Sumptuous yet unassuming, this ocean-fronted retreat lies in the shade of Mount Agung, held up as sacred by Balians, though you’ll be glad to hear that it does get plenty of sun. Surrounded by opulent coconut groves, Alila Manggis boasts an award-winning cookery school, a beautiful natural spa and some superb snorkelling along the unspoilt East Bali coast.
Prepare delicious, fresh dishes at the award-winning cookery school
Seasalt restaurant sits over a tranquil lotus pond
Seven superb diving sites close to the resort
Free Kastala to Tengana trekking experience either early in the morning or in the afternoon
In the know
Also need to know:
Take part in a hands-on class at the cooking school, where East Balinese cuisine is a specialty. There's a free shuttle service to the nearby seaside village of Candidasa. Mount Agung, Bali’s most sacred mountain, looms over the hotel. Why not unleash your inner pilgrim and join in one of Alila Manggis’ organised treks up to Besakih temple?
Bring some good hand-moisturising cream, you’ll want to soothe your palms after digging around in the organic garden.
Informal, but why not accessorise with a hibiscus flower in your sea-salt curled hair?
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
The expression on Mr Smith’s face is somewhat stormy. Horribly spoiled when it comes to this hotel-reviewing game, he finds the dimensions of the room we’ve been shown to more suitcase than suite. OK, I have to agree, it’s a little on the compact side. A jaunty slump on the bed thickens the lines wrinkling his brow, as he exclaims at the Knoop hardness of the mattress (a boon for this other firmness-preferring sleeper). All is forgiven, however, when we venture out to the balcony, take in the palm-fringed beach and pool area, and eye the aircraft-hangar-sized day-bed beckoning invitingly under a mosquito net.
Tummies rumbling after the morning’s travel efforts, we decide to hold off reclining and instead head to Seasalt. Our greatest discovery on this trip is that everything about Bali somehow accelerates one’s ability to relax, and Alila Manggis’s restaurant is no exception. There’s something about feasting on simple, incredibly fresh food under a thatched bale to the aural accompaniment of gently crashing waves that hits the spot. The menu at this particular slice of heaven is a good mix of Balinese fodder with some Western options for the more gustatorily challenged or those just wanting a taste of home. For Mr Smith and me, nasi goreng, grilled local fish and a couple of bottles of chilly Bintang beer equates to bliss.
Relocating poolside, our recliners are covered with crisp, white towels by the pool boy and iced water is supplied to stop the Smiths becoming too parched. After languorous reading of the guest directory – an extensive spa menu, as well as information on snorkelling and diving in the beautiful waters off the coast (an underwater hotspot for the aquatic adventurer), trekking Bali’s astounding volcanoes, visits to the local villages, bicycling, shopping trips and a whole cooking school fandango – we opt for that other staple of the Balinese wind-down: a long afternoon snooze. Is it 4pm already? Time for the complimentary afternoon tea, complete with tiny local delicacies, served to the guests in the garden. Balinese cake, it transpires, is not so much cake as a gelatinous ball/slice/mound/lump/polygon of squishy, syrupy, coconuty stuff. Delicious as it is, Mr Smith is a little challenged by the texture, but after some gentle bullying manages to get over it.
By now the time of day for small children to invade the pool has arrived. The air is filled with delighted, if slightly discordant, peals and squeals, so we retire to our expansive day-bed and its come-hither cushions with the self-righteous air of the childless. Settling down for a late afternoon read, our quiet, empty room now seems cosy and comforting.
The day is complete when we indulge in delicious local curries – and just a few more Bintangs – back at Seasalt, before taking a torch-lit stroll across the grassed lawns and around the sea wall. Alila Manggis is beginning to get under our skin.
As, it seems, is the sun. I wake to a forehead of post-apocalyptic flakiness after what must have been less than adequate and therefore typically English sunscreen application. Get thee to the spa, says Mr Smith, and I don’t demur. Beginning with a nice herbal tea – heal from within, as they say – the therapist then progresses to a calming neck and shoulder massage and my first-ever facial. Never have I been so tenderly cleansed, scrubbed, buffed, toned, masked and moisturised, all for a full 90 minutes. The only downside is Mr Smith, who has uncharacteristically opted for a pedicure on the veranda outside the treatment room, answering his mobile phone and babbling on for 10 minutes about boring work-related issues. Note to self: ensure said Smith is nowhere to be heard at next facial. Despite this short-lived irritant, I emerge with a glowing face happily free from catastrophe. A miracle, exclaims the chastised Mr Smith.
And so it is that our Balinese relaxation therapy hits warp speed. Blissed out, beached up and calmed down, we spend the rest of the day reading by the pool. All the kids have been dragged off on an edifying cultural tour and we have the place to ourselves, save for a lithe German couple who play badminton for hours over a net strung between two palm trees. The only interruption is tea and cakes. Nightfall comes quickly, the understated Deco-ish kampong blocks are romantically lit, and it’s time for our last barbecue and Bintang.
Alila Manggis may best suit Junior Smiths and their parents, and the rooms may just be rooms, but the overall package is hard to fault. Our two days at this wonderful beachside bolthole have felt like two weeks. This, after all, is Bali, where relaxation is a state best accelerated.
Desa Buitan, Manggis, Bali, 80871
22.5 mi / 36.4 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Internet services
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
Chef Santika dishes up gorgeous Modern Asian cuisine – organic Kusamba salt-crusted snapper, ginger flower salad with coconut and nam njihm dressing – in Seasalt, housed in a traditional Balinese pavilion over a lotus pond.
Confirmed romantics (and those not afraid of a mosquito bite or two) should ask for a table to be set up in the coconut grove.
Available 24 hours a day.
Alila Manggis doesn’t have a proper bar, but wine and cocktails are available in the lobby. Try the watermelon mojito.