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From chakras to jamu, there has been a resurgence of local healing wisdom across the Island of the Gods. Cathy Wagstaff seeks out six of Bali’s best wellness resorts.

So this is what it feels like to be utterly at peace. My body is weightless, suspended in a silk hammock, and birdsong is my lullaby. Ibu Fera, a former Buddhist nun, gently sings about the life of the Buddha as she rocks me in my womb-like cocoon. The premise of the ‘Sacred Nap’ might seem too good to be true, but as I drift off to sleep, there are no thoughts running through my mind, no worries or impending duties; just this precious present moment. When I wake from my ‘air nap’ less than an hour later, I feel the most rested I’ve been in decades.

Across Bali, there’s been a return to local wisdom and traditions. I’ve noticed it in the way resorts teach children to make canang offerings, the sudden ubiquitousness of jamu herbal tonic and the fact that I am now known as Ibu Cathy, a form of address that I never heard when I first arrived on the Island of the Gods more than three decades ago. Exploring Bali’s best wellness resorts is my favourite was to immerse in the island and draw in its magic.

Bali's best wellness resorts

The Sacred Nap at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Como Shambhala Estate in Ubud, Bali

Meaning ‘peace’ in Sanskrit, COMO Shambhala Estate is easily one of Bali’s best wellness resorts, an award-winning escape just north of Ubud. Tucked within a lush tropical forest, this destination spa specialises in wellness programmes and Ayurvedic treatments, most notably their tailored Integrated Wellness Programme combining modern science with ancient practices. It features a consultation with an expert who then creates a comprehensive and personalised plan to align mind, body and soul. That includes the nutrition-optimised dishes at restaurant, glow, with its plates bursting full of fresh ingredients in health bomb combinations. Added activities beyond the spa, like a guided hike through rice fields or the Estate jungle, or a water blessing at the Estate’s sacred spring by a priest washing you in holy water, are equally reviving.

Its unique Residences are also inspired by nature, with its location utterly unique – a jungle enclave in central Bali above a rushing river and a spring that provides the fresh mineral water that runs through every hotel tap. The suites are set amongst the tropical flora designed by award-winning architecture Cheong Yew Kuan with the interiors by Koichiro Ikebuchi using local stone, wood and traditional alang-alang roofing. My favourite suite, Wanakasa, which translates to ‘Forest in the Mist’, is a luxury treehouse with interconnecting rooms around an enormous banyan tree with a private pool.

Escape Haven at Echo Beach, Canggu

Nestled in a tranquil spot in the heart of the hip and happening Canggu, Escape Haven’s newest women’s only sanctuary is within walking distance of the town’s famed surf beaches, boutique shops, and eclectic cafes whilst still offering a private oasis to return. Its expansive saltwater lagoon-style pool, comes complete with a built-in fire pit and swim-up juice bar – with free-flow organic ice tea, iced cucumber, and lime water on tap, plus an all-day healthy snack menu. There are plenty of shaded living areas, deluxe day beds, and tropical landscaped gardens that epitomise barefoot luxe living. Or opt for the recovery centre with an infrared sauna, Moroccan-style ice plunge pool and 8-seat jacuzzi.

Founder Janine Hall launched Escape Haven as part of her dream “to create an experience that makes women feel supported and nurtured as they travel through life.” And it indeed succeeds. The exquisite spa treatment rooms are specially designed around its Bali surroundings, offering unlimited spa treatments in the expert hands of professional therapists. New bedroom suites are inspired by different Balinese goddesses and all have a unique colour scheme. Dressed by local artisan who have hand-carved wooden bedheads and created the striking artwork, with sunken Moroccan-style bathroom suites that now make up the 17-room resort. Belgian linen, black-out curtains, and hand-blended natural shower products add to the fine luxe touchings.

Wellness packages are guided by your focus – from Luxury Surf, Yoga, Fitness, Detox, Ayurveda, or Pilates packages. Best yet, Escape Haven’s “no couples, no kids, no traffic” ethos aims to create an optimal sanctuary along with unlimited yoga, spa, and sightseeing sessions for a truly indulgent stay.

Barefoot luxury with a touch of Rock & Roll at Soulshine

A boutique sound and wellness resort in Bali’s cultural hub of Ubud is Michael and Sara Franti’s take on wellness that’s all about “sparking joy”. Rooted in barefoot luxury with a touch of Rock & Roll, musician Michael, of Spearhead fame, and his wife, a former Emergency Room Nurse, have built an incredible resort from scratch that mixes the modern with a classic Bali aesthetic – it’s a magical place to press “reset”. With three stunning pools – including a waterslide and a diving platform, two restaurants, a new full-service spa, two yoga shala’s, at Soulshine, they believe it’s just as essential to connect to your inner soul on a yoga mat, to let your heart soar on the dance floor or enjoy farm-to-table food grown right on site.

33 stunning rooms with panorama views of the rice fields and lush tropical gardens, some that feature large terrazzo tubs, are dressed with a touch of retro chic. It’s all in the attention to detail in design, which is mind-blowing. Be it outside with the hand-carved pillars by local artisans to create their “togetherness” lounge. To the interior styling with music nods like a Marley turntable, Bluetooth Marshall speakers, and a maxi (not mini) bar for recreating signature cocktails (or mocktails). The newest suite, the Soulshine Villa, comes with a private plunge pool, infrared sauna and its main bedroom suspended mid-air overlooking the jungle.

