Honeymoon Trip Report: St. Regis Bali, Part 2

Megan and I took a two-week tour of Southeast Asia during our honeymoon in August/September of this year. Here’s the Trip Report Index:

What sets the St. Regis Bali apart from most resort hotels is that it that most of the property is devoted to several dozen villas. These are stand-alone buildings with their own pools, living rooms, and so on. I’ve seen beachfront resorts with no villas. Some have a couple, maybe 10 or 20 at most. But the villas at the St. Regis Bali are a defining feature. I almost forgot standard attached suites were available.

After a noise issue on our third night, the manager offer to move us to a Gardenia Villa with a private pool. All of the villas at the St. Regis Bali are stand-alone buildings and a significant upgrade from one of the standard suites or even our pool suite in the main building. That being said, they are expensive. Room rates looked to be in the $800-900 range per night during our stay and can go well over $1,000.

Upgrading from our pool suite award to a villa would have been at least $150 a night — one commentator on Monday said $200. I just didn’t think it was worth it to spend an additional $750 to $1,000 on top of the 130,000 Starpoints I already parted with. It’s not even a first world problem; it’s a 1%-er problem. Two people by themselves don’t really need a villa, though there is a certain advantage to having your own private pool surrounded by a wall.

Other Villas

I would more seriously consider a villa if I were traveling with my family. This would be the time to upgrade to one of the one- or two-bedroom Lagoon Villas, which do not have the private backyard but instead open up onto the resort’s enormous saltwater lagoon. It seemed like the perfect scenario: mom and dad can hang out at their own pool while the kids run around in the lagoon. You could even splurge on the rather expensive barbecue room service, in which a chef and your butler help you grill a surf-and-turf meal for about $100 per person.

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Just a small part of the lagoon. I loved floating here at night and watching the stars beyond the trees.

One level further are the Strand Villas. These one- and two-level villas are located along the beach. Each has its own reserved beach chairs in front, unlike the mass of chairs nearer the pool for ordinary guests. But I think at this point you would be getting excessive. For that much isolation, just rent your own house. Oh, you can do that, too. The Strand Residence is available starting at $4,300 a night if you feel so inclined. (I’m not certain, but I think we saw Rupert Murdoch at breakfast on our last morning. Maybe billionaires don’t mind staying at a hotel with other guests.)

The Gardenia Villa

On with the review. Like the suite we were in before, the villa was remarkable for the great attention to detail that made it feel like a home away from home, not just another hotel room. An outer gate leads to a small entry path with fountains and vegetation before reaching the front door.

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These villas have almost everything you would expect from a traditional home except for a much smaller kitchen. (There is a very small fridge, stove, and microwave off to the side near the guest bathroom.) A large round table in the foyer worked well whether to show off the daily fruit bowl or eat our room service. The living room had a couch and a couple of chairs surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the pool. I appreciated that the television disappeared into the entertainment stand since I like to keep them out of sight and out of mind when on vacation.

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Due to the accommodating weather, the pool deck was perhaps even more pleasant than the living room. We had a table and chairs for dining, lounge chairs for sunbathing, a much larger and deeper pool, and a gazebo perched above it. There was even a shower next to the pool, though the hot water never seemed to work quite right. For all I know it wasn’t even connected, but it wasn’t cold, either.

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Finally, our bedroom alone was nearly as large as the entire indoor space of our earlier suite. It had a vaulted ceiling with thatched roof and its own doors to the pool deck. Behind it was the bathroom, which had a much larger shower but was otherwise similar to the one before. I will say I preferred the bathroom in our pool suite much more. This is mostly because I enjoyed the wooden slats that opened to provide a view of the garden and plunge pool, opening up the space. The villa’s bathroom only has a glass window that looks at the concrete wall dividing villas, as well as a window over the bed’s headboard that can slide closed. Neither one lets in much natural light or any kind of view.

