UBUD, Bali — It takes me over 24 hours to arrive at the doorstep of Viceroy Bali. One 18-and-a-half-hour flight from JFK to Singapore, a layover, then a three-hour flight to Bali, and (finally!) an hour or so drive to the hotel. It was my first time to Bali — to Indonesia, in fact — and beyond my familiarity that it’s a popular honeymoon destination with beautiful beaches and forests, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
My first impression: so many mopeds! Second impression: Bali is not just about the picturesque scenery. The island’s predominant Hindu faith is experienced everywhere, through rows of ancient temples all the way to daily offerings (called canang sari) that are small banana-leaf boxes filled with colorful flowers and symbolic items like money, food, and burning incense. The culture is rich and accessible from the very moment one emerges from the airport.
The jet lag sets in by the time our car pulls up to Viceroy Bali, but one step into the open-air lobby and I'm energized. The fragrant floral lei placed around my neck and sip of fresh juice may have had a hand in that. A swim in my villa’s infinity pool overlooking wild jungle, a nourishing dinner of mushroom soup and charcoal-grilled ikan bakar fish, and a good night’s sleep really straighten me out.
Using Viceroy Bali as home base for the week, the island’s culture gently unfolds around me, revealing new layers of spiritual significance. It's energizing. While sometimes an accommodation can feel like its own bubble, separate from the outside world, this family-owned hotel achieves the opposite effect. From the heartwarming staff to the traditional Balinese carvings throughout the property, everything about the resort feels true to the place.
Location: More like a luxurious treehouse than a traditional retreat, Viceroy Bali is tucked away on a ridge overlooking lush valley jungle. Despite offering a strong sense of seclusion, the hotel is just a five-minute drive from the center of Ubud.
Hotel Style: The 40-villa retreat, each with a private infinity pool, has mastered a distinct blending of traditional Balinese design with modern details such as handcrafted thatch roofs perched above polished marble floors.
This Place Is Perfect For: Honeymooners, friend groups, solo travelers, and even families (there are larger villas well-suited for multi-generational vacations).
But Not So Perfect For: Budget-conscious travelers who might prefer something like a surf camp or hostel.
What’s On Site: Wellness experiences abound in a place like Bali. The hotel’s Akoya Spa is a tranquil extension of this, with treatment rooms and a hair and nail salon. I opted for the traditional Balinese massage (and highly endorse it). There’s also a squash court, yoga studio, and fitness center with two treadmills, a cross trainer, rowing machine, and bikes. And a helicopter pad, in case that’s your speed.
Food & Drink: There are two excellent dining concepts at Viceroy Bali. First up: CasCades is an open-air restaurant with front-row views of the jungle that sits beneath a bamboo thatched roof. The menu offers traditional Indonesian dishes as well as Western staples. My favorite meal here was the Royal Rijsttafel — a lavish display of rice served with several small dishes for the table — while Balinese dancers perform traditional numbers. This is where the daily breakfast buffet is offered as well as the hotel’s ‘social hour’ with free cocktails and canapés. (Check with the staff upon arrival for exact days and times this is available.)
Then there’s Apéritif, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, which has a 1930s-inspired cocktail bar attached to it. Begin your evening at the bar with a tipple from head mixologist Panji. (The Composer cocktail was my favorite, named after Colin McPhee, who the first Western composer to make an ethnomusicological study of Bali.) There’s a pool table, cigar lounge, and live jazz on some evenings. It's an elegant speakeasy environment with views of rice fields and jungle. Once you make your way into the restaurant (which speaks more to ‘20s design influences with glitzy lighting, high ceilings, and marble) a degustation menu helmed by Chef Nic Vanderbeeken awaits. Expect flavorful bites that speak to modern gastronomy but also weave together Indonesian ingredients (including those sourced from the hotel’s greenhouse).
Rooms: Wake up to the melodic sounds of a colorful jungle from one of the property’s stunning villas. Each one comes with a heated infinity pool (trust me, you’ll spend an exorbitant amount of time in here) and lovely design details like hand-carved timber doors and marble terraces that make your stay feel supremely luxurious. The design strikes a strong balance between allowing you to feel like you’re enveloped by nature while still feeling protected from the great outdoors. We love wildlife but not in the bedroom.
Drawbacks: It’s not close to the beach. If you’re heading to Bali and have your heart set on the sea, I’d consider splitting your time between Viceroy Bali and an oceanside hotel. At the very least, arrange a beach day on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Standout Detail: I sound like a broken record at this point, but the infinity pools! Many of the hotel’s guests arrive after a lengthy journey and there’s no softer landing than gliding into your own private pool, beverage in hand, and spending the afternoon gazing out at endless jungle. If I had to pick a second amenity it would be the family component. It’s a true family run hotel, and nearly impossible not to run into members of the Syrowatka clan, including the founder’s fluffy white dog, Bo.
Bali is a true feast for the senses and the hotel is well-equipped to curate an itinerary that captures the island’s essence. One of my first excursions was to the Ubud Monkey Forest, a nearby habitat where visitors can wind around lush paths and around an intricate temple while wild Macaque monkeys roam freely. This is certainly among the more popular attractions in the area but if you’re keen to spot monkeys while in Bali then a jaunt here is great. Another nature experience that you’d be remiss to skip while in Ubud is a trip to the rice fields. I noticed that many visitors remained at the top lookout point and took a ride on the Instagram-famous swings, but I’d recommend skipping that altogether and hiking down into the fields. It becomes much less congested the further down you hike — and you’re better able to immerse yourself in the unique vegetation.
If you love architecture and design, visit one of the island’s many magnificent Hindu temples and historic buildings, such as the Ubud Palace. It was constructed in the 17th century and traditional Balinese dance performances are often held in the courtyard. The Pura Gunung temple is also a must — it features ten shrines that were carved into the side of a cliff and dates back to the 11th century.
For an especially deep immersion into local culture, Viceroy Bali can coordinate a tour with Niskala, a premium travel company that’s primary focus is arranging hidden gem experiences. Through them, I spent a day visiting three families practicing artistic trades as blacksmiths, woodworkers, and visual artists.
Here's a fun tip: Book a convertible VW tour that syncs up with the sunset. I did this, and it was pure magic to zip around the countryside and throughout small villages while families were preparing dinner and the light in the sky was becoming shades of orange and pink. I’ll never forget the visceral sensation of that car ride!
Good to Know: Once you’re in the city center of Ubud, it is fairly walkable, but you’ll want to arrange transportation to and from the hotel through Viceroy Bali. They have a fleet of shuttles that can assist with this and it’ll make your days go much more smoothly (especially for those piping-hot afternoons when escaping back into an air-conditioned van is a godsend).
Plan Your Trip
How to Get There: Simply put, getting to Bali from the United States is going to be a schlep and will involve more than one flight and maybe even more than 24 hours. Put your mind and jet lagged body at ease and let Viceroy Bali arrange an airport transfer for you.