Developers in Bali are starting to offer travelers something more luxurious than traditional villas
Arnalaya Beach House is a three-story mansion with its own professional-grade tennis court
Bulgari's five mansions are set in a private compound on the cliff tops of Uluwatu in Bali's deep south
When Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall tied the knot at Bali’s Villa Batujimbar in 1990, it ushered in a trend that’s now synonymous with vacationing on the famed Indonesian resort island.
Why be one of hundreds of guests lining up for a breakfast buffet at a resort when for around the same price you can enjoy luxury in a self-contained compound with a plunge pool, outdoor lounge areas and staff serving only you and your guests?
More than just another accommodation option, renting a villa in Bali became a statement that spoke of discretion and style.
Now developers in Bali are taking it to the next level with mansions – mini-resorts and mega villas with security gates, spa suites, butler chambers and other over-the-top features that allow ultra-high net worth individuals and celebrities to do whatever they’d do in their own homes.
Here are three Balinese properties that make old school villas look a little ordinary:
1. Bulgari - The Mansions
Andy Warhol once compared walking into a Bulgari store to “visiting the best exhibition of contemporary art.”
Walking into one of Bulgari’s five mansions – all of which are set in a private compound on the cliff tops of Uluwatu in Bali’s deep south – evokes similar passions.
Guests pry open soaring double-doors to reveal a foyer carpeted in a leather rug that feels likes like wealth on bare feet.
Beyond the foyer lies a large open-plan living space.
The couch is the size of an average living room. The dining table is long enough to stage a feast for “Game of Thrones.” The Bang & Olufsen high-fidelity system delivers philharmonic sound and the kitchen is pure industrial chic.
Back in the foyer, a striking five-meter long crystal chandelier hangs over a hand-carved grand staircase leading to the master bedroom on the ground floor.
There, among vast spaces of luxury and excess, lies one of the most lavish items ever concocted – a bathtub hewed from solid onyx marble.
Each Bulgari mansion is surrounded by 4,000 square meters of tropical manicured gardens, has multiple outdoor dining and lounge options plus a 25-meter pool with an infinity-edge that cascades into another pool set on a terrace below.
Over-the-top request: A high-end celebrity staying in a Bulgari mansion wanted to see the famous monkey dance at nearby Uluwatu Temple. But her appearance would’ve caused bedlam, so her butler convinced the entire troupe of 90 dancers to perform at her mansion.
Afterward she served them pizza and beer.
Daily rate: $10,614 per night for three bedrooms or $15,957 for five bedrooms
In the resort business, one name stands above all others – Aman – and there are three of them in Bali.
There’s Amandari in the jungles of Ubud, Amankila in Candidasa and Amanusa on a hilltop on Nusa Dua.
The latter is a collection of seven separate mega villas, each featuring a double-story central building surrounded by bougainvillea-covered latticework.
Bedrooms are on the ground floor while the top floor of the main building features an open-sided living and dining space with a sprawling sun deck and jungle canopy view.
Sun loungers and a sprawling wooden deck surround the rock star-worthy pool.
Each property comes with its own library, crammed with books on Indonesian culture and indigenous handicrafts.
There are chesterfield couches to relax on and a movie projector.
A hidden door leads to stainless steel kitchen where an in-house private chef spends his days creating lavish Indonesian banquets or, if called on, a cheeseburger and fries.
Over-the-top request: A guest celebrating his honeymoon asked for a room to be filled with butterflies as a surprise for his bride. On another occasion, a Japanese company that held a sales conference in Bali flew in two sumo wrestlers for pre-dinner entertainment.
Daily rate: $4,235 per night for three bedrooms or $5,142 for four bedrooms.
3. Arnalaya Beach House
It took former Wimbledon tennis pro Rolf Harrison three years to build the Arnalaya Beach House, a monolithic three-story mansion in the seaside village of Canggu.
The lengthy build was attributed in part to time he spent flying in foreign contractors and infrared leveling equipment to build a Plexipave tennis court – the same high-tech, all-weather, quick-drying playing surface used for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
“He would not play on anything else,” says Felicity Hannay of letting agent Elite Havens.
“He’s even trained some of the staff – there are 16 of them – to be ball boys and hitting partners.”
Arnalaya has a strikingly simple staccato facade overlaying thousands of finishings, such as smooth-to-the-touch bamboo wall panels, curled wicker chairs and three-meter tall sliding glass doors that spill into oversized wraparound balconies.
The building surrounds a grass courtyard bookended by standalone rooms.
There’s a full-size spa with treatment rooms and a bathhouse, a rumpus room for the kids, a media room crammed with electronic entertainment and two oversized guest bedrooms with resort-size bathrooms.
Arnalaya’s front yard is a resort in itself. The lawn is smooth as a golf course, speckled with water fountains, frangipani trees and giant hammocks strung between palms fronted by a crystal blue 20-meter saltwater pool.
But it’s what’s in front that really counts – absolute oceanfront vantage smack bang in the center of world-famous surfing mecca Echo Beach.
Over-the-top request: A Native American-themed children’s birthday party for 25 kids. The main lawn was covered in teepees, dream catchers were strung from trees and staff wore feather headdresses.
Daily rate: Seasonally adjusted from $2,074 to $2,997 per night. For bookings contact Elitehavens.com.
Arnalaya Beach House, Nelayan Beach, Bali; +62 361 737498
Ian Lloyd Neubauer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist specializing in adventure travel.