.
There was always an open lounger or bale, essentially a Balinese pavilion or gazebo, which was one of the benefits of staying a 34-room hotel.
The pool attendant came by immediately after you sat down to dust off your seat, lay down towels and bring chilled water with a slice of lime without any pressure to buy a drink. On the same level as the pool was the pool restaurant, which was only open for lunch and served resort-style western and Indonesian food
On the other side of the pool was the library, which was a lovely place to escape the heat and grab a glass of the free iced tea, seemingly placed there just for such an occasion.
Past the library was the pathway down to the beach club, one of the main draws of the property. It was a less-than-10-minute walk down, but the hotel was not ideal for those with mobility issues. The walk consisted of a paved but winding path.
It had stunning views of the beach club down below.
Guests could take the stairs, or opt for a buggy.
The beach club was tropical perfection. It had a beautiful pool.
And plenty of showers.
The adjacent restaurant was open for lunch and served a range of delicious tacos, seafood dishes, salads and pizzas, among other things.
There was a yoga shala (where we enjoyed one of the free yoga classes).
Rolling greens with hammocks, a volleyball net and small soccer fields rounded out the grounds.
Down at the water was an attendant with watersports for rent, and a gorgeous, private black-sand beach with plenty of loungers.
We visited three times and were the only ones there for two visits. It was pretty special to be the only ones there, almost like we owned the place! Between the main pool and the beach club, it felt like there were sufficient facilities for a 150-plus-room hotel, which is what really highlighted the Aman difference.
The attention to detail was impeccable: There was always a towel, suntan lotion, chilled water, a foot-washing tap and even Aman shampoo in the public areas when you needed it. At night, the resort turned atmospheric with candles, mood lighting and live gamelan music humming by the pool.
There was a thoughtful attention to detail that really separated Aman from the rest, and that stemmed from their staff. The experience at Amankila even topped our stay at Amanjiwo. We rented a scooter to check out the countryside, and whenever we returned, the lobby attendants were genuinely curious about where we went and were keen to provide tips for our next outing.
We also really liked the check-in procedure in our room rather than in the lobby. The housekeeping was top-notch as well, as essentially every time we left our room, the hotel staff spotted us and called in housekeeping to clean up. You never actually saw them, but you always came back to a clean room, even if you swung by the room multiple times a day. They even cleaned our room on the day we checked out while we were eating breakfast!
At night, it was exciting to come home because turndown service was always paired with a local gift and a printout with a bedtime story.
We also noticed that the manager on duty always had the pulse of his or her guests. For example, when our A/C stopped working, the manager apologized to us the next time we saw him, even though we requested for someone to fix it on the phone, and placed a handwritten card in our room along with small handicrafts by way of a makeup gift. Another example was the day after my birthday, when he asked how we liked the chocolate cake and said that he was deliberating what to send up, since we had already ordered another chocolate dessert. The attention to detail really made us feel valued as guests and was better than I'd ever experienced at any other property.
Amankila is no doubt a special property that is still true to the island of Bali. The grounds are stunning, and the service is second to none. At the same price point, other luxury hotels in Bali will offer things like a personal plunge pool and a higher-tech experience, but what the property misses on this front it definitely makes up for with timeless elegance and a sense of privacy. The pools and the beach club were incredible, and, again, the service was exemplary. I can't speak highly enough of the property, and if I am ever looking to splurge on a property in Bali, then I will look no further than Amankila. We were really sad to leave at the end of our stay.
All photos by the author.