Eat, Pray, Love Yourself is one of their mottoes, with week long packages and retreats for yoga, pilates, dance, writing, and photography, including Micheal’s ‘The Soulrocker Music Experience’, up for the taking.

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Nowhere is this cultural resurgence more apparent than in the realm of Bali’s best wellness resorts than at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. The Sacred River Spa is set in the lush jungle of the Ayung River Valley of Ubud, a place whose name is derived from the word for ‘medicine’ (ubad) in Sanskrit. Its focus is on the transition from Niskala (the unseen or the energetic world) to Sekala (the seen or conscious world). Its Balinese Healing Rituals aim to restore balance from the inside out, creating spiritual experiences that effect physical change. No longer do guests pick a massage from a menu; today, I am guided by what my body needs.

I opt for a Chakra Ceremony, each dedicated to one of the seven main chakra points. As a frequent traveller, I’m directed to the 120-minute Muladhara ritual to cleanse the root chakra, the energy centre responsible for grounding us. The experience begins with a Balinese kemenyan smoke ceremony and the sound of a pure quartz crystal singing bowl tuned to 432 Hertz, the ‘intonation of nature’. The deep, slow massage that follows uses oil infused with locally grown ginger and cinnamon.

Now that balance has been restored, I am keen to discover some of the other cultural experiences offered by Four Seasons Resort Sayan. As well as 18 suites and 42 pool villas, this seven-hectare sanctuary is home to rice fields belonging to a local farmer, who humbly shares his way of life with guests.

Bali's best wellness resorts

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Beachfront balance at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay

There is just so much beauty to be found at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Wandering around the 14-hectare property, I come across a massage pavilion tucked away on a cliff, set beside a waterfall that overlooks a small private beach. Making it easily one of Bali’s best wellness resorts.

The all-villa Jimbaran Bay complements its Sayan sister in every way. The jungles and ricefields of Ubud are exchanged for the waves and sands of Bali’s southwestern coast, and the flow from Niskala to Sekala reversed. Here, The Healing Village Spa at Jimbaran Bay is dedicated to realigning the physical body in order to reconnect with the energetic world and the inner self.

Rather than starting my journey from the seen world to the unseen at the spa, however, my first stop is a session of AntiGravity Yoga. In a clifftop bale, our class flips upside down, effortlessly supported by the unique hammock. We swing and stretch, rediscovering the childhood joy of monkey bars, before finishing with a suspended meditation in our silken cocoons.

Now that I’ve defied gravity, I make my way to the oceanfront spa for a treatment that perfectly blends the interdependent Balinese principles of Sekala and Niskala. The Chakra Balance Massage uses the Aura-Soma colour system of oils and crystals to create a harmonious experience that completes my journey back to equilibrium.

Bali's best wellness resorts

The Healing Village Spa at Jimbaran Bay

Jamu and Javanese beauty at The Apurva Kempinski Bali

Balance has also been built into the newest five-star hideaway in the chic enclave of Nusa Dua, The Apurva Kempinski Bali. Its terraced design is inspired by the traditional subak system that not only irrigates the rice fields but also exemplifies the principle of Tri Hita Karana – ‘three sources of life’ in Sanskrit – or the relationship between God, humans and the natural world. At the centre of the resort, waterfalls flank the 250-step Grand Staircase, itself paying homage the mother temple of Pura Besakih.

The herbal tonic jamu is a core feature of the Apurva Spa’s 10 multi-day Signature Journeys, based on Javanese traditions. Each revolves around one of the four stages of life – Remaja (Adolescence), Dewasa (Adulthood), Mahligai Kasih (Married Life) and Tenteram (Post-Adulthood) – and combines treatments such as lulur body scrub (said to be the beauty secret of Javanese royalty), steam baths, Urut Lanang deep-tissue massage and brightening facials with a daily dose of jamu, often in granita or mocktail form. I end my stay in Bali tending to the Niskala of my energetic body with the Awakening the Chakra Spirit experience.

Following open-air yoga and meditation designed to realign the chakras, we make our way to Pura Geger for the melukat purification ritual. We pause among the rocks at Beji, where we cleanse with holy water before entering the temple. Monkeys swarm us when we arrive, and we are told this does not happen often; it means we come with pure hearts. The simian crowd slinks back into the temple, however, when the priest, Mangku Wayan Repot, arrives, his smiling presence calming and almost surreal.

Throughout the ceremony, we do everything in threes in honour of the Trimurti of supreme Hindu deities. We flick coconut water over our heads, drink from our hands and place rice on our third eyes, eating a small piece as a sign that we are accepting the blessing. The Island of the Gods has brought me back to a state of peace and tranquillity, my spirit reawakened along with its sacred traditions. Bali’s best wellness resorts never disappoint.

Awakening the Chakra Spirit at The Apurva Kempinski Bali

Awakening the Chakra Spirit at The Apurva Kempinski Bali

This article originally appeared in volume 34 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine, and was updated in January 2023. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.