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To summarize, my verdict on the villas is that they’re worthwhile, but only if you have cash to spare. You do not need one to enjoy the St. Regis Bali. If you do pick one, your choice will depend on the reason for your visit. Families should get a Lagoon Villa. Couples wanting some privacy should get a Gardenia Villa. People with more money than sense should get a Strand Villa, as they’re far from everything and just plain expensive.

Food and Drink

We really did not do much at the hotel besides eat breakfast, go to the beach, and eat dinner. My daily routine consisted of two cappuccinos, one lobster, and six pastries at breakfast, two Passiflora Mojitos and a hamburger at the beach, and a big plate of whatever unknown Balinese dish was on the menu for dinner. Everything was delicious. Food was a bit on the pricey side but not unreasonable if you compared it to Western standards. At least the fruit was free. My brother had a fascination with Chinese and Japanese grocery stores when were were growing up in the Bay Area, but Megan was introduced to several new species. Eat whatever you want because it gets replaced every day.

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Probably the first of three helpings that morning.

Breakfast at Boneka was amazing. You can’t go wrong there. We did not try it for dinner but I understand it is another buffet. The King Cole Bar on the other side of the lobby was relatively empty indoors, and I felt bad for the jazz singer with no audience. But outdoors there was a pleasant view of the torches leading out to the beach. I’d go there every night to enjoy a cocktail and the tasty bar snacks.

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The King Cole Bar is up and to the right. Boneka is outside the frame and to the left.

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There was a torch-lighting ceremony each evening.

Downstairs is the Gourmand Deli, which seemed to have overpriced food and portions too hearty for lunch. It looked more like a fine French bistro than a deli. On the other hand, it had a very pleasant dining area surrounded by a pond and fountains. Megan and I went to visit its chocolate shop since the truffles we received upon arrival were so amazing. I recommend the hand-made ice cream bars covered in that same tasty chocolate and lots of nuts.

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Megan asked why I love this awkward picture of her. Besides my wife, it has two other things I love: those cool fountains and the best ice cream bar ever!

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If you go out to the grassy area near the pool suites, there are several outdoor event spaces, hammocks, and more. There is also an outdoor restaurant, Dulang, underneath some large canopies. This is where the St. Regis provided a more authentic Balinese dinner. We didn’t eat here but it’s a choice I regret since it was probably better than the dinner show at the Grand Hyatt up the road. (The show and buffet were fine; I’m just saying this was probably better.)

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What’s better than a swing? A swing bed!

Out by the ocean, you can get drinks from the Vista Bar, which will also take orders and deliver simple sandwiches from the Gourmand Deli. The drinks were great and the food was okay, which is really all I want from beach food. Remember, I criticized the more elaborate lunches served at Gourmand Deli because they were excessive. There is no way you are going to build up enough of an appetite so soon after breakfast.

We had dinner on our last night at Kayaputi, the resort’s fine dining option with indoor and outdoor seating. You don’t need to dress up (don’t wear jeans…) but be prepared to pay more. Megan and I had the seven-course tasting menu, which was probably too much. We were not burning any calories lounging in the shade all day and probably would have been better off with a simple dish of fish and vegetables. If you order modestly, I think this hotel can still be an affordable option every night should you want to hear the ocean while you eat.

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The daybeds outside Kayaputi.

Finally, don’t forget room service. We only ordered dinner one night, the day of our move becuase Megan was feeling ill. Apparently every red-eye flight gives her a cold. Remember I said the butler’s job is to deliver and set up such meals. We got linens, plates, a pot of tea, bread basket — everything you would need to make your room service meal feel just like you were dining at a restaurant. It was not at all like the more common experience of being hunched over your work desk because that’s the only table and chair in the room. I noticed some villas ordered room service for breakfast every morning.

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Because it doesn’t really relate, I’ll cover Ubud tomorrow. You won’t want to miss this one. :D And then we’ll move on to the other destinations, which will require less thorough reviews.

Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • Bob

    Awesome report — I’m planning to stay here next summer on a trip to Bali and this is the most comprehensive report on St. Regis Bali I’ve read on any of the blogs. Great work!

