If you’re following me on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter, then you know that Natalie and I recently returned from an epic round the world trip. Here’s how the first half played out. But without a doubt, one of the highlights was spending four nights at the St. Regis Bali. If you recall, back in May I wrote a post asking if you could go to any Starwood hotel in the world, where would you go? That’s because SPG and Amex offered me and my wife the chance to go to any one of Starwood’s hotels outside of the United States for four nights, hotel and airfare on them!
Why outside the US? Because Starwood Preferred Guest and American Express have recently upgraded their card so it doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees and they wanted me to write about my experience with it and the card’s other new benefits.
I took the advice of most readers who said they would choose the St. Regis Bali. The last time Natalie and I were in Bali was on our honeymoon in 2012 (here’s the story of our crazy wedding day) so the whole trip was a bit of a blur.
After our 9-hour, 10-minute flight from Doha to Bali on Qatar Airways, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was a brand new airport in Bali. Even better is that we didn’t have to wait in line and purchase a visa on arrival like the last time. On top of that, there was no line for immigration and the fine folks from the St. Regis Bali were waiting to pick us up. And so this is where my story begins. Here are 12 reasons to stay at the St. Regis Bali:
1. Airport transfers are included
In all but the deeply discounted rates, airport transfers are included when you stay at the St. Regis Bali. That right there eliminates a lot of anxiety and hassle. First of all, you don’t have to find an ATM to exchange money (taxis here don’t accept credit cards). Secondly, you don’t have to worry about any long taxi lines or wonder if the driver is going to understand where you are going or worse, take you for a, well, ride. However, in my limited experience in Bali none of the above would happen but I do know some American travelers have these worries. Instead, St. Regis guests are greeted by one of the hotel’s friendly representatives who escorts you to an air conditioned car where there are chilled towels, cold bottled water and chocolate truffles waiting for you.
FYI: There’s a new highway that’s built over the ocean so it now only takes 20-25 minutes to Nusa Dua where many of the hotels are. This will save you at least 20 minutes.
Good to know: I also love how the new highway has a divided lane for motorcycles, which no doubt saves lives. The US needs this!
2. Exceptionally friendly staff
This probably could be said about any hotel in Bali as I believe the Balinese are some of, if not the, friendliest people on earth. But at the St. Regis Bali, they take it to the next level. For example, the security guard who checks entering cars for explosives (sadly, every hotel has to do these security checks) opened the door and handed Natalie a fragrant frangipani and said with an innocent smile that he needed to do a security check, and thanked us for our patience. He bowed, shut the door and checked the trunk and undercarriage of the car. A total delay of 30 seconds.
3. Standard rooms are huge
The St. Regis Bali was built in 2009 and has 123 rooms (41 are villas). When we were escorted to our room after check-in, we thought we’d been upgraded to a suite but we hadn’t. All standard rooms are 92 square meters and have a large bathroom with an oversized bathtub. They also all have a balcony and walk-in closets. Rates begin at $499.
Good to know: Unlike most Starwood properties, SPG Gold members don’t get a free upgrade here.
4. Villas are amazing
After a couple of days sharing our experience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (below are our handles), Starwood’s marketing team reached out to us and we met for drinks. I asked to see one of the 41 villas on-property and when they learned that there had been a cancellation, invited us to move into one of them. We felt torn about leaving our room but once we saw the villa, we honestly didn’t ever want to leave. It was huge, had three bathrooms including one attached to a small bedroom for a maid, butler or nanny (if you happen to travel with one), a kitchen and its own pool. The photo above should give you an idea what it was like. Rates begin at $1,000.
Facebook: Johnny Jet
5. Every room comes with butler service
You have to love when your standard room even comes with butler service where they will deliver tea or coffee 24/7 for no extra charge. They also will unpack or pack your bags for free! In addition, the butlers will also press four items of clothing a day. You never have to worry about having wrinkled clothes on your trip again! They also offer unlimited still mineral water so no worries about getting gouged on bottled water.
6. Fresh fruit daily
Each room also gets their fruit basket replenished daily. My favorite tropical fruit is mangosteen so make sure you try it!
7. Beach chairs/umbrellas
Unlike many of the hotels in Bali, this one is right on the beach. And one of my pet peeves about staying at a beach hotel is that they usually charge extra for beach chairs and umbrellas. Not at the St. Regis Bali. In addition, the beach staff bring each guest cold towels, bottles of water and frozen drink samples from the nearby swim up pool bar.
8. Salt water lagoon
The hotel has numerous pools but my favorite is the salt water lagoon. It’s 3,668 square meters long, is 1.3 meters deep and has sections where it’s covered by foliage so it looks like the jungle. In the middle, there are stone ‘sofas’ and a waterfall that makes for fun photos. Don’t miss it! I love that you can swim there day or night.
The hotel has nine hectares and there are paths that lead all around the property to the different pools, restaurants, kids club, spa, etc. And everything is really lush and perfectly manicured. You feel like you’re on a movie set, which is a special feeling.
10. Breakfast buffet
Every night we made sure we didn’t let jet lag get the best of us and miss the hotel’s breakfast buffet (open 7 am-11 am). Why? Because it is included in every rate but the deep discounted ones (otherwise it’s 450,000 INR = $33 USD). Secondly, it is huge and offers something for everyone from steak and eggs to mie goring (an Indonesian specialty). The signature dish is the lobster omelet. Each day I tried something different and of course sampled all of their fresh juices and smoothies. Be sure to ask for a plate of mangosteens, too!
11. Free Wi-Fi
There’s free WiFi throughout the property and it works everywhere—from your room to the beach. I was even able to Periscope from the Salt Water Lagoon.
Note: The Wi-Fi is pretty fast except in the evening when everyone is back in their room and posting pictures to Facebook and Instagram!
12. Fire ritual
Every night at 6:30 pm at the bottom of the resort’s grand staircase, you will find an entertaining 15-minute show of locals doing a nightly fire ritual. It’s a magnificent display of lights and is different each night.
As you can see from the photos above and below in the gallery, the St Regis Bali is a beautiful hotel. I didn’t mention any dinners because their restaurants are way too expensive and besides, we wanted to experience places outside the hotel. We opted to jump in a taxi (you’ll need local currency but money can be changed on property) and check out the nearby restaurants. Every taxi ride cost just 30,000 INR, which was around $2.20 USD and some drives took 20 minutes. We ate at Bumbu Bali 1, Amanusa Hotel and the Grand Hyatt for their incredible Indonesian buffet and dinner show. I recommend all.
I used to visit Bali on business three or four times a year, and generally had to stay in the Kuta area to be close to the people I had to meet. The thing that really ‘breaks’ Kuta for me are the touts.