With a slew of slick new hotels, all adrenaline-seekers are welcome on Indonesia’s beloved island
Words by KATHRYN ROMEYN
Whether it’s dawn patrol at barreling break Impossibles with few souls in sight, or the golden hour at Secrets and Racetracks as fishing boats slide past surfboards on the gilded Indian Ocean, the waves around Bali are epic. This is especially true for goofy-footers starved for the left-breaking waves so lacking in The Golden State. But it’s not just surfers being lured to Bali by the promise of warm, crystalline waters that are blessedly shark-free. Add abundant coconuts, locally sourced cuisine, and an endless supply of pursuits tailor-made for adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts — paragliding, paddleboarding, spearfishing and whitewater rafting — and it’s easy to see why Californians, in particular, are flocking to Bali in ever-increasing numbers.
The magic happens the minute you make landfall and are greeted with the heady, soothing scent of incense and frangipani flower-flecked canang sari (daily Balinese Hindu offerings), and locals’ smiling faces. It doesn’t take long to realize Bali oozes laid-back California vibes, but taken to the next level, with genuine friendliness a compulsory personality trait among its locals.
The aforementioned breaks around iconic Uluwatu — the charming surf town high on craggy limestone cliffs, whose profile continues to rise nearly half a century after its inclusion in the classic surf film Morning of the Earth — are not the island’s only draw. Though it’s this incomparable perch on which Six Senses Uluwatu recently opened, bringing its focus on sustainability and wellness to programming that includes chartered boat trips for snorkeling and swimming with mantas, cycling through villages, temple pilgrimages and even an alfresco Balinese traditional shave with head massage.
Neighboring Bingin is where the hip lifestyle hotel and members club Habitas promises an overnight outpost later this year, and Dreamland (the next beach north) will be the site of Jumeirah’s latest luxury resort, coming soon. It seems the swell of Californians to Bali’s surf mecca won’t be dropping anytime soon. Those who aren’t interested in paddling out can find contentment among the yoga offerings at Uluwatu Surf Villas, an iconic resort with private steps leading to primo breaks; a new infinity pool that, come May, will feature custom teak chill-out pods by San Francisco artist Jay Nelson; and a forthcoming collection of tropical modern villas. Among the plethora of holistic Balinese massage spas dotting the island is brand-new resort The Apurva Kempinski Bali , located on a clifftop in Nusa Dua, where surfers find dream waves, too.
Even die-hard watermen shouldn’t overlook Bali’s beating heart, the plush green jungle, river valleys and ridges of Sayan. Spend a night soothed by the sound of rushing water outside Bambu Indah’s new entirely bamboo Riverbend House — complete with a FernGully-like stream running through a bedroom. Extracurriculars are also rich here: Mountain biking is one way to soak up the environment, hiking Mt. Batur (a still-steaming volcano) in time to catch a flaming sunrise at its peak is another. Most powerful is the hotel’s early morning Trash Walk, a vigorous exercise involving spearing insidious plastic garbage that helps preserve Bali’s magic and your own karma — it doesn’t get better than that.
Feature image: A glimpse of one of Bali’s legendary waves.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 Men’s Edition of C Magazine.