  • harvson3

    Small comment for future trips and those planning future trips:

    These enclosed-wall villas are all over Bali, not just in the Nusa Dua hotels. Google “Bali villas” to see the range of rental options, including many for <$100/night.

    • Scottrick

      Correct. I didn’t mean to imply that villas were rare at other Bali resorts, but rather resorts in other, more common destinations like Hawaii.

  • Ari

    I honeymooned there too :-)

  • George

    Great review Scott. We are headed there in May. Will likely hit my lifetime gold while there! Quick question on “reasonable” food cost. Can you give some ranges? Also any idea of the platinum amenity here?

    • Scottrick

      Expect to pay American prices. I don’t remember exactly, but I believe we had about $800 in charges to our room for a five-night stay, including about $100 to hire a car to take us to Ubud.

    • Scottrick

      Sorry, forgot to comment on the amenity. I was only Gold at the time (Platinum now) so we did not get a Platinum amenity. However, we did receive a certificate for two drinks at the King Cole Bar, the same benefit we received at the St. Regis Bangkok. However, Bangkok let us pick whatever we wanted from the menu, while Bali had a very specific list of three cocktails. I didn’t like the looks of any of them but still like to drink, so I had a rather disappointing chocolate Martini. Maybe I should have bargained with the waitress for a simple gin and tonic.

    • clayd333

      our Platinum Amenity was a couples massage, I think there was several things to chose from.

  • Tom

    It sounds amazing to say this, but I was disappointed in this property, which is a shame, because I’d been looking forward to staying there,

    We were there in November, 2013 (the toll road was open, and made the airport drive much easier) in a lagoon pool villa, with its own plunge pool and a private entrance to the giant saltwater pool.

    The villa was brilliantly designed, and the staff couldn’t have been more gracious, but there is something soulless about this resort. Unlike Amanusa, just down the beach, it has no sense of place, and it felt to me like a bit of a factory. Too big to provide the kind of intimate service it wants to…with a staff that’s warm, but overmatched by the level of service they aim to provide. Most of the wait and butler staff would be apprentices, or junior staff members in other properties, still learning their craft.

    I was also disappointed in the food. To be fair, they did a wonderful job of taking care of my wife’s gluten allergies (freshly baked gluten-free bread, wherever we ate, including buffets and room service) but I found the lobster — which I’d heard about and was looking forward to — to be rubbery and flavorless. This in contrast to a the tastiest, most succulent crustaceans I’d had at shacks along the beach in Goa, India, just a few months before.

    I also don’t love this beach. Though wide and deep, it’s not very scenic,and it felt surprisingly stultifying, in contrast to the feeling of freedom I get at most beaches. I wasn’t even entranced by the pool (and I really wanted to be.)

    I suppose, though, that what stands out for me, is the treatment I received from the hotel’s doctor.

    I had food poisoning (not from the hotel’s food, but from the operator of a white water rafting trip in Ubud.) The doctor, who was young — and who interestingly wore a white dinner jacket as a substitute for a lab coat — listened to my symptoms (he kept saying “throw out” instead of “throw up” which I found both amusing and more accurate than our colloquialism) and then dispensed three prescription medicines. My intuition told me that something was amiss, and after he left, I looked up all three online. None of them was for my symptoms. None would address nausea or vomiting. I decided to just ride it out, and by the morning I was fine

    I did mention this to the hotel MoD, at checkout. She was quite nice and refunded the doctor’s fee from my bill, but the incident added to my feeling that the St. Regis is a place that tries hard, but — with its size and less than surefooted service — isn’t up to the task of being a truly top notch resort.

    • Scottrick

      I’d agree with you on some of those points. It does kind of fell like it was just plopped down in the middle of the beach by itself. You couldn’t really stroll up and down like I’m used to in Hawaii.

      But for what we wanted, which was a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world, I thought it still did a good job.

      • Tom

        That’s the most important thing. Being with your beloved, in a place that gives you what you need, is everything.