Blame it on the runaway success of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir (and the subsequent film starring Julia Roberts), that Bali has been glorified as a tropical idyll capable of rejuvenating all wearied souls who grace its shores. Touristic interest in this tiny Indonesian island has never been higher than it is now. The locals--who number just over four million--have been called to action, and an impressive slew of hotels, restaurants, and shops have recently emerged to cater to the city slickers who flock to Bali's epic beaches and mountains. Surrounded by coral reefs, the island is just eight degrees south of the equator, which means tropical weather in the 70s and 80s for much of the year--not to mention 12 hours of sunshine everyday. The dry season runs from May to September, which is the best time to visit--it also coincides with the prime surfing period.
WHERE TO BE
The Beach Club: Potato Head
This Anglophone-friendly hot spot, which opened in 2010, was designed by architect Andra Matin and inspired by the Colosseum in Rome. Made of 19th-century teak collected from across the Indonesian archipelago, it boasts a beachfront bar and a sprawling lawn, along with its own infinity pool. Reserve a lounge chair, and take advantage of the artisanal cocktails and haute cuisine, which are served all day in three separate restaurants. At night, the place assumes a nightclub mentality, attracting performances from luminaries like M.I.A., Mark Ronson, and Kid Cudi.
Jln. Petitenget, Seminyak, ptthead.com
The Everyday Hangout: Mantra
Owned by Tipi Jabrik, a local surfer, no wonder Mantra is a refuge from the crowds. Wooden tables populate an open patio, which is illuminated with glass lanterns. In addition to live music, the bar also features art exhibitions and DJ sets.
Jl. Raya Petitenget no. 77xx, mantrabali.com
The Hotel Hangout: Woobar
This hip, upscale corner of the W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak overlooks the beach and includes a wooden deck with lounge areas and a smattering of beach chairs. (In other words, it's bikini-friendly.)The most memorable architectural feature is a large, curved wall made of raw concrete that looks like a wave, and the main bar was designed to pay homage to a coral reef. The dance floor, which is located under the beach, is home to a host of DJs, including a local fave Posso. In addition to the usual cocktails and nibbles, the bar menu caters to both lunch and dinner crowds, and it's full of comfort foods. No need to change venues after dark.
Jl Petitenget, Kerobokan, Seminyak, starwoodhotels.com
The Classic Eatery: Made's Warung
Opened in 1969, this local hangout is known for traditional Balinese cuisine and funky vegetarian fare.
Br. Pande Mas, Kuta, madeswarung.com
The Concept Restaurant: Biku
Housed in a 150-year-old Teak Joglo from East Java, Biku is many things--an eatery, tea lounge, antiques purveyor, and book store, for starters.
Jl. Raya Petitenget No. 888, bikubali.com
WHERE TO SHOP
A destination for those seeking trend-driven, well-priced ready-to-wear from local designers.
Jalan Kayu Aya No.3, thisisalovesong.com
For an exciting assortment of clothing and accessories by Indonesian designers, check out this store, which focuses its buy on affordability and craftsmanship.
Jl. Petitenget, facebook.com/no11store
This shop, run by graphic designers, prides itself on its collection of watches, T-shirts, and objets from a global cadre of designers.
Oberoi 1 Seminyak, studiosumobali.com
Ayana Resort & Spa's name means "a place of refuge for the gods" in Sanskrit, and for those looking for a superlative place to stay, it delivers. Located on a 196-acre plot of cliff-top paradise, the property offers unparalleled views of Jimbaran Bay. (Most of the 368 rooms have ocean views.) Private balconies, Wi-Fi, and broadband internet are standard, but the 78 villas also boast private plunge pools and 24-hour on-call butler service. The property is nestled in traditional Balinese gardens, and the room decor includes large marble bathrooms, Indonesian arts and antiques, and limestone carvings.
Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera, ayanaresort.com
In addition to the white sand beach, the property's saltwater pool overlooks the horizon. It's accessed via an incline elevator that crosses the face of the cliff. Four additional freshwater pools, including one with its own waterfall and aquarium, promise to keep residents occupied.
If you're experiencing water fatigue, the hotel will arrange for bicycle tours, nature walks, yoga classes, and guided tours of the Jimbaran fish market and morning market. Practice your stroke at the property's own putting course, designed by Ronald Fream, or work on your tennis game with a private instructor on one of Ayana's three flood-lit courts.
Ayana is home to the only Thermes Marins spa in Southeast Asia, and the world's largest Aquatonic seawater therapy pool is found on the premises. Enjoy a treatment from a massive spa menu at private treatment villas on the water. Alternatively, indulge your inner chemist--the spa has partnered with the L'Atelier Parfums & Creations studio to offer guests a create-your-own massage oil and perfume experience.
Ayana has seven retail outlets on-property, including the Cliff Villa Boutique, which sells designer fashion as well as items for the home, the Lobby Boutique, which sells handicrafts and souvenirs, and the White Door bridal shop.
The Rock Bar
The food and drinks are exemplary, but the main attraction at the Ayana Resort & Spa's Rock Bar is the jaw-dropping view of Jimbaran Bay. Order a Rock My World cocktail--vodka, Grand Marnier, pineapple and grapefruit juices, and fresh orange--and sample the crispy taquitos, chilled soba noodles, or beef chorizo corn dogs from the menu of small plates. It's busiest around sunset, so arrive early to avoid the line. At night, a dress code requiring "smart attire" goes into effect, so leave your board shorts at home and take in the amazing DJ lineup curated by music director Martin East.